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Topic Started: Jul 11 2014, 11:43 AM (590 Views)
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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
A list of the dying, a list of the damned.

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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
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“You got the shit?”

The monkey faced little fucker cleared his throat - a little hem-hem action that made her want to wrap her manicured nails around his throat and just squeeze - and gave her that shit-eating grin.

“I do, lady. I do indeed. I very much do.”

“Okay,” she said, clicking her nails against the little metal bistro table, watching him fidget, glance around, clear his fucking throat again.

“Are you going to show it to me, or-”

“You sure this is safe? This place? It’s so…” he paused, glancing around, “open.”

“You’re fine. Where’s the shit.”

He glanced around again, cleared his throat again, grinned again.

She swore to God she was going to kill this prick.

“Okay, lady. Reporter lady. Okay. Here.”

He laid a folder on the metal table, the top stamped with the word JONES. Reverently, she lifted it up, felt the smoothness of the paper under her fingers. This was the scoop she had been looking for. This was the break she needed in the wake of the abductions, of Survival of the Fittest being played for the masses. This was the story that would hold up long after everyone forgot about the hub and its degenerates.

She could almost feel the pulitzer.

“Get lost, Mark.”

“Listen, lady. Listen. I went through a lot of trouble for this. I did. I need me some ree-compension, you feel me?”

“You found it in a trash can while you were taking out the garbage.”

“Anyone could’ve caught me. Anyone could’ve. It was a risk.”

He cleared his throat again, grinned again, glanced around again.

“Mark, I’m not giving you any more-”

The window to the bistro exploded into shattered glass at almost the same time the cracks registered for her brain and suddenly there was screaming and diving and shouted questions of was that a gunshot that had everyone on the little bistro patio flipping tables, crouching low, whimpering and shrieking.

Another crack sounded and a car windshield imploded as a man tried to run towards it and he was forced to slide into cover, shouting call 9-1-1 as he withdrew a sidearm from his waist - she caught a glimpse of metal, a star - a badge - on his belt as he scanned the city block looking for the origin as another crack rended the air and a lamp post bulb rained glass down on them all.

She couldn’t see Mark from where she was crouched. The folder was lying, open and face down, in the middle of a sea of shards of glass.

All she could think about was that she didn’t want to die here.
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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Sadness had it’s own taste, sometimes - a tangy, earthy flavour that clung to the back of the throat and made it hard to swallow. It wrapped itself around your tonsils, reminding you with a dull ache that it existed, no matter how long or how hard you tried to forget it, to shove it back and aside and away from your current thoughts. It was recurring, sitting on the bitter part of your tongue and occasionally tweaking your tastebuds.

You had come close to knowing, memorising sadness and its taste now. You accepted, welcomed it.

It was the fifth anniversary of her death, and you told yourself - as you always do - that you’d only have one drink. Just one drink to try and mask the taste that sadness always brought with it - alongside a truckful of memories - hair, clothing, skin, bubbling laughter - that made you thirstier. So thirsty that your mouth and throat became drier and the taste of sadness became more bitter, more acute, more deliberate, which made your thirst grow, become an ache of its own.

It cycled this way, one day a year. Your therapist tells you that time heals all wounds, but you’ve yet to see the scarring.

So, just one drink.

You pretend to consider more options - alone, in your one bedroom apartment after Mary left - but you know that there’s only one. There’s only O’Hurst, the place you went to quench your thirst before she passed on, the place Mary often accused you of spending too much time. You wish you could find a new place, one without the baggage and added weight of the familiar bar stools and the cracked light that hung right above what the patrons still refer to as your spot, but other spots feel alien and wrong, and you wind up getting another one of your anxiety attacks and leaving before quenching the thirst of yours.

So, you enter the bar and decide just one drink, and freeze at the threshold, pretending to look for familiar faces when really you’re scared. Shit-scared. Bone-deep scared. Because O’Hurst means, definably, that today is the date and it’s been five years, and suddenly the memories of her waft through you.

You don’t move for a moment. You don’t even breathe.

But your familiar spot calls to you, and you go towards it. You move to it, to sit down at your stool, and have a drink.

Just one drink.
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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
“Okay, so if I trade for the pirate kid or whatever, I can probably stick the landing through the final 30. Do you think?”

“Who, that tiny guy? Dude, I told you - go for the hulking guy. He dodges bullets.”

“I really don’t have a ton of faith in him, though. Like, he keeps charging at people and screaming bloody murder, he’s gotta get capped soon.”

“Dude. Bullet dodger. Even if he does get hit, it’d take a lot more than some jackass’ shoddy aim to take that motherfucker down.”

Liam dropped his pencil next to the scrap of paper, rubbed the bridge of his nose. The two were seated at the bar of a little bistro they both liked, pouring over a list of names that were available to pick up on some shady internet site Liam found. Some company was offering bonds to the person who picked the winner.

“Okay,” Liam said, scratching Sean out, “that leaves what - Cowboy guy, quiet guy, insane guy, insane girl…”

“Insane girl might be worth a look,” Craig pointed out, taking a sip of his beer.

“Yeah, but same issue as the pirate king - she’s scrawny.”

“Dude, she’s off her meds and crazy. I bet she takes it far.”

“I dunno, man.”

“You watch, dude. You’re going to rue the day that-”

“Oh shit!”

“Fuck, man. Fuck, was that a gunshot?”

“I have no fucking idea. Fuck the window’s just - shit!”

“Follow me, dude. We’ve gotta go around back.”

“Shit shit shit. That was a fucking gunshot, man. That was - the glass just fucking fell away.”

“Breathe, man. Breathe. Just stay here, dude. We’re safe here.”

“Fuck. Fuck! Who the fuck is… Jesus christ, you’re bleeding!”

“It’s just glass. Oh christ. It’s just glass.”

“What the fuck… Craig, what the fuck?”

“I don’t even fucking know, man. But let’s get the fuck out of here - I ain’t dying here.”
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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
((Just a note here saying that I changed things up a bit - the story works a little better this way. If you're reading this for the first time, I'd start from the second post and go downward.))

You unwrap your scarf as you began to sit down, hand shaking slightly as you clench your fist tightly in the knit-woven, muted gray colour. Your life lately has been nothing but grays and charcoals and blacks - neutral, safe colours - that meant you were neither happy nor sad in theory, but in practice communicated - radiated - sadness. You didn’t want to be sad anymore, but you’ve grown safe in your sorrow, comforted by the taste that invades and permeats your tongue, pressing against the roof of your mouth like an ill-placed canker sore. You sit, and fold - unfold - fold - unfold - fold your scarf, tap index - middle - index - middle - index finger on the bar, try not to glance at the clock three times. You’ve controlled the impulses with varying success throughout these five years, but the urge is still there.

You try to feel proud that twenty times has become three, but that statement feels pathetic, makes you feel weak and useless, so you don’t.

Just a drink, you think, as you raise two fingers to the bartender - a girl you’ve never met, which makes your back stiffen and crack under the sudden pressure (oh god, what if she doesn’t make the drink right, that’ll make the sadness shine through even more) that snaps through your sinuses as a dry twig. You order your usual - a drink (the drink) and she smiles, calls you sweetheart.

Bob - your usual bartender, the bartender that you happily coat the sadness with, the bartender you expected to be there and who is not and that makes you tap your index - middle - index - middle - index - never called you sweetheart.

If you weren’t so thirsty and desperate to quench, if the sadness hadn’t become a roar on your tongue, you would be tempted to think about starting to get up.

You don’t.

As not-Bob makes your drink, you curl your fingers until the joints turn white and the nails turn pink with the strain, until your wrists are lightly shaking. The door jingles open as you sit, poised as marble, waiting fro not-Bob to bring your one single drink over. You start to crave it, the want becoming need, mouth filling with water as you anticipate it. A creak from your left but you’re enraptured and ensnared with the idea that it’s been five years, wanting to caress and hold close that idea while also ignoring it, fighting against it. You want to succumb to it, swallow it, drown in it.

You almost had, once.

As you debate this, your one-drink arrives and you instinctively curl a hand around the sweating glass, the dark coloured liquid sloshing with the motion. You lift the glass, shakily to your lips, as another creak - a body moving on a stool, two down to your left - and let the liquid pour past your tongue, down your throat.

You barely taste it.

You never can.

You hate yourself and you want to fucking die and why the fuck are you here, you piece of shit - you’re doing it again, and this isn’t fucking helping anything you cocksucking piece of assfucking cunt faggot just go the fuck home-

“Another, please,” you say.
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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
“Your name is… what, again?” Toni asked, feeling impatient.

The man in front of her, wearing a full suit and sunglasses - ridiculous, really, didn’t he know it was like seventy outside? This was like, the worst place ever to wear a suit, too, super casual diner for Armani - smiled. “Jones will do, for now.”

“Right,” Toni said, dismissing the cryptic answer for now with a wave of her painted nails, bending her neck slightly to sip at her Dr. Pepper. She didn’t usually order soft drinks that weren’t free refills, but he said he was picking up the tab, so whatever. If she’d been interested in him, she would’ve just ordered a water with lime - way classier - but the sunglasses in midday really turned her off the scent.

“Jones,” she said, aloud. Experimentally. He made it sound super formal, she made it sound slightly more fun.

“Okay, Jones. I got your message. Really mysterious.”

“Yes. Did you bring the items I asked for?”

Toni rolled her eyes, sipping at her Dr. Pepper again as she reached into a handbag to produce a sheet of paper. Flipping it casually, she handed it over to him.

With a big hand, Jones took the paper, studied it. While she studied him. He looked average, really - small build, wiry frame, red hair that was curly and kind of ridiculous. His hands were massive though - really stood out against the rest of his shrimp-like frame.

He looked up at her, sunglasses making it really hard to ascertain his expression.

“This is all blanked out.”

“Yep!” Toni replied, cheerily, “I’m not providing you with the full ones until you provide me with some identification.”

“Ms. Reeves-”

“Toni, please.”

“Toni. I can assure you, I have absolute authority to get a copy of these files-”

“Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we, Mr. Jones?” Toni said, smiling around her straw as she filled her mouth with more delicious, sinful soda. She didn’t actually like Dr. Pepper all that much, but she made a big show of it, enjoying her position of power.

“Considering recent events,” she said, linking her fingers together and resting her chin on them, “these files are pretty sensitive information. I’ve had a few people calling me - reporters, mostly - pretending to be all sorts of folks. Principals, educators, one pretended to be a police officer - looking to gain access to these specific files.

“Now, I understand completely - if you are who you say you are - that this could be fairly interesting to you. But I question how useful it is - assuming you are who you say you are - and if it isn’t just another sick joke to get more dirt on kids who are in a horrible situation.”

Jones sat in silence for a moment. “Don’t tell me you’re faking an attachment to these kids.”

Okay, that struck a nerve. “I am faking nothing. I wasn’t on staff when they were reported missing, true. But I believe - completely and wholly - in student-counsellor confidentiality, regardless of whether or not I was the counsellor in question.”

Jones steepled his fingers, mirroring her pose. “How much would it take you to change your mind?”

Disgust filled her. “Goodbye, Mr. Jones.”

“Wait, Ms. Reeve,” Jones said, as she stood. He reached for her hand.

Her Dr. Pepper exploded, causing him to leap backwards, the sound of a gunshot filling the air between them as glass and liquid leaped through the air, bouncing off the table, drenching her salmon blouse with darkness that felt for a moment like blood, making her knees shake and feel weak. Jones dove into her, tackling her to the ground as the window to the bistro shattered and screams and whimpers filled the building. Her back cracked against her toppled over chair, causing the breath to be knocked out of her lungs as he yelled over the din.

“Stay down! Stay down! Someone call 9-1-1!”

In a strange man’s arms, with a salmon, knit blouse ruined, and her students’ private lives protected, all Toni Reeve could think was that it’d be a shitty thing if she died here.
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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
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You’re on your third just a drink when you’re just over the edge enough to begin observing the other patrons, your tapping and fidgeting reduced to twitches, rapid glances, skating gazes. You’ve never done well in social situations - not since she passed on - but you had a few experiences of trying to broaden horizons and let others into your bubble. Most, if not all, ended in disaster for you, forced you to retreat inside yourself.

You take a sip, riding a wave of revulsion and hatred - you fucking cocksucking faggot fucking cunt, drink away at your goddamn nectar you repulsive piece of shit - and shake your head slightly before swallowing, the liquid sloshing over your molars, filling your cheeks and warming before you swallow.

You hate this.

You hate yourself.

“Are you trying to drink that, or destroy it?”

The voice comes as a shock, a surprise, as you bobble your drink and look quickly at - and, just as quickly, away from - the source. You’ve felt as though your bubble of sadness, your tasting session, was a private one - removed from all outside contact. You felt safe in your bubble, surrounded by yourself and your problems.

But now, the bubble is burst. The man next to you is tall and bald and has blue eyes, and you shift uncomfortably in your chair.

“What?” you ask, grimacing inwardly because you heard him clearly - you heard him as loud as you could’ve heard anything, but you’re rusty at communication and discussion and this will be so awful.

“Your drink,” the man says, gesturing to your third glass of just one, raising his own bottle to full lips, “you look pissed off at it.”

All you can do is shrug one shoulder, staring down at the liquid. You see your reflection - barely, half-shadowed and faint in the moving, sloshing darkness - and frown down at it. You wonder what compels people to discuss these things with strangers, and hope your passive answer and refusal to meet his gaze marks you as someone who wants to be alone.

Either he understands and rejects this notion or doesn’t care, because next thing you know there are sounds and movement and he sits right beside you, settling his large frame on the stool right to your right - shifting it an inch closer as he puts his weight on it, making you lean away from him slightly - and sighs.

“Well, might as well get another one,” the man says, raising a hand to not-Bob and gesturing to your liquid.

You nod, stiffly. Because you don’t want the company. Because you just want to sit here until you slide to the floor. Because you feel like sinking your forehead onto the bar and seeing if you can melt into the smooth polish.

But you also wouldn’t mind a fourth.

So, you nod.

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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
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“Kyle?” the voice floated, distant & obscure, seemingly penetrating his mind with its beauty and purity. He didn’t want to sit up in bed, but he managed it somehow - even though it brought the ugly black plaster - and its twin - into full focus & reminded him of the injury.

He sighed as she came into the room, looking radiant as ever, smiling at him with plaster of her own. He saw her eyes skitter over his form, rest on the laptop - freeze-framed on a girl with blood covering her mouth, hands - & down to his legs before sliding back to his face.

He couldn’t help but hate her a little in that moment.

“Yes?” curt, short, bitter.

“I made some pasta, if you’re interested,” she said, keeping that plaster on her face, the teeth unflinchingly rigid and so fucking false.

“I’m busy. You can see I’m busy,” he said, rolling over again to cradle the laptop, watching the gore sticking to stray strands of hair, caking around the girl’s mouth.

“Can’t you see I’m busy?”

“Kyle, you haven’t eaten all day.”

“I fu- I know,” he retorted, pulling the covers up a little, blocking out more light. His finger hovered over his spacebar & rested there, hovering. He couldn’t bring himself to press it down - not when she was there, in all her beauty, her porcelain wonder. She raised her hands to curl against themselves, began to pick at her fingernails - he could hear the sound just as clearly as he could picture her motions, despite his back being to her - & he told her multiple times that she wasn’t allowed to do that. She wasn’t supposed to break the rules even though he was a motherfucking invalid, & he felt himself becoming more angry at her.

“I…” she started to say, her crystal voice floating over to him to drown out the roar in his ears, making one of his feet flex slightly and sending shooting pain up his leg.

“I… okay, Kyle. Okay. I’ll be next door if you need-”

“Just close the door,” curt, short, bitter.

She did, & he felt the rage slowly disappear as his finger slammed the spacebar, watching the stream intently as the girl laughed & cried with her friend’s fresh gore smeared over her, & he forgot about being a motherfucking gimp & just enjoyed the show.

Outside, his porcelain doll heard the gunshots and screamed, but didn’t dare open the door to warn Kyle.

Inside, Kyle heard nothing but entertainment.
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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
You learn that his name is Ray, and if he is part of your imagination, he’s a fascinating part. You were worried for a few moments that he was trying to pick you up - terrified, actually, because you’ve succumbed to random strangers in the past to try and fight back the taste of sadness and the corset of loneliness that threatened to crush your ribcage - but he seems friendly, if a little off.

But you’re not really a credible judge of weirdness, anymore, and he seems to get you in a weird way.

So you sit through five or six drinks, expecting it to suddenly get worse and awkward when he pops you the question, but he hasn’t looked at your crotch once, and he seems suddenly to get contemplative as the seventh is poured, staring off into the distance.

After a moment, he looks at you.


“How long has it been for you?”

Your throat closes up, in that way that people always describe in moments exactly like this. You’d rolled your eyes at the descriptor over a glass of wine, sipping it and thinking oh, better call the paramedics sarcastically at whichever poor author you’d deemed worthy of your hate-read sessions.

But now, in the heat of it all, your throat does close off at the statement and you feel like paramedics wouldn’t go amiss right now. You’re not sure if he means sex or kissing or - impossibly, how long it’s been since her passing - but any and all of the above sound terrible and you don’t want to get into any of it.

He seems to catch your drift and recovers, fumbling, but with the ease of someone you suspect has done this many times before.

“Since the loss, I mean. You - seem like you’ve lost something.”

Your throat opens a little more, as if cautious, testing the air before allowing you full breath. You nod, drink your drink a little too quickly (still drinking? You’re a fucking mess. You should be ashamed), nod again. Nodding is your defence, to prevent you from pouring words.

He nods back, and for a moment you’re both nodding together, and it’s so fucking awkward and stupid. He drinks, you drink, and you both manage to will your heads to stop moving.

“Yeah,” he says, drawing the sound out over the rim of his glass. You notice that his eyes are actually quite pretty, and the thought comes out of nowhere, pretty much. You shake it out of your head.

“Yeah, me too. How long’s it been? For - for you?”

Your voice is scratchy as you force out five years, and sit in stunned silence for a moment, counting the syllables in those two words, thinking they didn’t fully encompass exactly how long you’ve tasted sadness on your tongue. You also say what about you to distract him from how dumbfounded, hurt, and alltogether not okay you are.

He sits in silence for a few minutes, then shrugs.

“It’s funny. I lost him - my son - a month ago. Thirty days ago. Plane crash.”

He drinks again, slowly, and your breath stops because suddenly you know where this is going, you know what he’s lost and who his son is, even though you don’t know the name. You know what he’s going to say next and you’re simultaneously entirely too drunk and entirely too sober for this conversation when the words do come.

“But then, I found - and lost - him again when he appeared on the internet six days ago.”

Oh god. Oh, god, god, oh god. Oh god.

“You ever heard of the ACT?”
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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
"This isn't even fuckin' clever, hombre," I say, holding a DVD case between my index and middle finger, dangling it by one corner as I look at Josh.

He cracks a little smile, still holding the flaccid purple dildo that he'd pretended to do the helicopter with. Normally, Josh is a secure 20-something who works in my architecture firm - very quiet, very serious, very work-oriented. But get him into a porn store that's weirdly sandwiched between a Bistro and some kind of thrift shop, and Josh morphs into a man-eating gay dude like you see on Rent.

I'm pretty sure he bruised my ass with that last dildo-whip.

"Well, I doubt that they get paid beaucoup bucks to-"

"Survival of the Dickest?"

"-name their DVDs. Yeah, it's - that's just godawful."

I flip the case over in my hand, obscuring the well-endowed man with a tire iron menacing over a helpless raven-haired woman. "The rules are simple," I read, "last cock standing wins in this epic tale that revolutionizes the term 'Battle of the Sexes.'"

Josh snrks. If that's an actual term. It's pretty close to the sound he makes - like he just choked on hot coffee.

"CUM and see as thirty contestants fuck their way to the top of the rankings. Jesus, Josh."

He's full-out laughing now, and I waggle the DVD at his face, before tossing it back onto the pile in the two dollar bin. "God, that sickens me."

"Yeah," Josh says, still chuckling, "and they made four of them. Probably gonna make a new one now, too."

"Really, really sickens me," I murmured, staring at the movie for a few minutes.


"Kinda makes you-"


"Does that make me sick?"

"Nope. I hear the collar physics are really good."

"That's what we say when we buy it, then. We're watching it for the collar physics."

"You got it, Janine."

"Cool. Awesome. So, I'll just-"

"Did you hear that?" Josh says, his head snapping towards the window.

My eyes are already tracking, and instinct tells me to crouch a little, shift behind the DVD racks, Survival of the Dickest still clutched in my talons. "I-"

Another unmistakable boom. Screams fill over the weird faux-pop over the loudspeakers of the store. The clerk glances up from his magazine, bored. People are running, stumbling, outside.

My free hand finds Josh's and curls into it as he curses. For some reason, my gaze is drawn to the cover of SOTD, with the raven-haired woman's shocked expression, a speech bubble floating above her head.

No! I CAN'T die HERE!
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