Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Episode 18

Episode 18
Written by Andy Mascola

“A memento?” John asked as he and his two friends followed Charles into the room. “You mean like this photograph of me and my dad?” John held up the photo he’d found taped to his door.

Footsteps could be heard coming down the hall. Jennifer turned to see two identical Asian-looking men, just like the ones at the facility, walk past pushing a stretcher, assumedly to remove the corpse of Kimberly in the next room.

“Lynchpins are important,” Charles said as he sat down behind a long mahogany desk at the opposite end of the room. On the desk were a globe and a green lamp along with a couple small stacks of books, and a few magnetic sculptures.

Cyrus’ single eye looked around. Charles’ office had dark burgundy colored walls and a thick black carpet. There were floor to ceiling bookshelves on either side packed tightly with hardcover tomes. On the wall behind Charles’ desk was a painting of Mrs. Margot posing demurely, her hands in her lap, a slight smile on her face.

“Lynchpins: items, memories, happenings that hold us to a moment in time. They anchor us to a place or a person or a critical point in our lives,” Charles said as he stood and walked toward the trio carrying three small wooden boxes. “Or, in this case,” he continued as he handed one box to each of the friends, “a memento to protect you as you complete your mission.”

Jennifer opened her box. Inside was a small silver broach made up of three interlocking triangles. She removed the pin and attached it to her blue jumpsuit just above her left breast. She turned to John and Cyrus.

“What are these?” Cyrus asked as he fumbled to attach his pin before Jennifer stepped in and assisted.

“The triangles represent the bond between your team as well as the larger bond between our kind,” Charles explained.

John clamped the box shut and sighed. “I’m outta here,” he said angrily as he threw the box down on the carpet and stomped through the office’s red door and down the hall.

Cyrus turned to go after him, only to be stopped by Charles. “No! You two stay here. I’ll take care of this.”

John had entered the elevator at the end of the hall. The doors were closing just as Charles reached him. Charles put his hand on a glass panel on the wall and the elevator’s doors opened. John avoided eye contact as Charles stepped in next to him. The doors to the elevator shut. The elevator did not ascend or descend.

“Where did you get that photo?” John asked angrily through clenched teeth.

“What do you remember of your father, John?”

John closed his eyes and breathed deeply before starting. “He wasn’t around a lot for my mom and me, and then one day he was gone.”

“What happened to him?”

John opened his eyes and sighed, crossing his arms over his chest. He looked at the floor of the elevator. The small repeated pattern on the flat carpet was the same three interlocking triangles as the broaches in the wooden boxes. “My mother told me he died of a heart attack.”

“Did you believe her?”

John looked at Charles, “I did…until…” John had never told anyone what he was about to tell Charles.

 “Until…” Charles said.

“I got a phone call one day when I was home alone after school. I must have been fourteen or fifteen-years-old.  A man told me that my mother had lied about my father to protect me. He told me to look out the front window.”

“What was outside, John?”

John breathed in deeply and ran his hands down his face. “A limousine was parked in front of our house. A black tinted window in the back came down, and there he was. He was holding a phone and waving at me, smiling.”

“Do you remember what happened next?”

“Gunshots,” John said. “The window went up and the limousine pulled out and took off fast. A white van drove by in pursuit. I dropped the phone and ran outside. I watched as the limousine crashed into a sedan at the intersection at the end of our block. I ran toward the accident. The white van stopped and the back doors opened. Two men in black jumpsuits hopped out. They had guns. One man grabbed me and put me in a headlock. The other man ran to the limousine.”

“What happened then?”

“I bit down hard, as hard as I could on the guy’s arm until he let me go. I ran to the limo just as the other man in the black jumpsuit was opening the back door.”

“What was inside the limo, John?”
John shook his head. “Nobody was in there. I remember looking into the front. The limo driver was dead. The windshield was shattered. The two guys jumped back in the van and took off.”

Charles unbuttoned his sleeve and rolled it up. John looked down at Charles’ bare arm to see the bite marks of an angry and confused teenaged boy scarring the pale flesh of the older man’s inner elbow.

“That man you bit was me, John.”

Back in Charles’ office, Jennifer was thumbing through a thick book she’d pulled off one of the shelves titled ‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’. As near as she could tell it was fiction. She was distracted by a small crash from the other side of the office. Jennifer looked up to see Cyrus had broken one of the magnetic sculptures on Charles’ desk.

“Oops!” the giant Cyclops said as he fumbled to put it back together.

Jennifer sighed and put the book back on the shelf. “Let me see if I can fix that before he gets back,” she said. As the two collected the tiny metal pieces, John entered the room with Charles. “Too late,” Jennifer said standing in front of the desk next to Cyrus, trying to block the broken mess.

John walked over to the wooden box, still on the floor. He picked it up and opened it, pinning the silver triangles onto his chest. John looked at his friends.

“I’m in,” he said.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Different Spectrum

I loaded the gun and stared at the cold steel that I clutched in my right hand. Trembling at the very idea of taking my own life proved that I still had the capacity to feel. It was a little odd to have a rush shoot through you for all of the wrong reasons. I thought back about the good times and the bad, trying to give myself any reason to splatter all of them on the wall behind me. Something was missing, but I couldn’t figure it yet.

An unexpected knock at the door shook me up, causing me to drop the gun on the floor at my feet. I left it lying on where it landed as I scurried to the door to see who was on the other side. Looking through the peephole, I saw an elderly woman, about 70 years old if I had to guess, draped with a black robe and holding a stack of books. I wasn’t really in the mood to hear about our lord and savior, but I opened the door anyways.

“Hello, may I come in?”

I hesitated to agree, but something told me to oblige. I stepped aside and motioned for her to walk in. The woman placed her books on the hardwood floor after removing her robe. She acted as if she owned the place, striding over to my black leather sofa and plopping down without a care. I keep feel the rage inside of me bubbling to the surface.

My color was brown.

“Do you just come in and make yourself at home wherever you go?”

She reached into the left pocket of her blue jeans and pulled out a flask of whiskey, sipping it before addressing his question.

“Only the places I call home,” she replied, “you wouldn’t happen to have an extra cigarette, would you?”

“I don’t smoke,” he lied.

She caught on to his blatant falsehood when she spotted an ashtray on the end table near the window, a ceramic graveyard to a dozen or more cigarette butts. She wore a sly smirk as she looked back at him, studying how he’d react to being caught in a lie. His freshly shaven face was now as red as his color.

I walked into my bedroom and grabbed two smokes from the pack, tossing one to her on the way to the couch. I passed her my lighter and sat down next to her on the couch and was immediately mystified by her very presence. It was something that I’d never felt before, and probably would never feel again. There was this odd kind of energy that emanated from her that roped me in deeper and deeper. It almost felt like something I couldn’t fight, like loving the wrong person.

Her face was wrinkled, and she looked like one of those people that look like an animal. If I had to guess, I would say that she resembled a tortoise. A long, skinny neck supported her small head, which made me think to myself that she had to have been built rather than made. Everything was just as it should be, which terrified me to no end. I decided to forego my fears and attempt to crawl around her mind for a bit.

“So are you going to tell me about Christ or what?”

She looked at me, acting as if my question washed right over her, showing no emotion whatsoever. Her energy increased, and I could see it infect the room. Creeping and swirling around every door way, a light blue colored vapor surrounded them. I was unclear whether the woman had seen the apparition, so I just assumed that she had. She didn’t come off as worried or fearful of it, so I tried to follow suit but couldn’t do it.I could feel my throat tightening, like this thing was stealing my breath one breath at a time.

“What makes you think I’m here to talk about Christ? I’m here for something far more important.”

It was almost dusk when she answered the question. It had only felt like a few minutes, but when I looked down at my watch I noticed just how late it was. When I looked back up to her, and made pure eye contact for the first time, a heavy breeze swept through and shook the house. The wind chimes that dangled from my front porch smashed violently against the window, cracking it at first strike.

The woman rose up from her seat and approached her stack of books. The one on top had the title of, “Occult and You.” She bent down to pick up the book and flipped to a bookmarked page, causing every light in my house to flicker and eventually burn out. As soon as I tried to jump up and question her, I realized that I had no control over my movements outside of my eyes. I scanned the room to figure out what she was up to.

My color was turquoise.

Before I could form even an uneducated assertion, there was another knock at the door. She smiled from ear to ear as if she was expecting company. Shuffling over to the door, I watched in horror as the door swung open, and in stepped the blonde woman I slept with the previous night. Her reaction led me to believe that she wasn’t in on this, and had just dropped by for an encore or to just say hello.

“Are you his maid?”

“Something like that, I guess you could say. I’m well known for cleaning up a mess,” she retorted with a giggle.

When I looked at her, I saw her in a different light. She was way more beautiful than before. Maybe this was because I only had my eyes. She was drop dead gorgeous, beautifully broken like a sunset through a broken mirror. It had to be some kind of cruel joke that my words were useless after carrying such meaning for my entire life. It wasn’t that I had nothing to say, it was that I simply couldn’t.

The old woman spoke. “You’re both here. Sit next to him,” she commanded.

She reluctantly followed the orders, watching as the old woman trailed off into the bedroom. Upon her return she held the gun loosely, clutching it with both hands. She placed it on the table and looked at both of them, witnessing the vapor surround the girl next.

“I will be back in twenty minutes. You have to make a choice. You or her. There’s one bullet, but you already knew that.”

I struggled to find through whatever spell I was presently under but was unsuccessful. I tried to shake myself free but could do nothing but blink my eyes.

“Are you trying to tell something, boy?”

She chuckled as she turned around to grab her books and robe. As she made her way down the block, she stopped dead in her tracks as soon as she heard a single gunshot echo throughout the neighborhood. Birds flocked and dogs barked, as she stepped forth to her next mess.

His color was baby blue.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Episode 17

Cyrus was the first one to roll out of bed, sporting his fresh plain navy blue jumpsuit. He stirred and twisted in the vacant hallway awaiting his friends to exit from their assigned quarters. He looked down as he paced, noticing something that wasn’t there only seconds ago. An unopened bottle of whiskey rested at the edge of his doorway. As he bent down to pick it up, he heard the door nearest to him creak open. John stepped out and confronted the beast.

“You haven’t had enough yet, champ?”

Cyrus fumbled through a collection of words that never quite left his lips as Jennifer’s door opened next. The winged blonde made her way towards the two of them.

“Rough night, huh?”

“Goes without saying,” John remarked back, before noticing a 4x6 print photo taped to his door. As he stepped closer, he realized that it was a photo from his childhood. He was sitting in his father’s lap, wearing a Spiderman pajama set. He held it up to inspect it some more, reliving the day with each passing second. Suddenly, he felt a touch on his shoulder and Jennifer’s voice relay a bit of sarcasm that he had made his own.

“So you were destined to be a freak, huh?”

“Funny,” he shot back.

The three of them conversed about the events of the previous night when the subject of Nick and Kimberly arose. Cyrus apologized for his drunken stupor yet again, setting the stage for John to channel his inner father to berate someone who had genuinely looked up to him. Before John could bring the Cyclops to tears, Jennifer questioned why Kimberly had yet to come out of her room like the three of them had from their own.

John was the first one to knock at the door, at first with a respectful rhythm, gradually increasing to a vicious pounding on the steel. Her room number was 314 and was located next to Cyrus’ room. John ceased the assault on the door, turning to the behemoth to interrogate him about the night of rest they were all supposed to be enjoy.

“You didn’t hear a thing? Did you hear anything that would lead you to believe that she may have escaped? Through a window or something?”

“Our rooms don’t have windows,” he said.

“Oh, Christ,” John said, looking at Cyrus. “Well?!”

“Well what?!”

“Bust down the fucking door!”

Cyrus backtracked the few feet that he was allotted and charged the door, bouncing off of it, clutching his chest. John looked on in disgust, before shouting at him to do it again. Cyrus obliged, this time bouncing off of the door, laying on the floor completely spent.

“Jesus fucking Christ, are you good for anything at all?”

John looked down at Cyrus, who was now grabbing his shoulder in pain.

“This is how you break down a door, you dullard,” he screamed as he extended the full length of his right leg a few inches away from the lock, swinging the door open with authority. As the door bounced off of the paneling right behind it and sprung forward once again, John pushed it open once and for all. As he stepped in, he wished that he never had. The lifeless corpse of Kimberly twisted from the ceiling fan above her. Jennifer walked in behind him and advised that Cyrus keep his distance from the inside of her room.

Footsteps were heard approaching all three of them, and Cyrus was the first to notice that Charles was walking with a purpose towards all three of them. As he stood behind both John and Jennifer, looking at what they had just discovered, he looked on and took it all in.

“Just as we suspected,” he said.

John turned to him, red in both his face and eyes. 

“Just as you expected?! You made those two suffer for years and for what?”

“Ah, but John, we are the cause of our own suffering. You don’t see this yet? Please, come with me.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you until you explain what the fuck is going on!”

“I’m trying to, you won’t let me, for now. The sad fact of the matter is that you would follow me to the gates of hell if I had the answers you were looking for. Come.”

Cyrus jumped to his feet and was the first to align himself with Charles. Jennifer followed suit next, accompanied by a mumbling John.

“You see, what you guys fail to see is that we have your best interest in mind. I know I’m asking for a lot, to ask all of you, outside of Cyrus, to trust in this plan, but I promise you, it’s worth it.”

Charles reached a red door at the end of the corridor, and before entering his key code into the pad, turned to them.

“She hung herself because she didn’t get a memento.”

All three of them looked at each other.

Jennifer was the first one to speak.

“Well neither did I.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Episode 16

Episode 16
Written by Andy Mascola

“Everyone in the chopper,” Charles commanded.

Cyrus obediently marched toward the helicopter. John and Jennifer looked at each other skeptically.

“Now!” Charles yelled.

Jennifer shrugged. John sighed heavily. The two turned and walked toward the helicopter. Charles’ three armed guards shifted their weapons behind their backs and proceeded to clean up the mess of the dead bodies lying in the snow.

From inside the helicopter, John saw Charles walk into the cabin. Moments later, he walked out with an arm around Kimberly. She was looking around frantically, assumedly for Nick. The bodies outside the cabin had been removed by the armed guards, but John couldn’t see where they’d been taken.  

Charles escorted Kimberly into the rear of the helicopter with the other three, and then  took a seat next to the pilot.

“Where’s Nick?” Kimberly asked John.

John looked at Jennifer who was sitting directly across from him. Jennifer turned and looked out the window. John looked down, not saying anything.

“Where’s Nick?” Kimberly said again, this time to Cyrus.

The helicopter’s blades were spinning faster and the sound of the engine was getting louder. Tears were rolling down Kimberly’s face. She mouthed the words again, but the three comrades couldn’t hear her anymore.

As the copter flew up and away from the cabin, John looked out the window to see if he could figure out what Charles’ guards had done with the bodies. The three armed men were gone, as was any evidence of the fight that had taken place hours previously; a fight that had left Nick as well as Jennifer’s winged counterpart dead and bleeding in the snow.

It was night when the helicopter reached its destination. John woke when the machine landed roughly, shaking him. He looked at his friends. Cyrus and Kimberly were still asleep. Kimberly’s head was resting on the Cyclops’ shoulder. Jennifer was awake and staring out the window.

Outside, orange and red lights blinked. The helicopter’s engine shut down and the blades slowed. The door on the side was opened by the pilot who was wearing a helmet and leather gloves. Charles exited the helicopter and waited for the group to join him.

“Jennifer,” John said. She looked at him. He motioned for her to wake up Kimberly and Cyrus. Jennifer shook the two awake.

John stood and exited the helicopter. As he stepped out, he looked around. They’d landed on a helipad on the roof of a skyscraper in the middle of a city. It was a cold and windy night. Charles stood with his hands in the pockets of a long black wool coat. He still wore the floppy fishing hat he’d had in the facility. The other three friends stepped off the helicopter and looked around, rubbing their eyes and yawning.

“Let’s go,” Charles said. He turned and walked over to a door being held open by the pilot at the corner of the helipad.

The four comrades followed Charles through the door and down a flight of cement stairs. The pilot closed and locked the door behind them. Nobody said anything to each other as they descended into the skyscraper.

After walking down four flights of stairs, Charles stopped and waited while the pilot used a keycard to electronically unlock a door leading into a long carpeted hall. Again, the four followed Charles. 

The old man stopped at a door at the end of the hall. He took his right hand out of his pocket and placed it on a glass rectangle next to the doorknob. The glass rectangle glowed green and beeped. Charles opened the door and walked into a large conference room.

John, Jennifer, Cyrus, Kimberly and the helicopter pilot followed Charles into the room. The walls of the room were made out of a glossy wood paneling. The rug was black. Charles took a seat at the head of a long dark table shaped like a coffin. He motioned for the four friends to sit down.

“This is headquarters,” Charles started. “Those who seek to destroy what we’ve built in order to use your special attributes for their own selfish reasons now know you exist.” The old man sighed. “If Merlin hadn’t radioed for assistance, we may have had a shot of getting at least one of you into their base without them finding out you’re working for Mrs. Margot and I.” Charles looked at John.

“You’re blaming me for this?” John said incredulously.

“Jennifer and Cyrus had no problems dispensing with their counterparts,” Charles said calmly as he slowly blinked.

“What? The only thing Cyrus had no problem dispensing of was the alcohol!” John said angrily. “I shot Cyrus’ counterpart in the knee before I ran after Merlin. Cyrus was passed out in the cabin!”
Cyrus looked down, ashamed.

“What happened to Marcus?” Charles asked.

“Who?” John asked.

“Marcus,” Jennifer said. “The other Cyclops. The one you shot in the knee,” she rubbed her forehead and eyes with both hands.  “What happened to Marcus?”

“You tell me, sister?” John said standing up. “You seemed to have your winged counterpart pretty much choked to death by the time I took off after the monkey man.  I clipped that giant monster in the knee with a bullet so he wouldn’t hurt anyone while I was chasing down Merlin. So, Jennifer, ou 
tell me what happened to Marcus!”

All eyes were on Jennifer.

“Well?” Charles asked impatiently.

Jennifer sighed and shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said finally, looking down.

“So, Merlin got away, and is now reporting everything that happened at the cabin to our enemy, and there’s a wounded Cyclops presumably wandering the woods. Do I understand this correctly?” Charles asked.

“Yes,” Jennifer and John said simultaneously.

“What happened to Nick?” Kimberly asked in a shaky voice. Every eye in the room turned to look at her.

“Nick’s dead,” Cyrus said bluntly.

Kimberly broke down in tears. Everyone was silent. Charles made a motion to the pilot who had been standing at the ready by the door, his helmet under one arm. The pilot gently took Kimberly by the elbow and walked her quickly out of the conference room.

“We’ll go over the rest of this in the morning,” Charles said sighing. He reached into the inside pocket of his long coat and pulled out three keycards. “Here are your room assignments,” he said sliding the cards to Jennifer, John, and Cyrus. “The numbers on these cards correspond to the numbers on the doors of the rooms in the hall outside. Get some sleep. There’s an elevator at the opposite end of the hall. I want the three of you to meet me in the lobby tomorrow morning at eight o’clock. You’ll find a change of clothes on your beds. Make sure you’re wearing them the next time we see each other.”

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Back Room

She laid her bag on the front desk before she clicked the lights on. The marble floors reflected the sharp light that was just bestowed upon it. As she made her way to her chair, she clicked her laptop on that remained open from the night before. She had waited for this day for the past seven and a half months, and it was finally here. She did her best to contain her excitement that came with living your life’s dream, but the reality of the price that she paid to do so dampened her mood. It didn’t last for long.

She had always wanted to open a bookstore of her own, and she’d finally done it. Today was her first day open to the public. She had spread the word around the community by stapling neon green flyers to light posts all across the city. This was a strategic move. She had sat on her newly acquired fortune for the entire winter. Of course, she had promoted online like anybody with a budding business would, but felt that flyers would be a waste during the winter season.

It seemed to her that most people had given up on the old fashioned, sure fire way of doing business. Being friendly and outgoing will get you far in life, and it was a philosophy that she subscribed to. The belief that putting positive energy into the world would return it back to you was a foreign concept to her only a year ago. As they say, a lot can happen in a year.

Her name was dragged through the mud hundreds of times over the course of the last two years. The combination of the media and the way the locals had treated her caused her to take drastic measures. She had changed her name and relocated to a upscale suburb in upstate New York. It was a change of pace from what she was used to, but she felt like that she had finally belonged.

Belonging was a weird human thing. She didn’t think that any other species had to deal with fitting in. Whenever she had watched a documentary about wild animals, it seemed like everything just naturally fell into place. Pure freedom, what a concept. It probably wasn’t normal for people to be envious of animals, but she wished that she could have just let things fall where they may. Instead, she forced her fate. In all of the personal growth that she had went through, she was beginning to pick up on things that escaped the common man.

Her raven black curly locks bounced as she slid her desk chair over to her laptop. Her face was flush, obviously still battling that cold from last night. She was hoping that it would have passed by now, but the grumbling in her stomach made her realize that it wasn’t done with her just yet. She reached in her bag and pulled out a bottle of water and a powdered lemonade packet. As she placed it on the white countertop, she noticed a middle aged man and his son standing outside of the door. She would have thought this was weird, had she not just noticed that she never flipped the door sign to read open.

She skipped to the door and opened it, apologizing for any inconvenience.

“Sorry, first day,” she said to the father.

“Ah,” he shot back, with a touch of forgiveness in his tone. She could tell that he was growing restless waiting outside of the shop.

“Please, come in. You guys are my first patrons. Are you looking for anything in particular?”

They stepped inside the doorway and marveled at the architecture that encased the interior of the building. Mahogany railings surrounded the spiral staircase that led to the second floor. She had insisted that didn’t want any elevators in her facility, which she now saw as more trouble than it was worth. She was more than willing to pay any price as long as it meant that she could avoid reliving that night again, but she had changed her mind.

Maybe an elevator would make her feel closer to him again. Maybe she could have a drink in the elevator and talk to him one last time. She knew that it was too late for these maybe’s, however. She extended her hand to the father.

“Well, my name is Melanie and I’d like to welcome you to The Open Book! I hope you don’t regret dropping in today.”

She got a chuckle from the boy that stood about as tall as her knee. Melanie bent down to look the boy in the eye. “What are you looking to read? I have some really cool kids’ books!”

“You didn’t even ask my name yet!” His bowl cut made her laugh on the inside, especially the way that his brown bangs subtly hugged the top of his eyes. She thought it was a funny coincidence that they were both wearing the same peach colored shirt. His was plain and hers had a floral design in the center. A blue jay perched from a branch extending from right side of the design.

“Well, what is your name and what are you looking to read?”

“My name is Danny and I want to read about jellyfish!”

She rose to her feet and instructed both of them to follow her. She walked towards her desk and turned right, walking towards a row of books in a section that was labeled, ‘children.’ She had a vast collection of children’s books, because she had always admired the authors of them. Writing a book for children was a different ball game than writing for adults. Things had to make sense for kids to lend their imagination to them. Adults literature was littered with a rotten, stinky corpse of what prose should be. Too many hacks in it for the money and not the love of the art, which is the exact opposite of the way it should be. She refused to carry any young adult novels inside of these walls.

As they strolled down the aisle, she stopped dead in the middle and plucked a book from the rack. The cover was a jellyfish floating at the bottom of the sea, and had the title, “Jeffrey the Jellyfish.” She handed it to the boy and watched as his eyes lit up like a match in a dark room. The smile of a child always warmed her heart, because it meant that she was one step closer to reaching her full potential. Children were the future.

“Danny, why don’t you go have a seat at the table and see if you like it. I’ll go grab you a juice box from the back room. That is, unless you want to come with me?” She glanced at his father for permission, who smiled back at her. His beard upkeep was admirable, but his eyes slunk down like worn out travel bags. The grey in his beard matched the specks of it in his hair. Calling it a salt and pepper look would be more of a compliment than he warranted.

“I never caught your name, Danny’s dad?”

“Same as his, I’m senior, he’s junior.”

“Ah, ok. Wonderful. You guys come with me, I keep the snacks right back here.”

The two Daniel’s followed Melanie down the aisle and to a black door that read, ‘STAFF ONLY’ in bold red letters. She pushed the door open and allowed them to follow her in before locking the door behind them. Before Daniel could question her motives, she interjected.

“Oh, I didn’t mean to scare you. Security measure,” she said, digging through a box of fruit snacks and candy bars. The room was dimly lit and there was what looked like a dozen hospital beds lining the outskirts of the room.

“What the fuck is going on here?”

Melanie’s face changed from featuring a happy smile to a lethal scowl. Her eyebrows scrunched up momentarily, but then a slight smirk returned.

“I’m not going to harm your son, I promise you. His safety is more important than yours, right? You’re supposed to be selfless and all that shit, aren’t you?” Her demeanor changed as quickly as a vehicle shifts gears. She stepped towards the elder Daniel, causing him to throw his hands up in a defense manor. Stepping back from her advances, he had fallen quite literally, right into her trap.

His backwards steps gave way to a trap door below the floor that was eight feet deep, leaving him no course for escape. Danny ran towards the door and tried to jig it open, but with no results. The door was locked from the outside as well as the inside. He dropped the half eaten package of fruit snacks and collapsed to the floor. The thud of his son crashing to the hardwood floor made his skin crawl as he howled from the depths of the hole he found himself in.

She knew that he would give up after a while, and it wouldn’t have any effect on her, even if he didn’t. The back room was sound proof, similar to a panic room. There were no windows, but the walls did feature paintings of wilted tulips, roses and daffodils. She scooped Danny’s body from the floor and carried him over to the outer most hospital bed. The sheets looked like they hadn’t been changed in weeks, if not months.

She reached for a bottle of serum on a shelf that stood just beside her. After twisting the top off of the bottle, she then grabbed a needle and filled it with the solution. As soon as she injected him with the needle, he woke up, trembling uncontrollably. Pieces of words slid out of his mouth, proving that he was almost in prime condition for what she needed from him. She dragged her chair towards the boobie trapped hole that his father remained in and lit a cigarette. He was hollering threats towards her that she knew would never come to fruition, so she barely acknowledged him. The closest thing he got to communication was the ashes of the cigarettes she’d flick down there on top of him. She tossed the butt into the pit, which landed and bounced off of his right arm.

“You won’t get away with this, you sick bitch!”

She laughed at his prediction. She’d always gotten with it.

Bringing the chair back to the child, she sat down in it and watched him age years in the matter of minutes. The once nine year old boy was now a man in his mid-twenties.  He was still talking gibberish. She injected him once more, and slapped his hand three times.

He looked her in the eyes with a dead stare, almost like there was nothing remaining behind his eyes.

“You gotta stop watering dead plants.”

She stood up from her seat and tossed it inside the pit. The youngest Danny continued to age and was now probably older than his father. He had grey hair and more wrinkles than time itself.

“Thank you guys, truly. Tell your friends,” she said as she shut the door behind her. There was not a soul in the bookstore as she ventured back to the front desk. She sat in her desk chair and opened the Word document that she had saved from yesterday.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Episode 15

John could hear the commotion as he made his way back to the cabin. With each crunch of snow under his feet, the voices became clearer. When he heard Jennifer raise her voice, his pace quickened from a motivated walk to an all-out sprint. As he emerged from the last row of trees and could see more than fifty feet ahead of him, he noticed a groggy Cyrus shaking his head, attempting to shake the hangover loose.

Reaching into the waist of his jeans, he grabbed the gun that he used on Merlin and tossed it. The gun landed by the corpse of Nick, ironically enough. Kimberly was nowhere in sight, and he thought it was safe to assume that she was mourning inside of the cabin. Cyrus approached the gun and picked it up, inspecting it like a child with a new toy.

“Don’t,” John said to Cyrus, “put the gun down, Cyrus. I don’t trust you with a weapon right now. I was throwing it to Jennifer.”

Jennifer glanced at Cyrus, who returned the look, and hesitated to hand it over. She extended her reach, inviting him to trust her with the responsibility.

“Give it to her. She is a badass when she needs to be. You see this blood in the snow? You see those wings?”

John pointed both out with his hands as well as his words.

“Yeah, all her. Give her the gun.”

Cyrus handed her the gun. The cold from the handle of the matte black handgun sent a chill down her spine, and she placed it against the small of her back. As she did so, John told her that he’d be with her in a minute, and stepped over to Cyrus.

“You ok, big guy?”

“My head hurts,” the giant replied.

“Yeah, that’s to be expected. You basically killed a fifth in one shot, you crazy bastard.”

Cyrus chuckled, but was met with a look that would stone wall Medusa.

“You can’t be doing shit like that, Cyrus. We needed you. Hell, we needed you more than ever, and you’re in there sleeping off the bender of a lifetime. Nick died out here and you could have helped save his life. You have blood on your hands. Welcome to the club, bud.”

Cyrus looked like he was about to break down in tears. John didn’t know how to react, as he never expected such a massive man to have feelings.

“You can’t be serious. Look, Cyrus, stop crying. It wasn’t your fault, I was just saying that we could have use an extra pair of hands. Preferably, your massive ones.”

Cyrus nodded and wiped his eyes clean. He began to trod off back inside the cabin, when John called out for him.

“Wait! We aren’t done here. I have to tell you guys about what happened out there.”

“I’m not staying outside,” Cyrus retorted. “It’s too cold out here and it’s making my head hurt even more.”

John agreed and ventured over to Jennifer, laughing to himself at the way she held the firearm. “You’re doing it all wrong. Nevermind, I’ll show you later. I’m gonna tell Cyrus and that Kimberly lady what happened out there, but I’ll tell you first.”

“Why? Just tell all of us at the same time.”

He thought about her question, which was a valid one, and said, “Because that’s how I want to do it. Why’d you take that lady’s wings?”

“I have my reasons. We have a history.”

John didn’t push any further, but wondered what she meant by that. She had just gotten her wings not too long ago, and it didn’t seem as if she had any deeper knowledge of their current situation. He decided that he’d bring it up when he felt that the time was right.

“In the woods,” he said, pointing in the direction that he trekked back from about twenty minutes ago, “I chased my twin guy there, Marlot?”

“Merlin,” she corrected.

“Right, yeah. Merlin. Well, I chased him down, and he scaled a tree like some kind of animal. I managed to hit him once but it must’ve been a flesh wound. I think he’s a part of the facility. After I hit him, a helicopter came through here and picked him up. Guy had a machine gun. I managed to avoid any shots that came my way. Did you guys see the chopper?”

Jennifer thought back and went over the scene in her head, and had no recollection of any helicopter coming through here.

“I didn’t see or hear a chopper. Seems like that would be a hard thing to miss, but there was a lot going down. I wasn’t entirely focused on anything but what I was doing.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. You probably didn’t even notice. Do you think I’m off base by assuming that these people were from the facility too?”

“I think it’s a good theory,” she said.

“Yeah, ok. Let’s head in to tell them about the chopper.”

Jennifer and John headed towards the door, and as John reached for the door handle, he heard a voice from behind him.

“I’m guessing you have some questions for me.”

They both turned around to see Charles standing by a navy blue helicopter, the same one that picked up Merlin earlier in the day, surrounded by 3 men holding machine guns.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Everyday Anticipation

She bent down to take a sip from the silver water fountain between stepping into the gym. The rest of her class seemed to have free reign as far as activities were concerned. She hated this class and was in the process of skipping the entire period, but was caught by security smoking a cigarette in her usual hideout. It was located in the back of the school, and she was certain that she would have gotten away with if it weren’t for the spring time snow shower that made her footprints stand out like a sore thumb. This was why she loathed spring, winter didn’t want to let go and spring was as hesitant as a stray cat.

As she was escorted back to the building, her thoughts were all over the place. She thought about the gloomy sky that cried for all of her troubles and was nearly coaxed into reciprocating. Before that came to fruition, she forced her mind to another place. She imagined that she was a princess, being escorted to her next royal obligation.

If she was a princess, she  would not be accompanied by heathens like these. The two security guards, or royal security rather, one hefty black male with a buzz cut, and the other a six foot, grey haired woman, took her to the gym class that was supposed to be attending. They had agreed not to bring her to the principal’s office as long as she in turn agreed to stay in class. She hadn’t yet made her mind up about whether or not to honor that agreement.

As they trailed off after dropping her at the water fountain in the hallway directly across from the open gym doors, she took a sip. She slumped through the doorway, her body language telling a story as rich as a Poe offering. Each step was like a beautifully written piece of prose, the way her feet click-clacked off of the panel floor reminded her of stallions accompanying her to a watchtower.  Her eyes were as gorgeous and complicated as she was, and about as inviting as a dragon protecting her young. Her hazel eyes were a great front for the fire that roared behind them.

She decided to take a seat in the bleachers by herself to look on at her classmates throwing footballs and shooting baskets, and began to twirl her blonde locks in disgust. She never understood the appeal of either of these sports. It seemed like just another way to organize a mass distraction under the guise of fun. None of this really mattered, but most people, especially at this school, seemed to give themselves over to it.

The accomplishments of her high school were brandished all over the rafters of the gym. State Champions 2005 was the latest addition. Most of the school’s glory had come in the 80’s, but she had never heard of a star player ever playing here. Maybe it was just team chemistry, she thought to herself. She felt dirty for even entertaining these thoughts. Where was the gloomy sky when she needed it?

She looked up anyways, but saw no sky looking back. Digging through her purple and black book-bag, she retrieved a cigarette from her pack and a lighter that was inside of it. As she got up from her seat in the bleachers, she was approached by a young, somewhat athletic looking boy with his black hair dampened with sweat.

“You again?”

He was confused by her assertion . His eyebrows spruced up and he squinted his eyes before replying, , “Again? But I’ve never met you before.”

“Oh, right. Yeah. New kid. Why aren’t you playing basketball or something?”

He bent down and wrapped his hand around his left ankle, “s prained my ankle. Gotta sit out for the rest of the day. Coach never gets onto you for not participating in class?”

“No,” she said, turning her back to him and stepping into the women’s restroom. The cream white paneling was more beige than white, probably from years of neglect and nicotine. She hadn’t contributed to the decay as much as others, this was only the third time she’d ever smoked in here. She lit the cigarette and watched herself in the mirror, studying the way she smoked.  She wanted to smoke like one of the starlets that her and the other girls had wanted to emulate so much. 

The more she thought about it, the more she realized that she had no idea what it was that she wanted out of life. Whether a princess or a starlet, she knew deep down that she was better than the life she had been given. Just thinking that thought made her stomach turn.

“Who the hell wants their life handed to them from birth?”

Talking to herself was nothing new, and it helped to clarify her thoughts.  Taking a pull from the cigarette, she heard a voice, “I wouldn’t complain.”

She turned around to see the new kid leaning against the tar stained bathroom wall, just out of her line of sight in the mirror. She put the filter to her lips and took a drag before addressing his presence.

“You’re not supposed to be in here.”

“Neither are you.”

“Um, yes I am , it’s the ladies bathroom,” she said, pointing at the black sign with the woman outlined in white. “If you can’t read, it’s written in brail too.”

“Are you always this rude?”

“Only when people invade my privacy, which is kinda exactly what you’re doing.”

“I didn’t mean to offend you, I just wanted to see if you wanted some company.”

She could feel her stone walls coming down  with each passing word. Maybe this one did have her best interest in mind.

“You left your bag back there, I figured you might need it so I brought it with me. It’s right here,” he said, gently kicking her bag to show her that he had placed it right below him.

“Do you smoke?”

“Me? Occasionally. Why? You offering?”

“Sure, hand me my bag.”

He bent down and handed it to her, and caught a glimpse of his watch in the process.

“There’s only twenty minutes under next period. What do you want to talk about?”

She dug through her back once again after resting it on the porcelain sink behind her. She retrieved a cigarette and her black Bic lighter, handing both to him simultaneously.

“Not gonna offer to light it for me? Not very nice,” he said with a smile.

“I fucking hate when people do that to me, so why would I do it to you?”

“Someone being nice to you pisses you off?”

“No. It’s not that. It’s someone making a decision for me. I’m very capable of doing so myself.”

It was obvious to both of them that they were both beyond their years . She could tell based off of the way he held himself, both in conversation and as a person. He picked up on the way that she was so reserved in everything that she did. From the way she grasped her cigarette between her index and middle fingers, and how the smoked seemed to want to remain inside of her. Emanating ever so slightly, hanging on for dear life as it passed through her lips.

Well, she had always known that she was, but it was odd to find somebody else that she could say the same about. He lit his cigarette and tossed the lighter back to her, which bounced off of her open hand and onto the floor.

“Must you do that? You couldn’t just hand it to me like a normal person?”

“What is a normal person, though?”

This question bounced around between her temples and intrigued her like nothing before it. It was definitely said in passing, nothing more than a joke comment, but it made her mind torpedo into existentialism. She knew that she wasn’t like the other girls in her school. She could count on one hand just how many people who walked these halls understood the concept. Something told her that the new kid was one of them.

She couldn’t let him know that her stone walls were actually as soft as silk. The walls that she put up may have been guarded by a cascade of soldiers, but they were made of paper mache. Her inner strength wasn’t a fa├žade by any means, but she refused to let somebody undeserving to step into her draw bridge. At least these thoughts weren’t about a gloomy sky. She liked that.

She turned around and grabbed her bag, turning on the faucet to dead her cigarette.

“Nice talking to you,” she said as she ascended up the stairwell as the bell rang, signaling the end of the period.  

Episode 14

Episode 14
Written by Andy Mascola

The newly wingless queen screamed in agony. Jennifer dropped the bloody appendages and tackled her royal counterpart to the snowy earth. The two were now locked in a fight for their lives.

Marcus, the Cycloptic doppelganger of Cyrus, attempted to assist the queen, but before he could intercede, John spun around and kicked him as hard as he could in the chest, dropping him. John opened the cabin door and ran inside.

“What the hell’s going on out there?” Kimberly shouted.

“Where’s the gun you took from Cyrus?” he demanded.

Kimberly ran to the back of the cabin, retrieved the pistol from the countertop, and handed it over. John looked down at Cyrus, still passed out drunk on the floor.

“Useless,” he whispered to himself.

John held the pistol in his tail and ran out of the cabin. Looking to his right he saw Jennifer on top of the queen with her hands around her throat. Jennifer’s beautiful wings were fully extended and shaking angrily as she squeezed. The snow beneath the two women was crimson.

“Merlin!” Jennifer yelled.

“What?” John said.

“The bald guy with the tail!” Jennifer growled through clenched teeth, never taking her eyes off the woman she was viscously choking the life out of.

“Right!” John said.

He turned to see where Merlin was. The back of a pink bald head with a tail swishing from side to side behind it could be seen making its way deeper into the forest.

Marcus was now on his feet. John quickly shifted the pistol from his tail to his right hand, took aim, and shot him in the knee. The Cyclops cried out in pain, buckled, and then collapsed immediately into the snow.

John ran into the woods after Merlin. Wherever the bald man was going could mean only more trouble for John and his friends.

Merlin was fast and had a good lead. As he jogged through the woods it was difficult at times for John to see him. Merlin paused, looked back for a moment, and saw John behind him. He jumped, grabbed a thick tree branch and swung himself up. Using his tail as if it was a third hand, Merlin began to effortlessly climb the tall tree.

By the time he’d reached the base of the tree, John was out of breath. He pointed the pistol upward, but there were too many branches in the way to get a clear shot.

John unzipped his jumpsuit and tucked the gun into an inside pocket. He zipped the suit back up, spit on his hands, rubbed them together, grabbed a fat branch, and hoisted himself up. He couldn’t ascend as fast as his bald counterpart, but he knew that if he was going to catch up to Merlin, it meant he was going to have to use his entire body to assist in the climb.

John concentrated on scaling the tree, using his tail to help stay steady as he went. Hearing no new movement from above, he looked up to try and see where Merlin was. At the very top of the tall tree, the monkey man sat on a branch, looking into the distance. Merlin appeared to be talking on a handheld device.

John now understood the reason Merlin had climbed the tree was not to escape or hide, but to get to open air so he could contact his people. John looked down. He’d never climbed this high in his life and he didn’t want to go any higher.

“Hey!” John shouted at Merlin.

Merlin continued to talk into the handheld device, ignoring the man in pursuit.

“Hey!” John shouted again.

Merlin tucked the communicator into his jumpsuit and looked down at John.

After wrapping his arm around a branch and making sure he was stable, John unzipped his jumpsuit, reached in, and pulled out the pistol. Again John attempted to get a clear shot at Merlin.

Merlin saw the gun pointed at him and smiled. He rolled himself off his perch as if falling, and quickly began climbing down the tree toward John.

John panicked and shot once at Merlin, but missed. Before he could squeeze off another round, Merlin was upon him. He gripped John’s wrist with one hand and his neck with the other. John held tight to the pistol.

Merlin swung his legs around John’s waist. John’s one arm still wrapped around the tree wasn’t strong enough to hold both himself and Merlin. As the two men fell, their tails instinctively grabbed at branches in order to slow their descent.

John’s tail was the first to successfully wrap itself around a strong branch, stopping his fall, and holding him suspended upside down. Merlin tried to maintain his hold on John, but was unable to and continued to fall.

Again John unzipped his jumpsuit, withdrew the gun, and pointed it at the rapidly descending man. He shot once and saw a fine mist spray from Merlin’s right side.

The bald man cried out in pain and grabbed his shoulder.  He fell onto his back in the snow below. John watched as Merlin rolled over and struggled to get up.

John tucked the gun back into the inside pocket of his jumpsuit, zipped up, grabbed a branch, and began making his way down the tree toward Merlin. As he descended, John watched the bald man stand and run further into the woods holding his wounded shoulder.

“Son of a bitch!” John shouted.

He let the branches he’d been holding go. He dropped to the ground, landing miraculously on his feet, and ran after Merlin.

A thundering sound could be heard from above. John looked to the sky through the trees just ahead and saw a helicopter descending.

Merlin ran out of the forest into a clearing. The helicopter landed less than fifty yards away from him. A man wearing a black jumpsuit and hat, holding a machine gun, hopped out of the copter and began firing into the woods behind Merlin.

John dropped to his stomach as the bullets whizzed over his head. The snow was freezing on his face and neck. He looked up in time to see Merlin and the man with the machine gun jump into the helicopter as it left the ground.