I really have nothing to say on this one... no preamble, no nothing. Just some announcements.
1: Please leave comments!
2: Coming soon: custom action figures!
3: Coming soon: Sorry! The Movie!
And now on with chapter 19...
Rachel sat in a stained, overstuffed chair in a dark corner of Wayne’s apartment, trying desperately to ignore the world around her; Wane was having a party. Music blared through the tiny space, people danced around wildly, occasionally bumping into her; the smell of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and other substances fought with the music for domination over the air, each trying to drown the apartment’s occupants in sensory overload. One young man, sitting on a couch next to his girlfriend, was inhaling a line of white powder; he undoubtedly assumed it was cocaine, but more than likely it was detergent of some sort. Rachel watched in disgust as the man snorted, than coughed and leaned back on the sofa, his eyes growing wide. With another small cough, he vomited, and the smell of his bile was added to the air of the apartment. And still, Rachel sat there.
She wanted to leave, wanted more than anything to be away from this place, but she had nowhere else to go. No one would take her, she had no money, she didn’t dare go to a shelter. Even the apartment’s two small bedrooms couldn’t function as sanctuaries for her; they were both taken up by couples discreetly having sex. On reflection, the fact that she knew they were back there rendered their endeavors rather indiscreet.
Someone called her name, and Rachel looked up to see Wayne sitting across from her, in the middle of kissing some nameless guest. When he noticed that she was looking at him, Wayne disengaged his tongue and called out, “Hey, Rachel! Go in the kitchen and get me another beer, okay?”
Rachel ignored him and curled up even deeper into the chair. She sighed and wiped idly at her right eye. She knew she wasn’t crying, but she wished she was. A week ago her life had been so good…
After she had found out she was pregnant, and Uncle John screwed up the negotiations with her dad, Rachel had spent the night walking. There was no destination in mind; she just walked. After several hours, she realized that she was headed in the direction of Wayne’s apartment. She thought back to the last thing that her father had said to her and, even though she was still angry with him, she didn’t want to burn all the bridges. In what she considered to be her only intelligent decision in the last week, she resolved to respect her father’s wishes and not to return to Wayne. Besides, what could Wayne do for her? He had gotten her into this situation, and he had already made it clear that he didn’t intend to support his child.
So, with no better destination in mind, Rachel went to her mother’s house. The walk only took a few hours, and she reached her destination just as the sun was coming up. She rang the doorbell and waited. And waited. And waited. After several more ringings, a strange man with bloodshot eyes and no pants came to the door. Rachel told the man who she was, and before the man could answer, Rachel heard her mother from inside the living room, asking who was at the door.
“No one,” the man said, slamming the door in Rachel’s face.
Rachel didn’t try the doorbell again. As usual, her mom was too busy with some man to take care of her daughter. With a resigned sigh, Rachel continued her trek.
A few hours later, she was at her best friend Tisha’s house. Both of her parents were away on business trips, and it was a school day, so Tisha said that Rachel could stay and have the whole house to herself for the day. Without any hesitation, Rachel gratefully accepted the offer.
She spent the next two days at Tisha’s house, eating, sleeping, talking with her friend. At one point, her dad called, but Tisha was able to convince him that she hadn’t seen Rachel in a while.
With the realization that her dad was looking for her, Rachel decided that she couldn’t keep running blindly from her problems; she needed a strategy. She didn’t need to think very long before a simple plan, inspired by her uncle’s suggestions of two nights before, came to her. She would get a job, rent a small apartment, try to get some decent savings before the baby came. As angry at John as she was, she had to admit that having her become financially independent was a good idea.
After another day spent trawling the internet with Tisha, trying to find a decent job and an apartment, Rachel remembered something that John had said in passing, just before he left her dad’s house. He offered to give her five thousand dollars and a ticket to anywhere in the states that she wanted to go.
Despite some initial hesitation, Rachel told Tisha about the offer, and Tisha immediately advised her to go to John and see if he was still willing to do that.
With a minimum of effort, Tisha was able to arrange for a taxi, and Rachel prepared herself to visit John. Twenty minutes later the taxi arrived, and Rachel went out to meet it. Then her plans changed.
Standing in Tisha’s front yard was Wayne. He told her that he had come looking for her, that he missed her, that he was sorry for what he had done to her, and that all he wanted was for her to return to him, to live with him. In time, they could even get married. He would be hers.
Rachel tried to resist, tried to stay devoted to her plans of a new life, but she realized that she felt just as Wayne did. They had created life together, they were connected. She couldn’t leave him. Besides, she needed somewhere to stay.
Her father’s words returned to her then. “If I hear that you’ve been seeing Wayne, be assured that that will be the last thing I hear about you.” And she realized that she didn’t care. Her father had failed her. She didn’t need him anymore. Maybe Wayne could step in and be the one person she needed. Maybe she would live under his roof now.
But she wouldn’t live with him unless he made some changes. She told him her demands: he had to give up smoking, drugs, wild parties. And most importantly, he had to stay with her. He had to give his all, had to be a devoted father to the baby, no matter what.
Wayne agreed immediately.
Despite some initial hesitation, Rachel abandoned her uncle’s offer of freedom, and bound herself to Wayne.
Three days later he spent his entire month’s paycheck, including the rent money, on a small bag of some popular new drug that Rachel had never heard of before, and announced that they would have a party to celebrate Rachel’s moving with him.
So now she sat in Wayne’s dark apartment, watching the debauchery that occurred all around her, and she began to regret her decision. She wondered if it was too late, if she could leave and see her uncle again. Well, it wasn’t as if Wayne could really stop her, if she were determined enough to leave him. But he might get violent if he thought that she were trying to leave him.
And of course, John lived on the other side of town, and she had no money for a cab.
And of course, John might not give her the money, or the plane ticket… She didn’t want Wayne to be mad at her if she had to come back to live with him…
“Hey!” Wayne called. “Still need that beer!”
Rachel watched as Wayne leaned over to the girl beside him and slowly sliding his hand underneath her shirt. The girl giggled and locked her lips onto the end of Wayne’s nose. Moments later, it was clear that Wayne had forgotten all about Rachel.
A plan formed in her mind then. She got up from her chair and walked into the kitchen; dodging around bodies and puddles of… she desperately hoped it was a spilled beverage.
She returned to the front room a moment later, a cool beer clutched in one hand. She stopped a few feet away from Wayne and stood patiently while he continued to fondle his guest. After a few minutes, he noticed Rachel standing near him and turned to face her.
“You got that beer yet?”
Rachel handed him the can of beer, and he began to slurp at it greedily. “Hey, um, Wayne?”
Wayne spluttered, lowered the can, and swallowed. “Yeah, what?” He sounded annoyed.
“I, uh, I was wondering if it was okay with you if I went and visited my uncle tomorrow.”
Wayne glanced back at the girl sitting next to him; she smiled sensuously and he returned the smile. “Yeah, sure whatever.”
“I, uh, I need twenty—no, fifty bucks for cab fare—“
The shock of possibly losing some of his precious money was evident in the sudden widening of Wayne’s eyes. “Fifty?!”
Rachel tried to mask the rage that she was sure would come out in her voice; Wayne could blow their rent on drugs and a party, but she couldn’t have fifty bucks. “It’s just a little to go and—“
“Money doesn’t grow on trees! If you want to see him so bad, have him come pick you up! Or get a job! I have a job! I spend all day—“
Rachel couldn’t hold it back any longer. She was angry at her father, angry at John, angry that she would spend her whole life being dependant on Wayne, raising his child, only getting his attention when he had no one else he could get in his bed. Her life was over; she wouldn’t go to college, she wouldn’t raise a family, have a rewarding career, make the world a better place. She would be little more than Wayne’s—Wayne’s—concubine! Unless she made a change. Unless she got away. Unless she showed Wayne how serious she was.
“What job? You spend all day getting high in the stock room at Wal-Mart! When you do work, you’re selling discount computers to some guy outside the back door when the manager isn’t looking! And then at night you come home and start ****ing anyone who’ll stand still long enough to take it!” She noticed the smile on the other girl begin to fade. “I have you’re baby, and you don’t seem to care! Your future! The one thing that will live on after you’re dead! And I gave up my family, my future, so that I could stay with you! And you were the one who said you couldn’t live without me! The one who said that you’d give up anything, if only we could be together! And when I ask for fifty *******ed dollars, you tell me I can’t have any! Why is that? Did all of our—and yes, I mean our, you’re supporting your kid on this one—money magically turn into cocaine? Where is it?!”
Wayne reached up and stroked Rachel’s arm. “Baby, you know I—“
Rachel jerked her arm away. “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me! I gave up everything for you, and now I’m trying to get something back for me, and you don’t give a ****!” Spinning on one heel, Rachel angrily returned to her chair and tried not to cry.
But she didn’t give up hope. So what if Wayne wouldn’t give her any money? She could call Tisha and bum a ride of her. Or even call John directly,, and ask if the opportunity was still available. It wouldn’t be the most polite way to broach the subject, but what choice did Rachel have? Or she could even call the police and tell them about all of the drugs here tonight. She might get picked up in the raid, but she was still a minor, and she could claim John as her guardian and—
A loud BANG interrupted her thoughts. She looked up to see the front door smashed open and standing in the doorway, silhouetted by streetlights, a man in a business suit, talking on a cell phone.
The people nearest the door were just beginning to react to the man’s presence when the man shot out an arm and grabbed the nearest partygoer, twisting her wrist until it snapped, and then throwing her screaming through the front door. He then repeated this process several more times, until the people in the crowded apartment simply ran out the door, escaping into night and ignoring the man. During all of this, he never once let his phone conversation falter.
As the apartment quickly emptied, the man walked deeper into the front room. Rachel strained her ears, filtering out the screams and cries for help from the partygoers, and was just able to make out the man saying, “About as serious as Terstein’s threats of war.” Rachel was shocked to hear him talking about politics. The man took another step forward, entering the circle of light made by a small lamp sitting on the end table next to Rachel.
She gasped as she recognized who this man was. He was the same man who had unlocked her uncle’s door for her earlier that week; Secretary of Defense Robert Mistlethwakey.
All thoughts of leaving Wayne were quickly forgotten as Rachel tried to reconcile the image of the kindly old man, the same man who now stood before her, with the swiftly moving shadow that had picked up and slung around full size people over by the front door.
“On the contrary, not only is Terstein one of the greatest threats this country has ever faced, I think that the evidence against our mutual friend is unarguable.” Mistlethwakey noticed Rachel staring at him, and smiled warmly, waving to her.
Rachel had to make a conscious effort not to wave back.
“Where is John right now, by the way?”
The mention of her uncle’s name caused Rachel’s stomach to give a nervous heave, and she almost yelled out “I don’t know!”
Almost as if he could read her mind, Mistlethwakey shook his head and raised a finger to his lips. Then he turned away from her, looking in the direction of the couch on which Wayne had been sitting.
Rachel followed Mistlethwakey’s movement and was surprised to see that Wayne was still sitting motionlessly on the couch, although his little friend seemed to have abandoned him some time ago.
Mistlethwakey advanced on Wayne, who still did not seem aware of his strange, violent visitor. Rachel wandered what was wrong with him; he just sat there, a vacant expression on his face, his eyes unfocused and his body relaxed.
Then Mistlethwakey pulled a small pistol from inside his jacket. Rachel gasped and tried to disappear into the chair, but Wayne either didn’t notice or didn’t care; he still remained in the exact same pose that he had been in.
Rachel slowly opened one eye and looked at Wayne, finally noticing something she had missed earlier. He wasn’t breathing. For all intents and purposes, Wayne was dead. Even as Mistlethwakey raised the pistol ands rested the barrel against Wayne’s head, he didn’t respond.
“Hm? What?” Mistlethwakey said. Then he fired.
Wayne finally moved, jerking away from the barrel and collapsing into the sofa.
Rachel stifled a scream and tried to sink further into the chair, sure that at any moment she was going to die, hoping desperately that Mistlethwakey would choose some other target to attack next. But as her panicked gaze swept over the once full room, she came to the horrifying realization that only she was left with the gunman.
Mistlethwakey reached down and wiped the end of the pistol against Wayne’s jeans, leaving streaks of blood. When he was sure that it was clean, he returned the pistol to its hiding place inside his jacket. “Oh, no, you don’t need to get him.”
He smiled down at Rachel and held up one finger in a delaying gesture. “No you didn’t,” he said into the phone, and then paused. “Look, I’ve already contacted your local E.H.U.D. division; they should be arriving right about now to take Donalson into custody.”
Rachel felt another pang of panic. Was Mistlethwakey’s “Donalson” referring to her uncle, or towards herself? More than likely her uncle, based on what she had heard earlier in the conversation, but if he didn’t mean her, then why was he here, killing Wayne?
“Look, I’m sorry, but I have to go now. The E.H.U.D.s are there, they’ll take him into custody and evaluate him. I have to go.” Mistlethwakey snapped the phone closed and looked down at Rachel, smiling broadly. “I was afraid that he’d never shut up.”
Rachel couldn’t say anything. She saw the open door behind Mistlethwakey and wondered if she could make a run for it, could escape before he could catch her.
Again, Mistlethwakey seemed to read her mind. “I’m terribly sorry, Ms. Donalson, but I’m afraid that just isn’t possible. Besides, you’re forgetting that I have a gun.” He smiled and tapped the side of his jacket. “But don’t worry; I’m here to liberate you.”
Wayne’s body suddenly stiffened and jerked upright, then over balanced and tumbled off of the couch. Mistlethwakey immediately sat down in the spot occupied by Wayne, careful to avoid the globs of brain and skull covering the back of the sofa. “Now, you may remember that when you went to see your uncle a week ago, he told you to go to Tulsa.”
He paused, waiting for a response. Rachel quickly nodded, and he flashed a quick grin.
“That’s good. Now, I’m going to try to make this as simple as possible. I have with me tonight one plane ticket to the Tulsa International Airport, a flight that takes off in three hours, and five thousand dollars. You can have that and whatever else you can scavenge off of your friend here.” He gestured down to Wayne. “However, these gifts do not come without some strings attached. Once you get to Tulsa, you have approximately two weeks to settle in, find friends, and begin building that wonderful little government of yours.”
Rachel was so taken aback by what Mistlethwakey said that all of the fear she had evaporated. “What government?”
“Why, your small collectives, of course!”
“But… but why?”
Mistlethwakey’s smile faded, and he became suddenly solemn. “In approximately two weeks… the world as you know it is going to end. Every world government will collapse. All that will be left here is the president and a few scraps of the military. And the president won’t be able to reestablish his power unless a system exists for organizing people in such conditions.”
“And my school project…”
“Is exactly what is needed, yes.”
Rachel was somewhat flattered by his words, but she didn’t believe him. Even if some… some catastrophe happened, something that had the effects he predicted, her purely theoretical school assignment couldn’t actually work in the real world.
And again, he seemed to read her thoughts. “You don’t put enough faith in yourself, Ms. Donalson. You have a bright future ahead of you; all you have to do is try.”
Mistlethwakey suddenly stood, placed a large envelope on the couch that he had just vacated, and then headed off in the direction of the front door.
“Wait!” Rachel called out, her confidence partially regained now that she was sure Mistlethwakey didn’t intend to kill her. “Why did you have to kill him?” she asked, her voice thickening with emotion as she pointed to Wayne’s body. “He wasn’t the greatest guy, but…” She couldn’t finish the sentence. The shock of seeing him killed right in front of her eyes was settling in and, and… Suddenly, it didn’t seem to matter… A presence entered her mind, and she found parts of the last day slipping away… Wayne and the other girl… Wayne’s head exploding onto the couch… His body moving, seemingly under its own power, yet clearly stiff and dead…
And there sat Rachel, finding Wayne dead and large envelope on the couch, with no one else in sight.
And all she could remember was the command to go to Tulsa and prepare the world for the end.
She left Wayne, feeling a thrill of freedom as she left him behind, stepping out of the apartment and into a new life. She walked down to street level and was surprised to find a taxi waiting there, ready and already paid enough to take her to the airport. She got in, aware of the fact that she had no luggage, but not really caring about this fact. She ripped open the envelope and confirmed that she did have enough money to take care of any purchases that she would need to make in the foreseeable future. She was set and financially independent, at least for a few months.
But if Mistlethwakey was right, all she would need was enough for two weeks…
Just before she fell asleep in the back seat of the taxi, a thought crossed her mind: John should know about this. I should call and talk to him. He cared about me; the least I could do is let him know how I’m doing…
As soon as she had this thought, something else entered her mind. A dark, soothing presence, taking her mind, relaxing it, removing all thought of John, all thought of anything but sleep…
And the future soon to come…