[DRYH] Pariah, Pt 01 (03)

edited June 2014 in DRYH
Next day at school:

It's fifth period, after lunch. Your morning began with a "talking at" from your dad. He dressed you down as you were trying to get out of the house, literally followed you out the door. He never raised his voice, but he certainly let you know that you will be home right after soccer practice, and if you aren't, and he will be calling home to check, to talk directly to you, then things would be "much worse".

When you showed up at school, you were pulled into the office. Vice Principal Karkeddi informed you that the use of video filmed at the school was expressly against the rules, and that he has your YouTube channel favorited now, and if he sees one piece of material you shot here, then you will be expelled. He dismissed you back to class.

That was before the first bell.

In the hall, people stared at you, some of them talking to each other about you, calling you some sick little perv, some asswipe who had to take pics of girls to get off. One of the chubby freshmen girls came up to you after second period, made a big show of posing for you. She asked you several times, "Can you do a close up, Benny?" Cooed and shook her boobs at you.

Third period was the next round of mockery as the entire football and basketball squads had their phones out, all shooting little movies of you. It became a meme. There are hundreds of videos of you on the phones of your classmates, Benny.

At lunch, you Darius, who stopped talking and stared at you. Stared at you with his buddies staring, too. His big buddies. Everyone stared at you all through lunch, made jokes, whispered, spoke out loud about you, not to you. Maddening.

Except Eileen. She saw you, offered you a seat. Did you sit by her at lunch?

Right now it's AP Math, and after the fourth time of someone making some crack about Big Brother, or about Candid Camera, Mr. Forbish started writing kids up, sending them to the office. Seems like he is either protecting you, or just trying to keep kids focused on advanced trig.

That's when you see her. Bianca. In the hallway. She's watching you, looking like Bianca, with her stark white hair and chalky skin. Still the sad expression.


  • The thing is... I can't blame them for looking at me like a freak. I mean, I know I'm making Art, but I can't really expect everyone to get it, and if you don't Get It, then sure, it looks like I'm some sort of perv. And after last night, with Bianca/Jasmine, I'm pretty sure I actually am some sort of perv.

    Thank God for Eileen. Yeah, I sit with her, even though that probably means she'll start getting some of my shit. One friendly face in this sea of humiliation is a life preserver.

    By the time AP Math rolls around, I could not be lower, even with Eileen's kindness. I don't care why Mr. Forbish is writing kids up, and I'm not even sure whether I'm grateful or wishing that he would just let it ride, not call attention to it.

    I look up from whatever trig problem's in front of me and see Bianca in the hallway. Two things happen just about simultaneously. While my heart leaps upward so that I'm almost choked with anxiety, blood flows the other way and I'm suddenly starting to get hard. In AP Math.
  • "Mr Marks?" you finally hear Mr. Forbish say. He probably called your name a few times. He notices you were looking at the door to the hall, follows your gaze. Then he looks back at you with narrowed eyes. Not angry, just suspicious. "Mr. Marks, is there something significant in the hallway we should know about?"

    You hear someone cough and mumble, "A camera." Classmates around you chuckle.
  • I shrink down in my chair, look away from Bianca, back at the problem on my desk. Softly, "Sorry, Mr. Forbish. Sorry."
  • Mr. Forbish repeats his question, expecting you to answer. Do you get it right?

    When you glance back at the door, she isn't there anymore.

    Class continues on. Doing anything, or just sitting tight and bearing it?
  • I get the question right, but it was totally a guess, coulda gone either way. I grit my teeth and keep on keeping on. I'm going to make it through this day.
  • Several minutes later, you faintly hear Mr. Forbish calling on you again, but it's coming from behind you. Somebody recorded you getting called on, and now they're looping it. There are some girlish snickers, probably Janie. why does Janie have it out for you? The two of you were friends all the way through middle school, right?

    The bell rings, ending fifth period.

    When you head out into the hallway, Janie passes in front of you, sneering like she does. She's wearing her pigtails again, like it's a fashion thing. You hit the hall with the mass of bodies, see that somebody put up pictures of you from lunch, printed them out in black and white. A pic of you and Eileen sitting together. Caption reads: "Newest couple. Hot or not?"

    Kids are chanting, "Not hot. Not hot. Not hot." as you pass. Bianca isn't in the hall.

    Time for biology class. Darius is in that one. With you.
  • Janie. Yeah, we were friends. We even "dated," the summer after Eighth Grade. Then, one day, at the pool... she dived in and I guess her bikini top wasn't tied tight enough or something, so it came off and she didn't realize it at first. She came up and everybody laughed. Everybody. Including me. I laughed at her for like 5 seconds before I thought to throw her a towel. And... that was it. The rest is history.

    Shit. Darius. If I had a working phone, I'd Google "How to fake a seizure," but that's not an option. I gotta stick this out. One day at a time, like they say, right? In class thirty seconds before the bell and the only seat left is in the back. Next to Darius. Shit. I sit down.
  • Darius looks over when you come right up and sit down by him at the little lab table. He shakes his head like he can't believe you, or maybe he can't believe his luck. He exhales through his nose, a kind of derisive laugh or something, definitely disapproval. "Aint runnin' now, are ya, perv-boy?"

  • I blow out a breath. "Listen, Darius. You're right to be pissed. I'm a douchnozzle. I don't want to run anymore, but I don't want this between us hanging forever. I'll skip soccer practice today, meet you somewhere, take your three best shots. I'll keep my hands down, let you have 'em."
  • Darius makes a face of disbelief, "So you can catch it on film or some shit? Not even."
  • "No cameras. You pick the spot. My phone's broken and I'll keep my bag zipped. I'm not a super-spy."
  • Still not buying it, but closer, "And what the hell do you get out of this? Besides an ass beating?"
  • "Truth? What I hope I get by taking three punches now is that I won't be waiting for them later. I hope that, by taking three punches now you remember that I stood up once like a man, and not just that I ran away like a boy." I'll look him right in the eye. I don't have any hidden motive, it's just the way I explained it.
  • Mrs. Jackson starts talking about the lesson, the class hushes because she does NOT repeat herself. Darius says low, "Let's see how you take your three hits, Benny." He huffs a laugh again, "Then we'll see if you're a boy or a man."

    Class continues on, and when some of the kids look back and don't see Darius giving you the stink-eye, it's like the joke might be over. People stop messing with you, more or less.

    Then, finally, by the grace of the Almighty, the final bells rings. Mrs. Jackson announces homework, and you've got soccer practice. Darius is up and out of his seat, doesn't give you a second glance. Or, maybe he's waiting in the hall?
  • I grab my bag, walk out into the hall. Look around, hoping Darius is there, hoping he's not.
  • You catch sight of Darius heading down the hall with Hassan, the quarterback, and Jerry the center. Jerry looks back, sees you. He puts a big, meaty arm around Darius, glares at you, then moves on.

    You've got soccer practice. Heading there?
  • If I don't have any other goal, no word or sign from D, I'm heading to soccer practice. Please, God, let this day be over soon.
  • You head out towards the soccer field, with nothing better to do. Like get your ass kicked. After grabbing your backpack out of the locker, pushing open the side door leading out to the field.

    Bianca's standing in the shade of the metal bleachers, wearing that uniform you saw her in last night. You can see her pretty clearly, but the rest of the team acts like she isn't there. Because you know they would at least be staring at her. Jason would probably go over to talk to her. She's watching you, looking at the door where you came out.

  • I catch her eye briefly, shrug, but not like I'm dismissing her. Like we're communicating. Look back at the door. If Darius comes through, I'll still hold my ground, give him his hits.

    As the team gathers, I look around. Am I beyond the pale with these guys, too?
  • There's some good-natured ribbing, but nowhere near the tone of the school. Your buddies Jaime, Joey and Robert actually keep mum about it.

    Robert says, "Yo, the girl was fine. She oughta be thankful. When Benny's some bigshot director, she'll wish she got her fifteen seconds or whatever." He punches your arm playfully.

    Coach Waters blows his whistle to get you guys working on drills. Bianca's still standing under the bleachers. She's leaning against the back of one bleacher, peering between the slates with her charcoal black eyes. You get the feeling she's never seen soccer before.

    How does practice go for you?
  • Practice goes for shit. My guys lift me up a bit, but there's still a metric shit ton on my mind, and Bianca watching from under the bleachers doesn't help. Coach definitely notices, but I don't totally screw the pooch at any point.
  • A few things you notice looking over at Bianca from time to time, is her stillness. She seems so still that at times, its easy to miss her. She's been watching you for longer than today, you realize. Longer than yesterday, too. Her hair doesn't move with the wind, either. As if she's an image projected, not really here, not interacting with the background.

    Coach ends practice with wind sprints. The sun is already starting to set by the time you're all huffing and puffing, hands on knees or stretched high and walking in slow circles to regain your breath.

    "Hey Scorsese," Jason calls to you, "We're going out for a burger." He indicates Joey and Jaime. "C'mon with us."
  • "Wish I could, man, but I've got to head straight home. Have fun."

    I head back in to the locker room, change into civvies, then make straight for home, just like I'm supposed to. Not seeking Bianca out, keeping my eyes on the world around me, focusing on the little everyday things, trying to stay here and not there.
  • You're heading out of the locker room, taking the walk home. After a block, a car pulls up, does a little honk for your attention. It's a hand-me-down sedan, still in good shape. Radio's playing Zero by the Smashing Pumpkins. It's Eileen. She's got a cig in her right hand, flicking it out the side. "Wanna a ride, little boy? I've got... candy." She chuckles.

    You haven't seen Bianca. Well, maybe you saw her on the other side of the street once, but she was just watching. Looking.
  • I lean through the window. "Love a ride, but I haveta go straight home. Dad was pissed that was out so late last night."
  • "Get in the car, man," Eileen says with a smirk. "I mean, we have to keep up appearances, you know? We're the least hot couple in school."

    She waits for you to slide in, close the door. The door creaks a little. The inside is clean, but the tape deck has a weird fake casette leading out to an iPod shuffle that Eileen velcroed to the dash. "Your dad needs to get his panties out of a bunch."

    The car pulls forward, moving slow, but much faster than you walking. "Did you tell him some bully broke your phone?" She narrows her eyes, giving you her "truth look", then answers for you, "Damnit, Benny! You just took it on the chin, didn't you? C'mon, man. That's not cool."

    You stop at a stopsign, only a few blocks away. She uses the break to fiddle with her shuffle, flipping it to one of your favorite songs. Something the two of you enjoyed last summer. What is it?

    You see Bianca in the mirror. She's sitting in the back seat, right in the middle. When you glance back, she isn't there. Just in the mirror. Eileen obviously doesn't see her.
  • edited May 2014
    "Of course I took it on the chin, Eileen. What's the fucking point of not taking it on the chin?" As Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" begins to funk its way through the speakers, I take a quick look in the mirror, smile at Bianca.

    "Hey. You said there'd be candy. Where the fuck is my candy?"
  • "Sorry, man, I totally lied." She glances over at you, grins. "You could check under the seat. Kurt's a really sloppy eater. Might find an M." She presses the gas, pulling out, "You know, just one of the M&Ms. That's three fucking calories, man!"

    "I looked it up." She's not lying.

    Do you live in a burb, Benny? Not far from school, right? So I'm guessing upper middle class neighborhood, lots of families, garages, most of the houses look kinda similar. Am I close?

    Biance catches your smile, but she doesn't return it. She doesn't look angry or anything, just watching. Reserved. Distant.
  • Yeah, it's a close suburb - bus into the city proper only takes like 10 minutes. Our development is pretty new, and very cookiecutter.

    I do an impression of Mrs. Barber, our English teacher from last year. "Eileen, just because you can Google something doesn't mean you must Google it. Why not use your powers for good instead of looking up how many calories are in an... M?" Raise my eyebrow like Mrs. Barber does.
  • Eileen cracks up, laughs hard, then does that kinda dorky intake of breath that reminds you of how Eddie Murphy laughs. "I use my powers to pick up strange boys on the street, Mrs. Barber!"

    There are a bunch of cars parked on your street. Looks like the Andrews are having a dinner party or something. Mostly SUVs and nice imports. Nothing too swanky, but definitely slick cars.

    Eileen pulls you into the drive, dropping you off at your house. "Hey man, did you save your SIM? I've got an old flip phone and charger. I could bring it over later."
  • edited May 2014
    "Yeah, I think the SIM's good. That would be great! Thanks..." I hop out with a wave and make my way up to the door. Wonder what the Andrews are having for dinner. Kinda hoping Bud or Todd chokes on some of it.
  • As Eileen's car pulls out of your drive, you head for the front door. Lights are on, your dad isn't home yet, must be working on a project. Probably ad hoc, which to him is "someone else didn't plan for shit".

    You hear the click click click of Bianca's shoes behind you. "She is very nice to you." Her tone is polite, not accusatory.
  • "We go way back. Played soccer in a coed Lil' Kickers class starting when she moved in, like 10 years ago. She's a good friend."

    A pause. "Hey, seems like no one but me can see you right now, right? Don't be worried if I don't talk to you when other folks are around. I don't know how I'd explain..."

    Then, I'm in the door.
  • "That's alright." Bianca answers as you open the door. "They're Sleepers. They rarely see me." She follows you inside, moving in the hall around you so you can close the door without hitting her.

    Jeaopardy is on. Your mom is surfing the web while watching. Heather is in your dad's chair, her face lit by her phone as she taps away. Your mom looks up, "Hello dear, how was practice? Food's on the table, still warm."

    Bianca says, "I will go to your room. And wait. I want to talk to you." She pads up the stairs to your room.
  • "Practice was alright, thanks... Hey, I've got homework, you mind if I make a plate and take it up to my room?"
  • Your mom answers with a little smile, "Go ahead, hon."

    She made mashed potatoes (instant) and some orange chicken. Along with steamed green beans. Your mom is using up the odds and ends in the fridge before the next shopping trip, it seems.

    Tromp tromp tromp up the stairs. Open the door with a free hand, and inside. Putting the plate on the desk, I assume?

    Bianca's sitting on your bed. Her skirt is flared out a little, covering the tops of her thighs, but arranged, like flower petals, sort of. She smiles when you come in. "Are they always mean to you, or is this because of Jasmine?"
  • I take a little extra food and extra silverware, just in case.

    I think about her question for a sec. I want to be really careful how I answer this. "Sort of, but mostly because of what I did. It's not cool to film someone without them knowing, but I was making 'Art' and thought that made it okay. It was overkill, today at school, but that's just the way things are. Kids see someone weak and poking at that person makes the rest feel stronger."

    "So, Mother When didn't punish you for me getting away or anything?"

  • She watches you eat for a while, doesn't answer right off. When you glance over at her, the right side of her mouth twitches down in a hint of a frown, like maybe she's biting the inside of her lip or something.

    "I've been expelled." she answers simply.
  • "Shit, I forgot. Want a bite? I brought extra food."

    Seems to me like not having to see that scary woman wouldn't be punishment, but I know there are other things at work here. Bianca doesn't seem too scared, at least.

    "Expelled? What does that mean for you? I mean, you... lived there, right? What are you gonna do?"
  • She holds up a hand, shaking her head slightly, "No thank you, Benny. I don't eat... that kind of food."

    You ask about her situation and she sits there for a moment, making a face like she's doing trig. After that, she shrugs, "I don't know what it means. Nobody's ever survived being expelled before. They always just... ceased to be."

    Bianca looks around your room for a moment, spreads her hands out to put them behind her on the bed and leans back on them, supporting her weight easily, "Can I... stay here? I think you're why I'm still here. I am yours, after all."
  • Well shit. If I send her away, will she just... cease to be? That's not fair, but it's really not a good idea for her to stay here, even if most people can't see her. Shit. Stalling for time: "What kind of food do you eat? Are you a vegetarian?"
  • She looks at you for a few moments, her face composed, eyes a little sad like they're often a little sad. She answers quietly, "There are Sleepers who wander into the City sometimes. Once they enter, they lose themselves, slowly become... part of the City. I..." she hesitates, like she's either unsure how to phrase or, or maybe afraid to share. But finally, "I eat their dreams, Benny. We all do, everyone in the Finishing School does."

    Bianca looks down for a moment, waiting for your reaction, listening quietly.
  • Dreams. Dreams.

    "What will you eat if you stay here?"

    "Listen... you can stay here for now. But this... city... isn't your City. Not your home, really, right? And... like, I know we were pretty hot and heavy last night, but I don't want you feeling like you have to... you know. And... y'know the really great directors and actresses? Like the really best matchups? The real creator/muse stuff? Those were partnerships, not ownerships... If we're gonna be... friends... we need to worry less about who belongs to who and more about Art. Or, y'know, whatever."
  • She thinks for a while. Or at least doesn't answer. You finish up supper and wash it down.

    Bianca looks over when she sees you've finished, "Can I... eat your sister's dreams? I could tell you how they taste, if you want. Or... Eileen's. Maybe she dreams of you?" For some reason, she doesn't touch the ownership stuff. Doesn't deny it, just skips around it.

    She pats the bed beside her, carefully pulling her skirt back down from where it had flared out. Probably so you can sit closer.
  • I get up, sit down next to Bianca on the bed. Not thigh-to-thigh, but a few inches away. The skirt didn't have to be moved for this.

    "Okay. You get hungry, I'll point you toward a buffet, but Eileen, my family? Even the folks that you saw abusing me today, tomorrow, whatever... Only if I say okay."
  • Bianca agrees, repeating the words to show she understands. "Only if you say okay."

    Her pale white skin suddenly changes hue. It isn't all at once, more like raindrops from a sudden storm patter down and discolor a newspaper.

    Within a couple breaths, her hair becomes auburn, her body's proportions shift and alter, then her face takes on a different, familiar look. Still in her black schoolgirl costume, Bianca, the "Not Jasmine" smiles at you. She puts a soft hand over yours, "Would you like to... get hot and heavy some more?"
  • I pull back, stand up. "Bianca..." Move to the desk. "I... have homework to do, and... well, just be Bianca, please? For now, at least?"
  • Her delicate brows knit, and like someone who clenched their fist up tight, then suddenly releases it, her form drops into the chalk-white, charcoal eyed Bianca. She doesn't apologize, maybe doesn't even register that it bothers you.

    You sit back at your desk and she remains on the bed, watching. Are you actually going to try and do homework, or do you end up goofing off on the computer, or what?
  • I try to do some work, for maybe a half-hour. Then I grab my dishes and let Bianca know I'll be right back. Head downstairs, rinse my dirties, and put them in the dishwasher. If the rest of the dinner dishes are still in the sink, I'll take care of those, too.

    I grab a bottle of water out of the fridge, crack it open, take a swig, and then sit down at the kitchen table. I'm self-aware enough to know that seventeen is a volatile time (plus, Health Class. Mr. Wantrobski in that nasal voice saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, puberty is a time of great stress for both the body and the emotions. You are a seething stew of hormones and any minute you spend not thinking about sex is something of a miracle...") Somehow Mr. Wantrobski forgot to mention that there's this possibility (small, but apparently non-zero) that you're going to Wake Up one morning without ever having fallen asleep and suddenly everything will be totally Fucked Up.

    I just sit there for a few minutes, staring into space, taking a swig off the water every now and then.
  • Your mom heard you working at the sink probably. At some point when you're sitting there, she appears in the hall, then walks in. She offers a little smile, like maybe she sees your state, wants to encourage you, or show some empathy.

    She comes around to pull out the seat by you, sits down, facing towards you, but not right at you. "Did you have trouble getting the movies off your phone?"
  • "Haven't done it yet, but I think it'll be fine. The SIM should be okay. You have any chores you need me to do?" I put on my best gangster movie voice. "As long as I'm stuck in this hole, I might as well make the best of it, see?"
  • Your mom chuckles once, at the voice. She's watched all of your home movies, from when you were a kid, watched every single one, most of them multiple times. Has she ever been in any of them?

    "It's a little late to vacuum." she starts going through her mental list of To Do's. "Maybe you could pull the fridge out, sweep back there? Then wipe down the baseboards? Your dad's eating out after work, won't be home for a while. We can call that a couple hours' work."
  • Mom? She was my biggest star from about the time I was 9 until I got to Junior High. There's a thing from back then, maybe seven minutes long, where she dressed up like a big game hunter (some Halloween costume of Dad's... way too big, but...) and wandered around the yard "stalking the wild and dangerous Booger Beast". She even memorized the lines I wrote for her.

    I give Mom a kiss on the forehead, then get to work. Probably an hour and half later, it's done.
  • Your dad returns about when you finish. He comes in, sits down in hsi chair, but doesn't lean back in it, chats with your mom. Mostly end of day, quick talk about work, then he's pulling out his laptop and connecting again. Evidently big project. He'll be in a mood. Terse is the word for it. He hasn't acknowledged you out loud, but he saw you in the kitchen through the open space between the kitchen and the stools on the other side.

    Heather comes in, all smiles, giddy really. She waves to your mom and dad, then comes rushing into the kitchen when she sees you. She has this "we need to talk" look, "C'mon downstairs, Ben." You know she's going to ask about your day.
  • I'll follow her downstairs. Might as well get this over with. Hopefully Bianca's not getting bored, but I do have to do this family stuff, right? Keep up appearances?
  • She trots down the stairs first, her ponytail bouncing. She heads over to a barstool, swings it around with a kick so she's facing you,"So... who is this Jasmine girl? And what the heck really happened?"
  • edited May 2014
    So, explain why "Jasmine" was here last night, but she and Darius are still together and both pissed at me.

    "Heather, I'm fricken beat, so please don't push too much, okay? Jasmine's this girl from the Starbucks. I shot some footage of her and used it in a video without asking permission, and she's apparently dating Darius, and they found out. D wants to beat me to a pulp, and Jasmine was pissed, too, but she decided she decided she liked the way I made her look and came over last night to give me a... chance to explain? We went out to shoot some more footage and she decided she wasn't into after all..."
  • Heather listens, doesn't butt in, doesn't even check her phone during the whole thing, which might be a record.

    "So wait... the girl who everyone is giving you shit about all day in class came here last night and shot more video with you? Did you like... really perv on her last night or something?"
  • "Not perv, so much... I just got really... intense. Director-y, telling her how to move, where the light was, you know? She thought I was trying to control her, not just shoot video."
  • That pretty much unlocks it for Heather. She gives a look like she figured it out. "Aw man, Ben. That sucks. Had your big star actress and blew it? Then today." She makes a pffft noise, "I know today had to suck for you, because it was sheer hell for me, because of you. I swear, I went to the Guidance Counselor to talk about a transfer. Mostly to get out, you know? You should call out tomorrow."
  • edited May 2014
    "Yeah... I'll think about it. Listen I've got homework to finish up before bed, so I'm gonna..." Nod my head toward the stairs. "Thanks for asking, thanks for not piling on... and sorry my shit got on you, too. It's not fair."
  • She shrugs, hops up from the barstool, "It gave me an excuse to give Tracey Baumgartner a piece of my mind. And Jimmy almost decked Hassan when he tried to take a pic of me." She smirks, "It was really sweet of him."

    She follows you up the stairs, then heads on towards her room. I assume you head to your room, then?

    Empty. Nobody in here. Bed looks untouched, like she wasn't sitting there. She didn't move blankets or anything, but still, weird.

    What do you do?
  • I'll sit down at the computer, finally take a shot at getting everything off my old phone's SIM card. I manage to make about twenty-five minutes before I whisper, "Bianca?"
  • No answer for a moment. Then Biance comes through the wall, the one that is against your sister's bedroom. She's chalk white, like you left her. Eyes sadly looking at you.

    She walks through, like the wall doesn't matter to her. Weird how the floor does work for her, though.

    "Yes?" her tone is curious, but not eager.
  • "Just making sure you were okay. I was gone longer than I thought when I left. Hey, is there anything I can get for you? Anything you need?" Listening, but also keeping an eye on things on the computer, thinking about what happens with an entire sleepless night and this... girl.
  • She purses her lips for a moment, considering. "I am... hungry. I have never been this long without..." she pauses, looking up at you, "Without everything I am accustomed to having."

    Bianca offers in a quiet but sure tone, "I am not a child, Benny. This place is new, but I have seen it many times in others' dreams. If I am a burden, I can..." She doesn't finish the sentence. She doesn't need to. Or maybe she doesn't know what she can...
  • "Listen, what happens when you... eat someone's dreams? Does it hurt them?"

    I look at the screen for a minute. "Bianca, I'm okay with you staying here. I may even have an idea for... but I want to think about it. You're not a burden." Thinking about last night, about Not Jasmine on her knees, the feeling of her mouth, ignoring the other disconcerting things. "And I liked a lot of what we did last night..."
  • Bianca answers the question about the dream eating, "I don't... think it hurts them. Only a few have ever woken up, and I'm pretty sure their screaming wasn't because we ate their dreams, but because of... how we looked, and... other reasons that don't matter now because I don't need those things for sustenance."

    When you assure her she isn't a burden, she relaxes a little, even offers a little smile. Then you mention last night and it grows into a wide grin. She pads over to stand closer to you at the desk. She's close enough for you to smell her. What does she smell like?

    Her voice becomes a bit more breathy, "I liked everything we did, Benny. Very much. Better than dreams." She bites her lower lip, looking down for a moment, then offers, "I didn't wear my true face when we... were intimate. But the words I shared weren't a lie. I do love how you captured her. I was so thrilled when you did it, ah, for me. I think you are amazing." She reaches up a cool hand to place it on yours on the desk.
  • I feel the cool touch of Bianca's hand on mine and take in the sensation, her touch, her smell. Her scent is complicated: black pepper, patchouli, fish sauce. Not unpleasant, but... wrong, for sure. Her touch is just a touch, cool, feathery, almost not there.

    "Bianca? What if we made a movie? Not you as someone else, although the fact that you can look however you want might be part of it, but... you. A movie about the Mad City? You can teach me how to get around... it seems like I'm going to keep going there... and I can shoot you, the City, like a documentary."
  • Bianca looks at you when you describe the movie. With each word, she leans closer in, eyes widening in delight. She nods vigorously, answering, "YES!" You hear a light rumble in the room, some papers shuffle on your desk.

    She closes her mouth, then answers again more quietly, "Yes, Benny. Very much. I would love this."
  • Okay, then...

    I pull out a graph-lined pad, a pen. "What's first? So, tell me about the minute before you noticed me, or... found me, whatever. Then we'll plan the rest." The Flip, inferior tool as it is, gets pulled out. My bag in my off hand. Focusing on Bianca.
  • "Oh...yes." Bianca answers. She sees the red light come on, and she hesitates, pushes hair behind her left ear. Same action as when she was Jasmine. "Mother When assigned me to you. It was my Final Exam. She wanted me to lure you to the Mad City, so I watched you. I watched you film Jasmine, and saw how much energy and... imagination you put into it. I knew Mother When was going to eat you, but I wanted to... ah, eat you, too. Differently. Annnd, I did." She smiles at that, a smirk of pride, really.
  • "Eat... me?" I think about that for a second, about Bianca's "mission."

    "So. What's next. What do we need to film, Bianca? What's the plan?"
  • She nods once, "Yes, eat you. Mother When is a bonafide, full-fledged Nightmare. She and all the others delight in devouring the souls of Awake like you."

    You ask what's next, and Bianca looks at you for a moment. "I am hungry. Could I feed, and you film it?"
  • We just read Heart of Darkness in English at the beginning of the year. I think about that quote everyone pulled out in their papers: “... it was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice.”

    Apparently, it was written. "Sure, Bianca. Sure." I put the GoPro on my head, heft the Flip, and wait for instructions.
  • Bianca stands, smooths her skirt in a prim little motion. "I need your okay first." She looks out the window, like there is a world of possibility.
  • edited May 2014
    "Alright. Maybe the Andrews kids, across the street?"

    What's the situation in the house? I'm gonna tell Bianca we should wait until everyone's down for the night. Don't want to take the chance that Dad pokes his head in, looking to give me a talking-to again or just checking up.
  • Bianca nods once, accepting the offer. She doesn't seem to know who the Andrews kids are, but she isn't asking questions, either.

    The dinner party's winding down, it's after ten. A few stragglers, some people doing that "standing around in a little cluster on the sidewalk talking until one person heads to their car and breaks it up" thing.

    You see Eileen out on the front porch, smoking. She looks up, right at you. Waves a small flip phone in the air, like "come and get it?" She doesn't seem to notice Bianca is at the window beside you.

    But you notice, right? She's moved up behind you, looking out the window, a hand against the small of your back. You feel her hair, which is very soft, against your ear. She's close, seems to enjoy this.
  • Are the folks still up and around? If so, I'll ask if I can run over and get the phone from Eileen. We'll wait for Bianca's buffet until the small hours of the morning.
  • Your dad is still working, he looks up long enough to tell you to "hustle up", then his eyes are back on the laptop.

    Did you tell Bianca to stay behind?

    You walk over to Eileen's house, see her stabbing out her cig and waiting for you to come over. "It's nothing special, Benny. But I charged it up, and it actually has better, you know, voice quality than my HTC. Weird, you know? Things improve, but not all the way. Like... MP3s." She holds up the little flip phone and a Ziploc bag with the charger and the owner's manual in it.
  • I whisper to Bianca that she should stay here.

    I take the phone and the baggie. "Thanks, Eileen. You're the best... Wish I could sit with you a while, but Dad's still working and he'll be counting the seconds if I don't head right back."
  • Eileen shrugs, like she isn't surprised. She glances across the street, "Andrews party." She says it like its a annual plague, like flu season. "Do you think they cooked small children for tapas?" She grins, like she thought of that one a while ago in a string of jabs and saved it away because it was her favorite.

    It's obvious she wants some company, for some reason. You get that. But then, your dad.
  • I grin back. "Small children, puppies, and kittens... sauteed in olive oil with garlic, lemon juice, and the very tears of the Baby Jesus."

    "I do have to go. See you tomorrow..." For some reason, Eileen and I aren't huggers, so I hold out a fist for bumping, then head back to the house.
  • Eileen cracks up with the tears bit. She fist bumps you, then stands up and "dusts off" her capris like she's going back outside as you leave.

    Looks like there are three cars parked on the street near the Andrews. Most of the second floor lights are off. It's probably elevn.

    Back in the house, past your dad. Your mom's gone to bed a little early, but she's probably reading on her tablet. Up the stairs. The bathroom at the end of the hall has a light on, music playing. Your sister must be showering.

    Opening the door to your room, you see Bianca there, sitting on your bed.
  • "Gonna be a little while yet before we can go out... sorry." I'm wracking my brain for something to do that isn't sexy-times, something to keep us occupied until it's time to film... whatever it is Bianca's going to do. My eyes find the deck of cards on my desk. Worth a shot. I grab the cards.

    "Gin Rummy?"
  • Bianca looks at you for a moment before asking, "Am I ugly?"
  • "No. I mean, you're different from other girls, but that's not bad." I'm not even sure I understand what I mean by that, but I'm trying to be honest, at least.

    I sit down next to her on the bed, take her hand, kiss the palm.

    "It's just... I think we're gonna be spending a lot of time together, right? And, well... maybe we need to have things to do other than making video and sex."
  • Her eyes flutter when you kiss her hand, the corners of her mouth curl up in pleasure.

    She asks softly, watching her hand in yours, "I've never experienced a dream about gin rummy. Is it fun?"
  • "Let's see..." I explain the rules briefly, and deal a face-up hand so we can walk through it." I play this with Dad on those rare occasions when he and I are home and free at the same time - we've got a running tally that's in the tens of thousands of points now. My goal is to be ahead on the day I graduate... Anyway, I've taught people before, and they had fun."
  • edited May 2014
    Bianca, the dream-eating, expelled Nightmare Finishing School student, turns slightly, putting her left leg up on the bed, bent back. She scoots back slightly to watch you deal the cards, and studies the game as you teach it. She asks questions, all directed to "how you win", seems excellent at math, and relatively crafty.

    After a few hands, you realize she's rather abysmal at "reading you", anticipating your strategy. She mostly bull-rushes ahead to take tricks and doesn't account for anything subtle that you're doing.

    You beat her five times in a row. Even if you try to throw a game (do you?), she seems unable to anticipate the right call. She also has awful luck, drawing the worst card at every turn. For the first three hands, she keeps a neutral pose, watching, asking, learning.

    By the fifth hand, when she figures out you've won, she puts down her cards and states simply, "This was not nearly as fun as the time on the subway when you put your fingers inside me, Benny." She peers at you curiously, "Why do we need other things to do besides video and sex?"
  • I really tried to throw the next-to last hand. Seriously. From the questions she's asked I know she's got to understand the mechanics, the math. I'm guessing she could probably count cards like in that movie 21, but... somehow she just doesn't get the thing underneath the rules that makes it a game.

    "I tell you what, Bianca" Kissing her hand again. "One more game. If you win, we'll mess around until it's time for your supper. If I win, we do whatever I want. Bet?"

    I clearly want to mess around, but I want to see if a little motivation helps her "get it." I'm trying to understand this girl a little bit.
  • I think it is Pain 2 to trick Bianca here to learn more about her, what do you say?

    Success means the game goes the way you want, which you can choose after the roll.
  • Cool.

    Discipline: (Rolled: 3d6. Rolls: 4, 2, 2. Total: 8)
    Exhaustion: (Rolled: 2d6. Rolls: 4, 4. Total: 8)
    Madness: (Rolled: 1d6. Rolls: 1. Total: 1)
  • Pain: (Rolled: 2d6. Rolls: 2, 3. Total: 5)
  • Well, it looks like you got three successes against my two, so you succeed! Exhaustion dominates the roll, easily, so add one to that pool as a result.

    Who wins the hand?
  • Bianca wins. I helped some, but I think she might have won, anyway. My light's still on, so Dad will probably knock if he does check up on me at some point. I make sure there's a book next to the bed (to explain the light), put the cards back in the box, pull off my jeans but leave my t-shirt and boxers on. As we slip under the covers, I whisper, "I'm glad you won."

    Did I learn anything?

    Permanent Pool:

    Discipline 3
    Exhaustion 3
    Madness 1
  • Over the course of these hands of gin rummy, you've learned all of her tells. From how her eyes widen when she thinks she's in control to the little crease between her brows when she knows she's in trouble. From now on, you may roll one most Discipline against her. It isn't added to your permanent pool, it's just a ghost die in contests against Bianca.

    Also, you realize that her knowledge of the real world is shaped through dreams, that she's observant, but her ideas of things like morality, right and wrong, intimacy and social norms are warped by what she's gleaned from the experiences and imaginings of a hundred dying minds. Most of this you've already been picking up, but really, you could lie to her all day long and she'd believe you until proven otherwise.

    The last bit is that while she's well aware of sex, the joys of sex and feelings of being with someone attractive, even someone you're emotionally involved with, she's never personally had these experiences. She's as new at this as you are, she just has a different resource for expectations. You have the internet, she has dream-food.

    After you pull up the covers, she slides underneath them, begins giggling lightly as she fumbles with your boxers. Do you stop her? I imagine not... right?
  • I take her hand, guide it to the opening in the shorts, place it on my cock and wrap her fingers around the already firm shaft. Turn my head, breathe gently in her ear before I run the tip of my tongue around the inner ridges, catch her earlobe between my teeth, scrape just a little.
  • While she's rubbing you, she coos lightly when you kiss her ear. You see little goosebumps sprout along the side of her neck. She steals a glance over at you, asking, "Do you want me to be her again? Or someone else? Eileen? Your... mother?"
  • I shudder when she says that last bit. "No! I mean, definitely not my mother... I know people dream stuff, but... definitely not my mother. But... hey, since you ask. Do you know who Kaley Cuoco is? Penny from Big Bang Theory?"
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