How to Be a Werewolf

The adventures and misadventures of Jay Capistrano.

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How to Be a Werewolf

Post by Capistrano » Tue May 22, 2012 6:50 pm

There was a time when my world was filled with darkness, darkness, darkness
And I stopped dreaming now I'm supposed to fill it up with something, something , something.

May 7, 2012 R.S.C.

Jay woke up with a splitting headache, covered in hay, and surrounded by shreds of his clothes and shed gray fur. He could smell the sweat and *** of barn animals – cows? No, horses, if the whickering sounds were any indication. They seemed to have heard him wake, and they seemed to have realized he was bad news, as panicked whinnies filled up the barn. He brushed some of the hay out of his eyes, put his hands out to feel what ground was beneath him, and tried to clear his vision. He yelped, inadvertently, as he put pressure on his broken right wrist, and the horses got louder. He heard running, the barn door being flung open, and a farmer rushing in to soothe his creatures. Jay hid beneath the hay once more.

“Hey! Hey you! Yeah, I know you’re in here somewhere. I gotta shotgun here with your name on it. Come out nice and peaceful and I won’t fill you fulla buckshot.” The farmer was pacing up and down the center of the barn, alternating gentle words with the horses with threats for whoever was hiding in his barn. “The last rustler who came by here left missing most of his guts. You want that? I’m not leaving until you come out.”

Jay crawled out from under the hay pile, biting his lip from the pain of his broken wrist, and darted from support to support to hide from the farmer while the man’s back was turned to him. Jay waited until the farmer was just about directly below him, but facing the opposite direction, and leaped down from the loft onto the straw-covered dirt. The farmer had just enough time to turn in Jay’s direction and begin to raise his shotgun before Jay decked him in the face, spinning him into a wooden post. The man dropped the rifle, and as he reached to grab it, Jay stomped on his wrist, crushing it. The farmer cried out, before Jay punched him again and knocked him unconscious. The horses began to scream, as Jay quickly began stripping the man of clothing. Overalls, jeans, and a white t-shirt yellowed by age and sweat. It would have to do until he found better clothes elsewhere. Jay also took a set of keys from the farmer, before exiting the barn. He’d take what he needed to get back to town, and nothing more.


He downed what seemed like a half a bottle of Tylenol from the farmer’s medicine cabinet, chased it down with several mouthfuls of cheap whiskey, and stole some coins from the man’s coin purse. Just enough to get him back to his apartment, once he was in the city. After tossing the man’s keys on the table, he left the farmhouse and began the long walk back to the city. After he had passed through the south gates, and walked a block into the city, he hailed a carriage and gave the driver an intersection a couple of blocks from where he actually lived. No need to risk stumbling right into the guard’s clutches…

When the carriage pulled up to the appointed stop, he didn’t see or smell any guards in the area, but there was another familiar scent that had him gnashing his teeth. Candy. Part of him thought he should be happy, that she was alive, that he hadn’t killed her, but the Wolf knew why she was in the vicinity of his apartment. She’s here to kill you, Jay. And your wrist is still broken. Jay paid the driver with the farmer’s silver, leaving enough to make phone calls with. He headed south, in the opposite direction of his apartment, then cut east once he was a few blocks down, and Candy’s smell had dissipated. He stopped whenever he saw a phone booth, making quick phone calls to a variety of sources, and then leaving as soon as the call was finished, moving on to the next closest phone. He ignored the looks of passers-by who saw him cradling the swollen, limp right wrist. There was business to complete.

First, he called Fresher Mat. He barely even listened to the voice answering on the other end of the line, simply spitting out the words, “Tell Candy Jay is dead,” and then hanging up the phone before the other person could respond. Next on his call list was the guard.

“Southgate Precinct Guard Station, this is Sergeant Owens,” a clipped male voice replied. Jay thought to try and disguise his voice, then abandoned the idea.

“I know who killed Harper Hollick.” Jay heard silence on the other end for a second, furtive whispers between two people, and then the frantic sounds of someone searching for pen and paper.

“Go on.”

“Candy Hart.”

“How do you know-“ Jay pushed down the coin return lever, disconnecting the call, and moving on to the next booth and call.

“Doc, I need the name of a clinic that'll see me, no questions asked."

“This have anything to do with Candy's visit last night?” Doc asked, stern, and Jay slammed the receiver onto the hook and nearly took the booth apart with his bare hands before he remembered one was broken and that he was in public. He was going to have to handle the broken wrist himself, but he dashed the thought away. He had one more phone call to make.

“Tone? It’s the Dude. I quit.” Again, he didn’t wait for a response from his former boss before hanging up. He paused on the sidewalk, to get his bearings on where exactly his walking tour had taken him, and to figure out how to get back to his apartment. Maybe Candy had left by now…


She hadn’t. He could still smell her, the unmistakable scent of leather and sweat and blood and motorcycle grease. He stood on the sidewalk, two blocks from his apartment, and felt like he was a galaxy away from there. The Tylenol and alcohol had worn off, and the dull ache in his wrist now felt more like stabbing pains. He needed to go to a healer. He turned around again and wandered in his neighborhood, once a familiar place, and it seemed like another world entirely. Had she been to the bodega, where he bought six-packs of Badsider on lonely weekend nights to drink in his apartment while smoking cigarettes and staring at the wall? What about the market, where the kindly owner sometimes wouldn’t charge him for a bunch of bananas he had in his basket? Or the local diner, the one where old men sat on Sunday mornings drinking coffee, reading newspapers, and gossiping about their sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters? The one he’d been meaning to go to but never found the time to visit? He knew he would have to leave – he would never see any of those places, or those people, again. He flung himself shoulder first against the door of the neighborhood healer’s, and flopped onto a couch in the front room, waiting for the secretary to send him back. Jay could wait. There was nothing else he could do now but wait.
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Worldly Possessions

Post by Capistrano » Tue May 22, 2012 6:52 pm

In your eyes I see the eyes of somebody I knew before long long long ago.

May 7/8, 2012 R.S.C.

Getting healed cost Jay the rest of the day. The healer had taken one look at his hand and nose, noticed the rest of the wounds from his fight Friday that had been reopened Sunday and were slowly healing back up again, and sent him off to a hospital. Jay was about to complain, but the pain in his hand was growing to be too much to handle, and the man seemed insistent that he wouldn’t help. Jay pled poverty, and the healer had begrudgingly gotten him a free carriage to the hospital.

Part of him balked at the prospect of spending the night there, but the doctors there were quite adamant that he stay, once they saw the extent of his injuries, both fresh and old. At least here, with a fake name and some semblance of hospital security, he had a chance of avoiding the guard. Or Candy. Getting fed at dinner time was a nice bonus. His last meal had been dinner yesterday, and he was so hungry that even lukewarm fake mashed potatoes, corn niblets drenched in butter, and turkey slices drizzled in thin gravy were appetizing.

As soon as the doctors would discharge him, Jay left, with a sling on his right arm, a forearm cast on his right hand, cotton up his nose, and fresh bandages on his physical wounds. They told him to take it easy for the next week or so, but as soon as he had walked out of their sight, he pulled out the cotton and broke into a sprint for his house. He was out of money for a carriage, but he still had the large purse from his fight on Friday waiting for him in his apartment.

He knew something was wrong as soon as he opened the door to his building. It made sense that he could smell Candy outside, where she had been waiting for him, possibly for the last day or so. It made sense that the smell had dissipated some. But when he smelled her inside his building, he tensed up. He ran up the flights of stairs that led to his apartment, and grimaced when he saw his apartment door. It was shut, but it wouldn’t shut fully. Someone had tampered with the lock. Candy. Stealth wasn’t one of his best skills, but he tried his best to open the door quietly, only realizing when he stepped inside his apartment that running up the stairs would have been a dead giveaway for her. It didn’t matter. She wasn’t in the kitchenette, she wasn’t in the living room, and she wasn’t in the bathroom. What was she doing- Jay dropped the thought and rushed into his bedroom, dropping onto his belly and crawling under his bed to retrieve the box with his money. As soon as he began dragging it out, he knew it was all gone, but he kept pulling the too-light box out until it was fully in view. He opened it, and there was nothing left inside. Jay punched the box, and then stomped on it until it was flattened. He tore through his apartment, trying to figure out what else was missing. What else did he really have though? What little food he had was still in his cupboard. Nothing had been touched inside the refrigerator. After a thorough and angry search, the only other things missing were a pack of cigarettes and one of his t-shirts.

Resources. She’s burning you out, smoking you out. You lose everything, it’s harder to hide.

Well, she doesn’t know how good I am at living on nothing.


Jay packed a backpack and a few large black garbage bags full of everything he owned that conceivably had value and could be carried with him. He ate as much of the food left in his apartment as he could in one sitting without getting sick, and threw the rest away. He taped his keys to the door of his apartment, along with a note written in Sharpie with a simple message for his landlord: SORRY. Jay couldn’t tell the man why he was going away, but he figured the man would understand anyways. This was RhyDin. People vanished all the time. He’d pocket the deposit check, find another person to move into the apartment, clear out the old furnishings, and maybe even vacuum the carpet.

His next stop was Cheeky’s, to sell what he could sell and buy what he could buy with what he earned. The store was as disorganized as ever, and Cheeky was as off-kilter as ever, spinning around with a mop for who knows what reason. Jay took a look around at the tchotchkes, ironic t-shirts, and slim cut jeans and felt wildly out of place. The merchandise had changed, but it didn’t’ really feel any different, and the customers were the same hip-to-death early 20s college students spending their parents’ money on old camcorders and tacky turquoise jewelry to wear ironically. It felt like he was the only one who had changed. He just wanted to hurry up and get the hell out of there, but the line at the trade-in desk was moving slowly, and was six deep by the time Jay had fallen into place.

A 20 minute wait in line, another five minutes or so for the associate to look over his things, assign value, and write up a credit slip, and that was all she wrote for a year’s worth of Jay’s possessions. His clothes – mostly t-shirts, jeans, sweatshirts, a jacket or two, and skate shoes – got coppers on the silvers he had spent for them originally. His CD player, the handful of discs he had for it, and his old, custom-made mace and shield (beat up as they were) got Jay a little better return. Now, with the trade-in complete, it was time to gather what he needed – and what he could afford. He had kept enough clothing to stay presentable, if not respectable. There was logic to what he grabbed, even if it couldn’t be seen by the average person. A gas mask. A crowbar. A sleeping bag. A can of neon orange spraypaint. He handed over his credit slip, and received some coppers back with his goods.


With his worldly possessions on his back, in his backpack, in his hands, and on his face, Jay went to work. He prowled through the city, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and gas mask despite the weather, along with a pair of plain blue jeans and black tennis shoes. In big, orange, capital letters, he spray-painted the following message on every billboard, bulletin board, corkboard, and place of public display he could find and get to in the city:

LCS CAD. 5/10

Once he was confident he had hit every spot that she might be able to see, he ran off to the Glen. For the next few months, the great outdoors was going to be his home.
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Ghost Town

Post by Capistrano » Tue May 22, 2012 6:53 pm

But I'm still trying to make my mind up
Am I free or am I tied up?

May 10, 2012 R.S.C.
Last Chance Saloon, Cadentia

Cadentia was a ghost town, and it reminded Jay of the Wild West ghost towns his dad always talked about, and occasionally took the family to visit. Both they and Cadentia were filled with sand, wooden buildings that barely seemed able to stand on their own, and remnants of a world that had long since moved on. In some ways, Cadentia felt even more picked over than those old mining towns back home. There, you might find an old snake oil bottle buried in sand by a building that was once a pharmacy, or a rusted and sand-blasted straight razor by the old barbershop. In Cadentia, there wasn’t even a hint of those artifacts, or faded signs on buildings indicating the businesses they once held. There was a sense that the scavengers had long since cleaned the town out of what little value it had left, packed their things, and left, never to return. The only thing really remaining from Cadentia’s glory days was the Last Chance Saloon.

Even the saloon had seen far better days, though. One of the batwing doors was missing, and the other hung lopsided on the hinge, threatening to fall off at any moment. The stairs leading up to the bar’s porch had partially rotten out, and no one had bothered to replace them yet. Inside, nearly every surface in the bar was coated in a film of dust – tabletops, chairs, the piano, the bar, and even the bottles of liquor behind the bar. The saloon lamps hadn’t been cleaned in some time, and were coated in black smoke. In some places, the wood walls were bare and visible, while in others, cigarette-yellowed wallpaper peeled off the wall, the original pattern impossible to detect. As usual, there was no staff working at the saloon, nor was there any sign that anyone had worked there in the last week or so. Jay sat at a table in a front corner of the building, back to the wall, watching the entrance. There were no other customers present, but Jay still wore his usual Dreamwalker disguise, albeit altered somewhat for the weather: gas mask, white t-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes. His crowbar lay across the table.

Astrid gave the remaining batwing door a hip bump, and it creaked and swayed as she stepped inside. After a few steps, she turned right, then left, spotted Jay, and cracked a crooked smile as her walk became more of a strut. She was wearing a brown duster coat and low-cut vest over a white blouse, but tailored to flatter her figure and make up for the drab colors.

“I know we both like warm weather, love, but this is somewhat ridiculous.” She pointed at the mask he wore. “Particularly that. We’ve no secrets. Why do you insist on wearing that?”

“Old habit,” he said, voice muffled by rubber and glass. “Or a reminder this is business, not pleasure.”

“It’s never pleasure with you,” she replied, biting the tip of a fingernail. She then took a seat at the table, elbows down and hands folded together. “By the way, I should thank you for making your request so…public. Explaining to my guardsman that there were almost certainly other women named Astrid in the city was a fun conversation.” She rolled her eyes, and Jay thought he could see the blood vessels, but it was just for a moment, and then her rich brown eyes were back. No black, he thought to himself. His eyes, hidden behind the mask’s lenses, flicked across her skin. Her skin’s not yellow-ish, either. I still can’t see through her.

But you can smell her. Jay’s mask was more for show than it was for filtering out poisons or pollution, so he could still smell normally, although everything had an odor of plastic and rubber coating it. Still dead flowers. Still sulfur. Still the same.

“Whatever,” Jay said, head tipping down to his crowbar for a moment. Astrid saw it, and her nostrils flared.

Don’t.” Her voice became slightly distorted and deeper, and for a second, the black in her brown eyes came back. Then, as if nothing had happened, she smiled, and her voice returned to normal. “If I am not heard from in 24 hours, I have contingency plans in place, my dear. You may be able to hide from the police, from your family, from the guard, but even you cannot hide from Hell itself.”

“Sorry.” Jay turned off to the side as he apologized. “I’m not here to kill you.”

“Good. I would hate to have to break the other arm.” She nodded at the cast and sling he wore. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this business meeting, then? Have you reconsidered my offer?”

“I need information. Information your guardsman probably has.”

Astrid smirked, leaning across the table to touch one of Jay’s hands. Jay recoiled, and she pulled back, rubbing her own hands instead. “Luckily for you, I had an inkling as to the reason for this business call. Your dearly departed neighbor?”


She looked away from him, studying the wall of untouched alcohol. “Why should I tell you anything, Jay? You have made it abundantly clear that we are enemies, nemeses even. You have turned down my generous offer on not one, but two occasions. Wait.” She paused, turning back to look him up and down. “Let…me…guess. You turned, didn’t you?” Jay said nothing, and the mask hid his features, but Astrid smirked anyways. “Fine, don’t tell me. I will just assume that you have. And that, as they say, means that I am holding all the cards now. The old deal is off the table. We shall have to discuss a new one. That is, of course, assuming you are ready to deal with devils once more.”

“What do you want?” Jay asked through gritted teeth.

“What do you want?” she shot back, with added emphasis.

“I want to know what the guard knows. The evidence they have. Investigation notes. Suspects. Anything to resolve it, clear my name for good.”

“It will take time and…cajoling to get an evidence list. The same for the investigation notes. A suspect list? That, I can give you-”


Wait,” Astrid said, chiding him for interrupting her. “I can give you in exchange for a favor. There is a drug dealer operating out of the WestEnd and Badside who my guardsman has been trying to…encourage to leave the neighborhood. He calls himself the Milkman. The Makos leave him alone because what he sells does not overlap with their inventory, but…Milkman’s dope is too pure for those sinful junkies, and the guard is tired of consoling sobbing mothers. Milkman’s good. He insulates himself with other street trash, never makes a sale himself, and there’s no solid evidence to pin on him, so the guard has been unable to arrest him. And, of course, the guard does not have the resources to shake down every pusher, nor do they want to deal with the legal ramifications of such behavior. A well-placed vigilante, though…”

“I get it, I get it.”

“Persuade him to leave. We don’t much care if he’s walking or crawling, but he needs to be breathing at the least. Murder is harder to sweep under the rug than assault and battery.”

“Okay. I’ll do it. Now tell me what I want to know.”

Astrid leaned across the table, as if preparing to whisper into his ear, and then leaned back. “Here’s what I can tell you now, job incomplete. As they say, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that you are still a person of interest. They have no physical evidence, of course, that ties you to the murder scene, but you were the one to find the body and you did live in close proximity to the victim. The good news is there is another person of interest. Candy Hart. A dueler-“

“I know who she is,” Jay growled, as anger flashed through his brain. Calm, calm, Jay told himself.

“Oh? How do you know her?” She couldn’t see his face, but she watched his posture in his seat stiffen.

“…Ex,” he spat out, before slumping back in his chair.

“Then you must be the jealous ex-“

“She told me she killed him.” Jay stood up abruptly and began walking for the door. “Meet me in one week outside the Star’s End Bar.”

“Of course. And Jay?” Astrid asked the question just so she could get Jay to turn around, and she smirked slightly when he did so, before letting the smile drop. “Be careful.”

Jay snorted, and slammed a shoulder into the remaining batwing door as he left, knocking it off the hinge.
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The Milkman, Part 1

Post by Capistrano » Tue May 22, 2012 6:54 pm

There is a hole and I tried to fill up with money, money , money
But it gets bigger till your horse is always running, running, running

May 17, 2012 R.S.C.
Star’s End Bar, Front

Jay sat in front of the Star’s End Bar, on the curb, smoking a cigarette and waiting for Astrid. He didn’t wear the gas mask and hooded sweatshirt, and he wasn’t carrying his crowbar, but he was still in disguise. He had bleached his hair surfer blonde and left it unwashed, so it was dull, greasy, and stuck up in random places on his head. He also hadn’t shaved, and had a rather scraggly beard on his face as a result. His clothes, though, were much the same. Black t-shirt, ripped up jeans, black tennis shoes, and a pair of cheap sunglasses to hide his eyes. He still had a cast on his arm, but didn’t bother with the sling. Watching the cars drive by – and by God, they were cars, not carriages or carts or horse-drawn buggies – made him almost feel like he was back on Earth. Until a chromed-out car hovering a few inches above the pavement pulled into a parking spot on the street a few cars up from where he was sitting, with the exiting driver sporting obviously cybernetic eyes that rolled and spun in their sockets in ways no human eyes could. A pang of homesickness washed over him, and in a sick way, he was glad when Astrid finally showed up.

She dressed like she had when he first saw her in RhyDin. She wore a gray hooded sweatshirt, jeans, and black leather Doc Martens. She had rimmed her eyes in kohl, and wore dark red lipstick. She looked like a scene kid, and he felt another wave of homesickness when he thought about all the scenes he’d left behind on Earth. He wanted to hug her, and at the same time, he wished she was dead.

“I heard the good news from my guardsman. My, but you are thorough. A dozen pushers arrested, with various bones broken? All of them robbed – of their money. Not their drugs. You wouldn’t happen to be broke now, would you, Jay?” She plopped down beside him, resting a head on his shoulder, and he couldn’t push her away.

“Candy…stole my money from the fight. The big one. Would’ve been set for the summer. That…starts to make up for it.”

“Now, Jay, don’t make justifications for my sakes,” she said, rubbing her nose into his neck. Astrid’s sickly sweet smell, mixed in with fire and brimstone, assaulted his nostrils.

“Please…stop,” Jay said weakly. She pouted, kissed him on the neck under his ear, and pulled away from him.

“Oh, fine. Since you’re so keen on business, business we shall discuss.”


May 11, 2012 R.S.C.

Jay hoped to God he didn’t look like Kurt Cobain. It would have been too much irony for him to take, if he had to pretend to be a junkie while looking like that. Jay looked down at his arms and legs, shaking his head. No, I don’t think I’m thin enough for that. I don’t think I’m thin enough for a junkie. But his hair was messy and freshly dyed blond, he was sporting heavy stubble on his chin and sideburns were starting to grow in, and he’d stolen some clothes out of a donation bin that had clearly seen better days. A red flannel shirt with cigarette burns near the bottom and a pair of jeans that swam around his hips. It had been tricky pulling the shirt over his cast, and he kept having to pull up his jeans after every few steps, but that was the price he paid for the disguise. I just gotta get close to them. Gotta have that dead-eye stare. He walked around the neighborhood aimlessly, letting his hands shake and his eyes dart shiftily from person to person, and soon enough, he found who he was looking for.

The kid wasn’t even out of his teens yet. It was a warm day, but he still wore a black sweatshirt with the hood up, hiding his face from anyone who wasn’t close to him. His eyes were sunken in, surrounded by dark rings, and he smoked a cigarette with barely concealed boredom. Jay walked up to him, pretending to stumble as he got closer.

“Hey, man,” Jay said, putting on his best surfer drawl. Inwardly, he winced at his exaggerated accent, but it was the best he could think of on short notice.

“Yeah?” The kid fixed Jay with suspicious eyes that occasionally darted away towards the street.

“You got any milk, man?” Jay itched his arm, partially in imitation of the junkies he’d seen in movies and partially because the shirt chafed. The kid hissed at him.

“Wrong person,” he said, loud enough so that anybody nearby could hear.

“I’m sick, though, man. I need it.” The scratching moved up to his face, and Jay sniffed loudly, rubbing his nose on his sleeve. The kid took a few steps closer to whisper.

“Follow me.”

The two of them walked together a couple of blocks, to an alley off of a nearby side street. Five minutes later, one person exited the alley. The red flannel did a nice job hiding the blood on his shirt.
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The Milkman, Part 2

Post by Capistrano » Tue May 22, 2012 6:55 pm

May 16, 2012 R.S.C.

Jay had to give the Milkman credit for one thing. His dealers may have been stupid, may have been too trusting and too willing to take risks to sell drugs to someone they had just met wandering on the street, but they didn’t spill the beans on where their leader was located, even after Jay had broken several noses, ribs, and wrists to get them to talk. As the Dreamwalker, Jay had never really been a detective, and had never really had much reason to interrogate anyone. He was reactive. He stumbled upon enemies in others’ dreams, and he fought them there, or tracked them back to where they harassed sleepers. If he needed information, he could always pull it straight from the dream. Those tactics didn’t work in the real world, even after he’d bashed his way through a half-dozen drug dealers.

The first two or three were easy, but the Milkman got smart once more and more of his men were turning up in alleys or at guard stations bloodied or unconscious. They started carrying weapons: clubs, knives, guns. It didn’t help. Even one-armed with a broken wrist, Jay was too fast and too strong for them. Every time, he took their money, and every time, he left the drugs behind. But not before he got a good whiff of them.

Each dealer he took out gave him a better idea of what the Milkman’s place must smell like. The drugs, the cologne he wore (something overly musky), and the materials it was built out of (some kind of marble?). It was easy enough for Jay to find the small, old bank office the Milkman had apparently set up shop in. A one story branch with large glass doors and windows in the front, the back of the building was plain, save for the electronically alarmed door. They appeared to be pretending to be a legitimate bank, though the customers who came through were rough-and-tumble types, not businessmen or even typical RhyDin citizens. He had picked the right neighborhood to set up shop; across the street were the remnants of a commercial building that had burnt down, and the only other occupied building on the block was a small occult bookstore that never seemed to be open. Jay climbed up to the top of one of the still-intact but abandoned buildings, tossed his sleeping bag on the roof, and watched the Milkman’s hideout.

Jay got to know the Milkman’s schedule. The car pulled up around 8 a.m., and he got out with two body guards in black suits, and the car drove off. The Milkman preferred gray or navy suits, usually pinstriped, and he slicked his black hair back with gel. Sometimes he left for lunch at noon, accompanied again by the bodyguards, sometimes he didn’t. At five p.m., the same car pulled up, the Milkman walked out with his guards again, and they drove away. It was almost too easy. Maybe the man was new to RhyDin?

When closing time came Wednesday, the Milkman was understandably paranoid. A week’s worth of having your dealers beaten and robbed did that to a person. Today, he came out of the bank with three guards, two with guns and one with what looked like a sword scabbard on his side, sticking out oddly against the black of his suit. Tomorrow Jay had to report to Astrid. This was his best chance.

When it came closer to closer time this day, Jay had climbed down from the roof, and hidden himself across the street. When he heard the car pull up, he jumped out and sprinted toward the vehicle, wearing his gas mask and sweatshirt and wielding a crowbar. The element of surprise had worked in his favor. The guard with the sword shouted and pulled the Milkman back inside the bank, while the guards with guns stood with mouths agape, slow to draw. Jay paid them no mind, instead smashing in the driver’s side window and pulling out the driver before he could do anything. The man cried out as the glass cut him, but Jay silenced him with a hard punch to the face. One of the guards tried to get clever, diving across the hood of the car like he was in a cop show, and it gave Jay plenty of time to line up a vicious crowbar swing to his midsection right as he was about to land. He fell hard against the asphalt, only managing to get up onto his hands and knees before Jay dropped him for good with another swing to the head. How the hell did the Milkman guy get this far? Jay thought to himself, as he waited for the other guard to make his move. He’d apparently realized that running head first at someone with a melee weapon when holding a gun was a bad idea, but he couldn’t get a bead on Jay, who was ducked behind the front of the car near the tire.

“If you leave now, I won’t hurt you,” Jay shouted, though the rubber mask muted the volume.

“*** off, buddy.”

“I gave you a chance.” Jay grabbed the driver by his collar and, one-handed, threw him over the car. While the flying body distracted the guard, landing near him, Jay spun around the front of the car towards the side nearest to the curb and the one remaining guard. The man tried to get a bead on Jay once he was in sight, but Jay growled and sprung forward. The gunshot deafened Jay momentarily but missed him, and there he made sure there wasn’t another one. He knocked the guard over with his flying tackle, and smashed him twice in the face with the crowbar until he was out cold.

The guard with the sword and the Milkman had locked the front door, but Jay could see them running back towards the vault, with another pair of guards heading in his direction. He bashed the glass on the doors until it shattered into sheets, stepping through and smashing his cast into the nose of the first guard to meet him. The second guard tried to draw a stun baton, but Jay snapkicked him in the stomach, sending him doubling over, and a crowbar blow to the back of his skull dropped him like a rock. Now, Jay ran for the fleeing guard and Milkman. Realizing Jay was too fast and was going to catch up, the guard pushed the Milkman behind him and drew his sword.

“Leave him to me, and I won’t hurt you,” Jay said.

“Ain’t happening, buddy.”

“Your loss.” Jay smacked the business end of the crowbar against his cast and grinned ferociously, before springing forward towards the guard with a growl. He saw the fear in the Milkman’s eyes, the disbelief in the guard’s – how could he move this fast? – and he knew he was going to win this fight. The only question left was how bad he should hurt the Milkman.


May 17, 2012
Star’s End Bar, Front

Astrid applauded, sarcastically, after Jay walked her through the fight at the Milkman’s headquarters.

“Congratulations. You managed to take down a small potatoes drug dealer with maybe two dozen people working for him, who the Makos left alone because they realized he was so small a threat to their business. How many of those men were unarmed, by the way?”

“Shut up, you’re the one who asked me to do it. I did it, nobody died, I’m not hurt, and I want my damn information.”

Rebuked, Astrid bit a fingernail and pouted at Jay, before tossing her dark brown hair. “You’re right. I’m sorry. Here’s what I can tell you. Your friend…died from hemorrhaging, from a single stab wound. There was additional bruising, and he was bound and gagged-“

“Yeah, I saw that,” Jay interrupted, rolling his eyes. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

“He bled to death slowly. The wound was only fatal because it went untreated.”

Jay flicked his cigarette out and grabbed another one, using it as an excuse for his silence. Finally, he spoke, but all he could say was “…Huh.”

“I will see if I can get a toxicology report, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Those take time, and…he wasn’t exactly beloved. Good chance they just forget to do it, since they already know what killed him anyways.”

“Yeah…thanks.” Jay stood up, and looked down at Astrid.

“Does this mean you don’t hate me anymore?” Astrid bit her lip, a vulnerable look Jay knew well.

“No. But I’m pretty sure you don’t want to kill me or capture me, and I have a pretty good idea of what you want.” Jay flicked the half-finished cigarette over her head. “I’ll write you if I need you. Usual places. Goodbye, Astrid.”

As Jay was walking away, Astrid alternated between looking at him, and looking behind her at the cigarette he had thrown so close to her. She smirked, once he was out of sight and earshot. “You have no idea what I want.”
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What Are You Looking At?

Post by Capistrano » Tue May 22, 2012 7:21 pm

In your eyes I see the eyes of somebody of who could be strong
Tell me if I'm wrong

Jay stared into his eyes in the bathroom mirror, and even he had a hard time maintaining eye contact with himself. It wasn’t just the newly grown beard, or fresh black hair dye and Mohawk he was sporting, or the ever-present scar on his cheek. From a young age, he knew that his blue eyes were unique. His father’s Italian genes dominated his family: Jay, his brother, and his sister all had slightly darker skin tones that found it very easy to tan and dark hair that only somewhat lightened in the sun, and both his brother and sister had his father’s brown eyes. Jay always stood out in family portraits, sharp blue eyes that threatened to look right through the photographer. As a baby, his parents had pictured him as a serious and studious man, a future politician or actor. To their surprise, he turned out to be a child who, although not always quick with a smile, was decidedly more carefree and upbeat than they had anticipated. Perhaps Jay had sensed that pressure to succeed as a kid, and instead decided to be laidback. When Jay developed athletic talent later, his father saw him as a future baseball star, but Jay was much more interested in the non-competitive world of punk rock and skateboarding. He wore sunglasses when he could, trying to hide the intensity of his eyes.

Had there been anyone else in his life with eyes like his? There almost certainly had been, but he couldn’t remember any of them. Except, possibly, Candy. It wasn’t in the eye color, green-brown. It was in the way she looked at the world. Sharp, harsh, judging. Her eyes were always open, always focused, never dull or sleepy or attentive. He realized that the way she viewed the world was a better fit for his eye color than her natural shade. It was cold, it was icy, and it was cutting. It was blue.

He wondered what his eyes looked like on the night they fought. Had his attitude finally changed to match their fierceness? Had she been waiting for that look, more than any other? He remembered the times, both with Candy and with Astrid, that he had taken advantage of his intense eyes. He knew his eyes were piercing, and he knew that with one look, he could cut to the heart of the matter and make it absolutely clear how he felt. There was nothing subtle about it, not like the fox look Candy had sent him right before they first kissed, or the way Astrid’s gaze would linger on him a beat too long, dying embers on a fire begging to be rekindled.

He would never get those looks again. They only saw him as an object of hatred, their eyes hard and hot like burning coals. He would never see them the way he had before, his love and lust nakedly visible and slicing through everything. There would be no warmth anywhere on his face, least of all in his eyes. Perhaps now, at 26, with his heart broken twice, he had finally grown into his blue irises.
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Post by Capistrano » Wed May 30, 2012 4:13 pm

And now I'm pulling your disguise up
Are you free or are you tied up?
(Miike Snow, “Animal”)

Candy was a psychopath. Or a sociopath.

Jay wasn’t quite sure which word was more appropriate, though he knew enough to know that a psychology degree would have helped him learn the difference. He didn’t have that, though. He didn’t have much of anything, these days. Just the clothes on his back, some more in a backpack, a gas mask, a crowbar, Sharpie marker, neon orange spray paint, a sleeping bag, and miscellaneous other bits and bobs he’d found on the street or nicked off of the Milkman’s drug dealers. He may not have had much money, or other goods, but he had plenty of time to think and to plan. To stew.

He went over everything in his mind, trying to remember if the signs had always been there. Maybe he had been too stupid to see it. She had killed before, he remembered. Jesse, the ex. The dead ex. Her first love, who had taken advantage of that love and drugged her, held her at knifepoint, forced her to kill him. Jay had heard it got easier to kill once you had done it already, and maybe that was true. Had she killed after that, but before she killed his neighbor? It was a distinct possibility. She’d kept that gun. She had a knife. She went around looking for people to fight in the bad parts of town, outside of the duels, and joined a pit-fighting club to fight for money. She could easily have busted someone’s skull, burst a spleen, or otherwise beaten someone so badly they died after she had fled the fight. Her violence was a club, one she used to beat back the world and keep it at arm’s length. It was a crude tool, and crude tools frequently get misused, hurt their users and others.

Jay thought about the corkboard down by the duels and about his attempts to warn other people about Candy. He had posted messages laced with bitterness about his confession being met with one he couldn’t accept. “Let them kill each other. Problem solved.” “Disappointed, but not surprised.” Jay had hoped Anubis and Candy might cancel each other out, literally, but Candy had managed to hold onto FireStar without killing the legendary slaver. She had then gone on to sneak-attack the handler for some…barely sentient dueling creature who had managed to win Moonberyl, after they had complained about the challenge starting without them there. It fit the narrative. Psychopath. Sociopath. Whatever word was correct.

Not all the pieces fit so neatly though. She’d gone from killing in self-defense to killing for no apparent reason. Why? It was a gnawing doubt, one that only grew when Astrid told him Candy had killed his neighbor by letting him bleed out from a survivable stab wound. If she was killing for fun, why beat him up, tie him up, and insure his death was prolonged and painful? It was too deliberate, wasn’t it? He knew how, and he wanted to know why, and he sent a message to Candy’s mailbox saying as much, asking for a meeting at St. Sebastian’s church. In his best case scenario, he was hoping she would see it as neutral ground for the two of them to clear the air. However, truth be told, he wasn’t really counting on her showing up, and she hadn’t. Instead, she’d sent Sheila, from the Irish pub they had visited less than a week before the bottom had dropped out. She seemed to pay little mind to the freshly grown beard, the black-dyed hair, or the out-of-season sweatshirt he had worn. She flirted with him, and then delivered a note from Candy. “Pity Anubis couldn't fix your problem for you---What you want isn't a concern to me.” The note smelled like Candy and Doc. Perhaps Doc had helped her write it? Perhaps the two of them were together? Jay hadn’t given it too much thought at the time. None of it surprised him. He’d exited the church, crumpled up the letter, and thrown it away. She’d probably moved on, and that was okay. Maybe it was for the best that way.

At last, Jay had seen Candy’s true face, and he was almost okay with the way things had gone.
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F#$!, Marry, Kill (Part 1)

Post by Capistrano » Mon Jun 04, 2012 8:24 pm

Astrid wanted Jay dead. Astrid wanted Jay in her bed. The two feelings were about as far apart on the spectrum as you could get, and they were probably the most complex feelings she’d ever had for a person. Until she had met Jay, her life had two all-consuming goals. *** who she could, and hurt anyone who tried to stop her. Kill them, if they didn’t seem to get the message. Anyone who didn’t want to sleep with her – or stop her – might as well have not existed in her mind.

Then Jay came into the picture, and the world suddenly shifted from black and white to myriad shades of gray.


March 1, 2006
Pasadena, California

The hotel room was a mess, reeking of sex and sweat, piss and blood. The deadbolt had been snapped off, the door had been nearly knocked off of its hinges, and there were dents in the dresser and one of the walls. Broken glass from a shattered mirror had been ground into the carpet, and a trail of red dragged its way from the shards over to the large sink and counter. Huddled under that sink, near the door to the bathroom, was a bruised, bloodied, and battered succubus, her arms crossed in front of her face as a man in a gas mask, hooded sweatshirt, and jeans approached her. He smacked a baseball bat into the flat of his other hand as he approached, and she knew she was trapped. Even terrified, she couldn’t help but pout. Her victim hadn’t even gotten off before this…hunter had burst into their room, chased him out, and then proceeded to beat her nearly to death. This hunter was different. This hunter was stronger than the others. She realized she was going to die, and she couldn’t help herself.

The flood of tears, stained black with running mascara, stopped the hunter in his tracks. The other succubi hadn’t cried, hadn’t begged. They had gone to their doom screaming their defiance, their heads held high as he landed the final blows. This one, though? She sobbed, trying to gather up the strength to stand, or to crawl into the bathroom, but she couldn’t. Instead, she looked up at the man, sniffled, and forced herself to speak.

“…I’m sorry.”

“What?” he lifted the bat and scratched the back of his head.

“I’m sorry…I can’t help myself, I’m sorry. I wasn’t going to kill him, or hurt him-"

“That does not matter,” he interrupted, and she cowered even more. “You interfered with his sleep, with his dreams, and I cannot allow that.”

“I…” she trailed off, looked to the side, and lifted a wrist up to wipe off some of the smeared makeup on her face. She turned back to him and fixed him with bloodshot, desperate eyes. “Please. Spare me. I will make it up to you. I swear. I can be your prisoner, or, or, I can help you find others like me, those who kill for no good reason, who are truly bad. All I do – all I do is give them pleasure. There are worse than me. Please. I-I don’t want to die.”

He let her sit there for a long minute, looming over her with his bat and his mask. Finally, he sighed.



“831-555-2789,” he repeated, more annoyed now. “That is my phone number. If you are serious about helping me, and paying back the debt you owe, call me. That is, if you can get past the police. And if you get past them, I will be watching.” He looked over his shoulder, saw the tell-tale strobe of blue and red cast on the white window blinds, and stepped over the succubus. He was about to open the bathroom door, when she tugged on his pant leg.

“Wh-who should I ask for?”

“Call me Dreamwalker,” he said, before opening the door and disappearing in a flash of white.


March 8, 2006
Salinas, California



“Hold on… …who is this?”

“Oh…we didn’t exchange names, did we?

“No. Who is this?”

“We met at a hotel last week – Pasadena?”

“You got away from the police.”

“I can be…quite persuasive. But that’s not why I’m calling. I want to help you. Can we meet?"


“Club Warsaw. Your…attire should be…acceptable there. Friday, 11 p.m.?”

“Yes. I can make it. Hey-“


“This better not be a trap.”

“Of course not. I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. I promise.”

“We will see.”
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F#$!, Marry, Kill (Part 2)

Post by Capistrano » Wed Jun 06, 2012 3:53 pm

((Author’s Note: Trigger warning for sexual abuse mention, segment 2))

March 10, 2006
Club Warsaw
Hawthorne, California

Jay emerged from the men’s restroom out of thin air, but the club was so packed that no one seemed to notice the man in the gas mask hadn’t come in through the front entrance – or paid the cover charge. In addition to the mask, Jay was dressed in a black long-sleeved shirt, the darkest blue jeans he could find, and black steel-toed boots. Since he was out in public, he left behind his baseball bat, but there was no doubting the muscle he carried on his frame. Jay took a second to survey the club, then began looking for Astrid.

Club Warsaw had been carved out of an abandoned supermarket in a nearly abandoned strip mall. They’d done their best with black paint and black lights to take away the high-ceilinged feel of the old grocery store in favor of something more claustrophobic, but a quick glance up betrayed the space’s roots. Still, with the people who were packed in tonight – almost all of them in black, some of them in leather or latex – it still felt crowded, even if the roof was quite a few feet over their heads. Contraband clove smoke hung in the air, in defiance of California’s smoking ban, mixing with the sweat of dancers and faint odor of alcohol from the bar as well as the drink glasses and bottles held by many patrons. The music seemed to vibrate and crawl across the walls, the slow and sinewy beat accompanied by two vocalists, one a deep baritone who chanted ominously about the bass, the other a scratchy and high-pitched man who insisted that he hated everything. The two traded off, as dancers grinded and swayed, sometimes in time with the beat, sometimes in time with a beat of their own. The whole place reminded Jay of some of the punk clubs he’d been in, only slightly cleaner, and with slightly weirder dress.

He sensed the evil approaching him, and it gave him time to anticipate Astrid’s arrival behind him. Still, he couldn’t help but tense up slightly as she laid a hand on his shoulder.

“You made it,” she shouted over the music. Even shouting, her voice sounded like a purr. “Good.”

“Of course,” Jay turned around to face her. She had on a black thin-strapped tank top with a red heart, black jeans, and tall black boots with buckles up and down the length of them. Her eyes were lined with black eyeliner, and she wore black lipstick also. “This is either the s***tiest trap ever, or not a trap.”

“Not a trap,” Astrid replied, holding up her empty drink glass in a toasting gesture. “Can I get you something?”

“No. Just…find us somewhere quiet?”

“Follow me to the bar, then keep going and turn right. Go out the door right there. That’ll take you on the loading dock. Was supposed to be the smokers’ area, but, well…” Astrid bit a fingernail and feigned guilt. Jay just snorted and headed in that direction, leaving Astrid to pout and then make her way to the bar for a refill.

When she stepped outside, vodka cranberry in tow, Jay had taken off his mask and set it at his feet. His hair was an artificial black shade familiar to many of Club Warsaw’s denizens, and he had plain brown eyes and skin too brown to be from tanning. He had a cigarette hanging from the left corner of his mouth. His right hand leaned against the painted metal guard rail.

“I didn’t figure you’d be Hispanic,” Astrid said between sips of her drink.

“I am not,” Jay responded, between drags of his cigarette.

“A disguise?” She stared at him intensely, then crossed her eyes and looked away. “I can’t see through it.”

“But I can see through you. Want me to tell you what I see?”

“No – no need.” Astrid sighed as she leaned her elbows against the rail, and then straightened up so that she could fish through her pockets. She finally retrieved a lighter and a pack of clove cigarettes, pulling one from the top of the pack and placing it between her lips. She lit it, inhaled, and listened for the tell-tale crackling sound. “I meant it.”

“Prove it.”

“What? Now?” Astrid turned to look at him, and he turned away to look down the sloped ramp.

“Do you have a lead on something that needs to be stopped?”


“Do you?” Jay’s voice turned more insistent.

“…yes. Down in Torrance. There’s a succubus with an apartment there. Nasty thing – doesn’t care about age or anything.”

Jay flicked the cigarette away and faced her. “Let’s go.”

“What, now?” Jay just glared, and she quickly added, “Uh, sure, sure. My car’s parked around the front, we can-“

“No need. I can take us there quicker. Grab my hand. No, wait-“ Jay stooped to retrieved his gas mask, and placed it back on his face. Now, his voice was muffled. “Okay, now grab my hand.”

Astrid did as she was told, and Jay reached for the door to go back inside. Only this time, when he opened it, they weren’t greeted by the bar they had stepped out of a few minutes ago. They were greeted by the sight of blue skies, fluffy white clouds, and a naked man flying with his arms at his sides, shouting “Whee!” with joyous abandon. Under the mask, Jay smiled.

“There is a reason I am called Dreamwalker. Come on, let us go.” Before she could back out, Jay dragged her through the door, and into the dream.


June 9, 2006
South Los Angeles, California

Astrid and Jay were deep in the Pueblo Del Rio projects, and dressed somewhat inappropriately for the summer night. Jay wore his usual gas mask along with a black t-shirt, sweatpants, and steel-toed boots, while Astrid was in a plain black tank-top and jeans, with a taller pair of boots. It was the kind of neighborhood where their mere presence would be suspicious to residents, let along the fact that Jay was in a gas mask, but they had an ace up their sleeve. They didn’t have to set foot on the sidewalks outside, or the streets. They didn’t have to worry about the people who were still awake, even at 3:30 in the morning, drinking, smoking, or watching their children play in flickering streetlight. They didn’t have to worry about the gang-bangers that plagued many portions of this neighborhood, day or night. No, the trip was made much simpler by the fact that Jay could just take them to where they wanted to go, through the dreams of Pueblo Del Rio’s residents.

For the most part, they were dark dreams, full of fist fights at schools and gun battles on the streets, fathers who beat their children and mothers who screamed at them. There were glimmers of hope, here and there, like the precocious teenager who dreamed about rapping alongside Jay-Z on a stage surrounding by thousands of adoring fans, but for every kid who dreamed big, there were 5 or 10 more who pictured themselves dying, from gunshot wounds or stabbings, bleeding to death on the asphalt, or in their apartment, or in a brightly lit hospital. After one particularly bleak dream, where a 7-year-old boy watched his barely teenaged cousin get shot in the head over and over again, Astrid placed a hand on Jay’s shoulder and made him stop.

“How-how do you deal with this?”

“This is not the worst thing I have seen,” Jay said. The accent he tried to use as the Dreamwalker, all forced formality and knightly, was harder to hold onto in the face of such hardship.

“What is?” she asked.

“I saw…” Just the memory of what he had seen caused Jay to tear up under the mask, though all she could notice was the pause, and his shaky voice. He abandoned his usual accent, slipping back into his more natural, lazy speech patterns that didn’t fit at all with his grave words. “A ten-year-old boy. Molested by his grandfather. And I was there, and I tried to fight the monster – and it wasn’t a monster. It wasn’t something I could fight. It was just a dream, which meant – probably meant – it was real…and I couldn’t do anything about it, except try to calm his dreams. But – that’s not the real problem.” Jay shook his head, and abruptly started moving away from the repetitive shooting dream they had been traveling in, towards an apartment complex and a green door that led inside. He pulled it open, and they were inside the building they needed to be in. The hallway was empty, and everyone appeared to be sleeping, but Jay pulled Astrid close to whisper anyways.

“Which one?”

“Second floor, #8.”

“Good. Stay behind me. I got this.” The pair silently tip-toed up the short steps that led to the first floor of apartments, and then the second full set of stairs up to the second floor. Once he had found the apartment number Astrid had given him, he held out his right hand with three fingers up. In his left hand was a baseball bat, aluminum, with Sanskrit runes painted on in orange spray paint. He counted down from three on his fingers, and when he closed his right hand into a fist, he aimed a steel-toed boot at the hinge of the door, knocking it down from its frame. Tonight, this incubus had nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide.
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F#$!, Marry, Kill (Part 3)

Post by Capistrano » Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:42 am

July 21, 2006
Pasadena, California

Light flashed under the door to Astrid’s apartment, before Jay opened it and staggered inside with her in tow. She had an arm across Jay’s shoulders, using him for support as she limped across the carpet to the black leather love seat and ottoman in the living room. Once she was seated, Jay walked over to the kitchen and opened up the freezer, retrieving a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and coming back with it. As he was walking back, he winced, and his right hand rubbed at his temples. He could feel a migraine coming on – he didn’t have much time before he would be rendered useless. He had to help Astrid before it came to that.

She had both sprained her ankle and gotten slashed across the shins. Jay had conjured up a proper bandage for Astrid while they were both in dream space, and treated her before he returned to her apartment. He had fared far worse in the fight they had just been in, suffering cuts across his chest and torso, bruises on his face and shoulders, and a particularly nasty gash across his stomach from a curved knife. In dreams, that wasn’t a problem. He could heal his injuries nearly as quickly as they came, as well as the damage to his clothing. In reality, though, he couldn’t fight off the massive headache that he could feel creeping across his head, already beginning to blur his vision. He seemed to stumble as he re-entered the living room, where Astrid had her leg propped up. “Here,” he said, tossing the bag her way before collapsing beside her on the love seat.

He didn’t stay seated long, though. Before Astrid’s widening eyes, he suddenly bolted up. “Bathroom,” he said, in a tone of voice so weak it was difficult to tell if it was a question. She pointed, and he ran. The restroom door opened and then slammed shut. Through that door, and the apartment’s walls, she could hear him vomiting into the toilet, followed by a flushing sound and muffle groans. A minute later, she heard running water, more groaning, and then silence. After a couple of minutes without hearing from Jay, Astrid slowly rose to her feet and limped to the bathroom.

Jay was seated on the floor, leaning against the tiled wall, between the toilet and the bathtub. His head was tilted up towards the ceiling, and he was still wearing that gas mask. His chest rose and fell in quick, gasping breaths. He turned in her direction when she entered, but the mask made it impossible to tell what expression was on his face.

“What’s wrong?” she asked as she hurried to kneel down beside him.

“Migraine,” he answered, as he weakly tried to push her hands off of his shoulders. She strengthened her grip, and he reluctantly let her hands stay. “Go. I’ll be alright. This happens every time I over-exert myself.”

“And you deal with it by yourself every time?”

“Yeah? What choice do I have?”

“Well…” she had a nervous smile, and she stood up to find Aspirin in her medicine cabinet instead of fully answering the question. “You should take that off…it’s way too hot to be wearing that, especially with a migraine.”


“You don’t trust me, Dreamwalker?” She knelt once more, holding a hand out with two pills.

“…Jay,” he said, taking the pills and flipping up the mask. After swallowing them, he took it all the way off, and Astrid suddenly sucked in a sharp breath at the same time the mask clattered to the floor.

She had never seen him – the real him. All the disguises he wore in dreams – and the gas mask he wore outside of dreams – had hidden his true face until that moment. He’s barely a man, she thought, and still, he carries so much weight on his shoulders. Her brown eyes fell on his sweaty blue-dyed hair, and then drifted down to his icy irises. He was looking down at his boots, still taking deep breathes, but eventually he looked up and locked eyes with her. He seemed to stop breathing as well.

“…What?” he finally forced himself to ask.

“Jay.” She repeated his name with a smile, before placing her hands on either side of his face and leaning forward to kiss him.


November 23, 2006
Pasadena, California

Astrid and Jay lay in bed beside each other, covered only by a thin white sheet. Jay’s arms rested on top of the sheet, and Astrid was tracing her fingers over his tattoos. First, it followed the blood dripping off the skull on his right arm, then over the block letters “ZERO”. Then, she moved to the left arm, following the more complicated shapes that formed a golden throne and the woman with light brown skin who sat on it.

“Swapneshwari?” Astrid asked, a yawn stretching out the last syllables.

“Yeah. Got it right after I saw her for the first time. She saved my life, you know.” Astrid nodded, her fingers trailing down towards his hands, making an X to match the ones in black ink on top of his wrist. When she was done, her fingers snaked their way between his, and shifted from her side to her back.

“…You saved me, too, you know, Jay. Not just this. You’re one of the only people who saw that I could be good. It wasn’t my fault I was born the way I am, but you helped me see that it’s not a death sentence, or something that’s destined to happen.”

“Yeah,” he said, reaching for the nightstand to pull down a pack of Lucky Strikes and a blue Bic lighter. He stuck two in his mouth, lit them both and inhaled deeply, then handed one to Astrid, before setting the pack back and grabbing a glass ashtray. He set the tray in the space between them on the bed.

“…do you think she’ll ever let you…” The old, impish Astrid came out here, as she bit a red-painted nail with a sly smile. “F@#$? We’ve done everything but.”

“I…she said that’s why I’m able to do what I do, to take the gifts she offered me. Purity. I care for you, Astrid, but I have a duty to her, to everyone suffering through nightmares and bad dreams and worse. I’m…trying to make it work the best I can.” He shook his head slowly.

“I…I’m trying to understand,” Astrid said, exhaling smoke in perfect little rings. “And I don’t want to lose you, so I’m not gonna push you. Just…promise me you’ll forgive me if I screw something up? …I’ve never really had a relationship before, so I’m not always sure what to do or say.”

“Yeah, I promise.” Jay turned so that he could see her face, and he was rewarded with a smile he knew she used only for him. There was nothing flirty or sexy about it. It was genuine, and it was happy, and he couldn’t help but match it with a smile of his own. He wanted to say something more meaningful, to comfort her and let her know how much she meant to him, but he just found himself repeating those words again. “I promise.”

Somehow, those few words were enough to keep her smiling.
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F#$!, Marry, Kill (Part 4)

Post by Capistrano » Fri Jun 22, 2012 12:52 pm

February 13, 2007
San Marino, California

On Sunday, Jay parted from Astrid with a kiss and a promise to return Wednesday, for Valentine’s Day. They had reservations at an Italian restaurant in Pasadena for Valentine’s Day, followed by a movie. There wasn’t anything that caught Jay’s eye in particular, but he was sure Astrid would think of something. She usually did.

On Monday, Jay heard rumblings that there was a new succubus running around the posh neighborhoods and mansions of San Marino, just a stone’s throw from Pasadena. Where Astrid lived. A knot formed in his stomach, but there was nothing he could do about then. He was too busy with work to look into it that night, even if he could shave hours off the usual travel time from northern California to L.A. It would have to wait until Tuesday.

On Tuesday, he made the trek through dreams down towards Pasadena, too wound up and suspicious to enjoy how generally pleasant they were. It was almost as if Swapneshwari wanted him to see how happy people were that it was Valentine’s Day – the nervous joy of new couples about to kiss, the way lovers held hands like they were unafraid the other would let go, the veils and tuxedos and shy kisses of weddings, elderly couples walking dogs in the park and leaning on each other. Jay only wanted to focus on the negative dreams –teenagers writing desperate love poems in their own blood, Romeo and Juliet acted out by a closeted gay teen desperate to keep his secret and yet just as desperate to be in love, shouting matches and thrown glasses in front of crying children by married couples who would soon be divorced.

That knot in his stomach tightened the closer he got to Pasadena, until it felt like it was strangling his insides. It can’t be her, he thought. Please don’t let it be her. He stepped out of the dream of a gray-haired man in blue silk pajamas being seduced by a daughter’s friend into the spacious master bedroom of a mansion – the same bedroom from his dream. He saw the same man from the dream, wearing even less clothing, with a woman straddling him. He didn’t even need to see her face to know who she was. He stood in the doorway in silence.

The first person to notice the intruder was the man, who turned in the direction of the opening door with wide eyes, reaching for his night stand. Reaching for an alarm, Jay thought, and he sprung into action, slamming his baseball bat down on the man’s hand. He cried out, clutched his wrist, and seethed at Jay, whose face was covered in his usual gas mask. “What-“ The man tried to speak, but Jay interrupted.

“Get out.”

“This is my house, ***,” the man snarled. Jay reared back and punched him in the face, and Astrid rolled off of him, onto the bed, and then landed on her feet, clad in a red bra and panties.

“Jay, I can explain-“

“Save it.” Jay picked the man up by his pajama shirt collar and tossed him into the wall. He grunted at the impact, groaned immediately after, and was quickly silenced by another punch from Jay.

“Jay, just let me-“

“No!” Jay shouted, punching the light switch near the door and breaking it with a sharp crackle of electricity. “There is no explanation! You cheated on me! I knew this was going to happen!” He flipped his mask off, revealing flaring nostrils and red eyes that seemed on the verge of tears.

“I’m sorry, Jay, it was a mistake. I-I’ve been trying so hard, for you. I slipped up, but it’s hard for me. It-it won’t happen again. Please. I love you.”

“It will not happen again. I should have done this when I first met you.” He slapped the baseball bat into his other hand, and trudged toward the bed. He swiped at his eyes and forehead with his forearm, willing the tears away, leaving only anger on his face.

“No!” she cried out. Then, the fear that had flickered across her face left, replaced with defiance. She took a step back, lifted her chin, held up a hand, and shook her head. “No.”

Jay’s slow smooth walk turned into stumbling and staggering, and then stopped. He looked down at his boots, then up at Astrid, confused.

“You will not harm me, Jesse James Michael Capistrano.” Her nostrils flared as well, and she kept the hand up to halt his progress. “After all these months, after all this time, I make one mistake and you think I am evil, irredeemable? I loved you, and now, just like that, you want to kill me! No. You will listen.”

“There is nothing you can say that will change my mind. You are evil. I am good. I should have known - you never loved me. You just wanted to sleep with me.” Jay spat the last sentence out with clear disgust.

Listen to yourself! I changed!” Astrid felt herself beginning to cry and paused to dry her eyes with a tissue from the nightstand. “We fought real evil together – those that preyed on the weak and the young! It’s not as black and white as you want it to be. I mean, look what you’ve done!” She pointed at the unconscious man slouched against the closet door, bleeding from the nose, with one of his wrists bent at an awkward angle. “He’s innocent!”

“He consorted with you,” Jay replied, shaking his head vigorously. “He cheated on his wife. She will find out, and divorce him, and it will ruin the family.”

“Jay…” Astrid laughed a sad laugh, head down as she shook it once more. “He’s single. Never married, no kids.” She watched Jay’s brow furrow as he frowned. “You were so quick to rush to judge him. Him and me. Now, will you yield?”

She watched his facial features twitch, as he considered his options. They could still salvage the relationship, if only he would compromise. For a moment, it seemed like he might. His sharp blue eyes lost their intensity when he looked back at the unconscious man who had been caught in the crossfire. When he turned back, they were icy again, and she knew he would not give in, even before he spoke.

“No, Ahetpaman.” He spat the name – the True Name – with venom, and Astrid wasn’t sure if she should laugh or cry more.

“Jesse James Michael Capistrano…did you really think I would give you my True Name? I guess…you will never know. Yield.”

“No!” Jay strained against the invisible strings of his that she was yanking, and seemed about to break through. Astrid looked down and to the side, sniffled once, then flicked her fingers in his direction. A flash bulb went off inside Jay’s skull, behind his eyes, and he sunk to one knee from the massive migraine that struck him.

“Such a long trip, from Santa Cruz to San Marino. And dreamwalking always[ gave you such a splitting headache.” She heard the bat tumble from his fingers onto the rug, and calmly walked over to pick it up, exaggerating the sway of her hips as she did so. “What is it they say? ‘Choke up on the bat?’ ‘Eye on the ball?’ She squeezed her fingers around the handle, tapping his head with the barrel a couple of times as he knelt there helplessly.

“Please…” he reached for her, but she evaded him easily, taking a few steps backwards.

She took one hand off the bat to snap her fingers, before settling into her best version of a batter’s stance. She waggled the bat in tiny circles, then stilled the motion and stepped into a swing aimed at Jay’s head. “I got it. Batter up!”

He just barely got a hand up in time to blunt some of the impact, but it still bounced off of his wrist and against the side of his head, sending him toppling over. She tossed the bat aside like she had just hit a home run, sauntered up to him, and casually punched him in the face. Barely conscious, he didn’t resist as she dragged him by his shirt to the bedroom door, lifted his hand, and forced it to clench the doorknob and spin it open.

“Time to say goodbye, Jay.” She saw flickers and flashes of blinding light slash across the mundane details of the upstairs hallway, before pushing Jay through the doorway. He vanished into thin air, and the light winked away. Once he was gone, she felt something break inside her as she walked back to where she had placed the rest of her clothing – and her purse. She opened the snaps and retrieved her cell phone, and the 911 operator could barely understand her through the sobs.
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
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F#$!, Marry, Kill (Epilogue)

Post by Capistrano » Mon Jun 25, 2012 1:04 pm

June 22, 2012 R.S.C.
Idle Hands

Idle Hands was located in a converted warehouse, across the street from a railroad switching yard and underneath an overpass. The rest of the buildings on the club’s side of the street were abandoned or half-demolished, and the switching yard only stayed in business because of bribes and drug trafficking on trains. At night, it was a popular spot for drug dealing, prostituting, and fencing stolen goods – most of the guard thought the block was totally abandoned, and those who didn’t had been paid to look the other way.

Now, though, it was early in the evening on a Friday. Idle Hands was open for Happy Hour, but their usual clientele were night owls, and most of the new customers the Happy Hour was designed to draw didn’t know the place existed. The dance floor was empty, the house lights were on, and there were only four people in the bar, besides the bartender, barback, and fry cook. Two of them were bartenders from a local bar, having a couple of beers before their shifts started later in the evening. One of them was a black-winged demon, chatting on a cellular phone in an infernal language. And then there was Astrid.

She was there early because she had nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon than drink vodka cranberries and flirt with the staff. It wasn’t going well, so far. The fry cook was hiding in the back, so she couldn’t see him, but she wasn’t nearly desperate enough to hit up a guy whose skin was constantly coated in a thin layer of grease. Besides, as slow as it was, he was probably out back smoking weed with the barback. If the barback wasn’t doing that, he was probably busy bringing up kegs and cases of beer from the cellar, because she hadn’t seen him in a while either. That left the bartender, who was more interested in watching the local news than he was in flirting with Astrid. That was the double-edged sword of drinking in a demon bar. You knew you were safe from hunters while you were inside – as safe as you could ever be in RhyDin – but everyone on staff there were all either demons themselves, or resistant to demon charms, or in thrall to someone else. If she was hoping to pick someone up tonight, she would have to wait until the DJ came in around 9 p.m. or so.

The bartender turned up the volume on one of the two cheap televisions hanging over the corner of the backbar, and a rotund man in an ill-fitting blazer and tie began giving a sports round-up. The chief story was the news that the newly re-elected governor was inviting the Barons and Overlord to join her Governor’s Advisory Council, as well as the fact that she had also joined the Wrecking Crew. After a brief bit of analysis from one of the local newspaper’s duel reporters, they cut to footage of another Wrecking Crew press conference, one that had just been held earlier that day. On screen, Jay was standing at a podium with a brown-eyed woman beside him, dressed in a workout jacket and baseball hat in Crew colors. On the bottom of the screen were the words “Capistrano Joins Crew”.

“That son of a bitch!” Astrid shouted at the television, loud enough to get the attention of everyone else in the bar, if only momentarily. The two off-duty bartenders laughed uneasily, while the demon scowled at her and returned to his phone conversation with a murmured apology. The tender behind the bar winced.

“Jesus, Astrid. I can change the channel.” By that point, though, it was too late. The sports news was over, and they had cut to a commercial.

“No, that’s all right. Thanks, James.” Anger made her attempt to sound throaty too strangled, and James turned his attention away from both the television and Astrid to start polishing glasses.

Jay had joined the Crew. That’s where he had been for the past month or so. Hiding with them. They had money, they had clout, and now Jay was in their fold. It made killing Jay many times more difficult. He may have been good at hiding in the city, but without money, resources, or friends, his luck would eventually run out, and she would find a way to push whatever button of his that would spring a trap. Now that he had the Crew’s support, he didn’t need her help. Just as quickly as he had drifted back into her life again, desperate, alone, and hunted, she knew as soon as she saw him on stage wearing blue, silver, and black that he was drifting away again. She had nothing to offer him that would bring him back in her sway, or even in her debt.

Astrid had lost Jay again, and the thought brought a lump to her throat. “James?” She held up a finger, as she felt her voice giving way.

“What’ll it be?”

“Double vodka soda, please. Change of plans tonight.”
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
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For Love of the Game

Post by Capistrano » Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:52 am

July 11, 2012 R.S.C.
AMD Training Academy, New Haven

It had been nearly a decade since the last time Jay had stepped foot in a batting cage. Yet there he was, on a scorching July afternoon, surrounded on all sides by chain-link fence, gripping an aluminum baseball bat in his hands. He wore a t-shirt with the Crew’s wrecking ball logo on the front, shorts in silver, black, and blue, and plain black tennis shoes. One of the equipment managers had lent him a bat, a batting helmet in Crew colors, and batting gloves. Jay had set the pitching machine to start on 40 mph pitches, increasing 10 mph every five pitches until it reached 80 mph. That was how fast the high school kids had thrown, usually.

The device turned on, humming and spinning baseballs around in its hopper, until it spat out the first pitch with a *chunk*. It seemed to hang in the air, just waiting for him to crush it, but Jay’s timing was off. He took a swing, and drove the pitch almost straight into the artificial turf lining the floor of the batting cage. The ball dribbled forward a few feet before dying. Jay stepped up and kicked the ball out of the way, then settled back into the batter’s box, painted onto the fake green grass.

Jay’s father, George, had dreamed of baseball stardom for his oldest son, especially when it became clear that Jay was left-handed. “You gotta advantage, batting left-handed, throwing left-handed,” he’d told Jay, even as Jay was sulking about cutting short skateboard sessions in his neighborhood to go to Little League practice. Still, Jay had practiced, even if it wasn’t as much as George might have liked, and he got good. Jay was always one of the top starting pitchers on the teams he played on, and he usually batted at the top of the order. Even in high school, when competition got fiercer, he stayed at the top of the rotation for his freshmen and junior varsity teams, even as he dropped down to the bottom half of the batting order. The average pitchers he could hit just fine, but the pitchers who had learned how to throw fast, or throw breaking balls, he had a harder time figuring out.

As his talent seemed to grow, and as he finally made the leap from junior varsity to varsity, Jay chafed at his father’s demands. He didn’t want to practice away from the team. He wanted to thrash, skate or die, hang with his buddies at the mall, the skate shop, or whatever empty playground they could find that seemed skateable. George had tried everything he could think of to keep Jay practicing baseball: bribery and pleading at first, then grounding and withholding his allowance. None of it succeeded in turning Jay away from skateboarding. He was no Rodney Mullen, no Daewon Song, but he could stay on his board and actually bust out a kickflip now and then, which was more than he could say for a lot of skate rats. Even after he’d almost killed himself falling off a long hand-rail he had been grinding, giving himself a massive concussion, his regret that he couldn’t get back on a skateboard again without feeling dizzy and sick was tempered some by the fact that it also kept him from playing baseball. It was also the beginning of the end of his relationship with his father.

What would dad think now? Jay asked himself, as he crushed a 60 mph pitch into the back of the cage. The chains rattled their protest at the force, but still, Jay continued swinging. Jay had never been a good student, but he was smart enough to know that even being a left-handed pitcher wasn’t going to be enough to get him to the pros. Sure, he could get the average left - or a normally left-handed switch-hitter batting right-handed - out on a regular basis. Heck, some of the righties who rarely saw left-handed pitching struggled against him. But any decent right-hander, or any good left-hander or switch-hitter, could knock him around given enough times through the order. His fastball topped out at 78 mph, if he was lucky, his change-up was mediocre, and his curveball even worse. He probably wasn’t even good enough to get a college scholarship. It had been a pipe dream, a dream that Jay didn’t really want, and it had died the moment he’d dashed his brains out on those concrete steps. Yet here he was now, 10 years later, a professional athlete. A duelist. Part of him wondered if it would matter, that he was closer to a boxer than a baseball player. Most of him, though, just shoved the memory of his dad out of the way.

Jay wondered if he had made a go of baseball the way he had with dueling – if he had put in the hours of practice, extra swings in the batting cage, extra long toss sessions – would he feel the same as a professional baseball player as he did as a professional duelist? Probably. Dueling was a job, one that paid better than any of the hand-to-mouth jobs he had worked in his four years in RhyDin, but it was still a job. It wasn’t a bad job, by any means, but if someone handed him a bag full of silver coins on the street, he would almost certainly tender his resignation from the Crew the next day. He had nothing against his fellow Crew members, and he was grateful for the opportunity Maria had given him, but it wasn’t his dream, and it probably never would be. Who wanted to fight for a living for the rest of their life? He certainly didn’t, not anymore. Dueling had started as a means of keeping himself fit and trained for other fights, and though he was happier fighting for gold than he was for the sake of getting stronger, he was looking forward to the day when he wouldn’t have to fight anymore. Hopefully, it was coming soon.

The machine had cranked up to 80 mph, and Jay had swung and missed on the first four fastballs the machine had thrown. Ten years away from batting had left him unprepared for even high-school level heat. He sighed, tapping on the plastic home plate embedded into the turf, and choked up on the bat. He swore he heard the baseball sizzle as the mechanized pitcher chucked another fastball his way. He swung, much sooner than he thought he should, taking a short and compact cut at the ball. He heard a satisfying ping, as the baseball struck the bat, sending a line drive straight at the machine’s arm. It bounced off with a *thunk* and then rattled the chain-links as it ricocheted wildly, before finally coming to a stop in the corner of the cage. With the last pitch thrown, the device churned and groaned to a stop. Jay glanced over his shoulder, at the dusky-skinned elvish boy who was next in line for the cage. He stood there with his mouth gaping open, amazed that Jay had managed to hit a pitch thrown that fast. Jay smiled as he stepped out of the cage, pointing towards it with his bat for the kid.

“All yours, dude,” Jay said, and he managed to stifle his laugh at the kid’s eagerness to enter the cage until he was a safe distance away.
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
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Sins of Omission

Post by Capistrano » Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:16 am

“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.”


July 30, 2012 R.S.C.
New Empire Diner, Star’s End

The New Empire Diner sat at the corner of two major streets in the Star’s End district, though the buildings it sat by were modest and almost out of place with the futuristic nature of the neighborhood. Behind the diner sat a small two-story gray-painted building, utterly unremarkable save for the fact that it was connected to the diner. Next door was a full block of brownstones, each painted a slightly different shade of dull: mud browns, brick reds, stucco whites. Renovations had apparently happened on the first floors, if the facades around the entrances were any indications, but as clean and neat as the front doors were, the floors above them were filled with weathered brick, aged sandstone. The neighbors made no attempt to make their buildings match, so that a Southwest-styled entrance sat next to one with stone blocks that were clearly visible. A brick five-story office building with apartments above it was across one of the streets, and a thickly forested park surrounded by a wrought iron fence was across the other. It was all fairly normal, and almost Earth-like in its design.

Looking at the diner, though, made it quite clear that this neighborhood’s design was a deliberate decision. Why else would someone have put an old dining car on a street corner? It was valuable real estate, and yet, the short, squat, rectangular building sat there taking up space that a taller and wider building might have made better use of. The bottom third of the dining car had been painted white, and the diner’s name had been painted on some of the panels. The middle third was all pane glass windows, looking out on the city. The top third was chrome and steel, glistening and radiating heat in the summer sun. On one side of the diner, a makeshift patio had been made with black Tensabarrier dividers, white plastic tables and chairs, and gray umbrellas. Standing on one corner of the roof was what looked like a chrome replica of a skyscraper: The Empire State Building. Anyone who realized what it was soon realized that this building – in fact, the buildings two blocks down in any direction – were a replica of a certain neighborhood in a certain city. Chelsea, Manhattan, New York, New York.

Astrid had arrived at the New Empire Diner early, taken a seat on the patio, and ordered a strawberry daiquiri. She had gotten a couple of sips into her drink, and had been scanning the menu to see if anything struck her fancy, when she felt a pair of shadows fall over her. She looked up, frowning at Jay, and frowning more at the man accompanying Jay. Jay was dressed in a rather plain gray t-shirt and cargo shorts with chocolate brown skater shoes, but his companion was dressed much nicer. He wore a black suit with a white dress shirt and red tie, his muscular frame threatening to stretch and pop the buttons. His skin was a greyish-green hue, and he had long teeth jutting out from the corners of his mouth.

“What the hell is he doing here?” Astrid snapped, pointing at the orc in a suit.

“What’s it look like? He’s my bodyguard. Right?” Jay looked to his companion, who merely snorted in reply as he folded his hands in front of him.

“That’s – that’s not part of our deal!”

“You didn’t say that, Astrid.” Jay forced out a laugh, bitter and joyless. “And I think we worked through our deal anyways.”

“So what made you contact me? What do you want?”

“I want to know why you didn’t tell me the guard dropped the case.”

Astrid pretended not to notice Jay, looking at her fingernails instead. “Because you never asked. It wasn’t part of our deal.”

Jay ground his teeth together, then cast a sideways look over to his bodyguard, before looking back to Astrid. “Fine. Whatever. We’re even. Here’s the new deal. Go home.”

Astrid pouted, biting a finger nail lightly. “But, Jay. This is home.”

“No. Go back to Earth.”

“Or what?” Astrid scoffed, looking back and forth between the two men. “You’ll kill me?”

In response, Jay just stared at her. His ice blue eyes threatened to bore holes right through her. Eventually, he sighed and shook his head. “Go back to Earth. Or stay out of my sight. I don’t care. If I see you again, and I don’t think it’s an accident, you’re not going to like what happens. Someone with the Crew will be in touch with you.”

Astrid cackled, loud enough that some of the restaurant patrons inside looked out the windows at her. She felt their eyes on her back, turned, and blew them kisses. She then turned back to Jay. “A restraining order? How pathetic.” She spat that last word out with a scrunch of her eyes.

“I don’t care what you think,” Jay fired back, visibly bristling. His bodyguard laid a hand on his shoulder, steadying him. “Try to find me, and we’ll make life miserable for you. Got it?”

“Yeah,” she sneered back. “Got it.”

“Good.” Without any further words, Jay turned back on his heels and walked away from the diner, towards the park across the street. His bodyguard waited a couple of beats, staring daggers at Astrid, before he turned around and left as well. When they were out of sight, Astrid dipped a finger into her half-melted daiquiri, stirred it once, and sighed.
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
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Kick, Push

Post by Capistrano » Sun Nov 04, 2012 11:26 pm

"First got it when he was six/Didn't know any tricks/Matter fact, first time he got on it he slipped/Landed on his hip and bust his lip/ For a week he had to talk with a lisp."

(Lupe Fiasco, "Kick, Push")

August 22, 2012 R.S.C.
Dockside/Old Temple

Jay had followed the chatter on the streets and rumors to a rather plain and nondescript warehouse in the south part of the city, close to the southern gate, right at the edge of where the Dockside district met Old Temple. The warehouse wasn’t his final destination, though. Across the street was where he was looking to go.

Some time ago, there had likely been a warehouse building there, too, one of a dozen or more similarly built wooden structures that had struggled to survive being so far away from the docks themselves. Where that building might have stood there was now a chain link fence, with a gate that was swung wide open. Beyond that gate was concrete, but not flat and smooth like one might expect. To the far left, some sort of bowl had been poured onto the surface, deeper than the rest of the area. To the right of that was a raised box, and something that resembled a rail, only also in concrete. Further right of that was the start of a shallow and narrow shaped pool of sorts that traced its way around the back of the surface. On the gate was a simple sign, already tagged with black spray paint so that it was barely legible: "Skatepark".

The weather was hot, even for the summer, so many of the skaters who might have otherwise been out on one of the last days before summer vacation ended weren’t there. There were only a couple of kids there now, a pair of boys who appeared to be brothers. The older of the two was only barely into his teens, while the younger seemed a year or two away from adolescence. The older brother had grown his brown hair out until the weight of it caused it to curl, while the younger one had buzzed his hair short. The two were trying simple flip tricks on the flat part of the park, but only the eldest was able to land them. He didn’t seem too keen on helping his younger brother learn the tricks, and that frustrated him to no end.

Jay leaned against the fence and watched the two, the old familiar ache of not being able to skateboard still there, but mixed now with impatience, worry, and hope. He had seen a doctor for worsening migraines recently, and had offhandedly mentioned to him that he also had issues with dizziness, nausea, and vertigo since the same skateboarding accident that led to his chronic migraines. Jay had been surprised when the doctor called him back for further examination, and nearly fell off of the check-up bench when the man suggested there was medicine he could take to eliminate those symptoms – even if they primarily occurred when he tried to get on a skateboard. Jay practically had to will his hands not to shake as the doctor handed over the piece of paper with his prescription, and a warning not to do anything too risky for a week or two after starting the medicine.

He was trying to follow the doctor’s warning, but there it was, right in front of his eyes, the greatest of all temptations he could have faced. Two kids skating, just as he had done for so many years. His hands clutched the fence, metal biting into his fingers, but he ignored the discomfort. It had been too long since the last time he had even seen somebody skateboard.

The younger kid kept trying and failing to imitate his brother, while the older boy did nothing to help. In fact, he began ridiculing his brother for failing and falling, over and over again. Finally, Jay had enough. He let go of the fence and walked out into the skatepark, approaching the shorter (and short-haired) skater.

“Can I see that?” Jay pointed to the board the kid was carrying.


“Can I see your board?” With a reluctant frown, he handed it over to Jay. The dueler turned the board over, taking a peek at the bottom of the deck. It was painted black, save for a red stenciled image resembling the sign hanging on a women’s restroom and the word “GIRL” written on the tail end. Jay flipped it over again, examining the black deck tape covering the top of the board. He nodded to himself, set the board on the ground, and gingerly stepped on it.

He didn’t feel sick. He didn’t feel nauseous. He didn’t feel dizzy. Instead, he felt a rush of adrenaline, almost as much as he had felt the first time he’d stepped onto a board, his legs wobbling like a newborn giraffe. This time, though, he could keep his balance. He knew what he was doing, and a smile crossed his face.

“I noticed you were trying to do some flip tricks, dude, and you’ve almost got it, but not quite. Check this out.” With that, Jay kicked at the ground with his left foot, building up some speed on the flat concrete. When he felt confident he was moving quickly enough, he stood with both feet on the board, then bent his knees to ollie into the air. While he was airborne, he spun the board out from underneath his feet, landing on it after it had rotated 180 degrees. It was a simple trick, but he watched as the kid’s eyes popped wide open. Jay skated back and stopped in front of the kid, stepping on the back of the board so that the front popped up. He then got off of the board and handed it back.

“You’ve gotta have your feet on the right spots on the board. Like this.” Jay took a couple of steps back, and then stood in place like he was on a board, his feet kept apart the distance necessary to accomplish the pope shove-it he had just done. He tried his best to demonstrate the trick in slow-motion, before gesturing for the board again. Once he had it back, he shifted his weight on the wooden contraption, feeling the familiar shift and slide of polyurethane wheels on concrete, and he had to resist the urge to skate off again with the board. With the skateboard underneath his feet, he was better able to show how the trick worked and how to pull it off, even if he couldn’t quite do it in slow motion while actually riding. For the second time, Jay gave the board back.

“Now you try.”

He took a couple of steps back, and let the boy get situated on the board. He glanced back nervously at Jay, who flashed a thumbs-up. With that silent encouragement, he kick-pushed away, tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth. After gaining some speed, he ollied into the air and spun the board around under his feet, landing with a little wobble but without falling. Jay pumped his fist as the kid skated back towards him, arms raised in triumph. Jay lifted his arms as well, before high-fiving the boy as he finally returned.

“Thanks, dude.”

“No problem. Thank you.”

“Why?” the kid asked, scratching his head.

Jay paused, trying to think of how to explain what happened to him in a way that would make sense, and he couldn’t. Instead, he just smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

“For letting me borrow your board, dude. Good luck and keep at it, man.” Jay flashed the kid once last peace sign as he walked backwards out of the skatepark.

A few minutes later, the mid-day silence of a working class neighborhood near the docks was broken by a loud, triumphant shout.
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself

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