Act II. Chapter I: In Her Eyes

It’s 10:30 pm, and I’m flying high above the mountains of British Columbia. I’ve spent the last few days far away from my hometown of Toronto, in sleepy Vancouver.

Sleepy might be the wrong word to use – apathetic? If the city seemed to care enough to be tranquil, I might even chase the fleeting thoughts I have to move there and leave my past behind.

As the clouds clear off and I stare down at the lights dotting sparingly across the abyss below, I wax philosophical about my actions back at the airport. Anything that will stop me from torturing myself at the hands of the blank page, I suppose.

*******

It started off as one of those nearly missed connections. I’ve got headphones in, aviators on. I’m delirious. It’s been one of those few business trips where everything goes perfectly and you manage to avoid every possible manifestation of Murphy’s Law despite being overdue for karmic justice of the most severe degree.

As I step off the escalator, one of those new country generic songs runs headfirst into the chorus – you know the ones, about young love, alcohol, and fucking in trucks – and I nearly stumble headlong into this girl.

I freeze and halfway adjust, just barely glancing into her shoulder and sending us both turning and facing each other, both apologizing before we can even pull the headphones out. For one long second, our worlds are just loud cacophonies of background music while we dramatically mouth apologies and pull our bags back on our shoulders. Then suddenly, with a loud *pop*, we both jolt back into the present.

“I’m s-so sorry”, I say, because apparently stumbling over just my feet isn’t enough.

“No, no! My fault,” she says, laughing.

She’s got a nice laugh, I can see it now. She’s actually really pretty, and she’s wearing a U of T hoodie. Score.

“You go to U of T?” The first question that I throw is supposed to sound innocent, but the smirk on my face gives me away and for a long second, it floats in the open space between us like a strand of smoke that might just disappear in the breeze.

Her eyes open a little wider, and she puts out a hand, nearly but not quite reaching across the distance. “Life Sci!” She says, and a shred of doubt tears through the BC sunshine. Life Sci at U of T is a program that I’m fairly sure they only offer because suicide rates aren’t high enough at campus to keep the Ivy League of the North status.

Good pitch number two – fastball down the middle.

I lay on my best smirk and say, “I don’t believe you. You seem way too happy to be in Life Sci at U of T. Which campus?”

There it is. Her eyes open wide, and her mouth changes from a half open smile to a real laugh. Strike two. “UTSG! You’re U of T?”

“Sort of. I’m from the high school version, UTSC? You know, same soul crushing academic pressure, same amount of power outlets as World War 2?” I laugh a little, but I see her smile fade off a little and her eyes shift down.

Alright, rein it in cowboy. Little too much sarcasm can be caustic.

But instead, she points out my shoes and looks up at me inquisitively. “Dress shoes and sweatpants?” This time it’s her turn to float the question.

I wind up. Pitch three – let’s go with the fastball again.

“Yeah, I’m a [REDACTED]. Just here on business – I flew in wearing a suit, didn’t want to make the same mistake again.” I shrug at the bag on my shoulder for added effect, but she’s not paying attention.

“A [REDACTED]? But aren’t you in UTS-“

“Yeah, recently graduated. I got lucky in the post grad job sweepstakes.”

The conversation lulls. She takes a step back and her head cocks to the side, half smiling, and I feel self conscious. Four years is a long time to be off the market, have I lost my touch? I’m starting to feel the same jitters that I do right before a big contract comes in. It’s nauseating to me that it’s the closest comparison I have.

Strike that. Let’s go with, it’s the same thrilling fear as that pulse between heartbeats when you’re staring down the sights of a rifle, lining up a perfect shot. Timing your breath so that you’ll pull the trigger right when you finish exhaling and your heartbeat slows just long enough to contemplate all the right and wrong in the world.

There, less nauseating. I think.

Suddenly, a warbling voice blares through the airport PA system, droning unintelligibly about a last departure. I can almost feel it cut through our conversation, and the moment is gone. She was about to say something, but instead looks briefly over her shoulder, biting her lip.

“Hey, I gotta run, but you’re from Toronto right?” She says, pulling out her phone. Her headphones fall off her ears, and I find myself much more curious about what she’s listening to. “What’s your name?”

This is that moment, where she’s asking your name – not because you’re meeting for the first time and she wants to avoid an awkward interaction later on, but because she wants to know what name to put in her phone.

“It’s – wait, you have blue eyes. They’re really nice eyes,” I can hear myself say.

She says something back, but I don’t hear it. The socially anxious part of my brain wonders if I’ve rudely re-inserted my headphones because she’s talking but all I can hear is the sizzle and pop of a new record. Her eyes are really blue. Like a light, almost baby blue. That’s my favourite colour. All at once, I can see myself in her eyes.

I’m just some stranger in the airport. Some stranger who said the right things at the right time and knew when to shut up and when to smile. But this girl knows nothing about me. In her eyes, I’m a nicely packaged item, to be pursued and perused. In her eyes, I’m a faint reminder of academic comfort, shown up on the doorstep of her home town. A welcome interloper in the apathy of carefree Vancouver.

She doesn’t know what came before this. She has no idea of what led to all this, and what the context of it all is. She thinks I’m wearing dress shoes and sweatpants because I got a little lazy and I’ve got the style sense of a gnome. She doesn’t know the scheduling, the grueling exhaustion. Later, she’ll find out that I’m writing something and she might even want to read it, not understanding that I’ll trash it seven times over before I let anyone read it before it’s ready. She can’t possibly understand what it is that I’m after now because she never saw what I was aiming for before it all went wrong.

I don’t like her eyes.

“Sorry,” I say, interjecting in her sentence. I notice her hand is outstretched again, and I can almost feel the fingertips brushing my chest just a hair away. “Don’t live in Toronto anymore. Alberta now. Have a good one!” I quickly turn and plug the headphones back in, just in time to hear the starting raspy lines from Kenny Chesney’s Somewhere With You. 

If my face is calm, it’s only because I’ve gotten good at hiding facial cues for when I’ve just committed social harikari.

As I check the gate again, I hum along to the words that I’ve memorized over the course of a hundred nights. I’ve heard this song enough to carve the words into a tattoo, but this is the first time I’ve heard it and been able to actually relate to it. And here I am, somewhere without her.

Irony.

Apt.

*******

It’s 2:00 am. We’re touching down in Toronto soon, so I’m tapping away on this keyboard trying to finalize this before I use our arrival as a good reason to procrastinate further. Did I mention I had a few Long Islands at the airport bar before we left?

Ostensibly to help with writing. Now I’m thinking that all it did was contribute to my loud snoring around the 12:00 am mark.

I try to find some philosophical reason for why I didn’t give that girl my number. Why the idea of who I was in her eyes was so revolting to me. I guess there’s a lot of reasons. When I was unhappy, the idea of someone wanting to be a part of that was novel to me and a little alluring. It was someone seeing a hurricane and deciding that they weren’t scared and that they wanted to see what it felt like in the center of that storm.

Maybe that’s what the difference was. Her eyes were always like that. Curious in the face of pure insanity and bad decisions. A ferociousness that could match the tempest of a life gone awry and the strength to bring it back on course.

Too many writers always get it wrong – they focus on the colour. Her eyes swam in a sea of blue and dolphins jumped from pool to pool, deeper than the ice caps melting away into the ocean. A vivid, nearly effervescent green that mirrored Central Park at the first Spring bloom. All nonsense – it’s never the colour that gets you.

Typically hypocritical, I almost want to pull out my phone to make sure I describe hers correctly, as if I hadn’t just fallen asleep staring at them, swimming in the impossible thousands of pictures we shared over the years.

As if I wouldn’t know her eyes better than I know my own. Maybe that’s the anxiety in me firing off a final volley – I’ve accepted that perfection should never be a pre-requisite to love, especially not when it comes to loving yourself and being happy.

But when it comes to her, I stutter step and hesitate, crossing myself in strings of discord and anxiety. I want things to be perfect again. I want to reverse and correct the things that we did wrong, and tell her the story of how we fell apart as some kind of funny anecdote,”Honey you wouldn’t believe what happened to us in some horrific alternate timeline.”

What made her different wasn’t the colour. They were dark brown. Just like mine. What made them different was how wide her pupils always were. It didn’t matter – bright light or pitch dark, they were always dilated. Black pools of curiosity, almost as if she was trying to see all the happiness in the day before it slipped behind the veil of another night. The dark brown of her iris just hovering on the corners of her eyes, a dark eclipse.

They kept me alive, those eyes. Silver linings on the edge of a life that was nearly completely gone, that kept me swinging and ducking long after I was dead on my feet.

The choice to write here is intentional. The audience is long gone now, and there’s no more curious onlookers to see what comes next. I’m not sure what comes next either.

I’m here, with my eyes closed, finally playing the song I’ve been working on my entire life. This is happy. For the first time in my life, I’m happy with who I am. I’m happy with me.

When I open my eyes, I don’t know what I’ll see. Maybe an empty room, maybe more people than I’ve ever seen before.

All I know is that I hope that I’ll see those brown eyes, peering back from the darkness.

We’re touching down in Toronto now.

I’m home.

I can go out every night of the week, and go home with anybody I meet.
But it’s just a temporary high, ’cause every time I close my eyes,
I’m somewhere with you. 

Kenny Chesney, Somewhere With You

Let me tell you about owning a muscle car.

Let me just preface this by saying that the only thing that I would give up my car for is my girlfriend or a lemming army armed with tiny little bazookas and molotov cocktails. I’m not talking a small lemming army either, I’m talking, walk across the border and take a piss on the lawn of the White House with one hundred thousand lemmings behind me.

Last year, on New Year’s, I bought a Dodge Charger RT, brand spankin’ new, V8 engine that screams glory and hell fire and death to infidels. No seriously, you rev the engine and you can hear George W. Bush’s wet dreams.

But since that time, I’ve learned a lot that comes with driving a car like this. Mostly like…

1. You will ALWAYS be pulled over. Always. ALWAYS.

You know those hot girls who can’t step into the club without every rampaging chucklefuck within a seventy mile radius trying to talk to her, get up in her face, and grab her ass?

That’s now your car, and every single police officer who has a speed trap in your area who has spent the last year and a half pulling over shithead generic Japanese mundanemobiles realizes that there’s fresh meat on the market. Pretty soon, you can’t go five kilometers over the speed limit going past a trap without seeing flashing lights in the rearview, and then you end up having to entertain a conversation about every single possible traffic violation you could have possibly committed since you were born.

The truth is, when you drive a car like this, you’re a target. I’m okay with that – I’ve grown to accept the attention, it’s a compliment, not an insult. But that being said, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how you react at first. At first, you become that dude who pulls up beside cops at the light, windows fully down, blasting Nickelback like an air raid siren, singing sexually inappropriate lyrics at a middle aged police officer who really, just wants to get home without hearing you scream about pink thongs at him ever again.

2. Everyone wants to race you. EVERYONE.

Having a muscle car is a romantic, sexy thing – it’s that car in the movies that always wins the races, always gets the girl. And of course, everyone wants to be a part of that story, even if they’re the douchefucks in the movie that get left sucking dust a thousand miles behind your tail lights. But it’s never like a movie – see, what will happen is much more subtle and infuriating than that. You’ll be driving along, going an even 60 K, wind at your face and rock music playing happily, delirious with joy. And then some fucker is going to come flying past you, going 90. And he’ll suddenly slow down. You’ll notice him, and be like, meh. Then he’ll wait for you to catch up and do it again. Forget the fact that revving your engine would be enough to blow his little car right off the road and into a forgiving ditch. Fuck you if you’re not going to race him – he and his Civic are a team goddamnit, and he demands your begrudging respect as he continues to race you without your consent or participation, and pretty soon, you realize that you’re actually in the middle of a one man race between some dude and his ego who you’ve apparently offended by simply being alive.

3. People expect you to know everything about cars.

So in my un-expert opinion, there’s two kinds of talented people when it comes to cars. There’s the people who know the cars in and out, and can build and rebuild and take apart and rebuild a car quicker than God can rebuild a chapel for homeless infant puppies. Then there are the people of gifted reflexes and abilities to see the holes in traffic and the way that the road develops, those people who have a certain kinship with the road.

As you can probably tell, I didn’t buy my car because I have an overwhelming need to rub my ass against something with more power than a minor Saudi king. I’m one of the people who has had, and will always have an undying love of the road. There’s something about putting four wheels on asphalt and heading out into the unknown that is oddly unsettling. When I was going through the roughest point in my life, my friends tried their best to help me, but I was always an introvert – I needed to get through it on my own, and the best way for me to do that was to get out and drive, and just drive and drive and drive. I love the road, in a way not unlike an old pirate might love the sea, with an awed reverence for the things that I’ve seen, the places I’ve been and where I’ve yet to go.

But I don’t know fuck all about cars.

I found this out not too long after I walked into a car parts place with a clear store front that showed the front of my car, looking for someone that could do some vinyl work for my car. As I walk upto the counter, the dude behind it whistles and asks me what kind of engine it is. I reply politely, “5.7”. Before I can even open my mouth again to ask him a further question, he begins to go on a massive tirade, which may have very well been in a different language because I’m pretty sure half of what he said were less car parts and more so Iraqi slang terms for the word “vagina.”

And as you stand there, in numb silence, trying to figure out a way to best extricate yourself from that situation, he gives you a conspiratorial little wink and proceeds to give you perhaps the toughest exam on every single part of your car and of every car in your make since 1502. Eventually, when both of you are fully aware of your horrifying ignorance with everything to do with car parts when you say, “I don’t know about that alternating carboration metallurbaration stuff, but I sure do like that fuckin’ spoiler”, and “Yeah, I’m going to super charge the fuck out of that car soon, as long as I find a cape big enough”, you’ll leave feeling like a jackass for disappointing someone you don’t even know.

4. The muscle car wars.

So my girlfriend didn’t really understand this when I told her, and I don’t really understand it myself. Well, I understand some of the history behind it, but I don’t understand it in the same way that I don’t understand that Barney was on crack cocaine the entire time that he was singing to me as a child. Not because I’m not capable of understanding it, but because I feel that it’s so astronomically stupid that I don’t want to know because it makes me feel better to not have that information in my head, kind of like an infectious tumor in my fucking nutsack. That’s what this argument is, a sperm attacking tumor, fucking up your precious boys.

The story goes like this – if you’ve got a muscle car, that must mean you’re a ___________ man, and that’s all you are. If you’ve got a Mustang, that means you’re a Ford man, and Ford men hate Chevy men more than they hate Al Qaeda. And if you’re Al Qaeda and you don’t hate anyone from America yet, then buy a Dodge and watch as you suddenly apparently are expected to passionately despise the very existence of every other muscle car on the face of the earth.

Now I can’t be like that. The first car I fell in love with was the Chevy Corvette, and that’s still my dream car. Since then, I’ve only ever loved one kind of car – big engine, big power, straightaway demons that fly like bats out of hell when you put them on a straight line, cars that power out of turns like they’re chasing the air itself.

I still remember the day that I saw the ZR1 in action. I don’t give a fuck who says what – that car is majesty on wheels, grace on pistons, sex in vehicle form. I wanted that car when I saw it. I wanted to conquer corners, dominate asphalt, ragefuck the very air itself. 

That’s why I love muscle cars – they’re built for speed, no qualms or backing down, no excuses. Just straight up speed, and brutal raw speed at that. So how could I get angry when I found out that there was a 1000 hp Mustang out there? You want to know what my first thought was when I found that out?

“I wonder if my car can do that.”

The truth is, speed is a universal language. Anybody can fall in love with it, and it’s a car that’s made for the driver, someone who wants to put those four wheels on the pavement and just drive.

5. Fuckknuckles who think that a muscle car is a ticket for sex. 

Instead, I see a constant, enduring line of cockstraps and penisgarglers commenting on how “how much pussy I must get.” Why yes sir, there has been a large number of cats that have been padding through the general area around my place of residence recently. Not only that, this car attracts so much pussy that the cats themselves are mating with bats to produce catbats with wings so that they can throw themselves at me with reckless winged abandon. I’m actually scooping cats off my stoop with a shovel, and beating them away with hands filled with more cats. There’s so much pussy that I don’t know what to do with them all.

Truthfully, the reason this annoys me is because it’s by and large the most common problem on this whole list. It’s understandable – you walk into a movie theater, and you’re blown away when the only character in Fast Five who doesn’t fit the bill for a casting call for Brokeback Mountain 2 is driving an American muscle car and has muscles on top of his muscles on top of his muscles. In fact, we’re programmed from a young age, as boys, to equate muscles with sex. It’s stuck in our brain – if we have good bodies, women will like us, because really, if we have nice bodies and women don’t like us, it means that we’re horrible jackasses with not a single possible redeeming factor other than the ability to move our pecs without touching them.

Likewise, we’re taught from a young age that muscle cars spell sex. Think about it – you’re a young, impressionable boy and you walk into a movie theater and the main character is driving a raging angry muscle car. The average movie is what, 120 minutes or so? Two hours? How long does it take the hot girl in the movie and the main character to bone? If recent movies are any indication, they’re boning in the car, on the car and on the ground outside the car by the five minute mark. That means, as a young, shitheaded kid, you’re taught that within ten minutes tops of presenting your car to the general area of any area with a large amount of females, every woman within visual distance of their car should instantly cream their panties and throw them at your car. Every single fucking movie representation of muscle cars winds up like a softcore porno with less soft Latino music and more Metallica screaming.

That’s the problem. So when I meet some new dude who’s been a wrist jockey for the past few months, and he sees my car, you can practically see the cogs in his brain turning as he stares at me accusingly, as if I’m beating the women away from my dick right there in front of him, with my dick. Let me be the one to fuck this mindset up for good then – this doesn’t happen. Do I get stared at? Yes. But do I get approached? Once every two or three months maybe. Do I get a girl who just straight up comes onto me with the force of a small sex tornado? No. NO.

NO.

That doesn’t happen in real life. It takes time to build a relationship and have a healthy sexual relationship that doesn’t involve an immediate paralyzing fear of commitment issues for me anyway, what the fuck would I do with a horde of women?

I’d rather have the fucking lemmings.

Somebody Call the Waahhmbulance: My Lethargy is Killing Me

Why can’t I get past all these mental barriers? Why do I suddenly become an insecure mess at the most inopportune moments? Writing, work, relationships with others; when I should be the most confident, I freeze. I choke.

I’m at a standstill.

I want to do better and I know I could do better but the lack of motivation is crushing. It literally feels like a pillow being pressed against my nose and mouth in the dead of the night. It’s asphyxiating. I focus on the little things, the inconsequential. I rather lay in bed day-dreaming and fantasizing than putting any of my talent or efforts to good use.

Whenever I’m done writing a post I’m on top of the world, compliments abound and I feel invincible. When I accomplish a personal or professional goal I feel exhilarated. I just have to continue ‘following my dreams’ and soon I’ll become the best I can be. When I’m in his arms I feel like the most desirable woman on earth. I scoff at my insecurities because I’m ‘That Bitch’.

But then I get home. I flip on the TV or flip open my laptop. I take my pants off get comfortable and then…nothing. I don’t want to do anything and I worry about everything. I’m not who I want to be, not even close.

Maybe I should get started on that blog post…

God, it’ll probably suck and I’ll have to take hours to edit it and in the end it still won’t be as good as any of the other writers…

I should be more pro-active at work. I’m already taking courses that (I hope) will help me in the long run, maybe I should take on more tasks, network more, mingle with my coworkers…

It hasn’t even been a year yet, besides, I’m just a lowly receptionist. Who cares about me and my ‘Career Advancement’?

Maybe I should call him. Tell him how I feel about him. Ask him all those questions that gnaw at my soul every time we’re together…

I shouldn’t be so damn needy. I’ll just push him away. And what if I don’t like the answers to those questions, what then?

I know I’m being stupid. I know I’m being ridiculous. I know I’m holding myself back. But there you have it.

It is what it is, I guess.

Why spiders are assholes.

This is a spider.

He, is an asshole. Verily, let me recount the story of two pals, bound together by proximity and necessity, out of guilt and happiness, a tale of twin souls, crippled in their own ways.

The story then, of Ghost and Alan.

You see, during the Fall of 2010, I was going through a rough time. I had broken up with my fiancee, I was doing poorly in school, I was struggling at reducing my penis to a manageable size. It was during this time, that I met Alan.

You see, one day upon my wanderings about my abode, meandering around my rather small bedroom, I found, in a remote corner behind my door, a rather unwanted houseguest. And so I began my immediate death ritual that I usually partake in whenever an arachnid manages to find itself within the confines of my room, usually consisting of me waving my hands about like tentacles and making the web slinging gesture from Spiderman, which I’m assuming they find highly offensive.

OH MY GOD I ONLY HAVE EIGHT FINGERS LOL WUT SPIDERMAN FOR REALZ

But something about Alan called out to me. He was tiny, much smaller than a normal spider – he was barely even there, and if he hadn’t been sitting on the white wall on top of a tiny web too small to catch anything other than dust, I wouldn’t even have seen him. But even I could see that this little spider was undeniably crippled.

He only had seven legs.

And so, even as I twisted the paper towel into the shape of a super absorbent penis with which to smite my multi legged nemesis, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the little guy. And so I decided to let him go – I imagined he would go on his way, telling all his spider friends at the spider bar about my undeniable gesture of goodwill and mercy, which may or may not have had, in my head, the side effect of turning me into the Spider God. It only makes sense – the spider is simply the shitty, vaginally synonymic version of the scorpion, and I, as a scorpio, could be seen to have some sort of mytholog – okay, I really just wanted to let the little guy go okay? So I may be a marauding douchebag, spreading unhappiness and sowing seeds of discontent wherever my penis takes me, but i’m a GENTLE marauding douchebag goddamnit!

But he did not leave. Lo, he did not run. He simply stayed. The entire night. And the next day. And the next. And the next.

And so it went on. I found myself gesturing to him while talking to myself, and god bless his little crippled soul, he listened. He would simply sit there, I imagine his little head nodding in approval while I wished death and decay upon those who had wronged me as he made notes upon possible diagnoses for my obvious mental illness. Sometimes, in my moments of fond remembrance, I like to think of him as being a spider hitman who lost his leg in a vicious accident upon which he was saving a damsel in distress, who then left him as his memories threatened to overwhelm him. Or something like that. I figured that this little guy had an obvious backstory – how else does a spider lose a leg? Not by a fall, not by a climb – he must have been in some kind of dramatic struggle. So I felt at home with him, relating to him my problems and issues, and imagining that this little creature had, at one point, faced down the world with nothing but eight legs and a badass, can do attitude and had lost one leg for his trouble, only to find himself in my room, patiently waiting for me to notice him and to become my mentor of sorts. Like a spidery Yoda, chilling in the swamp for years, tiny and insignificant until Luke finds him, after which he becomes the manifestation of Jedi power. Or a crazy ass fuck who makes Luke carry him around in the swamp for a few days until Luke decides to go on an ill advised suicide mission beyond which Yoda becomes completely useless and decides to die.

But I digress.

Alan and me became a regular partnership. Like a many legged version of Bonnie and what the fuck is a seven legged spider doing with Bonnie, we became a dramatically effective partnership. But as time grew on, I could tell, that having only seven legs was dramatically affecting his life.

Alan, as he tries to rounds the last “leg” of his journey to the hereafter. Yes, he hated that joke too.

He began to become withdrawn, receding to the corner of his web upon my waking up in the morning. My “G’morning Alan!” became a trailed off greeting as I realized I was yet again waking up to what I could only describe as an intensely depressed spider.

So one night, while we’re both morose and pondering over the catastrophe of our respective lives, I looked over and I asked him, “hey buddy, why don’t you ever get laid? I mean, not around here, I like you and all and you’re my bro, but I don’t want your damn kids all over the place. Maybe it’s time that you found your own place, found a special little lady and settled down in a tree outside or something, where you can fuck and frolic to your hearts delight?”

I mean, isn’t that what all we humans want? To fuck and frolic? But he turned around and just gave me a long stare, and then went back to sit down in the corner of his web, thoroughly pissed and showing it. And so it was then that I realized, that what had happened to my little buddy had obviously had something to do with a lady of the past.

It was then I began to notice the little things. A very tiny love letter scribbled and left discarded on my bedroom floor. Silk undergarments that fit my pinky finger. A female spider, sitting at the entrance of my bedroom door, seemingly on the verge of tears and heartbreak, simultaneously going and leaving, coming and going. No seriously, the bitch was moving forward with four legs and moving backwards with four arms, it was some scary shit. Like the exorcist type shit.

This was going to be a picture of a demon crawling up the stairs and me making a joke about doing it with eight hands. A short Google search and three pairs of pissed pants later, here is a picture of Anne Hathaway instead.

It was late one Thursday afternoon when it finally happened. I had trudged my way home, terribly sad from the way that my life was going, and I needed my adorable crippled friend to talk to. Just a few days ago, I had likened his surly attitude to that of House, and tried to fashion him a cane. He didn’t take it too well. Perhaps because the cane was bigger than him, but really, beggars and crippled spiders can’t be choosers.

I came into my room, dropped my bag, and I think that it was that that I got the feeling that something was horribly wrong. I walked over to his tiny little web, where he had stayed during the course of his time with me, for months, and found him laying there, entwined in his own twine.

He was dead.

I wept, that day. He had never eaten, not once. Where I left him, there I found him at the end of the day. How the memories of what was lost must have plagued him! Oh, how his sadness must have overwhelmed him! And my constant digs and leg pulling about his pulled leg!

And then my sadness turned to anger. How dare he leave me in my moment of need? We were more than friends, we were a team. Like Shaggy and an incredibly fucked up Scooby Doo, we were a partnership, a duo of destruction and chaos, two emotionally crippled fuckups out on the town causing mayhem and slaying broads.

But most of all, I felt betrayed. He had taken the easy way out. And so I buried him in the backyard, while the wasps did flybys and the trees waved goodbye, angry tears in my eyes as I said goodbye to my wonderful, woefully fucked up friend.

I will never know his real story. I never will know just what happened to him, and to me, that will be the greatest mystery of all. In a world full of people, he was one of the best spirits I have ever had the fortune to know, and it’s very possible that my life was saved simply because he was always there for me when I needed him, right until the very end when it became too much for him to overcome. And that is why I say, spiders are assholes. They lead you to think that they’re always going to be there for you, with their debonair and their charm, their witty silences and their knowing glances, sharing an intimate joke with you in your moments of sadness, laughing with you in your moments of happiness and sharing with you in all of life’s joys and sorrows. He accompanied me on my journey to the other side of heartbreak, only to depart at one of the worst times, further devastating me. I mean, yeah I lost my girl, nearly failed my courses, didn’t care about life, but I mean, then my best spider pal had to die too? That’s just not fair. Fuck you life. Fuck you and the hatred you have for those who are good and young and full of crippled, depressed spirit. But fuck you too Alan, for leaving me like that in my time of need. You’re an asshole, for what you did. No one will ever replace the void you left in my heart when you left. Whenever I see a spider, I think about you, and what you did. I don’t think I can ever forgive you for it. But I love you man, all the same. We were a team, and regardless of how it ended, I’ll always miss you.

But seriously though?

I fucking hate spiders.

How To Not Be An Awful Person

written by: Why Yes I Have A Stick Up My Ass, Why Do You Ask?

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-VCsqWxa1ENQ/TZI2HmpA6pI/AAAAAAAACUk/jQfDtz-68mg/s400/YOU-ARE-BAD-AND-YOU-SHOULD-FEEL-BAD.jpg

Not Michael Jackson Bad. Well, maybe a little.

Ever since I got my first job at 16, I’ve always assumed the role of some sort of ‘Customer Service Representative’. While the job title may not have always been the same, the understanding remained that I would be getting paid to be shat on by humanity for 40 hours a week. A quiet particle of truth settled onto my consciousness that first day on the job and quickly grew into a big, fat, ugly elephant in the room over the next 5 years.

You guise, people are awful.

Now, I’m certainly not perfect (far from it!) but I have an almost pathological need to please others. I’ve been called “too nice” on more than one occasion and you know what? It’s never been said in an “Oh, thanks so much for your help, you’re too nice!” sort of way either, it’s always said in a tone of voice that very clearly stands for “WHAT is wrong with you? You’re way too nice.”

For years this irked me. After all, how can being ‘too nice’ or ‘too good’ of a person ever be a bad thing? Well I finally got the memo; people are awful and will continue to be awful and my unending need to be nice and love everyone will result in my tragic, yet not completely unexpected death.

So before I die (probably due to murder-suicide after I pick up yet another call that begins with **”I’m calling long distance and I’m tired of being put on hold!”), I thought I’d try my hand at making the world a slightly less toxic place in my wake (you’re welcome).

1. Be Considerate of Others:

Ok, this is a major problem guys. Guys? Are you listening to me? Yes? Not really? Good enough.

YOU ARE NOT THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE!

You know those things that walk around, all breathing and living and shit, that kinda look like you, except a little uglier? Yeah, THOSE ARE OTHER PEOPLE. You have to co-exist with these people, so try not to be such an insufferable douche, ok?

Please understand that sometimes – most of the times, even – your actions have direct consequences not only on you but on others as well. So when you leave your dirty laundry to fester for 3 months and then decide to do it all the day your mom is coming to visit and have to take up 2 out of the 3 machines available to use for a building of 100 or so other tenants? NOT COOL. What if MY mom is coming over and I want to show her I’m not a total slob too? Well guess what? I CAN’T because that 3rd machine doesn’t work. You dick.

2. Be Honest (with yourself and others):

I know some of you think lying is a thing you do to keep from hurting others’ feelings but that’s actually a lie in and of itself so you should stop right now because your J Brand jeans are on fire, asshole.

People aren’t ~fragile snowflakes~ that can’t handle the truth. Of course there’s a time and place for everything. I’m not saying you should greet your co-workers every morning with “Hey, I hate your guts. Also, I want your job” but if someone asks you straight up whether or not you’re single, don’t be a jerk about it and tell them the truth. It’s as simple as that. People try to make everything so complicated but the truth of the matter is, whenever you’re lying to someone, you’re doing it to save yourself grief, or make yourself look good or whatever other selfish reason. Point is, it’s just that: selfish. Don’t be that person. People will love you dearly for it.

3. Love Yourself:

As my fairy Godmother RuPaul would say, “Honey, if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”. Well, you can’t. You’re going to internalize your pain and become so consumed with misery that’ll you’ll start projecting it onto everybody else and soon they’ll become the people you hate. I’m not in Maxim’s Top 100 Hottest Chicks but I am pretty damn comfortable in my skin. Maybe that’s why I feel no need or desire to go up to random strangers in the street and say “OMG, eat a sandwich!” or “You really should put that down. It’ll probably make it easier for you to book seats on a plane.” You know what that’s called? Concerntrolling. The imperative word being TROLL. You do not give a fuck what that person eats or what life choices they’ve made or what health and/or mental condition they may have that makes them look the way they do. You just want to gleefully point out that they do not fit your standards and they should be ashamed. You are wrong. YOU should be ashamed. And also have your head examined. And also get glasses. Because I’m pretty sure anyone thinner than you is not anorexic, anyone heavier than you is not morbidly obese and you cannot judge a whole person’s life by their appearance. You. Don’t. Know. Shit.

4. Be Understanding:

Seriously, it’s not that hard to put yourself in another person’s shoes. All you have to do is take a half second and imagine yourself going through exactly what they’re going through (or what you’re putting them through). Did you just think ‘shit that sucks’? Boom, EMPATHY. This slightly differs from sympathy (English 101, you guise). Sympathy is feeling bad for the victim of the ‘Florida Zombie Killer’ and for what his friends and family must be going through; NOT posting Zombie-Apocolypse jokes all over the fucking internet. This is not 9Gag, this is real life. Have a heart. Realize that people all over the world are suffering, don’t pile on to the shit-i-tude of their lives by being a shitty person, m’kay?

5. Keep Your Word:

I cannot stress this enough. SAY WHAT YOU MEAN AND MEAN WHAT YOU SAY! Yes, I already said don’t lie, but I honestly think some people say things without thinking about it and then are just too lazy or don’t care or forget that someone, somewhere is depending on them. Look, “I’ll call you later” is not “bye”. No matter how much you want it to be, it’s just not. So can we all just agree not to say those 4 words unless we mean it? ‘Cause that look of shock and horror I get when a dude realizes I’m upset because I actually took him on his word and waited by my phone all night is getting increasingly awkward. Would you tell your kid brother that you’re so proud of him getting straight A’s all year you’re going to take him to EB Games and get him any 3 games he wants, drive him over there, buy the games and then promptly smash them all over the sidewalk just to see the sad, sad look on his face? Yes? Well then I cannot help you sir. But if not, that’s how you make people feel every time you blow them off, flop on them or otherwise break a promise.

***

This is by no means a comprehensive list but if you adhere to these 5 tips, I assure you, you can be my friend. Which really is the only point of living, isn’t it? Well, that and Gossip Girl.

**Ok, if you’re one of these people. STOP IT RIGHT FUCKING NOW. Please take a moment to closely examine the level of entitlement you must have as a person to actually believe that it is the responsibility of the company you chose to call that you are paying for long distance/using up the minutes on your phone. Listen. If you are calling a business, there are HUNDREDS OF OTHER PEOPLE CALLING AS WELL. As such, there is a HIGH LIKELIHOOD that you will have to wait (sometimes an inordinate amount of time!) before someone picks up that can finally help you (or not). THEY GIVE ALL OF ZERO FUCKS where you’re calling from or how. If you don’t want to pay extra or use up any of your precious 150 FIDO Daytime Minutes, here is a very reasonable list of things you can do;

Borrow a phone. Preferably from someone not as broke-ass as you.

Have 50 cents? Use a pay phone.

Don’t call. No seriously, don’t.

Go fuck yourself.

Satisfaction.

“Life loses its dynamism from the moment we lose the passion with which to live it. “

Image

What does one need to live and to be happy?

Money? Family? Luxury? Friends? I’m not talking about the basic necessities that one needs in order to live and lead a healthy life. I think ultimately what we need in order to lead a happy life is satisfaction with one’s life. At the end of the day if you can justify your actions and being to yourself in a way that it satisfies you then that’s all you really need…everything else just ties in with that.

You can have the money, family and friends that love and support you and that you love and support too, tangible goods and other luxuries…but what good is any of that if at the end of the day you’re sad anyways. I know I have all this, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t need it. I’m not materialistic, but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t need money…much of everything we do and need revolves around it – it buys me things I need AND make me happy. I have a few good friends, and a family that loves me too.

What’s missing?

I’m happy; I am…most of the time, at least.

Okay…I’m lying. I’m not, I’m happy sometimes…and the rest of the time I’m just really not. I’m not happy with the quality of my life, and I’m beginning to think my existence is a waste of space and oxygen really. I’m having a very hard time justifying my life these days. That’s why I say what we really need is satisfaction with one’s life…because I know there are so many girls that would die to be in my place, and would be ecstatic leading the life that I am because they’ve been raised that way.

You get married, you dedicated the rest of your life and existence to making your husband happy and being a typical housewife and eventually a super-mom….and that’s it.

See there’s nothing wrong with that if doing all of that makes you happy…it’s just that I’ve always wanted more from life, this part of my life was supposed to come after and I feel like I skipped a whole lot in the middle. I don’t mind doing all that, I really don’t its why I got married in the first place…I’d love to make him happy and be super-mom some day, heck I love kids, I want four one day. The problem is that I’m not happy doing JUST this, there needs to be more.

I don’t want to define myself as someone’s wife, or mom, or so and so…that’s it right there.  There was a purpose, and there was a plan, and a morning drill and my day revolved around ME and what I wanted to do.

(Seeing as this rant could go on forever…let me try to sum it up)

BASICALLY…where I was going with this is that I need to come back, go back to school and do something with my life. NOT because we need all that to make US happy, but because I need to do all that to make myself happy – happiness varies from person to person, and how we’ve been conditioned and our outlook.

Self-actualization and inner satisfaction: much needed at any stage in your life!

Answers /S2

Outside, the blizzard continued to rage, the steady tapping of the ice storm touching at the window, threatening to break the uneasy silence that had fallen in the room. She looked at him, her lips thin, and as she folded her hands on the table, a long strand of hair fell out of the spot behind her ears, falling beside her face, the very tip of it lingering on the corner of her lip as she tried to figure out how to respond.

“You said you wanted answers, what did she say next?” The shadow prodded.

He reached across the table, and he touched the edge of her hand, looking into her eyes. His ribs ached, his eye swollen, his back feeling like it was a porcelain plate, cracked and fractured and waiting for the slightest bit of pressure before it would collapse completely. She looked at his hand for a long second, and she loosened her own, her fingertip touching his index finger, almost playing with it. For a long moment, he looked at her and she just looked back at him, two people who had been such different things not so long ago, two different people who had been dead to the world and alive in each others arms.

“The codes Smith…”

He didn’t know what he wanted anymore. Did he love Linny? Did he love Lacey? Was Lacey even the same anymore? Even as the questions formed in his head, he knew the answers. Yes, No, No. Even as he blinked, with one hand in Lacey’s fingers, sitting at a table in the frigid cold, he knew that he would always dwell in the sunshine of the Hotel DeReece, his hand on Linny’s neck, feeling nothing as the sun warmed his broken body.

It was then that Lacey opened her mouth, and her voice began to break. And life would never be the same again.

“What did she say Smith? What did Lacey say that day at the CCH?” The shadow grabbed his shoulders, shaking him.

“I did it.” Lacey said, her lips immediately folding in, caving into her mouth as if she was trying to hold the words in, the words that she had already said. Words that fell like bombs on his mind, shattering him into a million pieces. Before he even knew what he was doing, he was on his feet, and he lifted the desk clear of the ground, throwing it against the wall. Her reflexes kicked in, pushing against the ground, and the desk chair swiveled across the floor, and as she got clear of the desk, she pulled her revolver out of her holster and aimed down the sight at him. Before she could even get a bead on his chest, he was already in her face, lifting her out of the chair and slamming her against the wall, the gun going limp in her hand and falling to the floor with a loud clatter. And for a long second, she looked into his eyes, and felt his hand on her jaw and the rage in his eyes, and remembered a night long ago. A night where the blizzard shook the curtains, a night where the candles flickered and the…

“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN YOU DID IT?” He screamed at her, the hand around her jaw tightening with every word.

She squirmed for a second, feeling the stinging slap of her back hitting the wall subsiding, and she said haltingly, “We had information…”

“INFORMATION? WHAT FUCKING INFORMATION LACEY? WHAT FUCKING INFORMATION DID YOU HAVE?” His voice went even higher, and for the first time, she was legitimately afraid of him.

“We had information that Hamas -”

“HAMAS? FUCKING HAMAS? ARE YOU FUCKING BULLSHITTING ME?” He tightened her grip on her jaw more, this time starting to pain her with the force of his grip.

She felt the rage pouring out of him, and the grip on her jaw, and she started to feel the familiar passion growing in her as well. “We thought Hamas had one of it’s leaders -”

“ARGH, AT HOTEL DE-FUCKING-REECE?”

“-AND SO WE ATTACKED.” Lacey said, overpowering his own rage with her own. He looked at her for a second, as if he was confused by her anger as well, and this emboldened her to say something. Something that she would regret for a long, long time. “If you hadn’t been there with that BITCH, YOU WOULDN’T HAVE FUCKING BEEN DANGER CLOSE.”

He stared at her, and in that long pause after her words, it sounded like a flash grenade had gone off in the office. A loud high pitched whine, and then the sudden boom of the detonation. He reared back, picking her clean off the floor by her shirt, and for a split second, she wondered what he would do. She didn’t intend to find out. With a quick movement, she raised her heeled boots, kicking him in the face and watching as he fell back onto the floor, his head hitting the wall as he fell into the corner, and letting her body drop onto the floor beside the cabinet. He struggled for a second, astonished by her quick movements and feeling the injuries from the Hotel DeReece bothering him for a quick instant, and then overpowering them to grab his crutches from the spot beside him, where they had fallen. The wood formed an instant grip with his hands, and he swung it at her, watching as it spiraled through the air only to land with a solid bang against the metal cabinet as she ducked her head, pulling a knife out of her boots. Before he even knew what was happening, she was on him, the knife gleaming wickedly in the dimly lit room. She grabbed him by his leg, pulling him away from the wall, and then setting on him with the knife, her knees on either side of him and her hand grasping his throat firmly, the dagger in the air above her. The papers from the fallen desk were all around his head now, lay in a circle around their bodies, the occasional paper still flitting to the ground from the desks.

He swallowed, and the lights began to flicker ominously, heralding the ever worse condition of the weather outside. Her hair was tousled now, the unstraightened strands framing her face, and his hands instinctively moved. But what surprised him the most, wasn’t the fact that his hands had moved instinctively – it was where they had moved to. One hand had moved to either side of her legs, grasping the outside of her thighs and his fingertips traced the seam of her jeans up to the side of her hip, where her pocket was. She froze, feeling his fingertips at her hip, and as her hand repositioned on the hilt of the dagger, she felt one of his fingers – his ring finger, she was sure – slowly slip under her jacket, under her shirt, to touch the bare skin that ran alongside the top of her jeans. Her breath caught in her chest, and her eyes closed for a second, and all she could remember was the feel of his lips on her bare neck, trickling down to her chest, and she could have sworn that the memories were happening even as she thought…

He didn’t know what he was doing, but he just knew that he had to. Even as a part of him still lay there in the hotel, he needed her. He didn’t know why, but he yearned for her in a way that he had never yearned for anybody, not even for Linny. She wrapped her arms around him, and he paused for a second, trying to understand how he had gone from laying on the ground to sitting upright, his lips on her neck. The knife lay on the ground, forgotten in their sudden passion, and she moved her hands up to his head, her hands playing with his hair as his lips trickled downwards, much like they did that night, so many years ago.

Somewhere in Severnyy, the shadows held their silence, terrified of disturbing his memory and losing him again.

As she shifted into a more comfortable position on his lap, he moved to sit against the wall, and he suddenly picked up the dagger from the ground, and he watched as her face flashed sudden alarm in the flickering light above their heads. He slowly slipped it under her jacket, smiling as he watched her shiver at the feel of the cold blade on her skin, her eyes widening, pleading him, praying that he didn’t have bad intentions with it, trusting that he didn’t. He slowly bent forward, kissing her, feeling her smile beneath the force of his lips and then pausing to look her dead in the eyes. She looked back at him quizzically, and he said, “That was for the night in California.” She cocked her head to the smile and giggled, kissing him again and feeling his muscles rippling beneath her hand, feeling his lips move down to the spot behind her jaw where she loved so much.

He slipped his hand into the back of her jacket, feeling the curve of her back and the small dimples that were so characteristic of the women that he loved, and for just a second, his concentration slipped, and he saw that red light waving lazily in the concrete room, and the shadows pacing anxiously, waiting for him to arrive at the conclusion that they wanted him to. But her lips found his chest, and he was gone before a second thought.

His hands found hers, and their fingers entwined with her own, and he closed his eyes, feeling the warmth of her body pressing against him. A familiar warmth. The warmth of the sun, the warmth of the Hotel DeReece.

Linny kissed his abdomen, working her way downwards to his hips, pulling off the last remaining bits of clothing that he had on, then moving back upwards to his neck. Her legs positioned on either side of him, he pushed himself backwards until his back was flat against the headboard. At the same time, another memory pushed, breaking into his subconsciousness at the same time, and suddenly he was there too, the candles wavering, blowing with every sudden bang that the blizzard caused against the window, her restless body pushing against him and clawing at his skin as her eyes looked at him with a frenzied mixture of passion and craving. He growled, and Linny’s smile flashed in front of his eyes. He growled louder, feeling Linny’s lips on his shoulder, and he felt Lacey’s familiar touch, her hands in his hair.

In the concrete room, with the shadows, Smith sat. And he remembered everything.

He leaned Linny back, and Lacey’s hair fell, to scratch at the back of his hand, her tousled hair shining in the light of the Hotel DeReece. Her back arched in the sunlight, and when she came forward, Linny’s mouth met him, nipping and biting at his lips as the blizzard raged outside. The memories began to pour together, feeling them all converge into one. As he slowly slipped down the headboard at the Hotel DeReece, he felt the papers of the CCH under his legs, and heard the blizzard at the…where were they, the night of the candles?

“The cottage Smith. You were at the cottage with Lacey. The night when you both were presumed dead, the night where they left you two to die. The night you saw the codes.” The shadow whispered in his ear, and he heard Lacey’s voice, her breath warming and her lips soft against his face. His heartbeat boomed like a loud drum, vibrating against his chest and pressing against Linny’s lips.

The cottage. He slid down from the headboard, and suddenly turned over, flipping her on her back and watching her surprised face beneath his arms. He bent down to kiss her, and both Linny and Lacey’s fingers grasped at his back, their fingers clawing at his skin, and he acquiesced, feeling the sudden intake of breath as they melded together. Lacey moaned, and Linny sighed, and as he kissed her lips, she moved against him, settling into a steady rhythm as the blizzard poured more and more snow in on them, and shook the windows and blew out the candles, as the sun from the Hotel DeReece warmed them in it’s bathing glow, and the sound of the beach, the waves crashing against the shore filled their ears. He reached for Linny’s hands, and Lacey’s fingers met his, and in that second, that momentary lapse, he looked up and away from her, to her right.

They were in the CCH, and there was a paper there, detailing Lacey’s death. Explosion…

He pushed against her, feeling her moan against his lips and feeling her body start to shudder underneath him, her hands wrapping tighter as his concentration began to lapse even more. Lacey’s death…?

They were in the Hotel DeReece, and there was a paper there, detailing the local landmarks, with Linny’s bra underneath it.

He pushed against her, feeling her moan against his lips and feeling her body start to shudder underneath him, her hands wrapping tighter as his concentration began to lapse even more. Where was his gun…?

They were in the cottage, and there was a paper there…

His voice ragged, he felt tears coming down his face as he remembered Lacey pressed against him, the red light bathing him in it’s feverish glow. “The numbers…”

“Yes Smith. The numbers, what do they say? Smith? SMITH, talk to me, what do the numbers say? Remember Smith, what are the numbers?” The shadows swirled around him, whispering in his ears.

Her eyes opened, finding his concentration lapsing, her heartbeat racing against his own. He looked back at her, feeling her begin to spasm around him, as the candles began to blow out one by one. She closed her eyes again, and he saw the bedsheets bunch up in her hands, as she balled her fists and cried out. He looked back over at the paper again, the numbers there drawing his attention.

13.

One of the candles blew out, five candles left, wavering in the invisible breeze that shook the red light above his head in the concrete room, where the shadows smiled and began to write.

“Lacey…” He whispered, and this time, it wasn’t even him. He didn’t know how, but he wasn’t talking anymore. The number 13 wavered in front of his vision, red against black, on the headboard, on her skin, on the walls of the concrete room, on the shadows.

23.

“I love you, Lacey…” He whispered, his voice echoing in his own head. His voice sounded distorted, like someone was playing it back to him on a warped disc.

13.

She clutched at him, and two more candles were gone. Three left. Why couldn’t he…why couldn’t he remember? What was he forgetting? His brain kept jumping back, back to the Hotel DeReece, back to the CCH. Why did…didn’t understand…Iraq…why did…what happened in Iraq? He looked at Lacey, writhing underneath him, and he knew that in the memory, he was right there with her, and he knew that…oh god, what…

25.

Two candles left.

“LACEY!” He screamed, his voice reverberating in the damp room, the red light flickering on and off, and the his brain began to feel as if it was on fire. She called his own name back at him – not Smith.

His real name.

And he remembered.

As she shuddered, as she shook, as the blizzard raged outside and he looked into her eyes, as she collapsed under him and as he fell to the side, as he fell, the candle blew out. Right before he dropped, right before she wrapped her legs around him and sighed contentedly, right before she whispered “I love you…”

“I REMEMBER. ARGH, LACEY.”

He closed his eyes, and suddenly, his brain went quiet, except for the intense pain that felt like exploding his head. He looked up, and he saw Linny’s body. Linny’s body, in the Hotel DeReece, the destruction, the carnage. And he saw the last number, on her skin, like a tattoo. 72.

72.

72.

Part II: Nuketown. 

His head was still on fire, but at least his hands were free now. The shadows in the room had sent the codes onto the military – the president had stopped the standoff and sent spec ops in, and they were expecting the nuke threat to end at any minute now. The shadows spoke, one with a clipped British accent, the other with a southern American drawl – Allied agents. “I’m sorry Smith, we had to do what we had to do,” one of the agents said. “If you were in our place, you would have done the same.” The Brit looked over at him, waiting for him to speak.

Smith rubbed his hands where the buckles had rubbed them raw, and looked at them.

“Answers.”

They looked at each other and nodded, the American taking a seat in the same spot where Smith had been sitting the whole time, looking leisurely and relaxed, even as the shock mechanisms bumped against his own head.

“Lacey was a double agent, working for us and the Koreans. At first, she was feeding information about us to them – but when she realized what they were planning, she switched sides permanently. Unknownst to them, she retrieved vital passcodes to the main system defense on the North Korean nuclear program – they knew she had something of value though, so they sent a hit squad after her. The hit squad men found her, and they were about to kill her, when one of the squad captains decided that he was a little too horny for that. Stupid fuck decided to rape her. You barged in in the nick of time, putting a knife inbetween his eyes – at least, that’s what the report says.”

Smith looked at him, taking this all in. “What the report says?”

“Well, the report says that all the men in the camp had a shotgun blast to the body and a single 9 mm bullet to the side of the head, or a double shotgun wound. Your own signature double tap. But the poor sap that was going to rape Lacey…well, he was found hanging from a roof not far from your position. With two knives sticking out of his crotch. Because, you know, apparently one wasn’t enough.”

Smith cocked his head to the side, still rubbing his arms. His fucking head…”So what? That’s not uncalled for.”

The Brit spoke up, with a bit of amusement to the accent as his voice echoed in the small room. “Well…found hanging by his own intestine.”

Smith looked at the American, who wiggled his eyebrows. “Nothing like brutal and graphic murder to put the rose in a girl’s cheeks, huh Smith?”

Smith just stared back at him, unimpressed by the man’s lack of restraint. The American rolled his eyes and looked at the Brit, who continued the story.

“You spent the night with Lacey. That was the night that you saw the codes, and then after that, you and Lacey had a relationship for a long while. However, you met Linny not too long afterwards, and that’s when things started to get fucked up for you.

You see, Lacey might have been a double officer, but Linny wasn’t. She was a North Korean agent, through and through, and you fell hard for her.”

Smith shook his head, backing away, his mind reeling. Why did his head hurt so much? 13…23…72…

“You’re probably seeing those numbers right now, aren’t you Smith?” The American said softly.

Smith looked at him, uncomprehending. “How did you…”

The Brit cleared his throat. “They brainwashed you. Linny was an agent for them, she seduced you and brought you back to the Hotel DeReece. Which is located…”

Smith closed his eyes, seeing her broken body, laying in the sunlight, her neck at a snapped angle and the sunlight illuminating her curves. Cuba.

“Cuba. A small part of Cuba, remote area, closed off to all but a few.” Smith shuddered to think. How had he not known?

The Brit came over to him, and showed him the blueprints of the hotel, with red circles on it. Where the charges had been set. He spoke again, his voice sad. “I know that Lacey told you that she did it Smith.”

But that was forgiven wasn’t it? Linny was the one who wanted him dead, he knew that now. He knew it…Lacey was the one he wanted, Lacey was the one that he really loved…Now that Linny was out of the picture, now that she was gone…

“Lacey didn’t do this Smith. You did.”

He looked at the Brit, not understanding. The Brit looked over at the American, who lost some of his facetious nature and looked somewhat ashamed. “Smith, they were brainwashing you at the Hotel DeReece. They were trying to program you to be an assassin for them, a person that could get behind our lines at any time, to anyone of national importance, and murder without ever being caught. You were our best killer, and having you brainwashed would be possibly one of the worst things to ever happen to America. We kidnapped you, and we realized that your brainwashing wasn’t fixed yet – that you were still moldable. So we programmed you to go back and destroy the hotel – sending a squad in would have attracted too much attention. The Hotel DeReece wasn’t just being used to brainwash you – it was for a number of agents, from all across the world. Interpol, RCMP, FBI, CIA, Mossad, you were the opportunity to crush the goddamned place without setting off an international incident. You were supposed to kill Linny, and then blow the place – but for some reason, you misfired. You set the charges to blow too early.”

Smith’s back hit the wall of concrete, and his legs slowly started to give out from underneath him, and he slowly sat on the floor, feeling the room spin around him. “But, Lacey…”

“Lacey thought that she had done it – she had given the order, in order to save your life. She saw the report saying that you were alive, and in the Hotel DeReece, she ordered a squad in for extraction and destruction – she was overridden without her knowledge by her superiors. She never knew that it was you who blew the place and nearly fucking killed yourself. She loved you, she would have taken a bullet between the eyes for you. I’ve never seen such a sacrifice…”

Smith looked at the agents, as they watched him somberly. The elated mood at having achieved their goal was gone now, replaced by a bitter sense of sadness. “What…what do you mean sacrifice?” Smith said, unsure if he wanted to know what they were about to say to him.

“She left, Smith. She turned and walked away from it all – she was so distraught at having nearly killed you, that she completely went off the radar. We recently sent a team to bring her in by force – they were found with single shotgun blasts and a 9mm in the head, or -”

“or a double shotgun blast. Double tap. My signature.” Smith closed his eyes, his head moving backwards, touching the cold wall.

“Yeah.” The American said, and for a second they all sat quietly there, lost in their own thoughts. Smith spoke up again, his voice cracking midway through, tears threatening to break. He just wanted this to be over, he wanted Lacey again. “I want out too. I just…i want to find her, make things right.”

The Brit shot a sideways glance at the American, who smiled for a fraction of an instant. “We had a feeling you’d want that. I have Lacey’s contact number, i’ve been saving it for you. She’ll come back to meet you, but i’m only giving it to you on one condition,” he said, standing up and walking over to where Smith sat on the floor, looking up at him. “You need to call her, and tell her to come back for one more mission.”

Smith looked at him, confused.

The Brit spoke up from behind him, his voice low and slightly menacing. “They rebuilt the hotel. We need you to go back there, tomorrow is the opening day. Blow the fucking place sky high, and this time, we’ll give you the explosives. You know where they go, just follow your instinct. The explosives we give you, they’ll make sure that the job is done perfectly, and they’ll make sure that you never have to see us again.”

Smith looked up at them, and slowly rose to his feet, an odd expression on his face. They waited for him to blow up, to tell them to go fuck themselves, they waited for his anger to rear it’s head. He opened his mouth, and the American visibly flinched. “When do we leave?”

Part III: The debt that all men pay.

The steady beat of the helicopter blades had driven him into a sweet slumber, dreaming of Lacey’s lips, her hair and her voice whispering in his ears. The Brit had called her, and told her that he had been brainwashed – but that his brainwashing was broken, and that he needed to see her. He told Smith right before they got on the helicopter, that she hadn’t wanted to come, but that she would do it for him – she would meet him at the hotel in room 72, at 11 o clock. He would set the charges before she got there, and then the helicopter would be waiting for extraction at a point three clicks north of the hotel – they’d be in the air before the detonation went off. After that, Smith and Lacey were free to do what they wanted to.

As he woke up, he looked out the window, and saw rows of lights. It was nighttime, and as he looked in front of him, the American sat with a laptop on his lap, and his legs crossed. Upon seeing that he had awoken, he peered at him with amused eyes, the laugh lines crinkling on his face as he said “morning, sunshine.” The Brit, sitting beside him, lightly smacked him on the arm, and then reached over and took the laptop, turning it around so that the screen was pointed at Smith. The display read “8:23”, so Smith reclined in his seat as the helicopter slowly started to touch down, and he looked down, seeing the car waiting to take him to the hotel. Finally…Lacey.

As they got out of the helicopter, the American handed him a bag. “These are the charges. Good luck, and god speed Smith.”

The Brit sat on the hood of the car, and as Smith got behind the wheel, he moved, stopping Smith from closing the car door. He looked somber, and he looked seriously perturbed about something. He opened his mouth, and then looked over at the American, pausing for a second. Smith followed his eyes over to the American, who looked at them both and then turned away, shaking his head and looking out at the ocean spray in the dark night, at a boat that was bobbing in the sea, the lights dancing up and down as the boat was rocked from side to side. Somewhere in the near distance, a spanish song played, and he heard a woman’s laughter, and the loud voice of a man speaking and laughing. The Brit stared at the American for a second longer, and then just shook his head as well. He simply tapped the hood of the car, and closed the car door, and said “Godspeed Smith.”

As Smith sped off into the darkening night towards the Hotel DeReece, the Brit came to stand by the American, right beside the helicopter. The pilot had already gotten out, told to be back by sunrise, and the Brit leaned against the chopper, and watched as the American smoked his cigarette. Without any prompting, the Brit looked out into the ocean and said “We’re going to go to hell for this.”

The American just shook his head. “No,” he said in his southern drawl, “I’m going to hell for everything else that i’ve done. This is just frosting on the cake for me.”

They were quiet for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. A life of murder, a life of lies. A life that they would have to answer for someday. But that day wasn’t today. The American took his cigarette and threw it on the ground, stepping on it, grinding his foot into it for a fraction longer than was necessary. And in that moment, as the American’s hair swayed in the wind and his eyes settled into an uncaring fashion that made him seem dead to the world, the Brit got a sudden image of Pilate washing his hands of Jesus’s blood, sealing his fate.

Sometimes, he looked in the mirror and saw the same image.

In the helicopter, the laptop flashed, and the window that had the time emblazoned on it closed, some technical glitch. And underneath, lay the military files on Lacey. Her real name, her date of birth, her weight, her military history, everything. Including her date of death. And beside the laptop, on the seat beside where the Brit had been sitting, lay a newspaper clipping, one that Smith had ignored completely. The headline said, “HOTEL DEREECE, GRAND OPENING.”

********************

As Smith rolled towards the Hotel, he sang a song that he thought he had forgotten long ago, the words low in the dark and warm summer night.

Made damn sure that Pilate, washed his hands, and sealed his fate…pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name…but what’s puzzling you, is the nature of my game.

As he pulled up to the curb, the song continued to play in his head, a backdrop of the night to come. He couldn’t wait to see Lacey. He remembered too much now though, he remembered pushing her against the wall, he remembered his hand on her jaw…the things he had done for a woman that didn’t even want him alive. A woman that was just using him, a woman that tried to get him to kill his own countrymen…his blood burned with the thought. Unbidden, the image of her body laying in the sunlight of the old Hotel DeReece sprang to his mind, and he pushed it away with anger, refusing to let it bother him. She was a mistake. A mistake that he would never get the opportunity to make again. The bitch was dead.

A couple hundred clicks north of his position, a F-22 Raptor soared over Florida, on it’s way to his position. Captain Jamie DeSouza was instructed to drop his payload on a new hotel in Cuba, where an alleged leader of Hamas was supposed to be meeting with the heads of a terrorist cell to make plans for an attack on a yet unspecified place. The Allied forces weren’t about to find out the hard way. DeSouza clicked on the communicator, speaking to two men in Cuba heading towards the Hotel DeReece themselves. “ETA 10 minutes to target.”

The Brit picked up the communicator, and said “Acknowledged, be aware we are danger close.”

“Danger close confirmed.”

***********************

Smith sat in the basement, hunched over the explosives. The timer read 12:00, so he’d have at least an hour to get back to the helicopter where the agents waited for him after he met Lacey. The support columns of the building lay in front of him, and he slowly walked around, getting his feel for the area. Truth be told, he could not remember this place at all – but the agents had told him that he WOULD know exactly where the put the C4…just to rely on his instincts. He sat there for a long minute, trying to remember, and then he thought of the blueprint that the Brit had shown him, with the red circles of where he had placed the explosives before. He looked around, trying to place the blueprint on where he was. He saw a series of pillars, and it clicked.

He spent the next hour, placing the explosives carefully in the spots that he knew that he would need to bring down the godforsaken hotel once and for good. His mind was racing and his fingers were trembling – he couldn’t wait to see her. To feel her skin against his again, to feel her lips against his…oh, how could he have missed this? How much he LOVED her? He thought of her smile, her teeth flashing as she giggled, her eyes so deep that he could stare at them for hours, just wondering what she was thinking and knowing that she was thinking about him. Her eyebrows thin, her forehead begging for his lips, her head resting on his chest and knowing that she felt the steady heartbeat from underneath. The feel of her breast in his hand, the feel of his palm on her stomach, the feel of her wrapped around him…he dropped the detonator and cursed as it clattered across the floor, chiding himself on losing his concentration. He zipped up the bag, and he walked away, heading to room 72, excited for what seemed like the first time in his entire life.

**********************

“DeSouza, what’s your time, over?”

“ETA 2 minutes, over.”

“Please be advised, you are not clear for active weapons, pending ground operation failure, over.”

“Uh, those are not the orders I was given, over.”

“Oscar Charlie 213245900 Cap’n. Over.”

“…Orders understood, awaiting further orders, out.”

**********************

This was the moment that he had been waiting so long for. He looked down at his arms, still bearing the redness and raw look where the buckles had held him to the chair. He covered them with his shirt sleeve, and checked himself in the mirror in the hallway, smoothing out his collar and calming his nerves. He tapped on the door with his knuckle, awaiting the response inside. He didn’t hear one, so he tried the door handle, which opened smoothly for him. The room was quiet, just like the rest of the hotel – as he stepped into the room and shut the door behind him, he walked towards the middle of the room and heard the soft noise of a woman singing and a shower going. He smiled widely, taking a spot across from the shower, waiting for her to step out.

It only took a few minutes – the singing continued, but the shower stopped, and she opened the door, her eyes downcast, still singing. She looked up, and he moved quickly, his hand covering her mouth and stopping her reflex scream that she was sure that she was going to make, letting her see who he was. Her eyes froze in surprise, then relaxed into recognition. His lips went to her forehead, and her fingers found the front of his shirt, pulling it off, the buttons flying onto the ceramic tile below, clinking gently before coming to a rest. He pushed her back into the shower, and turned it back on, and she found his jeans, pulling them off and throwing them out of the shower before returning their attention to putting skin on skin again. Her hair cascaded down her back, and the water dripped off his, falling onto her forehead as they kissed, her hands roaming around his body, hungry like she hadn’t been for the first time in years. Her stomach fluttered, and he could feel her hands at his back, pushing him, pleading with him. He obliged, and her hand balled into a fist and struck the wall, the first time that they had been together in years. His mind raced, lost in her scent, lost in her love, and her fingers ran along his jaw, feeling the stubble there and smiling at the way that she looked at him, even as she began to tremble. The last time was so long ago, since..since…

Since the cottage?

His lips pressed against hers, he could feel her biting on his lips, her tongue, her breath, sweet and just for him, and he realized…

She had never stopped singing.

As the water poured around him, as the steam rose in the bathroom, he heard the singing stop. The CD player on the wall of the bathroom, clicked over to the next track on the CD – and he heard the American. Even as her lips found his own once again, even as her hands clutched at him, even as she moaned his name, he heard the American’s voice.

“I’m sorry.”

The world tilted sideways, and he fell out of the bathtub. The hotel shook, and the detonation of C4 sounded throughout the hotel, the familiar pulse beneath his feet and the subsequent caving of the floor. Debris and concrete began to pile on him, as he couldn’t breathe. Suddenly, the floor opened up, and he fell, his body turning over in the air, seemingly in slow motion. As he fell, all he could think was one thing. It was a hit.

It was a hit.

It was a hit.

And then, unbidden, another thought struck him.

Who the fuck was Linny?

There was no desk at the bottom to break his fall. Right before he hit the floor, he turned onto his back and all he could see were the stars above.

***********************

“DeSouza, pull off the current target, the ground operation is a success, over.”

“Confirmed, over.”

The American looked at the Brit, the car idling not too far from the Hotel DeReece. They looked at each other sadly, and then looked away again, each lost in their own thoughts. They both saw the hotel go down, and he heard the American make a little cough when they both thought of Smith. A mission was a mission, they said to each other. But they knew each other well enough to know that later on that night, they would both be sitting alone, with a bottle of whiskey and thinking about how life had turned out for them, and they both knew that they would be thinking about tonight and what they had done. The Brit opened up his cellphone and called their boss.

“Operation MKULTRA Omega was a fucking success.” He said bitterly.

The voice on the other side simply responded, “Can you confirm the kill?”

The American looked over at him, hearing the conversation, and mumbled something. The boss heard him, and she said loudly, “what did he say?”

The American cleared his throat and said “Which ONE?”

There was silence from the other line for a second, and then she said, “all of them. Confirm the subject death especially.” She didn’t stay on the line long enough for them to reply.

As they sat there, mulling over their options, the rescue teams arrived. They got out of their cars and stood there as well, alongside the ambulances, using their badges to get to the scene outside the Hotel. As they moved the bodies, they noticed that two of the EMTs were bringing out a body on a stretcher over to their right – a naked man in his 40s. The EMT was shivering, despite the heat of the night, and the burning hotel in front of them. The two agents walked over to him, and the American patted him on the back and said “It’s okay.”

The EMT looked at him as if he was insane, and the American immediately removed his hand. The Brit stepped in. “Where was he found?” He asked, addressing the other EMT that brought out the body.

“Found him in the main atrium,” the EMT said, heavily accented. “Laying there, dust all around him. Like some kind of halo, you know? Like that song, I can see your halo, you know?” He nudged the other EMT, winking. The first EMT just stared at the bodies in shock, and the jolly one just gestured to him, saying to the two agents, “He’s new on the job…he’s never seen this kind of stuff before. He will learn…”

They walked away, and the American and the Brit just looked at Smith’s body, laying there, the neck snapped.

The Brit opened his mouth, and for a second, the American thought that he was going to recite something, some religious bit that would make this all seem easier, make what they had done a little better.

The Brit shook his head.

“Fucking hell.”