Elliot Chan: The Woman in the Green Cocktail Dress
“When I count to ten, I want you to open your eyes. Tell me what you see… Tell me what you see.”
“It’s dark. Like nighttime. There’s a light to my left. TV’s on. Everything’s grainy with blurred lines like the Zepruder film but I see the semblance of an American flag. I’m sitting low to the floor. Dude, I don’t like this.”
“It’s okay, Elliot. It’s okay. Don’t be afraid. This is why we’re here. Confront this. You are not alone.”
I was sitting back with my eyes closed, mind open. Palms were sweaty. I didn’t want to see it but she was right. It would never end if I didn’t go through with it.
“Tell me what you see,” she insisted.
“I see a fat man sitting in a lazy boy. He’s right in front of me, in a white tee shirt, black pants, and a large belly. He’s bleeding. He’s bleeding out. His body’s twitching. The handle of a knife is sticking out of his chest and I’m just sitting there watching. What is this? Who is he?”
“I’m not doing anything! I’m just sitting there. It’s the same as before! Nothing’s changed.”
“Keep watching!” She urged.
Even with my eyes close, tears rolled.
“Wait…” I said in a gasp of relief. “Someone just walked by. Long calves in a green dress. High heels glistening from the light. I smell her, her scent. Dude, she is stunning. That dress, looks like she just came back from a cocktail party or something.
“She’s walking towards the man on the love seat. She’s standing there. The man, he’s struggling to look up at her. I hear him. He’s wheezing. I don’t know what he’s saying. Oh! She just grabbed the knife! She’s shoving it deeper into his chest. Oh my god! What the hell is this! He tumbled back! She literally just shoved the knife so hard he fell out of the chair. She’s screaming. Stabbing him over and over again! Dude, she’s stabbing the hell out of him! I can’t do this!”
“This is messed up!”
“You’ve come so far, Elliot! See it through. You’re the only one who can!”
“There’s nothing… She stopped. She’s getting up, standing over the dude’s body. Damn…There’s literally blood everywhere. It’s pooling around her heels. Oh my god, she’s walking my way. I see the knife. It’s drenched. I can’t make out her face. The TV light’s not enough. Long dark hair. She’s still clenching the knife. It’s completely drenched as if she just dipped into a can of paint.”
“Don’t be afraid.”
I don’t remember if it was Dr. Wilkerson or the woman who told me that.
“Go on, Elliot.”
“She drops the knife. It hits the hard surface floor. She’s walking away. I turn to watch her go but I can’t see her anymore. I just hear the clacking heels fading in the distance.”
“And the knife?” Dr. Wilkerson asked.
“I don’t pick it up. I don’t do anything. I just sit there. Like a dumbass.”
Finally, I opened my eyes to the white popcorn ceiling. Dr. Wilkerson’s nodding, seemingly proud of my accomplishment. Of course, I didn’t particularly feel accomplished. I didn’t feel fulfilled and I for damn sure didn’t feel satisfied.
“How do you feel?” She asked.
“Not good, doc. Not good at all.”
“Before we entertain the possibility that this actually happened, is there any chance you saw this before? On TV or in a movie?”
“Ma’am, I saw Scarface and Goodfellas when I was six. This doesn’t even compare.”
“Where are you going? You have thirty minutes left in the session.”
“Doc, I really appreciate everything you’ve done. Really, today was truly a breakthrough. I’ll follow up next week. I promise.”
I was halfway out the door when she tugged on my sleeve and said with caring, compassionate eyes, “You really do need to talk about what you saw.”
“Ma’am, I just did.”
This all began because of the reoccurring nightmares that decided to hit not long after I enrolled into film school. I understood the neighborhood of Chelsea tended to have that affect on impressionable artists but this was different. New York was supposed to be the place where I could shed off the past and begin anew. But no matter where I went. The unanswered questions lingered like a chronic illness, like a sore throat. There’s no vaccination for what I had.
I was walking past the eclectic boutiques of hipster vibes when I felt the vibration in my pocket. It was Marvin, my dad, giving me a call.
“Hey, how’d it go?” He asked.
I heaved a little sigh before changing directions on a course for Washington Square. It’s a park in the Village known for its ripoff of the Arc de Triumph, but ideal for self-reflection amongst the shaded trees, the exquisite monuments and a lovely central fountain. Twas still early in the day, so I didn’t expect it to be noisy or packed.
“Dad…I have to ask you something and I think it’s about time.”
He’s groaned. I got the feeling he knew exactly where this conversation was going.
“Dad…who are my real parents?”
After a long pause, he said, “Elliot, I think its time you come home.”
“Yep. Was thinking the same.”
Killeen, Texas, a flat sun-blasted city in the center of the state where it rained very little and everything was painted the color of sand. It’s where I spent a majority of my childhood.
Marvin Burroughs was a retired drill sergeant from the Fort Hood army base having served in the Gulf War. His wife, Sandra, was a city administrator. They’re good people. I couldn’t have hoped for better adoptive parents.
But there’s just one thing. They’re white and it was more than apparent that I was East Asian. I would’ve said I was Japanese or Korean, but the truth was I had no fucking clue. The questions, the unanswered truths. It really was like a chronic illness. It hit me with this unshakeable depression for a couple of days before I built the immunity to shrug it off. But it never completely went away. The questions always came back. The sudden onset of reoccurring nightmares was just a tipping point.
Marvin and Sharon greeted me with warm hugs and kisses. They asked about campus life and if I’ve met that special someone yet. It was always the same. I told them I was progressing but in order to have someone love me I must first love myself. How could I love myself if I didn’t know “myself”?
I literally ask them that question. That’s when the mood sobered and we got to the crux of my visit. Marvin went to his storage closet, pushing aside dusty old uniforms to pull out a wooden trunk. That trunk. I remember dad being so territorial about it when I was growing up. I always assumed it was where he kept his guns. I wasn’t wrong but there was more than just that.
He brought the trunk out in to the living room where I was on the edge of my seat in suspense. Sharon reached over and held my hand. I sensed the trepidation and so badly I wanted to tell her that nothing would change how much I loved them. But I wasn’t sure how true that would be. Because half of me was kinda peeved that the answers were hidden in this chest all along.
So let me stop here to explain something right quick.
Growing up the only Asian at a school in the middle of Texas was about as stressful as being the only Christian in Egypt. It was diverse on the military bases because we had all kinds of ethnicities coming in and out every year. But my dad retired when I was in the fifth grade and we were forced to relocate to the civilian life of Killeen.
Everyone made fun of my slanted eyes, my height, how scrawny I was. In Texas, it wasn’t about how cute you were. The anime, kawaii phase hadn’t kicked in just yet. The girls were like lions. They only went for the biggest and the strongest. I was called everything from Jackie Chan to Bruce Lee and eventually they started calling me a Power Ranger because I learned martial arts to defend myself.
Marvin did his best to raise me up. He took me out on hunts and encouraged me to study film since I displayed a passion for the Hong Kong cinemas. But being different was abysmal. I sucked at math, I couldn’t draw, and my interest in anime was only so-so. I was called gay so much that it got to the point that I honestly thought I was gay.
I think the worst feelings manifested in high school when I joined the Drama and AV Club. Here, you found the fringe of high school society. But even with those freaks and geeks, I couldn’t fit in. When the Virginia Tech shooting happened…sad to say, I really empathized with the shooter. I never told anyone this, but I think my dad Marvin knew. The shooter was Korean. I heard he struggled with a language barrier and faced the same barrage of insults that I did. Don’t get me wrong. I could never shoot up a school. But I have fantasized about it. A lot.
Marvin opened the chest with a cloud of dust percolating in the rays of sunlight coming through the windows. He looked at me, expecting me to dive in but I didn’t. Not at first. There was a box of bullets and small gun chests stacked on one side. Then I see documents. My adoption papers. My heart was about to burst out of my chest.
I finally inched forward and reached for the documents. As soon as I picked them up, something else caught my attention. It was a dated newspaper with the headlines, “Baby Found Covered in Blood”.
I picked up the browning newspaper. It felt hard and brittle like it was about to crumble in my hands. A picture of a crying baby sitting on the sidewalk was on the front cover
“Is this me?”
Sharon covered her mouth. The tears start to flow. Marvin held her close, massaging her shoulders. That was all the answer I needed.
According to the article, the baby was found a block away from a mansion that burned down in an upscale suburb of Dallas. Firefighters found him, or rather, they heard the baby crying. Paramedics were already on the scene. The coroner pulled a man’s body from the rubble. Everything was burned to the ground. Pictures, any trace of culture or tradition that I would’ve loved to get my hands on went up in smoke that night. This was back before DNA testing was a thing. Apparently Marvin and Sharon were visiting their own family in the area when they saw the article and felt compelled by a Christian duty to take me in.
Reading that article was heavy. My eyes glossed over with heated saline as the paper slipped from my fingertips. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t exactly big on speaking my thoughts out loud, an effect of being an only child.
“You alright son?” Marvin asked.
“Was the deceased my father?”
“We believe so.”
“Do you know if he had multiple stab wounds?”
Marvin looked baffled. “I don’t know. The body was badly burned beyond recognition. I doubt they were able to determine his exact cause of death. The house was registered to a Richard and Michelle Chan. So we named you Elliot Chan. We believe the deceased was Richard. There’s no word on your mother.”
“What does that mean?! Where is she?”
Marvin shook his head. “We don’t know. We’re not even sure if Michelle is her real name. You have to understand, when the Chinese immigrated to the Americas, it wasn’t uncommon to change their names to sound more Western.”
“So basically what you’re telling me is that my real father’s dead and there’s no way to find out my real mother?”
“Not sure what to tell you, son.”
“Alright. Well who was this Richard guy? What he do? He must have been rich to be living in this big mansion, right?”
“I um…” Sharon said as she moved so close that we touched knees. She rummaged through the storage trunk, searching for something.
“I actually did some digging about him. He worked as a translator for the Peace Corp. He traveled the world, into war torn countries to promote peace, aiding in third-world development. His parents, your grandparents were activists in China. They were actually part of the Tibetan Uprising in 1959. They’re still considered dissidents by the government. I think that’s kinda groovy. Something to be proud of.”
She handed me a copy of Richard’s passport photo. He was a bit rounder in the face but it was him, the man in my nightmares. Yet, oddly enough, I smiled.
“You’re right, mom. That is groovy.” I gushed. “I just wish I knew more about my biological mother. There’s something I’m not telling you. I want to tell you but its crazy. It sounds crazy.”
“Well, it can’t be more absurd than finding a baby covered in blood, just crying on the sidewalk.” Sharon pointed out.
“Yeah, I suppose. Um, I finally took you up on your advice and saw a therapist.”
“About the nightmares?” Sharon asked.
“Yes. She put me in this half meditational trance to relive the nightmare and see it all the way through. But still, to think I was just a baby. How is it possible that I remember all that?”
“What did you see, son?” Marvin asked.
“I saw Richard bleeding out in the chair. I think I was in the house before it burned down. I think…God…I think it was his wife, my mother who killed him.”
“Oh my goodness! That’s terrible.” Sharon gawked.
“Yeah, you ain’t just whistling Dixie.” I said, sighing and raising up to a stand. “All of this is pretty heavy, man. I mean…armed with this knowledge, what do I do?”
“Are you still having the nightmares?” Sharon asked.
“Then I say problem solved. You have to put the past behind you. That’s my recommendation. Now then! I’m going to go get dinner started.” She said before giving me another hug.
She kissed me and told me how proud she was for overcoming the obstacle. The thing she didn’t understand was that I didn’t fully overcome that said obstacle. And if she knew me as well as she thought she did, then she should’ve known that I wasn’t just going to drop it and put to rest.
For crap’s sake, I just told them that I thought my mother killed my father and what, I’m supposed to just leave it alone? She ventured off to the kitchen and I didn’t stop her. I slowly turned to my dad and let my low brows do the talking. He understood completely.
Marvin motioned for me to approach. He was discreet and it almost made me chuckle. Like when he used to let me have candy before dinner after mom said no.
“You understand what I’m saying, right? Like, I’m not crazy for wanting to get to the bottom of this am I?”
“El, serving in the military, you see all kinds of shit. None of it’s good and even when you return from the front lines it still haunts you. For you to see what you saw at so young an age…God have mercy.”
That’s all I needed to hear. It was a relief. Marvin stretched his neck to peek into the kitchen. Mom was hard at work boiling spaghetti and preparing sauce from scratch.
“You want to talk about crazy, after Sharon and I finalized the adoption process, I was attacked. On base. You know how Fort Hood is. Coming after a drill sergeant is about as crazy as playing jacks with a rattlesnake. There were four of them. All dressed in black military fatigues. And Elliot, they were women. I’ve fought the Taliban. I’ve dealt with insurgents in Yemen and even learned Savate from the French Special Forces. I got my ass whooped that night. To be honest, they could have just sent one. I couldn’t touch em. It was the worst beating of my life.”
“Dad…are you kidding me?” I whispered. “When was this? Does mom know?”
“Hell no! You crazy? Nah, she don’t know. I told her it was a training accident and an IED that backfired.”
“Listen. Whoever these women were, they weren’t with the military. They had better discipline. There was an aggression unlike anything I ever seen. They beat me to an inch of my life. I thought I was going to die. Until someone told them to stop.”
He wasn’t joking. Even as Marvin told me the story, I could see how traumatizing it was by the gravity of his eyes, the tremble in his voice. It was a painful memory, and as much as I found it hard to believe, Marvin was the roughest, most toughest son of a gun I had ever known. For him to show this level of fear…
“Someone told them to stop?” I asked.
“I was a puddle of broken bones when they finally laid off. But I heard someone say stop. It was another woman, not the four that was beating on me. I was curled up against the side of my Jeep door when she came. Wearing high heels and this green cocktail dress.”
My eyes widened. “Green cocktail dress!? Are you sure? How do you know if you were beat the fuck up?”
“Son, she was beautiful. When you think you’re really about to die, there are few quintessential things you’d remember. Things like that. The four females that were kicking my ass feared her. They stood at her attention, awaiting orders. The woman in the green dress stood over me and crossed arms. She said something in Chinese. I found out later it was Mandarin. She was warning me. It was simple. She said, ‘he dies, you die.’ Elliot, I think that was your mom.”
I flew back to New York a new man. I still had questions but at least I had clues, a map, and a direction to go in. I attended classes, maintained grades, and filmed content for an entertainment website to make ends meet, but all of my free time was devoted to the mystery of my mother.
If Marvin was right, then my biological mother sounds like a flipping force of nature. It’s messed up that she killed my father but oddly enough, I was kinda over that. I just wanted to find out who she was. Why did she abandon me? If she knew that Marvin and Sharon had custody of me, had she been checking on me all these years?
As crazy as it sounds, I started doing research on secret military groups. I looked up Black Ops from the CIA, Delta Forces from JSOC, the KGB, MI6, even China’s Ministry of State Security. The world is full of paramilitary groups, privatized organizations like Blackwater. A lot of privatized military companies more or less straddled the fence of what’s considered legal since everyone and their mothers were ignoring protocols established by the Geneva Convention.
What was strange though, was for Marvin to get manhandled by a bunch of women who he claimed had better discipline and training. Was it possible that there existed an exclusive all-female team of elite soldiers? I looked into it.
In Libya, there were the “Revolutionary Nuns” who were famous for being the tough as nails bodyguards assigned to protect Muammar Gaddafi. Out of Russia there was a battalion known for their beauty and bravery in airborne insertions. Russia also had a secret group working with the Spetnaz to conduct spy missions for intelligence gathering across the globe.
The Middle East had several all-female combat units, but not with enough resources to be clandestine or global. I found out about a Chinese female group of Special Forces through Youtube. And one can’t forget the gorgeous ladies of the Israeli Defense Forces. In Israel, military service was mandatory for both men and women.
And yet, I wasn’t impressed. Something about all of these groups lacked a certain sophistication, a certain dominating authority. High heels and a green cocktail dress. I couldn’t help but smile.
Senior year. It was my last year of college and the world had changed. I wasn’t sure if it was for better or worse. Or rather, I couldn’t say if it was for better or worst.
It was an election year. Everyone was so excited to have our first female president. I didn’t consider myself political. Or rather, I tried not to be. But it was everywhere. No one could be neutral. Not in New York City. I just wanted to find my mother, but everywhere I went, the subway, the coffee shop, the park, the library, there were demonstrations and protests out the yin-yang.
It was in your face. Everyone had a cause. I couldn’t just go on about my day. They forced me to care. And if I refused, then I was a horrible person. This was perpetrated by my peers, fellow students. Ugh, it was sickening.
All of this…I’ve never told anyone. I pretended to be a Liberal just like everyone else in my classes. I wore pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month, I demanded that women got paid the same as men, I wrote articles condemning the NRA, and even lashed out at everyone shouting “Blue Lives Matter” at the Black Lives Matter” crowd.
I was just playing the game to win. Marvin and Sharon sacrificed a lot to get me through film school and I owed it to them to see it to completion.
Spring break. It was just two months before I was set graduate and the thought of it almost brought me to tears. Not because I’d have to say goodbye to campus life and the friends who only knew the person I pretended to be. But because I felt like I wasted so much time, weekends, vacations, holidays, all in the futile pursuit to find my mother.
I had my whole life ahead of me, sure. But when a chapter of your life is drawing to a close, such as your college life…there’s this dread that overcomes you. It’s like you’re running out of time. There’s this fear. Maybe it’s irrational, maybe its not. But in the back of my mind, I began to wonder if I’d spend the rest of my life searching for something I’d never find. In that sense, I’d always be alone. I was tired of being alone. I was tired of being miserable, alone.
It was the Friday of that Spring Break. I spent nearly every day in the library reading all kinds of books about Feminism and secret societies like the Illuminati. Trying to find some nexus, something to hint or trace back to what Marvin was talking about.
Then…I came across an editorial piece written by a journalist named Marcus Angel. It was titled, “Women Really Do Run the World.”
I clicked on it. This guy…First off, by no means would I describe myself as a Men’s Rights Activist or someone who empathizes with the plight of men. I just wanted to find my mother. I didn’t care about the undercurrent battle of the sexes that’s been going on over the past few years. I really didn’t. But the article. It piqued my interest.
Marcus theorized that there was this underground society of Feminists who were hell-bent on taking over the country. He asserted that they’ve infiltrated nearly every facet of society that dictated culture and policy. According to Marcus, the earliest forms came from the suffragettes. But before that, there was the Temperance Movement following the Civil War. Marcus claimed that these movements were the early prototypes that evolved to the highly advanced society of Feminists that now ruled the world as we knew it.
According to Marcus, this organization orchestrated the overthrow of some of the most influential men in the world. CEOs, politicians, actors, studio heads, generals, kings, and presidents. They’ve conquered them all by means of seduction, blackmail, data manipulation, gas-lit depression, and even murder.
It was a gutsy move, writing that article. I spent the rest of the weekend researching his claims about the suffragettes and the Temperance Movement and at last, I was impressed. Allow me to explain.
In the wake of the Civil War, alcohol consumption reached an all time high. Vets struggled to find work. European immigrants came off the boat taking all the jobs. So they found solace in the bottle. And when they were all good and liquored up, they’d come home and take out their frustrations on their love ones. We’re talking abuse on a daily basis. Women lived in virtual prisons where the law did very little to protect them. So women took action to protect themselves.
Thus came the genesis of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Now these women were truly badass. It began in 1873 but within twenty years their membership ballooned to over 200,000. Their earliest members would go from saloon to saloon chest-bumping with larger, scarier men, demanding that they dumped out their spirits. They were chased out of town on numerous occasions but they kept coming back. I heard one saloonkeeper even aimed a cannon at the group protesting outside his saloon. And a woman just jumped up and sat on the cannon, still screaming for him to get rid of his alcohol. Badass!
In 1868, Elizabeth Cady Stanton said this at a convention in Washington:
“Manhood suffrage,’ or a man’s government, is civil, religious, and social disorganization. The male element is a destructive force, stern, selfish, aggrandizing, loving war, violence, conquest, acquisition, breeding in the material and moral world alike discord, disorder, disease, and death.”
Some strong words. In a nutshell this was what I learned from reading about those early Feminist movements. Marcus was right. Women really do run the world. But I wasn’t entirely convinced that women were aware of it.
For instance, it was the relentless campaigning of the Temperance movement that brought about Prohibition in the 1920s, banning the sale of alcoholic substances in America. And oddly enough, it was also women who put an end to prohibition. A woman named Pauline Sabin founded the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform in 1929. By 1933, I read that they had over 1.5 million members and soon after, the 21st Amendment was established to repeal prohibition. So now everyone can drink again. Thanks to women.
It was the end of Spring Break and my brain was fried. After much deliberation, I decided to look up this Marcus Angel. He was based in New York so it shouldn’t have been too difficult to arrange a sit down. But of course, as with all of my pursuits…
I paid his office a visit in the Flatiron District. As soon as I entered, I could sense tragedy. I dropped his name once and everyone got defensive. His editor came out of his office with hands on his hips, staring at me like a thief who came to apologize.
“If Marcus isn’t in, I can come back.” I told them.
“Who are you with, kid?”
“Nobody. I’m just film student about to graduate.”
“How do you know him?”
He was asking me these questions in the middle of the bullpen with ten sets of eyes on me.
“I read his latest article about…” I felt awkward saying it out loud. “Women who run the world.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Marcus hasn’t published anything in a week?” The editor told me.
“It’s on your website. The title is literally ‘Women Really Do Run the World.’ I’m not lying.”
“What kind of sick twisted joke is this?” a writer shouted from the nearest cubicle. “There is no article!”
She showed me Marcus’s webpage. It was gone.
“Well then someone must have deleted it. I promise you it was there. He referenced the suffragette movement. The temperance league!”
“You need to go,” said the editor.
“Wait! Just let me talk to him first. Five minutes. That’s all I need.”
“Marcus is dead. He was struck by a vehicle outside his hotel in Louisville.”
He was shoving me out the door as I had this stupid look painted across my face. I wandered aimlessly for the better part of the evening. Another dead-end in a four-year journey. I wasn’t sure how many more setbacks I could take. No! Screw that. Pick yourself up. This isn’t the end. Something isn’t right. So use your brain and figure it the fuck out. That was my mindset.
Before the stroke of midnight, I finally acknowledged that screaming voice, the impulse deep in the pit of my stomach telling me what I should do next. I raced home and prepared my luggage.
Whilst packing, my parents called. I put it on speaker and told my dad everything.
“Well, son. You do what you got to do.”
I stopped and gave him my undivided attention. Something in his tone concerned me.
“You know, whatever happens you’ll always be my parents. I’ll always love both of you. No matter what.”
“I know, El. You’re a good person. Sharon and I are proud of the man you’ve become. You got a good head on your shoulders. And you have to survive in this world that’s constantly turning its back on you and God. But I’m not worried. Because the Lord looks out for his flock.”
“Amen…” I said in a shaky whisper.
He cleared his throat. “Anyways. How long are you gonna be gone?”
“Not long. I can attend a few classes online but I’ll be back by Friday. Oh! Dad. Why’d you call? I’m sorry. You called me but the second I answered, I just dominated the conversation with all my drama. What’s going on?”
“It can wait. It can wait. You said you’ll be back by Friday? We’ll talk about it then.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. It’s no problem at all.”
“Alright. Thanks Dad. For everything.”
I stood where Marcus died. Across the street was the majestic hotel. It was strange. A window was boarded up. There was a “pardon our construction” sign on the wall. It was cordoned off by yellow police tape but I could still see employees coming and going.
It was just after sundown and already I could smell the air of foul play. I wasn’t sure what I expected to find. For a Tuesday night, downtown was certainly busy, sprawling with pedestrians and commuters still driving as if it was rush hour. Shouldn’t have been too hard for me to slip under the yellow police tape and act like someone from the hotel called me. The worse that would’ve happen was I’d get told to leave. And I would leave. But not before I asked my questions and got a better feel for what was up. And just as I was about to step out onto the street…
“Let’s take a walk.”
A man came and patted my arm. It was hard, like a dull slap, enough to scare the crap out of me. I almost slipped off the sidewalk. So of course I was pissed as I turned and whipped my sights on the joker.
He was already a stone’s throw away. Tall. White. Nestled up in a thick black jacket and dad jeans. Speaking of dad…All it took was one glance to tell this guy was military. It’s the way he walked. His gait was fast but he wasn’t in a hurry. He didn’t look back to see if I was following, but he’d checked everyone else around him. It isn’t obvious. It’s trained, to be aware of your surroundings without appearing anxious or suspicious.
We walked two windy blocks from the hotel by which I stayed ten paces behind. By the time we crossed the third intersection, my patience wore thin. I was just about to unload questions when he abruptly turned to the side entrance of a corporate building. I took a moment to observe where we were. Towering buildings surrounded us and I couldn’t even see the nearest street sign from my location.
“In here. Trust me.”
Trust me, he said.
The lights came on, orb lights on black iron lampposts with that 1920s Art Deco feel. It was breathtaking. Thousands of office windows looked down on us as we stood on the second tier of an atrium. We were out in the open but at the same time, I felt confident in assuming we were alone.
“You can call me, Jake. That’s all you need to know about me at this point in time.”
“Alright. Well, why’d you bring me here, Jake?”
This guy…he was a soldier, yes, but the stereotypes of soldiers being emotionless killing machines who blindly followed orders no matter what, it was just that, a stereotype. There’s always exceptions. As soon as I asked him the question, a myriad of expressions flashed over his face as he leaned over the walkway.
“You’re in danger, kid. I know you don’t trust me and I don’t know you. But I know you’ve been snooping around about Marcus Angel. And if we know. They know.”
“I think you know.”
“Really, bro? Brought me all the way out here just to play the pronoun game? Who’s they? Just tell me, man.”
“You read the article Marcus wrote before he was killed. Well, he was right. For over a hundred years, we’ve known. But thanks to Marcus we have proof. Video evidence he recorded the same night he was murdered.”
“So he was murdered.”
“You don’t sound too surprised.” Jake pointed out.
“In truth, I don’t know what to believe. For the past four years it seems I’ve been caught in my own sci-fi thriller. I mean, just an hour ago I was staring at a hotel about to investigate. Now here I am, in a vacant building with some shady, washed up soldier talking conspiracy theories.”
“You’re the bloody baby, aren’t you?”
My heart skipped a beat. “How do you know about that? How do you know I’ve been looking into Marcus Angel?”
Jake stood up and squared his shoulders. He scanned me with cautious eyes. I could tell he was dying to spill the beans but why so reluctant?
“What exactly do you think I’ll do?” I asked him.
“What I’m about to tell you, you can never repeat. You have to understand, I’m taking a shot in the dark by revealing as much as I have. I’m taking a shot in a dark, because I want you to join us.
“Elliot, if you’ve read about the Illuminati and Freemasons, then it shouldn’t be too difficult to believe that this world is full of secret organizations who have managed to stay hidden. I’m part of a brotherhood called the Paramours. Naturally, our counterpart is a sisterhood of Feminist bent on world domination. We simply call them, the Society.
“We are the loved ones lost, the bleeding hearts, the dead romantics. Everyone one of us has either survived the Society or was ruined by the Society. But despite the destruction, damage, and pain inflicted by these formidable women, it’s undeniable how much we truly love them, no matter what. It is our belief, that in order to become a member of the Society, a woman has to kill the male figure that they love the most in this world as part of some sick twisted rite of initiation. We believe that’s part of why Marcus was killed. And yes, we believe that’s why your mother killed your father.”
His words…each syllable was like taking a sledgehammer to the wall of emotions I kept dammed in my heart. I could barely move, paralyzed and caught in a web of what the fuck.
“Elliot, as sure as I’m standing before you, you can bet your ass that the Society is on to you. You’re on the right path. You’ve caught their scent and you’re getting too close. That’s why I decided to bring you in, should you choose to join us. That’s all I can say for now.”
“Sir…” I began with a tremble in my tone. “Do you know who my mother is?”
He shook his head. “I honestly don’t. The Society is a global organization. To date, we have tabs on about twenty Feminist in China whom we suspect are members. But odds are, there can be hundreds more. And as you can imagine, America, being as free as it is, we project there’s ten times more than that. They’re everywhere. Like the CIA, the Society uses civilians from all walks of life as pawns on a chessboard. Men believe they’re in control but they’re not. Women have and always will rule the world. Because we love them. Because men have come to love women more than they love God.”
“Alright.” I said, half rolling my eyes. “What do I do?”
“Join us, Elliot. I guarantee you have a better chance of finding your mother and you might just stay alive long enough to meet her. We’ll train you. We’re not strictly an offensive unit, but serve to undermine, sabotage, and correct the course.”
“The best defense is a good offense.”
“We’ve gone down that road.” He chuckled harshly. “Believe me. We can’t win. Men may be bigger and stronger but the thing that separates us from the women is our tendency to forgive and forget. They do not. They will not. Even if it looks like they’ve embraced you, I guaran-dam-tee you they’re waiting for the right moment to strike.”
“But my mother’s a member. And I think she’s a high-ranking member. She won’t let them kill me. I know she won’t.”
He groaned, stretching out his back. He probably thought I was being naïve and he may have been right. But if my mother wanted me dead she would have killed me when I was a baby, on this, I was willing to bet my top dollar.
“Son…if you think for one second that the other women in the society, who have had to kill the ones they cherished the most in this world. If you think they’re gonna just sit back and let a nosy little brat like you ruin everything they’ve worked so hard to accomplish, you’re sorely mistaken. I don’t care if your mother is the president of the organization herself, the Society is full of egos and hot-tempered women who will always do what they think is necessary on pain of death. Trust me. I saw the video Marcus recorded the night he was killed. These women are extraordinary. They’re lions. They’re butchers. They’re intelligent and ruthless. And if you’re not afraid, then pardon my French, you’re a fucking idiot.”
He gave me a business card. A phone number written on the back.
“Memorize it, then give it back to me.”
It was strange…my heart rate was pulsing. The card couldn’t keep still within my fingertips. My palms were sweaty and it suddenly it got hotter. I wasn’t even sure if I’ve memorized it completely before he snatched the card back and nudged me along.
“We gotta go.”
He led me out a different way from whence we came.
“When you get back to New York. Get rid of your smartphone, tablet, any device you used for your research. Everything has a digital trail that can be traced back to you. Even speaking key phrases over the phone will alert the society. Right now, you’re a threat. Had you gone into that hotel, you would’ve come out alive.”
He shoved me out the door of a side entrance and didn’t come with. I looked back with a nervous tension. The door was closed and that was it. I’m back out in the middle of downtown Louisville. Paranoid out of my mind.
That night, I laid in my hotel looking up at the ceiling, replaying everything over and over again. Everything sounded so insane. If not for the reoccurring nightmares, I wouldn’t have believed Jake for a second. But say, my mother was a high-ranking member of this society of Feminists. There’s something about all of it that I find so intriguing, but more than that. I couldn’t help but feel this overwhelming sense of admiration. I knew she killed my father, but oddly enough, that didn’t bother me. She was still my mother. And she sounded like a total badass.
Part of me was thinking, “who cares if they want to dominate the world? Let em. The Paramours sound like a bunch of simps. Sabotage and correcting the course…Psh! Cucks.”
The thing about being naïve…is that the naïve individual has no idea how stupid they really are. They really don’t. Up to this point, I’ve written everything to really capture the emotions of how I felt in the moment. But if you’ve read this far, then I’m sure you can detect an undercurrent of deep regret. I really was so stupid. It haunts me to this day.
When I got back to New York…you have to understand, it was just after Spring Break. I was about to graduate. I had my whole life ahead of me. The reoccurring nightmares had stopped and I was on a lucrative career path towards succeeding in film right there in the Mecca of the entertainment industry. Thus, I was finally ready to put my whole “mommy issues” to bed. I believed everything Jake had told me, but I just didn’t care. I didn’t care about women ruling the world or the fact that she killed my father. In the back of my mind, I felt that my mother was always looking after me. If she wanted to meet me, whenever or wherever, I’d gladly accept her.
Then… I’ll never forget it. I had just gotten out of the taxi in front of my apartment building when this loud, deafening, explosion burst through a unit on the fifth floor. It was around six in the afternoon so the streets were packed. Almost everyone had ducked in unison as the shards of glass fell like rain.
It was my apartment unit that blew up. I had a feeling, but it wasn’t until I shouldered through the current of panicked pedestrians that I knew.
“My roommates!” I thought.
I imagined myself running into the building to see if they were alright, if they were even in the apartment when the explosion went off. But I only imagined this. In truth, I just stood there like a deer caught in the headlights as the fire and billowy smoke reached for the sky.
Sirens, fire trucks, and paramedics arrived. I was still standing in the same spot with my roller suitcase down by my side. Dusk had turned to night. Streetlights came on. Hours had gone by and I was still standing there amidst the panic, the swarm of activity.
The EMTs were wheeling out two bodies, one after the other. My jaw slacked open. My roommates…
“Yo! Jake! What the hell happened?”
Someone gripped my shoulder and I recoiled so violently that I almost elbowed him in his face. It was my roommate. Both of them with their headphones and backpacks as if they had just gotten off the subway. They’re asking me quickfire questions but suddenly I couldn’t hear anything. It was a terrifying effect that coursed down my legs and caused my toes to curl within my shoes.
Saying nothing, I started across the street heading for that ambulance. The police stopped me. I shoved one out of the way before another got involved and pinned me to the pavement with a knee to my back. That’s when I lost it. I knew it. Before it was even confirmed, this powerful reaction erupted in me. I was screaming, thrashing about. I…I don’t remember anything else about that night. Blacked out.
The two bodies that were wheeled out were Marvin and Sharon Burroughs, the Christians who were kind enough to adopt a Chinese baby that was found covered in blood.
“Hi Elliot!!! Hahaha! So, your father and I wanted to surprise you with an early graduation gift but the thing is, we can’t find the key to your apartment. I know you said you hid it somewhere for your roommates. But hahaha! Marvin’s looking all over the place. Oh! Found it! He said he found it. Dang it! Whelp. Looks like the surprised is ruined. But I think you’ll like what we brought you. I hope you have a safe flight back! We just landed. New York is huge!!! We can’t wait to see you tonight. Love you!”
That’s was left on my voice mail.
The marshal claimed the fire was the result of a gas explosion. And of course, I couldn’t help but notice the fire marshal was a woman. She was explaining what happened to a bunch of us tenant, but, and this could have just been in my head, it felt like she was talking only to me.
Recovered from the fire was Marvin’s suitcase. Inside was my graduation gift miraculously undamaged by the fire, a manila envelope with my name on it. I was in the main branch of the New York library when I decided to open it. Sitting secluded in the archives section, I took a deep breath and reached inside. The enveloped contained one item, an 8x10inch picture of a woman named Jaida Fong. At the bottom, in handwritten ink were the words, “your mother.”
I remember crumbling up the picture with my bare hands. The rage was indescribable. I didn’t wipe my tears. I didn’t give a shit if people walked by. I was just so angry, snarling…Never been so furious in my life. This woman was not my mother. My mother died in an explosion that may have been meant for me. That night I gave Jake a call and the rest is history.
…The Perennial War of Paramours…