[DRYH] School Daze (11)

edited June 2014 in DRYH
Second period ends with the routine buzzer in the halls, bringing you out of your reverie. You weren't sleeping in class, since your eyes never closed. You were dazed off, though. Amanda is in this class with you, by the way. She looks like a wreck. Her blonde hair is a bit dry, her eyes are bloodshot with bags under them. She's barely applied makeup, and her acne is showing. She doesn't answer questions anymore, just sits there. Mumbles when Mr. Kiplund calls on her.

You grab your book and start to head out of class, right? When you hit the hall, with the mass of other kids filtering out of classes, you see Bud in the hall. Was he there before anyone else? For a moment, you might think he's here for Amanda. But no, his eyes are on you. He's standing across the hall, in a dark gray hoodie, his eyes also bloodshot, but much more focused. You can feel the anger just boiling off him. Like steam rising off his crewcut hair.

You've got to get up to second floor for English. What's your favorite part about that class? Who from the soccer team is in that class with you?


  • edited June 2014
    I hate to admit it, would never tell Robert, who sits next to me, but it's the "read aloud" part of English that I love. We were asked to memorize a short poem a few weeks ago, and I picked some Stephen Crane:
    A man said to the universe:
    "Sir I exist!"
    "However," replied the universe,
    "The fact has not created in me
    A sense of obligation."
    The words just felt right in my mouth, like a ripe plum.

    I'm looking forward to English, but the sight of Bud in the hall, his bloodshot stare, the anger boiling off him, gives me pause. I remember "feeding" him to Bianca, and now I know what's what, it's not quite the hilarity it was on the night. I wonder if I can do something to get him and Amanda back to normal. I mean, normally, fuck him, right? He's a bully and (apparently) a pervert, but... I can attack Mother When, sure, but a real kid? A punch in the face is one thing, but this is something else.

    I meet his eyes, say "I'll try to help, Bud. It wasn't me, but... I'll try to help."
  • Bud glares for a long moment, looking at your eyes, searching your face. "What. Did you do to me an Amanda? You fucktard. What did you do to us? I can't sleep anymore."
  • Fuck. "I didn't do anything, Bud." And that's the truth. Weaselly, but strictly the truth. "Same thing happening to me... listen, doesn't your Mom take sleeping pills or something? Maybe that would help."
  • Bud pushes you back, not hard enough to make you fall, but enough to make you shift your feet. "Went through the whole fucking bottle, asshole. Herbal shit, relaxation tunes... Amada tries a fucking colonic. Nothing. I can't... I can't even think straight no more, man." There's a desperation in his voice, mixed with the frustrating realization that you don't have any answers for him.
  • I look at Bud, right in the eyes. Show him the tiniest hint of what I've gone through in the last week or so. The face I saw in the mirror yesterday (was it just yesterday?) morning, but exaggerated even farther... skeletal, beyond tired. "I'm trying, dude... back off. I'll get back to you soon." I'm committed now, to being Awake, but I don't need Bud and Amanda along for the ride. I'll find some way to put them to sleep...
  • You want Bud to back off, believe you're being straight with him? I think that's two Pain.
  • Sure, I'm actually being straight on trying to get Bud and Amanda to Go the Fuck to Sleep. I'll convince him.

    Discipline: (Rolled: 3d6. Rolls: 6, 4, 4. Total: 14)
    Exhaustion: (Rolled: 2d6. Rolls: 2, 6. Total: 8)
    Madness: (Rolled: 1d6. Rolls: 6. Total: 6)
  • Pain: (Rolled: 2d6. Rolls: 5, 5. Total: 10)
  • Bud looks at you for a long moment, holding your gaze. He wants to intimidate you, make you feel the confusion and loss he's feeling. After a breath, he realizes you are feeling some of it. He looks away, breaking eye contact. You know, for him, that's losing.

    Disgusted with the result of this confrontation, he turns his back on you and heads into the crowd.
  • With nothing else important, you head on to English, right?

    Robert's already seated. He's chatting with Cindy, a Latina girl from LA that he's been cozying up to since she transferred a couple weeks ago. He sees you, gives you the "guy nod" as you settle into your seat.

    Miss Angelton calls on you a couple times, asks you to read some stuff aloud. That goth girl Ally who sits in the back row, she stares at you when you read, sort of a slack-jawed stare. She's a little on the chubby side, but man, she has it for you bad, you think. She's always doodling in her journals, she brags about them being moleskins, talks about badass poetry to people who barely listen to her.

    Class ends and you head to Study Hall, which you can blow off for double lunch, if you want. Do you do that often? Eileen has second lunch period, she always saves you a seat, or comes to sit with you.
  • edited June 2014
    Since Eileen won't show until second lunch, I'll go ahead to study hall, knock out some homework. Lord knows I might not have a chance to do it at home. I'll look for her when I show up in the cafeteria, join her at the table. She'll surely still be pissed at me for taking off on her like I did, but might as well face the music.
  • When you come up on Eileen, she's sitting at her normal spot, about to take a bit of what passes for pizza. She sees you, then purposefully takes a big bite, chewing on it and not saying anything. She's going to let you talk first, it seems. The spot across from her is empty. So's the spot beside her.

    Where do you sit and what do you do?
  • I sit across from her, like usual. While she's chewing, I take a bite of my own pizza-like-substance, chew, and swallow. Wash it down with iced tea. "So, I'm not gonna offer you any free hits, but I'm sorry I took off on you like that. I was serious, though... You can't come with me over there. It's not safe. I couldn't even... protect some people that really belong there, last night."
  • She takes a drink of bottom-of-the-barrel tea, washes down her pizza-like-substance. Her expression shifts when you tell her some people weren't protected, asking, "What happened, Benny?"

    Then, "And why the fuck aren't you on the track team?"
  • "Last night? I went to war, and I guess I won. The battle at least, but... such a cost. Bianca's dead." I go on to sketch out the events of the night, trying to lighten it up a bit being dwelling on Scribbler's doodles, but there's no way to lighten it much. I killed on purpose, set out to kill, and I was pretty good at it.
  • The telling includes a number of questions from Eileen. Things you've accepted as truth still send her reeling. She makes a noise of sympathy for Bianca, the girl she never met but knew you knew well.

    Near the end of it, in an uncharacteristic move, she reaches across the table to touch the top of your hand, your left, which was gripping your cup as you described how Bianca had died and you finished off Mother When. "They... they weren't real, right? I mean, they aren't people, just imaginary, uhm, stuff." She pauses, mouth quirking, "Not trying to say you're crazy, just saying, you're more important... okay?"

    Five minutes left for lunch on the clock.
  • Real? People? I just don't know about that. I mean, the way Madalena explained it, Nightmares, most of the folks in the Mad City, are just really a collection of instincts and behaviors, acting the only way they can act, with no free will. But some - Madalena, Bianca - seem like people to me.

    "More important... sure. I'm not risking myself more than I have to." I don't move my hand.
  • She does.

    Eileen stands up, grabbing her tray. "You going to soccer practice today? How did your dad take things?" She's headed to throw her waste in the trash receptacle, drop off her tray.
  • "I guess I'm going. Dad was... well, allow me to quote from his latest note: ...disappointed and angry at your continued disregard for your family and my authority as your father. Also, worried. Son, are you taking drugs?" I follow, drop my trash, put the tray on the rack.
  • edited June 2014
    "Man, he has got you pegged." Eileen says as she lingers near you. "You're sooo on drugs. And probably skitzo, too." She grins, trying, as is her style, to make light of it.

    "So then, I'll pick up after practice?"
  • "That would be awesome" We part ways, and I head to class, keeping my eye out for Bud, just in case.
  • No sightings of Bud. You do see Amanda in the hall before Biology. She's standing at her locker, staring into it like it is a yawning abyss and she could barely muster the energy to care if she fell in.

    Leave her be?
  • There's nothing I can do for Amanda, at least until I figure out what to do. I'll leave her alone and head in to Biology class.
  • You arrive at Biology class a couple minutes early, take a seat beside Latika. She looks over at you when you sit, her dark eyes slightly hidden by her bangs, gives you a gentle nod of greeting.

    Darius was sitting on one of the wide desks in the lab. The double-desks that you use for experiments and the like. He sees you come in, and comes over. He doesn't look angry, isn't rolling up on you or anything. "Hey man... did you like, talk to Jazz?"
  • Shit. I'd forgotten all about those texts. Just yesterday? Really? "Yeah, D. Well, she sent me a text and I responded. I didn't see her or anything."
  • "Don't know what you said, man," Darius says with a detached tone, "But she gave me all kinds of hell." He doesn't really seem to care, for some reason. That seems to be all he wanted to say, really, he heads back to his seat.
  • If he doesn't pursue it, I'm sure not going to. Wonder what's going on there. I'll sit down next to Latika and wait for class to start. I am not in full on Biology mode, for sure - still thinking about Bud and Amanda and what to do there. I fucking hate being clueless.
  • Biology comes and goes. You have an actual lab, and Latika is a really, really good partner. Precise, careful, takes great notes, thoughtful, really gets into it. She seems to light up with the work.

    You get some hell from coach for skipping practice. Did you give him an excuse or just apologize? He gives you some laps and a talking to, regardless. Robert asks about it, because he's curious. Maybe worried about you? What do you tell him during a lull in practice?
  • It's good to watch Latika work. Good to watch anyone do anything normal and enjoy it, just be good at something.

    I'm actually looking forward to practice, for the same reason. Just do something normal, spend some time with the guys. I expect the hell coach gives me, and running laps isn't such a big deal these days (I don't try for fast, but running seems more... natural, less of an effort). With Coach, I just apologize, saying I had a bad day, needed to clear out.

    After we run some drills, before scrimmage, Robert comes up and asks. Of course he's worried. Even just knowing what he knows, this has been a fucked up week. "Listen, I'm on lockdown at home, man, and I just needed some time to clear my head. It'll be cool... another week or so and my life'll be as boring as yours." I punch him in the arm, hard enough to feel, but not enough to bruise.
  • Robert pretends to wince, "Yo, my life is not boring, Benny. Just because my neighbors don't get mono and smoke three packs a day doesn't mean my life is boring." He flexes a little, "I'm a ladies' man. I peel 'em off like mosquitoes, brother. You know even know." He laughs and playfully punches back.

    After practice, Eileen is waiting in her hooptie, playing "Slow Down for What" on her Shuffle. Just make small-talk with her or anything you wanted to chat about?

  • I like this groove. I just sit and listen, waiting for Eileen to start with the chit-chat.
  • Weather's turning colder as each day passes, and night comes on earlier and earlier. The sun is setting as the pair of you cruise along home. After Slow Down for What comes to its eventual end, Eileen turns down the volume a little, puts out her cigarette and looks over, "So check this out. While you were in Biology lab today, I had my study hall. Which is the only time to have study hall so you can cut out an hour early if you want. But did you listen to me? Nooooo." She gives you a know-it-all grin. "Anyways, that new guy with the freckles that's in your Lit class, you know Hunter? He rolls up on me in Study Hall. And like, out of nowhere, just starts macking on me. Is that not the most hilarious shit of all time? Poor kid didn't get the memo or something."
  • "The memo that you're a crazed mankiller? The memo that your pits smell? That you're that most foul fiend, a smoker?" I crack a grin.
  • "Zactly." Eileen agrees. "All those damn memoes, and new guy didn't see one of them. He even," she slows down to look right at you, holding out a hand like "stop the press", "He even asked me out to 'a movie sometime'." She does air quotes around the 'a movie sometime', and laughs hard after her revelation.

    "I mean... poor kid doesn't even know what he's asking for... smoker's breath stank... smelly pits... and then DEATH!"
  • Wait... "Eileen, Hunter's not a bad lookin' guy, right? Shouldn't you at least be... flattered?"
  • Eileen drives the rest of the block and stops at the stop sign before answering, "Sure. He's sorta cute, yeah." She looks over at you, then away, down to the shuffle, messing with it, "And I guess it's not so bad. After the last few weeks, especially. I haven't had a guy show interest in like..." she looks over at you again, "In a while."
  • I give Eileen a serious look, right in the eyes. My eyes widen a little bit, then I say in my best Peewee voice, "There's a lotta things about me you don't know anything about, Dottie. Things you wouldn't understand. Things you couldn't understand. Things you shouldn't understand." I pause for a second, waiting for her to come in with Dottie's "I don't understand." If she doesn't, I continue, regardless. "You don't wanna get mixed up with a guy like me. I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel."
  • Eileen cracks up as soon as she recognizes the quote, and yes, she bats her eyelashes, looking up at you when she says, "I don't understand," in that clueless little voice Dottie had.

    When you finish, she squeals with laughter, sits up and punches your arm. "Good one, Benny!" She starts driving again. "Yeah... I guess I'll go ahead and ruin Hunter's reputation before he even gets one. It's the least I can do to a guy named after an activity.... though I guess it's better than being named "Banker". Or "Salesman". Waaay better than Salesman."

    You finally reach your block, her laughter trailing off. Anything else before she drops you off?
  • I give Eileen a peck on the cheek and hop out. Shit... Dad's in there, probably still on his Cartman "respect my authoritah!" kick. Gotta go in, though. I square my shoulders. Fuck, I beat Mother When on her own turf, not gonna let Pops get me down.
  • The peck on the cheek, that's new, right? Is that a thing you do? I don't recall seeing that before.

    Eileen stiffens a little when you lean in, but she doesn't move away. Her eyes widened a little, too. She doesn't say anything for a breath, then chuckles, like "oh, you silly guy", and starts backing out of the driveway when you close the car door.

    You come inside, and your dad is there on his laptop. He closes it, remains in his big comfy chair, and looks at you, not speaking, just giving you the "well, shall you explain yourself?" look. Your mom is in the kitchen, but you think maybe she retreated there pretty quickly right before you came in. Probably duck and cover time for her.
  • Yeah, that peck was new. I'm feeling like the connection we have is keeping me sane, these days, and that was an impulsive gesture.

    Now, facing Dad. I don't sit, just stand there in front of him. "I'm sorry. There's no excuse. I fu... messed up again, and I'm sorry."
  • Your dad listens, and he seems disappointed a little when that's all you offer. He sits up, fishes something out of his pants pocket. It's a shiny new phone. What model have you been begging for? He tosses it to you, "Here son, a replacement phone." He lets you check it out, and sure enough, it is exactly the phone you've been craving. It is slick as all hell.

    "There's an ap preloaded on there. I'm going to keep tabs on you for the nest month, son. Everywhere you go, you take this with you. To school, to soccer practice, games, wherever." He looks back towards the kitchen, adding a little lower, "Your mom thinks the punishment is worse than the crime, so this is the deal I'm offering. I'll unground you come Monday as long as you come home at a decent hour and keep this phone with you at alllll times."

    He glares at you for a long moment. "Do we have a deal?"
  • What else am I gonna do? Well, y'see, Dad, don't freak out too much if the phone just drops off your sooper-seekrit radar screen, alright? Chances are that I've just popped off to this scary alternate world called the Mad City, and I'll be right back as soon I kill something or fuck someone or get killed or fucked. Cool?

    "We have a deal." It is a nice phone, really.
  • Your dad opens back up his laptop, saying, "Your mom ordered Chinese. Some in there for you." That's his dismissal.
  • After the PLS(tm) at lunch today, I am more than ready for some Chinese, and if Mom knew I was gonna get some trouble, she certainly ordered my favorites. I go on in the kitchen, put the phone in my pocket. I smile at Mom see, no big deal, I'm on nannycam, so what? and grab a plate.

    Cold sesame noodles. A couple fried dumplings. A little bit of super-incendiary mápó tòfu. And a heap of twice-cooked pork. Man, no matter how bad things get, when Szechuan Palace delivers, they deliver.
  • Your mother sits quietly in the eat-in kitchen at the dining table while you chow down. She's got her iPad with her, but you can tell she's doing the "I'm here if you want to talk" thing. She'll ask questions soon.
  • I swallow a bite of pork, wash it down with some iced tea. "So... how was your day?"
  • She looks up, smiles regardless if your tone was smart-alek or not, "It was good. Chelsea Riddle painted the nicest picture of her home. She's got excellent manual control. Miss Lester is getting a biopsy on the weird looking mole she has. Otherwise, nothing really stands out." She waits a moment, then probes, "What about yours, darling?"

    Her ipad is down, you have her full attention.
  • edited June 2014
    I hate-hate-hate having to hide my shit from Mom. I mean, like I said, she was my first star.

    "Good. Good. Classes were good. Soccer practice was okay. Y'know, just an average day..."
  • She takes a breath, like she's unsure for a moment, looks past you at the open doorway to the hall to make sure it's clear, then leans forward a bit, "Is everything alright, honey? I've noticed... you're having trouble sleeping."

    "I could get some herbal medicine to help with that, if you want."
  • "Thanks, Ma, but I'm sure it'll be fine. They talked about this in health class. I'm a teenager, sometimes the systems just get messed up for a while. I'll try the herbal stuff if you want, though."

    I take the last bite of the tofu, and apparently there was an extra special amount of Szechuan pepper in there. My lips tingle and my tongue goes numb.
  • Your mom nods, "Okay honey. I'll pick some up on the way home from school tomorrow."

    The front door opens. It's your sister, you hear her greeting your father. Your dad's voice takes on that particular pitch of pleasantries when he talks with her that you never hear when he talks to you.

    Heather comes into the kitchen, walks over to the table to pick through for some food. She picks out a bit of dim sum and chopsticks, starts eating a few bites. She seems hungry, but not starved.
  • I give Heather the nod. "Yo, sis." I'm done with dinner, placated Mom. If nothing else keeps me here, I'll head up to my room.
  • Your sister gives you a "my mouth is full" nod back, then grabs a seat. Your mother goes back to her ipad, Sure, you head up to your room. I assume you check your email?
    To: BennysEye@gggmail.com
    From: Jorge.Mejias@hushmail.com

    Yo man, got some details on Ernie Shale. HFS, that is some SCP-level shit. This is a freebie, since it was such a good read.

    Kid was our age, brought in by parents on 5/18/2011 saying he saw gremlins everywhere. Each day he's claiming the gremlins are his friends, and things keep going wrong: air conditioning goes out, lights flicker, TVs start broadcasting some spooky guy with a clock face, crazy shit.

    Then, after tracking his insomnia for a whole week and trying several times to administer a sedative, he's finally held down by orderlies and put down. He died the same night.

    But it WAS NOT a heart attack like the papers said. He was chopped up! Nobody got in or out, nothing on the security cameras. NOTHING!

    From the report:
    "The incisions on his body were from a large, serrated metallic weapon. Also, numerous puncture marks, a row of four each time. It was like someone killed the poor kid with a giant fork and steak knife."

    I attached scanned jpegs of the files, sorry for the crappy scans, best they had.

  • I take a look at the scans. They are pretty crappy, but I'm almost thankful, at least when I get to the pictures. The outlines of Ernie's story are pretty familiar, although I seem to have gotten... lucky? Luckier than "giant fork and steak knife," anyway.

    I pull my new Galaxy S5 out of my pocket. Man, this thing... this is like a studio in the palm of my hand. I swap my sim card into the phone and play around a little, checking out how the selective focus works shooting video, installing some of my usual apps, plus a new video editing thing that I saw recommended on the forums. Trial version, of course.

    I think about the money I owe Dad for this, for the head-cam. Shit. Wonder if there's anyway I can, what's the word, monetize my abilities?

    Back to the stuff about Ernie. Like I said, I seem to have somehow wrangled at least a hint of control for myself, but this story... does not bode well for Bud and Amanda. Unless they haven't fully "woken up" yet, maybe? Stop it before it really starts?
  • By the time you finish reading through the reports, it's past "bedtime". The house is quiet, only streetlights outside. You've got some homework to knock out, or you could spend time editing together some of your Go Pro feeds. How do you keep yourself busy tonight?
  • Homework first, then I just stare at the folder with the last several days worth of GoPro footage. Finally I open up Lightworks and choose a file pretty much at random. Turns out it's from the night of the Subway Massacre. Shit.
  • edited June 2014
    The pictures of Bianca are the most clear. The fight with the Lady in Hating is all jumbled. You can tweak it, it can be something useful, you're sure. But Bianca there, wounded by your hand. You see it, every detail of how you eviscerated you enemy, how she felt the fallout from your loss of control.

    For hours, you pore over the footage, splicing and shifting and cutting away. Over and over in your mind the scene plays. This place is called the Mad City. She lived there, and it keeps pulling you to it, Benny. It keeps calling you.

    "hi Benny." you hear a voice, a soft voice. A girl's voice, but not Bianca's. As you turn to it, you recognize it. Amanda. She's in your room, your bedroom right now. Sure looks like her. Her eyes are still puffy, bloodshot. She's pulled her hair back into a ponytail, and she has on a soft white sleeveless shirt, a pair of capris and sneakers. She smells clean, like soap and shampoo. As you look at her, she stands with her hands behind her back, subconsciously licking her lips slightly.

  • I freeze when I see her. "Amanda. Um, hi?" I feel sorry for her, really I do, but I'm not forgetting how vicious she can be, the way she treats people. I'm guessing that what she's going through is not making her a better person. I keep it banal. "How are you doing?"
  • She's staring right at you, unblinking, "tired. i'm tired, Benny. so very tired."

    After a moment, she moves forward, looking at your monitor, "what's that? a movie?"
  • I close the laptop. "Just something I'm playing around with. Why are you here, Amanda?"
  • She stops moving forward, hesitates when you shut her down like that. She looks at you again, "Bud said you're like us... that you know what's wrong. is that true?"
  • I soften a little. "I know some stuff, but I can guarantee it's not going to make much sense. Why don't you have a seat..." I nod at the bed, wait for her to sit down.

    "Okay, I guess the first question is, have you seen the Mad City yet? Another... place, with cobblestone streets and gaslights and straight up weirdness" Maybe, maybe, if she hasn't crossed over yet it's not too late. If the Nightmares haven't noticed her, put her on their To Eat lists.
  • Amanda pads over to sit on the bed. How's that look? Ever fantasized about this moment, Benny? Hot little Amanda, right here in your room?

    She shakes her head. "no. i don't see anything now. no more dreams, no more nightmares, no more...sleep. is the mad city nice, Benny?" Her left hand slowly spreads along your bedsheet, which is made, thanks to your mom. What's your bedspread like?
  • A couple years ago, I found a site that did custom linens, using whatever image you provided. So, this is my bedspread. Ava Gardner.


    It's actually kind of embarrassing now, but I still like it.

    Of course I've imagined fucking Amanda, and not only that, but the tearful conversation afterward, where she tells me that I've changed her, she's going to be a better person... These circumstances, though, are not exactly bonerific.

    "The Mad City is just what it says on the label. Mad. It's dangerous and insane, and pretty much everything and everyone there wants to eat you, one way or another. I don't want you to wind up there, or even Bud, but right now I don't know what I can do to stop it."
  • "i've seen the girl in your movie, Benny." she says it not like a taunt, more like she's trying to get you to listen. "the asian girl. she was snooping around our house. she's dead now, right? you killed her."

  • Well, shit. No sense in being coy, I guess. "She was trying to kill me, actually. Trying very hard to kill me. I killed her with a knife and hurt a friend in the process."

    I look down at my shoes, waiting for more questions. How can I explain any of this in any sort of meaningful way?
  • "oh." she says quietly. "why did she want to kill you?"

    She's staring again. "did she want to kill me, too? or just you?"
  • "She was pretty focused on me... I had a run-in with her... boss? right after things started going sideways for me, and the woman was pretty pissed at me. She might have wanted you and Bud, too, but I think she was more interested in you as..." I stop myself before I say "food". "...as, I don't know what, really. I told you none of this actually makes sense, right?"
  • Amanda doesn't respond to your assurance that it doesn't make sense, instead focusing on the girl, "what about the other one, your friend? where is she?"

    She sees it in your eyes, and for the first time since the conversation began, she shows an emotion. Sudden sadness, "i'm... i'm sorry, Benny."
  • I nod, still processing the loss of Bianca, all the lives lost last night. "Yes. She's gone. Fuck, Amanda, I know you're hoping I can help you, but I can't even help myself."
  • Amanda looks away, like the intensity of what you're feeling rolls off you. Her eyes downcast, "i'm having weird stuff happen, too. no Mad City like that. but... weirdness."
  • I was guessing that. "What's been happening, Amanda?" I'm a little tense. I know how my "demonstration" for Eileen went... what if Amanda's weirdness is even less under control than mine?
  • Amanda looks up again, fixing you with a look like she's not sure how to put it. "well... its like. if i touch stuff, i know how to, well, how it works. without, uhm, really thinking about it or anything. i'm just... really good at it." She shrugs, looks away again, up at the big soccer flag draped above your bed, the Pele poster, the bookshelf, "your room... its nice. not nasty like..." she looks back, "it's nice."
  • I smile at the compliment. "Thanks. That sounds cool, your thing... I, well... I can sort of make people see what I want them too. Sometimes, feel it too. I mean not like give them the feels, but feel it." I demonstrate by scooting my chair over and poking her in the arm with my finger, not hard.
  • She stiffens when you get close, just for a moment, but you see her will herself still, force herself to trust you. "that doesn't look too weird. you just, you know, poked me." She reaches up to push some of her blonde locks out of her eyes and looks at you, less of a stare, more friendly, "show me."
  • Hmm. Nothing from the Mad City, nothing from her family. Might as well break the tension a little. "Hey, you have Pitzinger for History, right? Okay."

    ...and I'm the spitting image of Red Pitzinger, the school's baseball coach and underclass history teacher. A tall, rangy graying ginger with a crooked nose (hit by a pitch in college), a strange nasal resonance to his voice as a result. "Now, class. The Battle of Gettysburg took place on July 1st, July 2nd and July 3rd of the year 1863. Union General George Meade took his armies out of his sleevies and managed to withstand multiple attacks fielded by the car from Dukes of Hazzard, ultimately proving victorious..."
  • Amanda's eyes widen in surprise when your face shifts. She watches you with rapt attention, mouth hanging slightly open. You mention Gettysburg, and she whispers, "oh em gee." She lets you finish, thrilled by this show of yours. She cracks up with a snort, something you've never heard from her, an explosion of mirth she couldn't control.

    You realize only part of it is your humor. Most of it is the fact that she may not have laughed in a week, strung out since her dreams were consumed by your dead girlfriend. She holds up a hand over her face in slight embarrassment, but she keeps watching your performance to the end.

    When you're done, she says breathlessly, "wow, that was so awesome."
  • I'm Benny again. I take a bow. "Thank you, thank you..."

    Now that the tension's reduced, I realize that I still don't have a clue what to do next, what Amanda needs me to do. I'm short on answers and the details on Ernie keep floating to the surface. "A giant fork and steak knife...."
  • Amanda sits there, laughter trailing off into silence. You both realize the sudden awkwardness. She looks around your room for a few moments, nervously. Finally, she asks as she looks back at you, "can i stay here tonight, Benny?" Her voice seems small, the worry coloring it. Perhaps the knowledge about denizens of the Mad City have added to her fears. Perhaps she's faking it?
  • "Amanda, on top of everything, I'm sorta on house arrest until Monday. I just can't let Dad or Heather find you here, okay? It would be better if you left." I'm really torn, though. I know I'm responsible for her condition, but I'm not sure whether I'm an asset or a liability. "How did you get in here, anyway?"
  • Amanda's shoulders slump a little, she sort of deflates when you tell her to go, eyes flicking towards the door. She stands, then hesitates when you ask how she got here. "i can... open any door now. it just, kind of, occurs to me how the lock works. or something."

    She heads for your door.
  • "Amanda? Take care, okay? I'm going to try and find a way to help..." I hate that I'm letting her go, but I've got my own battles to fight, regardless. I realize this is the longest conversation we've had without her insulting me or one of my friends.
  • Amanda nods softly as she opens your door, then she's gone.

    Do you do anything of note before morning?
  • I work on getting my phone set up some more, and by the time I'm pretty satisfied, there's still hours left to kill before it's time for school. I refuse to install Candy Crush again, and surfing for porn falls flat after about five minutes. Finally, I open up Celtx in storyboarding mode and start to make a plan to string together some of the video. Not actually watching or editing, just organizing my thoughts.

    I jump in the shower before Heather's usual time and hang out downstairs in the kitchen, helping Mom with breakfast.
  • Your mother is surprised at your eagerness, spends the morning working with you on Italian sausage, since that's still her kick, talking about when you cooked with her as a little boy. She asks about classes, and asks if you like your phone, general quiet pleasantries.

    Heather gets in the shower, your dad finishes up on the elliptical and comes in to munch on food. Well, he grabs a plate and heads out to the living room to eat.

    After a few minutes, he says, loud enough to be heard over Sportscenter, "Well, I wonder what the hell is going on over at the Andrews?"
  • I head out into the living room, look out the window. "What's up, Dad?"
  • edited June 2014
    "Not sure." your dad answers from his seat.

    There's an ambulance in the driveway. Lights flashing. Nobody is outside.
  • Before I catch myself, I say, "Shit." Not loud, but if Dad's paying attention he'll hear. I watch through the window.
  • Your dad doesn't say anything. He's watching, too. Your mom comes out in a couple minutes.

    Some guy in a blue jumpsuit comes out to the ambulance, walks up to the driver's side door, opens it, turns off the flashing lights. Then he turns to walk back inside.

    "The hell does that mean?" your dad asks.

    "Maybe," your mom offers softly, "maybe it was a false alarm?"
  • I don't think it was a false alarm. I don't think so at all. I step out of the house and sit on the porch swing. I haven't put my jacket on yet, so the morning chill gets uncomfortable quickly, but I sit and watch. At this point I'm really only wondering if it will be one stretcher or two that comes out of the Andrews' house.
  • Heather comes down, grabs a small bit of food before joining you. Nobody has come out to the ambulance. Your mom fills Heather in on the nothing that you really know. A dark blue SUV arrives, parking on the and a man gets out. He's in his fifties, wearing a rumpled suit.

    Your mom says low, like she might spook someone, "Honey is that..."

    "Yeah," your dad says as he stands up. "That's Tad Esther. County Coroner."

    "Holyshit! Somebody's dead?" your sister blurts out as she pulls her phone out of her robe.
  • I'm quiet. Heather probably expects me to take my phone out, too, so I do it. I set my phone to record video and lean it against a little flower pot on the porch rail. I ignore her little sneer. Whatever. Shit.
  • Your mother breaks it up, "Kids, you need to get ready for school. I'm sure we'll... find out what happened soon enough." She looks at you and Heather both, "I'll drive you to school today."

    Is that a treat? Some kind of "hush money" thing? Or is it a commandment?
  • It's for sure a commandment. Mom rarely does this, but she's using her "She Who Must Be Obeyed" voice. I'm ready, dressed and groomed, just have to run up and grab my backpack.
  • Heather gives her patented "dramatic sigh + eye roll" move, and trudges upstairs to finish getting ready.

    Who rides in the front seat with mom?
  • Heather and I don't even negotiate or fuss over shotgun any more. She's older and more determined, she gets the front seat. I'm still watching the house as we get in the car, and I crane my neck to keep looking as we drive away.
  • You don't see anything. Nobody has come out of the house the entire time. Mr. Andrews hasn't gone to work, Bud's jeep is still parked in the drive, too.

    You're new phone buzzes. Hey, it's your first text!

    To: Benny From: Jasmine I broke up with D. I'm sorry he hit you. And sorry I was a beeyotch, too
  • Huh. Jasmine.

    To: Jasmine From: Benny I hope it wasn't my fault. Why did you break up?

  • edited June 2014
    Your mom is driving slow, NPR playing on the radio. What does your mom drive?

    To: Benny From: Jasmine Not your fault, his. He's a bully. I don't like bullies. I'm not that kind of person, Benny. Even tho I overreacted to your movie, I want you to know I'm not.
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