Friday, November 21, 2014

The Book of Rabbit Part 1

The Book of Rabbit

Chapter 1

“I will remember what I was, I am sick of rope and chains -
I will remember my old strength and all my forest affairs.
I will not sell my back to man for a bundle of sugar cane;
I will go out to my own kind, and the wood-folk in their lairs.
I will go out until the day, until the morning break -
Out to the wind's untainted kiss, the water's clean caress;
I will forget my ankle-ring and snap my picket stake.
I will revisit my lost love and playmates masterless!”
― Rudyard KiplingThe Jungle Books

               Sit back little cubs and listen to my story. Who I am and how I fit into it all isn’t as important as what you can learn if you keep your little hungry mouths shut and your ears open. This is important because the world out there is a damn jungle, and you’ll need to learn everything you can if you plan on making out of here alive.
               Years ago, in this here city, there was a little cat named Rabbit, and boy was he a spunky little kid that thought the world couldn’t beat him. Much like the rest of us, he was poor as dirt with his stolen tennis shoes, daddy’s old cowboy hat, and a big ol’ smile on his face when there wasn’t a cigarette hanging from between his lips. You see, Rabbit wasn’t afraid of anyone, because he knew he was faster than anyone else around, and had the biggest pair on him in the South.
               Rabbit hung around one of the little wolf cubs named Phao. He’s not really important to this story, mostly because he’s a little snot, but he’s one of Rakasha’s kids, and that is one scary woman. If you don’t believe me, try to mess with one of her cubs, or take something that’s hers, because it won’t be pretty. Phao knew it to though, so much like Rabbit, he walked with a lot more confidence in his step than he should have had.
               These two little brats were usually doing runs, delivering packages, or collecting money, most of the time they when they should have been in school. When there wasn’t anything for them to do they just wandered around and caused trouble, but they liked to go talk to Father Panther. That crazy fool was a vet from the war. The bad one; where he got those scars and the tattoo of the panther across most of his face. He always started each story with that same predatory smile that showed off his one gold fang.
               “So you want to know about the flames, eh little Rabbit?” He’d ask the kids as they sat down on the concrete steps in front of his overgrown yard and dilapidated home. “You want to know what it would be like to be cooked,” he asked with an almost cruel laugh. “They don’t feel it for long, because the body can’t feel the pain anymore, but the brain,” he said with a dramatic pause. “Oh, it still knows, and keeps on telling them to run, run like rats!”
               Rabbit and Phao liked these stories. The tales were always about war and death, or sometimes women and drugs if Panther had been hitting the bottle, as he was prone to do. He didn’t mind telling the stories to the cubs, gave Panther someone to talk to, and he saw something in Rabbit that he liked, something most couldn’t. Rabbit was ambitious, but he was willing to work for it.
               “That’s why I prefer my knife,” Panther said, sliding the long black blade free of his belt, letting it shine against his almost yellow eye. “I like to get up close, make sure the job is done.” There was that grin again. Panther was old, true, but he was far from harmless, no matter what Rakasha said. “Guns jam, misfire, or clog, but as long as I have my claws,” he replaced the black knife next to its brother. “I shall not be left wanting.”
               Rabbit was smiling as he watched Panther, listening to the end of another great story. Phao, however, had gorged himself earlier that day and had begun to yawn with his mouth gaped wide.
               “Yo, I got to get going,” Phao said.
               Rabbit stood up to leave with his friend, nodding as he put a cigarette in his mouth. Old Panther’s hand snatched up quick though, grabbing the forearm of the young boy. Rabbit looked down at the old hunched over cat.
               “Hey,” he said, getting Rabbit’s attention. “What we talked about last week: those Nags leaving you be? They lay off?”
               “Yeah, Panther,” Rabbit reassured, uneasily, “I told you I had it covered. I talked to Rattler, everything is cool. No need to worry.”
               Panther eyed the young one for a moment, considering his answer.
               “Don’t get involved with those snakes,” he almost spit with the last word. “Don’t do any kind of business with them. You’re better than that.”
               “I know, old man. I’ve got it. Don’t worry.” Rabbit pulled his wrist back and straightened his hat one more time.
               Phao was already a few steps away. Rabbit waved goodbye to Panther before he went to catch up. The two walked in silence for a few minutes, up to the crosswalk at the red light, before Phao shook his head.
               “You should have just told him, man. You know old dude is going to find out.” Phao bit his lip, shaking his head again. “Panther knows too many people, sees too much perched up on those steps of his all damn day.”
               “Shit, I don’t know why I didn’t.” But Rabbit did know. “I guess I just didn’t want to disappoint him or something, that’s all. He and my pops used to be real close.” Rabbit sighed as they walked. “But I can’t stay working for your momma. The money is too good with the Nags.”
               “I know.”
               “Maybe if I told her, said I wanted to stay but needed more incentive.”
               “Nope,” Phao said flatly. “She’ll tell you she pays so little because she keeps you safe, that you are under her protection. Then she’ll say some bull about her guidance and how she’s survived out here…man, I’ve heard it too many times.”
               “You need to get out from under her paw too then,” Rabbit said as he paused to light the hand-rolled cigarette in between his lips.
               “That’s easy for you to say, you aren’t one of hers.”
               That ended the conversation for that day, but now Rabbit’s mind was on Rattler and what he had promised. The boys had taken a pit stop, going by Baloo’s, a little gas station near their neighborhood. They crossed over the cracked pavement of the parking lot, glancing at the bum with the long dreadlocks who was always outside of the store, before heading in. The bell above the door rang out and Brother Bear gave a deep and hearty hello.
               “Hey there boys,” he exclaimed, coming down one of the center isles. “Want your usual?”
               “That’s fine,” Phao said, slipping a candy bar off of the shelf when Bear turned away.
               Brother Bear was a brute of a man, tall, thick, and tanned a dark brown, whose family had come here for a better life. His accent was barely present anymore, and his pleasant disposition had become almost permanent ever since opening up the small gas station. It was his little slice of life. It and his family were the necessities, and he was constantly trying to tell the boys that as he sold them the sodas in the glass bottles.
               “Here you go boys. That’ll be $3.50.”
               Rabbit looked confused at the price. Brother Bear pointed at Phao’s.
               “That’s cold, Bear,” Phao retorted.
               “Even if I’m wrong,” Bear held up a finger, “which I am not, you still owe me for a few others that I didn’t nail your ass down for, so cough it up.”
               The two boys pulled what they had in their pockets, but Phao ended up putting the candy bar back.
               “If you two had some honest work, this wouldn’t be a problem.”
               “Yeah, yeah,” Phao said, heading for the door.
               “Later, Bear.”
               Bear nodded to Rabbit, watching the two as they left. He came out a moment later, after putting the money in the drawer. Bear’s eyes were still locked on the two boys as they crossed the street. The two kids made it to the end of the street before they touched fists and went separate directions. The old bum drank whatever the container held in the brown paper bag as he watched Bear, watching the two boys.
               “Why you waste your time on them? They ain’t nothing but criminals in training.”
               Bear shook his head before turning to the old bum to respond.
               “That’s rich coming from you,” Bearn sneered. “The boys have potential. They just need some guidance, better than what they have.” He scratched his thick hair absently. “All they have to do is make it out of here.”
               The bum with the multi-colored dreadlocks let out a laugh that turned into a cough, one hand holding his side. Bear turned to the man fully now, a more serious expression than his usual manner as he waited for an explanation.
               “That wolf cub has no chance, and Rabbit,” he said with a cough. “Rabbit gone be lucky if he don’t wind up on the wrong end the gun.”
               “It’s closing time. Why don’t you get out of here,” Bear said night began to claim the sky.
               “Right,” the bum smiled. “See you tomorrow, Bear.”
               As Bear closed up his place, Rabbit on his way home, humming a tune to himself as he looked down at his fancy new sneakers. He finished up the last cigarette for the day, giving his shirt a sniff to make sure the odor wasn’t on him too much. If his mother had anything to say, he could blame it on being around Father Panther. Rabbit had learned how to deal with his mother, a task that was much easier than dealing with his father. Now that he was dead though, Rabbit was the man of the house.
               Rabbit stepped in the door like he did every night, tossing his hat up on the end of the banister and stopping in the living room to stretch and scratch his balls. Someone had left the television on a cooking show where Jackal was discussing the importance of slow cooking venison. His mother must have left it on. There was a smell coming from the kitchen that had caught his attention, a sweet aroma that he wasn’t used to.
               A pan sizzled on top of the stove. It contained meat and green peppers with what looked like small chunks of onion. Next to it were some other bits of food on a cutting, but Rabbits eyes had focused in on the large chunks of potatoes. Rabbit loved potatoes. He reached forward, his hand scooping up four pieces with a smile. As he brought the delicious food to his mouth though, a hand came hard across his face with a popping sound that echoed as he was slapped.
               “Ow!” Rabbit cried. “What the fuck, Bunny!” He dropped the food back onto the counter.
               Rabbit’s sister, Bunny, stood in front of him now with her arms crossed at the top of her exposed midriff. Her pink and purple hair hung down in front of an angry set of eyes. Eyes that Rabbit swore looked red in that light.
               “What the hell did you do that for,” Rabbit asked again, rephrasing his question.
               “Oh, I’m sorry. Were you the one here all day helping momma, or were you the snot-nosed little brother out dealing that couldn’t even bother to pick up his phone? I only ask, because you look like the little piece of shit-“
               “Hold on now, Bunny,” Rabbit interrupted. “Mom didn’t say she needed me.”
               “It’s the first of the month, fool. She needed her medicine, and help at the church. You know better.”
               Bunny shook her head and went back to the food, checking on it. Rabbit realized he had made a mistake, but the truth was that he had simply forgotten. He paused for a moment and then tried to switch the subject.
               “What is that? It smells good.” He asked his sister before moving a bit closer, still enjoying the smell. “It looks like-“
               “It ain’t for you,” Bunny said flatly. “This is for me and momma. I bought the food with my money that I worked for. You can have cereal.”
She pushed past Rabbit to grab the salt, ignoring his hurt expression as she continued to season the food.
“Guess you’re just jealous we don’t all have to make money on our backs,” Rabbit shot back.
It took Bunny a second for it to process, but when it did she lunged at him. Rabbit was too quick though. He had already grabbed the box of cereal and shot out of the living room. She heard him padding upstairs, her teeth clenched and a fist balled tight. She would get him later.
Rabbit had already bounced into his room and locked the door. His hand flipped the controls on the stereo, bringing it to life with blue buttons and an orange display screen, blasting out the raps about the realist killers as he flipped on the lamp by his desk. Crashing down on the bed, it took a simple fluid motion to reach underneath and bring up the old shoe box where the good stuff was. Rabbit pulled out one of his expertly rolled joints and lit it up as the music played.
The boy lay in the near-darkness for a while, puffing out the smoke and thinking about the future. He was thinking about tomorrow, what he had talked about with Rattler, and his mind wandered over to Fox and those short shorts she wore. There was a lot to think about, but Rabbit spent most of his time thinking on what he would do when he finally had enough money to quit school, to move out of his mom’s house, to get out of the city. That was the plan, by any means necessary.
There was a knock on his door, one Rabbit barely heard over the stereo. His mother pushed the door open with a frail hand before stepping in, glancing around his room. She paused when she saw the joint hanging out of his mouth.
“Hey, mom.”
Rabbit reached for the remote, muting the stereo. He knew she would want to talk.
“Could you at least try and hide the drugs from me?”
Rabbit smirked and placed the burning joint on the edge of the ashtray that was on top of the stacked up magazines next to his bed. His mother, Hare, stepped further into the room and glanced at his walls, squinting in the dim light.
“Why did you take all of your drawings down, Rabbit?”
Rabbit shrugged. He almost absently reached for the joint again, but stopped himself.
“No point. Teacher says I’m good, but not good enough.”
She frowned. “So, get better—practice.”
“Come on, mom. That isn’t for me.”
Hare approached the bed finally, placing a hand on her son’s shoulder.
“Then what is for you?”
“I’m going to think of something.”
She knelt next to the bed on one knee.
“Rabbit,” she said weakly gripping his shoulder. “You’re too smart for this. You have a future out there if you do well in school, if you show up. You need to get out of here and go to college.”
“Education ain’t nothing but a scheme mom. It’s just another system designed to keep folks going back to it. It’s just like the food stamps we’re stuck on.” Rabbit sat up. His mother was already moving to stand back up herself though. “Come on, mom. I’ve got plans.”
Hare moved back towards the door, but turned back to look at her son.
“I’ve got to get to work. They probably need me to sew up a few people tonight who had plans like yours.”
“It’s not like that,” Rabbit protested loudly. “Between you and Old Panther, all I hear about is how bad that shit is.” 
“I left you some of my food in the fridge,” she said, done arguing. “I am headed to work, and Bunny is already gone to do the same. You have the house to yourself, maybe you’ll find some time to study.”
Rabbit didn’t respond.
“Keep the door locked. I’ll be back around dawn.”
She shut his door. The music was quickly turned back on, and up. Rabbit stood up and pulled his white t-shirt up over his head, tossing it to the floor. He picked the joint back up between two fingers and knocked off the ash before taking a long puff on it again. Stepping into his small bathroom, Rabbit cut the light on, it flickered to life, showing his reflection in the mirror. Exhaling a long stream of smoke he admired himself for a moment in the mirror, thinking about Fox again. He held up and arm, flexing it, letting his free index finger trace a muscle. He ran the same finger across the scar on his shoulder afterwards, a long three inch cut from a bike accident when he was younger. Rabbit thought it worked for him. He liked the way that he looked. There was a smile into the mirror before the light turned off. The only light that could be seen was the dim cherry at the end of his joint.

Chapter 2

“Basically, I believe the world is a jungle, and if it is not a bit of a jungle in the home, a child cannot possibly be fit to enter the outside world.” –Bette Davis

               Now, let’s talk about my girl Fox for a minute.
Fox cursed, realizing the she had broken another nail. She pushed the thought aside, determined to fix it later, after school. Right now, that ol’ girl was trying to figure out a good excuse for why she didn’t have her chemistry homework. She had been thinking about it while searching for the book in her locker, but that was when she had noticed the broken nail. Now her whole process was messed up.
               There it was, stuffed into the back underneath her jacket. Fox grabbed the chemistry book and slid it under her arm. She closed the locker, knowing she was going to be late. This had been a trend for her lately, and it needed to end. She had too much to do though, and it was all starting to come crushing down on her. That’s what happens when you keep secrets though.
               She came up with a story about her sick aunt. Teachers buy those types of stories a lot more from the students who usually have good grades. She tried her best to pay attention in class that day, but learning can be pretty boring when everything else you do feels more important. Her entire day hinged on lunch period. It was where she could get what she needed, make her contacts, and catch up on the right types of gossip. Fox didn’t have anyone at the school that she considered a close friend by any means, but she had made a lot of acquaintances. It helped to be a wallflower, to fit in with almost anyone. The issue with that of course is when someone can fit in with anyone; it is easy to lose sight of who they really are.
               Fox moved through the courtyard as the students ate, played, and conversed. She made her usual rounds, talking to some of the girls, couple of the football players, and Skunk was always good for information, but the real work came with the Bandar and Nags. They were the two biggest gangs in the area. Drugs came from a lot of places in this city, but the Nags were the biggest movers and pushers around, and the Bandar had almost cornered the markets on guns and tail as well. The saying still goes around these parts: if someone is looking for something illegal, they’re going to go through a snake or a monkey to get it.
               They were not hard to pick out of a crowd. The Nags all were dark green and black with either silver or yellow chains or other jewelry to show off their status within the gang. A dark yellow eye with a slit of black could be seen on most of them, showing off that they had killed for the gang. The snakes prided themselves on their cars, most of which were tricked out or done up with art by other gang members. The Bandar on the other hand stuck out through association. Whenever they could be, they were always together. There colors were mostly black and brown, with no real indicators of rank or importance, though everyone knew Louie was most certainly king. Unlike the snakes though, the gang of monkeys considered women to be more like property or trophies. I know you pups have seen them, walking around on leashes or with those diamond studded chokers.
 It was true, everyone knew who belonged to which gang, but the real challenge for Fox was trying to get them to talk without tipping her hand. Recently though, Fox thought she had found a way in—Rabbit. She was proud of how subtle she had been, how well it was working. When she saw him with Phao at the old orange picnic table the cadence of her steps changed, and whether she realized it or not Fox’s hips had a tad bit more of a sway to them, accented by her shorts and long legs.
“Hey there, Rabbit.”
Phao looked up and bit his lip. Fox nodded to him and he gave an odd hand gesture to acknowledge her presence as pleasantly as he could. Rabbit had been focused on the story that he was telling, but that focus was easily replaced onto Fox.
“What’s up there, Foxy?”
She smiled at his flirty greeting, but there was something Fox didn’t like about the guys like Rabbit. It was the abundance of confidence. She was pretty sure Rabbit was nervous talking to her, but he did everything in his power not to let that shine through. There was a conflict for her of course, showing interest to get she wanted, how did she expect him to react? It had to be done though, and Fox felt she was handling it as best as she could. She sat on the bench across from them, but Rabbit stood up and moved to sit next to her. She smiled and leaned back, the blank tank top showing off her curves.
Phao stood up and looked away from the two for a moment.
“You know, I’m gonna go see if I can score some food.”
“Yeah man,” Rabbit said, his eyes never leaving Fox. “I’ll catch up with you later.”
Fox actually gave Phao a quick glance before he turned to leave. She wasn’t sure what to make of the wolf, but he wasn’t what she needed. She turned back to Rabbit. Trying to ease some of the tension, Fox gave him an odd smile.
“So what’s up?”
“Shit, you know,” Rabbit answered, taking off his cowboy and placing it on the orange table. He wanted to be able to lean in closer. “I was just waiting on you.”
Fox laughed. “No, I mean what have you been doing?”
“Eh, nothing new, girl, just chilling with Phao and putting some work in.”
“Oh yeah? Where did you say you worked again?”
“I do a little bit of everything.” Rabbit smiled and reached an arm around Fox’s shoulders. She gave him no signs of wanting to recoil, even if her mind disagreed. “I do whatever it takes to make my money, but I can’t work for just anyone. I have standards.”
“That’s right. And one day, I’ll be my own boss and handle business my way.”
“Okay. So what is it you want to do?”
“You know, have my own company.” Rabbit realized that didn’t answer her question. “I’ll make my money and then do investments, land development and real estate, entrepreneurship type stuff.”
“But you have to make that money first.”
“Yeah, that’s right.” Rabbit let his other hand brush up against her knee slightly.
This time, Fox did move away, hidden in a fluid motion as she turned to face him. She was trying to get across a more serious tone.
“That’s the problem I’m having.”
“Really? I thought your family was loaded.”
Fox sighed. “It hasn’t been the same since dad lost his job at the packing company.” The best lies are based in the truth. “That and, my mom is really getting on my case about spending money, but I need new clothes, new shoes.”
Rabbit nodded, leaning in still just a bit more, trying to relax with her.
“I’m sure you can find something.”
“Right, nothing that pays what I want, not with school,” Fox said, looking away a bit dramatically. “And hell if I’ll end up working a pole.” She was trying to hit his buttons the right way.
Rabbit snickered. “Hey, my sister makes a lot of money doing it, and you’re way prettier than her.”
“What!? Really,” Fox said, feigning the surprise.
“Of course you are,” Rabbit said with a smile. His hand came up to her face, caressing a cheek gently.
“No,” she popped him playfully on the shoulder. “I mean I didn’t know Bunny was a stripper.”
Rabbit laughed. “What? You think she was going to college? She sure as hell ain’t making that kind of money from working at Cougars. Besides, they fired her.”
“Never say never I guess,” Fox said after looking away from Rabbit.
“Nah, you aren’t the type.” Rabbit placed a hand on the bottom of her chin and gently pulled her attention back to him. “You just need you a man who can appreciate you, find your real talents.”
The line was as cheap as they come, kids, but for some reason, Fox didn’t find herself laughing like she thought she would. Instead, she had let Rabbit get in close, real close. He was about to kiss her, and Fox was about to let him, but just as she could feel his warmth, that was when the bell rang for fourth period.
Fox shot up so fast that she almost clipped Rabbit.
“Shit, I have to go. You know how much of a freak Badger can be if you’re late.”
“Uh, yeah,” was all Rabbit could get out. He was cursing on the inside.
“What are you up to after school?”
“Got some errands to run, not much other than that,” he said, standing. “Why, you want to hang out?”
“We’ll see,” Fox said with quite the powerful smile. She gave a soft wave over her shoulder before heading back into the building.
As soon as Rabbit was sure she was inside, positive that she wouldn’t hear it, he kicked the old orange picnic table as hard as he could. His foot was going to hurt for the rest of the day, but Rabbit didn’t regret the kick, just what he thought might have been the biggest missed opportunity of his life. He didn’t want to go to his math class now, and fought the urge to go masturbate in the gym bathroom. Rabbit found Phao and convinced him to skip class with him instead.

After school that day though, Fox had hurried from her last class. She had somewhere to be, a different path to take that day. Out the back door, away from the busses and student parking lots, that was the way that led into the ghetto behind the school, the way Rabbit and Phao took home every day. She came out the door in time to see them walking down the hill. Rabbit’s hat wasn’t hard to spot, which allowed her to hang back a bit, masked in all of the other students just in case one of them had looked back. It was time to put some of her skills to the test, and to see if her lead panned out like she thought it would.
Fox had been following them for five blocks now successfully, but this was the easy part. She had been hanging back with her hood pulled up, not wanting to be seen by the boys, or anyone really. It wasn’t dark yet, so it was a little less suspicious for her to be walking by herself, but one guy trying to holler at her and everything could go south quick. She was trying to be smooth, even if this was her first time doing anything like this. The only hiccup was when Rabbit had stopped to get something out of his backpack. She was almost sure that Phao had stopped her, but if he had, he must not have realized it was her.
Fox was focused now, which she was thankful for. She had spent fifth and sixth period thinking about Rabbit, about almost kissing him. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but something had nagged at her about it. It was that first step that had caused her to ask: how far was she willing to go? Fox already knew the answer though; knew before she started.  
Rabbit and Phao had walked four more blocks now in silence now. One would occasionally point at someone they saw and the two would laugh or crack jokes for a moment. A block ago, Phao had stopped to talk to a tall leggy blonde that Fox didn’t recognize. Other than the fact that she seemed older, Fox couldn’t tell much about her, but made a mental note to remember her. The stranger’s looks, the way she was dressed, the tattoo on her neck, smelled like a tiger to Fox.
Whoever it was, her conversation with Phao wasn’t long. Originally Fox had thought that the wolf was trying to entice the leggy blonde, but now she wasn’t so sure. The boys had begun walking again, but they weren’t quiet this time. The two were having a conversation about something, a discussion that Fox wished she could hear. If she could have gotten closer, she might have been able to read their lips. The risk wasn’t worth it though. It didn’t quite look like they were arguing, but Phao didn’t exactly look pleased either. It was just hard to tell without knowing the context.
Fox’s prey finally stopped at the next red light, sharing a couple more words before pounding their fists together and laughing about something. The two had split up though, which in her eyes would make this easier. Now she just had to worry about Rabbit spotting her. The only thing Fox didn’t like was that the further they went into his neighborhood, the more lost she felt. She knew a little, but it was still all unfamiliar territory, which could prove to be a problem if a bad situation came up.
Rabbit had passed by Baloo’s, but he didn’t turn the way he should have to go home. This was a good sign for Fox. This little after school activity may prove to have been worth it after all. Rabbit was moving along briskly, humming a tune to himself as he rounded the corner. Fox noticed that he was being a bit more careful it seemed, paying more attention. He had looked over his shoulder twice now since splitting off from Phao. It was smart really. Never know who could be watching. Especially in a place like this where everyone was just a little bit nosey, because sometimes, information was just as good as money. Also, this was the type of place where everyone reported back to someone, all kinds of folks had feelers out there.
Fox observed as Rabbit went down the hill in front of him. She stepped off to the side to avoid detection, from Rabbit and the people that had come out to sit on their porch, or the one down the street fixing his car. This almost caused her to lose sight of Rabbit though. He wasn’t at the bottom of the hill like he should have been.
Fox shot out from behind the wall she had been using to obfuscate herself with. She quickly made her way down the hill, keeping her hood up and glancing around for him. Had it not been for that cowboy hat, she would have missed Rabbit hopping along down a long alleyway between two rows of houses. Fox had no clue where Rabbit was going, but now she wanted to get closer for fear of losing him again. It was a short lived fear though. Rabbit took a right past one of the older houses with the half torn down back porch. He knocked a beer can off of the hood of an old rusting silver truck that sat in front of some trees along the poorly kept dirt path he was now following. Fox also noted the tire tracks in the dirt and flat grass. Wherever Rabbit was going had seen several visitors recently.
Sure that Rabbit wouldn’t see her; Fox finally made her way around the derelict vehicle and took a glance down the long dirt path. Rabbit’s destination was clear now, the old Alpo plant. A small rundown factory that had been there since the seventies, most of the residents had forgotten it was there. Over the years everything had built up around it, leaving the ruins of the past to vanish into the trees and other businesses. The main entrance had actually been blocked by a piece of the roof that had fallen off about ten years ago due to a tornado.
Rabbit wasn’t heading towards the front though. He had gone to the side of the building, still humming his song. Fox moved off of the dirt path and into the tall uncut grass. This was more her style, able to stalk her prey unseen. Moving through nature’s camouflage, she actually made it around the corner faster than Rabbit did. She could see the cars now, all parked behind the loading dock, hidden away from prying eyes. The tricked out cars meant that she had been right all along, this place was a den of vipers.
Fox could see everything from her current position. Rabbit had made his way around and taken his backpack off before climbing up the raised platform of the dock. There was an open door on that side. A shadowed figure stepped out of it in his black leather jacket and waved Rabbit inside. This was a meeting Fox didn’t want to miss, but getting in undetected would be complicated, and possibly past her abilities. She watched the outside for a moment longer, realizing that she had to try. She had not come this far to wait outside.

Chapter 3

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place –W. H. Auden

Rabbit had stepped into the Alpo plant. It was a welcomed breeze in the old drafty building. Several of the walls had been knocked down, windows were broken, and there was only one working toilet, but that wasn’t what Rabbit was focused on. There were two televisions, three couches, and an old pinball machine next to a refrigerator full of beer and a table where four guys were playing cards in the center. It was the grown-up version of the clubhouse Rabbit used to have, but girls were certainly allowed in this one. Rabbit made sure to pause and smile at Copperhead and Narcissa as he crossed the concrete floor. They had both been sweet on Rabbit at one point or another, and he had hoped that they still were. He would have probably gone over and spoken to the girls, had Diamond not motioned him over. It was time for business.
Rabbit followed Diamond down the hallway. It was so dark that the only thing he could see was the silver lined angular shape on Diamond’s back. The den was dark and warm, the way the Snakes liked it. Rabbit followed through the hallway and into the other half of the building. This three story section must have originally been the factory portion. There were tall windows on the far wall, several that had been broken out. Three different levels of catwalks lined the walls; some broken, with others barely hanging on, high above them. There was debris that had fallen from the large hole in the roof and old metal pieces that used to hold the machinery and conveyer belts in place, all of which had been pushed to the front with the collapsed double doors or to the sides. Rattler and the others had turned that part of the building into a practice area of sorts with a set of wrestling mats and lined up bottles that were being used as a shooting range.
Rattler was holding a large .45 with an ivory handle and a laser sight attached to the bottom of the barrel. A bit of smoke trailed off of the barrel as those present eyed the glass bottle that Rattler had just shattered. He brought the gun up with a smile, his other hand trailing down the handle. Rabbit thought it looked like Rattler was stroking his erection, way too happy.
Rattler handed the piece off to the man standing next to him who began to reload it. A girl that Rabbit didn’t know had been watching the guys shoot, but now that Rabbit was here, she and another member of the gang got up from the old bus seat that they had been sitting on and left back down the dark hallway.
“Look who dropped by,” Rattler said after he turned his attention to Rabbit. “I know you know Diamond, but have you met Moccasin and Asp?”
“Nah, not yet.”
Rabbit shook both of their hands, all smiles. These were the kind of people he wanted to be in with. Moccasin was a tall guy who looked like he lived in the gym, but he had an impressive set of shades and a hot pair of kicks. Asp was shorter and darker skinned, and his rolled up sleeves showed off the numerous tattoos that lined his arms and neck. Rabbit was pretty sure that Asp had a lot more that he couldn’t see, someone who was probably addicted to them. Suddenly Rabbit wanted a tattoo.
“Now that that is all taken care of, you ready to do some work?”
Rabbit nodded. Rattler motioned to Moccasin and Asp who moved over to what Rabbit had thought was one of the piles of old machinery. They pulled large metal piece aside to reveal a safe that had been put inside one of the old large machines. A good hiding place. Rattler knelt down to handle the dial. Rabbit noticed that Moccasin was giving him a bit of a look, so he turned away until he heard the metal lock on the safe clank and the door creak open.
Rabbit looked back as Rattler pulled out a black satchel bag. He was smiling as he walked it over to one of the other platforms and opened up. Rabbit was honestly not sure what he was about to see, and when he was nervous, he talked.
“You said you had something you needed done, Rattler. A way we could make some money.”
“Patience, Rabbit. Good things come to those who wait.”
Rabbit nodded and smiled, asking himself to please stay quiet. Rattler was digging through the satchel bag, pulling out a smaller white bag. There was a noise that Rabbit heard, he had good ears. He looked up towards the ceiling—squinting. Asp had glanced up as well.
“What is it,” Rattler asked, holding on tightly to the white bag.
“Probably nothing. This old ass building is always making noise,” Moccasin said.
Rattler nodded. Asp slipped away from the group, jumping up to one of the slanted metal walkways. Rabbit watched him for a moment before Rattler began moving again. He was opening up the white bag.
“Like I said, Rabbit, I’ve got something new.” Rattler pulled two small plastic baggies from the larger white bag. “This is new, and it is going to be hot. My supplier is calling it M.”  
Rattler tossed the baggie to Rabbit. It was filled with a reddish-brown powder that seemed to reflect the natural light that was pouring in from one of the tall windows, giving the substance an iridescent glow. Rabbit caught himself staring at it for a moment.
“What’s the catch? What makes it so special?”
Rattler smirked at the question.
“Luck you, you’ll get to find out first hand.”
“Huh,” Rabbit asked, but he had already figured it out.
“Go ahead, do it. Get lit.”
“I don’t usually-“
“You wanted to do business, didn’t you?” Rattler’s expression was still jovial for the most part, but Rabbit knew he was very serious about this part.
“Rattler, you don’t really think I’m a snitch do you?”
“Call it whatever you want. After today though, you’ll be able to tell all of your customers exactly what they are buying.”
Rabbit knew it was about to happen one way or the other. He opened up the baggie, taking one more long look at the brown substance. Moccasin had picked up a tray and placed it on one of the stands near him. Rabbit poured half of the small pouch out and using the small knife on the tray, began separating it into lines.
“What makes it brown,” Rabbit asked, “chili powder?”
“You won’t care in a minute,” Moccasin assured.
Rabbit didn’t fight it anymore, he didn’t want the snakes to think there was any reason not to trust him. He put his nose down to the tip of the line, examining the brown powder before using a finger to close off his other nostril. One sharp inhale later, Rabbit had taken the first line, and he noticed it burned. Powering through, he took the second line, coming up from it wide-eyed and numbed.
“Just let it sink in,” Rattler said. “This stuff only takes a minute or so to make your dreams come true.”
Rabbit smiled. He heard what Rattler had said to him and thought that he had responded with something pretty profound, but in actuality, his mouth never opened. He was focused on the tall window with the broken glass at the top. The sun was shining in and to Rabbit only, that light had just become a lot brighter. A lot of things were brighter actually, and everything felt closer, friendlier. All of Rabbit’s senses were stronger now, which was why he was suddenly touching himself.
“Moccasin, sit his ass on one of the couches and get someone to watch him for a bit. We’ll finish talking about business when he has had time to cool down.”
Rattler motioned for Diamond to follow him. Both left down the hallway as Moccasin took hold of Rabbit’s arm, leading him over to the old seat from the van. Moccasin sat him down, unaware that the reason Rabbit was smiling so big was because he thought that it was Copperhead and Narcissa who had come to keep him company. Asp jumped back down from the crosswalk next to Moccasin.
“See anything?”
Asp shook his head. “Just the wind I guess.”
“You were hoping it was his wolf friend,” Moccasin said with a bit of a twisted smile, “weren’t you, Asp?”
There was an indifferent sound that came from Asp’s left nostril as he took one more look around.
“I’m going to go check around the outside,” Asp said, not answering the previous question.
“Wait, I don’t want to watch him.”
“Get one of the girls to do it then.”
Moccasin liked Asp’s idea. He waited a moment, after Asp had disappeared down the hallway, and then left that way himself, leaving Rabbit on the old leather van seat, stretched out and wide-eyed. Rabbit had done drugs in the past, enough to know what he needed to and to realize that they could be helpful or harmful. He hated to not be in control though, or when anything made him question himself. That wasn’t cool. This was different though. He could see the real world, the things happening around him, but he was sure as hell not seeing what everyone else was.
Oh, let me stop right here for a moment little cubs and remind you all why these drugs are so bad. Rabbit did this shit once and was pitiful, but most don’t stop there. You want more proof, I’ll take you to see a leopard I know. You gotta be smart when messing with them, cause they can be bullshit. Back to the story though.
What had started off as brighter colors and what Rabbit called the sounds of Gaia whispering to him had expanded as the M took effect. His blood felt like it was boiling and he needed to run, but the wall of flowers wouldn’t let him. There was the hippopotamus also, and the floating clock. Rabbit was fascinated by the flower wall though. It was reminiscent of a tribute to Georgia O’Keeffe with a splash of Dali that had aspirations of being a Rembrandt. Had the old masters had this drug though, how much better they would have understood suffering.
One of the flowers in particular had caught Rabbit’s attention. It had a vague face-like shape to it, something cute and perky. Rabbit reached out for the flower, wanting nothing more than to caress the most beautiful thing he had seen in that minute. It was warm to the touch, taking a more detailed shape every second, morphing from a yellow wonder into the face of a girl. It was a face he liked very much, Fox’s face. She was smiling back at him now. He leaned in for that kiss, which was missed at lunch. Fox’s face leaned in as well, willing and able to reward him. Rabbit was a nice guy after all, and Fox wanted him.
Just as their lips touched though, what should have been a sweet kiss was a knuckle sandwich. Rabbit took four knuckles across the face and fell backwards in a stumble. He looked up, so that he could look at himself. An exact copy of the original, cowboy hat, slick kicks, and all giving him the evil eye. The new Rabbit pointed at him with a commanding demeanor.
“You stay away from her, Rabbit.”
Rabbit was quite confused, but he sure wasn’t afraid. He pushed himself forward and landed a punch on the evil doppelganger, but took a few blows of his own right afterwards. The shadowboxing fool wasn’t listening, figuring that he was fighting for love or some such. He was strangling a broom at this point, wrestling around with it on the ground.
“You’ll only get her hurt,” the evil doppelganger broom shouted.
Rabbit squeezed the neck of his clone harder, wanting it to be quiet. It didn’t feel right though, his fingers collapsing in on themselves as the neck gave way to softer material that buckled under his pressure. The paper-like substance spurted up through his grip and went everywhere in a shower of green and white. Money fell all around Rabbit in a pile. He gasped with delight, grabbing it with his hands and then shoveling it into his shirt. The wind picked up though, carrying the money away from Rabbit. He hurried to pick up what he could, running after the rest. It was slipping away from him. He shoved money into his pockets, down his shorts, scurrying to grab what he could. He was following it up a hill now, heading towards a beautiful rainbow. That is where the money wanted to go, so obviously, that was where Rabbit wanted to be as well.
He stumbled upwards, a steeper slow now, grabbing at a few bills, with the majority still in sight next to the rainbow. Things were beginning to slow down though. Rabbit’s mouth was dry and his legs were becoming weak, but there was all of that money amongst the bright colors of the fantastical looking rainbow. It was becoming hard to move now though with this wind, strong, almost like someone was yelling at him.
Something struck Rabbit again, but it hurt much worse this time. He had taken five across the face this time, in the form of a slap, and then felt a hand on his arm, gripping tightly, with exquisitely sharp nails. The rainbow was gone and the money had turned into blank white paper in his pockets and in his hands, fading into ash.
“Snap out of it, you tweaked out dipshit!”
That voice! He was sure it was Fox’s. An angel, calling out to Rabbit, wanting to give him something better than money and rainbows—that kiss. But as the world faded back into its greater form of reality, he quickly realized that it was another slap the angel wanted to bestow.
“Rattler would be pissed if off’d yourself on your first taste of M.”
He could see her face now, against the backdrop of the light coming in from the window as his vision cleared. The frizzy red hair and green eyes meant that it wasn’t Fox. It was Copperhead in her green halter top and jeans, with a strong grip on his arm, the other hand poised and ready to slap again if need be. She stood beside him, at the edge of a very high part of the catwalk which he apparently had climbed up to. Had she not stopped him, Rabbit would have walked right off of there to a rude awakening.
“There we are,” Copperhead said with one more firm shake of his arm. “Let’s you and I get down off of here and have a little sit before you do anything stupid.”
Rabbit did not protest. It was only a few minutes before they were back on the leather seat from the old van, and she had brought Rabbit some water to combat the dry mouth. Things were slowly starting to make sense again and his face didn’t feel quite so numb. The whole thing was a stern reminder of the multiple reasons that he did not dip into his own product.
“Not a problem,” Copperhead said with a smile. “Narcissa left with Coral, so I told them I would babysit.”
Rabbit nodded and asked his next question hesitantly.
“Heh, yeah. I hope I didn’t do anything too stupid…?”
“Well, when I came in you were losing a fight to a broom.”
Copperhead’s smile was wider now, playful with a hint of pity. She wrapped an arm around Rabbit and leaned in closer to him, with her legs pulled up under her.
“You’re fine little Rabbit. I wouldn’t say anything to hurt you.”
Her comment came with a small kiss on his neck. Rabbit felt her breath exhale onto his skin and that was all he needed for his confidence to come back. He turned to his side and brought his face closer to hers. Copperhead’s eyes were a sea of emerald green and stunningly entrancing. She closed a little bit more of the distance, making him do the rest. Just as their lips touched a loud laugh, near that of a cackle, erupted from the dark hallway. The room was even darker now by the way the sun had moved, but Rabbit didn’t need to see to know that it was Rattler.
“Did you see her expression! That she-cat will never show her face around this neighborhood again,” Rattler joked.
“And hell if she’ll get the stain out either,” Diamond chimed in.
With Rattler, Diamond, Moccasin, and Asp returning through the doorway, Copperhead moved away, standing. She let an impeccably kept and sharp red fingernail trail across Rabbit’s cheek to say goodbye. Confident or not, Rabbit had been losing out today.
“He’s all yours, boys.”
Copperhead disappeared into the dark hallway with a flash of red hair and that continued smile, leaving the four snakes and Rabbit alone. Moccasin and Diamond watched Rabbit for a few moments as he took another long drink from the water bottle, curious as to how much the M had really affected him. Rattler had gone back to the safe, opening it again and retrieving the satchel that he had brought out earlier. He removed the white sack and looked inside, checking the contents, either paranoid or cautious.
“Here’s the deal little Rabbit,” Rattler said. “You break up a couple of these into samples, very small doses, and distribute it as a little bit of a free taste to some of the usual suspects. They will get the word around and after their first real taste, folks’ll be lining up begging for it.”
Rattler threw Rabbit the bag. It landed in his lap.
“You get me my ten thousand by this time next week. It may sound like a lot, but if you’re as good as you like to say that you are, shouldn’t be a thing.”
Rabbit nodded, lifting up the bag in his hands. He was still just a bit woozy, coming down harder than he had in a long time. There was a moment of silence before Rabbit realized that Rattler was waiting on some sort of confirmation. Rabbit nodded twice, feeling a headache coming on.
“Any questions?”
Rabbit was thinking about what he held in his hand, how he was going to sell it.
“Why is it called M?”
“Hell if I know,” Rattler said honestly. “It came from a supplier up state, and I paid good money for it. Didn’t care much what the name was.”
Rabbit nodded, standing up. He remembered that this was his big opportunity to break out.

“You got it. I’ll get it out, just leave it to me.” 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lights Out, Please - Release

This is the full original story for my contribution into the amazing collaborative twine project, Lights Out, Please, which you can play here


Justin sat with his legs tucked under him, attempting not to vomit below such a beautiful night sky, but the dead body was making that part hard. Alex looked so peaceful with her head resting on the log and her eyes still, staring up at the moon. The young Hispanic girl looked so pale, unnaturally so for her, but she had one of the most beautiful faces he had ever seen, even now. This was supposed to be some quiet lovemaking in the woods on a summer’s night—because what else was there to do in that part of Georgia on a Friday night just two weeks after being released from prison?

It had all been rather stupid. Justin took the fall for a group of friends, pill distributors and small time pot farmers, but only one person needed to take the fall. He was only twenty and had already served nine months in jail—the roughest nine months of his life—but it seemed to have been the sobering experience his parents had thought it would be. Upon his release Justin distanced himself from those ‘friends’, even though he had never once dreamed of giving them up for leniency, a decision which he paid for. That was not entirely true though, he distanced himself from them, but not from Charlie. Charles Wagner was a conundrum and an asshole, but he was Justin’s asshole, and had been the only one to actually write and visit Justin during his sentence. So it stood to reason that once Justin was allowed outside of the house again that the first person he would want to spend time with was Charlie, who had promised a large bag of weed and a night with a beautiful woman to welcome his friend back into the arms of a loving society. Charlie was an odd one, but he seemed like a true friend, and Justin would do almost anything to finally spend a night without the nightmares prison had bestowed upon him.  

They had started the day at the smoothie bar, then to Charlie’s apartment to get the party favors, and onto his van for the purposes of cruising the town. The apartment was where Justin had finally met Vicky, Charlie’s girlfriend who he had been hearing about for the past six months, and her friend Alex, whom the couple was trying to not-so-subtly hook Justin up with. Alex had seemed shy at first, and bored that night when they were catching Justin up on all of the gossip he had missed over burgers. The next step was to relocate to the woods though, a quiet spot Charlie used to get high and write some of his shitty poetry. Once they were there with the small fire going though, when the beer was cold, and the weed had come out, Alex was a lot more relaxed, talking about her aunt’s shop and getting a bit closer to Justin—he could not stop staring at her, with that beautiful long dark hair, full brown eyes, and one of the best smiles he had ever seen. She was the type of girl he had dreamed about being with again while he lied in his bunk in the prison, never fully asleep due to the fear. He was out now though, here in that moment he had thought so often about. Justin liked to think he was a master with the ladies, but even he was surprised at how well his lines were working.

“I bet all the other girls are jealous of you.”

Two beers later, it was like paint by numbers. Alex had been talking about wanting to go to the beach before summer ended, and Justin was listening diligently as his fingers played across her bare leg, all the way up to the short cut-off jean shorts. Charlie and Vicky had taken that distraction to retreat back to the van and become intimate—loudly intimate. Alex had finally noticed and it was her that, with a devious smile, made the suggestion that they go find their own spot deeper in the woods. Justin would have agreed to almost anything she said at that point, like a dog she could pull along anywhere with her. No leash required though, he was being led by the bulge in his pants and the realization that it had been nearly a year since he had kissed a girl.

They did not go too far, but away enough for privacy, in a clearing where the moon was high and bright above them. It was almost tragically romantic as they began to kiss and touch. Justin was a little worried, shy even with everything that had been going on, but as the two made out it all came back to him. He reached down and began to unbutton her shorts. He paused afterwards, giving her a chance to indicate that she was not ready, or even possibly unwilling, but Alex pushed the cut-offs down with her own hand and kissed him again, deeper this time. Her tank top and underwear followed soon after, teasing him slightly about still being dressed as she put her clothes together in a pile. Justin had only ever stripped that quickly before in gym class and the prison showers, but he was excited, hot with his blood rushing, and had his mind set on only one thing at that moment—having her. She was gorgeous, so much that he almost tripped attempting to watch her and get out of his jeans at the same time.

The two had sex in the grass under the light of the moon, drenched in the sweat of the Georgia summer, and breathing in each other as they tossed, turned, rolled, pulled, and pushed in between kisses. Justin was a little too excited, a bit rough with her and a little quicker than he had wanted it to be, even with the condom on. Justin did not admit to himself that the flashes in his mind while they were having sex were of all of the inmates who had told him how pretty he was. When it was done they were both dirty and still breathing heavily, drinking in the humidity like sea water. There was only a brief moment of real silence before she threw and arm over him, leaning her head down to kiss the warm skin of his chest near black and red ‘lucky XIII’ tattoo.

“That was…“ Alex’s sentence cut short, as if she had changed her mind.  

“Great? Fun? We should go again?” Justin said with a smile, offering to finish her thought for her.

“How much did I have to drink…?” Alex said unconvincingly.

“Huh? I don’t know. I’m not sure to be honest,” he said leaning up.

She groaned slightly and her hands went to her head as if she were in pain. “This is why my aunt told me not to drink until I was old enough…”

Fear shot over Justin’s face as he reached for his boxers.

“Wait, what do you mean?”

“Didn’t you hear me earlier,” Alex said in an almost valley girl accent. “I told you I turn seventeen next week.” She paused. “Oh shit… and you got me drunk so I would have sex with you…. That was not cool.”

“What?” Justin shot up and looked horrified. “Wait, wait, Alex…”

She had already turned away though. He was not able to see the smirk on her face.

“I’m going to tell Charlie I don’t like how his friends treat me, and I’ll bet Vicky will tell her dad, she is my friend after all.”

“No, no! Wait.” Justin was almost yelling, hand outstretched, but she had already begun walking back to her pile of clothes by the log. “You can’t.”

“Aren’t you on probation too?” She asked looking over her should. “Smoking weed, drinking, and sex with a minor… wow.”

Justin’s right eye was twitching by this point and she was not giving him a chance to catch her gaze. It was all causing him to hear the sounds that had come to scare him, things moving in the cell when he was trying to sleep, light tapping against the bars, and someone licking their lips. Justin was trying to get hold of himself, but the situation was serious. He grabbed at her harder than he meant to, and when he did she tripped. Alex fell backwards and the back of her head struck the old log with a sickening thud. She yelped and then wheezed as her naked body fell limply. There was blood pooling up on the old wood, barely visible in the darkness, even with the bright moon. Justin froze in place, having to process what had happened.  

He got closer to her, not sure what to do. There was a moment where he almost grabbed her and ran back towards the van. Justin needed to yell for help, to call for Charlie, but something kept him there. Her words had not set well with him. This was bad, the weed was something small (in comparison at least), but what if Alex decided to press charges, especially now. It would look like he had attacked her. That meant a lot more jail time.

Alex took in a sharp breath and flinched, eyes widening to look up at the moon. She had said something, but Justin could not make it out.

“Oh god…,” he finally understood her to say.

That was when it hit him. It could partially be blamed on the alcohol, but more so on fear and guilt, but most importantly the desire to avoid the possible future that had been laid out for him. He was not just having the flashes now, but felt the other prisoner breathing down his neck like monsters in the night. That was why he slowly took her hair in his hands and grabbed on to the sides of her skull, proceeding to lift it up and then slam it back down onto the fallen tree. The sound was like a deep drum, as dry bark broke and flew off with the impact.

“I’m sorry,” she said just before the first impact, “It was a joke, stop,” she begged before the second. He was not listening and by that time she was not making sense, unable to speak properly from the trauma. His hands were still on her head, feeling the warmth that remained, even though she had quit moving. Not quite all there, Justin’s departure from her was slow, eyes locked on her face.

He was stuck in the moment, determined to fix the situation he had gotten himself into. He needed to think of how to deal with Charlie and Vicky, how to spin this all to them. If he did this right, Charlie would help him hide the body. Charlie owed him. He had done time for that man. This is what Justin thought as he crawled away, sitting under the bright moon in his boxers with his legs tucked underneath him as he looked at the pretty dead girl in front of him. Justin thought he was about to vomit, hearing his former cellmates behind him, laughing at his expense.

Justin tried to make himself think, think of what to do, think of a better plan to save his ass, but he could not move. He did eventually fall back from his upright position as his legs had begun to fall asleep, continuing to watch the dead girl whom he had just had sex with. Justin hoped that Charlie and Vicky were going on to round two, or maybe even three, or perhaps, if he were really lucky, passed out from the entertainment. He needed more time to think.

Justin finally stood once he was sure there would be no vomiting and no more fearful tears. Quickly, he dressed and checked his pockets for the condom wrapper, then the blood on his hands, lining up everything for the story in his mind. Justin was turned around, distracted, and had not noticed that there was considerably less blood on the log now. In fact, Justin had nearly forgotten about Alex except in where his story was concerned. In his defense, it would have been hard to see the body shifting in the dark anyway, no matter how much the pale moon accented her features. With everything going on in his mind as of late, he may have not believed the sight anyway.

The body twisted slightly at the neck, and folded one leg underneath as a brace. The rest of the blood had found its way home and Justin could not see the animated corpse rising behind him. Alex’s expression had been one of patience and wonder as she died, with her mouth slightly agape and eyes widened. They were narrowing now though, and her lips fell to a frown as her naked form stood tall, or as tall as the short Hispanic girl could, ready to approach her killer.

“Justin… dear…,” she said curtly. “I said it was a joke….”

Justin turned almost quicker than he could comprehend, lucky that he did not piss himself as well. The naked figure in front of him caused his eyes to widen and his body to clench.

“It was your friend that said you’d find that shit funny,” she cursed. “Charlie swore that was the kind of sick joke you’d appreciate.”

Alex’s words were a bit angry—expectedly—and she was not surprised when Justin turned and ran.

There was a brief smile of amusement in fact, just before the sigh and the snatching up of her clothes as she took off after him through the woods, in the wrong direction to get back to the van to boot. Alex had to dress herself, minus the shoes, on the run, which made her glad she had not worn much after all. Justin was in shape, and people seem to run much faster when they are scared for their lives, but he was also lost and frantic. Once she was dressed Alex had little trouble catching up to her prey.

In Justin’s mind it was like something out of a bad movie. The dead girl had just risen and spoken to him; then she was gone, then there again, but now dressed. He could hear her in the woods, coming after him, but never quite get a bead on her. How was she keeping up, why could he not see her; questions that he could have rationalized had he not been so close to a heart attack. There was a brief moment where he wandered if it was all real, or just his mind continuing his torture, even now, out of prison. The visions were supposed to bother him less now, but he could hear her coming, so either they had gotten worse, or the dead girl really was coming after him.

Justin was near the edge of the woods now, able to see the trees beginning to thin and dim lights from the road. Justin’s heart was pounding, and he was sure that safety was close. He pushed his legs to go, determined to make it, but those thoughts of salvation were cut down, just like his legs out from under him. Alex had tackled him with some deal of strength, quickly turning him, sitting atop his chest with her knees pinning his arms. She was so real, but the people still laughing at him, they were in question.

“There we go,” she said playfully. “I like being on top.”

Justin was about to yell. His body clenched, protectively, like he had so many times before. This could not be happening and he had just officially lost it. Alex’s hand was quicker though, blocking his mouth and nose as his cries were muffled.

“Stop it… stop. I’m going to keep my hand here until you listen to me.” She moved her hand so that the boy could breathe through his nose, but still could not cry for help. “I know my acting is bad, but shit, dude.” She honestly looked a little hurt. “Why did you freak out and bash my skull in, huh?”

Alex moved her other hand to the top of Justin’s head, getting much closer to his face.

“How would you like it if I did that shit to you? You probably wouldn’t like it would you, since you’d just die like a little shit, am I right?”

Justin shook his head, but then quickly nodded. He was scared and unsure of the exact answer the woman wanted, fighting not to scream.

“Here I was just looking to have some fun tonight and you had to go and do that. And what were you going to do, bury me out there and hope no one noticed I was gone?”

Justin did not get a chance to answer, to tell Alex the wonderful plan he had concocted, because there was the sound of an engine.

Alex cursed in Spanish under her breath, she wondered if they could have a few more minutes if she kept him quiet, but then heard Vicky calling out both of their names.

“Justin! Alex!”

She stood him up, hand still over his mouth as she whispered to him.

“Okay, little boy… we are going to walk out to our friends out there all smiles,” she instructed while dusting him off, “pretending like that was the best sex either of us ever had, and that nothing that actually happened did.”

With a quick drop of her elbow she grabbed his crotch, squeezing hard enough to make a point, then just a bit harder to drive the idea home. She whispered into his ear after his yelp.

“If you breathe one word of this to anyone, I take this away from you…” Alex paused. “Who am I kidding? You talk about what you saw at all and I’ll have to kill you, do we understand?”

Justin nodded franticly-scared, burning her image into his mind, a new fear.

“Good, I didn’t want to completely go from almost wanting a second date to thinking of you as a loose end.” She released her grip on his genitals first, then on his mouth, giving his cheek a quick series of pats.

The van had slowed down as Vicky yelled for them again. Alex took Justin’s hand and put on her smile, motioning for him to do the same as she led them out. Charlie stopped the van when he saw the trees parting and someone pushing through. Vicky opened up the side door.

“There you two are, why did you wander off so far?”

“Oh you know, Vick, privacy.”

The two girls laughed as Alex practically helped the still wide-eyed Justin into the van. The door slid back shut and Charlie began to pick up speed down the deserted Georgia back road.

“Justin,” Charlie said as the van pulled off. “Dude, what is that smell? Did you piss yourself or something?”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dragon*Con 2014

Another Dragon*Con is in the bag, and I have to admit that it was one of the best yet for me. The con has grown so much, and it does not appear to stopping. There is something cool about all of the people, having so much to do, so many things to see, meeting up with old friends, and hopefully I made some new ones. No two Dragon*Con experiences are alike, but I would like to take a moment to talk about mine and what caught my attention.

Friday was mostly panels for me, because there were a lot I wanted to see, and I have to say that my schedule was so much easier this year thanks to the Dragon*Con app. After getting my badge I made it to the What If…Elseworlds panel with Peter David, Mike Miller, and Dave Johnson, which was a fun romp through some excellent comic stories and discussions on the freedom of non-continuity. Also, Peter David is hilarious, especially calling out one fan for how the Young Justice show ruined his characters, when he had written the episodes in question. It is also great when one of the panelists agrees how dumb a recent comic death was, that the guy sitting next to him helped with.

The next was a Women in the Video Game Industry panel that really needed more time, but I was glad to see it packed. The next bit was light hearted and fun, An Audience with James Urbaniak and Dana Snyder, which involved a live radio show and a lot of silliness. Both men are renowned actors and thespians, but are best known as Dr. Venture (Venture Brothers) and Master Shake (Aqua Teen Hunger Force), and they did not disappoint.

I closed out the block with two writing panels, Building Alternate Worlds and Times followed by Critique Groups and Beta Readers. Each had a slew of awesome writers, too many to name, but I will say that it was a pleasure to speak with Delilah S. Dawson again, and to finally meet and have a beer with the wonderful Michael J. Martinez. Friday closed off with a few drinks and meeting some friends for food. And although it may sound like a lot of fun, I took some notes and set up some things for the future as well. This, combined with day two’s networking, was worth the trip alone, but it gets better.

Saturday began with Martinez’s author reading and some time left open to meet friends and wander about. I find that to be a fun part of the con itself, and always discover something fun or interesting. I palled around with Cary and Stephen for a chunk of the day while we traversed the dealer’ area, which is still too crowded, and hit up the gaming floor. I think my two friends were bad luck though, as for the first time in my personal Dragon*Con history, a panel filled when we had actually gotten there an hour early. This seemed to be a common problem this year with panels though, as several I attended were just in too small of rooms or should have honestly been offered at more times. Something I hope to see addressed in the future.

After running into Kim and Danny in the food court I did make it to a wonderful Race and Gender Issues panel, that really needed to be about an hour longer, but after that I decided that it was time to meet up with Evan and Wesley. We could not get into the IT Crowd panel for the same reasons as above, but took the opportunity to go check out some of the cosplay in the Marriot. There was some great stuff as always, and I love the subtle stuff or really obscure characters, like seeing Haley and Jeff from American Dad, or Simon Dark. I thought I was the only one who read that comic book. After some photo ops though it was time to hit up the parties with Jessica, and after dancing with a female Deadpool and talking to a random Fire Emblem character about Smash Brothers, it had been a long fun day. So long in fact that I got on the wrong MARTA train, but that is a story for another time.

My last panel was on Sunday, Journalism and SF with Emilie P. Bush and some other ladies who all had backgrounds in journalism and law apparently. It was an interesting approach to the subjects at hand, and overall confirmed that every panel I saw was interesting in one form or another, also rounding out my networking attempts. I want to thank Andy for letting me pal around with him and his friends for a while, trying the dealers’ rooms one more time and getting the talented and all around nice David Mack to sell me on Daredevil: End of Days and sign it for me.

I had one final adventure as I wandered the hotels and took everything in. Jim Sterling from the Escapist had been tweeting that he was at the con all weekend, and after a vigorous search I finally found him in the lobby of the Hilton. He was not a guest of DC, just an attendee like myself, and it was incredibly awesome to meet someone in the field I am trying to get more involved with. I am not one to get star struck by any means, but this was rather cool and I just had to get a picture. Meeting him was a pleasure, and I may have shamelessly given him my business card, but in the end, it was the perfect closing to my Dragon*Con 2014.

I am already looking into next year, and one must start early for something so packed. I had a great time, and have enjoyed recording it all down here as well. This will be a hard con experience to top, but I am looking forward to giving it a try. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

You Were Made for Loneliness

This is my excerpt from the twine game You Were Made for Loneliness, which you may play at this link:

Lucinda hated working as a maid for Lady Annabelle, but of all the chores the lady of the house gave her to do each day, she hated making the beds the most. There were a lot of chores, all of different varieties, but this one stood out. Whether it was just Annabelle’s bed that she had to tend to, or several, depending on how many the guests the dear lady had allowed to stay over, each bed she made annoyed her. It made no sense, her annoyance, because this act was a simple part of her job. Lucinda did her best to keep any emotions she had in check while at work, because Annabelle idealized her employees as servants, robotic and without personality.   

It was the sheets specifically. She had just realized that. When the bed was ready, Lucinda would grab the fabric, standing at the right side of the bed and fling them high above the mattress while holding on to the ends. Her time spent as a housekeeper, maid, whatever the title, allowed for some level or precision. It was this motion that was the crux of her discomfort. Watching the sheet fall so slow and carefree irked her, even if that was hard to admit.

Was that really it? Freedom?  

Annabelle ordered her sheets changed quite often, but most of the sets she owned were some shade of blue or purple, so in the end there was little difference. Today it was the light blue sheets for the lady’s bed, replacing the deep purple ones that had only been used for three days previous. The purple sheets were stripped first and laid over her arm. Now the blue sheets would be placed properly, before the purple ones were folded and sent to be washed. There was an order to this; one Lucinda feared breaking, because sometimes the slightest things could upset her employer.

With the two purple sheets placed snuggly on her left arm, Lucinda set the blue sheets with her right hand, preparing to toss them. They could have just as easily been placed and not tossed up, but this was the way she had been taught. She had performed this fluid motion thousands of times. It had taken her a few hundred times to perfect it, and a few hundred more to realize that she did not like what it made her feel. She had been stressed as of late. A combination of things had set her nerves on edge.

When the sheet was thrown up it rippled outward and expanded, catching the air, cupping it snuggly under the folds so it could glide. As it fell though, Lucinda’s fragile state forced something else up underneath the sheets. The tone of the light was softer here, in this other place, away from the sterile and pristine white walls of the mansion, where Annabelle had the bright lights and off-white curtains. Here though, in this moment, the bed was smaller and the lights were dimmer, kind of a honey color—natural and soothing. That was where she lay, under the falling sheet. The expression on her face confused Lucinda at first. She was gleefully smiling, but could not remember why at first. This had to have been such a long time ago.

Close to giggling, batting her eyelashes under the shade of the blanket, one hand was resting on Lucinda’s bare stomach, while the other rested behind her head. The matching dark blue panties and cut-off tank top were comfortable, and her skin was warm from the foreplay and teasing. It was not Lucinda who had thrown the sheet though, not in this time. A head poked up under the sheet at the base of the bed, followed by a set of hands that helped the body crawl up towards her. Gerald. That was his name. Lucinda had not thought about him in years, and there was little that stood out as memorable, but now she could place the moment.  

Gerald was smiling also, a glow of pleasure about his features as he crawled up to the awaiting female figure, hands almost trembling as they touched Lucinda, anticipation mounting. Everything was at a pitch when Gerald’s fingers gave a long caress upon the spectacle of humble beauty before him. At least, that was what he had called her at one point. The touch, accented with all of his attention, caused her body to shake and her legs to contract tightly around his head, forcing him down to finish what he had started. His motions were soft, meaningful, and deliberate. Lucinda knew that he had been good to her. Gerald was not only an attentive lover, but Lucinda could never attempt to show the level of compassion he had. She had not learned how to love, even all of these years later. It was soon that she would break Gerald’s heart, but it would not happen tonight, and not in this bed that he had made for them.

The excitement was palpable. They both could not wait to get the other’s clothes off, to touch, to sweat, to feel. Gerald’s name was on Lucinda’s lips again, for the first time in so long. Still, something caused her lips to move, even if she felt nothing for him anymore. For the first time in performing this dreadful task, Lucinda had not immediately tucked the sheet underneath after it had fallen onto the bed. This was quickly corrected. She had to pause afterwards though, her brain not able to rationalize what was wrong with her anymore.  

This small lapse had left Lucinda behind on her normal routine, and she still had the purple sheets to properly fold and setup for the laundry. There was a part of her though that wanted to stop and rest on the bed, but she couldn’t. She took those purple sheets from her arm, turning towards the large window to fold them as she normally did. Her motions were almost robotic, practiced, and helped her to lose focus on what was actually bothering her. Her fingers put the exact pressure on the fabric to assure a crisp crease.

Making the neatly folded rectangle out in front of her, that was what set off the next emotional spark, pulling up another memory, triggered by the most glancing of blows. Lucinda held the folded material to her face, covering her eyes as if she were not controlling the motions. The makeshift blindfold was soon turned into a real one that rested above her small nose and pouty lips.

Lucinda was tied to a wooden chair by several men’s silk ties, hunched over, trembling with excitement, anticipation, and a realistic dose of trepidation, naked, but not alone. Lucinda knew immediately when and where this was, where the memory had come from, and also knew that this had been her idea, a dark dream discussed between her and a special partner for months, that now came to life with candles, oils, and some soft appropriate music.

Between these thighs is where my rhythm lies,” the speakers chanted to the chorus, filling the room with melodic tension.  

Lucinda’s excitement was almost at a boil when she heard him approach her again. The blindfold was really doing it for her. These new sensations, all of it was made better by his dedication to the role. It was not his thing, she knew that, but there was some excitement on his part as well, now in the moment. Lucy, as he liked to call her, needed that excitement more than he did, it kept her from having to worry about if things were getting serious, as well as kept her other wild ideas in check. The temptation to pick up, move, change her name and become someone else, someone worse, an idea that was always in the back of her mind, at least back when she had that freedom. She had never let anyone else call her Lucy after him, not another lover at least.

He was behind her now. There was a pause for effect, right before two cold pieces of ice were placed to her back. Lucinda gasped as her body shook and bounced against the chair. If she had not been stimulated already, she was now, along with her skin trying to crawl away from the cold, she was not pushing against the restraints. That all faded when his hand wrapped around her throat though. It felt good, but Lucinda thought he was not gripping her tight enough to make it feel real.

Lucinda did not like that memory as much as she used to. Not only was she now stopped, daydreaming, and even further behind in her chores, but she had no idea why she was forced to remember this. These thoughts were absurd, but worst of all, they were distracting. It would get her in trouble. Lucinda placed the sheet in her free hand, deciding that more drastic measures would have to be taken. She would ask Annabelle for a day off, ask to go see someone. If that was not possible, there was a particular bottle that had helped her solve problems in the past.