Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Muse In His Coffee

Insomnia was a funny thing. In all his years of battling it, Lawrence had only once actually found something that worked. It was prescription drug that he couldn’t remember the name of that had cost him nearly seventy-five dollars a bottle. At the time, when his art was actually making him money, it seemed a small price to pay for a good night’s sleep.

Alas, with the recent decline of the economy, demand for his trade had decreased as well. Now every penny that he made needed to be pinched as tightly as he possibly could. Bills were often paid late, the rent had been paid passed due nearly every month, and a good night’s sleep was not worth the money he had to spend on the little white tablets.

Tonight was no different than any other night. There was a half empty bottle of Jack on the table top, a cigarette grasped between his fingers, sleep was a far off fantasy, and he was restless.

He was always restless.

Smoke burned his throat on the journey to his lung, nicotine bringing him little relief. He needed to go somewhere, anywhere, and do something. Not that he really had any money to do anything with.

Cursing, he gave his apartment a cursory glance. Nothing in the dark little hell-hole he called his own was really worth noting. It was a tiny studio with hardy enough room for his things. There were canvases scattered about, the paintings on most of them only half finished, if he had even bothered to start on them at all.

Recently no one had really seemed all that interested in his work. This, in turn, had caused him to stop caring about his work. Now days, he was lucky to churn out one, maybe two paintings a week. In his prime, this had been below his daily average.

Another inhale and he found that he had burned yet another cigarette down to the filter. As the rancid taste of burning cotton filled his mouth, he began to cough violently, dropping the little cancer stick in the process.

“Damn it!” he cursed between heaves, attempting to stomp on the filter for good measure while simultaneously attempting not to wretch all over the couch.

That was breaking point. He needed to get out of the house and fast, lest he suffer another lonely night of cheap cigarettes and whiskey.

In a matter of minutes he was out the door, his dirty wool trench coat and scarf giving him the stereotypical appearance of a starving artist. Not that the image wasn’t accurate, he just sometimes detested broadcasting it.

Another cigarette was slipped into his mouth as he began the cold trek down the snowy sidewalk. It was a few days before the New Year and the weather had just finally decided to allow winter to slip into the city.

He passed dingy building after dingy building, occasionally having to sneak past bums passed out on their respective stoops.  It always bothered him to refuse money to those less fortunate than himself, though he honestly didn’t have any money to give away.

Finally he reaches his destination. The sign above the door read “Morningstar Coffee open 24 hours a day” in blinding, multicolored neon.  Flicking the remains of his cigarette at the wet pavement, he decided it was a good idea to get some caffeine in him.

Heavily he leaned against the door, stumbling inside as it opens with the pressure of his weight. The small shop is nearly empty, a few of the local punk kids at a far corner table being the only exception.

Upon hearing the doorbell jingle, the barista appears behind the counter. He is an impatient looking Indian man in a plaid button up. His expression clearly says “It’s 4 in the morning, what the hell are you doing here? You’re interrupting my nap. Let’s get on with this.”

Feeling as though he should obey such a stern expression, Lawrence hurried to the counter.

“What’ll it be, then?” the barista asked, attempting to sound friendlier than he looked, though he didn’t much succeed.

“Something strong,” he replied.

His voice sounded distant, just as it had for the last six months. Insomnia did that to him. The lack of sleep made his brain fuzzy, where it seemed like he could never quite concentrate on what he was doing, like everything was just ever so slightly out of his reach. And when he found something he could reach, he could never muster the effort to actually take it. Life just passed in one big, meaningless cloud that he would sooner ignore than participate in.

His eyes scanned the menu without really seeing it. He already knew what he wanted.

“I’ll take the Sucker Punch,” he decided. “Three pumps of raspberry, if you would be so kind.”

The Sucker Punch was one of the most bitter, caffeinated things that Lawrence had ever tasted. It was composed chiefly of espresso, six shots of it, to be exact. Steamed milk and a few pumps of raspberry flavoring were added to attempt to take some of the edge off, though it often did nothing to soften the impact of what felt like an actual sucker punch to the taste buds.

It was disgusting and he loved it.

Hurriedly the barista took his money, their eyes making contact for one inexplicably awkward moment. Though he wasn’t sure why, the barista made him a little uneasy. Shaking his head, he tried to ignore the feeling that the momentary eye contact had allowed the creepy barista a look into his soul.

There was a small ruckus in the corner as the punk kids got out of their seats. They left the small coffee shop in a wave of playful curses and laughter, leaving Lawrence alone with the creepy barista.

No further words were shared between the two of them as his drink was prepared. A Bright Eyes tune carried through the little shop over the sound of the milk steamer.

Soon enough, his drink was brought to him and he took it with a quiet thank you. The barista nodded what was meant to be a “You’re welcome, sir”. However, instead, when he actually spoke he said something that gave Lawrence chills.

“I think you’ll find exactly what you need in there,” the Indian man smirked, winking at him before returning to the backroom before Lawrence had a chance to ask him what the hell he meant or what was in the drink.

Unsettled, Lawrence scuttled over to a seat by the window, looking blearily out at the wet streets and neon lights. The creepy comment had made his coffee suddenly very unappealing. Uncertainly he sniffed a few times, detecting no hints of discrepancy from the usual recipe. For a long time, he just let the coffee sit there.

Eventually he turned to his coffee, taking pause when he noticed the foam had a design in it that had not been there before.

Fascinated, he watched the face of a woman take shape. She was absolutely beautiful, with hair that spread out around he winking face in hypnotic swirls that drew him to her like a fish to water. The face was so relaxed, so blissful, like a woman lying on a bed after a passionate night of love-making; just utterly carefree, and completely satisfied.

And he realized then, as much as it unsettled him, that the barista had been right. There, in that cup, was all that he needed. The woman was no woman at all; she was a muse, a beautiful, sensual muse.

Hurriedly he took his sketchbook from the messenger bag that he carried with him everywhere.  After struggling for a moment to find a pen, he began to draw.

It was unclear how long he had sat there, scribbling down every last detail of the face, making sure her hair lay perfectly, capturing the satisfaction in her face. When he was finally finished, the sun was coming up and his drink was cold.

With a yawn, he took one last look at her face before deciding that it was necessary to consume her. With a few swigs, he made the contents of the cup disappear, the woman forever captured in his notebook.

He headed home, in somewhat of a trance, the delight of having a feeling of purpose distracting him from the walk.

When he got through the door he set the bag and notebook on his coffee table and lounged on the couch. The television was on, though on mute, and he watched the silent pictures move across the screen. They relaxed him, lulling him into a deep sleep filled with dreams of beautiful women and boundless inspiration.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Weekly Writing Challenge: Snow Cabin

Just to note, this is really rough. It's late, the challenge winner has already been decided, but I put the effort into writing this, so I figured I may as well post it anyway.


So there we were, finally just the two of us. Just he and I, in front of a beautiful, roaring fire; dinner settling in our stomachs as we shared a bottle of Merlot, blissfully ignoring the fact that somewhere in the snow laden forest, the Exterminators were likely onto our scent.

They had been tracking us since Deadwood, where we had stopped for the night after parting ways with that small group of rebels from Detroit. Despite being warned that The Leader had his men out en mass, we had taken back roads in your old beat up pick up and followed it to…well….here. Wherever “here” once was.

Now it was just a small cabin in the middle of a snow covered forest. The previous owners were likely dead somewhere, but they had been kind enough to leave behind some food and alcohol, which was good enough for us.

And there we were, his cheeks beginning to turn pink from the wine, our giggles beginning to fill the room as we reminisced about the days before all the world had went to shit.

It wasn’t always like this, he continued to remind me. There had been a time, ages ago, when the States had actually been united, before The Leader came with his robots. When the robots came, everyone was convinced that they would make life easier, and the Leader convinced them of such.

No one knows if the people of that time were brainwashed, or just stupid. Either way, the robots enslaved them all easily. And just as easily, the Leader’s empire expanded.

There were few, even now, who dared stand in his way. The human race had been reduced to slaves; slaves to a man who wasn’t really a man, at least, no one believed he was.

No man could have the black heart that the Leader possessed. No human man could send out hordes of robots to enslave the entire human race and kill all those who stood in their way.

And yet, there we were; two rebels who had managed to survive for nearly two decades fighting the robots and dodging the Exterminators. 

We had met at a really young age, my parents having been killed by the robots. His family had taken me in, taught me how to fight and how to live off the land. They became my family, my protectors.

Then, just as it had been with my family, we found ourselves caught in a raid. Robot scouts had invaded the town, found those who didn’t possess the Mark that the Leader branded all his slaves with, and took them out to be publicly executed. Because we were young and small, he and I escaped together. However, our family had not been so lucky.

Since then, we had been each other’s sole support; best friends til the end, as he always said.

And yet, lately I had felt like he was more. I had found him cute when we were young, but as we grew up together he became my best friend, and I knew he felt the same about me.

Still, there we were, two young rebels alone in a romantic cabin with hormones and alcohol coursing through our systems.

The blush in his face wasn’t just from the heat or the amount of wine he had consumed. I could see in his eyes that he was seeing me in a way that had been making living together difficult as of late.

Previously, it had been agreed upon that we were best friends. However, lately, I had become so aware of him. Of how strong and muscular his arms and chest were and how handsome his smile was. Every time his dark eyes met mine, I got chills in the best possible way. More and more I was beginning to feel like he was my everything, and feelings like that were not supposed to exist in this world. They were too dangerous.

Yet, there we were, his hand coming up and brushing the hair out of my face, lips spreading into a smile. His voice whispered my name softly and his face leaned close to mine.

Without much thought, I did what I had wanted to for such a long time.

I’d never been kissed before, never much thought about it. Neither of us had, for that matter and I couldn’t help wondering if we were doing it right. It didn’t matter really, because what we were doing felt right.

It felt fantastic to be laying there, his lips against mine, noses awkwardly colliding every so often as we attempted to switch angles.

In the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop feeling a strange sense of disbelief that this was actually happening. Perhaps I was going to die soon, and this was some long forgotten god’s way of apologizing for all the shit I had been through. And if so, this was the best repayment I could think of.

Because there he was, hands fumbling over buttons as he attempted to find skin.

And there I was, my lips seeking refuge in the crook of his neck.

There is nothing quite as fascinating as the feeling of skin on skin. The first time you experience it, the shock of warmth and familiarity runs all the way from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Though foreign, the feeling is also so familiar. As if out of instinct, you find yourself seeking the warmth of the other person.

Clothes became scarce and we found euphoria in each other’s touch, his closeness intoxicating. It took me to a heaven I had never before so much as imagined. I lost and found my breath, nearly capsizing in a sea of passion. We were like two vessels lost in a stormy sea, the waves throwing us about, raising us far higher than we should have ever been and then crashing over us and driving us together.

My limbs tingled and we collapsed, sweat dripping off my brow and onto his chest, which rose and fell rapidly with his quick, ragged breaths.

And there we were, two young lovers brought together by the worst circumstances. But that didn’t matter now. All that mattered was the two of us, enjoying the feeling of each other’s embrace as a fire roared in the stone fireplace beside us.

It was just the two of us, in our little snow cabin, lost in something that people long ago would have likened love.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chapter 3: Welcome to the Family (Kiljoys)

“This isn’t technically our normal hideout,” Ghoul explained, setting their bags on the nearest cot. “We normally live in Zone 6. Unfortunately, before you guys showed up, we didn’t think the car was going to make it that far.”

Rhi was uncharacteristically silent for a moment, looking about the small room rather pensively. In reality, it was nothing special. Just a small room with two cots crammed inside and a few boxes of supplies lining the walls. However, to Rhi, it was a little piece of heaven, a small step toward something more permanent, something she and Al could call home.

“I’m sorry it’s not-" Ghoul began, misinterpreting her expression for one of disappointment.

“No,” Rhi and Al insisted in unison.

“It’s perfect,” Rhi assured him.

“We’re just happy to have real beds,” Al added.

The girls snickered at the honesty of the statement. It had been a good month since either of them had slept on anything slightly more comfortable than the ground. Compared to what they were used to, this might as well have been a luxury suite.

A smile found his lips and he nodded, looking relieved.

“You’re going to love the diner then,” he chuckled.

Running a hand through his messy black hair, he took a few steps toward the door.

“I’ll leave you guys to getting settled,” he said brightly. “See you at dinner.”

“Dinner?” Al repeated as he began to slip out the door.

“Yeah. Don’t tell me you’re not used to eating either.”

“Not as a group,” Rhi admitted. “None of the other groups-“

“We’re not like the other groups.”

As he slid out the door, Rhi could have sworn he winked, though she wasn’t sure. Shrugging it off, she turned to get a proper look at the small room. There were a few fliers on the walls for a show, which Rhi found rather entertaining. “Mad Gear and the Missile Kid”, they all read. “4 cents at the door. Don’t miss!”

“What do you suppose that is,” Rhi asked, unzipping her duffle bag and rifling through it, in search of God knows what.

“What?” Al asked.

“Mad Gear and the Missile Kid,” Rhi clarified, nodding at one of the brightly colored fliers

Al grabbed her bag off the first cot and threw it on the other, claiming it as her own.

“No idea,” she shrugged. “A band, I’m guessing.”

“I didn’t know they still had shows,” Rhi mused. “Al, we could see a show.”

“The band probably doesn’t even exist anymore. I’m pretty sure most bands have given up by now, Rhi.”

Nodding, Rhi shrugged off her coat, before continuing to dig through her duffle.

“We should ask at dinner,” she suggested, grabbing a very worn “Misfits” t-shirt out of the bag and sliding it on over her tank top.

“Go ahead,” Al shrugged, slumping onto the bed.  “Might as well have something to talk about over dinner. Other than your hideous amount of tattoos.”

“I do not have a hideous amount of tattoos. And I still think it is super weird that they have dinner together.”

Al shot her a glance that said let’s not get into this argument again, and laid back, staring at the ceiling.

“I think it’s cute. It definitely gives it a family sort of feel,” she mused.

“But they’re a rebellion,” Rhi objected.

“And rebels have to stick together. At least they make the effort for everyone to get along.”

“No other groups ever had family dinners.”

“Well the other groups also generally lived in bigger groups than this. Not to mention most of them had so much drama that there would have been no peaceful dinners.”

Shrugging, Rhi conceded the point and collapsed face first onto her bed with a sigh.

“Are you sure we’re cut out for this, Al?” she mumbled, pushing her bag onto the floor so that she could properly climb onto the bed.

Al made a disapproving sound at Rhi’s uneasiness, but offered a nod of reassurance.

“Of course we are,” she smiled. “We’re exactly what the Killjoys need.”

“And if they turn out to be dicks we can take ‘em,” Rhi snickered.

“Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that,” Al laughed. “But I did put Poison in his place, didn’t I?”

“You were a total badass,” Rhi assured her.

“I hope he doesn’t hate us after that. It was kind of-“

“We proved our worth.” There was an assertive finality in Rhi’s voice that was rather uncommon.  “That was what was asked of us, wasn’t it? Anyway, don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

Snickering, Al nodded.

“I’ll tell you you’re right if you promise to never use that phrase again,” she giggled.

Rhi laughed, but agreed nonetheless.

“The silly things you learn from the Undead Army,” she mused, burying her face in her pillow.

“Sometimes I wish I would have met them,” Al commented, rolling onto her side to face Rhi, who was nuzzling her pillow like a lover.

“They were pretty cool, but definitely not my scene. They were perfectly fine with letting BL/Ind take over, as long as they weren’t brainwashed in the process. “

“Sounds like a bit of a double standard.”

“You have no idea.”

For a while the girls were silent, taking in the events of the past day.  They were finally getting somewhere, after almost a year of uncertainty. Finally they had somewhere to sleep that wasn’t a prison cell or a their car.  

Smiling slightly at the thought, she stretched, watching the muscles of her forearm tense under the tattooed skin. The ink had been in her skin so long that she had nearly forgotten that the skin had, at one point in her life, been a normal color. However, the art that crawled up her arms and spread onto the rest of her body were as natural to her as the skin she was born in. Her entire life story thus far was illustrated in her skin, and plenty of room remained for more.

One of her most notable pieces caught her eye as she glanced over the inked skin. It was a slightly warped version of Van Gough’s “A Starry Night”, which had been her mother’s favorite painting, and now stood as a constant reminder on her bicep that she was different.

Unlike most, Rhi had never been subjected to BL/Ind propaganda as a child. Her parents had been artists, therefore they had avoided BL/Ind attempts to enforce conformity like the plague. When the Art Wars began in 2015, Rhi’s parents helped all they could from the sidelines. After all, they had four children to take care of, or else they would have likely been fighting on the front lines. Their three sons and young daughter had kept them from combat, but, unfortunately, hadn’t saved them from being ghosted all the same.

Shaking her head, Rhi tried to avoid thinking about her parents. She had loved them so much and her world had been torn apart when they were murdered. Had it not been for her older brother, she probably would have died with them.

There was a loud crash from downstairs that pulled her from her flashbacks.

“What the fuck?” she grumbled, glancing toward the door.

“Should we go see what’s going on?” Al asked, not sounding as concerned as she probably should have.

“Probably,” Rhi sighed. “Bring your gun just in case.”

“Obviously,” Al muttered, sliding off her bed and taking her ray gun from its holster.

Rhi mimicked her, taking the first few cautious steps toward the door. As she reached toward the door handle she could hear a few profanities being spewed in the garage below. Cautiously, she turned the handle, almost jumping when she saw Kobra standing there, arm raised as if he were about to knock. A look of equal surprise took Kobra’s face, and he tried to cover the squeak that escaped him with a cough.

“Hey,” he greeted, looking at his feet awkwardly. “Dinner will be ready soon.”

“What was that sound?” Rhi inquired, trying not to feel a bit awkward herself.

“Uh, I think Ghoul dropped something on his foot, which probably lead to him running into something else.”

He snickered a bit and the girls couldn’t help joining in.

“Does that happen a lot?” Al laughed.

“More often than he would like me to admit,” Kobra chuckled.

Breaking his gaze away from his feet, he looked up at them, the goofy smile still refusing to fade from his face. He looked at the two of them for a moment, his eyes drifting to their ray guns, which they were futilely trying to hide.

“We thought we were getting attacked,” Rhi explained, reading the confusion in his eyes.

Awkwardly, she holstered her gun, seeing a bit of skepticism take Kobra’s face as he watched her.

“I promise we weren’t planning some sort of sneak attack,” she giggled, trying to erase his uncertainty in the lightest manner possible.

Still, his gaze didn’t leave her hands.

“What?” she half demanded, feeling a bit uncomfortable under his gaze.

It took him a moment to respond, a smirk taking his lips as he looked her in the eyes.

“You have Batman on your arm,” he stated, almost laughing as he said it.

Relief washed over Rhi and she laughed a bit.

“Not Batman himself,” she said with a bit of pride. “Actually, it’s the Joker going to smash the Bat Signal. But-“ She turned her arm, so she could properly show him the scene that played out on her left forearm. “Spiderman is climbing up the building to stop him.”

A huge grin broke across Kobra’s face as he looked over her half sleeve.

“Is that-“ he began, pointing at Master Chief, who was aiming a shotgun at Jason Voorhees. For a while he looked over the tattoo, his face lighting up every so often when he noticed a character that he favored. Al rolled her eyes, holstering her gun and leaning against the doorframe looking rather amused. Finally, Kobra looked satisfied and thoroughly awed by the pictures in Rhi’s skin.

“We should probably go to dinner,” Al suggested, stopping him before he could even begin the excited babbling that was obviously forming in his throat.

This deflated him slightly and he nodded, seeming to come back to reality.

“Good call,” Rhi agreed. “Don’t worry Kobra, my ink isn’t going anywhere.”

Snickering, Kobra turned to lead them down the stairs, casting one last glance at Rhi’s arm.

“Did you design them?” he asked hopefully.

“Yeah,” she replied as they entered the garage. “All of it.”

“Wow. The guys are gonna be so impressed!”

The statement made Rhi swell with pride. Maybe this group was going to be easier to get along with than expected.

“Is everyone in to tattoo design?” It was hard to hide the excited curiosity in her voice.

“Not exactly. I mean, BOB’s a tattoo artist, so he is.”

“BOB’s a tattoo artist?” Al asked, sounding a bit surprised.

“Yeah. He’s awesome. I mean, he’s done all of Ghoul’s, which is pretty impressive. If they still had shops…”

He trailed off as they went through a side door and into the kitchen.

“Holy shit,” Al muttered, seeming to read Rhi’s thoughts, as she often did.

They found themselves standing in a large living area that looked like something out of Rhi’s wildly illogical dreams about living luxuriously. There was a well-equipped kitchen with a large stove and brick-fire oven built into the far wall. The counter top was spacious, and there was even a sink with running water, in which Poison was currently washing something that looked like lettuce. The thought of them actually having fresh vegetables seemed a bit illogical, but seeing as they actually had a functioning kitchen made anything seem possible.

To the left of the kitchen there was a dining room with a large, makeshift dining room table, surrounded by mismatched chairs. On the far wall sat an ancient television, surrounded by mismatched living room furniture.

Rhi was a bit stunned, though she tried to hide it; this place was unlike any hideout Rhi had visited. It wasn’t just a hideout; it was a home.

In other words, it was a rebel’s dream come true.

“We did what we could with what we had,” Kobra shrugged. “We aren’t usually here. Unless the car needs to be fixed.”

“Which means we’re here all the fucking time, lately,” BOB put in from the living room, where he was sprawled out on one of the couches.

“This is your back up base?” Rhi asked, clearly in awe.

“Sort of,” Jet replied, coming in the door behind them. “This used to be our main base. But the Dracs and that fruity bald guy caught us a few miles from here when they started upping the patrols of the Zones. We figured they’d get suspicious if they saw us around here too often. So we moved to Zone 6, seeing as no one ever really patrols there often.”

“We don’t mind coming back here, though,” Kobra added. “It’s pretty comfy.”

“Comfy?” Rhi echoed. “This place is heaven. What do you do with a kitchen that size?”

“Cook in it,” Poison grumbled matter-of-factly, throwing something into a pot of boiling water.

“That much seems obvious,” Rhi shot back, her good mood slightly dimmed by the presence of the angry red headed Killjoy.

She felt a hand on her arm and turned her head to see Ghoul standing beside her, giving her something of a warning look.

“Just because he let you stay doesn’t mean you should piss him off all the time,” he teased, filing past her toward the living room. “Especially not on Star Wars night.”

“Star Wars night?” Rhi repeated, but he was already in the living room, taking a seat by BOB’s feet on the couch.

Raising an eyebrow, she looked over at Al, who seemed distracted by the large brick fire oven.

With an unintentional shrug, Rhi wandered into the living room, collapsing into one of the large armchairs. It took all self control not to sigh aloud at how wonderfully comfortable the chair was, but her pleasure must have shown on her face because BOB and Ghoul shared a snicker as she sunk in to the cushions.

“What?” she demanded, her voice not quite managing to level of irritably she had been aiming for.

“Have you never sat in an armchair before?” Ghoul giggled.

“It’s been a good year since the last time I sat on a moderately comfortable chair,” Rhi sighed. “This is kinda like heaven.”

She settled into the chair, the fourth installment of the Star Wars movies catching her eye as it played across the television screen. Ghoul’s promise of Star Wars Night seemed to be true, making her new home seem even more perfect.

“Are we watching this tonight?” Rhi asked excitedly.

“We’re watching it right now,” BOB snickered. “We’re not gonna sit here with it on repeat all fucking night.”

Though sarcastic, Rhi knew the comment was good-natured. It seemed to be BOB’s nature to be sarcastic, just like it was hers. Therefore, she knew that his comment actually meant, “We’re refreshing our memories on this episode before watching the 5th one tonight.”

“That’s cool,” she smirked. “The Empire Strikes Back is awesome.”

A surprised look passed between Ghoul and BOB, making Rhi swell with pride.

“You’re fluent in sarcasm,” Ghoul observed, holding his fist out for The Pound. With a giggle, Rhi bumped her fist against his. “I approve,” he laughed.

“And she’s a comic book fan,” Kobra put in, sitting on the arm of the sofa beside BOB’s head. “Check out her arms.”

With a chuckle, Rhi held out her arms, even rolling up the right sleeve of her t-shirt to reveal her whole “Starry Night” scene, which had the Millenium Falcon flying out of the stars.  For a long while the Killjoys inspected her sleeves, BOB making the occasional comment about style and what he would have done differently. It made Rhi smile, to see them so enthused about her ink. There was a sense of pride in having people ogle over the ink in her skin. The pictures depicted various moments in her life, and the egotist in her couldn’t help feeling a bit smug as the boys admired them.

“You’ve got the Bouncing Souls heart!” Ghoul exclaimed, poking excitedly at her arm. “And the Misfits! We’re like…music twins!”

Rhi laughed, turning her right arm about to point out other music references that made up the bottom portion of her right sleeve.

“And here’s the Green Day heart grenade,” BOB gushed. “And the kid on the swing from The Offspring’s ‘Americana’ record…”

They continued on like this and Rhi noticed Al slip toward the kitchen. At first she seemed distracted by the large brick oven, but as she looked about, Poison took notice of her and said something that Rhi couldn’t read from across the room. Whatever it was, it made Al smile slightly and she nodded toward the oven, which Rhi guessed meant that she wanted to know how it worked.

“Maybe they won’t hate us after all,” she mused, the ambient babble about music and comic books lulling her into a rather unfamiliar feeling of security.

Chapter 2: Recovering the Opposable Thumbs (Killjoys)

Author Note: I refuse to let go of Bob. That is my disclaimer. Also, I’m sorry I had to make Gerard a bit of a dick for the scene to play out correctly. He isn’t always like this, I pinky promise.
They pulled up to an abandoned looking warehouse behind Jet and Kobra, who threw the pick up in to park and were out of the truck before Rhi had turned the El Camino off. Following the boys, they jumped out of the car and headed toward the warehouse.

“We have to go in through the back,” Jet said apologetically. “It’s kind of like company policy.”

Kobra snorted at this and lead the way around to the back of the warehouse. There was an open garage door that had likely been a loading dock at one point in the past. It now had a large ramp leading up to it that appeared to be retractable. Nodding for them to follow, Kobra began the ascent up the ramp.

Once inside, they found themselves in what looked like a mechanic’s garage. There were tools on a bench to their left and a large toolbox stood to the right with a brightly colored radio atop it, punk music blaring from the speakers. An old Trans-Am was parked in the center of the two with the hood popped. A blonde man came around the side of the car and nodded at them, turning to the toolbox as he did so.

“Hey,” he muttered, opening one of the drawers and beginning to dig through it.

“Hey Bob,” Kobra greeted.

“Who are your friends?” Bob asked, not actually seeming to care.

“Potential Killjoys,” Jet smiled. “We picked ‘em up on Route Guano in Zone 5.”

Nodding, the blonde man focused his attention on the tools as Kobra began telling him about the scouting they had just returned from. Though he didn’t seem overly involved in the conversation, it was obvious that he was listening, offering an occasional “Damn Dracs” as he continued to search the drawers.

“So,” Rhi quietly inquired, turning to Jet. “Why doesn’t he have a codename?”

“B.O.B is his codename,” Jet explained. “Well, it’s an acronym. His name is Bombs Over Brixton, but B.O.B is easier.”

Snickering, Al and Rhi nodded.

“Makes sense,” Rhi shrugged. “But I have to ask, why Brixton? Is it like-“

“The song Guns of Brixton,” B.O.B suddenly interjected.

He offered a smile as he dug through the drawer, obviously not finding what he was searching for.

“The Clash,” Rhi mused, a smile taking her lips. “My mom used to listen to them. I think I feel at home here already.”


The voice made Rhi and Al jump. A few moments later a rather short man with long dark hair came out from behind the car. A pair of aviator sunglasses held is hair out of his face and an unlit cigarette stuck out from between his teeth. Grabbing a rag off the toolbox, he wiped motor oil from his hands before turning to them.

“Oh, hey” he greeted a bit distractedly. “I didn’t hear you guys come in.”

Grabbing a lighter from his pocket, he lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply.

“That damn car,” he sighed, smoke billowing from his mouth. “I never know what the hell is wrong with it half the time. But somehow it magically decides to run again.”

“What’s wrong with it?” Rhi found herself asking.

It was a silly question, one that the answer to would be relatively meaningless, seeing as she had hardly any mechanical knowledge. It wasn’t that she thought she could help or offer any sort of useful insight; she simply wanted to hear him speak again. There was something about the man that stood in front of her that she found incredibly attractive. It was an awful realization and she wished that she could take it back. She couldn’t fuck this up again.

“It keeps stalling,” the dark haired man replied, scratching the back of his head as he took another drag from the cigarette.

Al shot Rhi a warning glance, telling her none too gently that she knew what was going on. Guiltily, Rhi bit her lips and shrugged.

“Maybe there’s air in the lines,” Al offered, trying to cover her friend’s tracks. “That’s what happened to the El Camino a while back.”

With a shrug, he went back behind the hood, taking the wrench that B.O.B had finally found with him.

“That’s Fun Ghoul,” Jet added after a moment. “He’s not usually so anti-social. I think he has been under a lot of stress lately. The car is becoming more trouble than it is worth sometimes.”

“And he’s the only mechanically savvy one?” Al guessed.

“Pretty much.”

“Sounds familiar.”

Giggling despite herself, Rhi glared over at Al, who simply stuck her tongue out in response. Jet laughed at this, though he tried not to do so noticeably, as if afraid the girls would be angry with him for laughing at their inside joke.

“I know a bit about cars,” Rhi defended. “Just not as much as you do.”

“Really?” Al challenged. “Prove it. Go help him.”

With a shrug, Rhi took a few cautious steps toward the car. Taking a deep breath, she mustered the courage to go around to where Ghoul was working behind the hood. In a few quick strides, she found herself standing next to the dark haired man, who was bent over the engine trying to unscrew something.

“Anything I can help with?” Rhi offered, doing her best to sound confident, despite feeling a bit lost as she stared into the mechanical mess that somehow made the Trans-Am run.

“Probably not,” he grumbled.

“Well, you said it kept stalling, right?” Rhi confirmed.

“Yeah. I think you’re right about air in the lines.”

“Well, that’s not how you fix it.”

For once, Rhi knew what she was talking about and that made her confident.

“Then how do I fix it?” Ghoul demanded.

He stood up and gazed at her rather smugly, as if confident she had no idea what she was talking about.

“Do you have any pure octane?” she patiently inquired, a smirk crossing her lips.


“Then mix that with some premium fuel. Rev the engine a bit to get it going and it should run alright until the lines get clear. It starts, right?”

“Yeah. It just stalls.”

“Get me the octane, then. We’ll put it in the tank so that the car runs with a higher-grade fuel, which should get everything flowing better. You may want to consider an oil change as well, if the car hasn’t had one in a while.  It really just takes a basic tune up, and then a bit of running to get everything flowing again.”

For a moment he stared at her, a smile beginning to creep onto his lips. After a moment he glanced over his shoulder at B.O.B.

“Hey, B.O.B,” he called. “Get me the octane.”

He looked her over in a mixture of bemusement and awe before smirking and outstretching his hand.

“I’m Fun Ghoul,” he smiled as she took his hand and shook it. “And you are-?”

“Radon Rhapsody,” Rhi replied. “My friend is Bullet Hail. We’re BL/Ind prison escapees looking for a new home.”

“Well, I think you may have found one,” he replied with a wink, making Rhi blush slightly.

B.O.B interrupted them, coming around the car with a yellow bottle of octane.

“Find the problem?” he inquired.

“I think so,” Ghoul replied, finally letting go of her hand. “Radon, here, is on top of things.”

Blushing, Rhi shrugged and watched him start the car’s tune-up.

Soon, the mechanical work was complete and Ghoul slid into the driver’s seat, glancing over at Rhi.

“Moment of truth,” he smirked.

“Trust me,” she nodded. “It will work.”

Rhi smirked over at Al and the others, who were watching intently.

The car roared to life and Ghoul revved the engine a bit, before backing the car out of the garage and into the parking lot below. Knowing the car would run fine; Rhi watched the car speed a few times around the lot and then back up the ramp.

“It runs,” Ghoul proudly stated as he emerged from the car. “I think there is still some air in the lines, but it didn’t stall when I backed out, so it’s better than it was.”

“Told you,” Rhi smirked. “So, are we Killjoys yet?”

“Not quite,” Kobra sighed. “Poison has to give the official word.”

A tense look passed between Ghoul and B.O.B and was quickly adopted by Kobra and Jet.

“Has he been in the office all day?” Kobra asked, obviously dreading confirmation of his question.

“New painting,” B.O.B confirmed. “It’s not going as well as he would have liked. I think he is hitting an artistic wall.”

“Bad mood?”


“He has to okay them,” Jet moaned.

“I’ll bring them,” Ghoul offered. “He usually trusts my judgment, even on his bad days.”

“Good luck,” Kobra snorted. “You girls better impress him.”

Rhi and Al exchanged nervous glances, not really sure what to expect of the Killjoy leader.

Motioning for them to follow, Ghoul led them to a door at the far end of the garage. For a moment, he paused before knocking lightly.

“What?” demanded a voice from inside.

Ghoul opened the office door a few inches.

“Poison? Can I talk to you for a minute?” he asked.

Through the door, Rhi and Al could see a small, shadowy room with papers tacked everywhere on the walls. At the largest of several desks in the room, they could see the figure of a man hunched over the desk with his back to them.

“What do you want?” the man muttered without turning around.

“Um… do you want to come out here for a minute?” said Ghoul, a touch nervously.

“Fine!” snapped the man, standing up and pushing his papers to the top of the desk.

As he walked into the brighter lights of the garage, it became evident that his hair was dyed a vivid, shocking fire truck red. When he reached the door, he noticed the two girls standing with Ghoul. He paused for a moment in the doorway with an incredulous look on his face before stepping out of the office and snapping the door shut. Regaining his composure, he looked at Ghoul rather coldly.

“I was going to ask you why you couldn’t just come in, but I suppose I understand now.”

Ghoul looked at him and nodded without saying anything.


“Radon, Bullet, this is Party Poison,” introduced Ghoul, gesturing to each of the girls in turn.

When Poison failed at shaking either hand that was outstretched to him, Ghoul continued.

“Poison, Radon and Bullet escaped from prison a few weeks ago and heard one of Dr. D’s transmissions while they were driving in the desert. They were… um… wondering if they could join us… become Killjoys.”

The silence after this announcement was not promising. Poison simply surveyed the two girls, dragging the silence out to the point of uncomfortable. Finally, when Rhi was about to check if she’d grown a third eye or something, he spoke.

“What makes you think you can be Killjoys?”

“Excuse me?” said Rhi, hoping she had heard this rude, blunt statement incorrectly, or at least misinterpreted it.

“You heard me. What makes you think you can just come in here and join us?”

Rhi was irritated by this stranger’s rudeness and obvious disregard for societal acceptability. Shaking Al’s restraining hand off her arm, she took a step toward Poison to answer.

“Who are YOU to even ask that question?” she snapped. “You have no idea what we’ve been through in the last few years. Who gave you the authority to question our abilities before you’ve even heard our story?”

“I am the leader of this group of Killjoys, and as such I have the right to monitor anyone who wants to join us,” Poison said coldly. “And honestly, I’m not impressed. A couple of prison breakouts, both girls, with no apparent skills except impressing Ghoul here, which isn’t terribly difficult.”

“Hey!” interjected Ghoul. “I have very high standards, thank you!”

“Regardless of Ghoul’s feelings,” continued Poison, “I don’t see why you don’t just go join the Crash Queens, and leave specialized groups like ours alone.”

“We’ve been with the Crash Queens, you idiot!” hissed Rhi. “We’ve been with all of the other groups! We just spent a year in death row, for supposed ‘crimes against the state.’ We spent years before that with different groups around the country, working toward the end of BL/Ind! Maybe if you weren’t such a complete asshole, you’d let us tell you our story before you judge, but as things stand—“

Rhi broke off as Poison grabbed her arm and spun her around.

“I think you should leave,” he said.

Rhi began to twist out of his iron grip, but before she could do anything, Poison had let go. Surprised, she turned around to see him lying on the ground, looking stunned, with Al’s booted foot on this chest and her ray gun in his face.

“Let me make a few things clear to you,” said Al, taking Rhi completely off guard. Usually, new people made her quiet, until she got a feel for their character, and this was no exception. Now, however, she was speaking as if to a slug she had found under her boot. “You will not ever give Radon or myself orders about what we are to do. We didn’t break out of prison to submit to the authority of someone like…” she sneered down at him, “…you. Moreover, you will never, ever touch Radon against her will, or I will personally tear your arms off. Last but not least, we are part of the Killjoy team, whether you like it or not, and we intend to be treated as such. Is that clear?”

Poison nodded cautiously. Al removed her boot from his chest and holstered her ray gun.

“Ghoul?” she asked.

“Yeah?” Ghoul said cautiously, looking nervous.

“Our stuff is still in the El Camino, but would you mind showing us where we can stay?”

Ghoul looked nervously at Poison, who gave him a curt nod, and, standing up, went back into the office without another word.

“Well, you may have pissed him off, but you sure as hell impressed him!"

Chapter 1: Desert Song (Killjoys)

They had been driving for what felt like weeks. It had probably only been a few days since they had left the sad remnants of Dead Wood, South Dakota, and headed into the desert in search of the source of a pirate radio transmission. Unfortunately, it had become very clear very quickly that the desert seemed to go on forever; a large barren wasteland that they would never escape.

The girl, Rhi, was near defeat. Not even the rock music blaring from the El Camino convertible’s old radio was making her feel better, which was rare. After traveling halfway across the country in desperate search of a rebellion that she wasn’t sure even existed, things were starting to look very bleak indeed and the circumstances were taking their toll on the usually optimistic rebel.

“This sucks,” Al sighed, taking the words right out of Rhi’s mouth as sher stared miserably at the desert wasteland. “Remind me why we don’t just go join the Dracs again.”

Rhi shot her a warning look, but she simply laughed it off.

“You know nothing will send me to that sort of desperation,” she snickered. “I was really just wondering why we were STILL driving through desert after all this time.”

“We live in a nuclear wasteland,” Rhi dryly remarked. “What else is there?”

With a shrug, Al conceded the point.

For a while, they continued to drive in silence, Rhi beginning to get the sneaking suspicion that their coordinates had been wrong, and they really were lost.

“Where are we are we, again?” she inquired, glancing at the GPS in Al’s hands.

Al adjusted her glasses, glancing down at the small screen.

“It says here we are about 20 or so miles from where I picked up that transmission,” the navigator replied. “We’re just supposed to follow this road into Zone 6, apparently.”

“And we’re in Zone 5 right now,” Rhi clarified.


“Good. We’ll be Killjoys soon, Al.”

“Yeah. If you don’t fuck it up for us again.”

Wincing, Rhi looked apologetically at her best friend. They had been together through so much since the Art Wars, trying to find their place among the rebel gangs that inhabited the now barren wasteland that had once been America.  It had been a long and trying journey, going from gang to gang, hoping to find something almost homelike. The Killjoys were their last hope, their only hope, and that hope was the only thing keeping Rhi’s foot planted firmly on the gas pedal.

Recalling their past brought Rhi a bit of pain. From first meeting Al during their time as Crash Queens, to their time as Rock N Rollers, to the brief few months they spent as Motorbabies, before…

Rhi’s brain seemed to stop in its tracks. What had gone on over the past year brought her physical pain at just the though of it. Thoughts of prison made her shiver as she recalled the awful conditions she and her companion had been living in for the past year. A year on Death Row in a BL/Ind prison was a worse fate than death itself, in her opinion.

Growling and shaking the thought from her mind, she reached for the pack of cigarettes in the ashtray.

“Hey!” Al yelled, slapping her hand. “We talked about this remember? No cigs unless it is-“

“Absolutely essential,” Rhi finished, reaching for the pack regardless. “Right now it is absolutely essential.”

“Were you thinking about…you know?”

“Yes. Now drop it.”

The words were a bit harsher than she had intended and she regretted it instantly when she saw her friend’s face go solemn.

“I’m sorry,” Rhi almost whispered. “It’s…”

“I know,” Al sighed. “I know. It’s hard. But things are gonna be better.”

A smile took Rhi’s face as Al handed her the lighter, squeezing her hand reassuringly as the object was passed

“It’s going to be fine,” Rhi agreed.

Al smiled, her focus returning to the road. Suddenly her eyes went wide and she sat bolt upright in shock.

“What the hell is that?” she shrieked, pointing at a figure in the distance.

Surprised, Rhi’s gaze shot up from her attempts to light the cigarette. It took her a moment to see what Al was pointing at. But sure enough, her quick witted friend had spotted potential danger. Maybe 50 yards ahead of them, a figure was leaning against the hood of a pick-up truck.

“Is it a Drac?” Al asked, grabbing her raygun from its holster.

“Can’t be,” Rhi muttered around the cig. “It’s got color on and no scary mask.”

She squinted against the desert sun, trying to figure out exactly what she was seeing.  As they neared the strange figure, she could see that he was a tall, thin young man, wearing sunglasses and reading some sort of book. He looked strangely calm and almost vulnerably oblivious, which put Rhi a bit on edge. It could be a trap. However, she highly doubted he was an enemy, considering the bright yellow, striped tank top he was wearing.

Trap or not, she slowed the car to a halt in front of the man regardless and smiled pleasantly at him.  He was rather consumed in his book and didn’t seem to notice them until Rhi cleared her throat.

His eyebrows furrowed at the sound and he looked up at them, scrutinizing them from behind his shades.

“Uh, hi,” he awkwardly greeted.

“Hi,” Al replied a bit hesitantly. “Whatcha reading?”

Looking a bit nervous, he glanced down at his comic book and then up at them.

“The Umbrella Academy,” he said, almost proudly. “It’s about superheroes…it’s really cool.”

For a moment he seemed to get lost in his imagination, then sniffed and awkwardly adjusted his sunglasses.

“Mind if I ask what you girls are doing out here?” he inquired after a moment, looking a bit uneasy.

“We’re looking for a gang,” Rhi honestly replied. “But it looks like you’re busy, so we won’t bother you.”

“Wait,” he insisted, his attention suddenly completely focused on them. “What gang?”

“The Killjoys,” Al smiled.

The man’s face lit up and he tried to hide his own smile.

“I’m a Killjoy,” he announced with a smirk, almost as if he were trying to look suave.

The girls exchanged a look, before staring a bit apprehensively at the man.

“Cool,” Al offered, though there was an apprehensiveness to her voice. “We’re looking for the source of a transmission we picked up earlier. Do you know where we could find Dr. Death Defying?”


Laughing a bit, he glanced over his shoulder at the pick up truck.

“Hey, Jet,” he called. “We got company.”

A head popped up in the back of the pick up, a mess of curly brown hair covering the man’s face momentarily.

“What?” the curly haired man yelled, clambering out of the truck. “Where did they come from?”

“South Dakota,” Al snickered under her breath, causing Rhi to laugh a bit as well.

“They’re looking for the Killjoys,” comic book boy explained. “They picked up one of Dr. D’s transmissions.”

“They picked up one of his transmissions?”

“That’s what they said.”

Al and Rhi exchanged glances, not sure what to think of their new acquaintances.

The curly haired man jumped out of the truck, shaking his giant afro-like mess of hair out of his face, and headed toward the El Camino.

“Can you just tell us how to get there?” Rhi sighed, sounding slightly annoyed despite attempts not to.

“We can lead you there,” the curly haired one offered. “We’re Killjoys. I’m Jet Star and this is Kobra Kid.”

“Nice to meet you,” Al pleasantly smiled. “I’m Bullet Hail and my friend is-“

“Radon Rhapsody,” Rhi interrupted. “Thanks for your help.”

Shifting uncomfortably, Rhi tried to bite back demands to make them hurry. Her short temper was getting the best of her under the hot desert sun and she had to make an effort to bite back her snide remarks. As Al had said earlier, they didn’t need her to fuck this chance up for them. It was their last hope.

“I’m going to go tell Poison that we’re heading back,” Kobra said, giving them a nod farewell before heading toward the pick up.

For a moment they three of them watched him jog back to the truck, comic book in hand. It made Rhi smile a bit as she thought of getting to know her new acquaintances better, seeing as they would, hopefully be in the same group. Though awkward, Kobra seemed very nice, as did Jet.

“So what were you guys doing out here?” Rhi asked, turning her attention to Jet.

“Not a lot,” Jet shrugged. “Mostly keeping look out. There has been a bunch of Drac activity lately and we were curious as to what they were up to. You know, normal scouting stuff.”

“So activity isn’t very common out here?”

“I wouldn’t call it uncommon. It’s just not usually like this.”

“Increased activity usually means they’re planning something,” Al added.

“That’s what we’re afraid of,” Jet nodded, turning his attention to the pick up.  “Looks like Kobra’s ready to go. Follow us and we’ll get you to Dr. D”

With that he headed back to the truck, leaving Rhi smirking at Al.

“This is it,” she whispered, feeling butterflies build in her stomach.

The truck roared to life, Jet taking his place in the passenger seat and signaling for Kobra to go. A cloud of dust billowed behind them as the truck shot down the road. Biting her lip, Rhi threw the car into gear and took off after them.

It was time to become a Killjoy.

Intro: The Familiar Feeling of Radio Waves (Killjoys)

“Look alive, sunshine.”

The voice on the radio brought a smile to the girl’s face as she settled on the station.

“109 in the sky, but the pigs won’t quit. You’re here with me, Dr. Death Defy. I’ll be your surgeon, your proctor, your helicopter, pumping out the slaughter-matic sounds to keep you live.”

“I’m going to need a trace on this, Al,” the girl announced, turning up the volume.

“Why?” Al asked, recognizing the urgency in her friend’s tone and slightly fearing the potential danger it usually lead to.

“ A system failure for the masses! Anti-matter for the master plan. Louder than God’s revolver and twice as shiny.”

The smile on the girl’s face grew and her friend, Al, raised an eyebrow.

“What is this?” she demanded.

Putting a finger to her lips, the girl pointed at the radio.

“This one’s for all you Rock ‘n Rollers, Crash Queens, and Motor Babies.”

The devious smile that had completely consumed the girl’s features had Al a bit on edge. In the past, that look had lead to nothing but trouble on numerous occasions. Though right now, all she wanted was a simple radio trace, the smile gave away deeper intentions.

“Listen up! The future is bullet proof! The aftermath is secondary! It’s time to do it now and do it loud!”

“This is a renegade station,” Al sighed. “Why do you need this traced? How am I supposed to trace it?”

The girl shook her head and pointed a gloved finger to the large machine in front of them, still staring intently at the radio.

“Killjoys, make some noise!”

With a squeal, the girl jumped out of her chair, throwing her hands up in victory.

“We’ve found them!” she screamed.

“Found who?” Al insisted, beginning to sound a bit annoyed.

“The Killjoys,” the girl sighed. “They’re the most prominent rebellion force out here. With our help, they could really make a statement.”

“You’re speaking in riddles. We’re in the middle of the desert and wanted for treason. What kind of statement can we make?”

The girl sighed and her sense of hope seemed to fade a little.

“Honestly, Al, they’re our only hope. If we don’t find the Killjoys, we’re likely to be running forever.”

Al nodded solemnly, turning to the ancient computer on the desk in front of her.

“I’ll get right on that trace,” she muttered.