Friday, March 30, 2012

A Fuller Game

Yeah yeah, I’m going to hell for this and this will most likely piss some people off – but I don’t care. For those who haven’t read The Hunger Games, you can find a good review of it here. These characters are, mostly, not of my creation and all credit there goes to Suzanne Collins. The following is my unofficial epilogue to the first book, and completely ignores the second and third book.

                                                            Sudden Death

           No. This can’t be happening. This has to be another nightmare.

            “Katniss!” Peeta screams in my ear, shaking me from my shock. On my other side, I feel Gale’s grip clamp around my wrist and pull me roughly to my feet. Around us I see Haymitch staggering with the desperate aid of a trembling and babbling Effie. A babbling quickly silenced by the throwing bolt that materialized in her throat in a spray of red mist.

            “I called that kill.” A masculine voice complained dryly, seemingly blaring from the dark sky above us. Gale tugged me away from the only source of a light, a torch standing tall and defiant against the darkness atop the hill. A sudden jerk nearly wrenched my shoulder from its socket and Peeta was trying to pull me toward it instead.

            “Then you should have taken it, love.” A sultry voice thick with amusement replied, also amplified and projected from somewhere above.

            “The catnip is mine, Aethon.” The first voice announced, the chilling confidence of his voice freezing my blood. I felt like my heart would burst from the sudden pressure of its pounding in response to the detached air he spoke of killing me. It seemed to have a similar effect on Gale and Peeta, both ceased their tug-of-war to stare at the two figures standing calmly on either side of the torch.

            “I do what I want.” A third voice, also male, answered. This one was different;  in addition to coming from the unseen speakers in the sky, it also emerged from the darkness behind…

            “Gale!” The warning came too late, a darkly dressed figure seemed to stretch into the circle of dim light like a sinister shadow and his black blade slid up Gale’s ribs and into his heart in a clean thrust. Peeta threw himself in front of me as the attacker calmly removed his blade and turned to face us. A fiery orbed flared passed me, singeing hair and cloth as it surged by, and the blaze consumed Peeta before the attacker’s blade could taste his skin.

            Peeta shoved me away with an agonized shout. I turned the stumbling recovery into a run without direction. I had to get away from the funeral pyre, had to get away with the darkly dressed assassin.

            This wasn’t like the games; none of us had a chance. They dropped us on this hill to execute us. I knew this with the same icy certainty that I knew  I had struck a nerve in the capitol. They couldn’t let such a display go unpunished, and they knew better than to give me a fighting chance this time.

            I realized dimly, in some detached rational part of my panic stricken brain, that the only light source was now Peeta’s twitching corpse that I retreated from. One of the figures on the hill had somehow launched the flame from the torch at him.

            “I had that kill.” The third voice complained from the pitch behind me at the same time as his voice thundered from the sky, and a moment later Haymitch let out an anguished groan that sounded oddly deflated.

            “Boys, your complaints are killing me, but they don’t seem to be hurting the chillens here.” How sick did you have to be to sound so entertained at a time like this? These people were sick, clearly a product of Capitol conditioning. This was just a game to them, a hunt like the thousands I’d been on back at District 12. Except I never hunted people. Not until the games.

            “Rani, I hope you sleep with a knife in your hand.” Aethon, the other one called him, replied, this time not near enough to be heard except for skyward broadcast.

            “I do. Ara has a matching blade.” Rani, it must have been, answered with the same dry detachment. It took my brain a second to register the sudden difference in his tone. It was no longer magnified, and yet I heard it clearly. I had less than a second to put two and two together before a leather encased hand constricted around my throat and forced me off my feet. Rani slammed me on my back with another force to knock with wind from me. Judging by the crunching sound I barely registered through the red and black veil of agony, he had also broken several somethings.

            The sky suddenly shirted to brilliance that dwarfed daylight, and I could see nothing past the white spots swarming my vision. When they cleared after an eternal moment of struggling and blinking, I could see the emerald clad figured kneeling beside me with his weight on the hand on my throat. Standing over me was President Snow, a gloating glare dominating his foul features. Behind the president Aethon, and one who had to have been a sapphire cloaked Ara, watched without movement.

            “Wonderful job, well worth every penny for your services. Now finish her.” Just like that, the man sentenced me to death, with the same ease of he would have used ordering from a menu in some overpriced eatery in the Capitol. Or maybe with even more ease, as he might have had more reservations about his meal than about ending my life.

            Rani made no reply, but instead reached around the side of his belt to draw a dark box about the size of my fist. He held up the device and pressed a button with casual disinterest. The top of the device, which I know saw were metallic spikes, erupted into a writhing serpent of electricity. Then, with the same casual ease, he reached out and pressed the crackling weapon against Snow’s leg. A moment later the president was nothing more than a steaming and bloody heap of violent post-mortem convulsions.

            “I called that kill.” Ara complained, echoing Rani’s earlier words.

            “Then you should have taken it, love.” Rani parroted back. He snapped my neck without turning to look at me, and blackness consumed me before I could ever feel the killing motion.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Way I Wrote It

First and foremost, my props to anyone that got the reference in the title. I personally doubt anyone will, but I’ve been proven wrong before. That being said, this is a special blog entry. Tonight I aim to serve two purposes. One, I intend on providing a well needed comedy break, and I seek to fill a gap in my memory with an amusing story instead. While I have no idea what actually happened in the eight hours unaccounted for during my blacked out rampage over Spring Break, I like to think that it would have been something like this…

            23:45 – I’m following my drinking buddy, Donut, to the car so we can go home. It’s a five minute walk, but we’re pretty drunk so it takes much longer. I see a fiery mane that reminds me of Ara, and leave his trail to investigate.

            Midnight – Donut has reached the car by now, realizes I’m not behind him. He texts me “Whefe u at?”. My phone has already died once, and is doomed to repeat the process several times this night before being lost, and I won’t see the message for two days. I’m now back at the bar in search of Ara, and my drunken charm works well to recruit drunken girls to help me. At this point I realize I don’t know where Donut is, but I’m convinced that my Aerie needs me. I still tell a nearby fellow drunkard to tell Donut that I have to find Ara. He looks at me like I am incompetent, and asks if I will sell him weed. I sagely inform him that “Drugs are bad, m’kay?” and wander off with my escort of drunken followers who are amused at my antics.

            One of the hapless girls, impaired with beer goggles and with the bad taste to find that my clich├ęs and references make a funny whizzing sound as they fly over her heard, invites me back to her room. I agree this is a good idea, Ara might be there. The group of us stumble into the elevator, where I announce that “I wanna press the button” in a cartoonish parody, and proceed to hit every single button while cackling like an idiot. I suspect at this point that their bras probably unclasped themselves due to exposure to such undeniable game. In fact, you might want to pause from reading this to make sure that your zipper hasn’t plummeted while you were reading this. The mujo was that powerful.

            We stop at every floor on the way, but we finally reach the fourth floor. The room in question is blaring music and I immediately began to doubt my odds of finding Ara there. Country music was not a sign of a present Aerie, no no no no no no. Still, the group surges forward and I move with it. I pass through the door into a haze of smoke and bad music. My attention is instantly drawn out to the balcony, where a group of what appear to be frat boys is trying to forcibly hurl another boy off the ledge. Taking out my phone and turning it on despite the depleted battery, I yell at them to leave him alone as I point the phone as if shooting video.

            01:42 – Donut’s next text reads “We nerd the jell out of here”. Again this is unnoticed as the frat boy mob rushes me. I yell out a war cry that may or may not have been cowabunga, and the closest one, a douche in shades at night, begins leading the others in singing along with the current song to drown me out. Shouting the lyrics to Red Solo Cup at the top of his lungs, he seizes my left arm hard enough to leave a bruise and his buddies snatch the phone away from me. As one of them tears off the back and rips out the SD card, I deal doctor douche a punch to the nose. He lets go instantly to attend to his gushing nose and I take flight. I reach the stairs first, and drunken instinct leads me, as it always does, to be an acrobat. I leap from the rail of the stair case to the roof of the floor below. Landing safely, I manage to taunt “Like a boss” and “Hakuna matata, bitches” before jumping down to the next stairwell. This gets me down the next two levels until I stumble on my landing, scratch my thigh on the edge of the roof, and plummet to the ground.  “I meant to do that” I declare, and then begin getting violent sick as I climb to my feet.  Again I’m off while the drunken douche squad rushes off to squeeze into the elevator.

            01:54 – “Whete r h at?”
            I see a bus passing by, and charge it. Some voice, dripping with intoxication, promises me that bus 62 will take me to Donut and Ara. I run out to the bus, hammering on the door and demanding to be taken to bus 62 like a boss. I inform the driver that “I own this mf-er” before seeing that the pricks and dicks crew has reached ground level and is heading my way. The driver refuses to let me on board, so I ball up my Floyd beanie and throw it at him with as much drunken disdain as I can manage. Seeing no other options I vanish into the parking lot and duck under a police car. They pass by and I realize just how much liquor I’ve had as I climb out from under the vehicle. I relieve my bladder on the side of the cop car, being sure to wave to the dashboard camera, and stumble to a nearby garbage can to be sick again. I miss the can and coat my right pant leg and shoe instead. I once again croak “I meant to do that” and stumble a few yards to the handicap parking space. I decide the blue lines will protect this drunkard and fool, and promptly sit down and pass out.

            And there you have it. I imagine if I remembered any of the events that occurred after we left the bar, they would have went something like the above.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Immoral of the Story

           Patterns. I’ve been obsessing over them lately. They were on my mind long before Shelly made her fleeting appearance, and they’re still there now.  The logic behind it is pretty simple, but most people can’t – or won’t – acknowledge it. We behave in patterns, trend in cycles. Knowing is the easy part; breaking the patterns is the real trick.

            Defying the patterns for the past few weeks has brought me to a shatterpoint, I believe, and I finally stand to seize the reigns.

            But let’s rewind to the events that drove me to fight to forge my own fate. There were many symptoms, but I think the first nail in the patterns’ proverbial coffin came from my beloved Ara. In a spout of annoyance and frustration with my obliviousness, she pointed out how far I had fallen in her eyes. A part of this was the pedestal she put me on, I’m sure, but there was still a cold hard truth to her words. I knew then that something had to change, but what?

            Even before that I knew I had been in a stall pattern since losing my son. I thought I had hit rock bottom when his mother left me, but that was nothing compared to the excruciating hell of losing him, too. She destroyed me with that single move. A year later and I still feel the gaping loss. An entire year spent in stasis – changing constantly but making no real progress. I lost my identity to being a father and partner, and haven’t quite figured out who I am after those roles were taken from me.

            This week drilled the rest of the points home with ruthless precision. In the past seven days I’ve been backhanded with what we all thought was my glaring weaknesses, a ghost from my past and the recurring question of my relationship with Pinky. All the while things with Aerie were going straight to hell. Three chances to fall prey to my own patterns barreled at me, and I avoided all three. Then, just as I was ready to pat myself on the back for a job well done, the furies decided to remind me that I had accomplished nothing.

            I woke up Thursday morning alone in a handicap parking spot on a beach far from home without my phone, keys, or car. Also missing was my favorite beanie, my drinking buddy, my memory and my dignity. I’m not proud to admit this, but my pant leg was also covered in what was more than likely my own sickness. I half expected a jungle cat or a monkey to appear at any moment, this could have been a deleted scene from The Hangover movies. I have never felt so pathetic in my life.

            And you know what? I’m blessed it went that well. The cops were swarming the beach, as were the usual riffraff and spring breakers. I could have, should have, ended up in jail in a county where the jail has a worse reputation than the prison. I could have been mugged, or thrown off a balcony (don’t ask. I was told it was happening at the hotel we had been drinking at while we were there). My drinking buddy is even more fortunate, as he drove home in my car while so intoxicated that he passed out behind the wheel during the trip. The hotel found my phone, minus the SD card and battery cover, so my losses for the night totaled: my beanie, my memory and my dignity. All in all, I’m convinced Zeus, Ra, Elvis and the other gods of the old world were looking out for me.

            Now I’m back from Spring Break, safe and sound against all odds, and ready to take advantage of this shatterpoint. I don’t have full control over the situation and my destination, of course. Ara and circumstance both play their own roles in this, but I at least know what I want. I even have a pretty good idea what I need to do to have a chance at obtaining it. And that, I think, is at least progress. 

       Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a long climb ahead of me to return to grace and I better get started.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Down Again

            I was back, after swearing I would never return. Only one person could bring me back, and of course she could never be allowed to know what demons lurked here. You don’t tell your mother that the place she calls home has tried to kill you. She has fond memories of this place, and expects me to harbor the same. It doesn’t help when you feel that you should be heading the opposite direction, but a promise is a promise.

            So here I was, back to the old battlegrounds. Carlos was long gone, but Carter remained. My legacy was a volatile subject, apparently that would never change. None of that mattered; I wasn’t that person anymore. Woodstock was dead. Carlos had accomplished that much at least. Remaining loyal to a ghost was almost as pointless as hating one. Yet Woodstock still had allies, and enemies.

            I felt uncomfortable the moment I drove into town. The place was as seedy as ever, nothing had changed as far as I could see. A different person, in a different decade, would have felt at home in the town with no potential. It made my skin crawl, like wearing the old clothes of someone you knew was now dead. I had no excuse to be here, my mom lived one town over, but I had to know. I hadn’t even been around for twenty-four hours and she had already summoned me. The knight never forgets his first princess. He also never forgets his failures. Shelly was both to me.

            “Excalibur.” She called from her doorway, smiling at the old nickname. I replied with a half smirk, amused at the irony of the fact that I no longer carried knives everywhere. As much as I liked the medieval reference, it was me anymore. She was as impatient as ever, meeting me on the stairs. Except for the golden highlights, she looked the same as the last time I had seen her. Years ago, when I had chosen another girl over her, and not for the first time. I half expected to feel those emerald painted nails scratching across my face any moment.

Emerald finger nails? Did she remember that was my favorite color, even after all these years? No, I had to be reading too much into it. I needed to break that habit, a scar from the old wounds of phony friends with agendas and schemes. Not everything was a subtle or passive aggressive message, I needed to remember that.

She was back in my arms before I even realized either of us had moved. The years fell away and I remembered the taste of her lips and the warmth of her breath in my ear. I flashed back on that night I spent the night with her, I could still practically hear her asking me to take her. And again, I pulled away from her, just as I had done that night. I wondered if I had made the right choice that night, not for the first time. When Amber had made the same request a couple weeks later, I didn’t pull back then.

“I’m sorry.” I heard myself say the words, but I don’t remember deciding to say them. Another ability Woodstock never had. Bastard would rather die than admit he was wrong or apologize for it. I had a long way to go, but I had come a long way.

“I told you Church-Girl was bad news. You need a girl that can keep up with you. That Jerry Springer Bitch never had a chance.” Oh joy, blunt females who weren’t afraid to say they told me so. Her words might have had more effect if rubbing salt in the wounds wasn’t par for the course these days. That particular legacy of Woodstock still lived on, so I had little room to talk. I was working on the whole ruthless distribution of brutal honesty thing, but it was slow going.

“Who gave you my number and told you I was back in town?” I knew her well enough to know that it was in my best interest to change the subject before she built momentum. Plus I needed to know who couldn’t be trusted with news of my return. If Shelly knew, then Carter might. He’d make sure news of my presence reached certain ears. Ears with better aim than Carlos had, and an irrational hatred of every fiber of my being. There is no element of exaggeration in that claim. The man blamed me and Amber for his incarceration, and he wanted me dead. But I wouldn’t tell Shelly that. She’d just be more self-righteous about her past commentary on Amber’s daddy issues.

“I was just doing what you asked me to do the first time you left. I have to know whose visiting her to look out for her.” I had forgotten about that, but it still didn’t explain how she got the number to call me. She wanted to protect her source, fine. The list of people from my past that had my current number was tiny, anyway. Although none of them knew Shelly, as far as I knew. I would have to ask Nana about her relationship with my ex when I had the chance.

“Let’s get inside. I have unfinished business with you.” The way she said that, it was impossible to tell if I should feel like I should have come armed, or if it confirmed that the condom in my pocket was a good idea. With Shelly I never knew which way the wind blew.