Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Small Rant in Which I Point Out the Evils of Verbal Abuse

I've needed to write this for a while. When I was in High School, I dated a guy that treated me like shit. I didn't realize it at the time, I always thought all guys acted like he did. Now, a few years later, I see just how wrong I was. I'll be getting married in a year or two (I have the ring...just not the money to pay for a wedding) and even still I'm haunted by what I did as a young adult. See, the "evil ex", as he has been so fondly nicknamed, left scars on my psyche that still haunt me to this day.

I didn't actually realize the full extent of this mental scarring until yesterday at work. We have this on going joke between my fiance, myself, and our workmate Travis. I am a demo lady at Costco and whenever I have a good sample, Travis always tells me what an angel I am for my cooking skill and calls me his "work wife." (Please note that Travis is something like ten years older than me, married, and has a child. Obviously there isn't actually anything between us) And he always does this when my fiance is in earshot, "just so that he knows what a good things he has." It's adorable. Now, if I were still with the evil ex, this wouldn't even be happening. He was the jealous type and even a harmless joke would have really set him off. So, yesterday at work, I was making chocolate chip cookies and made some for everyone in the back. Travis came up and put his arm around me, just as my fiance came around the corner into recieving (which is where we stash the demo carts at the end of the day). For some reason, that part of my subconscious that still remembers what it was like to date a jealous guy flared up and...kind of freaked out. I practically jumped away from Travis, started half laughing to try to cover it up, and then just sort of hid because I didn't want to be seen talking to another guy. I ended up making up some story about a charlie horse or something. But I knew why I did it and it bothers me.

If you are ever in a relationship where the other person gets mad at you for so much as talking to someone of the opposite sex, that is not a healthy relationship. When I finally broke it off with that guy from high school, he asked me why...and I didn't know what to tell him. I didn't know where to start. And everytime I tried to explain, he yelled at me. I would like to explain now, so that I can get it off my chest once and for all.

In that relationship, I spent more time being yelled at and bullied for stupid things like fangirling, writing romance novels where the love interest didn't have his name, and talking to other guys, than I did being loved. He had me trained to automatically look in his direction by whistling at me. One time Luke (my fiance) whistled to get my attention and I nearly punched him. (That one took some explaining) When I got a car and my license at 16, I gained a few pounds because I was getting less exercise. The ex took to calling me "chubs" and making beeping sounds when I backed up. He got so jealous of me so much as looking at other men that he almost broke up with me for telling a friend that I thought the gas station attendant had gorgeous eyes. He knew my Facebook password so that he could keep an eye on what I was telling my friends. And if he thought I said something out of line, I got yelled at. I lost friends because he didn't "approve" of them. If I didn't answer right away when he called, he would just continue blowing up my phone until I answered. (Luke does this on occasion, but that occasion is always grocery shopping or laundry day when he can't remember what kind of milk I like, or which of my clothes get dried and which of them don't.)

By this point, you maybe be thinking something like, "Wow. This guy must have been really wonderful sometimes to make up for this bullshit...or at least must have bought you nice things." Both of these thoughts are wrong. When we first started dating, he was nice. We had a good first six months. And then things just went downhill and I got used to them. He never bought me anything, never drove to see me when I moved to college. In fact, he was never employed and didn't have a license. It was me that had both. And then when I moved to college (shortly before we broke up) he used to call and ask me to drive up and visit him. My car was old and a gas guzzler and I was a broke ass college kid, but he still would get angry and say I was avoiding him and that I was a terrible person.

It wasn't until I met Luke that I knew how a girl was supposed to be treated by a guy. I, admittedly, went after him because I was rebounding and liked his taste in music. But I knew he was a great guy as soon as we actually started talking, not just flirting at work. For our first date, he took me out to go laser tagging because I was really into the My Chemical Romance album "Danger Days" and he wanted me to know what it was like to be a Killjoy (like the characters the album is based around). We dressed up in Killjoy outfits and everything. He drove.

For a long time, I couldn't get used to being the one who was being spoiled. I still get a little weird if I feel like he is paying for too much. (Like when he bought me a hedgehog for Christmas and I bought the cage and all the accessories before he could say no.) But I feel like that's acceptable. I'm not always buying him things and driving him everywhere. We share my car, but we both put gas in it and he even pays for oil changes. I could go on for hours about how different it is to be treated properly, but if you've made it this far into my rant, you've suffered enough.

 I know some of my friends from high school are still friends with the ex, and that's fine. He can be an okay guy when he isn't being a manipulative prick. However, I don't respect him and I don't think I ever will. So don't expect me not to shit talk him if the subject comes up. I will even hold my tongue, for the most part, but I don't have anything nice to say about him and even thinking about him makes me angry. I used to dream about seeing him again just so that I could properly tell him what an asshole he was and punch him in the face. Actually, I'm hoping that just getting this off my chest will make them stop.

The point I want to make is this. There so many guys in the world, just because you meet one who seems nice in high school, doesn't mean you need to stick with him when things get ugly. A relationship as disfunctional as the one I was in during high school should never happen. A guy should never call you fat and get away with it, let alone get sex from you. Jesus, that guy deserves a good slap in the face. A man should respect you, know what you like (and even if he doesn't like it, he should respect the fact that you like it), and he should buy you nice things once in a while. But most importantly, he should never tell you how to live. If he really loves you and you love him, you'll trust each other, and that is guidance enough.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bang The Doldrums

On Thursday, Gerard hung a picture on the wall that put Mikey somewhat on edge. It was a painting, likely an old one by the look of it, depicting a little ship floating across a dark sea. It wasn’t particularly creepy for any outward reason; Mikey just didn’t really like it.

According to Gerard, it depicted the “Doldrums”, the area at sea where the prevailing winds were calm. The way he described it, doldrums sounded like a time of rest.

However, Mikey knew the truth of it. The doldrums were a sailor’s worst nightmare. The low pressure zone would make the weather unpredictable. Sometimes the wind wouldn’t pick up at all, stranding them for days, even weeks. And other times it would cause unruly storms that they would have to battle in attempts to stay on course.

Every time he looked at the painting, the young rebel felt like he was there, back in time hundreds of years, on the little ship.

He could just picture the crew, waiting with baited breath for the wind to pick up and send them on their merry way. For days, weeks they waited, each day driving them a little bit more insane. The hot sun would beat down on their red, sweat covered faces and they would attempt to drink away their fears. Yet, no amount of rum could make up for the horrible lack of wind.

And then, one fateful day, clouds would roll in, bringing a bit of a breeze with them. The crew would scramble to their feet, set the sails, and pray that they started moving soon.

The old, creaking ship would eventually begin a steady crawl across the water, bringing relief to the wary crew.

However, the wind wasn’t the only thing the clouds brought. The skies would go dark and then came rain that would pour down in sheets, thunder that would deafen, and lightening that would blind. The sea would turn black and the crew would battle the raging seas, some of them getting pulled overboard by violent waves.

Eventually, day would come, the clouds would disappear, the rain and thunder retreating with them. The now welcome sun would appear a light breeze along with it, letting the poor beaten crew and their ship rest a bit.

However, the breeze would often disappear, and the dead stillness would once again fall upon the sea. Once again, the crew would have to wait for the next violent storm to bring about another breeze. Each time, they hoped this was the storm that would get them back on track, or at least leave them with a manageable breeze.

Until then, they would have to wait and hope that their food supply didn’t run out.

Doldrums, indeed.

The Spot

The last time Frank had gone to The Spot had been the night after he and Toro had left the city. They had hopped the fence separating Battery City from Zone 1 only hours before and Gerard had insisted that they needed to go celebrate their successful escape.

“The Spot”, as it was referred to in the Rebel Culture, was a large vacant lot right on the edge of Zones 1 and 2. The Exterminators never went there because it always appeared to be on fire. In reality, the Rebels used the lot for trades and it turned into one big party. The lot was lined with bonfires on three of the four sides. With the only open side being an easily defendable route into Zone 2, there was little chance of a Raid.

Now, as he stood staring at the sun disappearing behind the wall of fire that faced the west, Frank couldn’t help wondering why they didn’t come here more often.

“What are you doing, silly?” Rhi giggled from behind him. “I thought you were going to get us something to drink.”

A smile plastered across his face as he turned to face the girl.

“I got distracted,” he shrugged. “Why can’t you get it yourself?”

“Because I was helping Odin pick out the music for tonight.”

He glanced over at Odin, a bald man with a handlebar mustache. Back in the old days, Frank was quite sure he would be referred to as one of “Hell’s Angels.” However, now he just ran the sound system that blasted rock music across the lot day and night. In the man’s hand, he distinctly saw Rhi’s copy of “Let The Dominos Fall” by Rancid.

Rhi looked rather proud of herself for the selection and he couldn’t help smiling.

This girl and waltzed into his life and stolen his heart in a matter of weeks. Admittedly, he found it difficult to read her sometimes and attempting to kindle a love connection in the middle of a war with the government wasn’t exactly easy, thus, he had yet to profess his love.

They traded a gallon of gasoline for a fifth of something homebrewed from one of the other rebel groups and soon they were rather drunk. Rancid was still blaring from the speakers, and Rhi was dancing to one of her favorite songs.

Drunkenly she swayed her hips, grabbing Frank’s hand and insisting that he twirl her. Laughing, he obliged and soon he was dancing right along with her. They giggled and had a grand time twisting to the music.

The longer they danced, the more Frank longed to tell her how he felt. It was always on the tip of his tongue, yet he couldn’t bring himself to say it.

Night wore on and chances came and went. They danced on until well after most of the rebels had passed out. Eventually the record was changed to something a little softer and their dancing ceased.

They moved to the car, where they lay a blanket on the sand covered hood, and decided to stargaze. Rhi pointed out star clusters, which she referred to as constellations. Frank had never really been one for stars, but on this night they were fascinating to him. All the different clusters formed pictures, according to Rhi, but Frank couldn’t really see them.

“There’s the Big Dipper!” Rhi was saying. “And Orion. See how he is shooting a bow, Frankie?”

“Yeah, of course,” he lied.

He would tell her anything she wanted to hear, at this point. The stars didn’t hold a flicker in comparison to her.

For a moment he contemplated telling her this, but decided against it.

“My mom used to tell me the stories behind all the constellations. These people called the Greeks named them all. Apparently, they were heroes and the gods put them amongst the stars. Isn’t that cool?”

“Super cool,” he sighed unenthusiastically.

She looked over at him then, big sapphire eyes glinting in the firelight and it was the end of him. He had to tell right then exactly how he felt or he would go insane.

“Hey, Rhi,” he found his mouth saying. “What would you do if I told you I loved you?”

Her mouth opened to respond, but he didn’t give her the time.

“Because I do,” he went on. “I love you more than I can possibly bear. I know it’s stupid and we’re in the middle of a war, but I just-“

Before he knew what was going on, she had practically leapt on him and was pressing her lips to his. He pulled away from her a moment, but she wasn’t letting him go so easily.

“It’s about damn time,” she teased, pulling him in for another kiss.

Yeah, he thought to himself. They definitely needed to go to The Spot more often.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rabid Monkeys

There is a playground, hidden deep within Battery City, where the children of the city are allowed to play for a few hours each afternoon when they are given a break from their studies.

As a child, this had been Al’s favorite place to go. It was the reason she got up to go to school. Playtime was the best.

The playground was a small haven for the children, a seemingly colorful place in the black and white world that Battery City encased them in. Of course, it was also closely monitored to make sure that the children didn’t use “too much” imagination in their games.

Of all the days spent on that playground, one stuck out in Al’s head above all the others.

It was a warm afternoon. Not the fake kind of warm that usually permeated Battery City, where it was quite obvious that the City was controlling the temperature. No, this was an actually nice, warm day. On this particular day, Korse, the lead Exterminator, decided to come watch the children play. He said he had a special project and wanted to find the child who showed the most promise.

Of course, all the children wanted to be the chosen one, so they all took extra care to be a little more impressive. They ran faster, made extra sure to take charge in the games, and did all that they could to get noticed.

However, Al knew that she would be chosen, no matter what. Her parents were high ranking officials in the government, in charge of ridding Battery City of any and all deviation from the norm. They were in charge of the Exterminators, so that meant that Al had no choice in being chosen. She would follow in her parents’ footsteps.

And yet, as she ran about with the other little children, she noticed that Korse was barely paying attention to her. Instead, his eyes always watched a young boy with short black hair.

Al had never spoken to the young boy before, but she knew from the rumors that flew about the halls that he was really intelligent. She realized that maybe her victory in gaining Korse’s favor would not come just from her parents’ standing in the government.

She decided it was time to step up her game.

By the time they got around to playing tag, Al realized that none of her skills were having much of an impression. Her fast running, excellent hiding skill, and ability to lead to children in their games seemed to have no effect on the man.

As the game of tag began to come to a close, the school officials motioning for the children to begin lining up to go inside, Al noticed that the dark haired boy had climbed onto the monkey bars. Once recess was over, Korse would announce the student who would be helping him with his new project.

In a desperate plea for attention, Al climbed the jungle gym opposite the boy and perched herself on top of them. The boy was steadily climbing toward her on the underside, giving her an open shot at his fingers.

As soon as he was near, she stretched out her feet in, what appeared to be, an attempt at climbing. However, in actuality, it was a successful attempt to stomp at his fingers.

The boy let out a yelp as the hard sole of her shoes made contact with his fingers. She made a point of grinding her heel into his fingernails, barely keeping herself from cackling as he tumbled to the ground.

Tears streaked his face as he lay on the ground cradling his hurt hands. Guilt gnawed at the young girl as she looked down at what she had reduced the boy to. However, her stomach flipped a bit in excitement when she noticed Korse staring at her, a smirk playing at his lips.

One of the attendants rushed over to help the young boy, who seemed to be having difficulty standing, having landed at an odd angle on his right foot.

“I’m so sorry,” Al gasped, now playing the part of the innocent little girl. “I didn’t mean to. I guess I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

“It’s alright, Alarice,” Korse said before any of the attendants could interject. “Gerard will be fine.”

Al nodded, hiding her satisfied smirk behind her long blonde hair. Cautiously she climbed down the monkey bars, knowing that when Korse announced his chosen student, it would be her. She had shown dominance over the only other competition, and that was all that mattered.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Sand Palace

This entry goes hand in hand with last week’s entry. It doesn't exactly explain the situation, but it helps to an extent. 

Rhi sighed, brushing a strand of long purple hair out of her face. She and Al had been driving for what seemed like weeks, having stopped only a few times to barter for food and petrol.

Out in the Zones, that was all there really was to do for two drifters. With no rebel group to call their own, it was near impossible to make any real sort of impact in the fight against The Leader. Granted, they were quite good at fighting off the Exterminators that were sent their way; the best according to some of the rebels. However, in the grand scheme of things, a few dead Exterminators hardly mattered.

Over the roar of the engine, Rhi heard the distinct sound of raygun shots.

"Shit," she cursed. "Exterminators!"

 Al slammed on the brakes, sending the supped up El Camino drifting across the sand.

“I think it’s a raid,” Al warned, violet locks twirling as she spun to look out the back window.

A group of Exterminators were closing in on them. Through the window, Rhi could see the the outline of the lead Exterminator, the Scarecrow, glowering at them. 

“Shit,” Al muttered, throwing the car into reverse and spinning around.

Al’s driving motto was something along the lines of “if the Exterminators find you, go the other way as fast as possible.” Granted, it often got them out of trouble. However, Al’s driving tended to leave something to be desired when they were under attack, and though Rhi was a good shot, she found it quite impossible to shoot accurately while getting bounced around in the little El Camino.

Firing a few shots out the window, Rhi did her best to stay balanced as the car drifted sideways down a sand hill.

“Hanging in there?” Al asked.

“Barely,” Rhi admitted through gritted teeth.

The Exterminators seemed to be trailing behind now, though not as much as Rhi would find comfortable. A few more shots and she ducked back into the car.

At the peak of on of the hills, Rhi noticed something looming in the distance. A great structure made entirely out of, what appeared to be, sand.

“Do you see that?” she yelled, straining to be heard over the roar of the motor.

“The big sand castle?” Al replied. "Yeah. Do you think there is anyone there?" 

“I would imagine. I mean, it’s a castle.”

“I don’t know if it’s possible to live in a sandcastle.” 

“Does it really matter? It's big and it will get us out of sight." 

Anxiously, Rhi glanced over her shoulder, seeing no sign of the Exterminators that had been tailing them. Though they may have lost them, Rhi felt it best to not get her hopes up.

The car didn’t slow until they were absurdly close to the castle. Al slammed on the breaks and slid up to gates.

As far as the girls could tell, the place appeared to be abandoned. It wasn’t unusual for rebel groups to leave their places of residence behind, but this was a rarity, abandoned or otherwise. It was absolutely huge, easily the size of an actual stone castle. It looked completely livable, if it weren’t for the gates being closed.

Cautiously, the girls got out of the car, holding their guns in plain sight to show that they were armed, but did not intend to use their weapons.

“Halt!” came a voice from above them.

Squinting against the sun, Rhi looked up at a man standing just above the gate. She wasn't sure how she had missed him when she first saw the castle.

“Who goes there?” the man demanded.

“This guy takes his job way too seriously,” Rhi muttered.

“We’re travelers,” Al replied. “We’ve been running the Zones and just had a clap with some Exterminators.”

“Exterminators?” repeated the guard in disbelief. “They never come this far out here. How do I know you aren’t lying?”

“Because,” Rhi shouted back. “I’m Rhiannon Cambridge and this is my partner Alarice Jones; we are the Destroyer.”

“Now I know you're lying. The Destroyer is just a myth.”

Rolling her eyes, Rhi removed her coat, motioning for Al to do the same. They stood side to side, allowing their dragon tattoos to morph into the image of one angry fire breather.

The guard gaped at them a moment before motioning for the gates to be lifted.

That was, in Rhi’s opinion, the one good thing about being a well known Zone drifter; she and Al were both allowed anywhere that the rebels ran. They were honored to have them as guests, and all because the two of them had rather fantastic aim. So fantastic, in fact, that they were legendary. Some rebels didn't even believe they existed.

Despite appearing to be made out of sand, the gates lifted easily.

A guard came to meet them in the causeway and in his wake followed a man dressed in a leather coat. He wore a smug expression behind his stick straight raven hair.

“Greetings,” he smirked. “I hear tell that the Destroyer has come to my…humble abode.”

“Real humble,” Rhi whispered to Al. The man didn’t seem to notice.

“What is this beautiful place?” Al asked, not trusting Rhi to be so polite in her inquiries.

“This,” announced the man. “Is the Great Sand Palace. I am Jacoby and this is home to me and my little group of rebels.”

The girls looked around, sensing that this man’s so-called “little group” was about as little as this palace was humble.

“And what group do we have the honor of meeting?” Al prompted.

“We are the Rock n Rollers.”

Rhi raised an eyebrow. The Rock n Rollers were about as well known in the Zones as the Destroyer. They were one of the largest groups around. Even The Leader was a bit intimidated by them.

“I guess we could stay a while,” she shrugged, winking at Al and following Jacoby into the palace.

Destroya, We're All Waiting For Ya

Note: This entry takes place in the same alternate reality (or a very similar one) to my Snow Cabin entry. (Actually, all my flash fiction entries from here on out will likely take place in this universe seeing as I’m going to make a short story collection out of the various “Tales From the Zones”.)

This entry goes along with another short story. It's late, it's a bit of a confusing cliff hanger. But it will make sense down the road.

The smell of incense hit him full force as he pulled back the tent flap and entered the Gypsy woman’s “office”, as she had called it.

He looked about the small space, from the brightly colored scarves and beads that hung about the room, to the large table in the center and the crystal ball that resided in the center.

“I’ve been waiting for you for a long time, Frank,” she said, looking over her shoulder at him as she pulled out a large pillow for him to sit on.

It took a lot of will power for him to admit that he had been dreading this for a long time. Honestly, he didn’t even believe in any of the fortune telling mumbo-jumbo. To him, this was just an inconvenience, a trivial visit that Doctor D required all his rebels to make.

The Oracle, as the woman was called, was well known throughout the Zones. She had somehow escaped the notice of The Exterminators and stayed holed up in an abandoned amusement park.

She motioned for Frank to take a seat, which he hesitantly did, sinking into the pillow a bit as he got settled.

“Shall we look into the ball?” she prompted, wasting no time.

“Shouldn’t we get acquainted?” Frank asked, trying to avoid any fortune telling for as long as possible.

“You know who I am,” the Oracle scoffed. “And I know you. We need no introductions. Let’s do business.”

Frank opened his mouth to object, but closed it just as quickly when the woman shot him a pointed look.

“I know you don’t think this is necessary,” she smirked, her eyes now focused on the crystal ball. “But you have such a great future ahead of you.”

“I bet you tell that to everyone.”

“Perhaps. But you’re special. You thought your life ended in the city. You’re only here fighting because you are convinced one of these days the Exterminators will ghost you.”

Frank said nothing, knowing the gypsy’s words were true.

“Look into the ball,” she prompted. “Maybe you will find that your life isn’t over just yet.”

Hesitantly, Frank did as he was told. The murky fog within swirled eerily, entrancing him as he stared into the crystal ball. Though he felt it may have been a trick of the eye, the fog seemed to swirl more rapidly the longer he stared.

And then it began to disappear, morphing into the shape of two figures; two women, he realized. One was tall and thin, with a pair of glasses resting on the bridge of her nose. Her clothing was covered in dust and sand, and her eyes held a certain wisdom that was very uncommon throughout the Zones. She reminded Frank of a female version the rebel that led his small group.

However, it was the second figure that really caught his attention. She was younger than the first, likely by a year or two, but there was a ferocity about her that made her stand out. Tattoos covered her skin, which was quite exposed underneath her sleeveless midrift top.

The mist that still swirled within the ball became sand colored and the two of them drew their ray guns. Frank realized they were being attacked.

A group of Exterminators appeared vaguely in the background, and the two girls stood back to back, firing brightly colored lasers at them. The sand began to swirl as they began to spin in a hypnotic fighting style that reminded him of a dance. A few steps to the side, a few steps back, left, right, spin, cross; it never seemed to end. As he watched, unable to tear his eyes away, one word echoed through his mind.

“Destroyers,” a voice seemed to whisper. “The Children of the Gun.”

As the two spun, Frank noticed that they each had half of a dragon tattooed on them. It seemed to come to life as they spun, its eyes glowing red with fire.

A pile of carnage was now all that was left of the exterminators as the two blew to smoke from their guns.

The image began to fade and Frank looked up at the gypsy, who was smirking knowingly at him.

“What did you see?” the gypsy asked, already seeming to know the answer.

“A dragon,” Frank replied, not quite realizing that his mouth was forming words.  “The Destroyer.”

Honestly, the image that he had seen in the ball was becoming quite fuzzy in his mind. It had seemed like something more than that.

“What is it?” he inquired.

‘It’ didn’t seem like quite the right word. ‘They’ seemed more fitting, though he was unsure as to why. It had only been one dragon, as far as he remembered.

“Your future,” the gypsy replied.

“But what does that have to do with me? I don’t know any dragons. Dragons don’t even exist.”

“Everything. It has everything to do with you. You will find that dragons appear in more forms than just mythical creatures.”

Frank bit his lip, trying to hold back his frustration.

“This is bullshit,” he found himself saying. “I thought you were supposed to show me my future.”

“I did,” the gypsy replied. “You’ll thank me someday.”

Shaking his head disapprovingly, Frank got up and left.

Stupid gypsy, stupid crystal ball; why couldn’t he remember what he had seen in that crystal ball?

And yet, as he walked through the abandoned theme park in which the gypsy resided, one familiar question rang through his brain.

Where are you, Destroyer?

Monday, January 2, 2012

For Bill

Last night, a boy I went to school with took his own life. This is for him.
Death was sick of collecting memories. The little bottles collected on the shelf were full of stupid, meaningless moments in the lives of the dead. Worst of all, only the favorites actually got placed on the shelf, the rest went into the river. It seemed that memories began to lose their meaning as eternity coursed on.

And yet, it felt as though this was owed to those recently deceased. Everyone deserved to keep at least one memory. So, when Death came for the souls of the dying, he brought a pen and paper with him. Each person was allowed to record their happiest life memory and throw it into the River Styx.

Unfortunately, memories had begun to get more and more cliché over time. It was as if everyone was beginning to live the same lives, which Death really was not okay with. The River was filling with bottles full of stupid, meaningless moments. Granted, to the person who experienced them, the moments were priceless.

However, to Death, they all were beginning to blur together. Winning the big game, a first kiss, receiving an unexpected gift, the fairytale wedding day, etc. It was all so dull. No one really lived anymore. No one went out and experienced the world. They simply lived the boring little lives that their given societies told them to. And they did without question.

As the boat moored at the edge of the River, Death spotted his newest victim; a young man, not more than twenty with a ghastly bruise around his neck.

A suicide.

Death hated suicides. Death was supposed to take people when Death damn well pleased, not when that person decided they were sick of living. Having never lived himself, Death assumed life must have been really terrible, given the number of suicides he’d been taking across the River as of late.

As always, he removed the pen and paper from his robes and beckoned for the young man to come aboard.

It was the boy’s eyes that struck him first; radiant, topaz blue framed by a navy ring. They were the sweetest eyes Death had ever seen.

“Hop aboard, kiddo,” Death greeted.

“Aren’t you supposed to be scary or something?” the boy snarkily commented, wandering over to the boat.

Death wanted to reply with a snarky comment himself, but his superiors looked down on that sort of behavior.

“Nah,” he shrugged instead. “People just always are afraid of me on principle.”
The boy nodded his understand. It was a passive gesture that made his blonde hair fall into his eyes.

Feeling this was going to be a long ride, Death made quick work of pushing the boat back into the River, where it caught the current and they began to cross the water.

“So,” Death sighed, really not looking forward to this part. “What’s your best memory?”

Looking confused, the boy shrugged silently.

“Come on!” Death urged. “There has to be something that really stands out to you.”

“I’m a fucking suicide,” the boy spat. “I really don’t have too many ‘happy memories’.”

Death gritted his teeth as he looked upon the boy. He was sitting there with this distant look on his face, seeming completely unphased by what was going on. Most people flipped shit about crossing the River Styx. But not this kid, he was calm and content as a cucumber.

For a while they sailed in silence. By the time the boy spoke again, the Other Side was in sight.

“I think I’ve got one,” the boy finally said. “It’s really not all that happy.”

With a silent shrug, Death handed him the pen and paper. As the boy scribbled down the memory, Death’s mind was filled with the memory.

It was his Freshman year of high school at a school dance. There was a girl standing before him; she was asking him to dance. He recognized her from their passings in the hall, though he had never actually spoken to her. From the rumors he had heard around school, she had a verbally abusive boyfriend who had dumped her for a girl who was far less pretty.

With a shrug, he agreed. He didn’t really like to dance and he had told her that. But she had been insistent, so he agreed.

When they got onto the dance floor she blushed a little, apologizing for making him dance.

“You just looked so lonely,” she almost laughed, though it was hard to hear her over the music. “I just figured I had to quit being a wall flower at some point tonight. And you were an easy target.”

He smiled and laughed too.

To his surprise, her somewhat plump hips were actually quite bony feeling through the fabric of her vibrant polka dotted dress.

“I’m sorry you had to dance with me,” she said when the song began to draw to an end. “I know I’m really ugly.”

Her eyes showed that she meant every word of it and it broke his heart a little.

Another slow song started up and he began to sway with her again.

“Really,” she insisted. “You don’t have to dance with me anymore. You can go back to sitting at your table.”

“No,” he smiled. “It’s okay. We can dance some more.”

Blushing, her face lit up in a smile as she agreed.

“And you’re not ugly,” he assured her. “You look really pretty tonight.”

The boy handed the paper to Death, who took it in stunned silence. This moment was nothing like most of the cliché moments he dealt with usually. By the feeling the memory gave him, the boy had no further dealing with the girl, other than occasionally seeing her at parties.

“Who was she?” Death asked as the boy climbed out of the boat.

“I don’t really remember,” the boy admitted. “But she danced really well.”

Nodding, Death waved goodbye to the boy and took the memory bottle from him.

This one was going on the shelf.