A Monk’s Key
A Monk’s Key and Some Prime Mates
“You’re not coming out?” Kareem’s voice betrayed his offense.
“I’ve spent weeks with you and the squad.” Chances to get away were rare and Tariq preferred not wasting this one by watching more whoring.
[Warriors with no futures must live in the present—excessively.]
“Fine.” The captain’s voice didn’t ring as it being fine. He regretted handing out the airline tickets: his Bangkok levers were already pulled.
“What should we do?” Tariq asked out of politeness only.
“Up to you.” Pun’s answer was as predicted.
The taxi driver threaded his way though some alleys to avoid the worst traffic and they arrived at the downtown riverbank. A short walk along the cement quay took them to a wharf where a long narrow riverboat waited.
The boatman keyed the engine: it was an automotive slant six mounted and balanced on a steerable drive shaft. The propeller spun in the air eight feet behind the stern. Then, he dipped the prop into the murky water and the boat shot away, like fired from a spear gun.
“Happy girl!” The female shouted against the wind and tried uselessly to protect her hairstyle with her hands. “Pun never Bangkok boat.”
The rat-tailed launch toured around many small canals and far into the suburban areas of the water city. At the upper terminus of the water safari, they docked. From here, a converted rice barge would take over for the trip back. However, that larger craft held more passengers and would wait until several smaller boats arrived to fill it.
“I have a debt to pay off and you’ll enjoy this too.” Tariq bought some loaves of bread from a vendor and led Pun onto a secondary pier. Within seconds of some bread striking the murky surface, a catfish gulped it.
“Eek!” Pun squealed and she tore a chunk off her loaf. Tossing morsel after morsel had the water teeming with fish. They twisted in the roiling surface and ones underneath almost pushed others out of the river.
“Get more.” The girl flung her last crust into the feeding frenzy.
I wonder how they detect food though the river’s brown suspended silt.
[Repayment for the meat meal that you took away from one?]
“I knew she would enjoy it.” A squad mate had told the Iranian about this tour: it was bemoaning disappointment that it wasn’t a floating brothel. “Pun’s kept me sane and I wanted to give her an extraordinary memory.”
[I’m sure that was heard.]
Tariq swiveled quickly around: Pun was over a dozen paces away.
[The finest offerings aren’t burnt on an alter.]
“That does hold some truth.” Tariq carried the renewed supply of fish chow back. Tiny acts of kindness pay off compound interest. The recipient appreciates and reciprocates to others. It’s like the ripples out from one pebble dropped into a pond. Extrapolated, it’s casting a handful of gravel.
[A sword reflects in still water: just as a bouquet of wildflowers does.]
“I know that.” Tariq grumbled. That’s really why I’m here. “I threw that heavy stone already, but now I’m dreading the splash.” Any advice?
[Emotional counseling isn’t quite my horn of mead.]
Then are there any substitute delusions available? The programmer and the Thai lady wended their way to the polished teak rice barge.
[He’s usually too busy.]
“Eat eat.” Pun had filled two heaping plates from a shipboard buffet.
“How do Thai girls stay slim?” The Iranian watched her chow down. “You eat as much as a sumo wrestler does—and are soon hungry again.”
“Today in Pun’s think forever.” She curled under his arm to munch.
[You mistakenly thought one of those snack platters was for you?]
“Memory forever.” He corrected her English.
“We go back?” Pun asked as the barge docked at the city center jetty.
“We could stay there.” He pointed to the luxury hotel on the riverfront.
“She’s a whore.” In the corridor of a shopping center, a solitary Arab watched the revolving door where the mismatched couple had entered an expensive hotel. “Why does he choose to be in public with her?”
“My vigil was fruitful but it still hasn’t answered my questions.” It was his growing bemusement that caused Kareem to have his driver trail the Iranian’s car. The jihad commander had inquired on the boat tour’s details, to find that it would terminate back at this spot. He had then selected the mall’s tinted windows to provide a superb concealment.
“An Islamic male,” he turned from the window, “should feel contrite about being seen next to an obviously hired sex partner.”
“I suppose so?” A young tourist answered in an Australian accented voice, flavored with uncertainty. She had been browsing a swimsuits rack of when this Arabic man turned and seemed to ask her a direct question.
“You have a problem mate?” A man wearing shorts and a singlet put a tribal-tattooed arm protectively around the female.
“You’re satisfied with only the one doxie,” the fat lieutenant talked as if to the object man on his mind, though he was vacantly staring straight at the honeymooning couple, “when there’s plenty of others available.”
“He seriously gives me the creeps.” The Australian prom queen tried to step a pace back but her bottom bumped into a display bin.
“Is she long-term slut too?” The captain’s mental imagery conjured a picture of Fatima with the older man, in a non-familial pose.
“Don’t talk to us that way.” The tourist man from down-under brought his arm up over his wife’s head and adopted an aggressive stance.
“Lust clouded my mind.” Kareem’s rectum involuntarily tightened on a memory of the excruciating excrement that resulted from his spicy meal. He breathed in sharply and his nostrils flared wide like an angry gorilla’s
“Hit the freaky sheik.” The bride urged and her trepidation agitated the groom’s testosterone—in a decanter that already held five beers.
From the dim recesses of his present moment’s foreground, a flying fist connected solidly with the point of the Arabic man’s nose. He grabbed at his pummeled face and slumped onto the swimsuit bin.
“Let’s shop somewhere else.” The Australian pair scurried off.
“I’ve been lax in my scrutiny.” After a moment, Kareem stood from the bloodied clothing to see a clerk glancing concernedly from his face to the soiled sale articles. The Arab’s hand extracted a wad of currency and without comment or counting, he tossed it onto the stained goods.
“I’ll redouble my vigilance.” The portly Arab left the mall and walked along the waterfront while his nose bled unchecked down the front of his white garb. With his decision fixed, the glowering man finally noticed his wounded proboscis and he wiped his sleeve across it.
“That hurt!” Now Kareem owed Tariq and Fatima for the pain brought to arms, tongue, anus and snout. The jihad officer with wavering loyalty returned to his car. “But I’ll not waste my final two nights in Bangkok.”
“Not stay here.” Pun’s eyes swept around the lobby, it was tastefully appointed to a designer’s specification—and sterile.
“Your passport?” The receptionist reached for the registration card.
“One moment.” Tariq stalled and turned. “What’s wrong?”
“Spirits not happy.” The Thai lady fidgeted. “Not good feel.”
“I see what you mean.” The girl’s uncomfortable vibes had transferred to him as well. The programmer’s eyes fell on an ornate shrine set in a prominent corner of the lobby. He’d seen these spirit houses in or around almost every building in Thailand but this one was unusual. An antiseptic version of a tradition is just a plastic bastardization.
Obviously, the hotel’s international management felt the item was cultural to the area and part of the decoration, but the employees weren’t allowed to decorate it with gifts. Each other one the Iranian had seen was strewn with plates of food, flower garlands, glasses of whiskey or soda, sticks of incense both smoking and burnt out—and great swarms of flies.
“We’ll go stay somewhere real.”
“There is one up on the roof for the staff to use.” The counter clerk had experienced the same reaction from a few previous guests.
“I’m sorry but that’s just a visible iceberg’s tip that suggests there will be many more things that I’ll intensely dislike here.”
“This is a five-star hotel.” The uniformed man bristled.
“Then perhaps I’m two-star person and this is three units from my taste range.” Tariq tore the registration card in halves. Save my room for some ostentatious sort who can brag of visiting Bangkok—without really having experienced being in Thailand. They went the revolving glass doors less than ten minutes after entering and were in a meter taxi just in time to miss seeing a blood-covered Kareem walking onto the quay.
“Where should we stay then?” Tariq anticipated her standard answer.
“Go my village?” Pun asked tentatively.
The taxi headed east and girl gave instructions in Thai. After several hours on highways, the road became increasingly worse. Turnings in small towns led to even tinier ones. The last two kilometers were across a paved road with enough craters to fit on a lunar landscape. Finally, they entered a cluster of twenty dwellings at the bottom of a jungle-covered mountain.
“Mother Pun.” She introduced a woman even shorter than her with a light dusting of grey hairs. Pun nudged. “Sawatdee kup her.”
“Sawatdee krap.” Tariq parroted the girl’s action by putting his hands into a wei in front. He could see Pun’s features echoed in her mother, and especially in the jutting lower jaw structure. Many Issan female’s mouths are at rest in a seeming frown. When Pun smiled though—it was dazzling. Her mother’s grins, showed teeth and gums stained reddish-orange from habitually chewing Bezel nuts.
“Father Pun.” The ritual greeting process was repeated when a shirtless man came from his work in the garden out back.
[A five-star can’t ape and pervert earth salt.]
I suspect the accommodations are zero stars—unless one peeks through a hole in the tin roof. Tariq’s eyes roamed the unpainted wood structure on stilts. Nearly half of the lower area was taken up by a brick bathroom and kitchen: the rest was open with a dirt floor.
“I market get food.” Pun left on a 100cc scooter.
A hammock of woven bamboo was strung between two support pillars. Complete with a pillow and tied with automotive fan belts, it looked both inviting and capable of taking his weight.
“This is utterly tranquil.” The programmer set his heel onto a ceramic rain barrel: it gave his foot an anchor point for pushing the swing. As a fan in reverse, the cooling breeze was created as he moved through still air.
Tariq dialed a Canadian number. He had bought the taxi driver’s cell phone—likely paying too much and purchased minutes at a gas station.
“Hello.” A familiar female responded.
[Hearing Freya’s voice again completes this bliss.]
“My name is Jacqueline now.” She briefly explained.
“That’s a good idea. On the other hand, maybe I’ll miss having a brand new enchantress every time you changed your moniker.”
“Did I just hear a rooster crowing in the background?”
“Live chickens are as relaxing as cooked ones are tasty.” Tariq took a moment to describe his current location and frame of mind. “I feel like we have connected all the clues, but still I’m leery of leaving the jihad unit.”
“Are you worried that Kareem might later come looking for us?”
“That’s only a distant possibility.” The programmer didn’t quite know what the problem was in his own mind so describing it was much tougher. “Since there’s nothing pressing for me to do elsewhere, I’ll stay on.”
“Am I not urgent enough?”
“You’re of utmost importance to me,” Tariq said sincerely, “but I need be sure I’m finished with the jihad.” He felt his hammock jiggle. His eyes flicked aside and three heads ducked down.
“Does Kareem suspect anything?”
“He’s enthralled by my method acting.” Tariq boasted in a chuckling voice as three very young spies had eyes peeking over his bamboo bed.
“I thought that about Bob,” she warned, “until suddenly he wasn’t.”
“I’ve just now come under some close scrutiny.” He described the two young boys and one small girl with eyes as round as ten-baht coins. At least he assumed one was a female. All three had heads shaved to bristle stubble but the one had a single patch of hair grown out long enough to be braided to the shoulder. “I don’t expect they see many farangs in this tiny village. I must seem to them as a big orangutan.”
“~I learned of drug.” The executive held a pill bottle in one hand and a Russian phrase book in the other. Collin set the medicine on the coffee table to concentrate on thumbing pages for the words. “~Experimental.”
“~It eases withdrawal pains?” Oksana picked up the small container. She looked at the label though it was incomprehensible to her.
“~No. You take one pill.” He gestured swallowing a caplet. “~Makes the heroin not work.” Even if she later takes an injection it won’t help as the substance grants immunity from heroin’s effects.
“~Withdrawal is horrible.” The documentary of the woman’s animated features described her trepidation. “~I’ll be like a rabid baboon.”
“~I’ll help fight the addiction.” His face registered his stalwart offer of full assistance. “Kick, punch or bite me and I’ll try to absorb your hurt.”
“Kin cow.” They had invited him to partake, with a phrase implying that dinner is ready, but it translated literally to eat rice.
“I should shave my head and be a monk.” Tariq commented as he sat on a bamboo mat, eating with Pun’s family. They had another guest too.
“Must shave brow eyes too.” She tapped a finger on her eyebrow, then glanced down and frowned. “Not polite have feet point at monk.”
“Sorry.” Tariq nodded apologetically at the man in the orange robes. He moved his offending feet but failed to find a comfortable leg position.
[Western furniture isn’t conducive to preserving limberness.]
“Why you want be monk?” Pun inquired.
“It seems like an uncomplicated lifestyle.” The Arabic Canadian felt a Charlie-horse developing in his calf muscle. “Is it socially acceptable for me to leave the meal now?” He went outside after her affirmative nod.
“Phenom Rung.” The monk had followed Tariq. The elderly holy man grasped the Iranian’s wrist with warm hands and nodded at the mountain.
“Fen Om Roong?” The programmer pronounced it: he didn’t know it, but Phenom Rung is an Angkor Wat like ancient temple near Buri Ram in Issan Province and he was at the foot of it. He felt a strange draw to know what was on top: he looked at the monk. “Should I walk up there?”
“Phenom Rung.” Pun’s uncle aimed a gnarled finger up the mountain.
“Am I an idiot?” By the time he was halfway up, Tariq was drenched in sweat and puffing. I thought I was in better condition. At the top, his legs were quivering from over exertion and he sat on the weathered stone steps to regain his wind. This rock is lava that bubbled up from the earth’s center. The Iranian put his bare palms on the hardened magma and leaned his shoulders against a stone Naga’s body that doubled as a low handrail.
He closed his eyes: then after a minute, stood refreshed and continued.
“I didn’t really want to sell this ship.” Bernard strolled the deck and he ran his hand along the polished mahogany rail. “I suppose that’s why I’ve delayed giving it up to the new owner.” He chuckled dryly. “I haven’t let the painters come onboard to change the name while I’m still here either.”
“You don’t strike me as someone ruled by nostalgia,” the smaller man in a charcoal suit walked a step behind, “but why did you sell it then?”
“I’m ruled by nothing and nobody,” Stryker spun sharply, “and if you ever feel you understand me: I’ll assure you that you are wrong. As to the reason for selling, it’s what it always is—I need the cash for something I deem more important.” The ultra-powerful business-man stepped into his guest’s space and draped a friendly arm around his emaciated shoulder.
“I’m—uh—I’ve told Ghazi’s you all—um—.” The affable gesture put the man into a state of abject fear—as intended.
“Yes,” Bernard assisted the frightened man over to a table piled high with file-folders, “you’ve told me all about your recent dealings—as well you should’ve. Have a glass of water. I want you to see something.”
“Okay.” He gulped a mouthful only.
“I’ve been reviewing what I own,” Bernard scooped a handful of paper, “to determine what else I can safely sell and it’s just on the off-chance that certain things currently beyond my control—will come about favorably.”
“There doesn’t seem to be much that you can’t dictate.”
“Ah,” Stryker sighed, “but never all. Zafira Abdi was quite lovely,” a glossy photo of Bernard and the Pakistani politician was amid the scattered files and Stryker tugged it to prominence, “and her death was a sad event.”
“The American government,” he had said this line a hundred times, “is supporting local efforts to find out who killed her and why.”
“They won’t ever determine why I murdered Zafira,” Bernard laughed, “nor will they be able to locate any evidence of my complicity. As usual, I have prepared for another to take the blame—if needs be or if I choose.”
“You said you wanted me to see something?” The nervous man urged.
“I’ve already shown you.”
“The picture?” Fumbling like a trained chimpanzee in a suit, the man guzzled his water down but awkward hands slopped out as much as hit his mouth. “Am I your—?”
“Patsy?” Stryker offered a word. “I can see why you might suppose so but that wasn’t my wish.”
“Thanks.” The man still had no clue of whether he was in the clear or not. “What am I to do if Sheik bin Omani contacts me again?”
“Do whatever he asks. Ghazi is my protégé and he’s also my heir.”
“I didn’t know any Khmer temples existed outside of Cambodia.” The structure couldn’t be anything else though. It was somber and lavishly decorated with weathered bas-relief sculptures. Tariq entered the grassy inner sanctum—it was deserted. He went to the alter building and looked through an ornately carved square window.
“If you were here on the morning of April 4th,” from behind, a monk set hand on the Iranian’s shoulder, “you would see the sunrise through there.”
Tariq spun and stared. The old man seemed as the Buddha himself.
“You carry too much karma.” The monk spoke in unaccented English.
“I think I’m a bad kismet magnet.” Tariq joked. Who is this bizarre guy and how did he sneak up on me like that?
“My name is unimportant but you may call me Vune,” the strange man sat down before the stone window, “and you’ve taken me by surprise too.”
“Vune.” The programmer squatted—and his knees joints popped like cracked knuckles, as through an amplifier. He forgot what he was saying.
“The word means busy in Thai.” The monk chuckled, “In my youth, I could seldom stay still for long—and I suppose some of that trait remains.”
“Did you know what I was thinking about?” The Iranian referred to the mental questions that Vune had seemingly answered.
“Set your two hands on the monolith.” Vune stood and went to a pillar situated in the very center of the sanctum: he placed his palms on the North and South facets of the pyramid shaped top. “You’ll find this can help.”
“It might help more if you answer some I verbally ask.” Tariq rested his hands on the East and West. “There—now what?”
“What do you sense?”
“It feels strongly, and oddly, like the lava rock of the stairs coming up.” It was strange too, because this was smoother like granite: he didn’t know geology that well, but it certainly wasn’t as magma suddenly solidified.
“How powerful is it?”
“Incredibly so.” The programmer often felt akin with nature. The rock was infinitely more calming and he felt the stress shooting from his body like lightning bolts through a ground rod.
“If we turn this key hard enough,” the monk’s hands put torque on the standing square stone, “do you think it would unlock the dormant lava?”
“We’re standing on top of a volcano!” Tariq had twisted his wrists like Vune had done—but his action was to humor the monk. Now, he snatched his shocked fingers back. “I knew it was: I felt molten rock underneath.”
“This temple was 400 years in the building,” Vune pulled back too, and he walked outside, “but the library still isn’t done. Why would people risk all that effort in placing their work on a volcano—albeit an extinct one?”
“Dinosaurs went extinct.” The programmer recalled his turbulent time with Lauren and the dormant magma she stirred in him. “These suckers,” he stamped his foot on the ground, “are just biding their own sweet time.”
“You want me to answer your questions, but you’ve ignored mine.”
“Why?” The Iranian reminded himself of the query. “They believed it was a worthwhile undertaking—regardless of how long it would endure.” Maybe the real reason was even for the strong energetic effect that I felt.
“I think so too.” The monk sat cross-legged in the grass pavilion where he could view the carvings, guarding statues and high domed roof.
“You said I carried too much karma.”
“You did, but it left when you allowed the stone to take it. I imagine it may build up again: as you suggested, you make yourself a magnet for it.”
“Stress isn’t karma. What kind of Buddhist monk are you anyways?”
“Vune.” The monk laughed. “I’m a busy one, but not for Buddha.”
Loki! Tariq mentally called. I think I could use a hand out here.
Vune turned one palm up and then the other, as if giving them for aid.
“I’m not comfortable when Loki does that shit in my head,” Tariq sat on the grass facing the monk, “but you doing it in my real world is worse.”
“In your real world, Phenom Rung isn’t a Buddhist temple. It’s a 12th century shrine to Shiva and Vishnu: you can see those deities depicted in the etchings.” The monk brought his helpful hands into a prayer position with fingertips at his chin. “Now let’s discuss your problems.”
“The prominent god in my girlfriend’s upbringing was Shiva.” Tariq suddenly remembered Loki’s odd quip about a replacement able to provide guidance being generally busy. “I suppose Jacqueline is one of my greatest concerns. I want to run back to her but am hesitant: for what reason I don’t quite know.” Actions with Pun factored in. “Maybe I don’t feel worthy.”
“That’s one place you needlessly drag your karma overload from. It’s not up to you to decide what she wants and needs, or if you’re that for her.”
“No,” the programmer breathed deeply, “that’s hers to do.” His worry seemed to utterly evaporate: as if he’d let the stone take that too. “Another possibility is a feeling I’ve endangered someone or something else.”
“Forget about the some thing.” Vune said. “Only another soul brings effects onto yours. Who might you have wrongfully imperiled?”
“Bob Wall is the one who springs to mind,” Tariq chuckled, “but he is unredeemable already. He stole my program, tried to drown me, held my girlfriend as a sex slave and God only knows what else.”
“If God only knows,” Vune parroted back his phrase, “then those are up to God to deal with. Retribution for his acts toward the girl is also not your business—that is hers. That leaves theft and attempted murder. Did you use, lure or provoke him? Did you leave viable options open for him?”
“Yes, yes, yes and no.” The programmer pursed his lips and stared into the monk’s saffron robe for a thoughtful pause. “I baited him on purpose because I wanted the widespread access Wall Soft could give my Trojan. I started it and Bob is now threatened by the one I was really gunning for.”
“Can you protect the victim from the harms you’ve exposed him to?”
“My best chance is staying with those most likely to attack him.” The Iranian raked his fingers in the grass. “That’s why I’m dragging my feet.”
“Is there anything else?” Vune reached into his bag and removed a tiny bottle: he unscrewed the cap and sprinkled some water onto Tariq’s head.
“There was my experience at the 9/11 elevator.”
“Maybe you should explore it, but I told you that I am Vune—busy.”
“Thank you,” Tariq put his palms together and bowed, “for one other relief too. I finally have my personal proof that you and Loki do exist.”
“Have you?” Vune stood. “Nagas are the multi-headed snakes you’ll find around this and other temples. They are emplaced to signify crossings between your real world, and the realm of heaven.” He clapped his hands.
“Taaleek!” Pun slapped his face and shook his arm. “You okay?”
“Vune?” The Iranian sat up: he was on the step where he had rested after his climb. His fingers found dampness in his hair—but was it sweat?
“Much vune to look look you.” She giggled and helped him to his feet. “Monk uncle say he point say is Phenom Rung—vune—off go you.”
“I want to take a quick peek,” the programmer glanced at the rock Naga he seemingly slept beside then headed for the gate, “before it’s too dark.” Inside the walls, the temple looked as he had seen it in the déjà vu dream.
“There’s something making a noise,” after she showed him upstairs to a bedroom, Tariq heard an odd call, “that I can’t place.”
“It man chicken.” The girl offered.
“I know what a rooster sounds like,” he laughed, “unless chickens that are speaking Thai sound differently.”
“That tuukaw.” Pun identified it after the lizard had spoken again: she didn’t know the English equivalent. “Make sound if will rain soon. If not sing five times is bad luck and must kill.”
“Seven.” The programmer noted after counting kuk-ow chirps.
‘Kuk-ow.’ The Iranian heard the lizard’s call again as he drifted off to sleep: it vaguely sounded as the elevator cable did when his axe bumped it.
‘Are you a fireman?’ A hopeful female voice sounded in response to a shuffle of his feet on the cab’s slightly tilted roof.
‘No,’ he brandished his tool from his belt and accidentally hit a cable, ‘but I have a fire axe. Sit facing a corner and cover your head.’
The executive programmer took several axe-whacks at the hatch. The latch was on the inside but the flimsy roof panel gave easily when struck squarely. He knelt and looked in at the cowering woman. She didn’t heed my warning to duck but the lady is so short that it probably didn’t matter.
‘Pull me up.’ The woman dressed in fine clothes begged. She was of a squat build and her extended fingertips couldn’t touch the ceiling.
‘I’ll try.’ It was a magnanimous offer but Tariq had serious doubts about his ability to tow her obese body to the top of the elevator. From this downward angle, her diameter appeared to equal to her height.
Can she even fit through the opening? The mental query was moot, as her wrists were too slick to securely hold. She was sweating profusely from fear, and the heat in the elevator car.
‘Why is it so hot in there?’ The straining man asked.
‘Hold my arms tighter,’ the woman ignored his question: she stood on tiptoes to facilitate his gaining a purchase, ‘but be mindful of damaging my bracelet.’ Then she slipped from his grip for the third time.
‘I’m sorry.’ Why was he apologizing? She is perspiring so profusely that a world-ranked bodybuilder couldn’t lift her weight without talc.
‘The elevator is wedged partially between floors.’ The stymied rescuer looked for another option. Heat wafted up the outside of the cab: peering down the side, he could see a moderate dancing of flames. I hope that’s not emergency brakes burning away. A glance up showed the cables were neither tight nor straight. Those are likely broken somewhere above.
‘I’m coming down there. I’ll pry the doors and we can crawl out.’
‘I told a 911 operator where I was and tried to find out what happened. She told me to just stay put here, then she rudely hung up on me.’
You were also being discourteous in trying to hold an emergency dispatcher in a useless conversation at the expense of other callers. Tariq held his retort internally and set his axe to work jimmying the inner doors.
‘My tax pays her salary,’ the readjusted her clothes and gaudy jewelry after the failed efforts of climbing out, ‘and that of her supervisors too.’
That sounded as an implied threat to have the 911 operator disciplined. Whereas previously, the Iranian thought she might’ve been a highly paid employee, her last several comments caused him to reevaluate. She’s more likely a wealthy investor or even a principle in one of the businesses here.
With some effort, the metal plates were split and he could insert the axe into the crack far enough to spring the latch mechanism.
‘We’re stuck between floors!’ The short woman stated the fact that was fully obvious to both. She lifted the hem of her billowing ankle-length skirt and used the material to wipe away some facial sweat.
‘I can open the doors under us,’ Tariq wished he hadn’t seen her fleshy legs and the lingerie she had on underneath: it was especially nasty from a prone perspective, ‘but climbing out will be difficult.’ The Iranian omitted the more pressing fact. We’ll also have to pass very close to the fire.
Tariq transferred the axe to his left hand and sprawled prone on the floor. As he reached down to nudge the lock mechanism for the exterior door, an eager tendril of flame licked from under the car to singe the hair on his left arm. An unusual tingling ran through his ring and pinky fingers.
‘Hold onto my ankles while I climb out.’ His belly fat was suspended uncomfortably in an inverted position as his hands walked the doorframe. Of course she didn’t action that request, any more my others. It had been more than a few years since he last performed a handstand.
After propping his axe against the wall, Tariq now had the options of doing a face-plant on the carpet while burning his feet—or a somersault. The flipping maneuver caused a painful bruise where in the tumble a sharp corner of satchel in his belt had chafed against his lower rib cage.
‘Push the call button!’ She squealed excitedly.
‘We’ll have to summon maintenance staff.’ The Iranian axe-whacked the button and smashed it. ‘Now, are you coming out head or feet first?’
She puffed an incomprehensible reply but the answer was visual in a pair of hands extended through the crack. The fire in the brake mechanism was intensifying and greasy smoke rolled into the corridor like a black fog.
Tariq pulled her wrists and a voluptuous chest squeaked along the tiles. He repositioned his hands to her armpits and heaved again. As her upper body emerged, a large gem bobble on a gold chain swung free and hit him in the right eye. She could’ve removed some of those hindrances?
The lady bear-hugged her rescuer: her dangling bulk threatened to topple him over. The elevator cab dropped a foot. The gap was widener: she was able slide free but in fright, she curled her calves around the wall.
‘Let your legs go!’ The programmer watched her rump undulating like two under-inflated beach balls trapped in a plaid-patterned sarong.
The elevator slid another inch. The emergency braking mechanisms were failing in the fire. The woman flopped out like a beanbag: her body dropped onto her rescuer and collapsed him to the floor.
Felling suddenly trapped, as he had during 9/11, Tariq awoke abruptly. Pun wasn’t as heavy as the elevator woman, but in her sleep the Thai girl had draped herself over his chest. He extricated himself and got up.
“I feel as a Hawaiian sacrificial virgin,” the programmer looked out the window to where Phenom Rung’s volcano pedestal blotted out a soon to be rising sun, “standing on the lip of a volcano’s molten maw.”