Because Ocein asked for something lighter, I give you this unlikely scenario. Remember: brush after consuming fluff.

In honor of Halloween...


The Secret Life of Undesirable Candy

As a rampant tom-boy, Olivia Dunham excelled at the game of Chicken. Feeding her scrawny body on a steady diet of self-challenge, her bravery muscles outclassed most boys. The patent leather girls shook their heads at little Livvy's antics but their eyes were always wide as she coasted through the development, a tiny terror eating the proverbial pavement after school.

Snob's Hill was a favorite, the property of a crabby old man who gave out undesirable candy at Halloween and yelled at the kids for stepping too near his down-sloping yard. Darting down the bumpy hill on a borrowed ten speed, little Livvy would zoom past Converse-wearing spectators with a concentration adults would envy. The slope bottomed out and then met up with a sister hill, making a valley used for childish entertainment. A bigger bike would barrel toward her, reflectors gleaming in the face of vicious pedaling. Mother insisted she wear her ratty sneakers when playing, the ones with the tread worn off. Smooth rubber slipped on metal and she would falter, then recover. Tires would vibrate on the porous asphalt, spokes catching the summer sun.

And she wouldn't blink.

To the victor went the cheers and lunchroom bragging, but accolades couldn't compare with the personal pride of being the one who didn't flinch. The one who conquered the oncoming danger with a fierceness even the screaming man and his baseball bat couldn't touch. She owned a sword called daring and wielded the blade at every opportunity, for the love of a game named for poultry.

Adrenalin is the only drug she'd ever ingested. Far beyond the recommended dose. Her superiors noted the rookie's propensity for rushing into the center of gunfire. Male counterparts watched Barbie charging into the fray with a fair level of amusement. Her confidence lent itself out in heaping portions. Until she played Chicken with a psycho and lost.

The sword was melted down.

Apparently, the Chicken instinct never dies. It simply hides under the coop. Recently the habit of voluntarily pushing one's luck resurfaced, due in large part to a man who breathed the game in a way that put her early exploits to shame. Her gallant steed of a bike morphed into the daunting tool of a cell phone. The little keys so easily formed thoughts, pressing letters became voiceless expression. Private if she willed it but broadcasted if she chose. Per regulations, codenames were employed to protect identities and whenever he called, the moniker Scruff displayed.

She composed phantom messages.

Since her career path called for detached and superhuman qualities that left no room for vocalizing doubt, frustration and anxiety; Olivia had taken to informing Scruff of such mortal things via text. Words filled the screen, carelessly spelled with choppy abbreviations, to alert him to the struggles she couldn't speak. Oh, she could talk to him and frequently did, mostly because he was more a fisher than a bishop, yanking things out of her mercilessly. But getting verbal with him, especially once a few drinks have shorted out her internal editor, leads to their own variation of Chicken. Race toward something until one of them veers. They ride the shiny bikes with just enough abandon to be daring but swerve before the crash.

The why nearly outnumber the whats.

Why were you so worried when I was abducted? Why did you say you cared? Why does your hand know just when to reach out? Why can't you be read as clearly as your criminal brethren? She asks him in type, then deletes without sending. Why do you look at me that way? Why haven't you left?

The game has rules.

One: No message shall actually be sent because that, in effect, announces those thoughts which she ought not be entertaining. Two: See rule one. The dare lay in the completed text, acronyms and single letter meanings poised to scatter among distant towers and reassemble on his phone. Seeing the sentences on the screen made them real and the act of finishing the thought meant she could sometimes release it; like confession no one hears. Stage two involves hovering a finger over the send button and inching ever closer. Feeling the rubbery button under her skin held the same tangible quality of the asphalt beneath her bike tires. She was rather convicted by the childishness of it all and in the swerve to safety, Olivia always tasted the disappointment voiced on the tongue of a twelve year old daredevil. She loved being scolded by ghosts.

And for some reason, on a day when the world spun fairly on a polite axis which spun the perps in effortlessly her direction, her finger committed a crime most fearsome. The sneeze was her accomplice, the sudden pressure of a natural clench pushed the nuclear button in a clear violation of rule one. Rule two mocked her sternly as she scrambled through the texts to verify if, in proof of Satan's existence, the message was transmitted. And because her luck was akin to undesirable candy, it was.

It questioned their future.

Not in the hemisphere of their working relationship or their general proximity within the space-time continuum. Rather, she'd made the textual equivalent of a pro/con list, complete with brackets and asterisks. Some points were especially important. The cons were above reproach while the pros were, against all protocol of professionalism, terribly graphic. Clearly there were many reasons to sleep with Peter Bishop and now, thanks to the miracle of handheld technology, he could read them all.

Wedged between the addled panic and the dawning numbness, she noted a measure of excitement that only an incurable adrenalin junkie could experience. Were she twelve and announcing her interest in a boy, she could expect a week of giddiness and strategic hallway-dodging. But she couldn't avoid him and quite honestly, it was hardly an adult reaction. Which failed to stop the frequent flinching. Morning was coming and though she could say the list reflected thoughts on someone else, she'd made the unforgivable blunder of using his name. Repeatedly.

The dumbest criminals want to get caught.

Curling up with Phantom Freud, Olivia dissected the motives and arrived at the uncomfortable conclusion that the time spent texting messages never sent, especially lengthy ones, was indicative of a woman seeking capture. A limited number of outcomes now presented themselves; one of them could flinch, both may veer or neither would move. Regardless, there would be long moments of head-on confrontation before either would have to decide. And the wrong look from him could reduce her to that unwanted candy she used to set aside after Halloween. Untouched, unwelcome, undesirable.

So this is what a Zagnut feels like.


Peter's response is forthcoming, should that interest anyone...