OK, this wasnít written to fit any challenge I know of, though if you somehow think it does, thatís okay. What actually happened is that I had a lot of packages to wrap, so I grabbed up a CD and put it on constant replay. And it happened to be an old Johnny Cash (donít laugh!) set, and somehow as the tune I took the title from kept coming around, I began to see more and more snippets of images.
For those who donít know the song, consider this instead. Is there anything that can give you a stronger, quicker flashback to something in your past than suddenly smelling an old familiar smell?
Oh, yeah. This fits into my Neon Hearts timeline, well before my other stand alone McCoy story ĎSigns That Might Be Omensí.
Please consider the following story standardly disclaimed to promote Marvelís rights. Oh, and the singers/songwriters too!
Sunday Morniní Cominí Down
"...then I walked across the street
Fataleís finely honed reflexes were all that saved her. She just barely Ďported out of the way of a hurtling flask of an unknown liquid...one likely not a soothing skin lotion.
and caught the Sunday smell of someone fryiní chicken
and lord, it took me back to somethiní
that I lost somewhere, somehow along the way...."
She blinked her eyes open in her Pam apartment. "Home away from Home Sweet Home," she muttered, scooping up the kitten that had run to greet her. It was so...unsettling, when McCoy got like this. Heíd go along for weeks, happily puttering away at all his little projects, well pleased with himself and the world heíd created down in the tunnels. Then suddenly one day, heíd be grouchy, picky, on the prod for any mistake by any unfortunate minion. Sometimes the black mood cleared as mysteriously as it had come. Sometimes...not.
She kept meaning to make a note of the dates, and see if there was a pattern to when it happened, and sometimes she even did, but she always lost track of them when things were running smooth again downside. "Thatís why Iím the hired help, not the scientist, huh, Fuzz-head?" The kitten purred agreement.
"Should I do it?" Fatale said aloud. Was he bad enough yet? She paced, absently petting the kitten which she firmly insisted to McCoy was part of her cover identity. To resort to her secret trick too often could wear it away, make it less effective, or even shut off the source entirely. She considered the signs. His always uneven temper had become hair-trigger in the past week, and definitely a lot more violent than usual. He was muttering to himself rather than laughing under his breath, and she hadnít heard him humming while he worked for quite a while.
But most important, there was...something in how he held his eyes. Fatale moved to the mirror and experimented with shifting her own to match the look, which was her primary way to understand something outside herself. Tired. That was it--tired. In normal times, McCoy never slept more than 6 or at most 7 hours straight, which was another thing Fatale didnít understand about him. She loved nothing better than a chance to snuggle into her nest of stolen comforters for a marathon snooze-fest, when he let her. He must be sleeping badly, or breaking his rest with dreaming. That answer felt right to her. So maybe, yeah. Maybe she should do it. It was even Saturday! She could do it tomorrow.
McCoy didnít call her before her shift at Harryís, and she didnít go down to check on him, not in the mood he was in. Fatale sighed as she opened up a tin of cat food, then morphed into her waitress uniform. She had the whole crappy Saturday night shift to get through, the worst night of the week. The thing that pissed her off the most was that she was 100% certain McCoy had no idea what she went through, holding down this stupid, pointless job just to do his surveillance for him. The slightest little sign that he appreciated it would have helped so much. But noooooo....
Growling under her breath, Fatale Ďported to the alley behind the restaurant and bar she spent far too much time at.
It was 3am before she was back in her apartment. She opened the windows, turned out the lights and shifted through a few changes to get rid of the nasty miasma clinging to her from the bar and the drunks--stale smoke and beer breath, ugh. With a faint snarl she set her alarm much earlier than she would have liked. But it took time to teleport long distance, or at least it did if she didnít want a three day migraine after it was all over. "Not like he ever even thanks me for this either," she mumbled as she burrowed under her blankets with her kitten.
The doing of the deed was strenuous, but not difficult anymore. Probably it was even a good idea to do a tough one now and then, just to keep in shape, in case there was ever an emergency. A time when he would need her, depend on her skills, and afterwards really look at her and--she broke the dumb and pointless thought off clean.
As always, Fataleís arrival was greeted only by a barking dog. It almost seemed like the damn mutt was learning to hear her coming. Or maybe it could tell that the doe who paced nervously through the corn was a fake. It never charged though, moreís the pity--it was a smallish dog and she rather welcomed the chance to pit her little pointed hoofies against it. But instinct told her that such radical activities wouldnít do, would cut off her source faster than anything.
Seeing no humans around, she shifted at speed, then 'ported into the house, ready to make her escape an instant later if sheíd miscalculated. But no, the place was empty. It was Sunday morning, after all, she snickered to herself. And everything was right here waiting, just like always!
Fatale helped herself carefully, not sure if her random depredations were even noticed by the denizens of this place, but superstitious about being too casual. She had never seen any sign of warnings or traps or anything like that, so maybe they didn't notice, or care. Stranger things happened every day, after all. But still....
With no muss or fuss, Fatale was on her way back to the city in less than five minutes from the time sheíd hit the cornfield. If all went well, she could go back to her Pam place and start a lovely long nap that would blur comfortably into a good nightís sleep.
McCoy stalked from Lab 3, slamming the heel of his huge hand against the seldom-used control for the bio-containment door. As it hissed closed, it cut off the shrieks and howls coming from the room behind it, creating instant and total silence. The pounding in his skull abated noticeably, and he exhaled a slow, controlled breath.
He wasnít a third of the way through his work for the morning, and there were projects crying out--ĎLiterallyí, he thought with a small, cold smile--for completion. But he knew himself, knew he was in a mood just now which might let him yield to the temptation to deal bloodily with anything that annoyed him. He wouldnít regret the loss of long-term experiments until much too late. Better to take a break instead.
He walked towards his private rooms, concentrating very carefully on nothing at all, at least until he found an appropriate topic for thought. The formula he had used the last time heíd had a episode of...sleeping disturbances...had displeased him because it worked too well--he slept too long and then felt mentally numb half the next day, despite extra pots of coffee. Hadnít he had a thought for an adaptation, and noted it down somewhere? He could go rummaging for that after he found something to--
Without warning, he walked into a drift of scent that staggered him with its richness and intensity. It carried the promise of infinite satisfaction, of all needs met with all things good, unending happiness. Then the pitiful brief instant of alien emotion--hope--was smashed by a cascade of agonizing memory and poison-bitter comprehension. McCoy screamed as frantically as any of his subjects ever had, tearing at handfuls of his braided locks as he dropped to his knees. "Iíll kill her this time I will I swear Iíll kill her...." Still raging, but beginning to sob as well, he fell forward, barely feeling it when his head struck the cold stone floor. His clawed hands moved weakly as he moaned. Then he began to deliberately lift his head and drop it, letting his face pound the stone again and again in a slow, rhythmic dance of destruction.
When McCoy at last stopped and lay still, the silence was so profound he could hear the blood pounding in his ears, in between his ragged breathing. "Damn her," he muttered, pushing himself to a sitting position. "Iíve told her--" But then he remembered, again, that he had not. Would not. Could not. The subject was...undiscussable.
He pressed to his feet, and went to survey the damage in the bathroom mirror. Nothing major, it would heal within a day, and certainly none of his minions would dare mention it, so all was well. He sponged off what blood he could, though, because it was hell to get dried blood out of his fur. He above all people should know, he smirked to himself.
As McCoy walked back out into the larger grotto, he was pleasantly surprised to note that his primary headache was gone. Warily, he approached the table where Fatale--no doubt meaning well but mucking it up entirely, as usual--had placed the plate of food. This time sheíd found part of an old Tupperware carrier, the round kind with separate compartments that kept your food selections from touching. So kitsch he had to wonder if she was trying to be funny. No, probably not. Her sense of humor went in quite a different direction.
Ah, well, it was here in front of him. No point in letting it go to waste.
His eyes were burning, McCoy noted distantly as he ate. From the healing process, no doubt. Nothing worth taking note of, that faint seepage. It would go away on its own.
As the middle-aged couple, fresh from church, entered the sunny yellow farm kitchen, they were almost knocked off their feet by a frantic spaniel, who pushed in to quarter the room at the gallop, whining as she ran.
"You canít be that hungry, Happy," chided the man cheerfully. "Although it does smell great. As usual."
"Thatís not it, Norton," said his wife, thumping her purse down on a wide, pristine counter. With a practiced fillip to safely let the steam go first, she lifted the lid of the venerable electric skillet which had been put to this same use nearly every single Sunday of the many years since she and Norton got it for a wedding present. "See, look! Itís happened again! Why, thereís--" she counted rapidly, "--five pieces gone!" Even though it was just the two of them at home now, she firmly believed it was not much harder to fill up the old skillet with chicken than to cook just a piece or two. Norton did like it for late night snacks, or to take as a meal if he was going to be out in the field all day.
"The door was locked," he murmured, and she nodded that she had seen. "Iíll go check the front, but--" Happy, still looking as distressed as only a loyal spaniel can, followed him.
"Itíll be locked too," Edna answered to his retreating back. Raising her voice so he could continue to hear her, she inventoried the rest of the missing supplies. "The cole slawís been dipped into. About a quarter of that gone. And a third of the peach cobbler!" Norton came back in, shrugging his confusion as Edna checked the bread box. "I donít believe it! All the leftover biscuits from breakfast are gone too!"
"Well, at least whoever it is got a well-balanced meal."
Edna snorted in disapproval. "You know I donít begrudge people in need, Norton, but I donít like someone coming into our house when we arenít here. Especially if we donít know how theyíre doing it!"
"Do you want to ask Henry what he thinks we should do?" Norton suggested, not for the first time.
"Oh...no. No." Ednaís face was troubled now. "Heís so busy, I donít like to bother him with something foolish like this. Especially since no harmís done...."
Norton went to the china cabinet and began to take out the good Sunday dishes they always used, which had come down from Ednaís grandmother complete with the admonition they not be held back for special occasions, but rather used to make regular meals special. "Well, thatís what I think too." He laid the dishes on the counter and crossed the floor to give his wife a comforting hug. "We of all people know that there are some out there who...have a big job just finding a way to get along in the world. We may be just one stopping place out of quite a few for someone who, well, who needs a way to get something to eat in private. Or some situation like that."
Edna squeezed him back, and looked up into those mild blue eyes sheíd loved so dearly for so long. "Could be youíre right."
Norton gave her a friendly little pat on the rump, which made her giggle, then put himself to the task of setting the table as Edna placed the plundered dishes on it. "I just hope whoever it is," he remarked, "is enjoying it as much as we are."
"...ícause thereís somethiní in a Sunday
that makes a body feel alone.
And thereís nothiní short of dyiní
thatís half as lonesome as the sound
of a sleepiní city sidewalk
and Sunday morniní cominí down."