DID YOU FUDGING MISS ME MOTHER FUDGERS? BECAUSE I SURE AS FUDGED MISSED YOU!
"WAR ON LOVE"
Raise your weapons to our leaders
And battle cries to the sky,
Tonight we feast on the galaxies
And fight till the day we die
This isn't the happiest story you'll ever here. To be honest it's not much of a story as it is a really messed up tragedy. And I'm not ever sure you could call what happened romance . . . I mean, it was like . . . it was like sucking on a cactus drenched with cherry flavored Novocain. It alluded to fantasy in its most devious form while remaining strange, ultimately unattractive and maybe even disturbing to those who took it at face value. It was all of these things to the outsider. It was none of these things to us, the people who took it personally; those of us who were intimately involved with one another—not sexually, but mentally. We couldn't have expected to get so screwed up in one another. None of us could have predicted it was going to go this far, to the point where I—nor anyone else—could tell what was right or wrong anymore. They could no longer tell where the lines had been drawn. I couldn't tell who kicked them over, when we made new ones, who painted over the first ones in whose blood. By the end of it, their sins were mine. Everything we did was because of the other, and people died for us, with us, under us.
This isn't the happiest story, taken at face value. It is every bit the flavored cactus, every bit the glorified nightmare. It wasn't what they wanted. Some days, I wonder if it was even what he wanted. I wonder what he wanted a lot. I wonder what he expected to get out of this, whether or not he was championing his death wish or intended to live forever as this . . . thing. I didn't know. I miss my old life. I miss the days where I didn't get murdered at a pub with a little girl hiding in the closet. I miss the days when a teenage boy didn't flinch anytime a firecracker went off or want to bury himself in a hole and never move again when someone started a campfire, and the smell of smoke burned his nose.
This isn't the story about how they learned to accept themselves, and act like dignified human beings, regardless of whether or not they were born humans. None of them were, anyways, so it wasn't ultimately surprising. This is the story about how a man—how a thing hated himself, and brought everyone down with him in a really fucked up sense of what it meant to love other people, how it meant to fight against that love. It is about war in its highest form, about ordinary people who were robbed of their lives and turned into soldiers almost overnight. This is about the people who tried to protect them, the people who succeeded and the people—like me—who failed. This is about understanding the son of a bitch who caused all of this, about us sons and daughters of bastards who molded us, changed us into an adaptable creature that refused to go down without kicking and screaming and a trail of bodies to mark our path. It was bullshit, but it is truth. As much of it as I can give without ripping souls in half. To understand, to truly comprehend, you have to be open to listen to me. To really listen, maybe even relate on baser levels.
This is the war on love, not the happy-sappy-poem glorifying it. It's the darker side of love, what it drives people to do before it's even consciously formed. It's unbelievable. It's frankly terrifying how easily it happened, how circumstances begged and jumped and went through fantastic hoops to allow it to happen.
This is the war on love.
And it is not a very happy story.
Joel Macklemore considered himself a simple sort of fellow.
Born and raised on the Macklemore farm, he'd grown into a good sort of man. As a good a man as one could be expected to be in this sort of nefarious world. It seemed like every day brought with it a new battle, created a divide between what it meant to be a man and what it took to be successful. But his father had raised him on stern expressions and hard work, and his mother had been generous with her paddle, and he was no worse for it. He'd wrangled up a good sort of woman out of the many fine figures of women his small town had to offer. His wife's-then-girlfriend's-face put many other southern bells to shame, and with her firecracker personality and his frank moral compass, they'd made a handsome couple. They still were quite the pair, and he loved her all the more for making him a better sort of man than he could've become on his own. He owed his wife a lot, and even after all that, the generous little vixen had the nerve to gift him with a baby girl, whose smile outshone the sun and whose laughter rang like freshly polished church bells. Joel Macklemore had garnered quite the life for himself.
So it was with a start that he bolted upright from bed, to the howl of a beast that definitely was not the bay of one of his dogs, and to the strangely un-terrified shouts of children—one boy and one girl, by the sound of it, although it could've been two boys, depending on whether or not they were both past puberty—in his corn maze. It was with bleary eyes and a foggy brain that he trickled out of the sheets, scrounging about for his gun and wondering what in Sam's Hell was going on in his farm.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!
A howl tore a significant rift in the already tense, absolutely freezing air. Dib wished he'd thought to pack gloves. Dib wished a lot of things at the moment, most of them centered around gaining the ability to teleport himself and his plus one anywhere but here. These wishes only got louder as he continued to trample hay and occasionally corn-stalks, a pair of feet pounding right after him, mocking his stupidity with every thud. Fuck, fuck—why had he thought this would be a good idea?
Not good, not good! There was nothing good about this situation at all, but there was a lot of adrenaline rattling his brain and anything besides the instinct to keep one hand on his 'gun' and the other on his plus one was getting pushed to the background for the time being. But there was a lot of 'I am an idiot!' and 'Why didn't I bring a bigger gun?' escaping to his primary thoughts. This was just supposed to be a recon mission, but he'd heard the snuffling and he'd stolen a map from the gallery and he thought he could trust his sense of direction. Evidently, he'd been proven wrong.
And his plus one was only too happy to remind him.
The reminders were well deserved, and this most recent one followed directly after he skidded to a halt in yet another dead-end, marked by a fairly wide circle and a sign stuck in the ground. The fairly bolded "Whoops!" preceding a paragraph that was offering some asinine hint that they did not have time to read and muddle through, and ultimately did not help in the slightest. And even if they did have time, their aching, chilled limbs did not mingle well with the burn of adrenaline, and they couldn't have brought themselves to sit still long enough to read anything if they tried.
"Shut your stupid mouth!" His plus one hissed, tugging on his sleeve. It was all the warning he needed—and all the warning he received—before she was gone again, tearing back the way they'd come as another snarl rose with the wind. It was getting closer but also farther. They were not the only one the maze was disorienting.
"Sorry, sorry!" he called out. There was no point in being quiet anymore. The monster had proved itself a superior hunter, with a miraculous ability to sniff them out and hear their feet trampling the corn and other such 'farm' things that littered the dirt path.
"Oh shut up!" His companion snapped back, holstering a weapon Dib had been forced to relinquish three minutes into the chase. Occasionally when the snuffling or howling got too close, near enough to make his skin crawl and imagine a heavy, odorous breath huffing down his neck, the weapon would get drawn until it wasn't worth carrying it anymore and re-holstered into a belt loop. Both of them had been continuously, silently thanking their own preferences for jeans and dark clothing that blended well in the night, with belt loops. It was far better to be in something comfortable that you could move in, as opposed to something that only looked stealthy and in reality limited a fair amount of movement.
The map was snatched from his hand, finally, and he almost breathed a sigh of relief. Neither dared to turn the flashlight on, the other lifting the map to the moonlight and holding it taught to smooth out the wrinkles that he'd caused by holding onto it for dear life in his fist.
"God damn it, Dib." They spat, when the attempt to figure out even their general whereabouts proved futile. "The next time you get the bright idea to drag me along on one of your little adventures, don't. Bloaty's wasn't even worth it! It's probably closed by now, you asshole!"
"Hey!" He snapped as they hurried on again, having wasted precious time standing around examining the crumpled map. "It's not like I knew this would happen!"
"Oh, fuck what you know!"
Any other person would have been appalled to hear that kind of language spewed from such a frankly delicate-looking child. And it was true.
At twelve, borderline teenage Gaz had the potential to be absolutely adorable and disarming. If she didn't always look so sour and didn't purposefully avoid any color whatsoever In her wardrobe, she could pass for maybe even nine, if she wore a heavy jacket to disguise her figure. His little sister was approaching puberty, and while she still didn't have much more curve then he did, there was something decidedly feminine about his sister's shape. And he didn't like it. His little sister would not be sexualized by anyone, and anyone who disagreed was going to meet his left hook and a very painful end. Her pretty features were always—thankfully—pinched into an unattractive sharp sort of indifference, if not just a full-blown scowl. It was a huge burden off of Dib's shoulder that she continued to show no interest in acting her gender, or even her age. Then again there was really no age that represented the complete maturity and disregard for any authority she deemed stupid.
Said little sister let out a snarl of her own that frankly scared him almost as much as the werewolf's as they came to a crossroads. She was peering at the map again when another howl, obviously more excited, rippled through the corn-maze.
"Whatever!" She barked, tossing the map over her shoulder and barreling into the corn. The stalks shuddered as she moved and she thanked her good sense to keep her hair short, reinforcing her beliefs that long hair was not worth the trouble. Stringy stalks slipped harmlessly away from her short a-cut, poking her face and her ankles. She was probably getting prickers in her shoes, but prickers were better than getting ripped to shreds by one of Dib's little play-things.
"Gaz!" She heard him shout in surprise. Apparently it hadn't occurred to him she would break the rules like that. But soon enough she could hear him shoving after her, both of them maneuvering as quickly as they were able. Gaz reasoned smartly that no matter where they were, if they went in a straight line, they would eventually get out of the hell-hole that was this maze, be able to find the road, and get as far from this whole mess as currently possible. Gaz also made a mental-note to flip Dib off anytime he suggested any more 'midnight-bike-trips' to the middle of nowhere. Bloaty's had made the ordeal initially promising. This whole parody of some already crappy horror movie made even her favorite pizza not a good enough temptation.
The howl was getting louder, more frantic, and Gaz gagged on some piece of the corn-stalk that had fallen into her hair and caught on her lip. Dib had stopped following, picking up speed to get in front of her and barrel things aside quicker. Dib was two years older and had hit puberty, after all. While his waist was just as slight as hers, he was considerably taller and was actually gaining muscle definition. If this psychotic excuse for an investigation was what frequented his Saturday nights, then it was no wonder why. Gaz wasn't exactly a couch-potato (not for the last seven months, anyway; Dib had been inspired by a health kick that had bled into her lifestyle as well), but even her thighs were starting to burn after all this running. Her breathing was annoyingly loud and at a higher pitch than she would have liked it. Gaz was only just now beginning to accept no matter what she did, she was a girl and had been built to look like some sort of prissy ballerina. She hoped puberty brought only the monthly feminine gift with it, and not anything curvaceous. But if her already narrowing waist and sudden necessity to wear training bras were any indication of her future, she was in for an unfortunate surprise.
Realizing now was not the time to morn her future feminine woes, Gaz pressed on and felt her chest shudder without her permission as a piercing howl made her ears ring. While she felt no conscious fear, she was aware on some level she might be afraid. But unlike Dib, Gaz wasn't afraid at the moment. Her adrenaline came from pure, unadulterated rage at both the creature pursuing them and her brother for being a ditz and dragging him out here. There had to be some way he could get in trouble for doing this to her. She could sue him for reckless endangerment or something. But wasn't that only for parents and/or guardians?
"Almost there!" Dib choked out, bringing Gaz back to the reality that had tortured thigh-muscles and frozen lungs.
Gaz was very much aware that the thing following them was getting closer. But at this speed she didn't dare risk drawing her weapon, for fear of this fucking corn knocking her hand against the trigger or some other unfortunate accident. The safety was very much off, but if she set the maze on fire, she could die too. And Dib, probably. It was just an all-around bad idea, and so Gaz kept her hands balled up and pumping along her sides as she ran, shoving aside corn and any stray barrier-ties. The neon pink ribbon was meant to deter people from pushing along the corn as they were. There were probably ruining the maze, but that was just too damn bad, because Gaz was not in the mood for death today and apparently neither was Dib.
Very bad indeed.
Gaz saw the end of the corn husks and what awaited them on the other side. It was saw some rickety little farm done up to look nice. Probably the house of the owner, and she thought she saw someone standing on the porch. By the look on Dib's face when he took a moment to look back at her, he saw them too.
Great, he thought, plowing ahead and maneuvering himself in front of his sister. If we don't get eaten, we get shot. Or arrested.
They had been making a lot of noise, he realized. But it was too late to do anything about it, so screw it, he was not about to let his sister get eaten by a Grade-0 werewolf. Dib hadn't been expecting much more than a Grade-5, a Grade-3 if he was really lucky. Grade-5 was just some really hairy crazy guy running around (hopefully clothed) and howling rather impressively. A Grade-3 was some sort of genetically mutated dog. Dib had heard stories about both, and had kept his fingers crossed and his gun loaded, just in case hobo or dog got a little too rabid. He had not been prepared for a full-blown Grade-0 werewolf. And just his luck it was a full moon tonight. Well, he'd planned to go on a full moon, but that was—.
The roar that rang out ricocheted off his eardrums, and Gaz was next to him, tugging his jacket and stealing glances over his shoulder. To anyone else she would've appeared indifferent, if slightly winded. To him, Gaz looked more startled than ever. It was no longer his imagination that the beast wasn't so far behind them. This was the first time since they'd chanced upon what he'd at first mistaken as a dog
The shotgun that rang out was every bit as breath-taking as the pounding force in his ribcage. The ground came rushing up to knock against his head, jarring his senses completely. The second his head cracked against the floor, the edges of his vision went white. His eyes flew open in shock in an effort to compensate. It didn't work. Not even slightly.
". . . Don't . . . move."
He could feel her heat hovering over him, breath hot on his ear. It was too much contrast against the freezing weather. His ears were ringing, too loud, almost drowning out the heavy breaths of his sister. When had Gaz got that close to him?
Something shifted on his hip, easing its way out of his belt loop. There was something even louder than Gaz's breathing, which wasn't actually her breathing, because it was too low of a tone. It was too loud, to ragged, even after her run. The silence between each breath was even worse.
"It's blind," she hissed in his ear, and Dib might've traded a sense away forever if he could muster the sight to see what his sister could. He bit bat a groan.
Listening to the silence was worse than breathing through the icicles that was the air. Knowing that his sister and a stranger with a shotgun were the only things standing between him and death-by-blind-werewolf was too much to think about in his state. He was paralyzed by the fear he couldn't comprehend, the feeling of helplessness just by the sound of the things breathing.
. . . Hhhuuu . . . . .rrrrhhhhhh .. . . hhhuu . . . rrrhhhhhh . . .hhhuuu—snfff-sfff—
It was smelling for them again.
". . . Gaz?"
It wasn't that loud. It barely escaped his throat, choked back by sheer will-power and an obnoxious amount of fear.
The howl that followed nearly knocked the shit out of him.
He was shoved away, the gun in his pocket disappeared, and the percussion of shots ringing out was just too much. He blinked the spots from his vision as something wet and raw splattered over his face, soaking his clothes. It was freezing. Geez, did winter have to be so potent in everything?
Dib's sinuses cleared, and suddenly he wanted to burn his nose and throw up. He was blind too, feeling the chilled muck drip from his hair and across his face. No way was he about to let that in his eyes. At least it wasn't in his mouth.
That was his sister. The slimy noises that followed signaled movement started moving away from him, and Dib began clawing at his face, finding his fingers only moistened by whatever he was now coated in from his hair down to his torso, and a few patches all along his jeans.
"Gaz?" He shouted, a thin line of his eyes just showing just between his eyelids. "Gaz! Where are you?"
He let out a relieved breath. The stomping shuffle of the dirt was getting closer, and something rough and dry was on his face, scrubbing, unconcerned with being gentle. So Gaz was okay then. But if his pulsing hip and the abrupt migraine centering around where he'd hit it earlier said anything about his condition, he probably could do with a trip to the hospital. An MRI might be in order. Maybe a CAT-scan. Oooh, his head.
"S-S-Stop right there! I-I'm warning you kids!"
The scrubbing stopped. Dib realized at some point he'd been pulled into a sitting position, and considered maybe he did need to go get his head checked. But his sister had succeeded in wiping away the muck on his face—which, looking at it, was some type of clear, bioluminescent jelly—and he could see her, considerably more put together than he was, with a brow quirked at the shaking man on the porch.
"A-Are you," he swallowed. Gaz's eye cracked open to peer at him, and compelled, he swallowed. "Are you a . . . aliens?"
Any fear Dib had leftover evaporated, bringing him crashing back to the reality of his situation. He was a fourteen year-old-boy covered in ice-plasma, chilled to the bone, really freaking exhausted, with a little sister who was going to kill him when he got home— if the man in front of them didn't do so first. And said man was accusing them of being aliens because they were coated in glowing jelly that was dripping onto the floor. It was making horrible wet noises. The point being, however, that Dib's patience with today had run out.
Without a word, Gaz raised her hand and fired twice.
Dib started as the man fell over, gun having spiraled away with the first shot and the man falling over onto his knees with the second. He huffed.
Apparently, so had Gaz's.
The man groaned and they moved forward together, his sister stealing the shotgun and tossing it to him.
"To answer your question," Gaz met his sister's gaze, her eyes cracked in vindictive humor. "Yes, we are aliens. The thing you just shot in the head was our pet. We're going to spare your life, but we're taking your car as compensation. Okay?" The man whimpered, but nodded. "Good. And don't call the police or tell anyone, or we'll come back for your whole farm and set it on fire."
She stalked off without another word. Dib chewed his lip, gagged on the awful bitter flavor of it, and added, "Uh . . . have a good night," before following after.
It wasn't until they were in the car, soaking the car-seat with werewolf-gook, the guns and bikes lying in the backseat, did Dib consider their predicament.
"Did we just hi-jack a farmer?" He said aloud.
Behind the wheel, eyes just barely skimming the dashboard, Gaz only grunted, which was alright. Dib didn't really need an answer anyways. He already knew it.
"Where are we going?" He asked, watching as she tossed the guns out the window into the swamp as they drove past. Huh. Damn. He'd really liked those.
"Home," she said.
"Oh," he replied. After a beat, he added, for reasons he forgot soon after, "I think I have a concussion."
Her eyes twitched in his direction beneath lids drooped so low it was a daily miracle she could see him. But as the thought of her sight stirred up generally unpleasant feelings he'd long ago found a repressed corner for, Dib forced his mind to blank. If it was just a little too easy to let go of his trail of thought, well, it was for the best, and he soon forgot to feel worried anyways.
Gaz grunted out a noise that seemed to be an assent to his observations, fiddled with a very out of place GPS clipped to the dashboard, and made a left.
When next Dib came too, a college student was playing the good semaritan and helping him out of the car. They'd attracted a small crowd. Gaz was speaking to a woman, her hand tucked into her brother's as he was set on the ground, rubbing her fist into her eyes. Vaguely Dib remembered showing her this technique many years ago during their brat-stage, where'd they'd acted out for attention in vain. It was a very easy way to make your eyes water. But why was Gaz trying to cry in front of a crowd?
Another gap and swirl of people patting and talking to him, and Dib was in the back of an ambulance with his sister. She had remained tethered to him the whole time. When Dib would look back on this later all he'd be able to distinguish was the warmth of her palm clutching his and the feeling of being isolated from everyone but her. There was a lot of profound thought circling around that idea—the feeling of his sister and he apart from everyone else, even when they were the center of attention—but he was too doped up to think clearly. Along those lines, when had he been drugged? And he had been. Drugged, that is. His arm still smarted from the shot.
He groaned, and Gaz looked at him as the doors shut.
"Can he sleep?" She asked, her lips out of sync with her words.
"No," someone else said, in a very tender tone that wreaked of 'speaking-to-a-sensitive-individual' training. "He's got a bump on his head. If he falls asleep, he might not wake—well, he'll be okay. We'll make sure of that."
His sister nodded before he was finished, or maybe after. But Dib knew she already knew all of this, so there was an ulterior motive for her asking. Dib couldn't think of it, but it had something to do with being manipulative. Something to do with gathering people on your side, with playing the naïve little kid—a skill she'd learned on her own. A way to ignite someone's instinct to protect the children, by playing the fool. On some level it bothered him that his sister wasn't above doing these kinds of things. On another, he was just . . . so tired.
"He'll be okay," another voice was saying, deeper, with an accent. A voice used to the graveyard shift. "The test we did gave us a picture. The picture says he's okay . . . Where's your father, young lady?"
"Work," Gaz said. "Can we go home now?"
"The patrol car will take you back," the man said, still tender, still soft to calm the nerves of the little girl while her big brother was wounded, "They'll be back in the morning to check up on you two."
"And the man who hurt us?" She asked, "What about him?"
Which confused Dib, because when had they been attacked by a man? Granted, under all that fur and sans a full moon, there was a man down there, but nothing was left to find. He'd seen the body, the leftovers. When the night was over it would shrink back down to a man missing a head instead of an obliterated werewolf. And people had the nerve to think the moon was only in effect with the living. Think of the ocean's tide, why don't you? Damn science hypocrites . . .
"They're looking," he said. "But don't worry, you're safe now. He can't hurt you anymore."
It was such a TV-thing to say, really . . .
END OF CH. 1