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The Fallen Thomas E Sniegoski Pdf

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It still appeared to be somebody blocking his way. The shape came toward him, and so did the darkness, as if the undulating shadows that clung to the figure were part of his makeup. In a perverse way it did kind of remind him of that, only this was far more unnerving. Eric quickly stepped back. He had always hated how his voice sounded when he was afraid.

The figure cloaked in darkness stopped in its tracks. Even this much farther into the clearing, Eric could not discern any features.

He was beginning to wonder if his psychosis had started to play games with him, this shadow being nothing more than a creation of his insanity. It was as if he had screamed the question, the wood was still so unusually silent. The darkness in the shape of a man just stood there and Eric became convinced of its unreality.

Yet another symptom of the breakdown, he thought with a disgusted shake of his head. Beat it. The darkness seemed to open. Like the petals of some night-blooming flower, the ebony black peeled away to reveal a man within. Eric studied the man, searching his memory for some glimmer of recognition, but came away with nothing.

He was tall, at least six feet, and thin, dressed in a black turtleneck, slacks. And despite the rather muggy temperature, he noticed the man was wearing a gray trench coat. The man seemed to be studying him as well, tilting his head from one side to the other. His skin was incredibly pale, almost white. His hair, which was worn very long and severely combed back, was practically the same color. Eric had gone to elementary school with a girl who looked like that; her name was Cheryl Baggley and she, too, had been albino.

As the mysterious stranger pondered the question, Eric noticed his eyes. The oily shadow that had cocooned him previously seemed to have pooled in his eye sockets. He had never seen eyes as deep and dark as these. His voice was strange, Eric thought, as if he were not comfortable speaking the language.

Who are you? Were you sent to find me? Something had begun to glow in its ghostly pale center. He turned to run, to hurl himself through the thick underbrush. He had to get away. Every fiber of his being screamed danger, and he allowed the primitive survival mechanism of flight to overtake him.

Four figures suddenly blocked his way, each attired as the stranger, each with a complexion as pale as the face of the full moon above. How is this possible? His mind raced. How could four people sneak up on him without making a sound? He was filthy, naked, his hair long and unkempt, a thick string of snot dripping down from one nostril to cling to his dirty lip. The boy began to strain upon the leash, pointing a dirt-encrusted finger at him, whining and grunting like an animal. The strangers fixed their gazes upon Eric with eyes of solid shadow and began to spread out, eliminating any chance of escape.

The wild boy continued to jabber. Eric whipped around to see that the other figure had come closer. His hand was still outstretched before him—but now it was aflame. His mind tried to process this event. Eric felt his legs begin to tremble as the orange-and-yellow flame grew, leaping hungrily into the air.

The stranger moved steadily closer. Eric wanted to run screaming, to lash out and escape those who corralled him, but something told him it would be for naught. Fear overcame him and he fell to his knees, feeling the cold dampness begin to soak through his pants. There was no reason for him to turn around; the feral child growled at his back and he knew the four strangers now moved to flank him. He kept his gaze on the man standing above him holding fire in the palm of his hand.

The stranger looked upon him with eyes black and glistening, his expression void of any emotion. Eric could see himself reflected in their inky surface. The stranger cocked his head oddly. Eric could feel the heat of the flame upon his upturned face. Eric had never seen anything more unnatural. The man moved the flaming object from one hand to the other, and Eric followed it with his eyes.

The fire had become a sword. A flaming sword. The boy watched the weapon of fire descend, his face upturned as if to seek the rays of the rising sun.

And then all that he was, and all that he might have become, was consumed in fire. Yet it was so much more than that. Since they began, over three months before, the visions of sleep had grown more and more intense—more vivid. Almost real. He is making his way through the primitive city, an ancient place constructed of brown brick, mud, and hay. The people here are in a panic, for something attacks their homes.

They run about frenzied, their frightened cries echoing throughout the cool night. Other nights he has tried to stop the frightened citizens, to catch their attention, to ask them what is happening, but they do not see or hear him. He is a ghost to their turmoil. Husbands and wives, shielding small children between them, scramble across sand-covered streets desperately searching for shelter. Again he listens to their fear-filled voices. He does not understand their language, but the meaning is quite clear.

Their lives and the lives of their children are in danger. For nights too numerous to count he has come to this place, to this sad village and witnessed the panic of its people. But not once has he seen the source of their terror.

He moves through the winding streets of the dream place, feeling the roughness of desert sand beneath his bare feet. Every night this city under siege becomes more real to him, and tonight he feels its fear as if it were his own. And again he asks himself,fear of what? Who are they who can bring such terror to these simple people? In the marketplace a boy dressed in rags, no older than he, darts out from beneath a tarp covering a large pile of yellow, gourdlike fruit.

He watches the boy stealthily travel across the deserted market, sticking close to the shadows. The boy nervously watches the sky as he runs. Odd that the boy would be so concerned with the sky overhead. The boy stops at the edge of the market and crouches within a thick pool of night. He stares longingly across the expanse of open ground at another area of darkness on the other side. What is he so afraid of? Aaron looks up himself and sees only the night, like velvet adorned with twinkling jewels.

There is nothing to fear there, only beauty to admire. The boy darts from his hiding place and scrambles across the open area.

He is halfway there when the winds begin. Sudden, powerful gusts that come out of nowhere, hurling sand, dirt, and dust. The boy stops short and shields his face from the scouring particles. He is blinded, unsure of his direction. Aaron wants to call to him, to help the boy escape the mysterious sandstorm, but knows that his attempts would be futile, that he is only an observer.

And there is the sound. There is something in the sky above—something that beats at the air, stirring the winds, creating the sudden storm. The boy is screaming. His sweat-dampened body is powdered almost white in a sheen of fine dust and desert sand. The sounds are louder now, closer. What is that?

The answer is right at the edge of his knowing. He again looks up into the sky.

The sand still flies about, tossed by the winds. It stings his face and eyes, but he has to see—he has to know what makes these strange pounding sounds, what creates gusts of wind powerful enough to propel sand and rock.

He has to know the source of such unbridled horror in these people of the dream-city—in this boy. And through the clouds of fine debris, he sees them. For the first time he sees them. They are wearing armor. Golden armor that glistens in the dancing light thrown from the flames of their weapons.

The boy runs toward him. It seems that Aaron is suddenly visible. The boy reaches out, pleading to be saved in the language of his people. This time, he understands every word.

He tries to answer, but earsplitting shrieks fill the night, the excited cries of predators that have discovered their prey. The boy tries to run, but there are too many. Aaron can do nothing but watch as the birdlike creatures descend from the sky, falling upon the boy, his plaintive screams of terror drowned out by the beating of powerful wings.

For the moment, the dream was forgotten and all that occupied his mind was the attentions of an eighty-pound Labrador retriever named Gabriel. Time to get up? Craving more attention, Gabriel flipped over onto his back and swatted at Aaron with his front paws.

Aaron watched the red digital readout change from 7: Sensing alarm in his master, Gabriel rolled from his back to his stomach with a rumbling bark. Aaron struggled from the bed, whipped into a frenzy by the lateness of the hour.

He pulled down his sweatpants and kicked them into the same general vicinity. He was late. Very late. He had less than a half hour to get toKennethCurtisHigh School before first bell. Aaron lunged for his dresser and yanked clean underwear and socks from the second drawer. In the mirror above, he could see Gabriel curiously staring at him from the bed. Aaron managed to shower, brush his teeth, and get dressed in a little more than seventeen minutes. I might be able to pull this off yet,he thought as he bounded down the stairs, loaded bookbag slung over his shoulder.

If he got out the door right at this moment and managed to make all the lights heading down North Common, he could probably pull into the parking lot just as the last bell rang. It would be close, but it was the only option he had.

The dog needed to be fed and taken out to do his morning business. Gabriel followed close at his heels. This is odd,he thought. Lori was usually the first to rise in theStanley household. She would get up around fiveA. The kitchen was empty, and with a hungry Gabriel by his side, Aaron made his way through the dining room to the living room. The room was dark, the shades on the four windows still drawn. The television was on, but had gone to static. His seven-year-old foster brother, Stevie, sat before the twenty-two-inch screen, staring as if watching the most amazing television program ever produced.

Across the room, below a wall of family photos that had jokingly become known as the wall of shame, his foster mom was asleep in a leather recliner. Aaron was disturbed at how old she looked, slumped in the chair, wrapped in a worn, navy blue terry cloth robe.

Where the hell did that come from? He pushed the strange and really depressing train of thought away and attempted to think of something more pleasant.

When theStanleys had taken him into their home as a foster child, it had been his seventh placement since birth. What was it that the caseworkers used to say about him? He never expected the placements to last, and had imagined that there would be an eighth, ninth, and probably even a hundredth placement before he was cut loose from the foster care system and let out into the world on his own.

A warm pang of emotion flowed through him as he remembered the care this woman and her husband had given him over the years. No matter how he misbehaved, or acted out, they stuck with him, investing their time, their energy, and most importantly, their love. But the boy did not respond, continuing to stare at the static on the screen, eyes wide, mouth agape.

The boy could be quite a handful and Lori stayed home to care for his special needs. Lori twitched and came awake with a start. He looked back to his foster mom. There was a hint of panic in her voice. Aaron poked his head back in. Gabriel stood attentively at her side, drool streaming from his mouth to form a shiny puddle at his paws.

She smiled. Mihos, the elderly head of the math department mere months away from retirement, looked up from her copy ofFamily Circle and gave him an icy stare. He had learned that the less said to Mrs. Mihos the better. Her edicts were simple: Aaron chillingly recalled how Tommy Philips, now seated at the back of the classroom intently keeping his mouth shut, had attempted to be the funny guy.

There was nothing the math teacher hated more than a wiseass. Aaron chanced a look at the old woman and saw that she was flipping through the attendance sheets to change his status from absent to present. He breathed a sigh of relief as the first period bell began to ring. First period American Literature went fine, but halfway through second period, while taking Mr.

Not only was he blanking on some of the information he had studied, but he also had one of the worst headaches he could ever remember. His head felt as if it were vibrating, buzzing like someone had left an electric shaver running inside his skull. He rubbed at his brow furiously and tried to focus on an essay question about the social and political ramifications of the Richmond Bread Riot.

The remainder of the class passed in the blink of an eye, and Aaron wondered if he had passed out or maybe even been taken by space aliens. He had barely finished the last of the essay questions when the end-of-period bell clanged, a real plus for the pain in his head. He quickly glanced over the pages of his test. He looked up to see the heavyset form of Mr.

Arslanian standing beside his desk, hand beckoning. Aaron pulled himself together and handed the test to his teacher. Then he gathered up his books and prepared to leave. As he stood the room began to spin and he held on to the desk for a moment, just in case. He imagined there should have been blood shooting out his ears and squirting from his nostrils. He was feeling that bad. Arslanian,Aaron thought as he stepped lightly in an effort to keep his skull from breaking apart and decorating the walls with gore.

The hallway was jammed with bodies coming, going, or just hanging out in small packs in front of brightly colored lockers, catching up on the freshest gossip. Aaron moved through the flow of students. It was getting worse, like listening to the static of an untuned radio playing inside his brain. As he maneuvered around the pockets of people, he exchanged an occasional smile or a nod of recognition, but the few who acknowledged him were only being polite. He knew people looked at him as the quiet, loner guy with the troubled past, and he did very little to dispel their notions of him.

He finally reached his locker and began to dial the combination. He swung the locker door open and began to unload his books. A girl laughed nearby. He looked behind him to see Vilma Santiago at her locker with three of her friends. They were staring in his direction, but quickly looked away and giggled conspiratorially.

They were speaking loudly enough for him to hear them. The only problem was they were speaking Portuguese, and he had no idea what they were saying. Vilma was one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen.

Smart as well as gorgeous, a dangerous combination, and one that had left him smitten. They saw each other at their lockers every day, but had never really spoken.

He turned to arrange the books in his locker, and again felt their eyes upon him. They were whispering now, and he could feel his paranoia swell. Que bunda! The feeling was excruciating and he almost cried out—certain to have provided his audience with a few good laughs. He pressed his forehead against the cool metal of the locker and prayed for respite. As the hissing grew more and more intense, shards of broken glass rubbed into his brain. He thought he would pass out as strange colorful patterns blossomed before his eyes and the pain continued to build.

The torturous buzzing came to an explosive climax, circuits within his mind suddenly overloaded, and before he fell unconscious—it was gone. Aaron stood perfectly still, waiting, afraid that if he moved the agony would return. What was that all about? There was nothing. No pain, no blaring white noise. In fact, he felt better than he had all morning. Maybe this is just part of a bizarre biological process one goes through when turning eighteen, he thought, bemused, reminding himself again that it was his birthday.

As he slammed the locker door, he realized that Vilma and her friends were still talking. Vilma wanted to go to the cafeteria, but the others were pressing for the pizza. She smiled shyly and quickly averted her gaze. But not before the others noticed and began to tease her mercilessly. Aaron felt himself break out in a cold sweat. His suspicion was justified, for in fact the girls were talking about him.

They were all looking at him when it dawned. He knew what they were saying. Vilma and her friends were still speaking to one another in Portuguese—but somehow he could understand each and every word. But the most startling thing was what Vilma had said. Vilma Santiago thought he was cute! The dog slowly turned his long neck and wagged his tail in response, before another scent hidden elsewhere in the grass diverted his attention.

Aaron glanced at his watch. It was a little after eight thirty, and he was exhausted. He was hoping that Hunter, who had been constipated since undergoing a procedure to remove a tennis ball from his large intestine, would finally get around to doing his thing so Aaron could go home, have something to eat, and do some schoolwork before passing out. The dog pulled him into a patch of shadow, nose practically pressed to the ground, turned in a circle and finally did his business.

The business at his locker with Vilma and her friends crept back into his consciousness, and he felt a queasy sensation blossom in the pit of his stomach. Had he been mistaken? Had they suddenly switched to English from Portuguese? No, he thought,no, I was definitely hearing Portuguese—and understanding it. But how is that possible?

Hunter pranced into the cheerfully decorated lobby, his toenails happily clicking on the slick tile floor like tap shoes, excited to see Michelle, the veterinary assistant, standing there.

The dog was in heaven as it pressed itself against her and gazed up lovingly. Aaron realized she was no longer speaking to the dog, and emerged from his thoughts. Remind me not to go out back for a while. Kris, and our long-legged friend should be sprung tomorrow.

He was again lost in his thoughts about the impossibility of what had happened at school. There had to be a rational explanation. Maybe it had something to do with his headache. Her hands covered her mouth to make it sound as though her voice were coming over a loudspeaker. It appears that one of our astronauts is missing. She was older than he by five years, and explained often that her high school days were some of her most painful, so she fancied herself an expert on teen angst.

He turned. Anything you want to talk about? It was a large room filled with cages of all sizes, big cages for the larger breeds and tiny cages for what Dr. Bufman lovingly referred to as the rat dogs. Aaron returned Hunter to his current accommodations, said hello to the other dogs, then went to the staff area where he kept his things. He removed his blue work smock, hung it on a hanger, and put on his street shirt.

He was so tired he felt as though he were moving in slow motion. He slung his bookbag over his shoulder and forced himself back through the kennel toward the lobby door, looking at his watch again. It was a quarter to nine. If he made it home by nine, had a quick bite and did the bare minimum on his assignments, maybe he could be in bed by ten thirty. It sounded like a plan. The image of a dark-skinned boy being viciously torn apart by angels appeared before his eyes, and he jumped, startled by the sudden flash of recollection.

Give the brain a chance to rest. He reached the lobby and as he rounded the reception desk, noticed a woman standing there with a German shepherd puppy at her heels. Michelle had a file in her hand and looked at him.

From the expression on her face he had no doubt she was annoyed. Dexter was supposed to bringSheba earlier but forgot. He could see his hopes of getting to bed at a reasonable time slipping away. Dexter began. He reached across the desk and took the folder from Michelle. Get out of here. You can owe me. Everything you need should be right there.

Have a good night. Dexter took the forms. She let go of the leash and let her dog explore the open lobby. She licked it and he began to pat her. It took twenty minutes for Mrs. Dexter to complete the appropriate paperwork and be on her way.

You can call around noontime to find out how she did and when she can go home. It was hard to be annoyed with anyone who showed so much love for a pet.

Shebabegan to whine as she watched her master getting into the minivan without her. The smells of the other dogs must have been overwhelming, for she tucked her tail between her trembling legs and backed up against him. Every dog in the kennel began to go wild, barking crazily, lunging at the doors to their cages, digging furiously with their paws.

Shebabacked up even farther. MaybeSheba had gone into heat early, or perhaps shared a home with a more aggressive dog and the others were picking up its scent on her.

She began to whimper pathetically and he reached down to stroke her head. This was all he needed. He was already later than he expected, and now the whole place was going nuts. What am I going to do? They continued their frenzy. Some of the upper cages had actually begun to rock back and forth from the insane activity within.

Shebawas cowering by the door, desperate to leave. The shepherd pup started to scratch at the door, digging deep gouges in the wood. He grabbed her by the collar to pull her away from it. The frightened dog began to urinate on the floor—the floor he had already mopped as one of his final duties of the evening. The room went completely silent. Each and every dog suddenly calm, as if frightened by his words.

As if they had understood what he had said. It was close to eleven by the time he finally stepped through the door of his home. Aaron removed his key from the lock and gently closed the front door behind him. He stopped in the hallway, closed his eyes, and breathed in deeply, wallowing in the quiet.

He could actually feel his body beginning to shut down. The dogs had given him no further trouble after his emotional outburst. They must have sensed that he meant business. Still, it was kind of strange, how they reacted. Aaron trudged toward the kitchen. The dog kept a very cautious eye on the autistic child, as if knowing he was special and needed to be looked after. The note from his foster mother told him that everyone had gone to bed, and that his supper was in the oven.

The note also mentioned a little surprise for him in the dining room. That made him smile. Using a potholder, he removed the foil-wrapped plate from the oven and proceeded into the dining room. As he sat down he noticed a blue envelope leaning against a chocolate cupcake with a candle stuck in it. He doubted he had the energy. Every year Lori bought the most sappy card she could find.

There was also a crisp new fifty-dollar bill stuck inside. Aaron sighed. He finished his dinner of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and peas and was rinsing the dishes while mentally wrestling with the idea of what he was going to do next. Most of him just wanted to go to sleep, but the more studious part of him thought it best to at least attempt some homework. Slowly he climbed the stairs to bed, leaning heavily on the rail, and popping the last of the cupcake into his mouth, his tired self busily shoving that academic part of his persona into a burlap sack.

He quietly stuck his head into the room to check on the child. Gabriel lay at the foot of the bed and began to wag his tail wildly when he saw Aaron.

Stevie moaned softly, deep in sleep, and Aaron pulled the covers up beneath his chin. At the door, he motioned with his head for Gabriel to follow. It was pretty much the same routine every evening. The big dog jumped down from the bed with a minimum of noise and headed down the hall. Watching Gabriel, Aaron fondly recalled when he had first seen the dog, tied up in a yard onMal Street , his light yellow—almost white—coat of puppy fur covered with grease and mud.

He was so tiny then, nothing like the moose he was today.

A timer would turn the television off at midnight. Talk about routine, Tom and Lori had been going to bed early and falling asleep in front of the news for as long as he could remember.

The door to his room was closed and he pushed it open, letting Gabriel in first. The dog hopped up onto the bed and stared at him with dark, vibrant eyes. His bright pink tongue lolled as he panted and his tail swung happily. Aaron smiled as he closed the door. The two had been inseparable since.

Aaron kicked off his sneakers and practically fell on the bed. Never had he felt anything more glorious. His lids, heavy with fatigue, gradually began to close, and he could already feel his body prepare for sleep. The dog still stood over him, his heavy panting gently rocking the bed like one of those coin-operated, sleazy motel, magic-finger beds seen in movies.

The dog bounded from the bed in response and began to root around the room. Aaron moaned. He knew what that meant. The dog was looking for a toy. The eighty-pound dog leaped back up on the bed. Even though his eyes were shut, Aaron knew that Gabriel loomed above him with something in his mouth. It was no surprise when he felt a tennis ball thump onto his chest. What was a surprise was when the dog answered his question.

Aaron opened his eyes and gazed up into the grinning face of the animal. There was no doubt now. He was, in fact, losing his mind. Jonas seemed genuinely pleased to see him. He glanced casually about the office. Little had changed since his last visit. Cream-colored walls, a framed Monet print bought in the gift shop of theMuseumofFine Arts —in a strange kind of way it felt comforting.

Michael Jonas had been his counselor after his placement with theStanleys , and had done him a world of good. It was with his help that Aaron had learned to accept and cope with many of the curves life had seen fit to throw at him. The man had become a good friend and at the moment, Aaron was feeling a little guilty for not making more of an effort to keep in touch. Jonas shook his shaggy head, smiling through his thick salt-and-pepper beard.

He grabbed the banana and juice and held them up to Aaron. He twisted the metal cap off the juice and took a large gulp. What can I do for you?

How exactly do you explain that you can suddenly understand foreign languages—and, oh yes, your dog has started to speak to you? The man was smiling, but there was definitely a touch of concern in his tone. Aaron shifted nervously in his seat. Aaron gripped the armrests tightly, sat back, and began to explain.

He was sure to include that he had been experiencing a very bad headache just before he was suddenly able to understand their Portuguese. He decided to stop there, not yet wanting to broach the incident involving Gabriel.

He wheeled his chair over to the side of his desk and tossed the bag into the trash barrel. Do you have any other symptoms? Do you think it has anything to do with my headache? Jonas reached over to a pile of papers at the corner of his desk and removed a yellow legal pad. Aaron nodded. Finished, he set his pen down on the pad and looked up. Like somebody put it through my skull into my brain.

The doctor was shaking his head in disbelief. Aaron leaned forward, eager to know why this was happening to him. You believe me, Doc? He held the pen in one hand and was tapping it against the palm of the other. He disappeared as he bent down to take something from the bottom shelf. When he came up, he laid a large text on top of the desk. Aaron could not see what its subject was, and waited nervously as the doctor thumbed through the pages.

His eyes bulged as he slowly closed the Latin text. The doctor was staring at him, and he felt like a bug beneath a microscope. Jonas nodded. After suffering severe head trauma in a skating accident, he found himself able to calculate the most complex math problems in his head.

The doctor pondered the possibility. The doctor pulled up his sleeve and glanced at his watch. He watched Dr. Jonas step out from behind his desk and move toward the door. What if there is something wrong with me—something wrong with my brain?

He began to bite at his thumbnail. Maybe it would be wise to make an appointment with the family physician just in case. He thought about missing another day of school and felt himself begin to panic. He wondered if colleges looked at the number of absences before making their acceptance decisions. The door opened. How would that be? Is that all right? We can do a few more tests before I give my buddy at Mass General a ring.

Jonas was removing a file from inside a cabinet beside his desk. The man was standing, looking calm and confident. See you tomorrow. Something over which he had no control. Aaron crossed the street and stepped over the low, dark green, pipe fence that encircled Lynn Common. Even though it was a bit rundown, it still had its charms. Besides the beach, it was one of his favorite places to walk Gabriel when the fickleNew England weather cooperated.

He walked across the expanse of green trying to clear his head. As he reached the middle of the open area, he remembered an odd bit ofLynn trivia: The voice of his junior high history teacher, Mr. Frost, droned on in his brain about the history of the city. Settled in ,Lynn ultimately became a major producer of shoes. Though the construction of the common was first begun in , the present-day sections were shaped into the approximate proportions of a shoe during the nineteenth century, the larger area being the sole, and the smaller, the heel.

Thomas E. Sniegoski - The Fallen 01 - The Fallen

At that moment, Aaron was inside the sole. Frost had talked about a book at the library that contained an aerial shot of the common. Aaron suddenly shuddered, as if someone had just slipped an ice cube along his spine.

The strange feeling that he was being watched rolled over him in waves, and he stopped to look around. He glanced at the ancient bandstand squatting in the center of the sole. The shabby structure was once used for summer band concerts, but was now more of a hangout for kids skipping school or people passing time between unemployment checks.

Today it was empty.

There was a shopping cart parked near the man. Probably collecting cans for the deposit money, Aaron thought as he continued on his way, studying the lone figure in the distance.

Yes, he was sure of it. The man was staring at him. Aaron could actually feel his gaze upon him. Aaron stepped over the low fence. As he fished his keys from his pocket he thought about what he would do for the rest of the day. He hoped a look around the library would help him decide on a topic. Ideas danced around in his head: His senses screamed. Someone was behind him. The old man was dressed in a filthy overcoat, pants worn at the knees, and sneakers.

The faint smell of body odor and alcohol wafted off him, and Aaron almost gagged on the unpleasant stench. He was taken aback, not sure of what to do as the man began to lean toward him. What the hell is he doing?

The man appeared to be smelling him. He moved in close to Aaron and sniffed at his face, his hair, his chest, and then he stepped back. He nodded, as if in response to a question to which only he was privy. The man responded, speaking in a language Aaron had never heard before, a language he somehow sensed had not been uttered by anyone in a very long time.

Aaron answered in kind. Aaron could have sworn that he saw what appeared to be a single flame dancing in the center of each ancient eye, but knew that it was probably just a trick of the light.

He had to get away from this strange old man, from that word. He had to get away as fast as he could. Aaron got inside his car and locked it. He put the key into the ignition and turned the engine over. As he put the car in drive, he chanced a look at the old man. He was still standing there, staring in at him with those intense eyes. Aaron turned away and pulled out into traffic. He glanced in the rearview mirror at the old man receding in the distance.

He continued to stand there, watching him drive away, mouth moving, repeating a single word. Aaron knew what he was saying. What the hell is going on? There was fear in the face that looked back from the mirror. What was that with the old man?

His thoughts raced feverishly. He pulled some paper towels from the dispenser on the wall and wiped the water from his face. As he reached to the side of the sink for the restroom key, attached to an unusually large piece of wood, he noticed that his hand was shaking. Aaron snatched up the key and clenched the wood tightly in his grasp. What are you getting so worked up over?

You know this city is loaded with kooks. He took a deep breath, composed himself, and opened the door. An old man was standing there with a coat slung over his arm. Aaron did the best that he could to return the pleasantries as he stepped out of the restroom. He found an empty table far in the corner of one of the reading rooms and slung his jacket over the back of a chair.

Besides, he needed something to distract him from the bizarreness that seemed to be following him of late. He had brought a notebook in with him and removed a pen from its front pocket. He settled in and spent hours perusing books on a number of different authors and literary subjects, searching for something that piqued his interest enough for a research paper.

Aaron tore out the page and stared at it. What does it mean? He got up from his chair and headed into the reference area of the library. He placed the large book down onto a table and began to look for the word, trying all the incarnations he had written.

He found nothing. If anything could be salvaged from this train wreck of a day, at least he could get a head start on that. He crumpled up the piece of paper in his hand and headed back to the reading room. But the word continued to jump around in his head, as if it had a life of its own and was taunting him. The usually crowded room was surprisingly empty, with several stations free. Seizing the opportunity to satisfy his curiosity, he walked in and sat down at one of the computers.

He signed in with a password that he had obtained from the library his first year of high school, and called up a search engine that he used often when researching information for school papers. The screen appeared and, choosing one of the varied spellings, he typed in the mystery word. He hit the Enter key and held his breath. The page cleared and then some information appeared.

He maneuvered the mouse and brought the arrow over to the revised spelling, clicked once and waited as the new pages loaded. Aaron was startled to see how many sites appeared with some kind of connection to the word. So much for it being nonsense, he thought as he scrolled down the page, reading a bit about each of the sites.

There were multiple sites about a rock group, some about a role-playing game, all using the name Nephilim, but none gave a meaning. A site that specialized in religious mythologies finally caught his attention. Is that it? Does it have something to do with religion? In that case, it was no wonder he had no familiarity with it. A fuller account is preserved in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, which recounts how a group of angels left heaven to mate with women, and taught humanity such heinous skills as the art of war.

Aaron sat back in his chair, stunned. Offspring of angels and mortal women, he read again. Somebody coughed behind him, and he turned to see four people waiting in the doorway of the computer room. A heavyset kid with a bad case of acne, wearing anX-Men T-shirt, tapped the face of his Timex watch and glared at him.

Aaron looked back to the screen and quickly read a bit more before closing the site and signing out.

He removed his pen from his pocket and on the wrinkled piece of paper where he had written his various attempts at the mystery word, he crossed out the incorrect spellings leaving only the correct one. Sighing heavily, he returned to his seat and his books in the other room. He sat down with every intention of working on his paper, but found that he could not concentrate, his thoughts stalled on the story of human women having babies with angels.

A shiver of unease ran up and down his spine as he chillingly recalled the subject of his recurring dream. Again he saw the boy attacked by the winged creatures dressed in golden armor.

It was too much of a coincidence to ignore. He got to his feet and snatched up the notepad from the table. He had to find out more. It was as if something was compelling him to dig deeper.

He wrote the titles down on his notepad and began his search. It was an apochryphal book of the Old Testament, written in Hebrew about a century before the birth of Christ.

The original version was lost near the end of the fourth century, and only fragments remained until Bruce the Traveler brought back a copy fromAbyssinia in , probably made from a version known to the early Greek fathers.

What followed were some passages from the ancient text of Enoch, and what Aaron read summed up all that he had learned so far: For in those days the sons of men having multiplied, there were born to them daughters of great beauty.

And when the angels, or sons of heaven, beheld them, they were filled with desire; wherefore they said to one another: His knowledge of angels was limited to what was often found on holiday cards or at the tops of Christmas trees—beautiful women in flowing, white gowns, or children with tiny wings, and halos perched on their heads. He quickly turned in his chair, half expecting to see the crazy old man pointing his gnarly finger and calling him Nephilim over and over again—but was shocked to see Vilma Santiago.

The girl gave him the sweetest of smiles and meekly came into the room. It appears that one of our astronauts is missing. She was older than he by five years, and explained often that her high school days were some of her most painful, so she fancied herself an expert on teen angst.

He turned. Anything you want to talk about? It was a large room filled with cages of all sizes, big cages for the larger breeds and tiny cages for what Dr. Bufman lovingly referred to as the rat dogs. Aaron returned Hunter to his current accommodations, said hello to the other dogs, then went to the staff area where he kept his things. He removed his blue work smock, hung it on a hanger, and put on his street shirt. He was so tired he felt as though he were moving in slow motion.

He slung his bookbag over his shoulder and forced himself back through the kennel toward the lobby door, looking at his watch again. It was a quarter to nine. If he made it home by nine, had a quick bite and did the bare minimum on his assignments, maybe he could be in bed by ten thirty. Sleep: It sounded like a plan. The image of a dark-skinned boy being viciously torn apart by angels appeared before his eyes, and he jumped, startled by the sudden flash of recollection.

Give the brain a chance to rest. He reached the lobby and as he rounded the reception desk, noticed a woman standing there with a German shepherd puppy at her heels.

Michelle had a file in her hand and looked at him. From the expression on her face he had no doubt she was annoyed. Dexter was supposed to bringSheba earlier but forgot. He could see his hopes of getting to bed at a reasonable time slipping away. Dexter began. He reached across the desk and took the folder from Michelle. Get out of here. You can owe me. Everything you need should be right there. Have a good night. Dexter took the forms. She let go of the leash and let her dog explore the open lobby.

She licked it and he began to pat her. It took twenty minutes for Mrs. Dexter to complete the appropriate paperwork and be on her way. You can call around noontime to find out how she did and when she can go home. It was hard to be annoyed with anyone who showed so much love for a pet. Shebabegan to whine as she watched her master getting into the minivan without her. The smells of the other dogs must have been overwhelming, for she tucked her tail between her trembling legs and backed up against him.

Every dog in the kennel began to go wild, barking crazily, lunging at the doors to their cages, digging furiously with their paws. Shebabacked up even farther. MaybeSheba had gone into heat early, or perhaps shared a home with a more aggressive dog and the others were picking up its scent on her. She began to whimper pathetically and he reached down to stroke her head. This was all he needed. He was already later than he expected, and now the whole place was going nuts.

What am I going to do? They continued their frenzy. Some of the upper cages had actually begun to rock back and forth from the insane activity within. Shebawas cowering by the door, desperate to leave. The shepherd pup started to scratch at the door, digging deep gouges in the wood.

He grabbed her by the collar to pull her away from it. The frightened dog began to urinate on the floor—the floor he had already mopped as one of his final duties of the evening. The room went completely silent. Each and every dog suddenly calm, as if frightened by his words.

As if they had understood what he had said. It was close to eleven by the time he finally stepped through the door of his home. Aaron removed his key from the lock and gently closed the front door behind him. He stopped in the hallway, closed his eyes, and breathed in deeply, wallowing in the quiet.

He could actually feel his body beginning to shut down. The dogs had given him no further trouble after his emotional outburst. They must have sensed that he meant business. Still, it was kind of strange, how they reacted.

Aaron trudged toward the kitchen. The dog kept a very cautious eye on the autistic child, as if knowing he was special and needed to be looked after. The note from his foster mother told him that everyone had gone to bed, and that his supper was in the oven. The note also mentioned a little surprise for him in the dining room. That made him smile. Using a potholder, he removed the foil-wrapped plate from the oven and proceeded into the dining room. As he sat down he noticed a blue envelope leaning against a chocolate cupcake with a candle stuck in it.

He doubted he had the energy. Every year Lori bought the most sappy card she could find. There was also a crisp new fifty-dollar bill stuck inside. Aaron sighed. He finished his dinner of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and peas and was rinsing the dishes while mentally wrestling with the idea of what he was going to do next. Most of him just wanted to go to sleep, but the more studious part of him thought it best to at least attempt some homework. Slowly he climbed the stairs to bed, leaning heavily on the rail, and popping the last of the cupcake into his mouth, his tired self busily shoving that academic part of his persona into a burlap sack.

He quietly stuck his head into the room to check on the child. Gabriel lay at the foot of the bed and began to wag his tail wildly when he saw Aaron. Stevie moaned softly, deep in sleep, and Aaron pulled the covers up beneath his chin. At the door, he motioned with his head for Gabriel to follow. It was pretty much the same routine every evening. The big dog jumped down from the bed with a minimum of noise and headed down the hall. Watching Gabriel, Aaron fondly recalled when he had first seen the dog, tied up in a yard onMal Street , his light yellow—almost white—coat of puppy fur covered with grease and mud.

He was so tiny then, nothing like the moose he was today. A timer would turn the television off at midnight. Talk about routine, Tom and Lori had been going to bed early and falling asleep in front of the news for as long as he could remember.

The door to his room was closed and he pushed it open, letting Gabriel in first. The dog hopped up onto the bed and stared at him with dark, vibrant eyes. His bright pink tongue lolled as he panted and his tail swung happily. Aaron smiled as he closed the door. The two had been inseparable since. Aaron kicked off his sneakers and practically fell on the bed. Never had he felt anything more glorious. His lids, heavy with fatigue, gradually began to close, and he could already feel his body prepare for sleep.

The dog still stood over him, his heavy panting gently rocking the bed like one of those coin-operated, sleazy motel, magic-finger beds seen in movies. The dog bounded from the bed in response and began to root around the room.

Aaron moaned. He knew what that meant. The dog was looking for a toy. The eighty-pound dog leaped back up on the bed. Even though his eyes were shut, Aaron knew that Gabriel loomed above him with something in his mouth. It was no surprise when he felt a tennis ball thump onto his chest. What was a surprise was when the dog answered his question. Aaron opened his eyes and gazed up into the grinning face of the animal. There was no doubt now. He was, in fact, losing his mind. Jonas seemed genuinely pleased to see him.

He glanced casually about the office. Little had changed since his last visit. Cream-colored walls, a framed Monet print bought in the gift shop of theMuseumofFine Arts —in a strange kind of way it felt comforting. Michael Jonas had been his counselor after his placement with theStanleys , and had done him a world of good.

It was with his help that Aaron had learned to accept and cope with many of the curves life had seen fit to throw at him.

The man had become a good friend and at the moment, Aaron was feeling a little guilty for not making more of an effort to keep in touch. Jonas shook his shaggy head, smiling through his thick salt-and-pepper beard. He grabbed the banana and juice and held them up to Aaron. He twisted the metal cap off the juice and took a large gulp. What can I do for you? How exactly do you explain that you can suddenly understand foreign languages—and, oh yes, your dog has started to speak to you? The man was smiling, but there was definitely a touch of concern in his tone.

Aaron shifted nervously in his seat. Aaron gripped the armrests tightly, sat back, and began to explain. He was sure to include that he had been experiencing a very bad headache just before he was suddenly able to understand their Portuguese. He decided to stop there, not yet wanting to broach the incident involving Gabriel. He wheeled his chair over to the side of his desk and tossed the bag into the trash barrel.

Do you have any other symptoms? Do you think it has anything to do with my headache? Jonas reached over to a pile of papers at the corner of his desk and removed a yellow legal pad. Aaron nodded.

Thomas E. Sniegoski - Leviathan

Finished, he set his pen down on the pad and looked up. Like somebody put it through my skull into my brain. The doctor was shaking his head in disbelief.

Aaron leaned forward, eager to know why this was happening to him. You believe me, Doc? He held the pen in one hand and was tapping it against the palm of the other. He disappeared as he bent down to take something from the bottom shelf.

When he came up, he laid a large text on top of the desk. Aaron could not see what its subject was, and waited nervously as the doctor thumbed through the pages. His eyes bulged as he slowly closed the Latin text. The doctor was staring at him, and he felt like a bug beneath a microscope.

Jonas nodded. After suffering severe head trauma in a skating accident, he found himself able to calculate the most complex math problems in his head.

The doctor pondered the possibility. The doctor pulled up his sleeve and glanced at his watch. He watched Dr. Jonas step out from behind his desk and move toward the door. What if there is something wrong with me—something wrong with my brain? He began to bite at his thumbnail. Maybe it would be wise to make an appointment with the family physician just in case. He thought about missing another day of school and felt himself begin to panic. He wondered if colleges looked at the number of absences before making their acceptance decisions.

The door opened. How would that be? Is that all right? We can do a few more tests before I give my buddy at Mass General a ring. Jonas was removing a file from inside a cabinet beside his desk.

The man was standing, looking calm and confident. See you tomorrow. Something over which he had no control. Aaron crossed the street and stepped over the low, dark green, pipe fence that encircled Lynn Common. Even though it was a bit rundown, it still had its charms. Besides the beach, it was one of his favorite places to walk Gabriel when the fickleNew England weather cooperated.

He walked across the expanse of green trying to clear his head. As he reached the middle of the open area, he remembered an odd bit ofLynn trivia: the common had been built in the shape of a shoe. The voice of his junior high history teacher, Mr. Frost, droned on in his brain about the history of the city. Settled in ,Lynn ultimately became a major producer of shoes.

Though the construction of the common was first begun in , the present-day sections were shaped into the approximate proportions of a shoe during the nineteenth century, the larger area being the sole, and the smaller, the heel.

At that moment, Aaron was inside the sole. Frost had talked about a book at the library that contained an aerial shot of the common. Aaron suddenly shuddered, as if someone had just slipped an ice cube along his spine. The strange feeling that he was being watched rolled over him in waves, and he stopped to look around. He glanced at the ancient bandstand squatting in the center of the sole.

The shabby structure was once used for summer band concerts, but was now more of a hangout for kids skipping school or people passing time between unemployment checks. Today it was empty. There was a shopping cart parked near the man.

Probably collecting cans for the deposit money, Aaron thought as he continued on his way, studying the lone figure in the distance. Yes, he was sure of it.

The man was staring at him. Aaron could actually feel his gaze upon him. Aaron stepped over the low fence. As he fished his keys from his pocket he thought about what he would do for the rest of the day.

He hoped a look around the library would help him decide on a topic. His senses screamed. Someone was behind him. The old man was dressed in a filthy overcoat, pants worn at the knees, and sneakers.

The faint smell of body odor and alcohol wafted off him, and Aaron almost gagged on the unpleasant stench. He was taken aback, not sure of what to do as the man began to lean toward him. What the hell is he doing? The man appeared to be smelling him. He moved in close to Aaron and sniffed at his face, his hair, his chest, and then he stepped back. He nodded, as if in response to a question to which only he was privy. The man responded, speaking in a language Aaron had never heard before, a language he somehow sensed had not been uttered by anyone in a very long time.

Aaron answered in kind. Aaron could have sworn that he saw what appeared to be a single flame dancing in the center of each ancient eye, but knew that it was probably just a trick of the light. He had to get away from this strange old man, from that word. He had to get away as fast as he could. Aaron got inside his car and locked it. He put the key into the ignition and turned the engine over. As he put the car in drive, he chanced a look at the old man.

He was still standing there, staring in at him with those intense eyes. Aaron turned away and pulled out into traffic. He glanced in the rearview mirror at the old man receding in the distance. He continued to stand there, watching him drive away, mouth moving, repeating a single word. Aaron knew what he was saying. What the hell is going on? There was fear in the face that looked back from the mirror. What was that with the old man? His thoughts raced feverishly. He pulled some paper towels from the dispenser on the wall and wiped the water from his face.

As he reached to the side of the sink for the restroom key, attached to an unusually large piece of wood, he noticed that his hand was shaking. Aaron snatched up the key and clenched the wood tightly in his grasp. What are you getting so worked up over? You know this city is loaded with kooks.

He took a deep breath, composed himself, and opened the door. An old man was standing there with a coat slung over his arm. Aaron did the best that he could to return the pleasantries as he stepped out of the restroom. He found an empty table far in the corner of one of the reading rooms and slung his jacket over the back of a chair. Besides, he needed something to distract him from the bizarreness that seemed to be following him of late. He had brought a notebook in with him and removed a pen from its front pocket.

He settled in and spent hours perusing books on a number of different authors and literary subjects, searching for something that piqued his interest enough for a research paper. Aaron tore out the page and stared at it. What does it mean? He got up from his chair and headed into the reference area of the library.

He placed the large book down onto a table and began to look for the word, trying all the incarnations he had written. He found nothing. If anything could be salvaged from this train wreck of a day, at least he could get a head start on that.

He crumpled up the piece of paper in his hand and headed back to the reading room. But the word continued to jump around in his head, as if it had a life of its own and was taunting him.

The usually crowded room was surprisingly empty, with several stations free.

Seizing the opportunity to satisfy his curiosity, he walked in and sat down at one of the computers. He signed in with a password that he had obtained from the library his first year of high school, and called up a search engine that he used often when researching information for school papers.

The screen appeared and, choosing one of the varied spellings, he typed in the mystery word. He hit the Enter key and held his breath. The page cleared and then some information appeared. He maneuvered the mouse and brought the arrow over to the revised spelling, clicked once and waited as the new pages loaded. Aaron was startled to see how many sites appeared with some kind of connection to the word. So much for it being nonsense, he thought as he scrolled down the page, reading a bit about each of the sites.

There were multiple sites about a rock group, some about a role-playing game, all using the name Nephilim, but none gave a meaning. A site that specialized in religious mythologies finally caught his attention. Is that it? Does it have something to do with religion? In that case, it was no wonder he had no familiarity with it.

A fuller account is preserved in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, which recounts how a group of angels left heaven to mate with women, and taught humanity such heinous skills as the art of war.

Aaron sat back in his chair, stunned. Offspring of angels and mortal women, he read again. Somebody coughed behind him, and he turned to see four people waiting in the doorway of the computer room. A heavyset kid with a bad case of acne, wearing anX-Men T-shirt, tapped the face of his Timex watch and glared at him. Aaron looked back to the screen and quickly read a bit more before closing the site and signing out.

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He removed his pen from his pocket and on the wrinkled piece of paper where he had written his various attempts at the mystery word, he crossed out the incorrect spellings leaving only the correct one.

Sighing heavily, he returned to his seat and his books in the other room. He sat down with every intention of working on his paper, but found that he could not concentrate, his thoughts stalled on the story of human women having babies with angels. A shiver of unease ran up and down his spine as he chillingly recalled the subject of his recurring dream. Again he saw the boy attacked by the winged creatures dressed in golden armor.

It was too much of a coincidence to ignore. He got to his feet and snatched up the notepad from the table. He had to find out more. It was as if something was compelling him to dig deeper.

He wrote the titles down on his notepad and began his search. It was an apochryphal book of the Old Testament, written in Hebrew about a century before the birth of Christ. The original version was lost near the end of the fourth century, and only fragments remained until Bruce the Traveler brought back a copy fromAbyssinia in , probably made from a version known to the early Greek fathers. What followed were some passages from the ancient text of Enoch, and what Aaron read summed up all that he had learned so far: …that there were angels who consented to fall from heaven that they might have intercourse with the daughters of the earth.

For in those days the sons of men having multiplied, there were born to them daughters of great beauty.

His knowledge of angels was limited to what was often found on holiday cards or at the tops of Christmas trees—beautiful women in flowing, white gowns, or children with tiny wings, and halos perched on their heads. He quickly turned in his chair, half expecting to see the crazy old man pointing his gnarly finger and calling him Nephilim over and over again—but was shocked to see Vilma Santiago. The girl gave him the sweetest of smiles and meekly came into the room.

The girl shook her head and grinned from ear to ear. Where did you learn it? Aaron shrugged his shoulders. He just stood there and smiled as he watched the girl go through the books he had pulled from the shelves. It must have been some weird form of synchronicity, he imagined. What are the odds?

It boggled his already addled brain. Seems like it might be really interesting. He snatched his notepad off the table. Vilma Santiago, the hottest girl in theLynn public schools, and he was asking her to help him with his research paper.

What an absolute idiot, he berated himself. The girl of his dreams had agreed to help him with his paper, and actually seemed to be excited about doing it. Vilma was silent also, nervously looking at the books on the table then back to him. She glanced at her watch. She actually noticed that he was absent today.

Maybe there was something to what she had said to her friends yesterday. Maybe she actually did think he was cute. Have a good weekend. It was almost enough to make him forget all about the disturbing dreams, his strange new linguistic skills, and the cryptic ramblings of a crazy old man. Of all that was lost to him, he missed that the most. It was not true sleep by human standards, but it was a way for him to remember a time precious to him, the time before his fall.

Sam rolled onto his back and opened his eyes to the new day. He did not need to check a clock to tell him the hour; he knew it to be precisely eightA. He lay quietly and listened to the sounds ofHong Kong outside and far below his penthouse apartment. But today he had little interest. Sam rose from his bed and padded naked across the mahogany floor to stand in front of the enormous floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over the city.

A Chinese junk, its sails unfurled, caught his attention as it cruised gracefully across the emerald green water ofVictoriaBay. He had lived in many places in his long life on this planet, but none brought him as much solace as this place.

China spoke to him. It told him that everything would be all right, and on most days, he believed that to be true. He pressed his forehead against the thick glass and allowed himself to feel the cold of its surface. His naked skin responded with prickled gooseflesh, and although he reveled in the human experience, everyday he longed for what he once had, for what was lost when he refused to take a side in the Great War. His head still pressed against the window, Sam opened his eyes and gazed at the panorama before him.

Yes, he longed for the glory that was once his, but each day this place—this wondrous sight sought to seduce him with its vitality. A distraction that sometimes made it easier to accept his fate. Sam was slipping into his black silk robe, enjoying the sensation upon his pale, sculpted flesh, when the phone began to chirp. He knew who was calling. Not from any innate psychic ability, but because she called each morning at this very time.

Joyce Woo was the human woman he allowed to manage his various business affairs, including his nightclubs, casinos, and restaurants. Sam strolled from the bedroom to the chrome-and-tile kitchen and let the machine pick up.

He decided to play a little game—to see if he could guess the problems she was calling to report. What trivial piece of nonsense would she choose to annoy him with this time? Sam popped a cork on a bottle of Dom Perignon and drank from it as he listened to the message.

He toasted the incoming call with the bottle. I can give you more details when you come into the office this morning, but I wanted you to be aware. But she began to speak again. He paused in the hall to listen. Verchiel, stopped by the office this morning. He said he will only be in town for a short time and hoped the two of you could get together. The bottle dropped from his hand to the floor, shattering and spilling the expensive contents onto the black and white tiles.

Good morning, sir. Sam Chia bounded to his bedroom and threw open the doors of the heavy wooden armoire. He shed his robe and pulled out clothes. There would be no time for a shower today and he would not be going into the office. He had to leaveHong Kong. It was as simple as that. If Verchiel had found him, then there was no doubt that the Powers had come toChina. And if that were the case, then none of his ilk was safe. Sam finished buttoning his white cotton shirt and began to tuck its tails inside his pants.

He cinched the brown leather belt around his waist. He slipped his bare, delicate feet into a pair of Italian loafers and donned a navy blue sports jacket.

He would go to Europe;France would suffice. He would stay inParis until Verchiel and his dogs leftChina. Joyce could manage his affairs until he returned.Do you think it has anything to do with my headache? The dog needed to be fed and taken out to do his morning business. His senses screamed. Then he could brush off the old man as just another lunatic. There were multiple sites about a rock group, some about a role-playing game, all using the name Nephilim, but none gave a meaning.

The Brimstone Network. The original version was lost near the end of the fourth century, and only fragments remained until Bruce the Traveler brought back a copy fromAbyssinia in , probably made from a version known to the early Greek fathers.

WILFORD from Temecula
I do like exploring ePub and PDF books warmly. Browse my other articles. I have always been a very creative person and find it relaxing to indulge in offshore powerboat racing.