Anyplace Else(5)

By: Kim Fielding

“I can’t—” Grant stopped, chewed his lip, and tried to gather his thoughts. “I can’t believe this. I’m drunk, maybe even drugged or something, but gods who bring back the dead and make them into gods, that’s just too…. And we’re in Hawaii!” He wasn’t sure why that last bit was relevant, but he added it anyway.

“I understand. But thank you for listening to me. I have very much enjoyed talking with you.”

Grant was hesitant to remove himself from Perun’s half embrace, but he couldn’t sit there all day. Soon the rest of the wedding party would return. “Do you want to walk back with me? We could have a drink. Um, nonalcoholic for me, I think.”

Perun almost looked as if he might cry. “I cannot. This time of year, I cannot go far from my tree.” He waved to indicate the oak.

“But if you’re a god, shouldn’t you be able to go wherever you want?” Grant tried some of Perun’s logic.

“A very old god, and far from omnipotent. I can come here only because this place is powerful. And because it is Koleda.” He sat alone on the bench, hands folded in his lap and head slightly bowed.

“Why did you come here?”

Perun’s brow furrowed slightly. “I… am not certain. It called to me.” He brightened. “I am glad I did come. It is so beautiful here. And warm! And I met you.”

Grant thought about what Perun had told him about being murdered soon. “I’m worried about you. Please won’t you come with me?”

Perun shook his head. But he also stood and closed the distance between them, his face glowing with happiness. “Thank you,” he said as he gathered Grant into a hug. Perun was broader than Grant and taller by a few inches, a true bear of a man. But his embrace was gentle.

“Thank you for what?” Grant asked.

“Worrying. Nobody has in a very long time. I think of my bones sometimes, now buried by the centuries, and how cold they are beneath the ground. I wish someone had held me when I was alive.”

“Like this?”

“Yes.” Perun buried his face in the crook of Grant’s neck, and they remained in each other’s arms for a long time. Finally, though, they pulled apart.

“Are you certain you can’t come with me?” Grant asked, knowing the answer but hoping for better.

“Certain.” Perun firmed his chin. “Journey safely, Grant. Find your place in life. Find love. And perhaps… think of me sometimes.”

“Don’t let that guy, uh, Chair, uh….”

“Chernobog,” Perun said with a slight smile.

“Yeah. Him. Jeez, Perun, don’t let him hurt you.”

“He shall kill me. It is his role, as it is mine to die. But I shall be reborn.”

Grant sighed. “Can’t you resign too? Like the original Perun did?”

“I do not know how. And then what would become of me?”

Grant understood. He’d considered quitting his job, but he didn’t have a clue what he’d do afterward. He’d saved enough money to support himself for maybe a year—if he avoided more trips to Hawaii—but then what?

He reached up and stroked Perun’s smooth, pale face. “I hope you find a way,” Grant said.

“I wish the same for you.”

After one last caress of his thumb along Perun’s cheekbone, Grant turned and continued down the path.

THE WOMAN at the resort’s front desk wore a bright muumuu patterned with white flowers. “Are you enjoying your stay, Mr. Beaudoin?” she asked as Grant approached her.

“Yeah, everything’s great. Um, but there’s this thing.” He winced in anticipation of what he was about to say.

“Something’s wrong?” She looked genuinely concerned.

He focused on the white flower in her gray-streaked hair. “Um, I don’t know. It’s just… I went for a walk in the rain forest. And I ran into this guy who was sort of… weird.” Grant winced again and decided to skip the part about the deities. “He seems to think someone’s going to kill him. He wouldn’t come back here with me, though.”

The woman looked sad rather than surprised. “You met Perun,” she said.

“Yes! You know him?” Maybe he was a local character, like the older guy in Grant’s building who wore an orange parka even in the height of summer and who often sat in the lobby for hours with a bouquet of carnations in his hand.

“I know of him. He’s visiting us this year, just like you.”

“Is he okay? Safe, I mean.”

She gave a gentle smile. “It’s nice of you to care about him. He’ll do what he has to, I suppose.”