Warning: This chapter contains some coarse langauge, and had at least two brutal murders.
So far Untitled - Chapter 1: The Dying Package
Those that know the warehouse district in Landover could spend their whole lives like prowling cats and never know that at a generic storage rental facility, a deejay wearing false vampire fangs spins gothic and industrial remixes out of one of the larger storage units. As his fingerless gloves fiddle with silver knobs and sliders, he spends most of his time staring at nothing while his arms move like clockwork.
Dancing in a mad rush before him are about 200 goths and posers. Industrials and emos mix with miligoths and skinheads. All are hopping around like mad; possessed by the magic of the deejay, who is only known by his online handle: Wooly B. Wooly is not special. He is the result of a forgotten night between his Hispanic mother and Chinese father, long since parted. His is both known and not known. No one who dances before his tunes knows where he goes during the day, and no one during the day knows where he goes at night. But for now, he's the conductor of the mad slinging going on on the poorly-lit cement floor before him. And people who know him know where to just appear, even if they don't know each other. They are almost anonymous in their group presence like a collective camouflage among their own kind.
If one were to slow down the scene before them, they would see movements that begin to show patterns. Wooly B is almost still, and the slow movements of the dancers seem almost like fractal patterns in motion. If one were to try and trace these patterns, and look for their unity, one would find that they more or less go to the beat as much as their bodies can carry them.
But soon the viewer would see that three figures, previously anonymous amid the sea of constant difference and motion, begin to stand out as their own unified pattern.
One of them is hopping a little taller than the others, almost trying to make up for her short height. Her childlike face rounds out her large black eyes, and shiny black lip gloss sparkles in the spinning lights. Her shoulder-length brown hair is held back from her pale face by a cloth hair band that sports a large taffeta bow. Her eyelashes end in long sweeps of lines, looking like two short antennae. As she leaps almost twice her body height in our slow-motion vision, her striped stocking legs bend behind her, showing off a pair of dirty red Chuck Taylors held together by duct tape. A black leather jacket, bedecked with silver ball bead chains held on with buttons and safety pins, swings open and shut as she spins, exposing a red tee-shirt with a skull and a bow. Around her waist is a black taffeta skirt, covered with ribbons of black and purple lace. It's hard to tell her mood, because her eyes have no iris or white, making her grins look almost sinister and cruel. A pair of pink taffeta wings sprouts from her back through slits in her leather jacket, and are held in shape by thick wire. They almost seem to flap on their own, as if they are developing muscles.
That's because they are.
Next to her is a tall, thin, long-faced girl, who looks to be in her late teens. Her lanky shape seems to move like a skeleton being rattled by its spine. Her long, thin arms and limps swing out, snap, when they reach their length, and then retreat down by her side again. She almost seems to less be dancing than being slung around like a rag doll. Her long cleft chin smiles like she has a thousand hidden secrets, and all of them are moving her limbs in an attempt to be free. She wears a loose black cotton sun dress with a thick patent leather belt. Her thick orthopedic shoes kick and sway as her powerful legs, wrapped in long strips of gray cloth, swing nearly to her head in a flexible manner that only adds to the effect that unseen forces make her dance.
Lastly, the less active of the trio stands out in contrast. While she does not dance and jump to the music, her thin arms spin and sway like a high-speed waltz. Her black cotton Victorian work dress and aprons looks a lot like a late 1800's factory worker, only her arms are coated with black and red striped arm stockings. Her long hair, braided thick with large purple ribbon, swing with her arms like a graceful ballet of chasing streams of cloth. Once in a while, she sways, exposing the hint of sharp metal blades among her apron folds. Her young, pale face does not smile as the others do. The expression on her face is one of serenity.
One would be right to think these three young ladies were together. One might also speculate they were here for a reason. Both thoughts would be correct.
Far away from them is a young college girl who has run away from home in her mind, and is dancing with a man who, in less than an hour, will transform her into her new life. Jean Carter had been waiting for this moment for over a month, ever since she started speaking to that strange woman in the coffee shop. Jean was, but her own mother's description, "plain as paper, dull as dishwater." Older middle child of four kids, Jean was most left behind than any other other nanny-raised children. She had seen the inside of more police stations than any of her other siblings, either because she was lost, or she was caught with trouble. Shuffled off to college, she found the Goth community almost right away, and changed her major from biochemical engineering ("Maybe someone will marry you if you have a degree or something," her mother said) to liberal arts. A year ago, she started reading tarot, and seemed to be quite good at it. She started reading tarot at a coffee shop in College Park when a strange woman, who looked like an aged 1920s flapper in black clothing, started to get readings on a weekly basis. That's when the cards stopped being read, and started SPEAKING to Jean. They moved her fingers, controlled her voice, and for several months she acted as a mere participant, watching and learning as they told her this woman was more than she seemed, and that her current dealings with her many children were more than kids and grand kids involved in normal day-to-day business, but were involved it what could only be a vast and complex crime syndicate that guarded ...things.
Her dancing moved in stilted rhythm as her boyfriend of the last year jumped around, moved by violent integral conflicts that came as voices from his past: his parents divorcing, his cruel step-mother, being beat up in school... and a girl he killed another lifetime ago. His faded military jacket, picked up at a yard sale, was decorated with Satanic symbols in Sharpie. His pockmarked face was peppered with a scrawny wiry facial stubble, and his long black hair flailed around; stifled by oils not washed since he last got caught in the rain a few weeks prior. He knew something was distracting his poor Jean.
"Such a stupid creature," he thought. "Jean should be happy with me. If she stopped thinking so much, stopped hanging around her her stupid friends, she would be mine and mine alone, and everything would be okay." He considered Jean ungrateful, and while he loved her, Jean made him do things that made him lose control. If only she would just shut up and listen to him. If only she did what she was told, then they BOTH could be happy. In his jacket pocket was a heavy object; a folding hunting knife.
It was insurance she would listen to him, if it came to that.
Jean thought about this older woman. She pictured the woman sitting at an uncomfortable metal cafe chair across from her, noisily sipping a frosted orange drink from a wax paper cup and straw, looking pensive and thoughtful. A small metal wire table barely held the display of cards in front of them. Jean always started with a standard Celtic Cross, but now almost 2/3rds of the deck were scattered in patterns that spun off like uncurling ferns. One month ago, this display looked so vibrant and loud, she was only half surprised her body stood up and declared, loudly among twenty-something coffee drinkers, "THE ABOMINATION WILL DESTROY THE GATES, IF YOU LET HER ROAM ...SHE WILL DESTROY EVERYTHING!!!" She then collapsed, exhausted among her pile of cards, now frayed around the edges like they were 200 years old from a museum collection that had once been pulled from a fire, not 6 months old from a game and hobby store downtown.
The old woman patted her hands. Her thin and bony hands seemed to suck the heat from Jean's body. She looked up at the woman, through tear-stained eyes, and sucked in her snot... feeling like a helpless little girl who had just soiled herself and nanny was now going to punish her. But instead, the woman said, "Jean... you have a gift. If you want to follow this gift, leave a black crow's feather in sealed plastic bottle by the crook of the large oak tree near your dormitory. If you decide not to choose this gift, do nothing, and return to the remnants of you life which..." and the woman looked at a large and strange pocket-watch, "... will be about a month from next Tuesday, if I wound this thing correctly."
"How will I die?" she asked.
Our vision now speeds up in real time. The dance floor seems strangely harsh and distracting. People are jumping, hopping, and slinging themselves to Wooly's latest remix, which was based on Pachelbel's Kanon and something from a local group known as "Slice of Pain." All characters fade into the background as the night wears on.
Hours passed, and so had most of the people. Wooly B had shaken hands with some friends a few hours ago, and now he was gone, talking with some local heavies in the industry at a 24 hour diner. The music was now on auto-replay as other deejays getting their feet wet on the scene tried out a few of their mixes, but the talent had left with Wooly, it seemed, and half the concrete floor was now mixed with people shouting over the techno music.
Jean leaned against the wall, watching her boyfriend Pat chatting it up with some teen wearing a pink wig. "Poser," she thought bitterly, but then realized that it didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore, and this seemed funny somehow. She first realized this when she wondered how she should give her things away, but she decided, "Fuck it," and knew that whatever would happen to her things would happen. Her stomach was nervous, but she was determined to take this next step, whatever it was, and not become victim of a warning that she heard from the tree as she placed the bottle with the crow feather in the crook of the tree next to her dorm.
"You can never go back, and you cannot show an ounce of regret," said the voice of some young girl in the breeze. "Your choice has been made. You will know what we know, you will do what we do... for eternity. But if your heart pangs in remorse at the change, if you visit those whom you once knew... you will suffer most horribly. You must show resolve, and never looks back."
"I do," she said, as she placed the bottle. "I do," seemed better than, "I will," for some reason she thought.
So tonight was the night. She looked at Pat and forgave him. She knew what he was now, and she knew what she had to do. She had always known he was an abusive prick with an Oedipus complex, but she could face it now. Before, she had kept it hidden. She didn't want to know, for some reason, and that seemed so petty now. She would leave, and he would be left behind. But he was useful for one last thing, now, and seeing him talk to that pretty little girl with a dumb smile and poser makeup was just too obvious to pass up.
She walked up to her and said, "Don't let him fool you... he's an abusive cunt who only fucks me because I remind him of mamma. If that scares you, run away now. Go home to your spoiled rich life, to your allowance from daddy, and live in your warm and happy shell... because this guy only wants you the same reason I like chewing gum: to freshen the ol' breath."
Pat's inner rage rose to a boil. "What are you DOING... here, Jean?"
"I came to dance with you. You are so boring. Now you're trying to charm some little teen like she was your--"
"OUTSIDE!" Pat yelled.
Jean's stomach clenched with anticipation. "Oh, no... we'll take it HERE! I don't DO take-out from you anymore!"
Pat grabbed her, and with muscular strength forged from years of built up rage, pulled her off balance towards the door. Jean slapped him across the face. She could feel his anger like a coming freight train. She would have NEVER dared to do this a month ago, hell, a week ago she was fretting about this moment. His eyes squinted and his teeth gritted. He imagined himself as an anime villain, about unleash furious and righteous anger, and that his stare was accompanied by a swelling of orchestral music, and not the techno-pop from a speaker just 10 feet behind him.
But he would keep calm. A thousand memories of losing his temper as a child and being mocked for it held back his rage like chains to a wild beast. He smoothed her long hair, and said, "Fine. You have to do what you have to do. That just way the... THE WAY... you have to be, then yes." His rage began to boil over, foaming into his speech center and screwing up his words. He had to remain calm. The knife in his pocket reminded him he was in control. His knife felt heavy in his pocket.
"I was with Jeff all night," he told the police 4 years ago. He had an airtight alibi. He had woven one together in less than 20 minutes as he stood over the body of his former girlfriend. He felt oddly peaceful and satiated as he realized he had finally hit her in the face so hard, she must have died within seconds. His muscles weren't even sore, and his body felt light and powerful like the shadows of his memory beating her again and again and again. Joy burbled from his gut as he remembered her screams, begging and pleading for him to stop. Again and again. Her teeth were smashed in, her nose broken, and each meaty thud to her face only seemed to make him stronger. He felt powerful and alive. He felt true joy for the first time finally snapping and beating his girlfriend as he grabbed her throat. She would die, and this was FUNNY. She wouldn't ever leave him now. No one would know she dumped him. No one would EVER know. She would be his FOREVER, and she would nag him, or make jokes about him to her little girly friends, and shame him when he couldn't satisfy her in a way that she demanded. No, now she was his. He OWNED her in memories. But he had to think fast. He was cool, and in control ... he was powerful, and his mind reacted like a trained circus performer. He had a friend he caught selling weed. He ran to his house, and threatened to tell him off to cops if he didn't say they had been together playing video games. Games all along. With his buddy Jeff. The investigation was so bungled, and added with the fact his girlfriend's parents didn't care for her all that much, made for an easy getaway. Pat's grades improved, and for the first time since he was a little kid, he felt in control. And to make sure Jeff didn't back out...
"Are you LISTENING TO ME?" asked Jean. Pat had got that look on his face again, like he was stoned or something. She couldn't even tell if it was in anger or thought. Maybe he just short circuited. "I am SO breaking up with you," she said. "That's it! That's the LAST straw. Go and screw that little tweenie for all I care! Go tell HER how much you love mamma!"
Pat's control was falling. As time had passed after his girlfriend's death, the energy and calmness he got from it also wore off, and when he graduated high school, he was as bad as ever. No prom date. Almost expelled for alcohol possession. If his mom hadn't have bailed him out... repeatedly. Wasn't he too old to be spanked? He never dared ask. He even kind of enjoyed it, which gave him mixed feelings he didn't want to deal with, but kept surfacing at the wrong times. His knife felt heavy in his pocket.
His eyes began to twitch. This can't be happening. This can't be right.
And then Jean walked away from him, and out the exit.
His stomach clenched. He turned pale, and began to sweat. "I can fix this," he thought. "I can fix this, like I fixed Jeff. No wait, I fixed Jeff with an overdose. But that wasn't my fault, right? He took it, right? He didn't ask me to kill him..." Pat followed Jean, not sure what was coming next.
The trio of dancers seemed to float back into the real world. The small girl said, "Donnabel. We're close." The lanky girl stopped dancing, and pouted. "I was having fun, Sad Fairy." Sad Fairy tapped the other girl, who stopped moving as gracefully as if she had planned the ending way in advance. It's time, she signed to her. The other girl nodded enthusiastically, and then signed back, has anything changed from our plan? "No, Harona. Same plan as always."
Can we get some donuts after this? signed Harona. I am starving. We can take... her if she wants. Harona waved her arms at the door Jean and Pat had just exited.
Donnabel winked at Sad Fairy. "Sounds like a plan!"
Sad Fairy roller her eyes and stamped her feet. "No... no donuts before ceremony. Besides, this one is going to be mes-SEEEE from what her eminence told me."
Harona wrinkled her nose and stuck out her tongue in disgust.
"Way to ruin a donut run," said Donnabel, adjusting her leg wraps.
"You guys should be honored we were even SELECTED for this one!" Sad Fairy said, but then smiled a little because it didn't sound any less stupid. Yeah, they were just a bunch of dumb, lucky assistants.
Do we have to carry her? asked Harona. I hate body runs because then no one can hear me.
"I can't hear you now," joked Sad Fairy. She covered her eyes with her hands. "I can't hear Harona... I can't hear Harona..."
"You are so cruel," said Donnabel, laughing at Harona trying to slap Sad Fairy's hands away.
"Hey!" said an older guy from the deejay booth, "We can't have kids in here! Hey, how old are you guys anyway? Don't look away! This is for adults only! HEY!"
Outside, Jean was pacing in the alley behind some storage units. "Show no regret," she whispered to herself in encouragement. "Show no regret or remorse. You can never go back." Her breath came out in clouds in the cold night air.
"Hey!" shouted Pat. "Where do you think you're going?"
"It's over, Pat," she said. "I am not taking abuse from you anymore, I am not taking other women from you anymore and just sit by and pretend things are okay. I am 21, and an adult, Pat. You're... 31 and creepy. Some... some man-boy creep. It's OVER!" she took off her ring, a ring she got when they first dated, and like some bad movie, threw it at his feet.
"Aw, come on..." said Pat, but Jean Just laughed. She laughed because she felt so free. She laughed because she finally understood. Pat thought she was laughing because she was being silly. "Ha ha ha..." said, "Okay... I'm sorry I talked to that girl... is my little cookie a jealous cookie?"
"No no..." Jean laughed. She thought even his breath cloud looked desperate. "You totally don't get it. I am DUMPING you. And it feels GREAT! My life will go on without you, and this will open doors, and I am going to do great things and you'll... you'll just be some forgotten memory, or an anecdote I tell my daughter someday."
"But you said you never wanted children!" Pat started to feel like he was slipping away. The whole "be nice" thing wasn't working. She wasn't bending or feeling sorry for him. She wasn't taking CARE of him!
"Not with you! Oh, Pat... I have been planning this for a MONTH and ---"
"PLEASE!" Pat cried out. This can't be happening, he thought. Not again. No!
"Pat, don't be upset. Don't even fight it. It's over. It HAS to end this way. But instead of you dumping me, I have dumped you."
"NOOO!" he screamed. His temper began to flair. "NO NO!!" His knife felt heavy in his pocket.
"See? Like some toddler who can't keep his temper. What are you going to do, beat me again? I am through with this, Pat. I am going to get a restraining order on you. I am telling the police everything, and you can sleep with little Miss Pinky Wig in there, and maybe she will..."
"NO!!!" Pat screamed, and he rushed her. She did not run away. She just stood there, and smiled, which made him even more furious. Like when that one girl laughed at him. That one girl. His hot breath steamed in the air in front of him and curled around Jean's smiling face. His knife felt heavy in his pocket.
"And you... can't... stop me," punctuated Jean to Pat's face as a cloud of breath fogged his vision, much like his mother's cigarette smoke did when he was being punished as a child.
We're just in time, signed Harona from behind a dumpster. Sad Fairy and Donnabel nodded. They had seen a few of these before, and each one was different.
Pat was never quite sure what made him grab the knife, but he pulled at the blade with the side of his hand, and in one thumb flick opened the folding lockback, a gift from his father, and plunged it straight into Jean's collarbone.
Jean didn't know what to expect. There was pain, penetration, and a warm feeling as her aorta spilled into her body and spurted into her face. Memories flickered before her eyes.
She watched as one of the tarot cards on her deck showed Pat enveloping her in a cloak, and watched as blood pooled around his feet. The old woman pointed at the card and said, "In one month, your boyfriend will kill you. But there is hope. A kind of... afterlife. More of a 'between-life,' you might call it. As you no doubt have gathered, I represent a group of people who guard things. We rescue people from death and use them to guard the many gateways of your world. We are the hidden. We are the occult. We are the guardians of this world and others."
Jean collapsed to the ground. Was the whole feather-in-the-bottle thing fake?
Pat looked at his blood-soaked hand and his face was mixed with desperation. Should he stab her again? Run? What about an alibi?
Jean grew weak as the blood poured from her wound. She placed her hand against the gaping hole by her neck, and was surprised she felt no regret. She actually felt a little... lightheaded. And that thought seemed VERY funny. "Go you, Jean," she thought, "I am losing gallons of blood, and complain about being lightheaded! Why didn't I donate blood when I had the chance? Me afraid of a needle, and look at me now! Donating like a fuckin' FOUNTAIN!" As she laughed, blood gurgled from her mouth and nose. She snorted because of all the blood, and THAT seemed even funnier. "I'm a bleeding dork!" she tried to say, but she found she couldn't breathe anymore. Then she saw three dark figures walk towards her, and wondered, "I wonder if they'll take me out for donuts?"
Pat didn't know why this bleeding corpse in front of him was giggling and snorting. This wasn't right. Maybe he had to stab her again, but as he raised his knife, an iron grip clamped down on his forearm, and he felt a sheer sense of panic.
"No no," said Donnabel softly. "Not the face."
Ironic, signed Harona, considering what you did to that guy back there.
"I hear whistling in the air," said Sad Fairy, bending down and looking at Jean's pale form in a pool of blood. "That must mean Harona's flapping her arms around about SOMEthing..."
"She's still grossed out from what I did to Mr. Authority Figure back there," Donnabel mentioned as she twisted Pat's forearm a little to look at his face. "Look at THIS guy. Yeesh."
"I was saving... her!" Pat stammered. His whole world was collapsing and the tinitus in his ears was screaming. He was panicking so bad, he nearly lost all bowel control.
"Hey!" Sad Fairy shouted at Jean, poking her with an extended finger. "HEY YOU! You dead?"
Such a sense of humor, said Harona, shaking her head.
"Come ON!" Sad Fairy shoved Jean's limp body. "Harona here doesn't want to carry you. She's lazy, but, hey, what are you gonna do?"
"Can I get rid of this guy?" asked Donnabel. She had been gripping Pat's arm so tightly, it was bleeding and turning purple.
"Yeah yeah," Sad Fairy said and waved Donnabel and Pat away. "Just get him as far away from here as quickly as you can... his face is all creepy."
Donnabel twisted Pat's arm in such a way that the knife fell from his hands and clattered into Jean's pool of blood, now mixing with a puddle of water and oil in the alley. "You're a guy," she said cheerfully. "You like football?" Her voice was lilted like one would speak while reading children's books.
Pat nodded dumbly. He didn't like football, but he didn't feel like arguing with the strange lady with the big chin.
"I call this a field goal!" said Donnabel, and just as Harona raised her arms to signal a field goal kick, Donnabel swung one leg back and punted Pat to hard in the crotch, it shattered his pelvis and severed his spine near his kidneys upon impact. The sudden force flipped him high into the air, where he spun like a gymnast until he landed in a dumpster, amid some cardboard boxes and a some broken furniture. Harona signed, touchdown!
"Okay he's gone now, you can get up!" shouted Sad Fairy.
Jean did not move.
"We got the right girl, right?" asked Donnabel.
"Oh, this is the right girl, alright. Ms. Bleedy-pants McLazy. Come on, girl! We don't have all DAY!"
"Er, Sad fairy... ix-nay on the ed-day ody-bay!" Donnabel pointed to some people coming down the alley.
"Oh for the love of..."
But Harona moved with an incredible burst of speed that it sprayed water and blood from the mixed puddle. Her blurred form darted like shadows and before the people knew it, they were confronted by an angry figure with a huge tongue-less mouth lined with razor-sharp fangs, and two huge curved daggers poised from hands like a viper's fangs. Harona's layers of aprons opened like the gills of a fish, exposing layers of bright red tissue and serrated blades.
"Shit!" one all of them said, and all three men ran the other way.
"You should never piss off the quiet ones," said Donnabel.
Hardy har har, mouthed Harona and she smoothed down her aprons and sheathed her daggers. And what's this fetish you have with men's sports? she signed after she poked around her gums to get her lips straight again.
"WAKEY WAKEY!!!" Sad Fairy continued with Jean's body, shaking it so the gaping wound on her neck flapped open and closed with a moist sucking sound.
Suddenly Jean coughed and sputtered. Blood got all over Sad Fairy's taffeta skirt, and she leapt back with a reflexive, "EWWWW GROSSS!!! God DAMMIT! I HATE messy retrievals!"
Jean's vision came back into focus, and in front of her was a small girl wiping off her skirt and striped stockings, while a tall and lanky girl came over with another girl who looked a little like a gothic Holly Hobbie. She tried to say something, but all that came out were gasps and sputters of more blood.
"Cough it up, Hon," said Donnabel. "That gash cut into your windpipe, but we can fix that with some heavy duty thread or something. You're gonna be hoarse all the time, though."
Small price to pay... signed Harona with a wistful look.
"Yeah, someone cut her tongue out in 1860. It helps if you understand sign language, but not much."
Harona made an unmistakable sign of rebellion.
"Little Miss Roosevelt here things she's all high and mighty because she was poisoned," said Sad Fairy as she twisted her hips like a dog trying to shake off water. "Gaaah... there's blood in my LACE and JACKET and ... aaaw, my SHIRT!"
"Sorry..." croaked Jean.
"Well... yeah. Not your fault. Okay, who's up for a walk back to Lady Sarcastia's mausoleum? Those halfway between dead and alive, raise their hands."
"Not YOU, Pat!" said Donnabel to the distant dumpster.
I don't think he's alive, Donnabel. I heard that crunch in my own pelvis, said Harona, crossing her legs and wincing.
Jean was surprised she could stand up. Her collarbone sure felt funny, though. And her sticky blood was drying on everything.
"How do you feel?" asked Donnabel.
Jean thought... and smiled. "You know," she croaked, "not too bad. I mean, it hurts a little... but... I, uh... feel fine. Kind of lightheaded, but fine." She thought some more, and and then added, "I... uh, I feel like having coffee and donuts."
Sad Fairy rolled her eyes as she felt Donnabel's smug grin burn into her back.
All text copyright 2005 Grig Larson, all rights reserved. No reprinting without permission