|©2003 By Philip .J. Eggerding
Zig Zag, Max, Brandy, and their father are copyright by Max Black Rabbit
James Sheppard copyright by James Bruner.
This is a speculative work of fiction and is not to be considered canon for James Bruner's "Zig Zag the Story".
"Why is he here?"
"Because he's our father and I invited him, that's why! Brandy invited the two of you, so I invited him. If we're to meet your new lover, it may as well be all of us."
Max gave Zig Zag a challenging look before taking their father's coat and hanging it in the foyer closet. Zig merely slitted her eyes and turned away, refusing to rise to the bait. Even so, the nausea and anger churning in her guts was hard to ignore. She noticed other feelings too - a vague dread and a twisted sense of dejavue. "I don't like this, James," Zig whispered, as they walked into the living room and found seats. "I don't like this at all." Max and his father took the sofa opposite them and began chatting as if she and James didnt exist.
"We can leave," offered James, quietly.
Zig shook her head. "He's here. There's nothing I can do about that. I don't like him, but I won't run from him."
Brandy looked nervously from one group to the other. "Can I get anyone anything?" There was a strained brightness in her voice. Everyone gave their orders, and Brandy put on some music before leaving for the kitchen. When she returned with the drinks, Zig accepted hers without enthusiasm. Sipping it, she reviewed the day's events. Even without this new development, her day was going badly. She'd had another one of her nightmares--the screaming kind, not the whimpering kind. She was having more of those lately, and even though she couldn't remember them after waking, they were affecting her temper--sometimes even straining her relationship with James, though he rarely showed it. This morning, she'd gouged him pretty badly when hed had to physically restrain her. He'd forgiven her, saying that nothing she could say or do would ever make him stop loving her. But it had to take its toll. Didn't it? And what would happen now? James didn't know her father like she did, but he soon might. And that worried her.
Suddenly apprehensive, she leaned toward James, whispering. "Whatever happens between me and my father today, stay out of it. Promise me that." She didn't know how she knew, but she was sure her childhood would become a topic of discussion. For his own good, she had to get James to promise to stay clear of the confrontation. "Promise?" she prompted, again.
James frowned, but then nodded. "I'll keep my peace, but I hope you know what you're doing."
Zig knew he meant what he said, but his promise didn't give her the expected relief. Something still wasn't right, and as the conversation continued on mundane topics, the nagging fear she'd experienced earlier grew even stronger. Suddenly, her father was talking to her.
"So how's the porn business, Tonya? Must be good. Max here says you've got plenty to spend on..." Zig's father nodded to James, "other amusements, and still put him through Med school."
Zig stiffened, and she almost growled. Her father's comment had the tact of a runaway train. She felt James tense up beside her and she squeezed his arm, giving him a quick 'you promised' look. "My business is fine, thank you," she answered, shooting her father an angry look. "So what have you been doing to stay occupied... besides molesting kids."
Even Zig was shocked by her accusation. It seemed to have come out of nowhere. She dropped her eyes and cursed herself for lack of control. Why did being in her father's presence always do that to her? She didn't dare look at James. What must he think of her now? Had he made the connection between her accusation and her own childhood?
"Tonya!" Max finally snarled. "Don't make foul-mouthed accusations you can't back up! You may have no reputation to protect, but our father does!"
That brought Zig's head up with a snap. "Reputation! Is that all you think about? What others think of him! What about me!"
"What about you?" Max shot back. "A fine one you are to talk about morals, Miss Hang-It-Out-for-Everyone-to See!"
Zig dug her claws into James arm, expecting an instant reaction, but there was none... and that shook her. Was her past that shocking? Was he seeing her in a new light? Afraid to pursue the thought, she rounded again on Max. "Remember, brother," Zig said through gritted teeth, "my 'morals' are keeping you in Med school."
"Which is as it should be," he replied. "Seeing as how you decided to take over the running of this family some time back!"
Zig spared a moment from Max to glance at their father. His smug expression made her sick. He was letting Max do his dirty work for him. It was time to put the focus back where it belonged. "I had to take over, considering what that," she stabbed a clawed finger at her father, "pervert was doing to us!"
"Pervert! Hah! That's a good one, coming from the likes of you!"
Zig's anger was burning a hole in her, but a cold emptiness was beginning to grow within the fire. Why wasnt James reacting to this? But she knew why. He knows... and he cant accept it. He cant... wont accept my past!
"And just what did our father do?" Max continued, his face scowling now. "Tell me to my face--and to his--that is, if you can!"
Suddenly, the vague sense of fear she'd had all during the visit blazed up, and such a strong sense of dejavue hit her that she couldn't speak--couldn't even move.
All this has all happened before!
"What's the matter, Tonya?" her father said, a smug look on his face. "Nothing to say, because there is nothing to say?"
Zig's head jerked around to her father. Those words! Her father's words had triggered a memory. It had something to do with her dream last night. It was a dream about... about.... her and James meeting her father! She began to tremble. James was reaching for her and she backed away.
"Zig. Lets go home. Please?"
Snapping her eyes back to his, she felt them widen further. He'd said those exact words in her dream last night! Suddenly, her fear redoubled. There had been something horrible about that dream.
"Thats right. Get her out of here. She doesn't have anything to say," sneered her father.
Zig felt her mind splintering. More words from her dream! What was happening to her? It was as if all this was scripted! "Oh, I have plenty to say," she heard herself shouting, even as she realized that this was following the script, too.
"Well then, spit it out, sister!" sneered Max. "I want this out in the open once and for all!"
On cue, her anger took over even as another part of her was appalled at the inexorability of it all. Her anger was so palpable now that it seemed to take on form and substance in her mind. Her rage even had a face. It was her father's face! A sneering malevolent face! Zig looked at him through the red haze that was clouding her vision. Unable to stop her rampaging thoughts, she found herself wanting to rip that face off. She wanted to tear him apart!
"Zig!" James cried. "We must leave! Im sorry, but I cant help you with this!"
These final words from James snapped something in Zig. "Yes, you COULD help me, if you really wanted to!" she screamed, "You could..." Zig Zag stopped and stared in horror. The memory of her dream was taking over...
"You could strip the hide from this fetid child abuser! Damn it, James! He beat me! He raped me! He violated me! He stole my childhood and gave me nothing in return!" Zig Zag was screaming now. The demon inside her was in full control and she tore herself away from James' grasp. Jumping over the coffee table, she hit her father in mid leap and tore into him, ripping through anything she could dig her claws into. Other hands were trying to restrain her but she clawed at them as well. She heard a female's voice cry in pain but ignored it. Other cries sounded but nothing would keep her from her revenge!
"Zig! Please, STOP this!"
Maddened further by this interference, she lashed out at the first thing she saw. She could almost feel the pain of it as her claws slashed through a throat, and blood sprayed across her arm. For a moment, time seemed to freeze. The look of surprise on her victim's face was horrifying to see. Then he slumped to the floor.
Zig Zag clamped her fists to her ears willing the memory of her dream away. "No! NO! NO!!! It can't end this way!" she shouted, not caring that the others didn't know what she was talking about. Her anger was straining to burst the bonds of reason, and if it did, there would be no way to stop the carnage. What could she do? Her hatred had taken on monstrous proportions. It seemed to be laughing at her, taunting her, and it no longer had her father's face.
It had her face!
Its mocking laughter was a roaring in her ears. "I am you and you are me! Without me you are nothing! You have nurtured me and kept me alive all these years just for this moment. Now use me to get your revenge!"
Someone was shaking her.
"Zig! Please, stop this!"
Blinking the red haze away, she looked up into James' eyes, but all she saw was the end of her dream...
Tears flooded her vision as she knelt beside James, trying to stem the torrent of blood that fountained from his ghastly wound.
"Ohgodsohgodsohgods! James! Im sorry! I didn't mean to hurt you! I never wanted to hurt you! Never! Please, don't die!"
Weakly, his paw grasped hers, and though she could barely feel it, he squeezed, and smiled at her. The tender look in his eyes at that moment tore into her soul... but only for as long as it took them to close in death.
"James?" Her voice was a choked whisper.
"James!" She grasped and shook the limp form.
"James! Don't leave me!"
She had awakened in his arms then, still clawing at him, even as she was blocking the memory. But now, she remembered the dream.
His eyes. The look in his eyes! It was the look hed given her right before he died in her dream. It was the same look hed given her this morning after she'd clawed him. It was the same look he was giving her right now! And it shook her to her very core.
NO! came the voice of her demon. Ignore him! Ignore that look! I am what defines you. Use the hate! Use the Rage! Get your revenge on your father or he will win! You can't let him win!
Zig could feel the hatred struggling for control. Soon it would take over again and then... and then... No! You are WRONG! she thought as she resisted. It had to be wrong! Grimly she fought on thinking of all the other times she'd battled to control her emotions.
Battled HER emotions?
The burst of insight that flashed across her mind was so bright it stunned her. Why hadnt she seen this sooner? Her battle had never been with her father! That conflict had died long ago! Zig Zag could almost see the twisted face of her inner demon and suddenly, she knew.
Its YOU! You are the cancer that has clogged my soul and denied me happiness. My real battle has always been with YOU!
The demon in her mind's eye was laughing now - a sick, poisoned cackling that seemed to suck the hope from her. How could she fight the thing that raged inside her? How could she fight herself?
Her helplessness was threatening overwhelm her when she felt arms encircling her, holding her. Looking up, she stared into James' eyes. The look in those eyes! It was as if a shutter had opened. For the first time, she realized exactly who that look was meant for, and with the realization came the beginnings of an idea - a hint of an answer. For a long time she just stared into those loving eyes. Finally, hoping what she was about to do was right, she untangled herself from James' embrace and turned to her father, ignoring the clamoring of her demon.
"Father?" Zig's voice was remarkably calm, considering the turmoil within. She had never, ever considered doing this, but the thought of doing it suddenly gave her strength. It was the only weapon her hatred could never overcome - and she would use it. "Father? For whatever has passed between us, for whatever wrongs you have done to me, for all that you have put me through..." She took a deep breath and looked him right in the eyes - even as she looked into the eyes of her own demon.
"I..." she began.
The light from those eyes was getting brighter and she tried again..
The light was too bright. Too bright? What was this?
Zig tried to block the light. Where was it coming from? It hurt her eyes. She blinked them, once and then twice. Slowly the light began to fade, and a familiar face bathed in a golden glow swam into view.
"Good morning, lovely lady."
Morning? Zig rubbed her eyes and looked again. It was James. He was looking at her with the same look of love shed seen in her dream.
In her dream?
Zig Zag sat bolt upright and looked around. She was in her bedroom! It had been a dream! Damn it all! That meant she would have to go through it again in real life!
"No! I won't put myself through that!" Her anger burst to the surface and she rounded on the only one at hand. "Why didn't you step in sooner?" she heard herself shout as she scooted away from James. "Even if I did make you promise to stay out of it, you could have stopped it before it got out of hand! But you let it go until it was almost too late!"
James looked as if he'd been hit in the head.
"Zig! What are you talking about? Who hurt you? What could I have stopped?"
"Max! My father! You said you would defend me! You promised if anyone was going to hurt me, they would have to come through you!"
James was looking even more confused. "I still don't know what you're talking about, but when I made that promise, I meant every word of it! I still do!" He reached for her but she backed away again. Lowering his paw, he gave her an almost pleading look. "Zig, I would do anything to protect you. What can I do to convince you?"
"Would you..." The scene from Zig's dream was clear in her mind and she had to ask this. "Would you die for me?"
James looked away, and she felt an almost righteous indignation. Of course he wouldn't do that. He's just...
Zig almost missed the softly spoken monosyllable, and she refused to believe it. Her anger rumbled to the surface again. "Would you die because of me then?" she snapped. "You have no idea what I'm capable of! What if it was me! What if I were the one to turn on you! What if I were the one to kill you!"
James sat back, startled, but he didnt get up and leave as she would have.
"Zig, I don't know why you're asking this, but I will give you an answer because you obviously need one. Were you to turn on me, I... I don't think I'd want to live anyway. Yet even then, I wouldn't stop loving you. Before I met you, I might as well have been dead for all that I still walked and breathed. You filled an emptiness in me that I could never fill. For that, I am grateful. But I will not be selective in my gratitude or my love. I will love all of you. I knew there were sides of you that you wished not to reveal. I respected that. I also knew there were parts of you that terrified you. And I knew that when those fears finally took form and substance, I would be helpless against them."
James put his head in his paws and heaved a sigh that was almost a moan.
"Zig. I don't think I've got another love left in me. I've been hurt before. I've retreated into myself and built defenses against the pain, but I realize now they aren't enough. They're never enough. You're my last chance, and..." He raised his head, and the look in his eyes said it before the words did. "And I will love and cherish you in good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in pleasure and in pain, in sanity or in madness, no matter the unchangeable past or the uncertain future, I will love all of you! Till death takes me, or the world ends."
A part of Zig wanted to laugh in his face for such maudlin nonsense, but her other part was looking at the first part and wondering why she'd never seen this before.
There really were different parts to her! The Good and the Bad. The Crazy and the Sane. The self-contained, self assured Adult, and the abused, crying Child. Why had she never seen this?
The room around her began to fade as her sight turned inward toward the myriad faces that were parts of herself - all shifting from one time and place to another - scene over scene - layer upon layer.
"Yes. They are just different sides of who you are, Tonya."
Zig Zag looked up, knowing things would be different once again. She was in her grandfather's workshop, and he was working on a Matriushka - the dolls within dolls toy.
"So, what have you learned from your dreams?" the old tiger asked, as he handed Zig Zag the toy.
Zig popped the top off the smiling, tiger-striped skunk doll and saw the next one inside. It was a tiger-striped skunk too, but it looked angry. The next one looked sad. The fourth one looked frightened. The fifth, and last, doll had no face painted on it yet, and Zig wondered what its expression would be. Carefully she put the dolls back together before answering.
"I think I've begun to live with myself rather than run away from my demons or bury the parts of me I don't like. I am who I am - a combination of many things and many experiences - both good and bad." She set the Matriushka gently back in her grandfather's paws and then hugged him fiercely, burying her muzzle in his neck. "And you're one of the best things that ever happened to me."
She felt his big paws stroking her hair. "And now you have someone else who loves you very much, too."
"But you can't love him back the way you want to, can you."
She looked up, feeling tears of frustration spilling from her eyes. "No. I can't," Zig cried. "How can I, with what my father did to me? How can I fight the thing he's spawned in me? I don't even know what I was going to do or say to my father that would finally defeat the demon! The dream always ends there!"
Her grandfather gently brushed her tears away, and spoke in a voice so reassuring, Zig had to believe him. "When you finally love yourself, Tonya... all of yourself, the way James does, you will know the answer. Who knows? One day, you may even love yourself enough to actually forgive your father."
Zig Zag stood back and looked at her grandfather, shocked. "Forgive him? Never!" That couldn't be what she was going to do in her dream. It couldn't be!
But her grandfather only smiled. "You must remember, Tonya darling, forgiveness doesn't condone the wrong or even let the culprit off the hook. It simply shows that you finally love yourself enough to let go of the hate." He placed the Matriushka back in her paws. "What expression do you want the final doll to have, little one? It's up to you, you know." With that, he walked away, and Zig Zag felt the beginnings of forgetfulness and true awakening.
When Zig Zag opened her eyes, she found her Matriushka doll clutched tightly in her paws. How it had gotten there, she didn't know, but it made her smile.
"Good morning, pretty lady."
She looked up and into the unconditionally loving eyes of James. The look sent a thrill through her and, strangely, it gave her hope. Carefully, she set the Matriushka on the bedstand and then drew James into her arms. The kiss that followed was long and passionate, and when they finally broke, she looked once more into his eyes.
"Good morning, handsome."
It was a good morning.
And they were getting better all the time.
© 2003 by Philip J.