J. J. W. Mezun ☆ Season 6 ☆ 2021 August 1

I. Verhaftung

As A. awoke 1 morn from uneasy dreams she found herself a target o’ a gang. Every day @ 8 in the morn she was brought home breakfast by Edgar Winters before heading off for his friend’s, but today he didn’t come. That had ne’er happened before. But A. didn’t let it bother her: ’haps he woke late & didn’t want to be late for whate’er excursion he had planned with his friend, or ’haps he had woken earlier than she did & didn’t want to wake her. She was not all that hungry, anyway, & didn’t waste any mo’ time thinking ’bout breakfast but immediately set to work on her laptop, only to be interrupted by a knock on her door.

¿Edgar?, A. called out, but before she could get up to answer, a man she had ne’er seen before let himself in thru the door. He was firmly built, but slim, he wore tight black clothes with various creases, buttons, roses, belts, lapels, & guns, & as a result, without making it clear, what purpose it should serve, seemed particularly practical. ¿Who are you?, asked A & sat half upright in what she called her bed, which was just a pile o’ blankets & jackets strewn ’long the carpet.

But the man ignored the question as if his arrival could not be refused & said on his part, ¿You called?.

A. tried, 1st tacitly, thru attention & consideration to determine who the man actually was. But he did not stay long ’nough for her eyes, but turned to the door, which he opened a li’l to say to someone who was apparently just ’hind the door: She wants this skeleton man in the robe. A li’l laughter outside, ’twas not clear from the sound whether several people were involved.

A., said the man, who apparently already knew A.’s name, pulling his tooth-filled mouth wider, ¡listen for once! We’ve come to you ’bout this business, to advise you. That is an honor to you no doubt. But it’s nothing, it’s worse than nothing, if you don’t now tell me the whole truth. I don’t want to stir up matters that aren’t our concern. In this business there’s quite a few things that slip my attention, it may not be hidden from me, — I don’t e’en want to insinuate that it’s being hidden from me — but since you’re insisting on this subject, I beg you, A., don’t deceive me. It’s a trifle, it’s not worth a breath, so don’t deceive me. ¿Do you truly have a skeleton friend in a robe?.

A. began to lose patience & jumped out o’ her bed & walked o’er to her dresser to change. ¿What have you done with Edgar? ¿Why are you here?, she said as she began pulling off her sweat pants in front o’ the man, & then after neatly folding her sweat pants & stuffing them into the dresser, began pulling on a faded denim skirt.

If you’re reluctant to dress in front o’ me — , began to man, but A. interrupted & said, I want to see what people are outside & how you managed to unlock my door. It occurred to her just then that she needn’t have said this out loud & that she thereby in a strange way acknowledged their threat, but that didn’t seem important to her right now.

A’least he took it that way, for he said, ¿Don’t you think you’d better stay where you are?.

I want neither to stay here nor to be spoken to by you till you’ve explained yourself.

I meant it for your own good, said the stranger, who now voluntarily opened the door. ’Hind the door was not the deck leading out to a sunny morn that A. was used to, but somehow ’nother room that A. had ne’er seen before, what looked like ’nother living room, filled too full with furniture, including a table & chair with a man sitting in it by an open window, which showed not a sunny day, but a gray, rainy day full o’ clouds, despite it being the middle o’ summer.

This 2nd man said, ¡You should have stayed in your room! ¿Didn’t Palazzo tell you?.

I want to know where Edgar is, said A., making a movement as if tearing herself ’way from invisible insects, e’en tho the insects were standing a long ’way from her.

You musn’t go ’way, the boss wants you, said the man @ the window.

It seems so, said A. ¿& why does your boss want me?.

We are not authorized to tell you. Go to your room & wait. The process has now initiated, & you will find out everything when the time is right. I’m not s’posed to be talking to you as friendly as I am. But I hope no one hears ’bout it ’cept Palazzo, & he’s been friendlier toward you than our rules say he should. If you keep having as much good luck as you have been having with us then you can be confident that things will go well for you.

A 3rd man walked into view, rolling a suitcase on wheels. The man in A.’s apartment said, You’ll have to ride in this & stay in the trunk on the way. Don’t worry, we put air holes in it. We learned our lesson after the 1st few disobedient citizens. Then he suddenly glanced round @ the other 2 men & began to sweat as if he had said too much & had risked giving ’way confidential secrets. This is a necessary protocol so nobody sees us as people have been getting ridiculously nosy nowadays when they see us escorting people round with their arms held back, specially when we have weapons aimed @ their heads, & you have no idea how stressful it is to deal with these extra complications, specially when the police capture wind o’ our activities, as they, too, have stopped being understanding ’bout our operations, & in fact, have gotten quite antagonistic toward us for some reason. In this same disgruntled tone he ’splained to her the halcyon days when ordinary citizens would not only not get in anyone’s way when they were instructing insolent people, but would also come up to them & offer them complimentary oranges & ask them to bless their grandchildren, days, which were apparently long gone now, as he recounted how presently friends only request them to godfather their 2nd cousins trice removed. A. listened to this story the full way thru, ne’er interrupting the man to tell him that ’twas boring, for she could see by the man’s red face & scowl that he was in no mood for interruptions.

The man holding the suitcase opened it & the man right in front o’ A. stuffed her into the suitcase, shoving her knees in so she could fit, & then she felt them drag her onward, bumping every so oft as the suitcase’s wheels hit the deck stairs.

II. Erste Untersuchung

After only a few bump minutes, A. felt the car in whose trunk she lay stop & soon after heard doors slam & boots walk outside just before opening the trunk & yanking her up gainst gravity. She was dragged round a few corners & then set down. She heard a few clicks & then saw the darkness open up from round her, releasing her into a small room that looked like it belonged to a low-income apartment. This room’s off-white plastered walls had scratches & marks here & there; 1 part o’ its base had been torn off, revealing a dark slot ’tween where the wall met the floor; the door that led to the only other room, which A. presumed to be the bathroom, tho ’twas too dark to see anything inside, was missing its door; & finally, the ceiling light was missing completely, leaving the room dimly lit with a suffocating deep blue tinge to everything from what li’l light could break thru the closed blinds, which wasn’t too li’l, since the blinds were bent & tattered, leaving many holes.

A. pointed out these holes & how they might be used by spies to peek thru & see everything that transpired & said, This is indicative o’ the whole type o’ proceedings that are being waged gainst me. You might object that this is not a process at all, you are very right, ’cause it is only a process if I recognize it as such. But I acknowledge it for the moment, out o’ pity in a way. One can't help but feel sorry for it, if one bothers to note it @ all. I’m not saying that this is a sloppy process, but I would like to have offered you this designation for your own knowledge.

The apartment was empty o’ all furniture, ’cept a lavender bed with the pipes o’ its metal frames on either side twisting into hearts & pink sheets spread o’er it, with its corners embedded under the mattress so tightly that she could see the shape o’ the mattress ’neath it. Attached to each o’ the steel frames were gray arms made o’ thin metal scrap arms bolted @ the elbow & shoulder, @ the end o’ which were gloved hands, the right o’ which held a giant orangish-yellow #2 pencil while the other held a white cube that A. presumed was an eraser; & ’bove all this was a black box with each corner held up by the zenith o’ each corner pipe o’ the bed. She could faintly hear this black box hum uneasily.

A.’s examination o’ the room was cut short when 1 o’ the men who brought her here said, after pulling an o’erly large watch out o’ his lapels, You should have been here 1 hour, 1 minute, & 1 second ago. A. had determined it’d be safer to watch rather than talk, so she declined defending herself for s’posedly being late, & said, Maybe I was late; now I am here.

The 3 men nodded, & then 2 o’ the 3 men grabbed each o’ her arms & forced her onto the bed, & then began tying her wrists to the 2 poles @ the head corner o’ the bed, & then moved o’er to the other side & tied her ankles to the opposite poles, shoving her knees up, for the bed was so small that she could not stretch o’er it.

The lead man said, I bet you’re curious to know how this apparatus works. A. was, specially in regards to its functionality in mangling her body beyond recognition, so she nodded. The man nodded back & continued, This apparatus is the traditional tool we use to deal with troublemakers such as you. The man waggled a finger @ her as if she had been caught in a particularly mischievous prank. It is made up o’ 3 parts: this bottom part you are lying on is called the “canvas”, while these appendages are called the “arms”, & this top black box is called the “Designer”, due to how fashionable its sleek appearance is in some circles. The designer, like a brain, delivers instructions to the arms; as you can see, the right hand is holding a pencil, which it uses to scrape a message into your eyeballs, while the other hand holds an eraser, which is uses to erase that message so the right hand can write it ’gain. This is done o’er 2 million times o’er the span o’ 12 hours, working @ 60 etchings per second, after which the prisoner will be so bloodied up they will be just a pile o’ blood & gibs, which we will pack into bags & bury in Wasabi Woods. No other machine in the world displays so much fascist inefficiency. Well, ’cept for Electron apps. Impressive, ¿no?.

A. thought it was, so she nodded. But then she ventured to say, But I still think you have the wrong person.

The man looked @ her angrily, but said calmly, My instruction is not the time for appeals.

¿When is the time for appeals?.

That time had passed weeks ago. You should have answered the letter we sent you.

A. now recalled the letter addressed from Bloodclot Inc., the notorious gang founded by men who had fled Cuba after the Cuban Revolution. She thought the letter was just spam, so she threw it ’way. Ne’ertheless, A. knew this excuse for a legal process was weak @ best, for if they had truly meant to invite her to an appeal process, they would have called after she had failed to answer their letter & she would have received an email. Actually, she wasn’t sure if she had received a letter from Bloodclot or if she had received an issue o’ Fortnightly Digest.

Well, we don’t have all day, & as I said, this apparatus takes 12 whole hours to finish, which I must admit is very inefficient for a computer, specially 1 that operates @ 60 etches per second; but it is not my part to question our policies, or else I will end up in this machine myself, or ’haps just with bullet holes in my eyes. The man showed his disgust @ such a prospect with a grim frown.

Then the man grabbed a long red switch hanging off the bed’s frame & cranked it upward, causing the bed to rev. A. could feel all the gears inside the bed grind, on their way to tell the hands to begin their work, & A. began to involuntarily squirm gainst the ropes. Tho she knew the prospect o’ avoiding agonizing death was unlikely, A. figured she had nothing left to lose but her chains, which was precisely what she wanted to lose, after all, so she dared to appeal, ¿Is there anything I can do to avoid this procedure?.

That’s what I was waiting to hear, the man said just before cranking the lever back down, causing the bed to slow down, & then become still. Since you are clearly a spy for those skullfuckers, we want you to give us some info you have on them.

Since A. had nothing to do with the “skullfuckers”, which was the derogatory term Bloodclot members used gainst their rival gang, “Skull & Bones Associates, Inc.”, A. felt a bulbous bolus slide down her throat @ the expectation to give information she did not have.

& to make sure you don’t fuck the puppy o’er us, we will install this apparatus into your forehead. The man held up something so tiny, A. had to squint @ it, & still didn’t see what it was. The man snapped a finger & in waddled an ancient doctor who coughed 5 times before he made it o’er next to the lead. Install this apparatus, the lead said. The doctor nodded silently, dropped his white medicine bag, & dug thru it till he pulled out what looked like a drill. Uncomfortable with receiving strange operations by a strange doctor without confirming that it was covered under her insurance, for she had dealt with expensive operations whose claims had been seemingly arbitrarily rejected all too oft in her lifetime, she struggled gainst her bonds. But the bonds would not break.

The doctor drilled a hole into A.’s forehead & then grabbed what she presumed was the “apparatus” with tiny pinchers & dropped it into the hole in A.’s forehead before picking up a bottle & squirting it onto the hole with 1 hand while the other hand rose up & smudged it with cotton balls. Smiling, the ol’ doctor raised a handheld mirror up to A. & said, There. You won’t notice a thing. In fact, A. could see a slightly darker dot where the doctor had drilled, but didn’t mention it for the sake o’ the doctor’s feelings, for he looked very proud o’ his work.

After the lead had shooed the doctor ’way, he continued, The most important information we need from you is the meaning o’ this bizarre symbol we keep finding painted on our buildings. The man took a folded sheet o’ paper out o’ the pocket o’ his slacks & unfolded it to reveal to A. a simple ink drawing o’ a symbol comprising a triangle & 2 circles. The man continued, We suspect that this is some conspiratorial shibboleth o’ those skullfuckers, probably involved with some underground organization, like… Big Envelope…. The 3 men glanced ’mong each other. Tho they tried to hide it, A. could see their shoulders shift as they shivered. A. felt sweaty in this apartment lacking air conditioning.

I have ne’er seen this symbol in my life, said A. The best guess I can give is that it looks abstractly like a horn.

That’s ridiculous, the lead man said, in what A. felt was an o’erly hysterical high pitch relative to the circumstance. ¿What the hell is a horn supposed to stand for? ¿“Here comes the marching band, Stan”? We want you to get to the bottom o’ this alien argot, e’en if it means going down a rabbit trail o’ random postmodern nonsense that ultimately doesn’t lead anywhere.

A. pursed her lips & mumbled, But I’m not supposed to do that till next episode….

If you don’t do this, we’ll be very unhappy with you, Madame; & you wouldn’t like to see us unhappy. The man wiggled his eyebrows in a way that, did, indeed make A. feel so much discomfort that she immediately agreed & asked them to hurry & untie her & free her from this penile colony, for her knees were starting to cramp, being held bent in unnatural positions for so long. But to this the lead responded, You know the rules: — which was false, A. knew nothing ’bout how their occult gang operated — we will only let you free after you go down to the skullfuckers’ office & investigate this symbol & the passwords to all their computers, too, while you’re @ it.

A. was not convinced &, feeling bold ’nough, being now, legally, an employee to their organization, e’en if only a temp worker, demanded they show proof o’ the existence o’ this rule, as well as paid vacation time @ the end o’ September, for she had a dentist’s appointment that Tuesday.

The men grumbled & leered @ her, but finally 1 o’ the men went into the room A. thought was the bathroom & came out with a small red book. He showed her the cover, which said, “The Bloodclot Manual o’ Protocol”, & under that, “Copyright Bloodclot Inc. © 2015”. Then he flipped to a page & pointed to the paragraph that said “Rule 22: Prisoners are not to be freed till they carry out their orders, e’en if they need to be freed in order to carry out their orders, & thus become free”. Howe’er, A. was still not convinced that this rule needed to be followed, only for the man to point down to the next rule, “Rule 23: Rule 22 must be followed”. Howe’er, A. was still not convinced that this rule needed to be followed, only for the man to point down to the next rule, “Rule 24: Rule 23 must be followed”. After that, A. was convinced.

So A. sat there, squirming from the restlessness o’ her prison. Fortunately, the mobsters found themselves bored just standing round without any dice to throw, alcohol to consume, or prostitutes to copulate, so they left the apartment, leaving A. free to twist herself so that her hands could reach her knife & cut her bonds, finally freeing her.

III. Im leeren Sitzungssaal

The thief from the city finds the McCheesy’s Skull & Bones members use as their headquarters on a low-income edge ’tween Whitewood & International Boulevard. She pushes the door open & walks inside, stuffing her hands in her pockets & keeping her lids thick so that nobody would think she has the slightest question regarding what she is doing. Then she scans round the counter &, seeing a hallway to the side, walks down it. @ the end she finds not a secret passageway to the headquarters, but bathrooms. Tho the thief does feel the need to use the bathroom after all the threats the Bloodclots had given her & the coffee she had bought to try calming her nerves, which had so far only filled her bladder, she is unsure if they are watching her & might blow her up the moment they suspect she is not doing what they want her to do, so she elects to hold it, despite the discomfort.

She searches all round the rest o’ the building, but finds nothing but strange stares by patrons & an apprehensive craned neck on the man @ the desk. Having found no secret passageways, the thief walks up the desk &, gainst her disinclination for rudeness, she cuts to the front, hardening herself gainst the glares o’ the others in line.

¿Where did you guys put the back now?, she demands.

¿Who are you, Madame?, asks the clerk, his voice the whiteboard scratch o’ recent puberty.

Trying to sound bold, the thief says, You don’t need to worry ’bout me, you just need to worry ’bout me getting where I need to go. You wouldn’t want he who should not be incriminated to be feisty.

The clerk’s frown deepens with discomfort & he says, Ne’ertheless, I can’t let you into the back. You ain’t on my list of officiated members, & I been tasked with guarding the back with my life. Maybe some other day you’ll be able to go back, maybe shoot some dice or play Xbox. But not now. Do not get in the way o’ my 7-year-ol’ daughter’s ability to buy milk & school supplies. She will be your mayor someday, if you live that long. Now, ¿would you like our Inconceivable Burger? It’s our new special: it ain’t made o’ any concrete material, but, in fact, is made purely o’ abstract concepts. & yet customers can’t tell the difference.

Suddenly, a middle-aged man in the middle o’ the line stomps out & shouts, ¡I was paying all that money for abstract concepts! ¡How dare you scam us! ¡I want all the money I paid for those fraudulent burgers in my entire life, which I have, fortuitously, kept count on & have calculated to be 1,250₧!.

Ignoring the rude man, the thief turns back to the clerk & says, I think you have it backward: not only will you let me into the back, you must.

The clerk laughs & says, If it tempts you that much, sure, just try going in, despite my prohibitions, girl. But note: I am powerful. & I am but the lowliest o’ soldiers. From room to room stand G’s, each mo’ powerful than the last. I don’t dare look @ the 3rd guy’s shoe soles, he’s so powerful, & the soles are covered up by the ground.

Such difficulties the thief from the city had not expected; the back room should be accessible to everyone @ all times, she thinks, but as she now takes a closer look @ the young man in his red-&-white striped hat & work shirt, his thick glasses with thin black rims, & his shiny nametag that says “Damian Jackson Jr.”, she decides that it is better to wait till she receives permission to go in the back.

Now, ¿would you like to take an order?, says the clerk.

The thief orders 2 chicken sandwiches, medium fries, & a HeroHero & waits @ the nearest table for the clerk, ’haps during a lull in customers after most o’ them return to work after lunch break, to walk o’er to her & tell her, “You are ready to go into the back, now. You have my permission”.

It takes approximately a half hour after the thief finishes her meal for the clerk to walk up to her table. Howe’er, she does not hear the clerk tell her that she can go back, but rather, hears him tell her that she cannot remain on the premises if she is not eating. So the thief orders 5-piece chicken nuggets, a 100 Grammer with Cheese, & an apple pie & eats as slowly as she can without riling the chariness o’ the clerk. But she finds that this is not ’nough & orders many mo’ meals & the clerk gets tired o’ her many orders. The clerk oft asks her many questions, such as whether she would like extra salt in her soda or how many seeds she wants on her buns, but the clerk asks these questions indifferently, as the aristocratic clerks put them, & always finishes each order by telling her, no, he’s not letting her in the back, stop asking.

The thief, who has only brought a couple thousand ₧ with her in her stealth skirt pockets, spends all her money on low-nutritious food. The clerk takes her money, but as he does so tells her, I’m just counting this to make sure you’re not trying to “omit” anything.

During these many hours the thief fixes her attention almost entirely on the clerk. She forgets the other clerks & this 1st clerk seems to her to be the only obstacle to going back. She curses her bad luck, in the early hours boldly & loudly, annoying the other patrons; later, as the day grows ol’, she only mutters to herself. She becomes childish, & since, in her contemplation o’ the clerk she has come to know the dandruff in the clerk’s hair, she begs the dandruff to help her change the clerk’s mind, but the dandruff shake their heads & refuse. By the end o’ the day the thief eats 5 meals & gains so much weight that she can feel the belt on her skirt drill into her sides & her bladder grows to the size o’ a football from holding 3 full drinks for 6 hours. Now she has not very long before she soils herself. Before she does, & inevitably is kicked out o’ the restaurant, all her experiences in these long hours in this restaurant gather themselves in her head to 1 point, a question she has not yet asked the clerk. She waves him nearer, since she can no longer raise her engorged body.

¿What now?, asks the clerk. You are insatiable & you ate all our Insatiating Burgers.

Everyone strives for the back room, says the thief. ¿Why is it that in these many hours nobody but myself has demanded entry?.

The clerk recognizes that this woman has reached her end just before a heart attack, & to let her lard-filled ears catch his words, he says loudly, No one else enters the back room from the front desk, because this idea o’ doing so is only in your dumbass mind. Now get your fat ass outta here, I’m closing up.

IV. Die Freundin von Herr Winters

A. made it home without a greater hindrance than traffic-blocked crosswalks, which she didn’t dare cross when the cars were still going, for fear that a mobster might take advantage o’ it to create an innocent pedestrian fatality. ’Twas only as she shakily turned her key, which they thankfully didn’t take from her, into her lock that the threat had struck her how Edgar might end up involved in this. When she threw open the door, she couldn’t find him anywhere. She tried to soothe herself by telling herself that he could’ve been @ that friend o’ his, but nothing could fully wash ’way her greatest fears.

To keep herself focused, she told herself, Let’s start with what we can do from here…, & then walked into the bathroom & took out her knife & then sat on the sink while she dug the knife into her temple, thinking to herself, ¿Wouldn’t it be great if someone made some sudden noise?. ’Ventually A. managed to pry the li’l black chip out, leaving just splatters o’ dry blood on her forehead. She tossed her knife ’way in the quickest o’ manners, tossed the chip into the toilet, & flushed multiple times. This’ll create great plumbing costs if they find out just now, she thought as she moonwalked ’way from the toilet. But the water came back up in calm silence.

She rifled through her pockets, only to remember the gangsters stole her phone, too. She went back out into the living room to look round, only for her eyes to lock onto the sheet o’ paper on the couch. She ripped it off the couch & read it: “We took quite a bony piece o’ collateral, which is what we are calling your skeleton associate, in case you forgot our trade regarding the secrets we wanted you to gather from the skullfuckers”. A. let the paper drop, feeling herself fill with that particular tight energy that she found familiar, a claustrophobic energy that demanded to be used usefully, but couldn’t see how.

Right… The info… I’ll give you the info….

But as she jerked for the door, ready to shove out straight for their HQ, she stopped as if an invisible string were holding her back, choking her. You can’t think like that & be serious. ¿What are you going to do? ¿Go in, pistols popping? You don’t e’en have a gun & don’t know how to use 1.

I don’t have time to think. They could be — I can think o’ something on the way there. ¿What am I going to do? ¿Run & hide, as if they won’t find me? I’m dead already. As if going out pistols popping is worse.


A. was startled by a knock on her door. She scampered for the window, ducking in case — but she didn’t think it helped her @ all. When she peered out the blinds, she wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or mo’ horrified, for there she saw waiting outside that new friend o’ Edgar’s, the one who oft wore a long green jacket like a dress, but was now wearing a lighter green sunshirt in the warmer summer air ( for the gray, rainy morn had melted into a bright, sunny afternoon o’er the past hours, per Boskeopolis’s tempestuous habit ). She stood there with delicate wrists crossed in front o’ her, smiling & bobbing her head to some unheard tune, a worriless existence.

That is till she fell into the black hole that is my world.

She closed the blinds & backed ’way. A few seconds after, she heard ’nother knock, which jolted her ’gain, tho not as much as the last 1. Ignore it. She’ll figure he isn’t home & turn back. But she felt rising discomfort just waiting there as Edgar could be being tortured — ¿& for what, to avoid having to ’splain the inexplicable to a stranger? They may just delay me mo’ by demanding I answer the whole thing or by arguing with me or just hassling me. It’ll only be a minute or so before they give up. But Edgar’s friend waited there for much longer, & kept knocking. Checking out the window ’gain, A. could see her, a li’l less jolly than before, now looking down @ her phone & thumbing something. A. continued to watch her, only to feel her heart seize up when she saw her eyes widen & her brows rise. Don’t tell me those bastards answered her, she screamed to herself. Like a silent horror film, A. watched the stranger type mo’ hastily as her expression filled & filled with fret. Then, after the stranger pressed a few mo’ buttons on her phone, she raised the phone to the side o’ her head. ¡Shit! ¡She could be calling the police!. A. rushed for the door, unlocked it, threw the door open, & charged @ Edgar’s friend while shouting, ¡Stop!. Edgar’s friend just froze as A. took her phone & fumbled thru the buttons till she found the red button with a classic telephone icon on it & pressed it down to cancel the call.

A., ¿What’s going on? ¿Why didn’t you answer when I knocked?, asked Edgar’s friend, her voice sounding as frazzled as her expression. A. thought to herself, ¿How does she remember my 1st name? ¿How oft does Edgar talk ’bout me to her?. She turned to Edgar’s friend & held her phone back toward her. Thru the heavy panting A. managed to get out, E’en you should know that calling the cops on mobsters only makes things worse.

Edgar’s friend didn’t take her phone back, but stared @ A. with a desperation that looked like ’twould soon break down into tears. ¿What would the mob want with Edgar?, she asked. A. swallowed. ’Twas an effort to keep the arm still holding the phone up to Edgar’s friend from shaking. They want his psychopathic thief o’ a friend, said A. Now, if you want what’s best for Edgar, you will take your phone & impede me as li’l as possible so I can possibly rescue him. If I get him back, then you guys can kill me all you want. She shook the phone closer to Edgar’s friend. Now, take your phone, please.

Without changing her stare, Edgar’s friend swallowed, & then said, ¿What are you going to do to rescue him?.

With bitterness burned onto her face, A. said, Bake them scrumptious muffins.

Unfazed by this answer, Edgar’s friend ventured further: ¿D-do you need help — like, are there any tools you need, like maybe something to make you invisible for a while?.

This time ’twas A.’s turn to stare @ her with shock. ¿What?. Edgar’s friend rubbed her eye & sniffed & said, ¿Did Edgar ne’er tell you? I’m a chemist. Well, I graduated with a bachelor’s in chemistry. I actually run a restaurant for no good reason. Edgar’s friend let out a weak laugh, which only further perturbed A. Edgar’s friend continued in the shy speech you’d expect from a schoolgirl, I, uh, actually thought ’bout making some potions to help you on your heists & stuff, but I ne’er got round to it. She made ’nother weak laugh & added, Sorry.

O god, she’s perfect for Edgar — she’s just as desperate a doormat. Can’t wait to get her killed, too.

But these ideas melted in favor o’ a mo’ useful idea: she asked, ¿Can you make an explosive strong ’nough the destroy an entire room that I could carry on me with ease — preferably in an inconspicuous matter — & that I could detonate @ any moment?. Now Edgar’s friend stared @ her with a disturbed expression. Looking ’way, she said, Um… I dunno…. She looked back @ A. with sudden fervent fear & stumbled out, ¿Wouldn’t that… kill Edgar, too?, to which A. answered, Ideally, I’d ne’er need to use it, to which Dawn asked, ¿Then why need it in the 1st place?, to which A. answered, If I bluff & I fail, they kill us both & get ’way unharmed, to which Dawn asked, ¿& what if you, um, don’t bluff?; & to this A. stared Edgar’s friend in the eye with dark-eyed intensity & answered, Then we all die & @ the very least we take down the highest members o’ this gang with us. Then A. let her eyes soften back to normal & added, But an invisibility potion would be helpful, too, maybe.

A. was startled by the sudden smile that appeared on Edgar’s friend’s face & the jolly tone her voice took on as she replied, ¡Wondersome! ¡Let’s go to the lab!.

V. Der Prügler

A. let her head hang down, wordless, trying as much as she could to lose herself in her strategies, only to jump when she felt a hand grasp her shoulder. She looked up to see ’twas Edgar’s friend, who immediately yanked her hand back, looking jolted herself.

¡O! I’m sorry, A. I didn’t mean to startle you. I shouldn’t have done that without asking 1st.

Still staring with alarm in her eyes, A. asked, ¿What’s wrong?.

O, ¡nothing! I just wanted to, I dunno…. Dawn’s voice shrank & shook as she spoke. It must be hard what you’re going through.

A. leaned back & glanced ’way. OK….

They continued walking. A. had hoped that Edgar’s friend was finished with words now, but then she said with a small, awkward laugh, I’m sorry, it turns out I’m not a a genius when it comes to trying to comfort people.

A. lowered her brows & thought to herself, Yes, you’re the social moron.

VI. Der Patenonkel

A. walked up to Bloodclot HQ, which, gainst expectations, was as easy to find as the nearest FredMart. She couldn’t help admiring such a stiff middle finger to the law. She opened the door & let herself in, neither in a rush, nor with hesitation. If they wanted their HQ to be your average brokerage, she would play their game, too.

Inside she found a grid o’ desks & computers with people in white & black office clothes typing @ them & thought to herself, ¿Do this many people do nothing but pretend to be performing fictional white-collar tasks on computers all day, all to put up an act everyone knows is a lie?. Tho this intrigued her, she knew she couldn’t stay long to watch & ponder, she knew this was 1000 times direr than sneaking into an ordinary commercial building to rob them, e’en a bank. She walked straight for the front desk, where there sat a genial elderly lady, who, nonetheless, raised a brow as she looked @ A. ¿How may I help you, Madame?, she asked.

I need to see Fulgent, answered A.

She expected resistance from the ol’ woman, but ’stead saw her say hurriedly, OK, just hurry on up before Laura sees you. A. was experienced ’nough not to ask who that was or show the slightest signs o’ confusion or hesitation. She knew that, whether happy or deadly, surprises were, as their name promised, thrown @ one whether one wanted them or not, & like waterfalls, one was better off riding them & hoping there were not rocks @ the bottom. All she said to the ol’ woman was, ¿Could you tell me where he is? I’m new, to which the ol’ woman replied, He’s on the top floor, @ the end o’ the hall.

A. thanked the ol’ woman & walked toward the elevator.

VII. Advokat – Schatzjäger Diebin

As A. walked down the gold-enameled hall with soft royal-purple carpeting on the top floor toward the plush red door that could only belong to il duce himself, she gripped inside her pocket. Then she stopped @ the door & knocked. From the other side came a loud but raspy voice: Come in.

A. opened the door & walked in to see a far larger room than she’d expected: a round plaza o’ a room, full o’ a’least 4 television screens, a bubbling hot tub up on a dais ’long the back sector, & a long, svelte couch in the center, where all attention drew to the obese bald man in a dark suit sitting there with a pistol aimed straight @ A.

I hope your attempt to sneak in here spawned from your eagerness to carry out your task & deliver the information we need from you, Fulgent said in a testy tone.

Without budging, knowing that any sudden movement would lead to her skull becoming a pincushion for bullets, A. cleared her throat & said, Before we start, I must warn you that it would be disastrous for both o’ us if you attempted to shoot me. In fact, I think it would be safer if you just put that down.

Fulgent did not lower his gun a centimeter but, in fact, showed on his face such a stir o’ anger & humor that caused sweat to dribble down the side o’ A.’s face.

¿Is this your attempt @ a bluff?, asked the mob boss.

A. answered, You could take the chance & find out for yourself, but I think, when you think ’bout it, you will see that the risk is not worth carrying out. You need to stop thinking with your emotions & start thinking like a businessman. Admit that you made a mistake: it is so clear, so obvious, that any judge in the land would immediately laugh the accusation out o’ court, & probably charge you for wasting their time, that neither I nor my partner are in any way involved with Skull & Bones. We need to make the most efficient decision & shake hands & put this all ’hind us.

But despite how reasonable A. was being, Fulgent wasn’t listening to reason. He squinted @ her with his small, wrinkled eyes & said, You can’t scare me. ¿Do you know who I am?.

A. answered him, Yes, but I am not frightened by the truth. The question is, ¿do you know who I am? I can see by the look on your face that you do not. ¿Why are you taking needless risks? This is not how you run a business, my good man.

Fulgent laughed; but she could hear that ’twas a dry laugh sapped o’ any mirth. She knew he would crack any moment. In a mocking tone, he said, ¿Do you truly think I reached my stature by being intimidated by some tramp in street clothes?.

A. didn’t let such haughtiness affect her, but, in fact, kept her tone just as level as she said, I will remind you that the lowliest o’ peasant immigrants have destroyed e’en someone as powerful as the President o’ the United States, virtually the leader o’ the world. E’en the most powerful o’ men are flesh & blood, just as vulnerable to the egalitarian threat o’ explosives. All they need is the will & the readiness to accept whate’er consequences come after. A. continued, I see that you raise your eyebrow @ my mention o’ explosives. You see, I am not allied with Skull & Bones, nor the government, but a threat you had ne’er e’en realized till now, but 1 which is arguably e’en mo’ powerful; & that threat is Edgar’s girlfriend, whom you have, blunderingly, made your enemy, & who is also a brilliant biologist who created a tiny bomb I hold in my pocket which will go off the nanosecond I release its lid.

Fulgent said, I don’t believe you, but the nearly breathless tone in which he said it revealed the true uncertainty he had for his place in the future o’ the universe. ¿Do you want me to show you?, asked A. Fulgent paused with wariness on his face. He finally said, All right; but if I see anything that so much as looks like a gun, you’re swiss & tomato. She told him, No, it looks like a grenade. I will show you. She slowly raised her hand out o’ her pocket to reveal a hand holding a metal green polygonal ball with a clasp ’long its back, atop which was a head that looked somewhat like a nozzle that A. kept held down with her thumb. She noticed Fulgent’s eyes shrink a bit when he saw it; but he still kept his pistol pointed @ her, neither shooting, nor lowering. He responded, All right. Let us imagine for a moment that that is a bomb — purely theoretical, ’course. ¿Are you going to try convincing me that you also built for yourself a bomb-proof vest that looks just like bum clothes?. Fulgent looked @ A. with a triumphant grin @ what, A. could only imagine, Fulgent took to be his smoking gun to demolish her rhetorical tower. But A. knew the kind o’ schemes men like this played on plain citizens every day & had planned accordingly. She answered him, No, because that is not true. If you wish to have me dead, your wish can be guaranteed; the only question is if it is worth your life, which I would expect you to value far greater than mine.

Fulgent sat there, still aiming the gun @ A. But she could see by the sheer ambivalence on his face that she had him on the ropes. He appeared to realize he had no defense gainst this impenetrable argument, so, like all unscrupulous men o’ his kind, he tried changing the goalposts. You said you brought info on the Skullfuckers. Out with it. But li’l did he realize A. had prepared for just such a scheme. Without missing a beat, she said, They don’t know anything ’bout what you are doing or who I am. I could see just by stepping into their front office that they couldn’t handle keeping their ancient Windows XPs from filling with viruses from all the pornography they download, much less devise any sophisticated spying apparatus on you. A. hoped Fulgent would not realize she was describing the blink o’ an insight she had captured in this very HQ. She added, & I made a simple Google search & discovered that the symbol you saw on the side o’ your buildings that looked like a horn was a cock & balls & is just immature japes by wild teens.

She had expected Fulgent to be thankful for this treasure trove o’ intel, only to find herself subject to Fulgent’s brows creasing in anger. That is not info, he snapped. You are just saying that to get out doing your job. If you have the time to go goofing off & building yourself ridiculous fake bombs, you should have the time to do your job — the 1 we actually pay you to do. A. elected not to inform Fulgent that they were not paying her & ’stead replied, You are not telling me that you cannot believe Skull & Bones would be so incompetent. ¿& how would you know, ’less you already have the secret insight for which you “hired” me? ¿Is this how you run your business? ¿Redundantly hiring random women to carry out tasks which have already been accomplished? You know better than that.

Fulgent barked back, Don’t tell me how to run my business. But Fulgent’s voice was mo’ sullen than defiant. I don’t need to tell you, I’m sure you already know, said A. Clearly someone lower down the rung must’ve made the mistake & you, who are much too busy to know every detail o’ what is going on, must’ve been misled by their mistake. It’s all right. It happens to all leaders. We can put it past us after you return to me my partner. Fulgent screwed his eyes, seemingly in such a struggle o’ thoughts that he was in pain. With his free hand, he reached into his pocket, which caused A. to tighten her thumb o’er her bomb ’gain, only to ease her hold when she saw him pull out a phone. Fulgent raised it to his face & said into it, Blank, escort Edgar up to my office.

The next few minutes filled with a heavy silence, during which Fulgent did nothing but let his eyes wander all o’er his room. A., meanwhile, felt her whole body tense up, both terrified & impatient to see what they had done to Edgar.

A. jumped when she heard a knock ’hind her. She stepped to the side & turned her head so that she could glance @ it while still keeping Fulgent in 1 eye. She could see amusement on his face, presumably @ A.’s breach in her mask o’ tight composure.

Fulgent said, Come in, Blank.

The door opened, & 1st came in Edgar, shaking with his hands clasped together, but otherwise with no visible harm, followed by a square-jawed man in a jacket & jeans. A. noticed Edgar staring right @ her with fear, but not daring to make any hasty move. A. kept her face placid.

Fulgent said to him, Madame Springer has fulfilled her contract & has learned her lesson. She is to take her friend here & leave uninhibited.

The underling nodded. Yes, Sir. ¿You want me to escort her — I mean, them — out?.

A. kept herself from aiming an odd look @ the underling.

¿Would you like that, Madame Springer?, asked Fulgent.

Whate’er you think best, said A.

Follow them down — to make sure they don’t get lost on their way out, said Fulgent. But don’t lay a hand on either o’ them.

No problem, Sir. The underling nodded, but didn’t seem to betray any other emotion. He turned to them & said with a theatrical bow pointed toward the door. You folk lead the way. I can tell you where to go.

A. nodded & maneuvered so that Edgar was in front o’ her. She kept her bomb in her pocket, ready to ignite @ a second’s notice as she walked down the hall back to the elevator. To A.’s surprise, the underling was silent the whole trip, only speaking to give redundant instructions.

When they reached the front door o’ the building, the underling stopped & said, You folk have a nice day & don’t get into anymo’ trouble, with a chuckle. A. nodded silently.

Edgar stopped before the door & looked back @ A. She reached forward & opened the door & nodded for him to keep walking.

VIII. Kaufmann Block – Kündigung des Advokaten

A. let herself breathe mo’ heavily as she walked back out into the fresh air, now chilly as the daylight prepared itself to go to bed, but didn’t let herself gasp too much with Edgar still nearby.

She said, Let’s wait till we’re a few blocks farther ’way before we discuss this.

¿Discuss what?.

I can say when we’re a few blocks ’way.

But the truth was, A. wasn’t jumping to discuss anything. & she knew in all its macabre truth that Edgar didn’t want to, either: he’d want to go right on home & somehow forget all this happened &, mo’ importantly, that this would happen ’gain & ’gain till the time A. truly screws it up completely & there is no mo’ time anymo’ for either o’ them. & A. wasn’t sure she had it in her to fix that self-destructive neurosis o’ his. She realized it in stark horror, she was willing to kill Edgar to avoid the feeling o’ loss for herself.

When her fever o’ thoughts had paused for a while, she realized they had walked mo’ than a few blocks. But all she could think to say was, ¿Are you OK?.

Edgar nodded & said, Yes. Then he swallowed & added, They just kept me in a room, they weren’t e’en rude, oddly ’nough, just suspiciously polite. ¿Do you mind if I ask who they were?.

They were gangsters.

Yes… Yes, that makes sense. ¿Did you steal from them?.

I’m not sure, to be honest.

They didn’t do anything worse to you, ¿did they? I notice you have that red mark on your forehead.

That’s just a burst pimple, A. lied. I was short on time so I had to eat a lot o’ fast food, which is a wreck on anyone’s skin.

A long pause passed. There was probably nothing mo’ for A. to say, but she continued, anyway, with, Your friend — ¿Dawn was her name? — was upset you were captured. The genius called your cell with her own #, so now they probably know her # & will be able to get info on her, but what saying this might gain, A. wasn’t sure.

Edgar shrunk into himself. ¿What do you think I should do?.

All A. could think to say was, Not ask advice from someone genius ’nough to rob a friend o’ the mob.

IX. Im Dom

To A.’s displeasure, Dawn was waiting on the steps up to their apartment. A. didn’t have time to react before Dawn happened to glance up, then jumped to her feet & ran down to them & embraced Edgar, crying, ¡You’re OK!, with so much emotion it could only embarrass A. Then, to A.’s greater shock & greater displeasure, Dawn swung up to A. & wrapped her arms round her, krakenlike & crying, ¡You’re so awesome, A.!.

Filled with too much embarrassment to bear, A. insisted, I caused him to be kidnapped in the 1st place.

Dawn released A. & stared @ her as if staring @ a young pupil who still had yet to understand her ABCs. That’s not true. Those thugs did, & what matters is that you beat them.

A. began to become angry for reasons she couldn’t ’splain & began to shout, I did not “beat” them, I threatened them with a bluff. ¿Are you so ignorant o’ the mechanisms on which these kind o’ gangs run? ¿Have you met gangs who let blasphemous threats like these go? They are going to come back to fill my shoes with cement, I assure you, & if you 2 stay near me, they will do the same to you.

This finally popped the cheer off Dawn’s face, replacing it with a mo’ fitting look o’ appall. Then her expression softened & she said, O-OK. But there must be something we can do.

Well, as I said, you 2 can go into hiding, said A.

¿But why can’t you go into hiding?, asked Dawn.

A. paused, unable to answer. Finally she said, Well, I plan to — but if I go into hiding with you 2 that would undo the very purpose o’ you 2 going into hiding by leading them to you.

Dawn replied, But if you’re in hiding, they won’t be able to find you, besides.

I wouldn’t wager on that, said A. This is a well-connected organization; you’ll be lucky if they don’t find you if I am not with you 2. But if I am not, they may not bother looking for you, while if you are with me, you will be easy collateral.

Dawn frowned. That sucks. Well, it’s not like they can collateral us to death thru the phone. Edgar will still be able to call you.

A. hesitated before finally answering, Yes, that would be no problem, & then thinking to herself, I will probably be dead by then, anyway.

But A.’s thoughts were cut off early by ’nother sudden hug by Dawn. I swear I’ll take care o’ Edgar for you, she said.

A. pried herself from Dawn, & with great nervousness thanked her, which caused Dawn to giggle @ A., to A.’s greater discomfort.

Well, a’least she can keep humor when a gang is after her flesh, thought A.

But after Edgar & she each prepared their own packs, A. & Dawn ignited a mild argument o’er who would have to leave 1st, started when A. lingered to ensure they actually left, only for Dawn to turn round & aim the same accusation gainst her.

¿Why would I stick round? I’m the one who knows ’bove all how serious these people are & whose idea it was to go into hiding, said A.

’Twas your idea for us to go into hiding, replied Dawn.

Whate’er. If you insist, we can do something absurd like walk a couple blocks ’way & then split up, said A., to which Dawn responded, Sounds good. ¿Where do you come up with all these clever ideas?.

“Clever” is an odd word to use for “stupid”, A. thought begrudgingly to herself.

While A. had originally planned to stay @ her apartment, after she & Edgar & Dawn finally split for the rest o’ the night A. couldn’t think o’ any reason she should bother going back home, or going anywhere. She just stood there as desert-arid air blew past her body, which was already o’erheated with the events o’ the day without the weather’s help, thinking o’ how quickly, so quick, she didn’t realize she was doing it till days after she had done it, she had burned ’way all her success. So quickly rich, so quickly in a ditch.

Tired, she sat down, holding her head in her hands to block it from the harsh westering sunlight. She wondered whether she & Edgar could ’scape Bloodclot by moving to ’nother country. She was sure Edgar would love that, being yanked out into a foreign country with no preparation. But then she realized there were surely reams o’ hoops she would have to jump through to get on a plane, including passports & checks she would probably fail thanks to her criminal record.

Then she noticed movement & saw a man wearing a business suit & a bushy, blue-gray moustache walk toward her. She didn’t flee or e’en stir, but simply sat there & stared up @ him. He didn’t make any sudden movements himself, but just stopped & stared back @ her.

A. raised her hands from the sidewalk up like stop signs & said, I’m not going waste your ears begging you not to snuff me out; ¿but you want to a’least do it in a simple way, like shooting me in the forehead, so we both can get this o’er with quickly?.

The man laughed, which irked her, till he continued to say, I hate to disappoint you, Madame, but we’re not interested in snuffing you out just now. Actually, the boss was impressed by your guts, cleverness, & cool head. Not ’nough people with those last 2 in the business. He thought you might be interested in doing some simple theft jobs — nothing too dangerous or thrilling, I’m ’fraid — for us. You’d be kicking up 50%, ’course.

A. stared through the man like a rabbit before a truck. Finally, she took a deep breath & said, ¿Would your boss be offended if I took an evening to consider?.

The man said in a huffy voice, No, he wouldn’t care. We’re in no urgent need. Just thought you might be interested. & with that the man turned & walked ’way.

A. looked back down ’tween her knees @ the trapezoid pattern the gray shade bit into the yellow light o’ the sidewalk, her eyes burning e’en under her sunglasses.

This is the logical “promotion” for a worker o’ that hungry art like me. ¿Isn’t that just what a gang is? ¿Organized crime? That’s just a mo’ sophisticated form o’ crime, like the difference ’tween a “businessman” who’s just hocking wares out o’ their parents’ basement & Amazon. It’s cute & all to keep feeding that dream that you can become as successful as possible by only slipping goods under people’s nose hairs, without direct conflict, but that’s not how truly successful people operate. It is no coincidence that all powerful gangs are so violent: violence is effective.

It’s not yet night, ne’erless so soon I trip

& fall upon such lunacy. ¿But why not?

This constellation, tho both sweet & sour

is hardly far from that status habitual.

The only change is which well springs the plots:

& I’m not picky when it comes to what

pockets to pick. The worst would have to be

the 5th tithes taken, in truth; but I’ll construe

them best as investments destined to grow stocks.

This dehydrated cactus very well

may grow into a beanstalk given time

weathering risky rain & gusts. Already

I didn’t blow rescuing Edgar, tho

that was a withering chance.

Maybe the same could chain me to the top.

That man himself said there were just a few

with my hot skills & cool head.

While all the other members race themselves

into their graves like hares into full traffic,

I, tortoiselike, in silence lie in wait,

insectlike creep, ready to grasp my prize,

till even Fulgent himself, full o’ himself,

falls, as inevitably before her @ his age;

& if that seed dug by that true god, fortune,

returns her lasting 1st & not its last

to plant her joys in sleeping gangster’s throne

& consumate her metamorphosis.

Then A. frowned. It just didn’t fit.

Yeah — ¿how would Edgar & his meddling girlfriend

feel ’bout you joining that same gang who k’napped him?.

If they had any sense, they would have ceased

keeping me in their company already.

But we know they don’t & we know I don’t.

But e’en if Edgar & Dawn had ne’er existed @ all, she still wouldn’t have felt comfortable with this proposition. If she did join them, she would be tied to them. They were associates, therefore she had to associate. & the idea o’ associating with these meatheads sounded e’en less pleasant to her imagination than an eternity in destitution, much less moderate wealth. & that was if they didn’t tire o’ her 1st. She knew that these “associations” went beyond just the craft o’ the work, to which, she had to keep mind, thieving was only a lower rung: these groups had their own archaic superstitions that she could already tell she fit into as well as a FLAC on a Commodore 64.

It’s fun to conjecture, but what will they do when I say no?.

A. gripped her knees, eyes twisting e’en under her shades from the sunlight that wouldn’t shut up so that if anyone could see her eyes, she would look crazed.

It might be interesting yet to see.

X. Ende

4 evenings after A.’s 23rd birthday — ’twas round 8 @ night, the time Edgar usually went out to visit his girlfriend’s — 2 men arrived @ her door. In the same dark suits & derbies as worn by the 3 men who had captured her before, but with unfamiliar faces. After a few minute formalities @ the apartment door o’er who should enter 1st, they repeated the same formalities @ greater length inside A.’s apartment. Without her having been informed o’ this visit, A., also wearing black, — tho ’twas brightened by the gold-colored nugget & lettters that said “PHAT LOOT” — on the floor near the door, lacking an armchair on which to sit, & slowly pulled on ol’ socks that stretched snugly o’er her feet, with the disposition o’ one expecting guests. She stood up immediately & stared them straight in the eyes. So you have come for me after all, she said. The men nodded. A. admitted to herself that she had been expecting that they would come after her. She went o’er to the window & looked yet ’gain out into the dark streets. Also almost all windows on the other streetside were yet dark, in many the blinds were lowered. In a belighted window o’ the floor played young manchildren ’hind a visor with each other & groped, still incapable, to move from their places, with their hands in turn. She wondered to herself why this was here. They’ve sent ol’ bit characters for me, A. said to herself, tho she was perfectly capable o’ thinking, & looked round to convince herself that this was such. They want to finish this off cheaply. A. turned to them abruptly, which led them to smack her with a baseball bat in fear o’ sudden attack. After getting back up & rubbing her bleeding forehead, A. asked, ¿What story are you from?. ¿Story?, 1 o’ them asked, the corners o’ his mouth twitching, turning to the other for advice for solving his obvious nervous condition. His companion gestured like a mime struggling with the most unruly organism. They’re not prepared for questions, A. said to herself, & went to get her ponytail — Actually, we’re well prepared for questions, said 1 o’ the men, bitterness audible in his tone. The men wanted to take A.’s arms as they went out onto the stairway, but A. told them, Wait till we’re on the step 3rd from the bottom, my feet are not ill. On the 5th step from the bottom, howe’er, they took her arms in a manner A. had ne’er before experienced in walking with anyone. They held their necks just ’hind hers, didn’t crook their knees, but ’stead wrapped them round the whole length o’ A.’s stomach, seizing A.’s bottom lip with a well trained, practiced, & irresistible bite. A. walked ’long stiffly inside them; now they formed such a profane unit that had anyone been in the streets & witnessed them, they would collapse from the shock @ such an indescribably bracae-misceating vision. To prove that we are fair & decent men, we will soothe your soul with some music, said 1 o’ the men before turning on the boom box he had been holding in his hand the entire time & set it to play that bloody “Don’t Stop Believing” song. This caused A. to swing back on her captors, which was difficult due to being attached to their necks & the crook o’ their knees, & shouted @ them, ¡This is too much! ¡There is only so much e’en a woman like me can take!. To keep her from shouting, which would attract unwanted attention, the men offered a compromise in playing “Faithfully”; howe’er, they did not have that song, so they played the Mega Man song that sounded just like it ’stead. The song had just come to its 5th time reaching the bridge with what puffy ’scuse for a flute the Ricoh RP2A03’s 2 square waves & 1 triangle wave could muster when they had entered ’neath some street lamps. A. used this point to try several times, in spite o’ their inscrutable formation, to see her escorts mo’ clearly than she had in her apartment, in which she had, as it turns out, neglected to turn on the lights, despite looking @ these men many times.

’Haps they come from a Stephen King novel, she thought as she regarded the hairs on the back o’ their necks.

She was nauseated by the cleanliness o’ the hairs on their necks, which was why she was thankful for the atom bomb, for she didn’t want to have to go to war & have to stare @ men’s neck hair without being able to microwave her burritos before eating them. You could practically see the suds o’ the o’erpriced soap that had washed them, the pores inside the sponge that had rubbed them. When A. noticed that which cannot be described, she stopped, causing the others to stop as well. She felt the sweaty flesh o’ their necks & the baggy fabric ’hind their knees free her body to the wind. ¿Why did they send you o’ all people?, she shouted mo’ than asked. The men were apparently @ a loss for an answer. She saw that they were right on the edge that separated the city from Wasabi Woods. She stared round @ the thousands o’ firs, black in the sparse light, watching her in judgment.

This landscape disturbs my thoughts, she said softly.

¿Are you ready?, 1 o’ the men said, she didn’t know who, as she wasn’t looking @ either o’ them. By this point the music was entering its 17th loop o’ that flute bridge.

I don’t know, she cried without a sound, I truly don’t know. If nobody comes, then nobody comes. I have done nobody any harm, nobody has done me any harm, but nobody will help me. A pack o’ nobodies. But it isn't quite like that. It's just that nobody helps me, otherwise a pack o’ nobodies would be nice, I would rather like ( ¿what do you think? ) to go