Howard’s death wasn’t exactly a shock. For the the last two weeks of his life, the entire faction felt his energy rapidly decline. No one in the faction felt his impending demise more than Myrtle. Even though their relationship ended over a decade earlier, their official status was always best described as “It’s Complicated.”
It was just after 3:00 a.m. when Myrtle startled awake, believing she heard Howard whisper, “Goodbye, my darling Myrt.”
Myrtle grabbed her chest, pulling at her nightgown, trying to give herself more air.
Martha burst into the room, flipping the light switch on. “Myrt! What is it? What’s happened?” She knelt down beside her sister’s bed.
“Howard,” Myrtle croaked. A single tear drop clung to her eyelash. “He’s gone. It was all for nothing,” she cried. “The kernels. Janna. The faction. It was all for nothing.”
Martha sat down on the bed next to her sister, holding her in her arms. “Don’t say that,” she pleaded with her twin. “It wasn’t for nothing. Look what we’ve done. Look at all the lives we’ve saved.”
Myrtle knew her sister was right but the grief she felt was too much. She was angry at Howard for dying. She was angry at the faction for not being able to save him.
Lost to her pain, Myrtle didn’t notice the change in the air at first. It was always the same right before someone from the Faction ingested a kernel. The air became stale and bitter and the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees.
Martha took Myrtle’s hands into hers. “Myrt, do you feel it? Someone’s trying call us.”
“Tell ’em they have the wrong number.” Myrtle groaned, knowing this was the kind of phone call you could not ignore. She relented, pressing her palms into her sister’s.
They closed their eyes and chanted in unison. “Namaskar, maro sathi. Namaskar, maro sathi.”
With Jānna, the voices weren’t heard so much as they were felt.
“It’s Joanie.” Myrtle’s lips trembled as she said the name of Howard’s girlfriend out loud. “Louisa’s been there. She took the baksa.”
“Oh crap,” Martha said. “That’s all we need is that little busybody interfering with this.”
The air in the room returned to normal and the temperature rose, leaving condensation on the furniture as evidence of its change.
“Where’s our baksa?” Martha asked.
“In the attic.”
While it was still dark, the sisters ascended into the attic. The room was dark but the moonlight entering in through the window in the far back provided just enough light for their safe travel through the labyrinth of their mother’s junk.
Myrtle picked up the box and held it close to her chest. It held something very different than the kernels that were once inside. Something precious to Myrtle.
“I still remember the first time Howard and I discovered Janna and all of its glory.” She lowered her head, fighting back the tears. Wiping her eyes, she looked up at her sister. “What should we do with this?”
Martha shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t know. But we can’t leave it here. And Louisa cannot know any of this. It wouldn’t be safe for her if the others found out she knew.”
To Be Continued