CH. 35: Burning Foam

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Gregg looked out over the waves cascading under the midnight moon and pondered the will of Thrun. The ancient god of the Selfridges, who rose from the primordial ooze beyond time and space, had blessed Gregg's family for hundreds of years with incalculable psychic power. Thrun, through its very blood which now flowed beneath the Selfridge land, had awakened in Gregg and all of his Selfridge kin a heretofore unfathomable connection between the third eye and the world beyond. In Gregg, Thrun had gifted the ability of pyrokinetics, literary the power to create and manipulate fire. Man's first major evolution from random beasts into civilization. The very beating back of the darkness and all the dangers that dwelt within it. And what had Gregg done with it?

He'd done Rachel Chambers.

"You're crazy," Rachel had said when she saw the flames in his eyes.

And what had he said? "You brought this on yourself."

A wave lapped at Gregg's bare feet and he shivered, only now realizing he was standing at the edge of the water.

"Let's talk about this," Rachel had said.

To which he had said. "There's nothing left to say."

Gregg readjusted his surfboard, pulling it closer to his wetsuit. Night surfing. It was stupid and reckless and only for drunkards or fools, but it seemed like the best course of action. To lose himself in an act that required all his attention down to the basest animal instinct. An action doomed to failure. The inevitability of destruction. Peace.

"Please don't hurt me," Rachel begged.

To that, Gregg had said nothing. He simply lit her on fire.

And now, he stood at the edge of the water on a beach in a town that offered the elegant promise of a bold, new happiness. There he wondered, with uncharacteristic self-reflection, do I deserve such fulfillment? He closed his eyes and prayed for a sign from Thrun that he was yet within the bounds of salvation. When he opened them, he received the rarest of gifts a deity has to offer. A direct sign of God's love.

A majestic eight foot wave, like burning angel's wings unfurled toward the dark, pale beach. Atop its wake, on a surfboard akin to a Valkyrie's chariot, crested Rachel Chambers, her body cloaked and coated in Gregg's blue and white psychic flame. As she road and cut back and cut back again, her fiery outline kicked at the air and singed the wave, carrying her toward the sand as a beacon of purity and forgiveness.

If Gregg were capable of such things, he would have wept. Instead he unballed the fist he was unconsciously making. She drew closer to the shore, to him, but the ride was taking too long. Another switch. Another cutback. Another glide. Gregg inhaled sharply as Rachel extended the ride, then he let it out as she turned toward him and let the flaming waves carry her home.

With her first foot free of the ocean, Gregg caused the fire surrounding Rachel's body to dissipate. She shivered in amazement, then with a wide smile, she picked up her board and ran to Gregg. He dropped his to the sand and embraced her to the point of envelopment. As Rachel's board met Gregg's on the sand, he felt her wetsuit slick against his own and smelled the sea air in her hair. She wrapped her arms tight around his waist and went from a nuzzle on his neck to a deep kiss on his mouth. Gregg ran a hand up Rachel's back and the other hand through her dyed black hair as his tongue parted her lips. Time slowed down and sped up simultaneously as the two fledgling lovers explored each other's mouth and caressed each other's body. Then, as if willed to by a force beyond their control, Gregg and Rachel broke their kiss.

"That was..." Rachel said, staring into Gregg's light blue eyes. "That was incredible. My body was, it was just, I wasn't just ON fire. I WAS FIRE."

Gregg smiled warmly and nodded.

"And I was riding the wave and it was full dark but I could see everything, feel every turn. Thank you."

"And you were scared I was gonna hurt you," Gregg teased.

"I just needed a little push, that's all. A little permission."

"Permission," Gregg said. "Yeah." Then, he leaned in and kiss her.

In between kisses, Rachel said, "After that first night... When you touched me... And the room got so hot..."

"...That was your fault... It hasn't been... Not for years... But, with you..."

Rachel pulled back and smiled coyly. "I've had enough surfing for one evening. Haven't you?"

Back at Gregg's pickup truck, after sliding their boards in its bed and slinking out of their wetsuits, Gregg opened the passenger side door and closed it after Rachel got inside. Then, on his walk around the back of the truck, he paused for one last ponder. But this time, it was on nothing so philosophical and esoteric as the will of Thrun. No, as he made his way around to the driver's side door, preparing himself for what he intended to do next, he gave himself just enough time to think, If you take this step, there's no turning back.

It made sense. He got in the truck anyway.

"So, where are you gonna take me?" Rachel said, laying on the double entendre thick and syrupy.

"I know a place," Gregg said, closing the door behind him.

"I bet," Rachel said, dropping an eyebrow.

"No, really. But, I have to give you something first."

"You don't have to give me any-"

Gregg leaned over to her and planted a kiss on her neck. Using it as a distraction, he reached over, opened the glove box and withdrew what he had inside. Then, he leaned back and held it out for her.

"I can't take that," Rachel said, reaching for it and pulling back.

"It's mine to give and I want you to have it. So, we can see each other without anyone finding out."

Rachel reached out again and pulled back, but not as far as last time. "A secret love affair."

"I never did like doing things the right away," Gregg said.

"Same here. But, I can't take this," Rachel said, her eyes fixed on the silver skull invisibility ring in Gregg's out stretched palm. "It's Mac's."

"No," Gregg said and, meaning the ring, his life, his health and his happiness, he said to Rachel, "It's yours."

Both finding some sort of perverse solace in the gesture, Rachel put her hand on Gregg's and they held the ring together. Then, they leaned in to again share a deep kiss. Inches from each other's mouth, eager and unwilling to wait any another second they- Whomp! Something landed on the pickup's hood.

Gregg and Rachel flinched back and turned to the sound. Through already blazing eyes, Gregg saw not a stone nor a bird nor a man but... A cat. A calico with one black eyepatch of fur. It sat there on the hood watching them, flicking its tail back and forth.

"Jesus Christ," Rachel said, putting a hand to her chest.

"That fucking pussy scared the shit outta me," Gregg said.

"Typical male," Rachel said with a derisive smile. "Talks tough but frightened of a lady's privates."

"Is that a fact?" Gregg said and turned the ignition.

"I don't know," Rachel said, her smile turning from derisive to demure. "Is it?"

Gregg threw it in drive and the rumble of the engine caused the calico to leap from the hood and scurry away.

"Girl, you are gonna get it," Gregg smiled and took his foot off the brake.

"I reiterate. Where am I gonna get it?"

With way too many possibilities for a double entendre, Gregg went another way, "I think I outta take you home."

"You want to go back to my place? Boring."

"Not your home," Gregg said and stomped the gas. "Mine."

"But what if someone sees us?"

Gregg turned away from the road and winked at his girl. "Why do you think I gave you the ring?"

Then, they peeled out. Together.

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