Clocking out, never felt as good as it did this evening for Travis Johnson. A manager in an overseas travel department for a little known government agency in Washington, DC. It was one of the many alphabet soup groups that operated almost in the shadows, while existing in plain sight. Wielding one of the largest budgetary line items in the country, if not the world.
A job that typically brought with it an unforgiving ten hour work day, this particular week was extremely hectic. Travis’ staff had been averaging twelve to fourteen hour days with little to no relief in sight since last Thursday. Tonight’s current departure time, 9:31 PM.
“Good night Mr. Johnson,” said Brian, a temporary admin hire.
Travis who was walking to the front of the office placing a to go order on his phone, looked up to find no one in his line of sight. “Hello,” he responded looking around a nearby partition.
“Sorry about that Mr. Johnson. Down here, I was finishing up today’s work on Teresa's financial filing system.” Said the man who popped up like a jack in the box. The scent of the half pack of Newport's that he smoked that day, jumping up and wrapping its fingers around Travis’ throat.
“Oh, hey Brian.” Looking at his watch, he turned back in the young man's direction. “Do me a favor. Shut your computer down right now and leave for the night. And tell Terri to call me if she has a problem with that.”
The temp did not move initially, but corrected the unintentional misstep when he noticed his boss was staring directly at him.
“Right, sorry sir,” the young man said as he saved his progress on a few programs and began to shut the computer down.
“No worries at all. Have a good night. I'll see you bright and early tomorrow morning, but not too early like today.” He added with a slightly raised eyebrow.
Though his request was delivered in an assertive tone, it was intended to be tongue-in-cheek. A playful slight to his employee who was out on maternity leave. All superheroes don't wear capes, but they do tend to work extra hard and keep hellacious hours, he thought. Got this young boy in here working her overachieving ass hours.
Stepping off the elevator, Travis tapped his airpod to start the live Ace Ono project he listened to on his way in to work that morning. A face scrunching cover of Fleetwood Mac's “The Chain” filled his head space as Ace let loose one of her signature wails over a melodic guitar riff supplied by her band. The sound sent an electric shock through all of his senses, seeming to force time to stand still all around him for a fraction of a second. Shaking his head approvingly, he smiled and headed to the corner of twelfth and New York Ave.
On the way to the subway, the rain began to fall from the darkened yet cloudless sky seemingly out of nowhere. The precipitation in that odd space between a drizzle and maybe I should break out an umbrella land. Looking up ahead on the left was the awning to a Marriott Hotel that Travis passed twice a day going to and from work. With the time of night that it was, the foot traffic moving in and out of the building was non-existent. A lone doorman stood outside, not far from the usually jumping valet circle which was now clear.
As much as I don't want to, I think I'm gonna have to pull out this damn umbrella, he thought.
A mere ten or so steps from the covered space, he pulled a small travel sized umbrella from his work bag. Afterwards, he slid his phone out of his pocket to check on the arrival of the next train. Noting it, he spun his cell around in his palm once like he had done a million or so times in the past and then came one of the most sickening sounds you could imagine.
Or rather, crack! Thwack! Pick a sound, they all equate to a stomach-turning sensation rushing to the surface from the sound of a near four digit in price, pocket computer masquerading as a cell phone hitting a hard surface. Screen first.
“Fffffuck!” Travis cursed aloud through clenched teeth.
Until this point, he proudly viewed himself as one of a very small percentage of people who never had a phone with a cracked screen. Now, he cringed at the thought of what he knew awaited him on the concrete sidewalk below.
Kneeling his six foot frame down slowly, he was completely unaware that the street had grown eerily silent. The doorman who stood less than ten feet away was no longer there. And the gentle breeze that was framing a beautiful night, had grown completely still. In fact, the only movement that existed in the time and space that it took him to look down at his phone and kneel to reveal the inevitable, was the feeling of the rain. As light and steady as it fell, the sound of the droplets hitting his rich mocha colored skin panged. Sending visible shockwaves through his immediate surroundings, as they moved away from his body.
The manager from a small government travel agency, was so preoccupied with suppressing a mild panic attack however, that he was also oblivious to the sound of the rain.
As well as the four figures that appeared suddenly a mere breath away from him.
“Shit!” He cursed. Picking up and turning over his phone, an impossibly small piece of glass stuck in his finger. A speck of crimson rushed to the surface faster than it should have. Simultaneously causing instant pupil dilation from the four women in front of him.
“What was that? What happened?”
Silence rested on the deep shade of matte sangria colored lips of a five foot nine inch, thick thighed, curvy beauty with a massive dark brown twist out. Her naturally smokey, upturned eyes, were accented by an Egyptian blue eye shadow that popped off of her chestnut brown colored skin.
“Lluvia. Lluvia!” Noelle called out, attempting again to get her friends attention. She began to look around nervously, as though she were waiting for something or someone to catch them on the roof of the old abandoned bank building in the nation's capital. The uneasiness in her features seeming to darken as she waited.
A high pitched frequency entered into Lluvia's train of thought, subconsciously causing her to lose control over an incantation she had been manipulating. The result was her involuntarily freezing time for a moment, as the intrusion conjured an immeasurable hunger to find the source of its origin. Her eyes growing wild.
Instantly tuning out any and everything but the source of the sound, Lluvia who had been walking back and forth on the edge of the roof some twenty stories above street level turned in the direction from which it came. Focusing her attention, a wave of black energy moved across both of her pupils as she stood perfectly still.
Visions moved at light speed across the woman's mind as images from ravens in a one mile radius flooded her frontal lobe. One particular scene came into focus after a few seconds, before sharpening to 4K quality. A dark and richly complected man in blue khakis and an ash gray jacket, was standing on a street corner with airpods in his ears and his eyes closed. When his head tilted downward, his full lips spread slowly before parting.
“His smile…” she thought.
“When are we going home? I am beyond ready to begin the transfer for the Efficacy of the Corvus,” said a tall, slender framed woman dryly. Her gaze never turning in the direction of who she was speaking with and that was probably for the best in this instance.
Celeste the shorter of the two women currently walking up the sidewalk, was in one of her infamous moods. The type that no man, woman or beast wanted to run afoul of if they knew what was best for them. “What does it matter Jamila? It was written since birth that Lluvia was the chosen maven. We should relish in our time away from the rubbish before our steps become perpetually.” Speaking of, where the hell are you Lluvia?
Jamila in her six inch satin strapped stilettos, knew the gravity and truth that was just offered to her. After all, it was easily the hundredth time she'd heard it in some form or fashion. The problem was she was unable to let go of this reality. And the false narrative she was sold by one of their elders some time ago, only made matters worse.
In her mind, she was more befitting of a true maven. She had the iconic body type of mavens past. The long, lean toned frame. Skin the color of a worn penny, that was smooth and blemish free. And she gave off a facade of privilege, that masqueraded as true regality, that made many cower and bend to her will.
But what was written is what has to be. Nevermind the fact that outward appearance aside, Jamila couldn't be less qualified to lead the Corvus. Her vision was too clouded by all things that held no true importance to the role. And her inability to see her own shortcomings, all but guaranteed she did not possess the necessary wherewithal to guide their tribe through what appeared to be the start of a long dreaded prophecy on the horizon.
And far more than just a few, felt this way.
Celeste, dressed in her black stretch denim jeans, black ribbed tank and a camo cargo jacket, struck a stark contrast to her wannabe queen. Her black combat boots not making a sound as she walked on in perfect rhythm with her sister. Always on alert. Taking her role as patron over their group more serious than life itself.
The pair continued walking up twelfth street in northwest DC, phasing in and out of different time periods in the process. Where Jamila thought they were just passing the time idly before their return home, Celeste was tracking the movements of her other two sistren. One in particular.
The twenties, eighties, fifties and present day, moved in and out of focus as they walked. Seeing dwellers of this complicated city, appearing and disappearing in clothing and transportation that fit each time period, Celeste attempted to shut out all sound. Just as she felt the pulse of Serena one of her other sisters, a warm mist began to descend from a cloudless sky. When the precipitation shifted into a drizzle, the connection became faint and dissipated. Irritation attempted to ease across her brow, until she realized the pulse signaled that Serena was in fact near by. And The inconsistency in the way the rain made only certain areas on the street wet, let her know Lluvia was close as well which put her mind at ease momentarily. As nothing short of repetitious eternal death, awaited Celeste if she were to fail at keeping the next Queen of the Ruficollis safe during her final pre-efficacy pilgrimage.
The petite in height only woman, lifted her head and opened her mouth to taste the ethereal rainfall. Holding out her hand, palm facing down, she found mild amusement in watching the water disappear before it reached her skin. It is amazing how she has taught herself the way of the rain queens of Balobedu with never having visited that region.
As quickly as the rain came, it moved rather than stopped. Halting Celeste's rare moment of normalcy in enjoying it. With the change, came the return of Serena's pulse to the patron's senses. Then came another stronger life vibration that brought about a quick burst of heat that came and went even faster. Lluvia.
The rain which had been falling in pockets in this part of the city moved up the street. Converging at a central point and turning into a concentrated and steady rain, the system moved ahead one block and sat there. Seeming to focus on a figure coming towards them at an even pace.
Celeste noticed the scar in his hazelnut colored skin first. It rested on his cheek just below his left eye, its shape, reminiscent of something she had seen but could not place. A blade maybe. She wasn't certain however.
Then came the rain again.
It was following him.
Where Celeste had been dry before, the rainfall reached her once more as he crossed the street on to the block she was walking opposite him with Jamila. Its warmth, helped her to notice that as the time periods continued to shift around them, the strange man less than a fifty feet away was not...shifting, along with everyone and everything else.
Lluvia and Serena appeared on either side of their sistren suddenly as the man that had stopped to look at his phone, spun it in his hand.
Jamila had allowed herself to become enamored with the scent of a woman some ten miles away. Serena, walked in total silence. Fearful of Celeste's sharp tongue and response to phasing off for longer than originally discussed. Lluvia said nothing. But her energy unintentionally explained to Celeste everything she needed to know.
"Shit," Celeste said under her breath.
Travis knelt to pick up his phone, as an impossibly small piece of glass stuck in his finger. A speck of crimson rushed to the surface faster than it should have. Simultaneously causing instant pupil dilation from all four of the women now standing in front of him.