"Tra-vees, are you free tonight?" A familiar feminine voice drills into his ear. Travis waits a beat and it speaks again. "I'm sor-ee I haven't called you bay-bee--" the breathless accent sounds sarcastic as ever, but it still makes his stomach tighten as if she were whispering in his ear, "-But I have been thinking about you." She sighs just enough for him to hear. She lets him not say anything.
In his apartment, Travis opens his mini-fridge and shuts it, blanking on what he was doing before the phone rang. He's checking his pockets and she's still on the line. He walks in his bedroom and back out, a little annoyed frown on his forehead. He's in a hurry, can't remember why he stopped at home when he had no time and she wants to know why he won't talk to her.
Sylvia. Sylvia wants to know why he won't indulge her over the phone.
"Oh, I'm here," he says.
She's sounding sweet. Before it gets saccharine he tells her evenly, "I'm not free tonight. I'm busy now, actually. Call you later." He won't, and it makes him proud to blow her off like a needy ex. She doesn't call him for three years. No love letters, either. Less than a month ago she pops up again to show off her cleavage, stringing the same old carrot in front of him, so he'll line her pockets. Blood money. Jump through the hoop and get a sugar cube. Then nothing, again. Slogging through it alone. No communications from neutral, hostile or friendly fronts. Dangling on the line. Fuck her. No, really. Fuck you, Sylvia.
He's no where near hanging up on her.
"Hold on, hold on. I know what a busy guy you are. You are slashing up the ranks faster than anyone in UAA history, Tra-vees! Everyone is so impressed. I called about the ranked fight tonight, Twenty-Five, it's been postponed--"
"--another day. I have your flight pass in order."
Pain in the ass. He's ready today.
"Cool, I'll get a little training in tonight, perfect." He's smiling. Like a fucking teenage girl all he wants is to be asked out.
She's laughing, interrupting him with "No no no!" Sounding like she's having fun.
"You just can't go to the gym tonight, tiger, I'll kidnap you!" Like she's giggling, twisting her hair around her fingers. "I set up this unbelievable party for you. I won't let you turn me down. You're home now?"
"Uh, yeah--" *knock knock* And she's hung up.
Because she's here.
Sylvia Christel's outside his door.
Open it, she says.
Travis wonders if there's a smell... least the place is tidy; no, smells fresh in here with the window open. Instead of checking the mirror he unbolts the lock. Even though he was only running in and out to feed the cat, he always locks it, now. Because a lot of people wanna kill him. Torture Travis Touchdown.
They'll kill Jeane too. His kitty. They already killed Bishop. Like a dead bolt keeps him safe. Go figure. You'd think a smart enemy would try to shake you up by hitting you at home, right? Bust up some shit? Why not execute me ninja style in the night together with my stupid cat? We wouldn't even wake up. It seems so simple, if Travis were his own enemy....
A huge understatement: Travis mistrusts Sylvia a little bit. She's so shady. Like everyone else... how's a guy supposed to know who's bedfellows with whom when scumbags try to ram you going at speed on your motorcycle or throw bricks at your head from moving cars? Who's to blame when no one is an ally? It's easy to resent her instead of yourself all day. Every day.
Fucking tease. Travis earned his spot on the UAA ranks, but didn't Sylvia help him re-earn his spot on the Shit List? As if he ever went off it. Just dying to impress her he made a lot of people just die. It's business. Everyone wants a piece of him now. And when they can't just kill him, when the mobster wannabees can't just snuff him, street gang ballers fail to cap him, no one can so much as give him a black eye or break his finger a little, they don't have to look far to rattle his cage. Probably not even bothering to bug or spy on him, to root through garbage or attempt to covertly copy data from his cel phone.
All a body needs is eyes to see.
The video store. His bro at the desk that ordered Travis's sweet tapes you just can't get. Travis's bro from back before, yo. Two weeks ago. Freaks blow Bishop's brains all over the maximum occupancy sign of his shop in a wide rorschach blot because they fire point-blank in a semi-circle. The business license with charred hair on the words not occulted by blood was still on the wall when someone burned the shop down two days after the crime. Sloshing gas on videos and stickers in a drunken blur and not turning back when the explosion warmed his back. Bishop owned his fucking store and had his life in a nice order Travis semi-envied. One guy who wasn't a stereotype or the dropout loser long-gone-peers predicted he would be. Travis, on the other hand... well, the young authorities on divining the future were right about him and everything else, needless to say.
Travis pushes the door open. The sunlight falls on him and Jeane runs below the bed with her belly low. Her bright eyes like blue opals burn from the darkness there.
Funny stoner Bishop. Had had some good advice the last time they spoke. The most ambitious slacker too-lazy-to-be-a-surfer Travis used to know told him before he was murdered, Bishop said, "Watch your back, man... Don't let 'em get close." And then, "Later!"
Sylvia reaches right in.
She touches his face with her left hand. Her palm on his jaw relaxes it. Soft fingers on his cheek. She combs back through his hair and says it's nice to see him, leaning in just so to reach. She worries every time, she says, petting him, worries he'll get hurt. Terribly maimed or something.
He echoes "You're worried."
"Yeah," she makes him sit, standing over him. Her outfit is hot; she's hot. Hot, pouty lip puffing down at him, she's looking insulted he doesn't think she worries about him.
He doesn't. Sylvia fretting over him? Concerned and wandering around with haunted eyes because of Travis Touchdown? Please --he's half-sure Sylvia has bipolar tendencies, but about her opinion of himself, Travis is confident. Nailed it down to how she has him figured. Mildly retarded with a side of kinda disgusting. Malleable cash cow with a lingering aftertaste of white trash.
But she's here.
Now that he thinks... yeah, it's the first time they've ever been this alone. Her first time in his den. Great legs. He's checking her out with a bland look and meets her eyes, she says "You don't think so?"
"I can't concentrate when your ranked fights are set! I hear you paid your fee and I just don't want you to go! It's not so fun anymore-" she shakes her head, blonde hair rolling up. "I want to take you away, flee the country, and then I don't hear anything after a long fight, no one knows where you are!"
Does it make it hard to drink champagne? Is it difficult to snort coke when your heart's in another place? Boo. Hoo.
Babyface all winched up in a sob he doesn't buy. "Sometimes I'm afraid to call. Because of your friend. You think it's my fault. You deserve to be mad at me--"
Travis stands up and they nearly touch, close. He asks her eyes "Is it your fault?"
"No!" Her fine features molded to read: believe me. "It wasn't us, you know that."
"Then why should I be mad?"
* * *
They took a ride in her limo that afternoon. Almost like a Sunday drive, except for the fact riding around in the multi-colored grotto felt like a spaceship. The single that played was low funk, so new the name wasn't decided. They got out and walked. Ascending toward the cliff overlooking the beach. Before they got to the edge and would look down, Sylvia said
They should go get ready
There's this great shop she knows he'll love. Whatever he wants, they have some great classics. She thinks he'd look nice in white.
Like Bruce Lee's suit. Travis said that suit was cool, but thought: wasn't he dressed for a funeral in that movie?
* * *
Her perfume is all around him today. This nebulous citrus-y spiderweb with spiky notes that sting the sinuses. And another first, he's in her bedroom. No big deal, just the plushest ever, a lifesize wedding cake. Soundproofed in here by a fresh, permanent snowfall of natural fabric-backed albino throws. Travis thinks his new suit fits well, very slick. He walks out with his belt buckled to the right hole and collar tilted to the right angle, so she can see. Travis is glad he picked the narrow cut dull-silver suit, because she likes it. Modern was the right choice. The white t-shirt is a nice touch with the pricey suit, Sylvia says, the high-low look. Is it a compliment? She's blathering about designers and the fucking fabric, it'd be nice if she commented on his cut rather than the suits'.
Bitter clouds keep showing up in an otherwise sweet sunset. Her hands drape on his shoulders, unfeeling. She flattens a seam on his collarbone under her fingernail. She talks about material. Material possessions and money in her glamorous eyes, but no blush on her cheek, being alone with him. With her body pressed against his back. Not interested, like always. Disappointing, but she really just gave his ass the most unimpressed glance, ever.
Travis just thinking Why Do You Hate Her?
Because she's Phony Faux Fake, don't buy the accent, cause she is danger, a demon infuckincarnate--
Why do you want her if you hate her--
Feel my muscles, squeeze my bicep already! I'm fucking ripped, fuck. Mention our date. Our second date. Tonight. Remember the first one, Sylvia? Say something that doesn't sound like you detest my personal style when you're not giving the ugly duckling a motherfucking makeover. How long did I wait for you to re-appear, you bitch? Where were you after you played me and played me... just do me, I don't care. I'll let you kill me. Just do it. I know you will.
I'll just wait.
Travis imagines how she'll kill him sometimes. It's always a knife. Because it's an intimate weapon, you have to be real near your partner. Miss your mark or glance the target and the death is sloppy. Blood everywhere and lots of pain. Not a chance you won't feel the wound, like gun-shot victims sometimes experience after gunplay. Yeah- Sylvia would prefer to kill him with a knife. A white suit really would have added so much more visual drama to the scene, why didn't he listen...
It's a death party anyway, it would be more satisfying if she'd do it herself.
She sneers a little at the authentic Beatle boots he got today. He's sure she did. She doesn't mention the vintage Italian black leather fad-named Cuban heels because they look tacky. A bit of his soul he thought he'd never find, and the bitch doesn't think rock n' roll history looks good on him. Well, what male can do everything right, anyway? Arrogant bitch!
They have no eyes in their reflection on the glass wall of the peaceful trendy-zen bungalow. Ghost faces with smokin bods. Hovering in space over a valley cradled by velvet-forested hills at twilight time. The pink is purpling now, and blueing the glass wall like a living mural. The mini canyon down there is getting very dim, with lots of little faces on the near side of it, looking up.
Sylvia slides her finger between his belt and waistband as if she were measuring his waist, hopping her index finger over the belt loops. She goes around his hips, her arm snaking under his jacket and back out. Her knuckle pinches his hipbone before she stops her maddening tailor's trick. Her French-manicured fingernails claw at the bundle of nerves protecting the tight tendons and connective muscle tissue at the top of his quadriceps when she tucks in his t-shirt that much. His stomach so tense it hurts, he's hating her right now. In a bittersweet way. It's like the ache in the bottom of your feet after the world is almost shaken out from under you. But at the bottom of your heart. That's what Sylvia does to him.
There's a pop and splashing sound, they're brilliantly lit by golden-shine for a moment. The fireworks. These ain't county fair bottle-rockets, either, it sounds like an armada as the fat-expensive shells are launched now. Packed expertly to burn in calculated chemical processes so the concussion is unique, playing tricks in the sky and rushing away with rare colors. Not expiring or burning out, but taking off.
Like the forgettable song playing in the limo earlier, no one but a handful of people in the world has experienced this new orientation of old elements.
She's got top-of-the-line everything because it's there to be had by few, big deal. Progress is not impressive as a means of social hierarchy. And-
convenient there's a bright distraction right when he's getting hard.
We have to go down, she says.
you're always ready to fight.
If she ever held his hand before, it's still the first time as he is led by Sylvia Christel across the thick pile rug to the stairs held to the grand glass wall by cables and spindly struts jutting out of nothing.
The little faces like the moon in a stormy sea watch the handsome couple descend the stairs, colored lights preying on everything, staining it rainbow. Travis and Sylvia are at the patio door, demarcated by nothing but a French handle and a seam like a rill of water on the glass.
Some of the 'party guests' are clapping with the fireworks unwatched above them. They're all smiling. Even the ones not clapping because their hands are white-knuckle-gripped around some weapon, they're glad Travis made it.
This is much better than some tedious party with music and food and shit.
* * *
To her own island-self she'll be honest. Sylvia thinks Travis is really beautiful when he smiles. Not just handsome. Not the wolves' grin-- his real, rare kid's smile. All the anger around his eyes gone, serene like a Buddhist Lucky Cat, he's screen-star stunning. She should tell him.
"You're going to have a great time."
She pinches his spine before he's out of reach. The few dozen murderers, thugs and neo-warriors outside, just over his shoulders and through the high-tech glass tremble like dew on leaves when Travis opens the door with a small click.
* * *
Gravity shows force in a void by compelling objects with mass toward larger ones. But gravity is just a word and it might mean magic or it might be Gods' name if you are innocent and know nothing. And like it would be in the Chaotic Galaxy there is a pretty explosion. Momentum and pressure transformed to heat and light. Everyone showing off or being consumed. Smile because
The people watching the death fight undulating beside the scenic canyon below, the V.I.P. guests with skybox seats are very impressed. For the record, they are not even thinking about money. Their own or anyone else's.
He's so fast. The path before him clears, like vines falling for a machete'. The path behind becomes obscured by the antagonists swarming him, but Travis reaps the horizon level again. Out of the way, so Sylvia won't miss anything. Suddenly a wing of the crowd lists like sailors because he's severed all their legs. They're still trying to hack. Get the last play out of that rad toy. Travis is doing this triple-speed fan dance with two deadly neon-bright lasers. The guest of honor, every move so watched. Travis is flipping through the air off some standing corpse's shoulders. Travis is breaking men's bones by landing on them.
Travis somersaults over his pals to his feet. They chase like tag, scythes for his spine, sledgehammers for his face. Travis turning, they halt, red light.
Everyone knows the rules to this game but one guy cheats. Travis sees him move, a slow toss. He's out. The iron ball weight at the end of a chain skims Travis's cheekbone. Ow, motherfucker. Cracked my glasses. Green light.
The chain still whipping on the air, Travis rips it towards himself like a fast-pitch in reverse with the aggressor still wrapped at the other end. Travis body-checks the meat missile high in the air, and earns bonus kills when some folks stop to stare up at it. Still gawking when their rubbernecks are obliterated. Immediate downpour in the Shito prefecture. Travis. This creep is laughing.
Dark like monsoon weather suddenly, with blood.
Special moments like this may happen but they never stop. You'll go on living the normal way, sadly soon, but the lightless, depthless quality of this moment will be accessible, anytime. Better than fireworks or flowers you will forget.
Right now lightning tans his flesh. Blood is showering on the mains. Pink and black is in.
Belt buckles and shurikens are electro-plated or disintegrated. Every once in a while...it's really rare...in the dark like this, for just a moment a head will light up from inside like a pumpkin...before a beam katana clefts it from below...
One dude uses his splurting wrists for his own showy fan dance, screaming in anger. Stomping off to the side but giving no attack, like his personal cheerleader, the man is shouting Travis's name, maybe. It's hard to hear, but it sounds like a broken-English riot act, screamed at the top of reedy lungs.
Stop you! Hey!! HEY, wait there! Gonna KEEL you! Touchdo-o-o-wn! OH NO Touchdown!! You stupid asshole gonna wish you not such an asshole!! Graaaah!
With a dramatic rage-spin, gnashing teeth on the air, Travis Touchdown's cheerleader kicks himself in the face. He's still pissed and lets Travis know. Love that guy. He makes it almost to the end, but at some point he's not cheering anymore. Travis can't see where the guy went down because everyone is down, a squirming rug. With rolling eyes.
The Trust Veterans of Capitalism- fifteen toxin-enriched shady folks, some lousy rich antique death dealers, up there in an extravagant secret loft- make a sound like shocked studio audience. Like they were informed, and came to make sure, Travis is a perfect killer. Immensely marketable. He's awful, too, and they're done watching.
Then it's just over. Travis totally lost it after that whap to the face. He's always flipped the fuck out when someone smacks his head. It was cool. He should have paced himself, he'd harp later. Really! Goddamn it, forgot to savor it. He's already forgetting the new moves he just improvised. Oh well. Peel off the clear vinyl on the t-shirt. It's slimy black in the twilight with blood, the membranous-plastic adhesive stencil. Another super-tech high-mind piece of garbage is litter upon it's unveiling. Travis's shirt shines in bold white letters with a supernova of blood around the living epitaph
NO MORE HEAVEN