Precious Cargo

All characters appearing in this story are mine of my own design.
This story is a work of fiction based upon nothing in particular.

Precious Cargo is copyright © The Silver Coyote

Divine Will

The droplets of water glittered like diamonds in the sun. They rose lazily, turning slowly, catching the sun's light and refracting it into it's composite rainbow of colors. The breeze carried them aloft for a short distance before the droplets began their earthward descent again. Here there was no sound, only the light and the colors playing in the sky.

About one hundred feet below lay the source of the water plume. It had been a large building at one time, vaguely industrial looking, but had collapsed in upon itself. Now in disarray, it seemed an odd sort of monument for such a remarkably pretty fountain display of water and light. Chunks of concrete and bent steel beams lay scattered about with large items of machinery, smashed and broken. Dust and smoke drifted away on the breeze, but could not achieve the height of the aqueous diamonds playing in the sun. Down below was corruption and disorder, here there was the light and the air.

And the water of life.

Joe stared at the glittering water droplets in disbelief. From his vantage point his blue eyes looked down calmly on the destruction below while the sun warmed his face and body, he was safe. The scene below was of no consequence now. He could not understand what he was seeing, nor could he understand how it had happened. He seemed to recognize this place, seemed familiar with the area and it's purpose. He turned and looked skyward, into the sun, a question on his face and in his eyes.

As he stared into the sky the sunlight slowly became blinding, like a video picture fading to white. Everything disappeared in the light, including Joe. A time passed, and the light began to slowly fade. A murmuring of voices caught Joe's attention, he turned and began to walk towards them. As he walked, the voices became louder and more distinct. Someone was calling roll.

As the voices seemed to draw near the light began to coalesce. Joe heard his name called in the old, traditional style. José Ortíz Latrans. He stopped, uncertain, glancing about. The light had ceased to be all encompassing and had contracted and focused into a fine beam, like a stage spotlight, shining down upon him while all else was darkness. The muttering voices ceased. The air grew still and cold. In a move very uncharacteristic of him Joe slowly dropped to his knees, his paws at his sides.

The intensity of the light increased. Joe stared up at the unseen source of the light. Again uncharacteristically, his expression was that of a small pup, uncertain and insecure.

"Do you know who I am?" The voice was warm yet commanding, and seemed to fill Joe's head, coming from everywhere.

Joe nodded hesitantly.

The voice seemed familiar, rich and deep, to Joe's ears. The voice spoke in the unhurried manner of a father addressing his small child. Joe realized with a start that the voice sounded very much as his father's had when Joe was a very young pup.

"Joseph," the voice began quietly, "you are a hard working coyote, a good and reliable fur. You have done well by your family and your community. I thank you for your efforts on my behalf."

Joe nodded again, a small, frightened smile on his face. His tail twitched nervously.

"Do you know why you're here?" the voice asked casually.

A head shake in the negative.

The voice sighed. The beam of light spread slightly to reveal an old, wooden straight back chair. The voice became a little harder, a little less paternal. "Have a seat, Joseph," the voice commanded.

Joe stood and moved to the chair and sat down carefully, minding his tail. His eyes betrayed the fear and uncertainty he felt in his heart.

"In so many ways you have exceeded my expectations, Joseph," the voice began again, sounding as if reminiscing. "I have been very happy with your work, by and large. You have done very well in most of the areas I have tasked you in. You have soldiered well for the causes I set before you." A pause, and then the voice shifted in tone and texture. "But I am troubled by something."

Joe looked lost and uncertain, the question plainly visible on his face. His eyes widened slightly, his ears were alert, he was hanging on every word spoken to him.

"From whence comes your anger, Joseph?" the voice asked somewhat imperiously. "Why do you carry this burning in the depths of your soul? I see that it motivates much of who you are and what you do. You have learned to use anger and resentment and pain as tools." The voice took on a momentary trace of wonder, "Yet you seem to be able to accomplish much that is good with these unacceptable tools."

A brief silence ensued, then the voice became hard with a reprimand. "Have we not taught that anger and hatred are wrong?" Another brief silence, as though the speaker were pausing in reflection. Then another sigh, and quietly "Where did we fail you, Joseph?"

Joe stared into the light, frozen, mute.

"Joseph," the voice prompted, looking for a response. "Why are you so angry?"

Tears formed in the corners of Joe's eyes, and began to trickle down his cheeks, dampening his fur. Still he said nothing.

The voice took on a note of resignation. "Joseph, listen carefully. You will find the source of your anger. One of you will vanquish the other. If you still believe in me, still believe in what you claim to be, then you will find and destroy that in your soul which makes you hate, makes you burn with anger and resentment." The voice lost all tone of familiarity and paternity, rising suddenly in volume to fill Joe's head and shake the very foundations. "You will do this for me, Joseph, and for yourself, or suffer the eternal consequences!"

As Joe turned his face away from the voice and the light in shame, the chair disappeared from under him, and he fell to his knees again. His face was downcast, his ears flat against his head, his tears fell from his eyes to the dust on the floor beneath him. Muffled sobs could be heard.

The voice, and the light, softened. "Joseph, look at me."

Joe looked up once again into the light, his fur matted and streaked, his eyes wide.

Sounding again like a father addressing his child, the voice sought to reassure the remorseful coyote on his knees. "Joseph. I love you. Make that worth something." The voice paused. "Now, tell me son, why are you so angry?"

The tears returned anew. "I don't know, Father," Joe replied in a choked, hoarse whisper. The muffled sobbing grew louder.

The voice grew firm and strong with authority, but still carried with it a note of love. "You will find out, Joseph. This is your mission. Seek and destroy the anger and hatred that burns within you."

Joe turned his face to the floor again and mumbled a barely audible reply. "Yes Father. As you command."

The light went out, and all was blackness. The only thing that accompanied the cold darkness was the sobbing.

Annie awoke with a start. The muffled sobs she had heard in her dream, she realized, were her own. Her pillow was damp, as was her face. She reached for him in the darkness of their bedroom. Finding his sleeping body all too quickly, she sighed heavily and brokenly as the memory of the sobs faded with the vividness of her dream. She flicked the covers back and rolled away from him to sit up, feet on the floor.

What did this dream mean? She rubbed her eyes briefly, and then rubbed the back of her neck with an open paw. It was the second time she had dreamt this dream. The first had been that night in Utah following their son's rescue. She had not mentioned it to Joe then, and probably wouldn't mention this one to him now. She looked at the clock on her nightstand. 3:16 in the morning.

She got up and fetched a glass of water from the vanity off their large bedroom. She pulled a tissue from the box between their sinks and dabbed at her eyes with it, and then used the tissue to pat the fur on her cheeks dry as well. After tossing the tissue in the trash can and picking up her glass of water, she stepped slowly to the center of their bedroom. She stood silently near the foot of their bed as she sipped from her glass, watching her husband sleep while she puzzled over her dream.

The water must have something to do with his work, she thought. And it was obvious enough that he had somehow been called into the presence of God for a dressing down, and then been sent back home. But why? God made him sound like a hateful and evil fur, and he was no such thing.

Or was he? She thought back to the look in those cold gray eyes that day in Cameron, as he held his pistol to the face of the mongrel trying to rob their daughter. Neither she nor Debbie had ever seen him look or act that way before, the mixture of pleasure and hate readily apparent. She had discussed it with Debbie the following morning, but had never mentioned that particular conversation to him.

But then she remembered the real pain she had seen in his eyes and on his face the next morning as they drove home from Utah. He was disgusted, she knew, by the tactics the Interstate Police Force employed in their interrogations, and had probably been more scared than he let on about their son Mike's near future at their hands.

So what did it mean? Were there two sides to her beloved Joe? Was there something in him she had not seen or felt in their twenty some years together? She couldn't believe that. Still, there was that nagging memory of the other Joe she and her daughter had seen in Cameron...

Was there a message here for her? Was God talking to her through this dream? What was the message? What could she do, how could she help?

Her mind suddenly ceased questioning as she sipped again from her glass. For a few moments she was absolutely still, at peace and without thought, watching Joe sleep in front of her. Then, suddenly and seemingly without thought, she turned to place her glass on her desk behind her. Moving to the edge of the bed, she shrugged her shoulders and wiggled her hips slightly, encouraging her nightgown to fall to the floor. Stepping out of it, she slipped beneath the covers next to Joe.

In his own dreams Joe thought he felt rain on his face. He awoke to her light little kisses falling all over his face. Annie was holding him tightly and kissing him repeatedly, light, gentle, little kisses, over and over. He smiled and inhaled, stretching himself languidly.

"What's gotten into you?" he asked quietly when he was done.

The kisses stopped, she regarded him quietly for a moment. When she spoke her voice was soft but held a note of urgency, sounding almost fearful. "I need you, Joe. Forever. Promise me we'll always be together. Always." Her blue eyes stared into his in the darkness, imploring.

He smiled up at her face, hovering over his. "I love you, Angel, you know that. I'm certainly not going anywhere." He rolled onto his side, supporting himself on an elbow. One of her arms slipped under him, the other over him. He became aware of her nakedness as she glued herself to him. They held each other gently. He looked closely at her in the darkness. All he could see was the outline of her head and ears against the open window behind her, and her blue eyes staring at him. "Are you all right, honey?"

"I had a dream," she admitted after a few seconds pause, nodding her head. "It put some things in perspective."

He gently kissed her forehead. "You do that now and then..."

Her paw reached around to the back of his head and firmly brought his lips back to hers. Her kiss was like fire, reaching into his soul and setting him ablaze as well. As they finally separated all he could manage to say was "Wow..." Her paw remained on the back of his head, claws gently scratching behind his ears.

"Promise me..." Her voice was more a command than a plea, but it conveyed elements of both.

He looked steadily at her for a few moments. "I promise, Annie, to be yours, here for you, forever and always. We will never part." He smiled again, eyes locked on hers. "That must have been some dream," he said after gazing into her eyes for almost a quarter of a minute.

Again she kissed him passionately, deeply, as if they had just been reunited after having been separated for some weeks or months. Joe was taken aback by the intensity of her kiss and the way she held him. When they finally parted again she could see the question in his eyes.

"You don't know the half of it, coyote mine," she whispered hoarsely, "I want you, I need you to love me like there will be no tomorrow."

"As you command, my love," he smiled, a little out of breath.

He didn't know why she seemed to shudder as if chilled when he said that, but in a few moments they had both forgotten the shudder and he what had presumably caused it.

To Chapter Thirty: Girl's Night Out.

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