Substance

[The second character study of the mannaz series is just a flash of former President Aiham showing us what he’s made of. This one is called Substance]

The stress of the trial had galvanized his slate jaw line and pressed his shoulders into a haughty armor for all the cameras. The gavel blast of the sentencing though, left Aiham cracked and weak. He was sure to smile when he faced his children and assure them again of his innocence.

Khadhy, his wife who refused his last name, had been smarter than him from the first. Her trust extended only as far as her eyelashes. Her empire remained in her name and there were no joint accounts to be sullied by his corruption scandal. She and the children would be fine. Not that he was worried about them in the least.

Aiham, former president of a republic half his age, stood sweating in only an undershirt and drawers among the run down swank of the Hotel D’Armes best suite. He shook from the panic and fumed at the television screen where an unremarkable man was stiff in a suit at his news desk.

“…expected within the hour to submit himself to federal authorities on conviction of corruption to serve a twelve year sentence…”

His heart seized and skipped. His ears went deaf each time the sentence came down. Every tendon and ligament under his skin felt as if it were trying to burst out in search of what, he did not know. It felt as if he wanted to grab a person and hold them or handcuff himself to a pipe or bury himself alive. His breath quickened, his panic squealing into his mind that he must somehow escape!

Aiham marched over to the end table and found the final bottle of gin. With a force that could snap a squirrel’s neck he twisted the bottle open. The heat of his torn fingers and the rush of juniper fire down his gullet dulled his senses and brought him back to himself.

The same self he had treated to every delight, traded for gold and favors, political pull, and ego-stroking communions. Greed was not his downfall; it was the suddenly diligent press. How many presidents are able to retire unmolested? Besides, how many of these self-righteous hounds would have been more pious? No. They did not fear him. He insulted them and they were merciless.

As Aiham fell deeper into the bottle his mind fell away from the trial and tribulations, calmly slipping into the river of youth where he recalled Gamini. Aiham was the little brother, always shrinking under the violent attention of Gamini until the day that he was crushed between a Benz and a Land Rover.

All the sympathies, all the spoils, all the world’s kindness poured over Aiham when his brother died. It comforted him; it was God’s repayment for the abuses suffered at the hands of his only sibling. Every inheritance fell to him until he had grown wealthy with power and affluence. He, Aiham, had become president of his entire country and married a demigoddess where he proved his virility with children.

He opened his eyes as the last of the gin passed into his mouth. His throat ached and his stomach swelled but overall he felt his trembling fear ignite into blistering rage. Yes, how dare they? He was not capable of crime! God himself had intervened to shield him from Gamini and reward his suffering.

Aiham tossed the bottle against the wall and marched into the bathroom, to the shower, raising the hiss of steaming water. God would intervene again, of this he was sure. There would be no prison but there would be vengeance for those who attacked him followed by his reward for suffering, as always.

As the water steamed, the mirror obscured. A razor clattered in ruby glaze at the bottom of the tub. Cut one way to the hospital, the other to hell. He grinned as he slipped slowly to the floor, careful not to block the door. It was likely he would not be conscious when they came on their mission of providence.

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