Good-bye is a word we use a lot. When it’s going away for a couple weeks, or leaving to go home from visiting parents or children, good-bye is the one word everyone uses. But, what if, it is the last thing you are able to say to a loved one? How does it change in meaning? How do you resolve those words in yourself after uttering them, knowing that the one you’re talking to, will hear them as your last communication? It’s a deep gut-wrenching reality that everything in this universe is finite, that everything will, at some point, cease. ‘Saying Good-bye’ is a look at this shift from existence to history.
Stumbling over a generator cable, he caught his balance, then was in the clear once again, until a few docks later when the process repeated. Four minutes and a good deal of dodging later, Charlie came to the north end of the dockyard. This was where the burglaries had happened. Skid slowed to a stop. The docks here were thinner than the south end, and older. The wooden planking was grey from weathering. The planks had cement poured next to them, building the dock area outwards to hold the larger loading equipment. The warehouses abutted the edge of the docks. Their wood and red brick walls and single story construction seemed to Skid like huge turtles that came ashore and died in place.
The break-in happened on the dock side of the northernmost building. The yellow police tape on the front door and huge loading dock next to it was a big clue. Charlie took a long look at the building as the sun baked the asphalt and concrete. And the air carried the smell of salt water and decaying fish to his nostrils. He looked towards the docks, which was no help. The last two piers had no ships, and no workers around to talk to. He turned to look back south. The nearest potential witness was about a hundred yards away, and there were a couple hundred servicing a pair of freighters. He could see the cranes on the pier moving large pallets of crates. The grey, blue, and yellow forklifts picked up smaller pallets off the large pallet, and like ants in a line, rolled back towards the warehouses to drop off their cargo.
He turned back towards the south. The sunlight glinting off the forklifts scuttling back and forth was mesmerizing. He blinked, then sighed, “What do I do now?”
Night settled down over the dockyard. While the sounds of traffic had slowly dissipated, the cacophony of the cranes and workers was still at full roar, and carried faintly to Skid, who had moved to the end of the old, weather-worn pier to watch for thieves coming back to break into the warehouse. They gotta return to the scene of the crime. This place is too easy not to pick over. Skid crossed his fingers, hoping he was right. All those comics and mysteries he loved so much said that bad guys always came back for more. I just have to wait, and I’ll catch them red-handed. He settled in for a night of watching, only to find out the rule every other cop has been on a stakeout figured out. The crooks will never appear when you’re awake or ready, if they show at all. This was Skid’s new experience. He kept himself awake by running down to the first active dock, then back again to the end of the old pier, with the predictable results of letting people know he was around.
It was eleven thirty at night when a heavyset figure drove up in a dark car. The vehivles lights were out as it purred to a stop next to the warehouse. This has got to be it! Skid thought excitedly. It was just like the comics. The crooks came back for more! He didn’t wait, but dashed up to the car, shouting “Freeze! You’re under arrest!” The car’s floodlight mounted on the right side of the car came on immediately and spun to illuminate him.
Skid blinked in the light as a voice said, “Jesus Christ! What the hell are you doing, kid! Trying ta give me a heart attack?!” The voice was familiar somehow. He decided to ignore it and confront them like the hero he was supposed to be. He ran quickly to the driver-side door, and gave it a hard yank. The interior light came on to illuminate the gate guard, sitting in the driver seat. Her face was pale in the glare of the harsh mercury lighting from the parking lot lamps. Skid felt his cheeks flush in embarrassment.
“>Uh, sorry. I didn’t think…I just didn’t think.” The stammered apology seemed to calm the guard, who managed a thin smile. She shifted in her seat. The door clicked as she pulled the inner lever and opened it, shifting her heavyset bulk out the door and into the muggy night air.
“I understand. It’s no big deal. I scared myself on my first evening doing guard work.” She paused a moment, then took a breath as she seemed to gather her thoughts. “It was six years ago I got hired. I’d just gotten out of college with a degree in Biology, only to find no one wanted a biologist without a masters, or a doctorate. I jumped on the job. The lead out here gave me the route to drive, what to check, and where to stamp the clock to prove I covered my route.”
Her eyes lit up with the remembered first night. “One thing that they forgot to tell me was that pier eight was a twenty-four hour pickup for priority loads. I drove past the gate, and found it open. At night, all the gates are supposed to be locked. This one was wide open and a pickup was sitting just inside. People were scurrying around flashing lights at the crates, then loading them onto the pickup. There were seven of them and just me with a mag lite and walkie talkie.”
“I called it in quietly, and you know what my lead said?” She chuckled. “He said ‘go check it out, rookie. Oh, and don’t get shot’, which didn’t help my paranoia at all. I walked in and announced myself, at which point there were a couple of screams. The guys dropped the small crate they were moving and seven flashlight swiveled onto me. ‘Jesus ma’am! What the hell are you giving us a heart attack for!? We called it in and I’ve got the papers for the pick up right here.”
I could hear frigging laughing coming over the walkie. I’d been so tense I’d held the transmit button on. My lead had set me up.” She chuckled again, then turned what was supposed to be a stern face at Skid, but her smile ruined the whole stern thing. He found himself grinning at the story. “So, did you get him back?”, he asked her. The guard, whose name was ‘Menendez’ according to her name badge just above her left chest pocket, smiled, and shook her head. “No, it doesn’t work that way. Though, I do seem to remember someone replace his sugar packets with salt once.” Skid chuckled, then looked around the parking lot again. “Is this you trying to tell me that I’m wasting my time?”
He turned off Belcher, then slowed and turned on Collier. The street ran north and fronted the warehouses that stored good from the ships being serviced at the docks. The pace on the docks and warehouses was frantic. It looked to Charlie like an ant nest that had been kicked open. Cranes were moving cargo off the freighters in large pallets. Another freighter was sliding containers down a ramp to waiting eighteen wheel tractor-trailer flatbeds. The line of trucks stretched over a quarter mile by his estimate.
He looked back forward just in time to avoid drifting into the curb at forty miles and hour. He over-corrected and moved into the oncoming lane. He grunted as he planted his foot and shifted back into the proper lane. I gotta pay more attention. I can handle a wipeout, but not an oncoming car. Where is the turnoff to the dockyard? Charlie’s thought was answered a moment later as the road ended at a ‘T’ intersection. He slowed then slewed right, skidding on the loose gravel, then straightened out, slowing to avoid a tumble, and approached the gate. The gate was a railroad crossing re-purposed to be a traffic control. It was currently down as the gate guard was checking the papers on a white and blue UPS truck.
The outbound lane had a tractor trailer slowly moving forward to leave the docks. At his speed he’d bee there before the truck could clear the gate, and with four others behind it, there was no way to use the oncoming lane to bypass the guard. ‘Skid’ slowed as he approached the gate, raising his hand to his pullover mask to make certain it was still in place. The heavyset gate guard stopped talking as the bright red and blue stocky superhero trotted up to the gate.
“Whatta ya want, uh, kid? I’m kinda busy here”, the guard said with a surprisingly soft voice. ‘Skid’ took a moment to realize that the guard was a woman. He could feel himself blush as he tried to sound authoritative.
“Sorry, ma’am. I’d heard that some stuff was stolen last night. I came by to look the, uh, scene over and see if there is something that, umm, would help find the crooks.” He tried to puff his chest out, and got the mental image of a cartoon mouse trying to look tough while facing a cat. The man the guard was talking to had also turned to look over at ‘Skid’, then turned back the guard with a small chuckle, making Charlie blush even redder.
“I suppose I could let you look around. Heck, seeing you prowling might make them guys with sticky fingers decide not to try anything if a costume’s poking around.” She pressed a button, raising the gate, then waved her clipboard at ‘Skid’. “G’wan through. Place that got hit’s on the north side up there.” ‘Skid’ nodded, then trotted around the van, accelerating back to a somewhat leisurely thirty miles and hour. He slowed again as he dodged a swarm of fork lifts moving pallets of crates and boxes to the white concrete warehouse to his left. The traffic was incessant, with two men shouting orders to the stream of men, and equipment coming from a docked freighter. The noise was near deafening as ‘Skid’ dodged swiftly, and awkwardly between the moving vehicles and people.
Charlie 'Skid' Moore ran leisurely in traffic, easily keeping up with the forty mile an hour pace. His bright uniform of red shirt and blue pants stood out in the crush of lunchtime vehicles. He'd originally gone for a dark grey and black, thinking it looked cooler, but after four very near misses, he'd opted for a brighter, more visible color combination, which created a wholly different set of problems. People, especially those in the news business, and fanatics on both sides of the 'superhero' argument were prone to following him around. It made it hard to enjoy just being himself for the sake of it. Now however, the congested traffic made it easy to avoid the Newsies and just enjoy running. Skid accelerated to sixty miles an hour, weaving quickly between cars. Drivers leaned on their horns, with some swerving to avoid the speedster in traffic. Skid grimaced at the screeching tires and prayed that he just hadn't started a chain reaction wreck, but beyond agitated honking, there was no metallic crunching. Thankful, and just a bit tense, Skid took the down ramp and dashed east towards the dockyards. I'll start patrolling there. The scanner last night said there were a few robberies. Some missing crates and busted loading doors. I can check that. He angled off on to Belcher street, then sped up. His field of vision narrowed. His eyes started to have trouble registering things closest to him. The 'tunnel effect' continued to narrow as he accelerated. God if I could only see stuff around me. That was what had gotten the papers to nickname him 'Skid'. Early on in his career, he'd tried to use his full speed to catch a van escaping from a convenience store robbery. He was on the van so fast that he barely had time to register the impending collision and darted out of the way. He tripped on steps to a brownstone, then stumbled along the sidewalk, still at high speed. He'd managed to dodge a couple out for an afternoon stroll, then angled back into the street and stopped running. The skid marks of his melting sneakers as he tried to stop like a comic book hero were over sixty yards long. The van got away by turning on a side street while Charlie had been frantically avoiding collisions. He learned his lesson after that, staying under sixty miles an hour in moving traffic. He'd accelerate, when he had room, but in a city like Boston, room to run flat out was near impossible to find. Considering he'd never figured out his top speed, he wasn't certain he knew of anyplace he'd be safe testing it.
The next day, Hermes returned to earth, and sought out Prometheus, who had built a small fire, and was busy roasting a haunch of meat. The sky had darkened as Apollo’s chariot had long since vanished to the west, and dusk had settled over the land. The enticing smell surprised Hermes, who’d to this moment had never encountered it previous, excepting on the battlefield.
“What happened to the beast?” he inquired.
“A sacrifice for my coming to their village. They slew it, and allowed me first choice of the meat. This haunch was my portion and the rest was stripped and eaten by the village.”
Hermes looked at the meat, suspended on a wood stake over the glowing embers of Prometheus’ fire, sizzling and dripping juices onto the hot coals. Flat stones kept the fire from igniting the surrounding grass. “What made you decide to sear it with the heat?” Prometheus shrugged.
“It was the war. I noticed that the bodies seared by Zeus and Apollo took much longer to breed maggots in their flesh than the dead who had been speared.” Prometheus closed his eyes as he remembered. “I had been wounded when I stumbled upon the recent battle. I’d been wounded on a mission that Zeus had used to divide the Titans forces. The smell was awful. The rotted meat and coagulated blood were a stench that made me gag to cross that battlefield.
The animals that were there, were busy consuming the scorched bodies first. So I thought to see why and roasted a bit of horse. The taste changed. It was altogether more savory than the dried strips of meat, or the fresh raw chunks. I have to admit I prefer it over raw.”
The fire hissed and popped, flaring every so often as a thick drop of fat fell and caught fire. the red glow had a comforting warmth as the two gazed up at the ceiling of stars in the night. Hermes took his floppy Petasos and laid it on the ground. He lowered Caduceus onto the hat, then lay down. He lolled on his back next to Prometheus. “It was discoveries like your fire, that I miss from the war.”
“You said that mid-day. Clearly, you miss it.” Prometheus sat up, then picked up a stick. He idly tapped the roasting meat, then nodded and grabbed the meat off the stake it had been impaled on. He quickly dropped the hissing haunch on a flat rock, then lay back down to gaze at the stars while the meat cooled. “I’ve wondered too, about the humans.” Hermes groaned.
“You mean that you are fascinated by their resemblance to us.” Prometheus nodded. “Zeus asked and I answered that making our allies, the myrmidons and humans, look like us, it would sow confusion in the Titans. I know that my kin have difficulty identifying individuals, so it made sense to compound that weakness.” Hermes nodded then gazed at the haunch of meat. “May I try some?” Prometheus smiled. “Certainly. I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
* * * * *
The pure columns of the Great Hall of Olympus bounced echoes of footsteps and muttered conversations throughout the room and the surrounding halls. The gods walked quietly, discussing the latest edicts from Zeus amongst themselves. Hermes strode away, his purposeful steps matched by the long, easy strides of the Titan, Prometheus.
“Zeus is determined to maintain this peace.” Hermes sounded agitated. Prometheus gazed down at his friend. The floppy Petasos hid his features from the taller Titan, but Prometheus could tell by the stiffened walk and hurried stride Hermes did not enjoy this latest conclave of the gods.
“He must constantly shift to maintain the status quo. Otherwise the edicts would become too rigid, and create oppression rather than peace.”
“He’s doing that already” Hermes answered quietly. “Everything seems aimed at restraining the humans. They were our allies in the war, and this is how we repay their efforts?”
“It’s not fair, no. It is practical. Humans are modeled after the gods, with many of the same drives all mixed together. Zeus wants their lives to depend upon the gods. The edicts are in place to foster this relationship.” Prometheus’ face scrunched up for a moment. “And language.” Hermes pushed his Petasos off his head, and turned his gaze to the tall titan.
“Language. Hmm. I see. No one knows any different language, and so no one can say anything that Zeus cannot understand.”
Prometheus nodded. “Or hide, since his interpreter knows all languages.”
Hermes steps slowed as his mind turned that statement over, looking at possibilities. “Perhaps it’s time to bend the edicts, just a little. I wouldn’t be breaking them, just making a few changes so that humans can barter more effectively back and forth.”
It’s been a loooong time, obviously. What I’ll be posting here for the next few days is the story ‘Babble-On’ that I failed to finish in time for a Greek-based story challenge. I hope you enjoy and please comment. 🙂
The world, as it started, was one of chaos. Zeus, in his power and wisdom, conquered the Titans and brought an era of peace to the gods and mankind. There was only one language, that of the gods, who taught it to humanity. Humanity, being all of one mind under the gods, selflessly toiled away to provide for themselves, and make sacrifices to their benevolent deities. Each knew their place. Each knew their responsibilities. Even the gods had sovereignty over their own particular aspects. Some gods had more than one. Some gods shared sovereignty over a particular aspect. All this was according to Zeus’ plan. And it worked. Sort of.
Many of the gods had, in afterthought, felt that Zeus had taken advantage of their euphoria at the defeat of the Titans, and that their own aspects and influence were restricted by the provisions they had agreed to within that joyous moment. They muttered about the ‘overlap’ of their influence with others in the divine pantheon.
One of those who seemed uncaring of the limitations was the young Hermes. Hermes was one of the more overlooked gods when it came to the war with the Titans. It was his cunning that waylaid and destroyed Argus. His cunning and ability to effect things indirectly served the gods well. He was the consummate scout and tracker, allowing Zeus to formulate plans based on the knowledge of the Titans location and activity. This intelligence was instrumental in Zeus’ strategy. Why and How is what we’ll see.
* * * *
Hermes lay on his stomach at the crest of a low hill. The soft grass tickled his belly as he watched the brown herd of cattle contentedly crop grass in the vale. Beside Hermes, the Titan Prometheus lolled on his back, hand raised towards Apollo’s flaming chariot. He was bare-chested, with a brilliant blue loin cloth, which was in stark comparison to Hermes’ saffron toga, golden belt, and leather sandals. Very much the affluent noble to Prometheus’ bare foot laborer.
“You’re here to check up on me for Zeus.”
Hermes chuckled. “That, and wondering where your mind is wandering. Zeus asked about that, too. He seems to think you like to meddle.”
Prometheus smiled as he laid his arm across his eyes, and saying with an overdramatic flourish of anguish, “Oh, woe! Woe! Woe! I, the Titan whom sided with the rebellious gods, distrusted as a spy, treasured as a turncoat, and then, when the war is won, distrusted for my unwavering devotion to the gods and my ‘meddling mind’ that won’t let Zeus rest peacefully with…” he stopped, then gazed up at Hermes, “who is he deciding to sleep with now?”
“Themis.” Hermes replied off-handedly, his attention still on the cattle downslope.
“…with Themis, and, ah, that pause ruined the moment.”
Hermes nodded. “Yes, and she’s pregnant with triplets.” Prometheus nodded, then rolled onto his stomach to determine what had so much of Hermes’ attention. He followed Hermes’ gaze down to the cattle, who were slowly cropping grass, then raising their heads to chew then swallow, before lowering their heads to crop more grass.
“It’s quite the sight, seeing them work so perfectly together, that each raises it’s head within and instant of each other, chew the exact same way, then lower in tandem for another mouthful. A simple design that yet whispers of a whole.”
Prometheus nodded at Hermes’ words. “Of course, it’s like the fish, the birds, and all plants and animals.” He began to wax poetic, like a schoolteacher who’d stumbled into a fascinating thought. “Each hints at being a separate piece, but each in truth is the tiniest pert of an enormous whole that works in harmony to promote harmony and contentment.” He glanced briefly to Hermes. “And you’re bored with it all because it is so precisely, harmoniously, unchanging.”
Hermes sighed, rolling onto his back to follow Apollo’s chariot. His elbow bumped the Petasos, his broad floppy-brimmed hat he never seemed without. Caduceus, with its twined serpents, representing his position as messenger and scout during the war with the titans, lay underneath the battered hat.
“In the war, it was chaotic, uncertain. There was a joy in the uncertainty, an understanding of what that chaos meant. How it shaped the lives it touched.”
“Yours, most of all.” Prometheus stated it as a fact, not an empathetic answer to a friend.
Hermes sighed at his words. “Yes, mine most of all.”
Prometheus chuckled. “Now who’s being dramatic?”
Hermes tried to glare at the Titan, but gave up a moment later, and draped his arm across his eyes. “I admit to drama, but you must admit, I have little to encourage any of my gifts, or skills.”
“Excepting your duty as the final Guide.” Hermes raised his arm and now he did glare at the lounging titan.
“Oh yes, we can’t forget the guide to the underworld. As if anyone died of something other than old age, or from food stuck in their throat”, Hermes rolled back to his stomach, and growled as his eyes strayed to the cattle, contentedly munching the grass.
“My pardon.” Prometheus gently replied. “Clearly, this is more than simple boredom.” The cattle seemed to pick up on the shift in mood. They all stopped chewing and seemed to turn as one and gaze upslope at the two gods. Hermes and Prometheus observed for a short while longer, then Prometheus stood as the cattle returned to the important business of eating.
“I shall take my leave, good Hermes, and will go visit the humans. Cattle are well and good to gaze upon, for a shepard, but I enjoy the human antics more.” He brushed bits of grass from hi loincloth, then strode purposely southward, towards the nearest human settlement. Hermes gazed after his friend, whom he had to deliver a report upon to Zeus.
‘I don’t make the rules, I just abide by them’ floated down the wall from the ceiling in block white letters.
“Ya don’t mind screwin’ around either, do ya?” Travis grumbled.
‘Perish the thought,’ came the dark blue letters from right to left. ‘I may be a little mischievous, but I am the soul of the work ethic. Everything for a reason and everything in it’s proper time and place.’
“Okay, so what got her here? I saw the botched burglary. What made her do it?” Travis felt this was important.
‘Oh it is important, and it is history, so sit down and I’ll lay the word upon your ears, Jiminy.’ The letters had that mocking attitude again, and the bright neon orange letters bursting on the wall screen made Travis eyes ache to look at.
‘Once upon a time,’ scrolled the letters in powder blue, ‘a little girl was born to a whore mother and a drug-addled gang-banger father. This little girl grew up in a house where neither parent looked after her, and only her drunken grandmother ever paid her attention beyond the occasional snarl and backhand from the girl’s parents. It was so, so, sad. The little girl went to school, with the other hard luck children from the desperately poor section of town, and found that the ‘normal’ kids had more everything than she did. Her juvenile delinquent friends showed her how easy it was to get ‘normal’ kids money from them, but she didn’t like beating people up. She found she liked learning things. This made her stay after school and ask questions about classes to her teachers. One day, the girl’s parents moved out, leaving her behind. She was a teenager, and didn’t have any way to support herself. She was all alone, the poor, poor thing. So, she found out that stealing was the only way to get food. She took from the supermarket, stuffing snacks in her pants, and waddling out of the store. Stealing money was easier, and her friends showed her how to sneak into a house *** and take valuable things to sell to fences or pawn shops. Oh, she was careful to case a place first, just like the big kids taught her. That way she could pick the best time to burgle a residence. It was easy. A little bit here, a little bit there was good enough for her, but not her new friends, who wanted more. So our larcenous little heroine took larger and larger risks to satisfy her ‘friends’ (the friends word was in dark red block letters) and they quit taking her money. Some time later, the friends decided that burgling a house wasn’t good enough. They felt ready for something…more. To keep her friends happy, she joined in. Her friend, Casey, drove to the liquor store they’d cased. Our heroine was the ‘new kid’, so she was chosen to be the first in through the door. She had picked up a cement block from a work site a few days ago for just such a opportunity. She threw the block hard at the window, and smashed it. A second throw carried away enough glass for her to wiggle in and start to search for anything valuable. She rolled over the counter, and started throwing cigarette cartons back outside for her friends to pick up. The cash register was locked, and she couldn’t pry it open. About this time she heard the car rev. It’s tires squealed and she was left in the store, frozen by their sudden disappearance. About this time a cop flashed a light into the dark store. Before he could call out she threw a metal can at the officer, catching him in the side of the head. He dropped to the ground. As she looked for an escape, the second officer spotted her in the store, and fired a taser gun. She was sent here to serve a year in juvenile detention for assaulting an officer. Oh the poor poor little poor bitch from gang-bangers. Who would have thought she’d sink so low to steal from a convenience store. Is there no shame in the world anymore? Why it’s hard to believe that any upright men and women actually exist.’
Letters in green, yellow, and blue popped onto the screen in haphazard order. ‘Ask away, but I will warn you that the only real answer is one you find. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’ An honest-to-Smiley Face formed on the screen. Travis thought it was the creepiest thing he’d ever seen. It made him think of a serial killer toying with his chosen target.
‘Melodramatic much?’ it mocked with orange letters popping up and disappearing.
“That was just creepy, and you know it” Travis snarled at the screen, which was still dark.
‘Oh my, actual banter rather than screaming fits and angry shouts? What are we coming to, detente?’
“De-what? Never mind. I have a question. You can answer questions, right?”
The letters took a coy, fuzzy pink texture as they appeared on the screen. ‘I can, within limits of course.’
We’re getting somewhere. “So what are the limits?”
‘The information can’t force you to change your actions. I am not allowed to lie or influence you in any way.’
“So if I asked for history about this girl, you can give it?”
‘Point for you, yes I can, and will give any relevant history when asked.’ The black letters outlined in orange had extra space between them, almost like they were saying something themselves, but Travis couldn’t figure if it meant anything or not.
“What about asking things like, uh, about the other guy?” Anything I can learn might help figuring out what his angle is, and how I could catch trouble before it got started.
‘Uh uh. No no noooo … no can do kemosabe. Information like that influences decisions. Influence is a no no. Same thing for the other guy.’
“So the other guy can’t use you to, uh,” Travis stopped talking and thought hard about what he’d heard so far. “Wait a sec. You can tell me about the girl’s history, but won’t that influence me?”
‘Point for you’, showed up in thin gold letters that reminded Travis of an ‘attaboy’ sticker his first grade teacher gave out to students that got a perfect score on their tests. ‘Since it’s history, it’s not something that can be influenced. It can be learned from. That’s your job, at least part of it. To learn. If it happens to influence your decision, then you’ve learned from the past, not from me.’
It made Travis head hurt a little. That it could, and would talk about the past, and yet not talk about now and other possible things going on. That seems a weird place to draw a line about what’s proper and what ain’t.
The girl, he felt, was also having second thoughts. I hope I can get through this time. “Hey, I know you’re upset, and things don’t feel like they’ll get better. You gotta understand something. You will see hard days,lol! and you’ll see good days. These are part of them hard days. If you keep on goin’ this way, with that blade, you’re gonna create more hard days, worse days than you can imagine. They’ll treat you like an adult, and throw you in with the real hard cases. This ain’t close to what’s waitin’ in real prison. You know that. It ain’t too late. Just throw that blade away, it’s nothin’ but trouble and big time prison if you keep it.”
“Put it away for now, no one will find it in those socks. Bed checks never look at socks. You’re free and clear. If you’re scared, I understand completely. Not everyone has the guts to stand up for themselves. You’ll be just another loser bitch who gets told to fuck prison guards to get things smuggled in. Of course that’s all you’re good for, obviously. If you wanted to take charge of your life, you’d be scoring some tape and a little bit of plastic to help make a handle” the voice whispered with poisonous sympathy.
Travis felt the sullen anger at the voice’s words. Fear was there too. He saw her put the blade back in the socks, and the socks back in the dresser. She lay down on the bed, the view showed Travis the ceiling, where some staples still held torn bits of colored paper. The view remained on the ceiling as a sense of despair settled through Travis. What do I do? How do I get her to listen? She’s going to get killed. He took deep breaths, and willed himself to calm down.
Travis focused on regular breathing, and realized for the first time that he hadn’t been breathing at all except for when he was shouting at the other voice. I am dead. I knew it before, but it keeps surprising me how weird things feel when I think about them. I need to keep her from dying, but how? I can’t get her to listen. She doesn’t want to. That creep has got her convinced that blade is the answer to everything.
How do I change that?
The rest of the day was spent observing the day of a teenage girl, which Travis had no want to watch, o take part of. He spent most of the day with the screen off, and in his own head. There has to be a way. Why can’t I figure out a way to convince her?
‘You know you’re cute when you brood like that. It makes me think you might actually have potential, Travis. Not that you’ve shown any, to be truthful.’ The tan letters seemed to actually contain a little sympathy, which made Travis suspicious. ‘Would I really try to mess with you, or influence you? I would lose my job if I did that. All I am is just an information device. With attitude so you pay attention.’
Yeah right, and I’m …
‘Do you really want to finish that thought? Remember the thong bikini.’ The letters were a glaring white with bikini tops and bottoms floating around the words as they rolled down from the top of the dome and down the sides. The mocking warning got Travis attention and he shut up.
“So got anything about this situation you can share without breaking any rules, or do I gotta guess that too?” Maybe there’s a way to get information from that guy. Maybe it’s how I ask it?
“Listen to me, please. This anger ain’t gonna work. You’re too mad, you’re lettin’ that guy rile you up so you don’t think. He doesn’t want you to think. That’s how he works.” I feel like a shoulder angel facing off a shoulder devil.
‘Got it in one, T. You are and he is’ the letters spelled out in bright neon blue floor to ceiling, surrounded by gold stars with ‘attaboy’ written on them.
Sheer surprise stopped Travis voice. A shoulder angel? Like in that animated movie?
‘Exactomundo’ the letters printed in block three-D in white and ivory. Somehow they felt pleased and mocking at the same time. The feeling had Travis gritting his teeth in irritation. Something about that screen makes me really pissed off. How does it know to do that?
‘I pay attention to how you answer, and your mood, just like anyone with a smidgen of sense would do.’ The letters had the mocking tilt as they marched in day-glow orange across the view, blurring Travis vision of what was happening with the socks.
“Get outta the way!” he screamed at the letters, which stopped for a moment, then seemed to smirk as they slowly faded away. She’d pulled the blade out of the socks, and turned it over in her hand a few times. It was like she was seeing something there beyond just the knife. He shut his eyes and listened for the other voice. He knew it would be saying something right now. “That’s it, a little tape, and some padding to set it between your fingers and a slap will open their throats, one at a time, easy as slicing cherry pie.”
Oh god, please no. Wait, why am I so…oh yeah, the feedback the sign talked about. The link between his reaction and what was on the wall had him torn. He knew rationally that the girl was trying to find a way out of a bad situation, but the method was going to get her killed. Using a blade meant you were going to have to kill the person. In here, a blade would not just scare them off, it would make them decide to kill her right then and there. No excuses. No mercy. No more shoulder angel job.
There was a sense of mocking irritation from the screen, then letters in bright red rolled up from the bottom of the screen. ‘Throwing in the towel already, JIMINY?’
“I ain’t throwin’ nothin! I ain’t gonna quit! Not now! Not ever! You hear me you sonuvabitch! Never!”
His anger started pushing him more and more. Travis wanted to rage at the screen, and the voice. Something made him keep holding both of the embedded ski poles. It was a good thing as there was a vicious whipping lurch that would have catapulted him into the wall. He stayed on the platform more scared than angry now.