Hey there, Writing Café. It's been awhile, and I have had not an ounce of time due to the school year. I've had this idea floating in my head for a long while, but with the recent events around here, summer, and some new motivation from various sources, I've decided to take a shot. Hope you enjoy. Note: I will try my best to work this to completion. Unless I say otherwise, assume that this project is still on and feel free to give a critique. Outlet is possibly a working title. I'm considering Brood of Evil and Esoteric as alternatives. Disclaimer: Dark themes, unorthodox views and violent thoughts are frequent in this piece. Expletives, controlled and implied violence, and death are present and/or referenced. Chapters: Part I: Welcome to the Masquerade Spoiler I - 2720 II - 2482 III - 2458 IV - 2677 V - 2913 VI - 3149 VII - 3009 Part II: The Awakening Spoiler VIII - 1485 Spoiler: Chapter One I Taylor wore a well-honed smile, the knife emanating death in her hand. Bent and twisted intentions would be fulfilled in short order. They had to be, or things might get messy. Leaning against the coarse brick wall of the school, Taylor observed the deplorable undertakings of two teenagers under an oak tree just off the property. Both wore hoodies and brandished cigarettes in their hands, conversing about the "wackest rappers in the game" or something. It was unnerving to passersby that they were under the tree at this time, when the sunlight was angled right on them. She didn't care, indifferent to the quality of their banter and to the quality of their lives. Taylor laughed to herself, chided herself over the ridiculous amount of time she'd spent watching these hoodlums. It was like mice autonomously making wheels spin in pet stores: pointless to do but hilarious to witness, a guilty pleasure. She glanced at the knife. It appeared eager, a pocket maniac in need of its dose of red rum. Taylor agreed. The hoodlums had ordered a serving of "the Heat suck" to the table when their waitress arrived. One of them was a black teen with dreadlocks and a faint beard, who looked up to her face first. He had torn brown pants to go with his oxford-gray hoodie. The other, something of the generic stoner variety with scruffy brown hair, yawned and reared his ugly everything in succession. The girl had light-brown hair tied into a short ponytail and an oriental tinge to her thin facial features. Her eyes were the color of lake water, calm and silent in their limitless depths. Her bantam build wore a hooded v-neck with drawstrings and stripes of baby-blue and gray that melded into a somber rainbow, and Armani capris and white t-strap sandals resemblant of a cloudy sky upon which it rested. Her left hand was the only one visible, a gold annulus encircling the ring finger. "Whadda you want?" the stoner asked. There was a glazed tint to his eyes, in stark contrast to the dilated pupils of his friend. "Got a problem with us chillin' here?" Taylor simply returned his stare. Though short and lithe, she noticed that her mute stillness had the one with the dreadlocks shifting uncomfortably against the trunk. She laughed to herself again at that, but gave no indication of emotion to the hoodlums. "Well, b***h? Whadda you want?" The stoner still handled his cigarette, but his free hand was balled up. His brow was creased, but his eyes remained glassy. Taylor couldn't tell whether he was impaired or agitated. Either way, her knife enjoyed interesting victims. "Yeah, w-what you want?" his friend said, but he was nothing more than a whimpering beta male at this point. There were a few moments of silence. Taylor's right forearm had fastened itself behind her, and at length it reached out to the hoodlums. The one with the dreadlocks yelped for a split second. The pointed shadow drew its way up the body of the stoner in the intense, pulsating sunlight. He didn't stiffen up, but his friend evidently had, his breathing stertorous and choked. "I want you to take those cigarettes and shove them up your asses," Taylor said. Her index finger bored into the stoner's forehead like the barrel of a shotgun, and her hand was empty. A gold ring was present on the third finger here too, bearing a diamond of deep ocean hues. "Please," she finished. The stoner's face was slightly animated. He took a small breath and stood, his head about a foot over Taylor. He was lanky, with a pronounced nose and newly visible clusters of acne. Taylor imagined him as what Shaggy Rogers would look like if torn from the sixties. "Listen here. I see you, but nobody tells me what to do," he said, stooping so that his eyes were level with Taylor's. Close up, his were a dark, dank brown, semblant of a viscous and murky liquid. "None of us want trouble. Darren, pick your ass up and give me your cig!" Darren shakily stood himself, still wary of Taylor. The stoner jabbed his hand at Darren, and a fresh cigarette dropped into it to join the lit one. Taylor stepped back, simpering at this hilarious display. The simper vanished when the stoner turned back to her, snapping up his hand and tossing the cigarettes to the ground. There was a rustle of grass as various insects rose and scattered across the small field while he stomped the lit one out. "Happy?" the stoner asked. Taylor tilted her head to the side, shut her eyes briefly, and shrugged her shoulders. The stoner's eyebrow rose, and he glowered. "I suppose," she said. With that, she backed up two paces, met his stare once again, and stepped through the high grass that lay rippling before the sidewalk, gradually turning herself away. Okay, I'm done here. No need to push it, she thought. "Hey, you think this is funny?" There was a slight undertone of surprise in the stoner's voice. Taylor looked back and found him sauntering after her until he stood at the brink of the grassy sea. She forced herself out of it, keeping a good distance away. Taylor debated her answer, keeping his stare. Stay cool, stay cool, she chanted; it was getting messy. Darren was idly walking in circles around the tree, mashing up the fresh autumn leaves with little care for their silent cries of mercy. Taylor wondered if he felt empowered by trampling on the helpless, if he was compensating for something. It was laughable that he might have a goal in this traipse. "I find him funny, that's all," Taylor offered, tilting her head toward Darren and blinking a couple times. Darren met her gaze, noticed the lack of the simper he'd caught a glimpse of, and transformed into a nervous wreck again. Taylor lightly shook her head and turned back to the stoner. The stoner gave her the same glower for a few eternal seconds. He exhaled once. Twice. Three times. It was a long and droning silence, slow and painful, like a medieval rack. At length, he made a soft cackle. "Ha-ha, you're right. That's all he is," the stoner said. Darren straightened up and cast a bewildered look at him. The stoner kept his eyes trained on Taylor, however. "Darren's nothing but funny." Taylor nodded slowly, pulling away from the stoner's glare, which was becoming quite unnerving. She watched Darren make an expression of incredulity, his mouth gaping and his hands quivering. She wasn't sure where this was going, but it had already escalated far beyond what Taylor thought would be a quick encounter. Her puzzled thoughts were scattered by the stoner's next words. "You're nothing but a b***h." He picked his head up. "Whatever. I've wasted enough of my time. Could've had a good smoke, but nah." Taylor's eyebrows had risen, but she quickly lowered them. "I agree, and you're nothing but a stoner." The stoner had started to amble away past the oak tree, but of course he turned around. "Yeah? I'm Kevin, and go f*** yourself," he said. He turned again and walked until he was out of sight. Taylor watched him go, sighing in disgust. She wished that her hand had actually drawn out a knife. Maybe she could let this off on Darren, the sorry excuse he was. A mud-riddled creek bed ran along the outer edge of the field before forming a crude confluence with the road. Standing on the edge, she noticed some prints in a straight line across the mud, each flung far from the next. She was somewhat glad he'd run. *** In her room that night, Taylor sprawled herself out on the bedspread, her legs dangling aimlessly over the soft verge. The room was modern, with bleach-white walls and vibrant yellows and blues tossed around in the forms of curtains, lampshades, artificial flowers, and more. A bold brown headboard with ornate vinelike patterns overlooked her, and it shot forth from the wall so prominently that it was a wonder it didn't fall. Sickeningly white drawers and nightstands lined the walls, each with marble tops. A mess of baby blue pillows lay at the head of the bed, but Taylor had not the energy to reach for one. "I didn't want any crap! Just a minute or two!" Taylor whispered to the ceiling. She closed her eyes tight and spun a reel of phantasmagoria in her mind in which she shoved the knife right into Kevin, twisted it, and pulled it out with an adverse freshet of blood as he fell to the grass beneath the oak tree. She replicated this with Darren, serving the leaves welcome treats of cerise vengeance. It was beautiful. Opening her eyes, she weakly tugged on the drawstrings of her shirt. "Why do I mess up every time?" A few tears carved out a path to the bed below. Taylor couldn't discern what she was. Was she a danger to others? A killer waiting to slice open her cocoon and weave the threads of nightmares? Her knife was phantasmal, an extension of herself, invisible to others but a symbol laid in her very palm. Her thoughts were caged up, solitary, brooding over her like a beehive. Since she was young, deathly images and grim tones had dominated Taylor's psyche amid an ocean teeming with hatred. Taylor despised interaction, and her dance with Kevin and Darren was no different. She'd intended to spurn aside the cigarettes and walk off. The confrontation was superfluous. The first day of school had already knocked the wind out of her, but this in quick succession had laid her low and gasping. If it was any consolation, she had slaked the beehive's thirst and then some. A simple threat she'd known would do the trick, but, at the expense of her reserves, the hive had ceased buzzing and brooding. She'd learned from an early age and after several instances of knocking over classmates and their creations that her thoughts had to be acted on in some way lest they grow unruly. She'd tried to lock them up for good once; she'd also had to bury her cat five years ago. Listlessly beholding the whirring ceiling fan, Taylor's focus was rapt on that nobody knew of any of this. She'd pondered consulting her parents or, God forbid, an actual counselor, but the sheer possibility of asylum negated that option. Her brother had walked in on her about to make gore of a Barbie doll with torn limbs and a ketchup packet once, but he backed out, knowing what was good for him. Taylor figured that he'd feared getting shot in the face with the packet, but he was a bit of an enigma himself. She wondered how he, or anyone for that matter, would handle the knowledge of her dark side, how they would handle her. Gathering herself and her thoughts, Taylor edged herself up into a sitting position on the verge of the bed. The mattress depressed a little, prompting her to stand. She flexed her arms, also arching her back; she then heard a slight crack that elicited a gasp from her mouth and made her stiffen up. Upon relaxing, she hung her head forward, still enervated, looking down at the tan wood floor and following wearily the thousand waves and ripples that marked the boards. They were blurry, soon so blurry that thousands converged into hundreds and into tens and into one. "Taylor! Time for dinner!" said a singsong voice from beyond the door. There was no response, and after a minute her brother thrust it open. He was thirteen, dressed in a Batman costume that looked very out of place within the bleached walls. There was obvious enthusiasm on his face, but it disappeared as he took the room in. The place was clean, almost spotless, with Taylor collapsed on the bedspread. Her brother inched closer, leaned over her body. He considered messing with her or just pissing her off with the foghorn he'd hid in his closet. "Taylor?" *** He was getting tired of her crying, but that was a vice to be found in the practice of every killer. They would not shut up. "Please, let me go! Please! My daughter is sick!" she cried. The killer kept a firm grip on both the knot around her wrists and the nape of her neck as he escorted her into the dim garage. As they came near the middle, he reached up and pulled on the light switch, and even with a bulb ablaze the place held its eerie miasma. "Do you know how much I care about your daughter?" he said. The woman, probably thirty, turned to stare into his tinted sunglasses. Her jet-black hair had lost its vibrance compared to when he'd seen her outside. The murky setting must have done its job, just as instructed. "You would if you were human!" she barked, twisting her hands around in the knot but to no avail. Sudden bursts of ferocity were to be expected as well, but this one seemed to be floating in the gray between this and that, weeping and howling. Interesting in a combination, he noted. I'll have to choose ones like this more often. The killer remained silent, observing her flippant outbursts. After a time, it would no doubt become as tiresome as simple cries were, but he'd been told not to rush this. The deliverance would also be slow, and he wouldn't complain. "Down," he said, kicking the inside of her thigh. Without a choice, she buckled and crumpled to the floor, her arms far behind her in his grip. The garage floor became damp with her tears, dropping at shorter and shorter intervals as she remained hunched over. He pleasured himself to another round of outbursts and even considered getting a chair and some popcorn. "What do you do? Create sick fantasies and kill the innocent? What kind of man does this?" she asked. The killer noticed her change to barking again, though it was coarse and raspy. Perhaps she was choking on her own dread. He bent down slowly, taking to one knee beside her. Removing his left hand from her neck, he held it by his side before deciding to look her in the eyes. His hand caressed her chin and lifted her face even with his. Through his shades, her features were even darker than he expected. She looked drained, defeated, and fearful, as if locked in a cage. The tears delineating her aged face melded with her hair, which he wouldn't be surprised to see gray once his shades were off. Her eyes were so black that he considered it useless to reel in anything from those waters. "No, I just do the dirty work," he said, at length standing up and sweeping his view across the far wall. Scores of tools lined the racks, but nothing there piqued his interest. He was just marveling at the cleanliness of the garage. He dropped his gaze a shelf, where various wood carvings were lined up, followed by more tools and the lawnmower as he turned his head. A working bench rested in the corner opposite the doorway, the jowls of the shade clenched tightly around it. The faint outline of something stationed on the bench was present as well. Had he not readied her house hours prior, the bench would be quite lonely. He turned back to the woman and struck both of her biceps; her arms went limp and ceased to struggle, however weakly they had before, and he pushed her to the floor, where she lay flat. He stepped away and pried open the dark jowls, came back into the light and stood over her. The woman turned her head to the side, peeking up at his silhouette. Her eyes roared to life, and the thing in the killer's hands did the same. He squatted and said something that was drowned out by the device as he lowered it toward her thigh. He would have loved to please George, but the poor soul was too much of a help and too little of a man.