by Stephanie Mohs
Oliver McCabe’s fingers trailed down my temple coming to rest at the hollow of my throat. They lingered momentarily on the pink, two-inch imperfection beneath my collar bone, which will forever determine my future just as clearly as it has molded my past. I can’t escape it, I can’t remove it, I can’t live with it. Death itself can’t save me, not yet anyway.
“You have to stop,” I whispered, as if my protest would somehow be heard above his jagged breaths, above my indescribable need for his hands, for his scent.
His hands moved down to the small of my back. I’ve refused his advances so many times, if only he knew my indifference wasn’t meant to offend but to protect him from the legacy that continues to alter my reality, a reality that I refuse to allow to continue one moment longer than necessary.
“Maybe just this time,” escaped my lips and before I had a chance to rescind my words, I was swallowed up by the warmth of his arms, as if the last of my body had sunk slowly beneath the surface of the water, leaving me fully consumed and unable to escape.
All at once, my body was no longer my own as I gave in to his every touch. Where his hands moved I moved, struggling against my heart’s longing to hold onto this moment forever and my body’s demand for release. Release from my insatiable need for him, release from my never-ending path of destruction, release from an existence held together by a scar which transects my collar bone and represents all that I despise about myself. Finally, and without hesitation, we both allowed the moment to swallow us whole.
That is the last memory I have of Oliver McCabe.
I awoke the next morning feeling hopeful, only to have my eyes fall upon a small white card lying in the wrinkled space where Oliver had slept.
“Your life is not yours to share; I warned you. The Minister.”
I was twelve years old the first time The Minister came to me, demanding my compliance. I was home with my foster mom, Sara, when there was a knock at the door. He stepped in, greeted us, and suggested we take a walk. Sara was nervous yet I felt as though neither of us could decline the offer.
As we approached the park, I began to notice the swing-sets and the ice cream vendor, especially the ice cream vendor.
“Do you wish that girl over there would give you her ice cream?” he asked.
“No,” I lied.
“Close your eyes and imagine her walking over and handing you her cone,” he suggested.
As demanded, I closed my eyes and imagined her coming toward me. In my mind I could hear her sandals dragging on the sidewalk, one foot lazier than the other, getting louder as the dirt crunched beneath her feet.
As I played out this scenario in my head, I was overtaken by the smell of strawberries in the air. When I opened my eyes, there stood a small child holding an ice cream cone in her outstretched hand.
“No, thank you,” I whispered as I retreated to a wooden bench near the path.
“How? I told you I didn’t want her ice cream!” I blurted, appalled yet secretly intrigued.
“You must have wanted it, otherwise you wouldn’t have made her give it to you. You are special, Chloe, within you are inexplicable powers modern medicine cannot diagnose yet are essential to the overall well-being of mankind. You alone can control the outcome of any moment and you’ve done well,” he sneered.
Shaken, I sat on the bench unable to move and unable to process the information I’d just been given.
Over the next few years, The Minister would come to me periodically, each time directing me to imagine getting something I wanted. A bike from the store or a new cassette tape for my music collection, all harmless possessions with no lingering consequences that I could decipher. Every time I imagined getting a trinket, it would appear exactly how I’d created the scenario in my mind. Once, I imagined a clerk walking over to me and handing me a candy bar. For fun, I envisioned him tripping over a bent carpet corner near an aisle. Seconds later and just as I’d watched it play out in my head, he tripped and fell to the ground, cutting his forehead on the eyeglass display. After that, I never imagined anyone getting hurt again, at least not until Timmy Logan.
One day, just hours before my high school graduation, The Minister appeared near my car, beckoning me with his stare. Again, I complied and made my way to the grassy median where he stood.
“What are you doing? Does Sara know you’re here?” I questioned.
“Chloe, I have a task for you. Come, follow me to our bench.”
“I need you to imagine a three year old named Timmy Logan playing at the park chasing his ball. Can you do that?” he asked.
“I guess,” I stammered.
“Good. Now, imagine that ball rolling into the cobblestone road and Timmy running after it,” he said, his voice smooth.
“Just as he grabs the ball, an elderly woman driving a blue sedan comes around the corner. Now, keep in mind Miss Evelyn Carter is old and cannot see very well. Do you have a visual, Chloe?”
“What are you asking me to do?” I gasped.
“Imagine Miss Evelyn Carter running poor Timmy over with her car,” he said point blank, “killing him instantly. There’s no need for him to suffer,” he whispered.
“What? I won’t!” I screamed.
I tried to run, but an unimaginable pain seared across my neck as the blade of his concealed knife slid cleanly along my collar bone, bringing me to the ground.
“You will do this and here is the reason: You wondered where your foster mom was, I have her. She is safe for the moment but only if you comply with my request. You see, Timmy Logan’s father is going to be performing surgery on an important Congressman today and he is the only one qualified to do so. I need him unfit for duty and I need the Congressman to die. Unfortunately, little Timmy has to die as well. Now, time is running short, so let’s get to it. Remember, it’s Timmy or Sara; let’s begin.”
“Perhaps I will imagine you dying instead!” I screamed, wondering why I hadn’t thought of this before.
He smiled, oh how I hated that smile.
“Chloe, you are the only living descendent of the Draíocht family and I am one of five members of the Ministry of Taoiseach. We are both of ancient bloodlines and I, along with my four counterparts, are immune to your power. Go ahead, try to kill me.”
He was right, I couldn’t force his hand no matter how hard I tried.
“Only living descendent?” I questioned.
“Yes, you can imagine the consequences of non-compliance with our demands,” he added.
“My life…” I whispered.
“Is now and forever mine,” he concluded.
It has been two months since Oliver was violently torn from my bed by the Minister and three days since my foster mom passed away. I no longer have anyone in my life who can be taken from me. I am free.
I pour myself a glass of wine and settle into the tub. I’ve read it takes less time if your blood is thin and your body warm. The razor blade, a stainless steel oxymoron simultaneously representing the loss of my own life and the saving of so many others’, lies cold on the tile.
I finish my wine and press the blade to my wrist. A small droplet of blood pushes to the surface and almost immediately my stomach lurches.
As I lower my hand to begin again, I trace the scar along my collarbone with the tips of my fingers. I envision myself slipping slowly under the water, content with my death. Yet there’s something, something that nags at me, something I cannot put my finger on. I’m left with a feeling of loneliness, missing the face of someone I’ve never even met.
Suddenly, I am on my feet and out of the water, my stainless steel ticket out of this dreadful life sinking to the bottom of the granite bathtub.
I reel from the culmination of emotion which descends upon me all at once. The reality of my situation, once hazy with doubt and confusion, now clear. I am not plagued with fitful thoughts because of all I have lost, but for all I will miss if I die. Not the face of someone I’ve never met, but the face of someone I am about to meet.
“My child; Oliver’s child. No!”