Well, my tale has gone through some rehab, and I like it much more this way. I’ve decided to post the whole new thing all at once! Maybe, reading through this, you have no idea what’s going on, or maybe you do (though my hope is that you do). Unfortunately, the focus of this tale?– a very real thing, albeit perhaps not as I describe it. Oh, and props to one of my favorite films, The Den, for the inspiration!
The wind whipped across her face. She lifted her right hand from the bicycle handle and pulled her hood closer toward her nose.
It was one of those semi-gray days. You could hear the clouds whizzing past, but you could also see scraps of white sun if you looked for holes. She wished her own vocational calling day had fallen on a rainy day—she loved those.
As she pedaled down the sloping road, the eateries on either side tugged at her raincoat in pleading. The town was reserved, its population small and select, its appetite even smaller.
But she was a picky eater. Italian didn’t look appetizing, and neither did Indian. Ever. What else? She sighed into the wind, swallowing some air in the process.
After her stringy calves pedaled her further, she finally came across something that wouldn’t repel her. It was a small Korean eatery that she’d never seen before and nearly passed, her head turning backward to keep looking. She dropped her feet to the road and pulled herself backward and up the road with her boots, looking like a penguin.
Just then though, she felt a whoosh of hard air at her ear.
It passed quickly, but she lost her balance and fell. Her bike followed.
Her head whirled as she looked up to see a car whooshing past, and she ducked off to the side. As she lay there, she saw a man parking his bike and a reckless car disappearing behind a building at the slope’s bottom.
She was winded.
Just as she was scrambling to her feet, the young man, only slightly older than her, who’d been parking his bike came approaching her. He was the one who had nearly gotten her run down. She decided she’d ignore him. Even if they shared the same vocational calling day.
“Hey, nice bike.” He smiled apologetically.
She turned to look at the man. “You almost killed me.”
“Almost.” The smile faltered slightly in mischief. But then, “I’m sorry, miss.” He looked genuine. “Can I make it up to you?”
She didn’t say anything.
He took his left hand to his chin. “Tell you what. You about to head in there?” He pointed his right index toward the little Korean place.
“Yeah, actually. Haven’t had lunch.”
“Perfect! Lunch is on me. And so is this bike!” He picked up her bike and began walking it toward what must have been an alleyway.
She rolled her eyes. He had parked his there, too, and the two bikes maybe could be bike friends. She lifted her rain hood. “What’s your name?”
“Matt,” he said, sticking a hand out. “And you?”
“Mara.” She shook it, and her lips curved upward slightly, and she lifted her rain hood.
“It wasn’t even raining out here,” he teased.
As the two headed back toward the restaurant and then walked inside, he started some small talk and asked if she frequented the Indian restaurant nearby.
No, she said, I’m not a fan of Indian food.
“Really? I coulda sworn I’ve seen you there before.”
“Maybe I look like a lot of people.”
“Haha, nah you don’t, and who is there to mistake around here? Do you live around here?”
“Yeah, I mean, doesn’t everybody?”
“True, me too.”
The waiter then arrived with their appetizers.
“Where from?” she asked through some bean sprouts.
“Not far from here—subdivision C,” he replied.
“Ah, yeah, a friend of mine says she lives there.”
“Mm-hm. From my high school.”
The waiter arrived with their entrees, and both uttered their thank-you’s.
“You a sophomore around here?”
“Yeah, how’d you know?” she laughed. “Do I have a sophomore face?”
“Yeah no, lucky guess I suppose, hah.”
The time passed as the two dug through their entrees. Outside, the sky was the same patchy gray. It stayed that way, and as it stayed, he told her stories of his high school glory days in Track & Field. She told him funny stories of the times her friends in high school got her to sneak out of the house.
I miss them already, she said. I told them goodbye already, but I wish I could see them one last time… an infinite number of times. I second that, he nodded. I miss them, too. Maybe I should have spent a little longer with them, did one last stupid thing together. Oh?, she said. Did you get into stupid situations together, too?
He told her that he did the same things as she did, that she and her friends did, and that he had some really dumb experiments with breaking the rules. She agreed on that and told him there was just too much fun to have in such a short life. ‘Yolo,’ he’d said. They told each other all sorts of things and exchanged good times and finished their entrees and laughed a good deal.
“Man, I’m stuffed,” she said through a dish whose name she couldn’t pronounce.
“Careful, watch your manners,” he mocked. He put his hands behind his head. “This place is so good.”
She nodded. “Funny, too, because I never knew this place existed. It’s been here forever though, hasn’t it?”
“Hm, not sure—maybe.” He finished his last bite. “Probably, given how nothing happens in subdivision B.”
“You can say that again.”
He gave a wily smile. “Okay, ‘probably, given how nothing happens in subdivision B.’” It was a high falsetto.
“Ugh,” she rolled her eyes.
He took a small sip of water and tried to hide a small smirk.
“Who knew running me over could be such a good thing?” She forked up her last bite smiling. “Don’t ya think?”
“I wouldn’t have met you otherwise,” he nodded. The waiter stepped by. As promised, he covered lunch and left a generous tip—25%, totaling $33.48.
The two stepped outside to the same patchy sky and walked down the empty road toward the alley where their bikes were.
He held back a sneaking grin. “What were you saying in there again? About me almost running you down?”
She half-grinned in return. “Well, I’m glad you did is all.”
Boyish mischief. “Come on, Mara, let’s hear it again! From your own mouth.”
She rolled her eyes in irony and returned the mischief. “Almost killing me is nothing, but sealing the deal? That’s another story.”
He laughed. He put his hand on top of his bike handle.
She laughed, too. She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could say anything, the dagger arced straight into her jugular.
He was an amateur, but it was okay.
Within seconds, she felt like a garden hose and couldn’t talk. Within a few more, she grew drowsy and cold. She fell down on the grimy puddled ground.
He twisted the knife back and forth to gnaw at the colorful sinews. His whole body was staining, but he liked the smell. The colors soon became one messy brown-maroon mixture. Time felt like butter, slipping by, as he dug into her abdomen and then her kneecaps and then anywhere else but her face. He smiled to the darkened WM trashcan just feet away.
“Ya get that on camera?”
His comrade peeked out from behind, nodded, and gave a thumbs-up. “Low-qual here, but not too bad. Check her for valuables?”
He grabbed up her clammy red hands and nabbed the ring he’d seen over lunch. “Figure we can take her with us.”
“The bitch lied about her friend living in subdivision C. Obviously.”
“Why do you always point that shit out? Fun later is all that counts.”
They were all still amateurs. But it was a lucrative business.
“Hey, get her in the van. Corridor, come on.”
His comrade Corridor Upkeep Yeah Burgeoning hopped out from the driver’s seat, his cigarette moving back and forth from one dimpled side to the other. He grabbed the girl up. He shoved her bloody body into the pit at the back of their van.
Her face was frozen with a confused expression. It said she wasn’t ready to stop looking at the still-gray sky.
Corridor took a few pictures and then dropped the camera to his cameraman comrade.
“How much you expect, 5 or 10k overnight? Or more maybe?”
“Hell yeah, at least—the buildup was insane. And then some from the stills.”
He pulled out a cigarette. “Thanks. I think it’s my best run yet, except that fag Keeping or Kelping or some shit, he did that pretty amazing run with that old woman.”
“And she looks easy to hate—your girl, I mean.”
“Wait get the bikes, too.”
He did. “Let’s get outta here.”
He ignored him. “I thought you said it was going to rain.”
“Look at the sky. It’s obviously gonna rain.”
“Fuckin’ douse out that puddle, for god’s sake. Are you fucking inconsiderate?”
“ ‘Fucking inconsiderate? Are you fucking inconsiderate, ya bitch?’” he mocked, laughing along with his other comrade.
“Shit, fine.” He diluted it all as it rolled away in red and then orange-pink swirls.
He looked curiously upward. “How are they gonna clean this place?”
“How are they gonna clean this place, make it non-suspicious? How do they even do that?”
“Shouldn’t be hard, but I’m just mindin’ my own business and kissing up to them when I can.”
He looked at his crusted ring. “To A-town?” Then, he took a fresh cigarette from his friend-driver, spat a wad on the ground, and shoved his left hand into his pocket, her ring glinting on his middle finger. With a slight limp, he trudged to the side of his two partners in crime and over to the waiting open van. He was stained everywhere.
They were amateurs, but it was okay because the place had them covered. They pulled out from the alleyway. Above, the clouds still whizzed by.
* * * * * * *
From the tower, Yam Bench Hermit Incorporation clicked the camera off just before their car passed the subdivision gates.
“Ya got it?” he asked into his device.
Restaurant Man #3 answered. “They looked all clear to me.”
“Who’s next in line?”
“Few others who moved in last year. One’s a nervous boy who doesn’t really like this place, the other’s a girl just like this one.”
“Shit, only last week?”
“Yep. More are coming in today though. Those will be yearlong ones like this bitch. We’ve got this place on deadlock.”
“Oh, and that bitch was a whore. Only cared about sneaking out and shit. I guess sometimes, there’s something out there sneakier than you. And all that sneaking? Maybe it was fun while it lasted.”
* * * * * * *
Mom was home now, but it was okay, because he got up to shut his door, locked it. Shut the blinds. His math book was open on his desk in case. His tennis trophies glinted from the top of his desk.
The keyboard tip-tapped away. He turned on Incognito mode and activated the encryption code for his IP address. The keyboard tip-tapped some more. He found a different proxy server. He tip-tapped again and found Import Lands under the subsections list. Tip-tap, tip-tap, and Immediate was under that subsections list. Damn, he loved bitcoin, but it was frustrating because he needed another way to get ahold of more—his finished supply of grit was doing him something awful.
But no more: he deserved this.
He deserved to treat himself.
A gray sky filled his screen. And as it did, he sat back with firework eyes.