Devil Went Down to Georgia
…But Stopped in New York for Pizza
At exactly 8:30 PM, Mr. and Mrs. Vargas had bid their youngest son goodnight. Mrs. Vargas had tucked him in and kissed him lightly on the forehead. Mr. Vargas told him to dream of a never ending feast of pasta and raviolis. Feliciano's eyes fluttered shut, and his parents left the room. At exactly 8:34 PM, Lovino yanked Feliciano from his room and dragged him from the comfort and warmth of his bed, outside, down the street to the Williams' house. It was ghost hunting night.
Ordinarily, the Williams' garage was filled with stuff; tonight it was filled with tweens, waiting for their self-appointed leader, Gilbert Weillschmidt, to wrestle a five hundred dollar VHS video camera from the hands of Elizaveta Héderváry, all the while, ignoring his cousin, Ludwig Weillschmidt, who attempted to remind the two fourteen year olds that, although he was only thirteen, the camera was his.
There was a chill of anticipation hanging in the room, mostly caused by the wait for Gilbert and Elizaveta to figure out who was operating the camera. Francis Bonnefoy sat on a broken barstool, leaning on an old air hockey table. He sighed, dramatically blowing a strand of hair from his face, as if he was hogtied, and forced to watch a marathon of Full House while watching Keanu Reeves read his 1047. Matthew stood by the Nordic Five, twiddling with his fingers, not watching the side door for any particular sibling trio to walk in, with a particular overall wearing girl with black barrettes in her yellow colored hair and the laugh that sounded like water cascading gently on rocks with sunbeams and Aliyah in the background—
Sadiq, talking animatedly to a rather stoic Herakles, tripped on Matthew. The oldest Williams Twin by a mere two minutes (and if you asked their mother, the most well behaved) crashed to the carpet ground.
"Sorry, didn't see ya there, Mattie," Sadiq said. He offered Matthew a hand to his feet. Matthew mumbled a thank you, but returned his gaze to the side door, where all Hetalia Boulevard's children came in. He gave a short wave to Lovino and his brother, Feliciano, when they walked through, but was nonetheless dejected.
With a final shove and crash into the shelves of canned goods, Gilbert had the camera. He held it over his head and whooped triumphantly, holding the camera like a trophy deer head. Out of the corner of his eye came Elizaveta, defeated but not dominated, who slapped the machine out of his hands. Matthew did a quick head count, because the older children couldn't be trusted to do their jobs properly: the Nordic Five was in the house, Arthur was coming later with the Ouija board and Magic textbooks, the Baltic Bros were in, and—
Maple syrup, Jesus and Mary. The side door opened and in like a breath of fresh air, like sunbeams in a storm, like April brings May, walked Ekaterina. Matthew wasn't sure, but he was quite positive he was hearing Minnie Riperton at that exact moment. She wore dark washed overalls, a crisp green shirt and had tied her short cropped hair with a scarf headband. She looked around the shelves of canned goods, of baseball, football and hockey equipment, those sapphire blue eyes looking for someone she recognized. And then…bliss! He made eye contact with her and the song grew louder and clearer in his head. No psychotropic medicine required.
Suddenly, they were next to each other.
Gilbert and Elizaveta had abandoned the camera, which had fallen at such a precarious angle that it was able to record their fight. Ludwig picked it up, dusted it off and inspected it for cracks. He attempted to inform his cousin and his cousin's friend, that he now had the camera. Dejected, Elizaveta landed a white hot kiss with a fist on Gilbert's shoulders, muttering on about him starting something for nothing. He was too awesome to be knocked off balance.
"Hello, Matvey," Ekaterina said. He hoped to God, Milk Bags and all things Holy that she did not notice the redness of his cheeks and his voice remained intact.
"H-hello," he managed to squeak out.
"Aww…lookit de wittle chiwdwen and thew wuv affaiw," Sadiq said, interlocking his fingers and pursing his lips. Gupta, whom the children called G, snorted. Herakles, the stoic philosopher of sixteen, chuckled.
Matthew felt his ears prickle and his stomach dropped out of his body and settled into the ground, twelve feet under, where he would be more than willing to escape to. He noticed that Ekaterina didn't object.
"Are you ready to go ghost hunting?"
A simple question. A stupid simple question and his brain decided to go Windows 98 on him, packing its things and leaving him in the dust without so much a goodbye note or wave.
"If you…if you really believe that ghosts are what's behind the…I mean, statistically speaking, there isn't much of a chance that this was caused by anything but adults being stupid about stupid things and this is completely Alfred's idea, you really shouldn't listen to…yes. Yes, we're ready."
"Where is Alfred?" Ivan said with a smile. The sudden new voice made Matthew jump. What was Ivan made from? B-2 Material? He never knew where that kid was. He still wore that cream colored scarf, even if it was only 60 degrees. If sixty was too cold for Ivan, Matthew hated to see what was too hot.
"You know, that's a good question," Matthew said, biting his lip. What other hare-brained scheme could his brother come up with on such short notice?
The door to the house opened—all eyes were on it. Was Alfred finally here so they could get going?
No. Instead, it was Arthur Charles David Kirkland III, the Williams' second cousin, thrice removed, still burdened with the cynicism of a forty year old man as ever, dressed with a sweater vest Bill Cosby would have looked at twice before wearing. Under his arm a tattered old, leather bound book that looked like it would eat anyone up, just like that one movie from before either of them were born. Under his other arm, an even more tattered Milton Bradley board game box.
"Yo! Artie!" Gilbert called. Arthur rolled his eyes. Gilbert could only bark a laugh, exposing his sharp incisors. Honestly, it was like he could cut through steel with the type of incisors he had. Maybe he was a vampire. That'd explain the hair and his eyes…nah. That's too ridiculous.
"Where's the youngest?"
"To hell if I know," Arthur grumbled, braces still giving him a difficult time to speak. The pain sent shockwaves through his body. "He's probably making a dangerous concoction that may or may not spell complete and utter disaster for the rest of you all and your everlasting souls."
"And you're directing the train," Gilbert said with a mock salute.
"Much to my chagrin," Arthur spat. He was just about to step from the doorway when the door crashed open, slamming against his face, sending the young Brit to the ground, somewhere near the Baltic Bros, and dropping his books in the process.
Alfred had always been one for spectacle, but this one pretty much took the cake. The youngest Williams, born only a mere unfortunate two minutes after his twin, was dressed in his midnight black suit from Uncle Randall's Alabama wedding three years ago (it was a bit tight in the torso and short in the leg), a black tie, black sunglasses and his best impression of Tom Cruise in Top Gun. He had a water gun and tape player in either hand, leaning against his shoulders. The music was already a minute or so into the song…
"The good guys dressed in black, remember that/Just in case we ever face to face and make contact/The title held by me/means what you think you saw, you did not see."
Alfred stopped the tape once it hit the chorus.
"Let's get jiggy wit it."
Sadiq laughed. He laughed so hard he fell off his chair and brought Herakles down with him.
Matthew hoped that one day, he would be able to look back on this and laugh. That he would laugh until his sides burst and tears rolled down his cheeks. Today was not that day. He sank away from Ekaterina, who could only stare at the American as she pondered how much her family really loved her. Perhaps it wasn't so much "love" as it was "dampened apathy" or "suppressed hatred."
"Are you completely daft?" Arthur roared, pulling himself off the ground, looking ready to slam his fist into Alfred's face. Arthur's chastising was only Miracle Grow to Alfred's grin. "Is that what you were doing all this time? Putting on this obnoxious garb only to parade around this garage like you were some sort of emperor—"
"Cool it, Artie," Alfred said, voice smooth like some sort of butter and chocolate concoction. "I totally got this under control."
"You the man, Al!" Feliks said from the back of the garage, raising his fist in glee.
Alfred mirrored the action, "Power to the people!"
"You can't say that, Al!" Tino yelped.
"Why not?" Alfred retorted, one eyebrow raised. He would have crossed his arms, but the jacket was a bit tight.
"That's an African American thing," Tino chastised. "You can't just be doing the African American people thing."
"Yer sup'r white," Berwald said.
"I've got an eighth of Cherokee in me!" Alfred said, shrugging as much as he could, "Doesn't that count for anything anymore?"
"I'm going to kill myself," Matthew said to himself. Maybe he could disappear and float through the garage door.
"You were not even doing ze right movie," Francis said, with his Faux'ch accent. He made a motion with his wrist, as if to say, "now go away before I taunt you once again." "Ze correct movie you should have referenced was Ghostbusters. Honestly, I zought zat was at least obvious. You silly Americans…"
"Um…Francis, um…I hate to bust your bubble but, um…aren't you American too? Weren't you born in Brooklyn?" Antonio asked, arms full of a struggling Lovino.
"Zis does not matter," Francis said.
"All right guys quiet down, quiet down," Elizaveta said. The garage quieted and all eyes turned to her. "Lovi, how long do we have until your folks check up for Feliciano again?"
"About two hours from now," Lovino said, finally able to shrug Antonio off his neck. He shoved his fists into his jacket pockets.
"Let's just get this done and over with," Vash said, arms crossed, looking more perturbed than usual. He wore a thick hoodie that came to his knees. It wasn't a question of if Vash Zwingli was packing; it was a question of how he was packed. "If Eva has a nightmare or something and she comes looking for me and I'm not there—I'm gonna kill someone. I mean it."
"Do not be a simpleton, Vash," Arthur said, rubbing his face where the door had hit him. "This is a simple spell. If everything goes correctly, you all should be back in bed by—" he checked his watch, "—nine forty-five."
"Perfect. Let's do a quick roll call," Gilbert said, rubbing his hands together. "Baltic Bros and Feliks?"
"Here and accounted for."
"Family's here. Gay Meister?"
"Gilbert," Elizaveta quipped, slapping him on the back of his head.
"Ow. God, Liza, whatcha do that for? New Kids?"
"The hero is in the house!"
"I'm gonna kill you, Al."
"I suppose that is me, the carrier of the Book. The Book carrier. The Bookie."
"Eliz is here, the Pastas are here. I'm here. Let's get this show on the road!"
It took another ten minutes for the Hetalia Boulevard children to get out of the garage, and into the street. Another four minutes for them to walk to the Tree Fort. If any of the children had been paying any attention to the important things, they would have realized the moon was the size of a beach ball, hung in the blue sky, beaming down on them with benevolent grinning light. The stars were plentiful, like a Higher Being had sprinkled the frosting sky with sugar bits. The summer air was cooler but still humid and the crickets provided evening music.
Dry leaves and dirt crunched under nineteen shoes. Nineteen, not twenty feet, because Feliciano had ended up on Ludwig's back, clinging to him like a sheet of Bounce on a polyester suit in the middle of September. He whimpered something about being hungry, which the rest of Hetalia Boulevard ignored. At exactly 9:04 PM, everyone was at the base of the Tree Fort, under the balcony that Sadiq and Herakles had built in the sixth grade. Alfred, who had changed from his Men in Black suit to normal clothes, started passing out Fruit Roll-Ups and Capri Sun pouches. Arthur set up his post a few yards away from the group.
Most of the children plopped around the tree. Gilbert clamored to the balcony, followed by Francis who wanted to "see Arthur's face when everything when bottom's up." Elizaveta and Roderich were nowhere to be seen, but at fourteen years old and only two weeks into their relationship, no one questioned their absence.
"Hey, Gil?" Alfred called, mouth full of the fruity Fruit Roll-Up.
"Yeah?" responded a nonchalant Gilbert.
"Dunno. Think he was in the back of the line."
"No, dude, I thought he was with you."
"Why would he be with me? He's your brother. God, kids today. I'd never lose my family members."
"You left me at 'It's a Small World' in Orlando," Ludwig poignantly reminded him.
"Shaddup, Lud. It was good fer you."
"Where is my sister?" Ivan tentatively asked. He made eye contact with Alfred and suddenly everything came together. They burst from the Fort in a hot second, calling out the names of their absent siblings.
Arthur paused in creating his rune and muttered something about horny and oblivious American children.
"—And when we were nine, we went up to Winnipeg in the summer. Mom's from Canada. She's like…three of four and 'the only one to escape.' Anyway, Uncle Riley lives in Winnipeg and he's got a pool and everything—"
Matthew's voice squeaked. It wasn't so much the sound of a dogs committing mass suicide, but of a rubber duckie being stepped on. Ekaterina giggled.
The two had found themselves straggling considerably behind the rest of the neighborhood. Neither of them believed the ghost theory anyway, and decided to detour slightly and settle in the grass of public property. It hadn't been cut in decades, and was almost as tall as their waist. They lied on their back and simply watched the stars and the clouds sail on the not-midnight-for-a-couple-of-hours sea. Ekaterina's English was almost as good as his, and they'd been sharing stories of their suburban youths.
"I'm sorry," Matthew said, feeling his face turn a hot shade of Canadian red.
"Don't be," Ekaterina said.
"Do you…do you believe in ghosts, Katya?" Matthew asked.
"Um…not like Americans do. I believe that there is someplace you go after you die, but some spirits haven't been sorted yet. I believe those spirits aren't going to look for trouble, but they'll help you if you need it."
Ekaterina pulled something from under her shirt and gave it to him. The bright moonlight provided enough light for him to see—a pendant. A silver saint etched into a gold plait. Matthew couldn't make out the face or the name. On the pendant's back, cursive letters.
"Is this Russian?" Matthew asked, bringing the pendant closer to his eyes, trying to analyze it.
"Ukrainian," Ekaterina said. "My mother gave that to me before she died. I was…I was only a baby when it happened. I think Papa said right after I was born." She paused for a moment and looked at her hands. Matthew looked at the necklace and ran his thumb over the face tenderly. "She had been sick for a long time, they said. Cancer. Depression. I do not know."
She seemed so nonchalant. Her face was cool non-emotion in the silver moonlight. Matthew gave her the necklace back and she looked at it for a moment before replacing it around her neck.
"I have never had good luck, Matvey," she said. "I broke my arm last summer. My puppy was hit by a car. My step sister seems to hate me. My step mother ignores me and thinks Ivan is clumsy and deyern."
Matthew snickered. "Deyern?"
"Belarusian for foolish. I do not have the best of luck, but when I feel very sad, I feel like my Mama is watching over me. And then," she looked at the pendant face, "I feel better. Like she's actually there, in the room with me." Ekaterina turned to Matthew, Matthew turned to Ekaterina and his stomach fluttered. "Do you know what I mean?"
Matthew had to admit that he did not.
"So…you have the necklace. What's your brother's story? Why does he wear the scarf?" Matthew asked, genuinely curious.
"Oh!" Ekaterina exclaimed. Her already wide blue eyes only got wider and bluer. Matthew noticed…she was…she was crying?
"I'm sorry!" he said, suddenly feeling like an idiot for bringing up something so sensitive. Stupid, stupid, stupid now she'll never like you. Your voice might as well—"I didn't know it was such a big deal!"
—crack right now.
"It's…it's all right," Ekaterina said, bringing herself together, wiping away the tears away with the back of her wrist. "You didn't know. But…but…if I have bad luck, then Ivan…Ivan hasn't seemed to have much of a break since…since before his mother…"
"You don't have to tell me, Katya…if you don't want to," Matthew said. He wondered if now was the time where he, the gentleman, would touch her arm in a comforting manner. She gave him a little smile and that made all the sweet symphonies of Shania Twain's "From This Moment" struck.
"What…what happened between you and your brother?" Ekaterina asked, finally bringing herself together.
Matthew felt his face flush, with acute anger rather than a childish crush this time. His stomach twisted as he remembered 1999 and how much fun and awesome it was.
"Just…just stuff," Matthew responded, dropping his gaze to the ground. He didn't want to bring this burden to Ekaterina's shoulders.
They just sat in silence, except for Ekaterina's occasional sniffles, looking into each other's eyes, glinting in the moonlight. It was a still shot from a movie, A Walk to Remember, probably, which Matthew had not seen because he was a guy and wouldn't see something like that and cry like a seven year old girl who'd just been told her puppy had been run over by an Army tank and the remains had been stepped on by Richard Nixon.
That little scene, the little thing Matthew and Ekaterina had been building for the extended time of twenty minutes, shattered in an instant, like an apple cider bottle exploding on a ceramic tile floor, but without all the messy residue. Ekaterina and Matthew stood up and waved to their respective brothers. Alfred made a remark about not wondering too far from the group, because there were beasties and gang bangers who liked to hang out here and he could probably die or get raped or something and then he'd have to explain it to Mom and Dad. Matthew reminded him very swiftly that he was the older and more mature between the two, and therefore should be more worried about Alfred. Alfred stuck out his tongue. Ivan gave his sister a stern warning, or well, it seemed like a stern warning—with Russian, you could never be certain if either speaker were moments away from ripping each other's heads off or merely talking about the weather.
Alfred led the way back to the base of the Tree Fort. All those who were not involved with the incantation (read: everyone but Arthur), sat around the base of the giant tree sharing their own ghost stories and what was left of the Fruit Roll-Ups and Capri Sun pouches.
Arthur was off to the side, drawing stick figures (Matthew could only guess) into the dirt. He was muttering something, but it sounded close enough to gibberish for Matthew to ignore it. He looked up to the tree balcony to see that Antonio had abandoned Lovino once again and joined Gilbert and Francis atop. Gilbert spoke with such animation that he looked like he was directing air traffic, and whatever he was saying was so funny that Francis almost fell off the balcony.
"Kattie! Kattie! Kattie! Like, where have you been?" Feliks asked, rushing to Ekaterina's side, pulling her from her brother, who could only make a small, confused noise. Feliks dragged Ekaterina to his small troupe on the opposite side of Arthur's workplace, consisting of the Baltic Bros, Elizaveta and Roderich, and TinoBerwald. "We're telling hella scary stories, for real. You've got to have some scary Russian stories right? They won't be as good mine of course, but you can still try." Ekaterina hadn't said a word, but seemed not to mind her sudden change in company.
"Do you…feel weird?" Alfred asked Matthew. The youngest of the twins rubbed his arms, as if a bitter cold wind had descended upon them like some sort of ominous force from a Stephen King novel or not-quite-as-good-but-still-decent movie adaptations. Matthew shook his head and instead of prodding his brother about what he had ingested before they came down to the Fort, turned his attention to their second cousin (thrice removed), who stood up in the center of…well, whatever it was he'd drawn in the soil, and dusted himself off, looking quite pleased with the result.
"It's done!" Arthur called triumphantly. The neighborhood kids perked, some looking down over their shoulders; Matthew, Alfred, Ivan and Ekaterina rushed down the remaining seven yards of the hill to the…soil circle thing. They all stood on the outside looking in, as if Arthur were some animal on display at a zoo.
"So what did you do?" Jakob asked, eyes wide with wonder and curiosity.
"I've constructed a rune," Arthur said, as if that explained anything. He snapped the Book closed and jumped out of the dirt drawings. "All I need to do now is recite the ancient words and call upon the spirit of Old Man Johnson to this area—" he pointed to the circle's circumference, "—and he will be trapped. Lord willing, we will have serenity and felicity back to Hetalia Boulevard and we can all continue with our summers as if no transgressions have occurred."
"Arthur. Small words, please," Alfred chastised, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Sounds like a plan, Little Man," Sadiq said with a nod. Herakles nodded in agreement and leaned back on the Tree's trunk, trying to catch some shut eye. G, as always, remained quiet on the subject at hand.
"Now you all will have to give me some room," Arthur said, waving his arms. "You all have probably felt the magical charge from the rune's creation. That will only increase as I call upon Old Man Johnson's spirit. I need absolute quiet during this incantation and you all cannot under any circumstance alter the rune's design. If even the slightest mark is altered, the very fabric which separates us between the Spirit Realm will be torn. Who knows what sort of monstrosities will come from that hole. Nod for me if you all understand."
And the neighborhood children, even those who did not believe in the Spirit Realm or the realness of simple urban legends, nodded.
"Good," Arthur said. He turned his back to the larger group and began his incantations. The fact that he didn't need to look at the book for the words made Alfred very, very nervous. How many times had he performed this spell? How many general spells had Arthur conjured anyway? Why did he have the book in the first place?
Alfred stood on the far end of the crowd, he and his brother and Ivan being pushed to that side when the other children gathered around Arthur's…ground drawing. Ivan looked across the rune to where his sister was; she seemed relaxed and ok where she was, even smiling a few times when Feliks made an outlandish gesture.
Ivan couldn't hear anything.
Not even the chirping of crickets.
It was like he'd been dropped in a soundproof room—or a basement locked under the house with the key going ka-chinik in the lock and suddenly it was dark, very dark, too dark, scary dark. And he remembered things, didn't want to remember things, tried to keep them aside. He fumbled with the edges of his scarf but…but it wasn't enough. His chest ached. His heart raced. He had to get out of there get out of there Get out of there!
Ivan ran to where he thought his sister was.
Suddenly he was flying and then falling, falling, falling SMACK on the ground.
The veil had been lifted and Ivan could see again; he face down in the dirt, a few leaves poking his cheek. He still couldn't bring the air quick enough to his lungs. Just breathe. Just breathe. Just breathe. He could hear again…bit by bit by—
"Ivan! What the hell you stupid idiot git motherfucking asshole you ruined everything!"
ac·ci·dent āk'sĭ-dənt, -děnt'
An unexpected and undesirable event, especially one resulting in damage or harm: car accidents on icy roads.
An unforeseen incident: A series of happy accidents led to his promotion.
Musibi's Fried Rice Corner
So...hrmm...I guess I forgot to update this a few times, huh? u/u* ugh, I'm so sorry my followers. So, since it's been a while, and I just updated this on LJ. Here's a three chapter update and my sincerest apologies for taking so long and completely forgetting about this page. D: