I had a nightmare and couldn't get back to sleep, so I wrote as much as I could remember.
|The little green numbered blinked at him from his cheap black plastic wrist watch. 12:35-12:35-12:35-12:36.
Terry's eyes lifted to look up in front of him, down the short line of people currently standing between himself and the chashier. A red basket hung in the crook of his left arm, heavied by the contents. Marshmallows, pickles, potato chips, waffles, and booze. The old man with cat litter and whip cream tucked the plastic bags loop over his wrist and shambled away, allowing everyone behind to take that one step forwards and get a little closer to cashing out. Terry's eyes dropped back down to his watch, to continung watching the little green numbers flash at him.
"I'm sorry miss, but you don't have enough."
"But thats all I have, I swear. And I need this."
"Really miss, I'm sorry, but there is nothing I can do if your short."
Terry looked up as a string of cuss words followed by a soft sob came from a skinny woman currently standing at the register. A single loaf of bread sat on the scale, a red digital reading of $1.57 glared unforgivingly for all to see. The young man, nore more then 18 as far as Terry could guess, held a wet dollar bill inbetween two pinched fingers.
"Please, my kids are hungry and this is all I have left."
"There is nothing I can do miss. Policy doesn't allow me to take the money out of my own pocket, and if my drawer is short I get in trouble." The young man really did sound sorry. His face held the lines of a guy having to do something completely against his nature. The other two people in line before Terry shuffled with that uncomfortable guilty silence of folks who could help out the lady...but they wouldn't.
"Hey, I'll cover it. All you need is a lousy 57 cents right?" Terry spoke up as he dug a ring cluttered hand into the pocket of his fleece lined black leather vest. The cashier looked up, relief written across his face as he merely nodded. The girl turned a little as Terry stepped out of line, and took up standing by her. She was cute, that much he noticed right away. A skinny body covered in a light floral print summer dress with long dirty blond hair. Her eyes were a kind of pale blue that seemed all the more faded due to her pale white skin. Looking down at his basket, Terry casually set it on the conveyor belt. "All I got is a fifty, no sense breaking it for less then a dollar. Just ring these up with her bread."
The uncomfortable silence and shuffling behind him remained a constant, and there was no voice of protest over Terry's cut as the cashier quickly swiped the four items through and placed them in a seperate bag. By now Terry had pulled his wallet from his jacket, causing the chains hanging from his jeans belt loops to jingle. Paying for the purchase, Terry picked up the booze and bags, then turned to the young woman still standing beside him. "Walk you to your car?"
"Yes please." She replied in a soft hushed voice. She didn't speak a word as they exited the building, and walked across the parking lot. He knew which car was her's after they had walked past the parked cluster of late night shoppers vehicles. Parked in the farthest corner of the lot, where no late night lights were working, all Terry could make out of the car was that it was a stationwagon, horribly rust eaten and with peeling fake wood sideboards around the bottom half of the car. Inside four face's peered hungerly from the windows. As they got closer, the drivers side back door opened, and a little girl, no more then six by Terry's guess, stumbled out. Her little yellow shorts and blue care bears t-shirt were filthy, as was she. Grimy and smudged, the white skin that showed through the streaks of dirt seemed eeriely pale in the contrast. As she ran towards her mother, her sandles flopped off both her feet, but that didn't slow the girl down. About five paces from the car she met them, and threw herself at her mother. Tiny whimpering sounds coming from the muffled region of the young girls leg. "Trista honey. It's okay. See I'm back? Just like I promised."
Kneeling down, Terry took a closer look at the girl. She looked underfed and when she turned to look at him she had the most miserable eyes Terry had ever seen. Eyes that spoke of suffering with little understanding as to why. The girl turned to peer at Terry, her mothers hand brushing against the back of her head. "Hey there poppet. You look a little hungry, you like pickles?" The girl did not answer and seemed only to slide behind her mother a bit more.
"Trista doesn't speak." The young lady answered him. Her eyes downcast in the general direction of the little girl.
"That's okay, you didn't know. Thanks for your help in there. My children haven't eaten in a long time..."
"I sort of guessed..here...why don't you just take my bag. I know it's not a lot but maybe it'll help tide them over."
A angry 'pffft' came from the young woman, her arm's crossing as she continued to avoid Terry's gaze. Looking back to Trista, he found the young girls gaze locked at his neck. Lifting his fingers up, Terry touched a small celtic knot decorated silver cross that hung from a short chain. "You like that? My mum gave it to me when I was little. Not much older then you. She said 'Terry, you wear this cross, n' know that God's watchin' everything you do. So you best do right. Lord knows you can dissappoint a mother n' be allright. But you can't dissappoint God without His punishment'". Terry smiled, but it was weak as it wasn't returned by the girl. Standing back up, he found the young ladies gaze was now back upon him. A faintly bitter expression upon her face as she looked at the cross he wore.
"Listen...miss. I know we don't know each other.I don't even know your name--"
"Okay...Jessica then. I know you don't know anything about me, but my mum brought me up to help where help is needed. God watchin' and all." His attempt of a smile quickly died under the burning gaze of the girl. Terry cleared his throat and continued on. "But if you want some more food for your kids, I can see what I have back at my place. Maybe even give you some extra cash for gas and a hotel room tonight"
"And I suppose you'll be wanting to join me there too, at least for a few hours. As a thanks for all you've done, right Terry?"
The venom in the girls voice struck Terry dumb. "Well..n-no." His reply seemed to soften the lines about the girls eyes. Her gaze falling down to the girl still clinging to her leg.
"Well...as long as there are no strings attached...I'm only doing it for my kids. They've had a hard enough life as it is."
Terry's head bobbed some, he felt relieved that the bitterness in the womans voice had ebbed off some. Handing over the bags, Jessica took them wordlessly and began to walk the girl to the car. As Terry started to walk off, he peered over his shoulder, watching as Jessica knelt down and collected the cast of sandels. Sitting the girl sideways in the car, she slipped each sandle on, then wrapped the strap twice about the girls tiny ankle, to keep the old worn things in place.
In short order Terry was on his bike. The letters "SOS" was detailed in bright neon green and pink lettering on the body of the bike Tucking the boose into the small 'tunk' of his bike, Terry revved it up, and made a lazy loop around the parking lot. A few stragglers from the late night mart watched him as he paused near Jessica's car, waiting for her to pull out to follow him.
The drive back to his house averaged about twenty minutes. Winding through a back road, orange and yellow leaves fluttering off to the sides as he sped by. It was a refreshing ride and gave Terry some time to preare what he'd say to his housemates. Though all his preparation was wasted. Pulling up the rocky drive to the two story log style house, Terry could tell from the empty yard and dark windows he was the only one there.
"Damn bloody jerks." Terry cussed under his breath as he drove into the open garage and cut the engin. "Send me off for drinks so they can sneak out and get themselves some dust. This is the last bloody time." He swore once again under his breath. Time and again his housemates had found ways to sneak off and meet with their neighbors. Pot heads and coke dealers Terry knew if he didn't stick around the whole lot of them would endup getting themselves killed. Someone had to pay their 'bill' and he was the only one of the four who so far had managed to hold a decent paying job.
By the time Terry had exited the garage with the booze in hand, Jessica and her four children were standing in a huddled group by the car. In the light cast from the out door lamp Terry had a easier time getting a look at the group. They looked to be a picture of pure suffering. A haunted look in their sunken eyes, filthy and threadbare summer clothing. Only the littlest one, Trisha, had shoes on. Walking up the wooden steps to the porch, Terry unlocked the door and turned to Jessica as he fumbled inside for the kitchen light.
"Come on in, it'll take me a little bit to get the cash." He'd pull it from his mates stores. He knew they selfishly kept small stash's in their rooms, complaining they had nothing to contribute to the bills loudly enough for the people down the street to hear. Yet like clockwork every day, they had delivery food and new games and all the alcohol they needed to kill yet more brain cells.
Entering the house, Terry set the booze on the counter. Let them drink it warm, Terry had given up the stuff about seven years ago and hadn't touched a drop since. Not unless you counted the red wine in salad dressing. As he pranced his way through the living room, side stepping pizza and wing box's mingled with game controllers and the odd discarded condom (Thankfully unused and merely torn) Terry heard the beraggeled troup enter the kitchen.
"Help yourselves to anything in the kitchen that takes your fancy. There are bags under the cupboard next to the stove, clean the cupboards out if you like. I'm really the only one that cooks around here." He called through the house to Jessica. Taking the stairs three at a time, terry took a moment to pick up a thong hanging on the railing and flick it into a pile of cloths in a corner outside a door spray painted SOS in black and red. The word Lust was stenciled in along the top of the door. Pushing it open, Terry had to put his shoulder into forcing the door open more then a six inch crack. Inside, he couldn't see the floor of the room at all. A sea of dirth clothing mingled with the crunch of empty beer cans came with every step. The smell inside was so bad he had to first go to the window and fling it wide open before he could even start feeling the surface of the posters plastered over the walls.
"Your room?" Jessica's voice cut through the air. Strained and forced as she stood in the doorway with her arms crossed over her chest.
"Mine? Good god no! This is Matt's room. I wouldn't come in here with those shoes on. No telling what you might step on in here."
Jessica's eyes had begun to rove over the posters on the walls. Her lips pressed into thin pale lines. "SOS..."
"Serpents of Sin. We used to be a rock band."
"I know. You guys are pretty famouse."
"You mean was. Things kinda crashed for us once we got a bit older and weren't teens anymore. Kind of hard to sing about parental oppression when you'r old enough to actually be a parent." Terry's laugh sounded empty and unwelcome in the room. Going back to searching the posters, he soon found what he was looking for. Sliding his fingers beneath the loose paper, he plucked the top pin of the poster out and pulled a small stack of bills up. Replacing the pin, Terry fanned the bills out. Four crisp hundred dollar bills stood strait up between his fingers. A good start, but hardly enough to give Jess and her kids the kind of help they really could use. Folding the bills in half, he took a few exagerated lunges, and came toe to toe with Jessica, her pale eyes looking up at him. There was a definate sense of uncomfortableness Terry was feeling about now.
"Here. I'll check for some more in the other rooms."
"So are you?"
"Am I what?"
"A parent." Jessica's question seemed to demand an answer. A truthful answer.
"No. I can tell you I'm definatly not a parent." He slowly replied before edging around Jessica and reaching for the handle of the door opposite of Matt's room. The same SOS logo was spray painted there, but in blue and white with a faded Wrath splashed across thesurface from upper left to lower right corner. Opening this door proved easier and Terry stumbled back a step inside.
"How do you know? I mean, all your years in SOS, you could have a bastard out there somewhere."
Jessica's tone was...accusing, and Terry felt a slight prickle upon the back of his neck as he crossed the bare wood floor. Chunks of sheet rock were scattered here and there, a cold wind blowing in through a broken window pane. The room held only a bed with a army winter blanket on it, a shotgun proudly displayed over it, a badly dented wooden dresser, and a pristine gitaure propped up in a corner to gleam in the sickly yellow light of the bare light bulb that protruded from the ceiling like a zit on a teens chin.
"I know...because I know." Terry's reply was a little testy. He heard that same angry 'pffft' sound from behind him as he peered into the random holes punched in the walls. reaching into a hole, he withdrew a sock tied at the top and turned to shoot a frown at Jessica. "Listen, I know the sterotype. All teen rock bands of minor fame are plauged by drugs, booze, and sex scandel's. I won't tell you I didn't indulge in the first two, because I did. Just as much as any of my mates. But there is no way on gods green earth I've got me a kid."
"And why are you so damn sure of that?" The venome had returned to her voice, her fingers curled into her palms.
"Because I always used a rubber." Jessica's features did not change any. Not right away that is.
Terry untied the sock, and tugged out a roll of twenties. There was a slight white residue on the outer twenty. Terry was unsure if it was drywall dust or something else. To play it save he peeled that twenty off and let it drop to the floor. Maybe...maybe tonight would be the night. Let his mates deal with the shock of his leaving. Or at least he'd pack up and leave them on their own for a week, then he'd more then likely come back in, pay their debits with promises from them all to straiten up. it's work..for a month or two, before they'd slip back. but still...there was the slim chance something would be different.
Crossing the room, he passed the roll over to Jessica, who this time stepped back, out of his way so he could step down the hall to a third room. Green and orange this time were the colors of the decal, with Envy scribbled like a childs first attempt at writing on the door. Envy's door was locked. For a moment Terry considered breaking in the door, but he decided against it, and turned to Jessica, who was currently looming a bit closer then he remembered her being.
"That's your room there then?" She questioned, her finger lifting to point to the final door in the hall. It had been painted over with black paint, though faint purple streaks could be seen here and there under the coat.
"Yeah, that's mine there. Well, I think we've gotten all we're...Hey doll, the door is locked." Terry twisted as Jessica strode past him and to the door to his room. Despite his warning, she took the door handle and twisted it, opening the door without a hitch.
"Those bastards...they picked the bloody lock." Terry swore under his breath. They were probably looking for something of his to hock so they wouldn't have to pony up the cash for something. Striding into the room on jessica's heels, he swept his eyes over the inside. The floor was bare like in Wrath's room, but here it was swept and gleamed from polish. The simple iron frame bed had a tasteful purple beadspread on it, with a bedstand of dull oak nearby. As far as Terry could tell, his room was untouched. The cross with the painted Jesus hanging from it was still above his bed. His lap top was still closed on the small computer desk. His collection of books remained undisturbed on the three bookshelves that dominated the wall space. Even his folders of lyrics and notes were stacked untouched on the locked chest at the foot of his bed.
"This is...your room." Jessica slowly spoke, her eyes seemed to be searching. For what Terry had no idea.
"Yea. Sorry it's not as pretty as the rest of the house." Terry mumbled as he paced across the floor. As far as he could tell, everything was right where it was supposed to be.
"I'm sorry. I was just...I needed to know. They say you can tell a lot about a person from their bedroom." She did seem to mean her words, and Terry paused to shrug his shoulders.
"It's fine. I wasn't expecting the door to be unlocked. Maybe I forgot to lock it before I left."
"So why are you still here?" Her question, like many other things she had done tonight, caught him a little off guard.
"What do you mean? These are my mates, where else would I be?"
"Your clean. You have a job. You've got a freaking cross of Jesus hanging over your bed." Her hand lifted to gesture towards the old thing whileher eyes remained pinned upon him. "Your not like your 'mates' and yet your still here. WhyTerry? Why do you stay here?"
Terry's features turned back into a small frown as he looked about his tidy room. Why was he still here? "Because they need me. If it weren't for me they'd be in trouble. Or dead. There used to be seven of us, then we split. Greed, Gluttony, and Sloth moved east to reform as Damned Saints. We haven't heard anything from them for awhile. The rest of us pooled our remaining cash and bought this house. I knew we'd not be able to carry on without the other three, they were the ones with the real drive, if you know what I mean. Things started out okay, we worked together, kept up on the place...but then they started to slip a bit. I suppose it depressed them, they had lived golden days of glory, and now they were average schmoes. They spiraled downhill slowly."
"But you...you didn't?"
"Eh. The band was great fun. We had our spotlight. Traveled and did some really good gigs. We had local fame and it gave me some memories I'll always cherish. My love wasn't for the fame though, it was for the music. I loved to write, enjoyed performing...but to tell the truth I never wanted to make a life of it."
There was a strange silence that followed, and all Terry was aware of was the sound of his own breathing, his own pounding heart.
"Gods always watchin'. I wanted to make certain he wasn't unhappy with what he saw...because I knew he'd tell me mum eventually." Terry's fingers played over the cross hanging from his neck, and this time his faint smile was mirrored by Jessica's own .
A flash of light cut across the room, the sound of rubber on gravel grinding up the driveway.
"Shit! They're back. Come on Jess love. Better hide that cash. Let's get you and your kids out of here before the powder keg blows." Terry took long strides out the door of his room, and pounded his way down the stairs just in time to meet two of his housemates entering the back door.
In a glance he could tell they had been having a 'good time'. Their eyes were red and a little glassy, grins plastered upon their face, and something bulged in each of their front pockets. It was all Terry could do to groan aloud.
"Terry, dude! Your back, wheres the booze?"
"On the counter Matt, to your left." Was the dry reply.
"Shit, I totally missed it. Come on. Let's crack this baby open!"
"Count me out." Terry replied, as he side stepped a stumbling Jake. Watching the scrawny spiked hair man head for the tv, he turned to glare at Matt.
"Dude your so lame. Why do we let you hang out here?" Matt grumbled, follwed by a curse as he struggled to get the twist top off his beer.
"And you sound retarded speaking like a californian surfer when your thirty and live no where near the ocean." Terry shot back, followed by a grumble. "And because I'm the only one who pays the damn bills and the house is in my name. Since your ass wipes stopped paying your part of the taxes."
"Dude don't bring that shit up. Your lucky none of us beat the shit out of you with what you pulled."
"Hey, I was trying to teach you a lesson. You pricks get yourself wasted and you'll sign anything."
"Fuck you Terry!"
"You tried, remember Jake?" Terry couldn't help himself. Whenever his mates came home baked a shouting match always ensued. It would definatly be best to get Jess out of the house before the others...
The loud retort of a firearm going off sounded above. The argument between the three friends came to a dead halt as they looked between each other with wide eyes.
"Eddie!" Matt and Jake said in union.
"Jess!" Terry accompanied with a definat disharmony.
"Who the fuck is Jess!?" Jake followed up, but Terry and Matt were both fighting each other up the stairs before he even finished asking. Jake shrugged his shoulders and reached for the remote.
Matt and Terry both reached the top of the stairs and were down the hall to the door marked Envy in seconds. The door was wide open, revealing a partly clean room. Cluttered with porno magizines and pictures that Terry had no desire to take a closer look at. Eddies room was situated at the back of the house, and as such had a small balcony with sliding doors overlooking the wooded lake area directly behind the house. A lump was curled upon the bed under a red velvet blanket.
"Eddie, Eddie!" Terry called as he crossed the room to the bed. grabbing at the top of the lump, he twisted and pulled. In the darkness of the room, Eddies body rolled over. Just his body. Where his head should have been, a grisly stump of brainmatter and gore glistened. The pillow was soaked through already by the blood.
"Oh shit. Oh fuck. Oh god..." Matt gagged beside him as Terry crossed himself. Bile riseing up in his stomach.
"Why..." Terry gagged, but was quickly cut off by the sound of a high pitched scream from below. Turning, the two men started for the door of the room. However they were blocked by the shadow of Jessica, a shotgun held pointed in their direction.
"Jess!? What the fuck are you doing!?" Terry choked. His eyes wide as the woman took a menacing step towards him. From below the scream raised in pitch, then stopped. Jessica said nothing as she advanced. Backing up, Terry and Matt unspokenly began to seperate. Matt to the left and Terry to the right. Jessica seemed to hesitate for a moment, the barrel of the gun swinging between both men, before she settled it on Matt. From Terry's perspective, he could see Matt's face turn pale and his glazed eyes widened.
Jessica seemed set on Matt, and Matt seemed to decide parting from terry had been a bad idea. Changing direction, he darted across the room, charging back towards Terry as the shotgun sounded again. With a scream Matt hit the floor, writhing in pain and bleeding. Jessica advanced upon the form, seeming to forget for a moment about Terry. He honestly had no idea what he was doing, but as Jessica lifted the barrel of the gun a third time, he lunged. Grabbing the gun, the two struggled. For such a slight girl, Terry found she was far stronger then she looked!
"Jessica STOP!" He cried out before he managed to twist the gun out of her grip. A kick from one of her long slender legs sent him staggering back to land upon the bed. Terry couldn't help the high pitched scream as he felt the still warm body of Eddie shifting under him and a gurgling hiss of air pressed from his lungs. Matt was screaming, as he staggered up to his feet. In the moments of their struggle, he had crawled backwards, towards the balcony and gotten through the sliding glass door. Somehow Jessica had produced a knife.
Terry hadn't even made it halfway across the room before Matt's screaming stopped. The flash of the metal blade quickly turning to the gleam od crimson blood as she stabbed him repeatedly in the face through his eyes. As Terry stepped through the balcony doors, she stood and turned towards him, the knife raised. Terry reacted, swinging the gun by the barrel to connect with Jessica's head. She didn't even seem to try and dodge it. She staggered back, and with a scream Terry watched as she fell over the edge of the balcony. It was only as he rushed to the edge, the gun clattering to the balcony floor, that he realized it was himself that was screaming.
Below he could see her, arms and legs akimbo. Unmoving in the shadows but so pale and white she showed up clearly. Matt was dead, slumped upon the deck and bleeding from both his eyes. Turning, and feeling numb, Terry stumbled down the stairs. "Jake! Jake!"
No answer came from Jake. Standing in the doorway, he could see Jakes head was leaning back. The Tv was on low, some sort of porno flick playing on mute. Stepping into the room, Terry circled the couch...and gagged. He pressed a hand to his mouth before turning and fleeing out the open back door. He felt like he was running blind. Tromping down the steps he crossed the empty yard and staggered his way into the backyard.
Jessica laid on the grass. Light from the lake glimmered beyond her like some unworldly portal. Terry could not see the knife she had been weilding before, and her hands were in plain view. So it was he ran to her, falling to his knee's as he reached a hand out towards her neck. Before he could check her, her eyes snapped open. In the moonlight they appeared colorless, and Terry choked as he snatched his hand back.
"Jess...don't move. You fell. I'm going to call---"
"For help." She finished. Her voice sounded flat and toneless. Her weird eyes fixed upon Terry, freezing him in place. "Don't bother. I don't need help anymore. I did what I needed to do."
"What..." He started, but the smile that flashed bright white teeth at him cut him off.
"I did what I needed to do. Thank your mother...thank your god. They kept you safe."
Terry had no idea what Jess meant. His features a mask of confusion. But moved,he reached up, and fumbled with the clasp of his necklace. Extending his hands towards Jess, Terry was astonished by the sudden quick movement. She pushed back, jerking away from the cross even as he reached for her again.
"NO! Keep your cross. I don't need it. You do."
"Why? Why do I need it more then you? Jess..what you did---"
"I don't need it." She insisted firmly. "You still have time left, and you need to remember God is watching you."
Terry's confusion was soon wiped away by revulsion. Jessica's pretty features were changeing. Turning sunking, sallow, and pale. Her hair stringy and her body appeared to collapse in upon itself. Pressing his palm to his hand again, Terry crawled away from the corpse, his own body collapsing into darkness.
Terry stood in Eddies room. A blanket wrapped about his shoulders and a paper cup of coffee in his hand. He was still trembling. It had been over three weeks since he'd been back. The yellow police tape still fluttered about the house. He'd spent the better part of the week in jail. Suspected of the murder of his housemates. However there was no real evidence to convict him. His hands proved negative to testing for gun powder residue, and the knife that had been recovered with Matt's blood on it had a set of fingerprints that no one had identified yet. There was no proof he had killed anyone. The main reason he had been suspected was his refusal to account exactly what had happened. Who shot Eddie in his own bed? Who bit off Jake's prick and slit his throat? Who stabbed Matt through the eyes? Questions to those answers the police expected him to be able to provide. How a car, extremly badly rusted and ruined beyond the ability to drive, with the bloated corpses of a unidentified young woman and four children, packed with what appeared to be clothing, had appeared in his front yard no one could guess. Wet tire tracks had made a muddy circuit of the house. Driveing out of the lake and down the road, and then back up the road and onto the front yard. No one at the late night market remembered ever seeing the girl, though they did remember him getting out of line to buy a loaf of bread, much to the agitation of the other customers.
Though no one knew who the girl was, Terry had a faint idea. Once the initial investigation had been completed, and Terry allowed back into the house, he had started the unsavory task of cleaning the place out. he was expecting new neighbors in a few months. The stash of drugs on each of his dead friends had led to questioning that Terry had taken a faint sense of relief in answering. The junkies next door were in jail, and they had all acknowledged that Terry was definatly not a customer. Of course...this was all admitted without them knowing Terry had added his testimony to the case against them. Otherwise they might have changed their tune. Looking down at his other hand, Terry's stomach clentched tightly. A pretty young blond girl laid on her back on a bed. Completely naked, her knee's could be seen off to either side. She was unconscious, a little drool glistening in the corner of her mouth. In the picture Terry could barely make out her crotch, and from the look of it she was definatly getting banged. The picture sickened him, as did a great many others of Eddies. It was no wonder the bastard kept his room locked. The girl in the picture looked like Jessica, and from the date on the picture, it was well over ten years ago. Just a little older then the eldest kid Jess had been toteing.