A Spinoff?

Hey, everyone. I know I’ve been on hiatus for forever, and have tried many times to pick up both this and the Belues during that period. I think the vast difference in tones made it very difficult, as well as my busy schedule and obsession with comic making. I also really struggled with my plot choices this generation. I really regret killing off Bianca, as well as that stupid love triangle. I’d love to rewrite it, but have had to delete all of my Sims 3 stuff because of my computer space (I really need photoshop to publish my comic). HOWEVER, I’m thinking of combining the Belues and Doves in a spinoff of sorts. It will feature Flannery, Scarlet, Watson, Elizabeth, John, and maybe a de-berried Alto. 

What do you guys think? 

Hiatus

Hey, guys, I’m writing this at two in the morning, so please pardon my grammar. I’m really sorry I haven’t been reading, writing, or answering comments lately. I’ve been swamped with school (I still have two essays to write for tomorrow), and really won’t have time to work on ADDC until December, due to the Scholastic Writing Competition, which I’m doing for my creative writing course. Sorry, I’m rambling.

I hope to pop in once in a while, and maybe get a Halloween special out, but won’t be posting any chapters for a couple of months. Thank you so much for sticking with me, guys. You’re all wonderful.

Have a great autumn!

leo

*prepares to miss you all deeply*

2-11: Fathers, Daughters, Lovers

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“What’s her name?”

Her voice is a wind chime with a breeze caught in its tangles. Somewhere in the distance, choked murmurs.

“Flannery Dove? How lovely. I bet she wishes she had wings right now, huh?”

A swoosh over Flannery’s nose. The lumpy cot drives into her spine. Her eyes stay shut. There’s a knot in her back and a pounding in her head. Her hand twitches. An unfamiliar, clammy hand flips it over.

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“A guitarist’s hands and an acrobat’s makeup. Well, color me intrigued.”

Like a daydream, Flannery’s eyes blink open. White hair brushes against her eyelashes; it flutters to and fro with each breath. “Good morning, Flannery,” says Pandora Spring.

Flannery squints. The ceiling light tints the world a ghastly blue; it seeps into her skin, and grinds between her teeth. She groans, then pulls a quivering hand to her forehead. The room is cold. She is wearing only her underwear. Goosebumps rise along her stomach. “Where’s my father?”

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“Aren’t you concerned about your friends?” Pandora giggles. Her laugh has wrecked marriages.

Flannery sits up, carefully, but bumps into Pandora’s forehead, hung close above her own. She winces. Pandora draws back, large yellow eyes blinking curiously, unhurt. She glances towards the huddle in the corner, parked by the main door. Seaweed, Alto, and Dolly’s murmurs silence. Alto glances up with deadening eyes. Flannery smiles at him. The corners of his lips twitch upwards. Neither Seaweed or Dolly look up. “Where’s my father?” repeats Flannery.

Pandora points at a smaller, reddish-blue door across the room, then pulls her hand quickly to her chest. “The bathroom. He’s been inside for three hours.”

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“Aren’t you cold?”

Her pale arm hairs stand erect in the deep sea light. Same expression, same defensive hand. “No.”

Flannery nods. She swings her legs over the side of the bed. As she stands, her vision swims first like her father’s lucky sperm towards her mother’s egg, and then like her mother’s tears, consuming and disastrous, when her father traded her freckles for politics. Flannery shakes her head. The bricks become solid. Her mother did nothing. She recovered too late.

Flannery will not make the same mistake.

She wades through the blue light. The cracks in the walls haunt her. The floorboards squeak like dying mice. She glances behind her. The light flickers. Pandora’s eyes flash black. The shadows consume her. For a moment, darkness swallows Flannery whole, too, and then she is replaced, replenished by the light blinking on, and a wink from a lover to be. Flannery raises her chin. In this moment, she swears she hears her mother’s voice, an intimate whisper. “I’m going to a party tonight.”

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But you never said you were going swimming. She’s at the door now. Its knob seems unreachable, and its tenant a convict. She sits on the floor, leans her back on the wall, and pulls her knees to her chest. A shiver bangs them together. She rubs her palms together, grimacing all the while. Of all the horrors she’s lived this week, only the cold has her writhing. If only she had a flamethrower-to punish her father, foremost, and then to warm her freezing fingers. Through chattering teeth, she asks, “Why’d you do it?”

The bathroom tiles squeak frantically. The clash of metal and elbow clangs throughout the cell. Rouge’s toe hits the bathroom door. He collapses to the floor, then scrambles to a kneel. He presses his ear to the wall.

Flannery raises her voice. “Why’d you kill my mom?”

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“I…”

Her fists clench. History wells up in her throat. Her mother’s brokedown eyes, Boston’s parentless gurgle, a bottle of vodka rolling down three flights of stairs. “Why’d you knock her up and leave her for dead? Why’d you pretend we never existed, huh? Look. Give me one reason not to kill you. Because goddamnit, I-I will. You killed my mom and you tried to throw us away, and it just so happens that I’ve had a very goddamn bad week. Are you ready to take your chances?”

A minute of silence. A heavy sigh. “How would you kill me?”

“I don’t know, but I would.”

“I believe you,” lies Rouge.

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A long pause.  “Thanks.”

“If it means anything to you, I didn’t kill your mom.”

Flannery closes her eyes and leans her head against the door. Her heart drops to her stomach. Shakily: “Then who did?”

“She did.” Rouge holds his head in his hands. Deep, haggard breaths. “She did.”

“That’s bullshit!” cries Flannery; her fist collides with the door. “She was getting better! She smiled and she said hello and she wore makeup and she went to the party and that’s just..that’s not what people who’re going to kill themselves do.”

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“She wasn’t planning on it, at least, I don’t think she was. Not until she saw me. I was running around town. I didn’t know what was going on. Birch chased me to the end of the block before he called the funeral home. Not for your mom, you see, but for Velvet. My…my wife.

She died that night, too. She slipped on a spilled drink and her head cracked open. I don’t know whose fault it was, okay? She was yelling at me, your mother, too. Your mother spilled the drink. I don’t know. At first, I thought it was Blanca’s fault, and I told her so. She ran away, and I ran, too, a minute later. I didn’t follow her. I think I went the opposite direction, actually, but we live in a small town, and in small towns, the streets wrap in on themselves, like spirals. I found her sleeping outside the bookstore. Even in her sleep, she whispered. I’ll always remember that about her. Her nonsense and her freckles. And her loneliness. She glowed with it. You know, for years she wandered Orchard on her own, but after the workers started pouring in, those years only magnified inside her. Especially after I left.”

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Flannery is crying now, quiet, ugly sobs. Snot dribbles down her chin. She ducks her head behind her knees. Her cheeks flush red. Seaweed stares. Dolly averts her eyes. Alto rises and, with creaking, hesitant footsteps, crosses the room to her. He bends down, taps her shoulder. She glances up. Mascara paints a skeleton forest on her cheeks. He sits down beside her. He holds her hand. He buries his face in her hair. His lips brush her ear, but no words come. For two days, he’s had nothing to say.

“Look, I know I screwed up.” Rouge continues. “I made a mistake. It was always Velvet, you see, and I just wanted to make her happy. I tried to save the world for her. Heroics is a lonely job, though, and when Blanca and I collided, we made the world’s saddest cocktail. She wanted me. I wanted the past. I wanted the days before my girlfriend sold herself in glass windows. I wanted the days before The Vanishing. I hated starvation, and I hated desperation. I gave into the latter just twice. Once for you and your sister, and another for your brother.

But I wanted politics! I wanted to put the world back on its feet. I wanted to fight crime and get the girl, and to live my dream, I couldn’t go back to your mother. I had to forget about her, you see? I craved perfection, but she defied it. I thought if I were to tell Velvet, she’d leave me, and if I told Birch, I’d lose my banker. So I left Blanca. Only eleven years later did I let myself think about her, and I ran right back. I still don’t know why. I couldn’t even fix her, so I fucked her, and then I left. I didn’t see her again until the night she died.”

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It was a dinner party. We were supposed to celebrate my accomplishments as mayor. I got the schools up and running again, as you well know, and though that royally pissed off Birch, I got lots of parents donating to my cause. They were all invited to the party, but they missed the main event.

Your mom showed up first. She got there before we did. All smoky eyes and tiny skirt, she looked like a high class hooke-”

“Don’t you fucking dare call my mother a hooker!” Flannery choke-cries. Alto squeezes her hand. She buries her head in his shoulder. His skin muffles her voice. “You used her up. You took advantage of her. She looked beautiful that night, you grade A asshole.”

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Rouge takes a shaky breath. His palms shine wet with sweat and tears. His voice grows quieter as he moves from the door, to take a seat on the toilet. “I’m going to finish, Flannery. Okay? I arrived with Velvet and Birch. We laughed and smiled as we walked up to the bar, but when I saw Blanca’s face in the mirror behind it, my grin froze. Velvet made small talk with her. They had great chemistry-unbelievable. I approached Blanca after Velvet ordered her drink, and asked her what the hell she was doing. She stood up. Her drink sloshed, I remember. Her eyes were wild. She exploded on me, then, like a goddamn land mine. Her drink crashed to the floor. Her words blew up the bar. I wanted to die.

Then she mentioned Velvet. ‘Does Velvet look goddamn happy to you?’ she shouted. I saw Velvet’s frown, then I saw her nod. Blanca kept staring at me. Her gaze was a prison sentence. I appealed to a higher court. ‘She looks as beautiful as I’ve ever seen her,’ I said. At that moment, it was prison for life. Blanca kept shouting, and suddenly Velvet was agreeing with her, and I didn’t matter. Nothing I could say would help me. I could only deny everything as I put on my orange uniform. Velvet wouldn’t believe me. Why should she have? I’m an awful liar.

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She ran to Blanca, and then she slipped. Her head cracked against the table and the chair and finally the floor. Blood was everywhere. Her chest stopped moving. I said it was Blanca’s fault. Still in denial, you see. She ran then, and in a bit, I ran into the rain, too. And that’s how I found her on the bench. My footsteps woke her up. She saw me, and the moon in her eyes died. She sprinted-barefoot, I noticed. I ran after her. I didn’t know why-I only knew that she had been there with Velvet, and it had somehow been not just her fault, but my fault, too. We ran for ten minutes. She paused on the bridge, with me a minute behind, to grab her heels. Mud soaked her feet. It splattered her thighs, and mixed with the blood on her face. I followed her to the public pool, under the welcoming building and onto the tile. She slowed as she approached the water. I stopped. Her skirt had ridden up around her hips; she wiggled it down slowly, as if she relished the cold wind on her rain-soaked underwear. She wiped her feet on the pool ladder, then slid on her heels. Her lipstick had smeared across her face, and as she turned to face me, she wore the jagged half-grin of a CD snapped in half.

We stood in silence for minutes. The moon dyed our faces into pearls. Rain soaked through my shirt. She didn’t blink. Her eyes burned red and tears streamed down her face, but she didn’t blink. I shouted to her. ‘Have you gone crazy?’

‘I’ve never felt more alone,’ she whispered through the wind.

And then she jumped.”

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Rouge presses his cheeks into his hands. Tears hurricane through his fingers. On the door’s other side, Flannery sobs into Alto’s shoulder. The blue light flickers, casting a ghoulish shadow across her ruddy cheeks, and his ruffled hair. From the bed, Pandora Spring watches with curious, narrowed eyes. The guard peeks through a slat in the door. Seaweed begs him for a smoke. Dolly shushes him. “What did you do?” asks Flannery, voice thick.

“I turned away. It seemed too private, too personal, too hopeless. I’d just lost my wife, and now an ex-lover. A nightmare-that’s what it was. An inky skied, wet clothed, spilled beer nightmare. I walked home as she floundered. No one could know we were connected, I realized. Duty still drove me, even then. As soon as I got home, I reported three homeless children, camping out in a rundown Vanishing home. I needed to move on; I knew that only an hour after their deaths. I couldn’t live with their voices on my back.

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But when I awoke, you’d been adopted by man in town, and I pretended I didn’t care. I heard reports of a gang of delinquents, drinking it up in the swamps. ‘Flannery Dove’s the ringleader,’ parents whispered. I cried the first night I heard it. If I’d been your parent, maybe you’d be better. You’d have had a normal childhood. You’d have chosen homework over liquor. But I guess I’ll never know. Anyway. A…a week ago, I received an e-mail. All government personnel got it. ‘The first alarm has triggered. We caught the intruders on video.’ Attached at the bottom was the video. When I saw your face, I knew I couldn’t sit idly by. I couldn’t let my child die, too, even if I didn’t know you. So I hunted you down. I went to Brandy’s house. He opened the front door on the second knock. Then he slapped me in the face. I met your brother and sister, too. I’m…I’m dead to them, Flannery. Your brother thought I was a used car salesman. Your sister wanted my head on a stake.

I held my head high, though, and flew to the city. I got a room in your hotel. As soon as the shouting stopped in your room, I came to warn you-to help you escape, if necessary. But we were ratted out, and now we’re here, waiting to die in the Blue Daydream, with Boss upstairs and the world on our heels. We’re all going to die here, and I..I’m so sorry, Flannery. I failed.”

“You didn’t try to stop her!” cries Flannery. Alto wraps his arms around her waist. He squeezes his eyes shut. Where have his words gone? “I don’t give a shit about Blue Daydream or Boss or whatever-they didn’t let my mother die. You still failed. She’s dead, and death doesn’t take any apologies.”

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Rouge’s cries fumble in the cramped space between the door and the floor. He smashes his fist against the wall; he yelps when his knuckles come away bruised.

Flannery’s whole body trembles. She throws her hands over her smeared makeup and bloodshot eyes. Her hair deepens to purple in the blue light. Alto bites his lip. Her tears burn his shoulders like wildfire. She pushes herself a few inches away, minute, but wholly separate. His jaw falls, and his arms reach out desperately.

He finds her shoulders, bare but for tangles and bra straps, and hunching upwards towards her pointed chin. He pulls her closer. She offers no resistance. Her hands cup her cheeks, conceal her eyes, but she’s warmer. “I’ve got you,” whispers Alto, voice hoarse with the silence of days. “It’s okay to cry.”

She chokes out another sob. He runs his fingers through her hair, and her hands slowly, ever so slowly, fall from her face.

                                             

Neutral Milk Hotel – “King of Carrot Flowers, Pt 1

A/N: The lovely Pandora Spring is from Arrowleaf’s awesome emotion burning rainbowcy, Chasing Rainbows.

I’m sorry I’ve fallen so behind with answering comments and reading your stories. This school year has been really busy already, and I just auditioned for the fall musical today, so my reading/writing time might be cut in half. I’m going to reserve Sundays for reading, though, and l’m excited to have loads of wonderful stories to read at the end of the week!

My updates, though, will be fairly sparse throughout first semester. After the musical and college hunting season finish up, I will be like ten times more present. I’m really sorry about the delays-I haven’t forgot about you guys, I promise!

And another beeteedubs: how’s the posing in this chapter? This is my first time using pose player in an update, and I’m not sure if my posing is up to par. If you have any suggestions, shout ’em out! 🙂

Thank you all for reading! 🙂 Hope to see you soon!

2-10: Bad Timing

Warning: Explicit Language and Bad Habits

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Far above the midday nightclub pulse and the strobelight seizures breathe the smoke stacks of Neon City, whose mouths penetrate the clouds and bases form the seaside. They loom above the skyscrapers and their sallow-faced tenants. Mercenaries wash gray in their shadow; children forfeit their lungs in their smog. For centuries, their ash has fallen over the neon signs of the red light district and its shifty eyed neighbor, the grand statehouse. Even the hotels, the once gleaming harbingers of progress, wipe the soot from their windows.

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The celebrity hills-The Heights, as locals call them-must wash daily, or else risk succumbing to the common man’s filth. Their streets desperately yearn to shine beneath inches of gray. Nothing escapes. On the corner between the biggest mansion and the most expensive car, a permanent, thin layer of soot conceals the dashes in the road, beside which wheezes a familiar Sloppy Jalopy. Its windshield wipers have been running for nearly an hour. When asked why, the driver pleaded insanity.

In the Jalopy’s passenger seat sits Flannery Dove, one jaded knee drawn to her chest and five frightened fingers drumming on her thigh. In the driver’s seat fidgets Alto Loft, whose shaky hands struggle to unfold a prewar map, and whose eyes stay trained on the scrap of paper taped to the steering wheel. Behind them sit Seaweed Staley, slumped into his cigarette, and Dolly Lemon, who still covers her eyes. They have arrived in silence and remain in silence.

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Outside the Jalopy, the city forms a smokestack jungle. Sirens blare from downtown like howling monkeys, and Dolly’s head nearly pierces the ceiling at their sudden arrival. A brief yelp escapes her lips, but no words break the humid, suffocating car air. Flannery rolls down the window and sticks out her head, breathing in deep gulps of cigarette smoke and salt water wind. Flashing lights pierce the grey beyond the hill, and bounce, muted, from the skyscrapers’ sharp corners. She rubs the purple circles beneath her eyes and squints through the smoke. Somewhere in the smog stalks her father, and somewhere miles away and decades dead, lay the innocent. Or so she thinks. Flannery glances at the steering wheel and reads the note, read a thousand times over during the past hour.

1449 Ivy Way.

Whatever that means, thinks Flannery, and her mind travels back to that musty city hall, to its spiderwebbed chandeliers and corpse-covered floors. Her stomach churns as the rotting smell washes over her. She screws her eyes shut, withdraws her head, and leans it against her knee. Can’t think about this right now. Need something else, anything. “Have you found the hotel?” she asks Alto, who nearly drops the map at the sound of her voice.

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After a moment’s hesitation, he nods. The map returns to the glove compartment (although it tries its best to remain spread out, creases and all), and the key turns in the ignition. The windows are painted grey now. Only the windshield has escaped the soot.

And over the grand swinging bridge they go! Certainly it’s less dull by moonlight, but the dead clog their minds, and the pavement winds past their imaginations. They drive through the city streets, passing shuttered shops and urban nomads, circumventing lane-wide potholes, and imagining days of the broken city’s glory, when the women smoked diamond cigarettes and the men had emeralds sewn in their cufflinks. On downtown’s border, they discover their hotel amidst a sea of abandoned cranes. They park the car across the street, then haul their luggage first to the front desk, then to the elevator, and finally, after enduring its creaks, lurches, and droning music, they reach the top floor, and consequently, their room.

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Dolly steps in first, gingerly, and dumps her bags next to the ratty red couch. As the rest pile in, she crosses the room to the window, and folds her arms across her chest. The peeling, last century wallpaper burns her eyes. The top floor heat summons sweat to her armpits. “I hate this country,” she says to the sea, expanding over the horizon out their very window. She wrinkles her nose. The room smells like smoke and death. “And it’s trying so goddamn hard to make me afraid of it.”

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“You’re not afraid?” asks Seaweed. He lights another cigarette. I swore I’d quit after graduating, he thinks mournfully, tucking his lighter in his pocket. “Where have you been the past twenty-four hours?”

She turns to face him. “The same goddamn places you were, but I’m sick of crying about it. Why waste time sobbing, when we could be doing something about it?”

“Doing what?” asks Seaweed. Behind his back, Flannery heads for the bar, tucked away in the corner, by the fridge. She pours her first drink and sets it down with a thick clunk; startled, then furious, Seaweed whips around to face her. Spit flies from his mouth. “Put that the fuck down, Flannery!”

“We just found a room full of dead bodies, and you’re flipping out at me for having a drink?” she yells back. “Well excuse me if I don’t feel like fucking frolicking through a field right now!”

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Alto collapses on the couch and presses his hands over his ears. “Get your priorities straight,” snarls Seaweed as he approaches her. “Are you going to confront your father or pass out on the couch with your head in your boyfriend’s lap?”

“I think your father and your romantic bullshit are the least of our worries,” comments Dolly. “This is really a bad time, you guys. Um, the room full of dead people? The alarm? Hello?”

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Flannery ignores her and glares at Seaweed, shoulders tense, eyebrows drawn tight. A storm brews in her eyes. Lightning whips from her mouth. “You’re not worried about my drinking at all,” she hisses. “And you sure as hell don’t give a damn about my dad right now. This is about Alto, isn’t it?”

“Maybe.” Seaweed thrusts his shoulders back. A deep breath. His nostrils flare out. He drives his cigarette into the ashtray. A bead of sweat drips down his forehead. There’s no air conditioning on the top floor. Flannery’s forehead shines. Her eyes narrow. Her lips part. She spits out the words:

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“Then grow the fuck up.”

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As she turns away, Seaweed shouts, hoarse and ashy, “You’re a horrible friend, Flannery.”

She glances over her shoulder as she pours her drink. “Because I don’t want to sleep with you?”

Alto notes her reflection in the window: flaming hair frizzy, grey eyes a tornado. He swallows, hard. He thinks he might love her at her best, but in this sweltering, hurricane hotel, he wishes he were dead. The impulse passes in the ensuing silence, but his knees still knock.

“Because you never gave me a chance!” Seaweed’s shout pierces the silence, and the window slides up and Dolly’s head slips out, her athlete’s lungs breathing in soot for hope of a peaceful place.

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Flannery downs her drink. In the dim, flickering light, her eyelids sag like an old woman’s. “Seaweed, look. It’s…it’s been a really long day. Do we have to talk about this right now?”

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“I don’t care how tired you are. I’ve just seen the truth about the past, and now I want to know the truth about us. I want to know why I’m always the last thing on your list, and why you’re screwing around with this motormouth history buff who doesn’t know the first thing about you! Look a little bit closer to home, Flan. If you’d goddamn paid attention, you would’ve noticed that I..I love you. And I have loved you, ever since you introduced me to your mom all those years ago. I’ve always been here for you, and I know you, and I know you’re probably feeling tipsy about now and-stop goddamn pouring and start listening to me!”

Flannery takes a deep, shaky breath. Her head pounds. Her mind screams in guilt’s absence.

“I don’t understand why you can’t love me back. All I want is you. I’ve sacrificed and I’ve struggled and I’ve watched you fall in love with countless things and countless bottles and take me as your goddamn dessert. I’m your drunk dial, your fan, your best friend. But that’s it. God, Flan. Why can’t you just love me back?”

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Her cracked lips burst open, and she screams, hoarse and raw, “Because I don’t!”

Seaweed sits on the bed. He cradles his head in his sweaty hands. “But why?”

“Do you want an essay? I just don’t, okay?” she sighs and runs a hand through her hair. Tears well up, and she blinks them back furiously. “You’re my best friend, but I don’t want to date you, let alone sleep with you. Why is that so hard to understand? If you care so much, why can’t you just be happy for me?”

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Seaweed groans. Flannery crosses her arms over her chest. Her eyes meet Alto’s, and she quickly averts her gaze. A scrap of wallpaper plops in her drink. Hearing the plunk, Dolly glances over. She smiles reassuringly, hesitantly at Flannery, and, when Seaweed’s hands conceal his eyes, offers her a thumbs-up. Flannery starts to laugh.

First, only a quiet, subdued chuckle, and then she is guffawing, heart racing in hysterics and tears and ruddy cheeks. Her hands fly over her face as Alto leaps from the couch. “They’re all dead,” she chokes between laughs and sobs, “and we’re here arguing about who’s dating who.”

“Are you sure we’re not dreaming?” asks Alto. He massages her shoulders. Seaweed’s cry fills the room, then exits quickly as he pushes past the couple on his way to the bathroom. The door slams behind him.

Flannery sighs, then pinches Alto’s thigh. He grimaces. “I wish we were,” she croaks.

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“Can’t you two stay away from each other for five minutes?” wails Seaweed. Flannery can picture him, slumped over on the toilet seat, whole body shaking, one hand steadied on the bathtub. And he doesn’t care about anything. She wants to slap him.

Flannery pulls herself away from Alto. “We have bigger fucking problems, Seaweed!” she shouts at the wall.

A knock at the door. Three staccato raps.

Without hesitation, Flannery flings it open. “No, we don’t want any room service!”

She freezes.

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The redheaded man adjusts his sunglasses, and rearranges his scarf, riding just under his chin. His lips flounder for words. She’s seen him on TV, she knows, and in her sister’s face. His hair’s vanished since his last appearance, and wrinkles have appeared in its absence. His jaw falls. Her eyes widen. “Flannery? Oh god, Flannery, is that you?” he asks. “We’ve got to get you out of he-”

And then his eyes roll back in his head and his knees buckle beneath him. As he falls, the dart tears a slit in his suit.

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Flannery screams.

A sharp pain in her shoulder. Dizzy. Four Altos falling, six Dollys crumbling, two bathroom doors opening. Five men in suits, then four, then three, then one…

Her head hits the floor, and the room fades to black.

                                                          

Robyn – “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do

A/N: Sorry about the wait! School’s back in session, and my game’s been screwy as of late. Especially taking pictures in apartments. The camera moves ridiculously fast, and it’s a pain in the ass to get a single shot. Also I’m sorry about the cliff hanger torture! ‘Specially cuz the school year’s officially in session and I’ll probably be updating weekly/bi-weekly until Thanksgiving break. But anywho, thank you so much for reading! 🙂

2-9: What Flannery Found

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Separate. Arms pumping. Chests heaving. Brandy has always beaten exercise. Oh, how Flannery regrets it now!

Stumble in the brush. Bruised knee. Blood drips down her thigh. Gust of wind. Alto’s hair whips in front of his eyes. He nearly crashes. Tree in the way. Continue on.

Up the steps. Panting now. Flushed cheeks. Eyes dart from pillars to floor. Dolly’s hand covers her mouth. Eyes squeezed shut. Seaweed leans against the wall, cigarette in hand. His gaze meets theirs. Hollow. Deep breaths. Stammer. Stop.

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“A-a-are you okay?” asks Alto between great, heaving breaths. Dolly slides to the ground; she presses her face against her thighs. Her quivering lip peeks from between them. “Lemon?”

Dolly doesn’t reply. Flannery stares at the city hall’s doors, at the darkness behind the empty window frames, at its rusty doorknob, at the scrap of paper jammed between hinges. She narrows her eyes. “What did you two find?”

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Seaweed shakes his head and takes another drag. Dolly’s knees knock. “If you won’t tell me,” snaps Flannery, “I’ll find it myself.”

“Don’t!” cries Seaweed. He covers his face with his hands, then with a shaky hand, holds his cigarette to his lip. His voice continues, choked, distraught. “Just listen to me for once, okay, Flan? Don’t go in there. Let’s just go back home, okay? You don’t need to see that. Nobody should.”

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“I’m going in,” growls Flannery, raising her chin defiantly. Seaweed says nothing as she marches past him, and only takes another drag, frown sinking to his ankles, when Alto slips through the door behind her.

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Broken glass cracks beneath Flannery’s boots. Through the darkness, she makes out the ornate, stately rug beneath her feet, and the strange, dark brown stains upon it. Dust puffs from its depths with each step she takes. Mice avoid her feet. Above her, a chandelier hangs from the ceiling. Spiderwebs adorn its fixtures. She breathes slowly, and a putrid and sickly sweet scent floods her nostrils. She nearly gags on it, but remembers Seaweed’s presence ten feet away. She swallows, hard. She pushes her shoulders back. A doorway stands to her left. The doors hang open, barely attached to their hinges. She turns to enter, when something brushes her hand.

Flannery’s shriek sends the mice fleeing for their mouseholes. Her hands fly to her face, and she is enveloped by a brief, nervous hug. “Hey, hey,” comes Alto’s hushed voice. He pulls himself away from her and meets her wide eyes. “I’m sorry. Shit, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to freak you out. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she lies. His hand finds hers, and their fingers intertwine. She takes a long, shuddering breath. “Let’s keep going.”

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She turns the corner and freezes.

A flag, worn and moth-eaten, hangs across the far wall. On it, a tiger buries its teeth into a snake; its blood spurts across a snapped olive branch.  A podium stands in front of the flag. A torn page dangles from a book on its surface. Weapons cases and supplies boxes line the walls. Dried food, read some, and antibiotics, read others. Another chandelier hangs from the ceiling.

On the floor lays hundreds of skeletons.

Some still wear clothes. Some still clutch their mother’s hand. Their rot’s leftover stench floods the room.

Flannery’s stomach heaves. She gags; the bile rises up her throat. Her coughs echo through the room. Alto’s hand falls limply to his side. His eyes meet hers for a brief moment, awed or horrified, until her stomach empties through her throat. Vomit splashes against a skull. The alarms go off.

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“Run!” screams Flannery. She turns on her heel, and nearly trips over a thigh as she stumbles for the door. Her head pounds with the pulsing, high-pitched shriek of the alarm, and suddenly she’s vomiting again, dribble running down her chin, throat burning. Alto follows, silent, forehead covered in a thin sheen of sweat. He steps on a mouse as he whirls around the corner. It squeaks as it dies. The blood stains his shoes.

Sunlight on their faces. Vomit down her shirt. The paper between the door. Alto tucks it in his pocket as he flies past. Flannery grabs Dolly’s hand, yanks her to her feet, and then the four run, run, run to the car, run the engine, run to the city that never wakes, that insomniac, that frightened city.

                                

Lorde – “Swingin’ Party

A/N: I hope to have another chapter or two out before school starts, and will try to update as often as I can once I’m back in the classroom! It’ll be tough, though, because this is college application season, and while I’ve already applied to my first choice, I still plan on applying to a few more schools and will need to focus on school in order to keep acceptance and get MOAR SCHOLARSHIPS.

Anywho, thank you all for reading! I hope you’ve had a wonderful summer. 🙂

2-8: Trouble Town

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Flannery brushes her teeth ferociously, no water, no band aids. She drags her thumbs beneath her eyes, then reapplies her mascara. She examines her hair in the mirror, furious and blood-red. She wonders if she will kill her father, or simply burn his ego to the ground. Well, she’ll find out soon enough. She brushes her teeth again. The sun has not yet risen.

“Hey!” shouts Dolly from the hall. Flannery grimaces. “We’re leaving in five!”

Flannery yawns. “Can I go to sleep first?”

“If you hadn’t been fixing your hair, you could’ve snagged a nap,” replies Dolly. A door opens in the hall. Suitcases scuffle across the carpet.

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“We’re going to be in the car all day,” Dolly calls to Flannery. “You don’t need to wear makeup. Come on, the sun’s up.”

Flannery rolls her eyes and tucks her mascara in her makeup pouch. She runs a hand through her hair, sighs, and opens the door.

Dolly stands outside, hand on her hip, blonde curls pulled haphazardly into twin buns. A pile of suitcases rests beside her on the floor. Shadows pool in her collarbones. She narrows her eyes. “Really, chiquita? We’re not going to a photoshoot.”

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“I wouldn’t be me without my eyeliner,” says Flannery simply. “Oh, thanks for grabbing my bag.”

“No problem,” says Dolly. “You know, maybe you should try going without it once in awhile. It feels good to be exposed sometimes.”

Flannery ponders this for a moment, then shakes her head. “I’m fine the way I am, but thanks.”

“I don’t have many girl friends, either,” says Dolly incisively as Alto’s door opens. He’s still wearing his pajamas. He lugs a suitcase behind him. “And I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear a shirt.”

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“Sweater vests aren’t shirts?” asks Alto, unzipping his suitcase and yanking out a button-up and argyle sweater vest. He buttons up his shirt quickly, as if he’s just been caught skinnydipping in a public pool, then yanks his vest over his head.

“I’m digging your sweatpants,” teases Dolly. “They really match the vest.”

“I-I was going to change in the hallway, but I really wasn’t expecting a welcoming committee.”

“We’ll load up the car,” says Flannery, tossing a wink his way. Should’ve left the shirt off, she mouths. His blush lights the whole house. She grins and waggles her eyebrows. “See you in five.”

***

They have been driving for nearly two hours when Alto suddenly pulls over. The suitcases tumble from their stack in the trunk, and Seaweed crashes into Dolly’s lap. She yelps, then pushes his head to the mustard stain on the polyester seat. “I said I wasn’t getting married,” she snaps, “and that didn’t mean I wanted your head between my legs.”

Seaweed blushes furiously and scrambles upright, nearly banging his head on the ceiling.  “What the hell, Alto?” he snarls.

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Alto points at a billboard on the other side of the highway. Whitewater, it reads over a drug-addled monkey and an oversized popsicle, a river of opportunities. Beside it, a dirt road branches from the highway, then disappears behind a fertile hill’s slope. “Do you guys know what that means?”

“Alto,” says Flannery firmly, “that is the stupidest advertisement I’ve ever seen.”

“No, no, no,” he snaps. Flannery blinks, surprised. “The bad advertising doesn’t matter. The town itself is way more important than its billboard. Come on, you guys haven’t heard of it?”

“I always liked math better than history,” says Dolly, “but I think I remember the name. My uncle might’ve mentioned it once.”

Alto points at the billboard again. “Whitewater was the last town that vanished.”

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“Okay,” says Flannery, “but Pandora Spring goes on tomorrow. We can’t waste another day on side trips.”

“We won’t spend the night. We’ll just stop for lunch,” pleads Alto. “I just..I can’t pass this up.”

“I’m on Flan’s side,” says Seaweed, and Flannery looks at him sharply. They’ve hardly spoken since two evenings ago. “Why should we stop just to poke around some creepy, empty, crusty old town? There’s going to be a ton of spiders and mold and I don’t think we want anyone to die on this trip.”

“Look,” says Alto, leaning forward, raising his voice. All dissent silences. “I don’t talk a lot about my past or my interests, but when I say that this really matters to me, believe it. When I thought my world was going to end in ice, I immersed myself in a library, and I discovered these…these notes, hidden between the pages of certain history books. They told me about the days nobody talks about anymore. Everybody just wants to forget and everybody just wants to move on. They don’t want to know what happened to the thousands who vanished. They’re comfortable in poverty or mansions or cubicles, and they won’t look at the mass graves behind them. And I know the government encourages it, too. Do you know how hard it is to find a book on The Vanishing? I looked for ages. By chance, I discovered one in a gas station bathroom, when I was warming my hands under the hand dryer. All of the pages had been torn out, except for one. The one that read Whitewater, the clue to the mystery that all still live with and still all have forgotten.”

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“Why were you so cold?” asks Flannery, voice soft. “What happened to you?”

“I got kicked out,” says Alto, “but that doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that town. I only found one web page on it, stating its emptiness, but not its address. I don’t know anything about it, only that it matters, and that we can’t just drive by as if it hadn’t lived.”

“All of this from one page?” asks Seaweed.

“We’ll just stay for lunch,” says Alto. “Please.”

“We’ll do it,” says Flannery. Seaweed kicks the back of her seat. He continues kicking for the next twenty minutes, almost unconsciously, as they squeal over yellow fields and coffee stain roads.

***

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“I don’t like this place,” says Dolly; she takes a small, nervous bite from her charred hotdog. Birds crowd the trees, and squawk louder with each uncomfortable glance. They sit at a picnic table. A scrap of fabric peeks out from under the dirt beneath it. Its seats are cold; the sun is hot. Dolly wonders why they don’t eat in the gazebo, looming over them from the right. She glances at it sideways and shivers. She’s certain that if she closes her eyes, the dead will be upon them in moments. “At least,” she mutters to herself, “I wouldn’t have to eat this burnt-ass hotdog.”

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“Ouch,” says Seaweed. He swivels his head to the right. From his seat, he can see the entire town square, and its immortal deadness. The city hall’s grand pillars, the swooping curves of a dozen streetlamps, the crumpled movie posters, caught on a bustling breeze-all betray the ghosts skipping from shadow to shadow, and their immeasurable silence. Only the screeching birds and the four’s chewing rub sleep from the graveyard town’s eyes. Seaweed shudders and takes another bite.

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“How much lighter fluid did you use?” Flannery asks Seaweed. She smiles softly at Alto, whose eyes wander miles away. Under the table, she pokes her foot through the grass and the anthills, until it eventually finds his. She strokes her foot against the side of his leg, smiling sweetly. He nearly chokes on his charcoal.

“Enough,” says Seaweed curtly, after a brief glance under the table. Flannery’s eyes lock to her plate. Her foot freezes.

“Wow, you know, I’m loving all of this sexual tension,” says Dolly dryly, “but can everyone keep their appendages slash old wounds slash whatevers to themselves and finish eating? This place isn’t…it isn’t right. We should leave as soon as possible.”

“That’s a fine idea, Lemon,” says Seaweed. He chomps into his hotdog. Alto squirms in his seat, driving his knees together and his shoulders inward.

“Don’t be a dick, Seaweed,” snaps Flannery.

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Seaweed shoves the rest of his hotdog in his mouth, then clambers to his feet. His eyes avoid Flannery’s. His jaw tightens. “Hey, Lemon, do you want to go look at the city hall, since these two eat crazy slow? Those pillars are looking, um, pretty sweet.”

“Whatever, sure,” sighs Dolly, standing slowly. As she raises her arms to stretch, Seaweed sprints towards the city hall. “What the hell, dude?” she shouts after him.

“I’ll race you there!” he calls over his shoulder.

She shrugs and flies after him, feet moving faster than the clouds, and seemingly never slapping the ground. She passes Seaweed in seconds; he puffs and wheezes as he tries to catch up. Soon, they disappear over the hill. Flannery frowns, then sighs. “He’s being ridiculous.”

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“Hm?” asks Alto.

“Nevermind. Just Seaweed again.” She rises and walks to Alto’s side, then taps his shoulder. “Hey, you alright in there?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m just thinking about history. I-I never thought I’d be walking through it-let alone eating hotdogs in it. But even though I’m here, I still don’t understand. Forty years ago, this town was full of people. Think about it: families must have picnicked here. I bet the gazebo was a popular hook up spot, and old couples took their grandchildren here for their birthdays. If it weren’t for The Vanishing, those people would still be here, older, yes, but living.”

Flannery thinks on this for a moment. “What do you think happened to them?” she asks, voice soft.

“I don’t know,” he says, standing to meet her eyes. “And that’s the worst part.”

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She kisses him. His cheeks flush pink. “I think I understand,” she says.

“They never even had a choice,” he murmurs. “They never even got justice. No one knows what happened to them, or if they’re even dead, and nobody goddamn cares, because whoever got rid of them covered up their tracks so well that after years of research, I haven’t found a goddamn trace. Not even in this last dead town. There’s got to be something, I’m sure, but I-”

Flannery pulls him into a hug. “Hey,” she whispers, running her fingers through his hair, squeezing his torso. His ribs poke into her breasts. “It’s not your fault. Not whatever got you kicked out, not Seaweed, not The-goddamn-Vanishing.”

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“T-thanks,” whispers Alto back. They can barely hear each other over the birds, but keep their voices remain hushed nevertheless. “I think I…I think I needed to hear that.”

“You’re welcome. Can I tell you a secret?”

“Is it dirty?” His smile warms her cheek.

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“The only things dirty are mud and murder, don’t you know?” whispers Flannery, smiling wryly. “Now listen closely. This is my secret. Last night? That was my first kiss.”

“H-h-h-how old are you?” Alto stiffens in her arms.

“Eighteen. And you?”

“Thank god. I’m twenty. Why hadn’t you, um, kissed anyone before?”

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“There was nobody I wanted to kiss.” She pulls back to meet his eyes. Her lips part. “I really like you, Alto, and I-”

Dolly’s scream mutes her words, and sends the birds flapping from the trees.

                                 

Jake Bugg – “Trouble Town