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Chapter 7

The walk home had been a blur. I could only remember parts of it. I’ve known this day would eventually come, but I suppose I could’ve never fully prepared for it. There’s only one thing I knew for certain…I needed some mouth wash.

I shuffled around the outside of the church and made it to the back door. Using the front door attracted unwanted attention and if anyone was on my street they wouldn’t be around for long.  A little discretion never hurt anyone. Plus, the front door was locked from the inside with an eight foot piece of solid oak. If I was ever in a hurry I might be able to blast it open, but I doubt it would ever come to that. The rear door was far more secure than the front door could ever be.

The back door had a key that only I possessed. Everyone in the world has an energy that they emit; some people refer to them as auras. I have an unnatural amount of energy and can control it, manipulating the elements. That’s what makes me special.  My energy acts like a fingerprint, unique to my body and my body alone. I infused the door with my power, my DNA so only I would be allowed to enter. I’m able to turn off my defenses with a simple thought, unlocking the bond that the door and I have, allowing other people to enter unharmed.

Somebody could physically open the door, but they wouldn’t like what would happen when they tried to cross the threshold–a little hint– their heart would explode. That was actually a big hint. They would be dead instantly. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make a half-assed booby trap when using my own energy. It’s all or nothing. With the additional power that flowed through the church, it took a minimal amount of my own power to complete the process. Moral of the story would be not to enter, pretend you’re a vampire, and make sure that you’re invited in.

I had a scare once. An alarm had been triggered in my head; I raced down the stairs and through the kitchen. I went to the back door to find it painted with a fresh coat of crimson blood, hair, and guts splattered on the walls, floor, and ceiling. It turned out I hadn’t latched the door securely and the wind had convinced it open. A poor raccoon, looking for fresh food instead of the spoiled in the dumpster, unknowingly walked through the wrong doorway.

The lower half of his body remained outside. The upper half had been sprayed about. It had looked like a giant, red ink blot. I wonder if I’d looked hard enough I would’ve been able to see a butterfly. A faint, pink hue still remained as a constant reminder of the power–the death, I controlled. And to always make sure the door has been closed securely and dead bolted properly.

I’d infused the door with my power so only I would be allowed to enter it. I was happy that my defenses worked, I just wished I had someone to clean it up for me. If something larger had come through I don’t think the result would’ve been the same, or at least I hoped not. I wanted security, not someone’s insides all over my entry way.

I lugged myself up the three flights of stairs and threw myself on the bed, exhausted and frustrated. It was only a little after 10pm, but I was beat. I was in need of a cat nap. I wouldn’t have been able to go to bed this early, plus there’s a lot more I still needed to do tonight. Gizmo tried to persuade me out of bed to walk him, but it fell on deaf ears. I told him, “Not now, daddy…needs…his…re…”

I woke up to a whimper and a lick over the scar on the side of my head. I slept for an hour or so and arose feeling a little better. The first thing I needed to do was take the poor puppy dog outside, so he could handle his business. When we were finished, we went back inside and to the room next to ours. The fridge and microwave were both there, in my make shift kitchen. There was a real kitchen on the ground floor, but it was too big and it was all the way downstairs. Throwing up really emptied me out, I was in desperate need to be refilled. I’m a vegetarian, that’s right; I carry a taser and I don’t eat meat. I love animals, why would I want to eat them? It could have been the orphanage meat that really turned me off from it. They plopped some pretty gross stuff on the plates at meal time.

I placed a fake burger in the toaster oven along with the bun. I added pepper-jack cheese, mayo, and ketchup when the oven dinged. That was all, no lettuce or tomatoes or onions. I’m a pretty lousy veg-head. I grabbed a Pepsi and some potato chips to complete the meal. Gizmo was a veggie lover also. He received a cup of food and two protein based snausages, meat-free of course. The pet shop carried a full line of meat-free treats for him. Like I said before, they love us.

We made our way back to the room food in hand. The whole time the only thing I could think about was what was to be done next. There had to be someone, somewhere I could talk to or intimidate for some answers. I understood Pirelli was behind the hit, but he was behind everything criminal. There’s an endless list of questions that needed to be answered. I fear there’s a lot more to this than I anticipated.

I inhaled my food; I think I chewed some of it. I decided to go where I always went when I needed to think…online gaming. I chose to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on the PS3. Nothing cleared my head better than tactical war games. An hour of kicking ass and still I was lost. I suppose I have no other choice. It was time to wake the beast. I grabbed a few things: CD player, a CD; Mozart’s classic masterpieces, and Gizmos ball. Then, both of us headed to the roof.

Gizmo decided he wanted to race me up the stairs. And yes he won. He has four legs, I only have two, and my center of gravity is horrible compared to his. Plus he tripped me half way up here, so I think I will have to disqualify him and name the runner up the winner, (is that me?).

Before we went through the door I put my game face on. We stepped through the steel door and made our way across the roof to Harry. I threw the ball for the pooch and he went running after it. It was better to have him somewhere else instead of annoying the already grumpy gargoyle.

“So, I threw up this evening.” I said, started the conversation on an interesting note. I thought it might grab his attention. “It was as gross as I remembered it being; it was relieving, but gross.”

“Ha. Did you walk by a mirror or something?” Harry, all too cheerfully, replied.

He seemed to be in a pleasant mood and that was never a good thing. Usually, it meant something bad was in my near future. “Ahhh, good one,” I said with a horrible feeling rising in my gut. “Why are you in a good mood?”

“No reason Wes. I’m just enjoying this breezy night.”

“Can you even feel the breeze?” I asked.

“In some form, yes; here comes the mutt.”

Gizmo ran up to me, the big ball in his mouth, but covering his eyes. He didn’t seem too bothered by it. I retrieved the ball from the dog’s mouth and threw it again. He happily chased after it once again.

“Harry, why do I feel like I’m going to throw up again?”

As soon as I finished my sentence, the temperature that surrounded me had plummeted. It had been cool outside, but in a nice way, now with every breath I exhaled a white mist would appear. Before I could react to the changed around me, it was already too late. Whatever weird sensation I had been feeling before intensified in seconds. Harry, in a way I still don’t know how, struck at me with a furious vengeance. He had to have been storing his remaining energy, bit by tiny bit, waiting for the most opportune time, and that time had come. I had been under the impression that it wasn’t possible to do such a thing. I had been wrong.

His raw power surpassed anything I’d ever thought he would’ve been capable of. It was crippling. Through the tiniest crack in my defense he was able to plan an escape. He was trying to break through the front gate and I the gatekeeper. In moments I was frozen. My body stuck, unable to move, my eyes wide open unable to blink. My mouth, mid-open, awaited its next breath.

My heart stopped. The familiar beat to which my body lived to was no longer there. Through my chest cavity an invisible hand had cut through my defenses, through my skin, and gripped my heart, as easily as grasping an apple out of a tree. Harry pressed his thoughts into my own.

His voice was in my head now. There wasn’t an audible sound. There was no noise to be heard and yet I heard. It felt like we were becoming one being, he was after all a body snatcher. Harry and I had always communicated verbally. I could always hear his voice. Maybe I could never hear it; maybe it was only the projection of his voice, just like at this moment.

“I’m sorry it came to this Wes.” His words rolled through my mind, my body trembled without physically trembling; a ripple through my soul. “If only we had met in a different world, perhaps our story together could have been different. I wish there was some other way than destroying you to save me, but I’ve survived this long because I’ve always been able to make these tough decisions. Good bye Wes. I hope your next life treats you better than this one did.”

He cut his voice from my mind and the silence consumed me. The grip around my heart had never faltered. My time was running out. I shoved my thoughts, my will, to the soles of my shoes. If I had any chance of surviving, I would need the buildings help. If I could connect to the church, its power could possibly save me.  I couldn’t even take a breath to focus my mind; I was flailing and soon I would be dead–a frozen time capsule, half-crouched with a crazed look on my face right next to the gargoyle. They would put me with the likes of Ted Williams and some even say Walt Disney, if you want to believe the rumors. Even though it’s documented that Disney was cremated, for fear he would come back as a zombie. It’s ironic considering I could live to be over 200 years old if I could prevent things like these from happening. I wonder if I could come back after being frozen for 100 years; my body is far more complicated than the typical human. Maybe I hold the key to what all those frozen heads have been looking for.

Focus, that’s the big trick to wizardry…always, be focused. As tough as it was to empty my mind, there’s something about being on the edge of death that stretched your capabilities. I reached down, deep down, and tapped into anything and everything I could. I pushed all the energy I had to the roof below. “Breathe Wes, breathe,” I said to myself without moving my tongue or lips. It sounded like the monster that Dr. Frankenstein gave birth to, but it was the only encouragement I could muster for myself.

I gasped. I inhaled the most refreshing breath I’d ever sucked in before. In an instant my body felt warmer and I could move—albeit mostly stumbling. The buildings power had surged through me and sliced through Harry’s attack with deadly proficiency. I took in two more deep breaths of life before I recovered enough to think straight. I rushed over to the demon-within-the-stone and placed my hand on the slate. I needed to act fast while he was still weakened. My magic mixed with the buildings power made it possible for me to rebuild my defenses that Harry had worked so hard to bring down. He was strong, smart, and I hadn’t realized his full power until tonight. I was able to fix the walls and build them taller and stronger while the extra power was available to me.  I added anything and everything magically available to me to lock him down once again.

When it was over, I let out a sigh of relief as I fell on my ass: exhausted…again…already. It felt like my whole body ate ice cream way too fast; brain freeze was annoying, but whole body freeze was completely numbing. My eyes burned with every blink, my skin itched everywhere, and a chunk of my hair had fallen off like an icicle breaking off of a front porch when hit with a December’s afternoon sun.

When the coast was clear Gizmo jumped from his hiding place behind the AC unit and ran over to nuzzle me. I had been careless for far too long with Harry and it had almost cost me my life. I didn’t get a chance to aske him any of my questions before he had attacked. He was of no use to me now. I wasn’t as angry as I probably should’ve been but being alive had something to do with that. Focus on the positives. I set the CD player down on the ledge by Harry and put in a CD. “Mozart’s classics,” I said, “if you want to listen to it, all you have to do is press play.”

Harry would recover in time, but hopefully not too soon. This turned out to be a very un-fun day. Even though I’ve cheated death, today had too many bad with not enough good: knives, guns, and powerful beings…plus, my mouth still tasted like throw-up.

 

 

 

Chapter 8

I zombie-walked back to my room and turned in for the night. Even with the buildings enormous help I was gassed. I was both physically and mentally fatigued. It was time for a deep, deep sleep…or so I thought. I had a dream this night.

I was standing in the computer lab of my old school, all those years ago. I was as I looked in the present day, same jeans and shirt I wore to bed. At first I was alone, and then, one by one, students came in that I had once known. They were the same age as they had been in high school. Single file they entered, walking silently across the lab, and then stood in a line. They all came: every bully, every athlete, and everyone else who treated me like I was an abomination. They never spoke, never coughed, or made a noise of any kind. I was ready to speak but the students turned towards the door and went down to one knee. In walked the man, Mr. Pirelli. He was unlike the other students; he was like me, he was in his adult body.

I’ve seen pictures of him before in the newspaper and he looked just like he had then: tall, tan, and deceptive. He was wearing a fine Italian suit, black with silver pin stripes, and a deep forest green collared shirt with a matching pocket square. Everything had been tailored to fit his athletic frame and he wore it well. A shimmer of light caught my eye. It led me to one of the most interesting watches I had ever seen. I don’t how, but I knew right away that it was an Ulysse Nardin, Genghis Khan Watch. Genghis Khan was the Mongolian leader. He was remembered for a lot of things but perhaps the most important mark he left on society was the empire he had built. It was the largest empire in the history of mankind.

On the face of the watch there were four figures made from gold. Each hour, on the hour, the figures would move and fight one another. What a man wears can say a lot about them and this watch could be Jace’s biography–it also cost a half million dollars.

Jace walked to the center of the room with perfect posture and an ostentatious glow. He turned and faced me. His cold eyes locked with mine and it sent a shiver down my spine. The corner of his upper lip rose as he pulled an evil grin before he spoke.

“I have not forgotten you, Wesley”

My eyes shot open and a bead of sweat trickled down my forehead. My right leg kicked without my permission, sending Gizmo flying off the bed and landing with a thud and a yelp on the floor. That’s a hell of a way to wake up for the both of us. I’d rather be the one kicked off the bed. For a wizard, dreams are not merely a form of entertainment for our minds. Dreams are premonitions…parts of the dreams are anyway. I highly doubt that the students I went to school with have not aged one day. Unfortunately, I believe that Jace remembered me and knew I was back.

And the hits just keep on coming. 

 

 

 

Chapter 9

It was only 3:37 in the morning, so much for that deep sleep. I picked up Gizmo and carried him with me to the kitchen. He received a couple of treats and I received a treat as well. A cold shot of Vodka. My hands ceased shaking and my body started to calm down. I guess I could go to the online world of gaming now, sleep would just have to wait.

I was really hoping for the element of surprise when it came to Pirelli. Without it I felt vulnerable and weak. I felt like I did throughout my high school days, alone and powerless; even though that’s not who or what I was anymore. I’ve evolved into something far more superior than some criminal in an Italian suit and fancy watch. I was drawn back to reset the balance in my city. It was time for me to get some answers. My way.

I turned off the game and threw on some clothes. I threw on some blue jeans, black cons, black pea coat, and a plain black t-shirt. It was 4:15am now and the dives in the Neon District should be getting ready to close up shop. The corporation, known to the public as J.P. Inc, owns a restaurant and bar in the middle of the District called, Eternal Night. I had been there once before following a lead on a different investigation. The club looked standard when you first walked in. A lounge area led you inside, a full bar lined the entire right side, hot new music bounced through the air, and a large dance floor was in the center of everything. There was a back room where dancers occupied individual areas, and many other doors would’ve been occupied within complete secrecy. It was all supposedly legal, but it was foul. This time I was going there with intent; the intent to piss a lot of people off. I’ve been passive enough for one 24 hour period. It’s time for me to make some noise; a lot of noise that would hopefully lead to a lot of answers.

I walked down the stairs, through the back door, making sure I locked it behind me. I crossed the short distance from the church to the entrance of the cemetery. I stepped to the first line of graves and found the headstone marked, ‘For Sale’…it never sold. I bent over and placed my hand on the soil. I only had to think about my bike and the mere thought was good enough to spring it from its resting place.

In an instant the brown grass and dirt parted, raising my street bike from the grave below. My bike repelled the dirt and came out looking brand new.

My motorcycle a 2006 MV Agusta F4 CC, will always be very special to me. There were only 100 made in the entire world. The platinum plate says #21 out of 100. All black with carbon fiber in-lays with red pin stripping and lettering. With a top speed of nearly 200mph meant I could get from one end of the city to the other in a very timely manner. I’d never pushed my bike that hard, I guess I’d never had the need to do so. My bike cost more than I could ever make or ever see in my life. It was a gift from Marcus. I came back to the lair late one night and there it was, with a note attached:

Welcome home and good luck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chapter 1

The sign said ‘Welcome to Heretic Valley’ but it should have read ‘Welcome to Hell’. If you’ve never heard of this place and don’t know where to find it, don’t worry, there are only few who have. All it would take is one wrong turn and the town would find you. I did something that no one else had ever done before; I went looking for it.

It had been ten years since I laid my eyes on this valley. Ten very long years. I was on the outskirts of town, stepping one foot in front of the other, forcing myself to continue. This place had changed. It was different. I could see it. I could feel it.

Few who sought out the Devil lived to tell about it.

This fallen valley needed something, rather someone, to rescue it. I was called back home to be the light, to guide to the misguided. I am their hope. I will be their compass to follow. My name is Wes Andersen and this is Heretic Valley.

 

Chapter 2

The fields that were once green and rolling were now dead and rocky. The tall oaks were hollow, without leaves and rot with disease. The water had left the Valley long ago and only that which could adapt remained.

I stood on top of the oldest building in the valley.  One hundred and fifty feet of mass sprang out of the darkness like a glowing beacon for the city.  The old stone gave way in many areas, but the ancient structure’s integrity held intact.

Generations of cracks, lifelines of the stone, ran up the enormous formation. The lively green ivy was the only color showing on the building as it mirrored the cracks as they spider-webbed their way to the top.

Huge, thick, wooden doors hung upon three solid black iron hinges, two simple iron crosses displayed on each side. The buildings life began as a beautiful cathedral where thousands of patrons would flock each week to repent and worship.  A magnificent stained glass window above the altar, faded from years of neglect, depicted a child at the foot of Jesus, in awe of the calming presence of her Lord.  Forsaken for decades, the images shine and luster had been long faded, forgotten like everything else in here.

Now, people avoided being on the same street as the church, most of the time unaware of even doing so. There are certain places in the world that have been there for so long you can feel their presence. This town had changed dramatically since the church had been the center, the backbone of the area. Strangled and choked out by man’s need for cruelty and chaos, the church remained but the power it had over the masses had long been taken away. Over time it became just a building, a ghost of its former self.

I had been led here to this place knowing it still held a purpose. I don’t know how I knew, but I did. I had never been on this street before and yet here I was with my life’s new purpose laid before my feet.

I was born with a condition, a condition unseen by any doctor that had ever treated me. There’s no name for it and there’s no cure. I like to call it “Gandalphitus.” If I was in Middle Earth I would be carrying an oak staff with a very long, grey beard on my chiseled jaw.

I hadn’t discovered my “disease” until I was well into my high school years. An accidental release of built up rage and despair washed over my body and leapt through my extended left arm, and with it an invisible force of power ripped its way out. I didn’t know what happened. I turned coat and ran before I ever found out. I left my high school and everything I had ever known without hesitation.

Marcus Cristix found me during my time abroad. He took me in when I was alone and taught me how to control my power, and gave me a purpose in my empty life. For five years we lived, studied, and trained together. He was over 150 years old but you wouldn’t believe he was a day over fifty looking at him. It was one of the many side effects of a common day wizard.

He stood a shade under six feet tall, strong build, and still had his full head of hair (no, it wasn’t long white hair reaching to the floor).  He was a well kept man and always dressed according to the times. He was the only other staff carrier I’d met to this day. Marcus had informed me that there were many other individuals like us out in the world but most of them didn’t know what they were truly capable of. They had been like me, confused and scared.

I hoped someday I would be able to rescue someone like Marcus had done for me. He’s only one of two people in my life I have the pleasure of calling a friend.

 

As I stood, firmly planted on my new home, a fierce wind whipped at my face.  Through the soles of my black & white cons I felt the Relics pulse reach out to me. Centuries of life and energy flooded from the building and flowed through me, from my feet through the tips of my extended fingers in the air.  In that moment I became one with the building, entrusted with all of its secrets and its unnatural power.   

 

 

Chapter 3

The memory of my first time back into my city and my home ended. I gathered myself, all six foot three inches and walked across the rooftop to the edge of the building, resting my forearms on the rock ledge. My hair fell in my eyes and I casually swept it across the side of my face. I liked to keep my hair long, just to the edge of my shoulders, even if it tended to be a little annoying from time to time. The sweeping of my hair is now a reflex…no thinking required. My skin looked pale; some would even say it looked ghostly white. Whatever the description it was always a harsh contrast with my black pea coat.

The view was amazing from up here, it’s always nice to take a minute and just appreciate it. The low, thin clouds hovered above the tops of the buildings. The moonlight did it’s best to reach the valley floor, but only a small portion of its light could make it through. To my immediate right permanently overlooking the building was a massive stone gargoyle. It wore a sinister grin, showing its large pointed teeth. Intense, round eyes etched in the stone, carried a silent fire behind them. Relaxed wings, looked similar to a pterodactyl I’d once seen in a dinosaur encyclopedia, emerged out of the shoulder blades. The perched statue had its knees to its massive chest, and the enormous clawed feet gripped the stone mount. I had been lost in my thoughts admiring the intricate detail when I remembered why I had come up here in the first place–I needed to speak to Him.

“Hello Harry,” I started. “Sorry I haven’t been up here in a while.”

“You could have waited longer, Wes,”  a rough voice replied. “With you it’s always too soon.”

“Perhaps it is Harry, but I don’t have many people I can talk to. Sometimes, even I must do things I don’t like to do. For example: talking to someone or in your case something. Besides, my options are quite limited right now. With that said, I know deep down there’s a little part of you that enjoys our little chats. It’s not like you have anything else to do except hang around.” I said letting a low chuckle escape my throat.

I have never figured out how he can look so annoyed without being able to physically move, it had always unnerved me when he did that. In the human form he wore when we’d met, Harry had been a very powerful being. He was centuries old with wisdom and cunning that could have challenged anyone.

Roughly two years ago Harry and I met under a chance encounter. He had been looking to recover something from his past and our paths tangled in a very loud and fiery way. I’d been lucky to get the best of him. If either of us had time to prepare for one another he would have smashed my pretty little face in. The only thing I could’ve done then was run and to keep running until I hit an ocean. He had been and still is a very scary creature. I put him here, in the gargoyle, because I didn’t know how to destroy him. Also, a little part of me knew he could be very beneficial to have around. So into the statue he went.

He is my little genie in a gargoyle. He has helped immensely, but I would never let him know that. It is and always will be a poker game with Harry–or whatever his real name happens to be.

“Even my only company can be bothersome, Wes. Remember, I had family once but just because they were family didn’t mean they were always welcome. Just because you and that yapping mutt of yours are the only company I will ever have doesn’t mean I have to like the visits. Do you understand?”

“That you’re old.” I answered.

“Nice retort.”

“Nice face.” I blurted out. I enjoyed being childish, as long as I can get that last word in. “We are getting off topic sir. I came here for a reason, not to engage in our usual half-joking banter. What can you tell me?” After I asked my question I think I saw his eyes roll. Was that possible?

“If you are referring to the weapons being fired early yesterday morning, not a significant amount. It happened in the Neon district, so there could be a plethora of possibilities. I remember there were four or five bursts of an automatic weapon and simultaneously six rounds of a big revolver, not sure what caliber though. Both guns were fired from the same party and they claimed the life of one man and another in critical condition at Heretic General. It’s hard to say if they were targeted or if it was a spontaneous act, the Neon District is funny that way.”

“Good point. That was a very nice summarization, nicely done. The Neon district huh? I hate going there, but I know someone who might be able to get me on the right track. I suppose it’s time for me to go shopping.” I said turning to the east towards the district. “Keep your non-existent eyes open Harry. Let me know if anything else happens.”
“I agree with your assessment. I will do as I always have Wes, but I don’t need you to tell me anything. Am I the one who needs help all the time?”

“I don’t need help all of the time. You might need some help in a minute when I push you from your ledge though.” I answered.

“Very mature Wes.”

“That’s me, right down to the core.”

“Are we done now?” Harry asked.

“Yes, we are. Good night Harry, go back to doing whatever it is that you do and remember to keep your nose to the grind stone. Ha.” And with that sly remark I turned and started for the door..

I give that guy a hard time but he and I could have been good friends in a different life. I don’t know his whole story, I never cared to ask. We’ve shared our personal space now for a little over two years, and yes, Harry being on the roof contained in a gargoyle is most definitely an invasion of my personal space. An outside view on the situation one would think I was the bad guy, but believe me when I say I’m still the good guy…or the not-as-bad guy. He helps me because he has no other choice, but getting him to cooperate is like pulling teeth. No, pulling my own teeth out would be a welcome activity if it would get me out of talking to Harry. Before I shut the door I gave one last look over the valley: grey, eerie, and full of mystery. Just the way I liked it.

Note to self, going down the stairs far easier than going up them.

I opened the door to my bedroom and wondered why I took the time to close it; no one but me ever goes in there. It’s the principle of the thing, I told myself. There’s a door, all my worldly belongings behind it, and the door should be allowed to do the one thing it was designed for. Maybe I just like using my doorknob. It’s an original Nintendo controller that I fashioned to mount over the knob. Needless to say I was pretty happy about how it turned out. Pun intended. I know, I could have worked something up so all I would have to do was say a magic word like “Abracadabra” or maybe put the door on a “clapper”, but there’s no substitute for an original.

My oversized bed sits at the far wall under the only window in the room. My lanky frame needed as much room as I could get to sprawl out, plus I shared my bed with my ferocious guard dog, Gizmo, a brown and white Boston terrier. Gizmo in turn shared his portion of the bed with a teddy bear missing an eye and an oversized tennis ball that never quite fits into his mouth. In fact I had no idea how he ever gets the ball up on the bed, it’s a good two feet. I wonder if he could secretly fly, and if so where did he hide his cape. Curious I am.

“Gizmo,” I said with my curiosity getting the best of me, “can you fly?” He better not lie to me. The world said he’s mans best friend. I wouldn’t want that relationship tarnished. He didn’t answer me in an audible form, but he did answer me in another way. He swiveled his head and blinked. He then proceeded to hit his teddy bear, who I had named CY, right in the face. I gulped. “I will take that as a sign to not ask that question ever again. You’re right, we all need our secrets.” Gizmo is my best friend; even if the world never said so. He went back to doing his own thing with a content look on that smooshed face of his.

Gizmo and I draped our four post bed in a luxurious black velvet comforter. We added six pillows for the two of us. There’s no better feeling than throwing yourself into a soft, comfortable bed with so many luscious pillows. It felt like quick sand slowly swallowing you whole as you fell into a state of complete relaxation; all the fun without the consequence of dying.  Lying on the bed I found myself staring at the familiar sight of my high arched ceilings.  The old wood beams, bathed in the warm sunlight for many years, stared back at me. They were thick and I must admit even a little scary to look at, but at the same time their strength was reassuring. I felt safe in here. I picked my room in this giant building because of that reason.

The bed was warm and cozy. Gizmo trotted over and pawed at my chest, ruining my slight moment of pleasure, his nature had come-a-calling. We paced down the stairs and we walked to our normal spot; the alley behind our residence.

The church’s cemetery rested out here as well. It was small, and just as old as the church. There hadn’t been a burial here since the church lost its power over the congregation. A three foot tall, white picket fence squared in the area. The paint cracked, faded, and had been peeled by the weather for some time, but a few spots had made it through all of the seasons.  This abandoned, final resting spot offered little assurance that your body would remain at peace. The grass had died long ago and only brown strands swayed in the breeze against the final words for the deceased.

I have only entered as far as the first row of graves. Most of the plots were modest, but there was a mausoleum that stood out in the center of the cemetery. One day I would grow curious enough to find out who slept their final sleep in there. Today, however, would not be that day.

Gizmo never seemed to mind handling his business in the alley. I would mind, but he apparently cared less. It’s one of the few times he was able to go outside: to go potty, when we went to the roof, and daily walks up and down the street. He received most of his exercise running up and down the stairs chasing that ginormous tennis ball. I may or may not purposely throw it down the three flights of stairs, buying myself a few precious moments alone. He’s always been a crafty little guy and had never failed getting the ball back up.

One time I threw the ball and heard it reach the chapel area on the ground floor. Gizmo went chasing after it like normal. Five minutes went by and I grew worried. I reluctantly paused my video game and went to look for him. I found him on the 2nd flight of stairs. He’d made it that far before laying down with the ball underneath his chin, propping up his head. I bent down to pick up my tired little puppy and carry him back to our room. Before I could reach him three things happened: he forced himself back to his feet, gave himself a good shake, and he unhinged his jaw, securely gripped his tennis ball. He climbed the last flight of stairs with pure grit and suicidal determination. He even made it up to the bed before he plopped himself down and fell into a doggy-sleep coma. Because of witnessing that first hand, I firmly believe that the “Napoleon Complex” applied to people and small dogs alike.

It was 9pm. The Neon district would start to come alive about now, it was time for me to go to work.

I gobbled down a quick snack: a generous handful of goldfish, a Granny Smith apple, and a highly caffeinated Mountain Dew (and of course sugar, mmm…sugar). I made my way down the lair and out the back door. The evening light was fading as I turned toward the Neon district, to the starting point of my search.

My saunter was proudly on display as I chose to walk the eight blocks instead of taking my street bike. I wore my usual garb: beaten black and white converse low tops, relaxed blue jeans, and my trusty black pea coat. I wore this coat ten months out of the year, it’s an extra layer of skin for me, and I must have it on. I had a deep blue t-shirt on underneath the jacket with big, white block letters reading, ‘I am not a model; I just look like one.’ Is it true? I can only be told so many times before I started to believe it myself.

My associate was a gentleman that owned a shop on the same street as where the shootings took place. He helped me out from time to time and in turn I bought something from his store.

Most of the buildings and stores on my block were deserted and had wasted away throughout the years. Cracked sidewalks, broken hydrants, and crumbling walls were all that remained. Even those without a roof over their head wouldn’t cross-over and enter my block. I tried not taking it personally, I was sure the church had something to do with that.

The 2nd block still had an operational, low-end apartment building. I’d have to take a guess to say it’s half full, and roughly half of those tenants paid the rent. There’s also a liquor store, hence half of the people who didn’t pay the rent, and then oddly enough a pet shop. The pet store, Pets are People Too, absolutely loves Gizmo and me. We go there at least once a week to get him a special treat. It also gave us a chance to add to his outdoor time. Generally, I would bring him with me if I was walking somewhere but not tonight, not when daddy’s working, his complex can get the best of him sometimes.

Three blocks down and five to go.

The silver clouds hung lower than usual. They looked as if they were infused with a dark matter, refusing to break, choking the light from the bright moon trying to make its way down. The battle between the two had been going on for much longer than I could’ve ever known. Back and forth they fought, never gaining an inch on one another. The clouds wanted to become stronger, darker. They wanted to rule the emptiness of the sky; to become the sky. The moon wanted to wash away the shadows, the despair from the valley itself, but its efforts have been without result, but it won’t give up, it can’t.

A chilling wind picked up, slapping me in my face; I pulled my jacket tighter around me and flipped my collar up around my neck. As I continued to walk, my left arm twitched sharply, it had the sudden impulse to jump out of my pocket. From an alley, masked in the shadows, two figures emerged.

Two men, both in jeans and black work boots stepped closer to me. I was able to get a better look at them as they did so. The man in front wore an old beat up leather jacket and his associate, flanking him, wore a black and red flannel shirt. They were similar in height and build but the most important likeness was what they held in their hands. In their right hands they each held an army combat knife. Roughly eight inches long with a serrated edge on the back; each of the handles wrapped in dark green tape.

These men weren’t big by any means but I guess that’s why they felt the need to carry cutlery around with them. It wasn’t hard for me to see what they were after–anything that I had.

I had to slow them down, get them talking. I remembered that old saying; ‘when in doubt, talk it out’. Okay, so I just made that up, but nevertheless I wanted to test my groundbreaking new theory.

I stepped forward with a friendly smile, or at least I was going for a friendly smile and used a calm voice as I spoke.

“Gentlemen, how are you doing this fine evening?” I was trying to break the ice, you know, start things off in a positive way, not in a let’s-stab-this-guy-many-times kind of way.

“We are doing good, but you won’t be if you don’t hand over your wallet and jewelry,” the man in the ultra-hip leather jacket answered.

Before my brain could send the signal to keep my mouth shut, I quickly replied. “Well,” I said. “You are doing well. You don’t do good, you do well. Batman does good, but us regular folk, do well. To answer your question I don’t carry a wallet and I’m truly sorry but I have zero pieces of jewelry on. Besides that, may I help you with anything else?” This wouldn’t have been the first time that correcting someone’s grammar led to me having a bad night. I’m betting it wouldn’t be the last.

The man in the leather jacket, who I’m now calling Tim, looked to his partner in crime and then back to me; it was evident to me that he was the leader. The man in the flannel, let’s call him Al, was weary around his edges and carried a hint of uncertainty in his eyes. He seemed to automatically fall into place behind Tim. It gave me the feeling that they had been around each other for a long time and Al had learned his place the hard way. It’s tough to play second fiddle sometimes. But, I also had no doubt in my mind that if Tim gave an order, Al would follow it blindly and swiftly.

Tim’s eyes narrowed and his hand gripped tighter on the handle of his blade, showing me the whites of his knuckles. Al followed his lead and readied himself to also strike. My hands had never left my coat pockets as the muggers now, would-be-murderers, slowly crept towards me. Before they could make their move I skillfully slid my right hand from my pocket and extended it towards Tim, the leader. My taser came to life with a simple squeeze of the trigger. Two barbed ends shot towards him, slipping between the un-zipped leather-jacket piercing his flesh; 50,000 volts surged through him. He went from standing, to a fetal position before I had time to drop my arm. My attention was then turned to Al.

“Now, do you want to end up like that, flailing out of control, lying in your own piss?”
“N…N…no sir.”

“Glad to hear it.” I turned my weapon off. “Now get your pal and get off of my streets. I don’t ever want to see you again. If I do see you, you both will be lying on the ground…motionless.” My eyes narrowed, my jaw hardened, and through clenched teeth I asked, “Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” he answered quietly.

I put Mr. Shockey away and walked past Al as he was helping Tim off the ground. I held back the urge to kick him across his face. Take out the leader and the followers have no one to follow–it’s another theory of mine. The initial test hadn’t worked out as I’d planned but all in all I think the situation went good, I mean well.

 

…….chapters 4-6 to be posted on Wednesday the 21st of September,  2016.

The saying, “One of Those Days” is something I’ve muttered a lot recently. However, this day may just take the cake. I’m not sure where that saying comes from, take’s the cake, but I imagine someone dressed like the Hamburglar stealing a crying babies first taste of sugary sweetness is where it originated from. The things I think of when I find myself hanging upside down.

As the cold grip of steel bites into my ankles and it’s evil twin does the same to my wrists I realize that it may not be day at all. It’s dark but that’s only because I’ve been blind folded. For all I know it could be very pleasant out. I’m sure it’s not. It mostly never is. It’s not for lack of trying, no, I try. I really do. But with great trying comes great capturing. Or abducting. Or murdering, although that has yet to be done successfully. So, all of my trying and where does it get me? I wake up to my hair dangling on the wrong end of up and what feels like blood getting ready to drip out of my eyes, ears, and nose.

I sniff unconsciously after imagining blood coming from my nose and get a scent of something very unpleasant. The smell snaps my head back like a Shoryuken from Ryu. I knew the smell. From the first time you smell it there’s not a day goes by that you don’t think of it. It stays with you forever. The smell of death will always haunt you.

Yep.  My name is Wes Andersen and it’s just one of those days.

My new associate wasn’t any help. He was out of it. He looked like his head was in the clouds. Sadly though, it was on the ground, detached from the body. The same body it had been stuck to for many years. All the changes they went through together meant nothing now, the growth, the pain, and the familiarity gone in an instant. In a very violent manner.

“You wouldn’t happen to know where that thing is do you?” I asked the head, but only to hear my own voice. I’m not an animator. I’ll leave that job for the talented ladies.

I was ready to give up. I couldn’t search the valley forever. It would’ve been useless. But before I could throw in that proverbial towel, just like the head, the monster found me. What can I say, I’m a freak-occurrence magnet.

From below, black goo engulfed my feet. I couldn’t move my legs. They were trapped. I was trapped. The goo rose higher and higher, reaching the bottom of my pants and climbing steadily. My feet might have been stuck, but my mighty, Thor-like hammer of an arm was ready to pounce. I gathered my strength and cocked back my money-maker and sent it straight down to the beast below. Apparently this wasn’t a battle of strength. My hand sunk into the blackness and not a splash of tar escaped. I was in danger of my having my hand stuck as well. With every ounce of muscle I could muster, I pulled my hand free. Okay, time for a new plan.

It’s always been harder for me to draw upon elements other than fire. Fire is raw and powerful. It’s in my DNA. But water, a calm force, takes much more skill to master and for me way too much skill to master. I only dabbled in the water world. But from the ashes of desperation, men will rise.

As I calmed my breath the thick tar rose up my leg like the green ivy on the walls of my fortress. I steadied myself. I focused on the air around me. As dry as this place had become it still held H2O, and that was all I needed.

The moisture from the surrounding area came to me as I beckoned it to. As I had done before, I gathered my energy and waited for the right time to strike. With speed and force I struck again at the darkness that had ensnared me, but this time, as soon as I made contact with the beast I used the moisture and froze it. From my entry point through the whole of the being it became frozen, hardened by my magic and my basic understanding that when water gets to a certain temperature it freezes. I’m pretty smart.

It couldn’t struggle. It never had a chance. The deep freeze had spread, in moments I could’ve ice skated on the foul time capsule.  For good measure, I stomped the frozen tar until the pieces were small enough to float away in the breeze. I had only one problem left—what the hell was I going to do with the head?

 

 

My initial reaction.
“There it is, finally. It’s smaller than I would’ve thought, but it doesn’t matter how large it ended up being, the only thing that matters was the here part, it was here. It had taken longer than I first expected, not too long for me to forget about it, but long enough for me to wonder if it would’ve ever been done at all. I almost gave up hope, gave up on waiting; I almost had given up on myself. But my book is done.”

My book is as finished as it has ever been before, but it doesn’t mean it’s completed. The editing process has been as evil as a cloven hoofed baby, but it’ll be worth it I’m sure. I have my fantastic writing group, family, and close friends reading the product as I type. As soon as I get the feedback, the errors I need to correct I will get after it and soon have the finished product.


Thank you to everyone that has enjoyed my short stories and soon the book shall be finished.
B

Abruptly, my dream ended, as most dreams do. It wasn’t much of one to begin with, but it had been comforting. It had slipped through my fingers and escaped my feeble attempts to regain its warm embrace. Simple, dark, they were always dark, but never the same. This one had felt strangely familiar; it felt welcoming.

I opened my eyes. My head was pounding, as if my heart grew ten times in size and my temples were the drums to which it beat. The left side of my face felt slick; a drop of what I hoped was sweat, fell into my eye. My sight started to focus, but there was nothing much to focus on. I was in the middle of the room. Cement walls on every side I could see, a small light beamed in the far corner next to the door. Instinctually I tried to wipe the fluid out of eye. I couldn’t move my arm. I tried the other one. Chained to the floor, on a cement slab, my body lay in a crucified position, except no nails through any part of my extremities…not yet anyway (I’ll take that as a good sign).

Blood. That’s what’s in my eye, not sweat, but blood. I knew it felt too thick. I tried to scan the rest of my body the best I could. My t-shirt was ripped and stained with something all too familiar. My jacket was nowhere to be found and the same for my shoes. Who takes someone’s shoes?

It was cool in this room, most likely a basement or cellar of some sort. There could be hundreds of buildings, abandoned and withering, that have rooms like this one. They call them kill rooms. I think in my case its torture-first-then-kill room.

My memory still wasn’t all there. I clearly had been hit hard, but it looks like I put up a decent enough fight. I wonder how many of them I took out before they got me. I think 50 sounds about right. Yes, 50 men and or women; I’m no chauvinist; women can be bad too. If you’re shooting a gun at me, your gender is the last thing I’m worried about.

I wasn’t going to lie around and wait for my kidnappers return. I centered my will and power into the end of my left wrist, hoping to blow the lock on the chains that held me. With a push of focus I sent the burst of energy out of my hand with an audible pop. The chain slammed upward but fell back down on my wrist…hard. It didn’t feel very pleasant. A new idea, a new idea, I need a new idea.

Thump-thump, thump-thump…someone was about to grace me with their presence. I just hope they would fill me in on what my mind was keeping out. I settled back into the coldness of the cement and saved the strength I had left. There was no use fighting the chains when the person who had the key might be coming through the door.

My blood had started to dry and my heart still beat against my head, but it was still beating nonetheless. I was alive for a reason; I might as well find out why.

The door lock turned and unlatched with a metal on metal sound. The knob turned and pushed open. Cautiously, a shape entered my concrete chamber, assault rifle at the ready, behind him another man emerged; the man flashed a smile but his eyes gave away his nature–it was evil–he was evil.

…to be continued…

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