Writing Outlet (Chapter Eight)

Discussion in 'Creative Works' started by Uralya, Jun 19, 2014.

  1. Uralya *ponders everything*
    Uralya

    Member

    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
    I - 2720
    II - 2482
    III - 2458
    IV - 2677
    V - 2913
    VI - 3149
    VII - 3009

    Part II: The Awakening
    VIII - 1485

    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.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2016
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  2. Turtwig Retired Mod. Jovimohnaeliackvid.
    Turtwig

    Member

    RE: Outlet

    Very interesting first chapter you have going on, Uralya! I really love the depictions you give for the very minute details and the broad generalizations for the more common descriptions you expect to find at great length in regular stories. You have a very great voice for sure, and I loved reading this beginning.

    I was kind of confused on the first setting. If they're on school grounds, how are these delinquents smoking? I guess they may just get away with it because they're dangerous, but it seems weird since not many kids get away with it at my school. Also, Taylor's psychotic personality is kind of awkward in the beginning. She goes from stalking and laughing to hesitantly intimidating. I didn't mind the change in her appearance since I could understand the situation in my head, but the abrupt change surprised me. She's also creepily obsessed with a knife O:

    Other than that, I really enjoyed the fluidity in your sentences, the variety in your words and descriptions, and the thought that this psycho girl scared off two stereotypical thugs! I can't wait to keep reading, I hope you continue this story all the way through! :D Very nice.
     
  3. Uralya *ponders everything*
    Uralya

    Member

    RE: Outlet

    Thank you :) It's much appreciated! I do hope this continues to its end.

    To clarify on her shift, it comes off to me as the beehive calming down. When it's "buzzing", her ideations are at work, and the result is the extreme psychosis and embodiment of this knife/weapon. When the hive gets quiet, she's released her brooding intentions, but her outlook is inherently base to begin with when she chooses to show it (which is where the intimidation comes from). However, social exhaustion also exists, and when crap happens, crap happens. Her hesitation is a combination of being tired and the unexpected turn it took; nobody is safe from unexpected happenings. I know the feeling of shock overtaking a cool demeanor personally.

    As for the knife, it's merely her choice embodiment this time. It may or may not change later. And as for school, it was after hours, though I will add that it was off the property. I thought schools in general were as lenient as my own.
     
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  4. Chaos Jackal Legend of the Past
    Chaos Jackal

    Member

    RE: Outlet

    Good to see a non-Pokemon story. I need to get one of these done myself.
    I really like Taylor, you've given a good description of her. Generally, you seem to pay attention to the details.
    I'm curious as to how will this turn out. Keep it up!
     
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  5. Uralya *ponders everything*
    Uralya

    Member

    RE: Outlet

    I'm going away on a trip to Pennsylvania tomorrow, but I took the time to write out the second chapter. It may be a bit before another installment is posted, but I hope you enjoy. Things are starting to weave together now, inch by inch.

    II

    Taylor's brother was a lovable annoyance. That's why she had no qualms about launching him from the sidewalk and into the path of a speeding truck. The spray was refreshing, and she closed her eyes in bliss. The truck's horn bellowed as it cruised to a stop down the road, its sable color standard blemished in the front.

    Taylor was jolted by the horn, letting out a shrill cry while she fell from the bed. A thunderbolt struck up through her posterior from the floorboards, and her cerebrum jarred painfully in its enclosure. She put a hand to her temple, moaning. Struggling to keep sight as she moved her head around, she took in the room little by little. A figure in black was standing a few feet away, heaving a fit of laughter and holding some canister with a bell-shaped end.

    "Noah, you piece of s***!" she yelled. He kept laughing as he spun around, running like a maniac out of the room. Still massaging her temple, she recognized the airhorn and wondered if he'd debated its use or had no second thoughts. "When I find Bruce Wayne, I'll rip his costume off and kill you!"

    Taylor's mother peeked in through the door. "What was that, young lady?" she asked. The obligatory raised brow was present.

    "Sorry. Noah's being an idiot," Taylor said, finally managing to get herself onto the bedspread. Her back side still suffered through pangs, though the soft sheets mollified them to an extent.

    "Oh, what did he do, honey?" A mixture of sarcasm and concern was wrought into her mother's voice. She stepped forward from the threshold and touched her hand to Taylor's head.

    "Batman interrupted a pleasant dream."

    Her mother laughed. She had a youthful face, with features that resembled Taylor's, and colorful clothing in the form of a loose-fitting tie-dye shirt. Her hair was smooth and brunette, also secured in a ponytail.

    "You know you're missing dinner, right?" Her smile was funny, crooked. Taylor's eyes grew wider, and she looked subtly more alert.

    "Now I do. Ugh..." she groaned, clutching her head now. A shade of worry came over her mother's face, and she pulled her hand away at length.

    "Are you okay?" she said, though Taylor gave no response. As always, it was but useless rhetoric. Her mother moved closer, wrapping her arms around Taylor. "I love you, honey. I always will."

    After a few moments, Taylor reciprocated the action. "Love you too," she echoed. The embrace was long, and thoughts of the medieval rack once again made the rounds in her mind. Coupled with the lingering twinges in her back side, that was enough to provoke her to break contact, and her mother pulled away with little hassle. Taylor retreated to the middle of her bed, her bare feet hanging over the side. She could see her stony expression reflected in her mother's eyes.

    "Be down in a few, please," her mother said. She took a few soundless steps backward, paused, and turned before exiting the room.

    "Okay," Taylor said to a closed door. She folded her hands in her lap and yawned. The day came back to her in passing, but she thought instead about what had just happened.

    Mom doesn't get it. If anyone receives my affection, it's her, but she doesn't understand the underlying apathy. I can only give so much. Even my brother, the piece of work he is, doesn't get crap.

    Ugh. Do I fake these feelings or let them know the reptile that I know best? Nothing feels right. Hell, I don't even know what to think. It's too aggravating to give effort that could be better utilized.

    Taylor wondered next if her exhaustion had played any role in the brevity of their conversation.

    It's really off-putting to say the least. It's become a chronic vice. Has my mother accepted it though? Does she understand me? And, if deep, is that understanding worth returning?

    She shook her head; there was a connotation of disgust to that word. Her tongue felt dry and violated, like there was also a taste to it.

    This reminded her of dinner, and for once it was a welcome change of thought trains. She stretched her arms and yawned once more, then turned to the mirror on the wall closest to her. Her ponytail had come undone, and her hair itself was rather disheveled. She looked down, found the hair tie and shoved the mess into it. She noticed her diamond earrings still in and her shirt's drawstrings uneven, but her concern with cleaning herself up was nonexistent. A heavy sigh, like that of a groaning ship, escaped her as she willed herself out of the room.

    She arrived at the bottom with her feet pounding, clasping the end of the balustrade in case fatigue took her alive. The table was set for her and clean for the other three, whom all sat with their heads turned to Taylor. Noah, without his ridiculous alter ego and instrument of torture, had short black hair, a funny braced smile, and dark circles reminiscent of late-night gaming marathons under his eyes. Her father was the same, clean-cut with short hair and a polite grin, just lacking the tired bags of goodness.

    "There you are, sleepyhead!" Noah squawked. "Like your waking call?"

    "Noah, shut up," Taylor said.

    "Honey, I told you to come down here twenty minutes ago. What were you doing?" her mother asked. Again, the raised brow.

    "Not caring." Taylor saw the miniature pizza on her plate and sat down with a little more energy. It was doused in pepperoni, and she was surprised to find it hot to the touch.

    Her mother was silent for a moment, her mouth agape. "Okay, okay, I get it. We've had this problem before," she said.

    "What problem, dear?" her father interjected.

    "Problem? I didn't come down to deal with this crap," Taylor said, standing from the table and walking out on them. There were then light clacks sounding from the tiles in the foyer.

    "Taylor! Get back here!" her mother yelled. She'd barely stepped into the living room when she heard the front door close with a stifling finality.
    ***

    The sidewalk was murky, and a small, peaceful puddle occupied each section for Taylor to rupture as she walked. The resultant splashes covered her legs freely. She assumed the job of a drizzle had been completed while she'd dozed.

    "What the hell was that?" she asked the still waters below her. She knew her ability to deal with criticism, but damn her exhaustion. For once, whatever she could do to release her rage in her current state was more than welcome. The lake at the end of the neighborhood was nice for solitary walks, she'd heard.

    She made an effort to scan both ends of the intersection before traversing it. There was a black Cadillac parked in the grass adjacent to the road she'd crossed. The driver's seat was obscured by a tinted windshield. Taylor paused to examine it from the pavement, wondering what such a sleek beauty was doing in the middle of nowhere. She caught herself admiring it as she continued to the lake and rolled her eyes. The sky was drowned in a sea of dreary clouds, brief rivulets of blue running across the surface. A skein of geese sailed through above Taylor, and it harbingered a dark patch suggestive of a thunderhead in the distance. Perfect weather, she had to admit.

    The sidewalk ended at a large, adamantine guardrail on the street, where behind it lay a white picket fence and a stone path leading to the lakeside. The houses along the road were all of a single story and blandly bricked. Taylor stepped around the rail, came to an aperture in the fencing and carried on through. The stones of the path were replaced by muddy holes in several places, and the hill the path lay on was wet, but no care was given as she made her way down. Another sidewalk ringed the lake, where a jogger passed her by. There was a teenager fishing, a family of three walking on the far shore, and a man with sunglasses and a black suit sitting on a bench in the opposite direction of the jogger.

    Taylor thought it strange that this many people, if any, would be out here on such an evening, especially as it neared twilight. She trod the course of the sidewalk at a sluggish pace, her eyes downcast the majority of the way.

    "What I would give to shove someone into the lake right now," she said aloud. She'd come to this lake before and tossed rocks into the lake near people taunting the fish, confronted a teenager or two smoking, and talked to all manner of mischievous children up to what they called "stuff." If it was suspicious, she would call a person out on it, much to the pleasure of adults nearby and the beehive inside her. The latter was storming this evening, angered as if hit by a verbal rock at dinner. However, Taylor saw nobody to approach and nothing unordinary save the number of people, and she doubted that there would be much help in a simple stroll. "Damn it, mom..."

    Forced to observe the lake itself, she watched some fish grappling for food close to her, a paddling of ducks swimming in its center, and a lengthy fringe of cattails bordering the shoreline where the family was, waving in the light breeze. This all would have failed to grasp her attention on any other day, but the only things that were alive were these sorry excuses.

    She continued to watch them go about their pointless endeavors as she walked. She passed the family, a white one with a boy of about five or six that looked extremely pampered. The parents waved to Taylor, and she gave a weak imitation, straining to look them in the eyes. The child had a large toy truck in hand that fell into the lake as he waved; he began crying, and a smile crossed Taylor, whom wondered if there was an action figure in the front seat. That was some enjoyment to be had, but it was one scoop of sand in a big bucket.

    The jogger, a fairly fit man who was close to balding, passed again and threw her a warm glance. "Hello there," he said. Taylor remade a smile for him and let him continue, unsure if he'd wanted to engage in meaningless banter. She was approaching the bench now and had almost completed a trip around when the jogger paused himself and turned his head back to her.

    "Aren't you gonna say hi?" he asked, a smile on his face still.

    Taylor kept walking in his direction. "Hi..." she said, trailing off at the end. A few seconds went by, and his expression was that of a man in waiting. A few more went by.

    "Have a nice evening." He turned and began to run past the bench, evidently disheartened. He was met by the man with the sunglasses, who'd stood just moments prior. The jogger recoiled.

    "What do you think you're doing?" the man asked the jogger. "Harassing a minor, are we now?"

    Taylor couldn't see the jogger's face, but his hands were quivering. "No, no! I didn't do a thing!" A tremor had impinged his voice.

    The man shook his head lightly. "My, we do have a problem here. I suggest you watch yourself. We don't want to draw suspicion, do we?"

    "Of c-course not!" the jogger stuttered. "I'd better be on my way, sir." He made a motion to get around the man.

    "Consider this a warning. I will not have you on the streets if I see this again," he said, stepping aside and allowing the jogger passage. He watched him down the slope of the sidewalk before turning to Taylor.

    She was silent, trying to read the man. Nothing. She may as well have tried examining a wall for signs of life.

    "Miss, are you okay?" he asked, staying where he was a few feet away. His frown had dissolved. His pate was a solid, shiny black like his suit, glasses and shoes, and his features were smooth and refined. He couldn't have been older than thirty, though he reeked of professionalism.

    Taylor remained cautious, imitating his impassiveness as much as she could. "Yes, thank you."

    "You look like you could use some help. You look preoccupied with something," he observed. She wondered if he was concealing a smile and if he knew how nervous she was that he was correct.

    "Possibly. Why does that concern you?" she asked, realizing afterward that this might result in more exhaustion. She covered her mouth with her hand, feigning thought, and mouthed "crap."

    "It doesn't. I just noticed," the man said, looking upward briefly. He then reached into his front pocket and drew out a small piece of cardstock with rounded edges.

    "Your card." The man gave no response, and Taylor fought back a spasm of irritation. That was her gimmick after all.

    After a few seconds of silence, the man stepped forward and extended the hand with the card. "Just use Google. You'll find me," he said, nodding.

    Taylor took the card and stuck it in her back pocket. "Thanks." She didn't know what his intent was, but his personality intrigued her.

    "I may see you again. It depends on you." He nodded once more and walked into a field of green blades. Taylor saw the Cadillac at the end, and he was trudging toward it, the grass wet and thick beneath him.

    She watched him get in the car and take off before pulling the card back out. There was a picture of his face, tinted sunglasses and all, at the top left. She read aloud, "Mark Smith. How generic is that?" With a name as popular as Taylor, of course she had every right to judge.

    She stowed the card away and made her way home. The jogger once again passed her, but not a word or a glance was exchanged. She was glad for that, left alone with her thoughts. She kept going back to Mark's last two sentences, trying to decipher some hidden meaning if one existed. The only thing she could figure out was the overwhelmingly detached nature of their conversation.
    ***

    The killer spent the afternoon that same day perusing his treasury in search of inspiration. Reclining in a swivel chair, he still wondered if Tammy Gross had heard his last thoughts before he'd sunk the chainsaw into her leg. "I hope you enjoyed how tidy this garage is. I'm going to hate how dirty this'll get," he'd said, recalling the blind terror in her expression. He gave two short laughs, leaned forward to continue browsing.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2015
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  6. Uralya *ponders everything*
    Uralya

    Member

    RE: Outlet (Chapter Two)

    The vacation was nice, but it's time to get back to work. Here's the third chapter. Note that I have cut out a bit of the second chapter since I posted it, so you might want to reread it (the ending is altered). Enjoy ^-^

    III
    Taylor suffered what most would call the indignity of having to reheat cold pizza that night, but she was fine with it. Let her eat alone. Her family had gone upstairs for the night, and when she was younger, she might have run up to her mother and begged for protection from the malevolent creatures in the depths of the pantry, but she had taken a liking to the darkness. Rather tranquil.

    The day was now evil, the second day of her junior year in particular.

    Taylor's high school was one of those that claimed territory in Dalton, a tightly knit suburb of around thirty thousand wedged like a nail into the northern end of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Dalton itself was a privileged community compared to other parts of the area, with recent expansions as numerous as American fast food joints. The high schools were very contrasting, however, with one the elitist section, another the upstart success, yet another the bellicose crap, and Taylor's the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. Dalton possessed the illusion of being cozy and tame but hid a drawn and quartered body in this respect.

    Rumored to be planned as a prison but deemed excess, her school felt like one too, and she wasn't at all surprised that many students empathized. She had to travel ten minutes by car to get here, and all for what? The misfortune of having every core class lined up like ducks in a row at the beginning of the day? More like land mines. If this isn't part of my languor, f*** it all.

    Well, that and the preppy girls, of course. They can all go roll around in their own feces.

    Now, on her way to lunch and full of enough core class goodness that her food might tussle with it for the rights to her stomach, Taylor received a tap on the shoulder worthy of a sledgehammer from one such little Miss Priss. The blow corroded some of her tiredness, and she turned around to face a cluster of other girls. One was the queen of the hive, Danni Griffith, attractive and practically wearing a bridal gown and headdress even when it was just a blouse and shorts. Where's that flyswatter I ordered earlier?

    "Hey, Taylor. I lo-ove what you're wearing," the instigator said. A black lace dress, wedge sandals and denim jacket. Get your s*** together.

    "Specify, please. You can't possibly love it when you don't know what the f*** it is. Can you?" Taylor told her, wiping her bangs from her face.

    The girl scoffed. "Who, like, woke up on the wrong side of the bed?" Her nails were bright and gaudy as expected, pulled up to her chin, the very lineaments of arrogance.

    "Evidently, that'd be you. Your vapidity is really screwing you over, to come up with such a trite quip."

    "What a..." someone in the back began, but Taylor met her eyes.

    "Danni, tell them what I mean in simple terms," she said, challenging the queen on the far left. "I'm no good at that."

    The wedding dress came forward. Danni was likely the only calm one. "Yeah, and I could tell you to be nicer, but what's the point in either of those things?" she asked.

    "I agree."

    "Oh, you b***h," Danni said. Albeit another lackluster insult, it made the girls in the back giggle like hyenas. Taylor swore that one stuck her tongue out.

    "Indeed." Taylor gave a final look at Danni, then turned to Miss Tongue and drew a line across her throat. She heard the resultant chorus of gulps and took pride in it, turning again and making her way down the stairs to the cafeteria as fast as her legs would carry her. I used what I had. Good job, Taylor. She cared about her public appeal, but it wasn't necessary to preserve in the presence of flies. Instead, her network adjoined the majority of the middle-class students, those who also dreamed of flyswatters.

    Taylor could hear the giggles coming from the banister overhead, but they were soon rendered mute by the growing buzz of the cafeteria. She weaved through the serried ranks of tables and around various people on her way to the line, stopping only to clap on the back a boy who had a pointless crush on her. The line was short today, but then again she was late due to the flies. A single slice of pizza was left among other things, and she snatched it up, tasting the redemption its warmth could give her.

    "Hello, Taylor!" the lady at the register said. Like the other lunch ladies, she was middling in age and suited for the fishnet. Her Mexican accent was quite cheery. "How are you today? You look so beautiful!"

    "Thanks, Mrs. Ramirez. Tired." Taylor rubbed one eye and blinked a few times. She fished out a wallet from her purse, pulled out a ten.

    "Oh, you always say that. Lighten up!" Mrs. Ramirez jostled her with a hand on her shoulder. Just like last year, it's this one to exaggerate. "Always" has been two days. A bent smile fell on Taylor, contorted by a sudden impulse to drop the ten and smack the woman. The gold rings lining Taylor's necklace jangled together as her body shook.

    Saying nothing, Taylor exchanged the bill for a motley of coins that she simply slid off the counter and into the purse. She took a few steps before she offered, "Thank you," and accepted a pleasured nod in succession. She then lined her tray's edges with utensils and napkins and found her seat.

    There were as many types of teenagers at the table as there were idle coins in Taylor's purse. She believed that some materialistic connection or shared disdain was what held this mishmash together, but how could one of those last over a school year and through a summer?

    "Hey, Taylor!" was pitched in various forms at her, as if she were at a baseball game. Devin, the braced geek and resident loudmouth, stood out, even forcing her way into the seat to Taylor's right and hugging her. The bent smile returned, and Taylor's arms hung limp at her sides.

    "Hey..." Taylor drawled, her mouth lowering until it was focused on the pizza in front of her. Strikeout.

    Anna, the poor fashion expert to her left, who wore the same designer tee two or three times a week, was hitting on Taylor's clothes. "Wow, your necklace is amazing! I love the jewels." There were indeed red jewels inside the rings of the necklace, including a big one on the end at her midsection. Taylor did crack a smile at this, but nothing more.

    The rest of the table consisted of a decent distance runner named Brooke, goody-goody Samantha, and Thomas, Sam's insecure "boo" and band nerd. A common hatred of the popular girls was established early on between them, or so Taylor recalled. She wasn't sure anymore; nowadays, she didn't know why the "percussion only" table across the cafeteria had an open seat.

    "Taylor?" She looked up to see Brooke leaning forward, her elbows pressed on the table. "Are you okay?"

    Blinks avalanched on Taylor, and she rubbed her eye yet again. Even a yawn escaped her, and she didn't catch Brooke nod and slide back in her chair. Taylor slumped over, fitting a straw into her chocolate milk and taking slow sips.

    "You look tired, Taylor," Thomas noted. Thanks, Captain Obvious.

    Taylor rose from the straw, said "Danni," and resumed her sips until they became slurps.

    A few seconds passed before Anna banged a hand on the table and Thomas flinched. "Come on, girl! You can't let that airhead get to you!" There were a few murmurs of assent. "She's an airhead, right?" More assent.

    Taylor finished her drink and picked up the slice of pizza, not caring about how unorthodox this was becoming. "Worthy of a flyswatter like the rest of them," she said, her words a sluggish stream trickling from her lips, each syllable melded to the next. Devin became Mrs. Ramirez's estranged daughter, jostling her and laughing to no end. Taylor made a small groan, but she knew that it fell upon deaf ears.

    The clarity of the lunch segued into a blur, passing quickly with little input from Taylor. As if yesterday and this morning weren't draining, Danni's idiocy had forced that much more out of her. Inconsequential topics were lobbed around, but what Taylor had clung fast to were the morbid scenes spawning from her brooding hive, Danni's discolored wedding dress appearing in each one. They were even better than the pizza.
    ***

    Darren Johnson thought that Taylor was cute. He also knew that she was insane.

    Kevin had to have been more stoned than the two birds of that old idiom to be so calm yesterday. Darren had recounted this in detail to his "homies" earlier, leaving out his own antics. They gave a collective nod and a sententious "three hunna."

    Darren hated Chief Keef, a rapper with little lyrical ability and a thirst for violence, but he was a rare spark of genius sometimes. "Three hunna" was his brain child, its Roman numerals standing for "cool, calm and collected." He also hated that this had caught on, but what didn't in today's society? The only reason Darren wore a hoodie at all was because of this mentality.

    He liked to think of himself as the aware one of the group, and he found solace in his immediate perception of Taylor. His homies would have all said, "keep it three hunna," and then gone straight to sleep had she had a weapon. That saying probably would have provoked her too.

    Darren had watched the escapade up the stairs from the cafeteria. He didn't see any other boys around; it was a classic cat fight. Sure, he'd cheered for Taylor, but who wouldn't? It's better to cheer for the underdog.

    "Dawg, pass the fries."

    Darren snapped out of his recollection belatedly, thinking that "underdog" was something he said aloud and only recognized on the last syllable. "What?" he said.

    "Pass the fries."

    "Get your own, Rashaun," he said. Rashaun's eyes, baseball cap, silver necklace and all glared at him. "Okay, two." Darren tossed a pair that conveniently landed in a cross on Rashaun's tray.

    "What you lookin' at, D?" Trevor, Darren's best friend, asked.

    Darren realized he'd stood against the pillar next to the table for a few minutes now and sat down. "Nothing, T." He stole a last glance before facing everyone.

    Trevor in turn stood himself and squinted. "You peepin' the cool chick?"

    "No."

    "Stop playin' me." Trevor crossed his arms. He nodded toward Taylor. "Guys, peep the cool chick. Do a brother a favor," he said.

    Darren had known that Taylor was popular among the student body, but he would have never believed that his group admired her. Has to be the dress.

    Rashaun made a sound of approval. Here it comes!

    "No," Darren jabbed. "Tired of that crap, Rashaun."

    "Dawg, I'm tired of you and your s***." Rashaun and Darren put their feet on the floor and had the boys on either side of them help them up.

    "Okay, okay, I see how it is. You wanna go?" Darren shook one fist and made a frown.

    "You and your momma will have so much to talk about tonight. I'm finna kick yo' ass." The group followed in an obedient mass as they strode down the hall to the restroom. Darren wondered who would get his head shoved in the toilet first.

    Trevor pulled up in front of Darren at this point, and everyone stopped walking. "What is this s***, D? What are you thinkin'?" he asked, complete with waving hands.

    "Punk-ass needs his momma, that's what he's thinkin'," Rashaun said.

    "Shut up, Mr. Three Hunna, before I tear you a new one." Trevor turned back. "Get over here," he hissed, pulling Darren aside to the wall. "D, you gonna go to sleep in front of me? Really?"

    "What are you talking about?"

    "I'm talking about how you gonna lose. I know the cool chick pumped you up, but come on! Damn."

    Darren paused, glanced at Rashaun, at Taylor, at Rashaun again. Someone coughed and another yelled, "Chicken!"

    Trevor shot himself at Chicken. Chicken had a baseball cap as well, and his pants were lower than the cost of gas before his birth. They exchanged words before Trevor gave him a shove and came back to Darren.

    "I don't give a s*** how much you wanna impress her, the homies, or me. You gonna get the corporation, D!" Trevor laid it out in front of him in two sentences and then pushed them into Darren's mouth.

    Darren swallowed. "I know," he said. "I don't know where my mind is right now."

    "It's in your wrong mind. I can tell you that! Let's go." The pair stood across the hall from Rashaun and the others. "Guys, this is damn stupid. It's a phrase, and it ain't even ours! So shove it," Trevor told them.

    All of Rashaun glared at him too, but the group made no advances. Everything was still save the mouths of the lunch room.

    "Boys, what's going on?" Darren turned to see one of the officers the school had hired. He had imposing mass but a gaunt face, one that rivaled mainstream music in having seen better days. He looked like he'd spent more than a day patrolling the s***hole of life, wherever that had been for him.

    "Nothing, Officer Bridges, sir. I think we've reached an understanding, thank you," Darren said. Rashaun grunted. Without a word, Bridges folded his hands behind him and walked away down another hall. Darren figured that he was tired of these almost-fights and wanted to use the handcuffs like in the old days.

    Darren turned only his head to Rashaun. "Bro, get over it." He looked at Trevor and said, "I'm out."

    Trevor joined the group at Rashaun's side as they watched Darren sweep along the length of the cafeteria. He came to a stop at the pillar next to a table of ragtag girls and one boy, leaning against a tiled pillar. He seemed to chat with all of them, but the two with glasses on either side of the cool chick started to chase him off. Darren sidestepped one and leaned on the table, whereupon the cool chick stood, slung her purse over her shoulder and patted her dress before looking up at him. There was a long period in which neither moved; the chick looked around, gave him a vicious slap and watched him reel back into a chair. She remained standing, watching.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2015
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  7. Uralya *ponders everything*
    Uralya

    Member

    RE: Outlet (Chapter Three)

    I'm going to be at an overnight running camp for the next week or so, but here's the next chapter. We'll see a couple subplots running from here on out. Again, feedback is greatly appreciated, especially structural or grammatical edits/improvements. I'm always in the habit of editing previous installments it seems.

    IV

    The shock that jumped from person to person around the table as Darren fell was invigorating, like the sense of accomplishment one gets when people react to his "sweet burn," and one person strikes an imaginary match and puts it to the shirt of whomever was "roasted." Taylor felt so alive, and the grin effervescing just beneath her lid confirmed that, but she also knew that restraint was of the essence. This insult was far less playful for everyone else. Just a sucker punch, and then I retreat. People are too damn touchy.

    She had already counted Darren's insecurities on both hands, but this audacity to talk to her struck a nerve that caused a muscle spasm. He was a loser, probably a deadbeat, and nothing more, and his type was best left to the vultures in her eyes, but drop her in hell if he wasn't a target. How you got so confident is unknown to me, but, rest assured, your temerity may doom you yet.

    Now, Darren lay collapsed against the table, as if punched in the gut by another test score. His breaths were drawn, at lengths suggestive of silent defeat and anguish. Brooke, Sam, Devin, Anna and Thomas were all standing in front of their respective seats, multiple gasps among them. Taylor absorbed everything, motionless.

    "What the hell?" Thomas squeaked. He was shaky, so much that his glasses were to slip off had Sam not noticed.

    Anna made a move toward Darren and peered at his face, a pitiful mess cradled by the table and his rumpled sleeve. "That's gonna leave a mark," she said. "Taylor, what was that?" Her eyes darted aside and jerked her head slightly with their momentum.

    Before Taylor could answer, there appeared a second boy, similar in appearance but shorter, with little hair and peach fuzz. Taylor knew him: Trevor Cook, the wild nuisance of a sophomore in the back of her speech class this year. Behind him was Officer Bridges, arms crossed and face plastered with sullen contempt, something one had a hard time judging realistic or fake.

    "What's going on here?" Bridges sounded more gruff than usual. Already flustered by something?

    Taylor put her hands up, moving her gaze to Bridges' forehead. "Sir, this boy was harassing me. I promise it was self-defense."

    He seemed to consider something. "I really don't care who started it. What was this about?" Or not.

    "He made a move on Taylor here and she tried to back away but he kept moving and almost grabbed her and then she slapped him," Devin said, her tongue dancing at a tempo worthy of jive music. There was a pause, and at last the rest of the table nodded. "Honest, sir."

    "And this was in self-defense?" Bridges asked. Taylor's brow furrowed, and her head shook imperceptibly.

    "Yes, sir," Brooke affirmed. Taylor caught Anna trapped in a look of overt discomfort and nudged her beneath the table.

    Bridges nodded too. "Okay. Miss, I want you to come with me to the office." He turned to Thomas and Sam. "You two, carry him with us please."

    "Sir, let me do it," Trevor said. Bridges thought some more before motioning for the couple to sit back down. Trevor knelt down, wrapped Darren's free arm around him, stood and made his way to the stairs. Darren groaned, and his eyes were open, but he was incoherent beyond that. Taylor and Bridges followed, passing them eventually.

    Taylor was silent save the soft tread of her sandals, looking up at the ceiling. She had visited the office before, but only to purchase tickets for school events or to receive awards. The staff was more cordial here than in the classrooms, and though such made little difference to Taylor, it was at the least a break from the raucity generated by student-run plane hangars competing for jurisdiction of the airspace above a teacher's head.

    There was no doubt in her that she could emerge unscathed from this. The trick was in keeping the mask secure.
    ***

    The principal's office was conveniently at the end of a long hall, and the sight of Darren in whatever paralysis he was in being lugged past the other offices was nothing short of abhorrent to the staff. It was hard to count how many heads shook, how many faces contorted; even the hanging portraits showed their disapproval. Either that was the case, or they were just as pissed with Darren as Taylor was.

    The group came to a mahogany door that, in all of its majesty, failed to be larger than the frame of the assistant principal's office to the left. Bridges knocked on it briefly and moved himself to the side. Taylor could see the silver nameplate next to it now: "Roger Wilson." Boy, will he be surprised to see this.

    "Err, come in." The voice was young and high but hesitant. Bridges gave the door a push and edged himself in, holding it while Taylor followed suit. The room was something reminiscent of the cubicles the staff seemed to live in, but it was spacious, a rectangular prism. Both of the longer walls were occupied by bookshelves and two file cabinets, and there was a window sliced into thousands of squares that made up the far one. The rest was plain and crowded near the principal's desk. Wilson reminded Taylor of her father: chiseled, professional, and proud to have a full head of hair. He had bright features, but his mouth never appeared to suit the rest of him, like Bruce Banner in any public setting. It never sounded like one would think either, normally adopting a casual tone.

    "Taylor, how nice to see you again! What brings you here?" Wilson asked, a pleasant smile pasted on him. It probably hadn't been there a minute ago.

    Taylor said nothing, stepping aside as Trevor and Darren hobbled in like participants in a three-legged race. Bridges closed the door and positioned himself beside it.

    "Oh! Oh my." Wilson looked at Bridges. "Christopher? Get them all chairs please." Bridges nodded once more and exited, closing the door so slowly that it went unheard.

    "Principal Wilson," Trevor said, breaking the resultant silence. Both Taylor and Wilson flinched at that.

    Wilson looked him over. "Trevor? Again? What did you do?"

    "Nothing, sir! She whooped my friend good though!"

    "Nonsense! Trevor, this is one of my..." Wilson trailed off. He swiveled to the side and stared at the only bare wall. "Okay, Roger, no bias. No bias." He repeated this over before facing them again. "Taylor, what happened?"

    Bridges returned at length, and they all took a seat while he stood sentinel. "Everyone comfortable?" Darren raised his thumb in approval.

    "Sir, this boy harassed me, and I slapped him in self-defense when he didn't stop. That's as short a truth as I can give you," Taylor said.

    "That's bulls***!" Trevor yelled. He jumped up and raised a tight fist, some fire of demonic origins taking root in his pupils and growing ever brighter.

    "Trevor, sit down!" Bridges ordered, and the offender slumped in his chair. "And watch your language."

    "Sorry, sir! This chick slapped D for no reason at all though! He was out cold!" Trevor turned his head to Darren, whom groaned again. Trevor patted his shoulder.

    "Trevor, I don't doubt you. Relax," Wilson said. "Taylor, you say it was self-defense. Trevor, you say otherwise. How am I to know who's telling the truth?"

    Taylor folded her hands in her lap. "I don't know. It's a game of 'He Said, She Said.'"

    "Sir, I am telling the truth! Why'd I lie about my best friend?" Trevor pleaded. "She don't even know, you hear that?"

    "I hear 'that' all right, Trevor, but I lack any evidence from either of you. You, for example, may not have even been there." Wilson turned to Darren. "What's your name?"

    "It's Darren, sir," Trevor said. Bridges met him with a slight frown.

    Darren grumbled, writhing like a worm in his seat. Taylor felt a crazy laugh bubble up inside her but held it down fast. He gave her a glare as he tried to sit up, clutching his jaw in his hand.

    "Darren, can you speak?" Wilson pressed. He was leaning on his desk, and it creaked, edged itself forward like an ancient glacier.

    Darren shook his head.

    Wilson sat up and folded his own hands after deliberation. "Okay. Taylor and Darren, I'll let you both off with a warning for now. With one party unable or unwilling to participate, I can't reach a fair conclusion. We'll revisit this another time, and I'll let you both know in advance." He stood and walked over to the window, his hands behind him. "I trust that you both know about honesty. Honesty is a good thing." He took a deep breath. "It's a good thing."

    Bridges came forward and escorted them out of the office. While he gathered the chairs, Trevor stole swift glances at Taylor, darting his gaze elsewhere and then refocusing it. Taylor kept hers right on his face. Her breathing was calm and measured as she leaned against the wall of the corridor, his rash and furious. It was entertaining, and, she guessed, a welcome change from Darren, as useless as he was right now.

    "Okay, let's move it. Hopefully, this will be a little smoother next time," Bridges said, coming through the door again to interrupt her amusement. They went through a one-way offshoot of the hall that spit them into the middle of student traffic between periods beside the main staircase. Trevor and Darren inched along the side of the traffic, and Trevor jumped into it at the first opportunity.

    Taylor stood across a grouping of purple floor tiles from Darren, whom imitated her perfectly. He then made a little smirk and massaged his jaw.

    "What?" Taylor asked.

    He took his hand away and kept on smirking. "Honesty's a good thing," he said. She was so focused on that smirk that she did a mental double take, failing to notice his feet moving until he began to disappear in the crowd.
    ***

    Hey kids, tune in for another episode of Mr. Hayward, Ralph thought.

    Ralph Hayward had always dreamed of putting a check mark next to everything on his bucket list. That s*** was sacred to him, so much that he'd had it placed in a glass display case atop the mantle in his living room. He was proud of the dozen pen swishes on it already, and his friends marveled at it every time they arrived after work for ritualistic rounds with wine's poverty-stricken brother. Such was the good life for a single man entering his sixties, and how could it get any worse?

    Ralph owned, or rather squatted, a cozy residence he'd practically milked off of his ex-wife, married for her money and shipped off to some place in New England to live with her parents after he had finished leeching. At least, he thought it was in New England; he'd forgotten and cared not in the past ten years. Since then, he'd boarded a cruise up the western edge of Canada, snorkeled in the Caribbean, gambled in Las Vegas, and completed a hoard of activities he could have only fantasized about in another life. Yeah, he was an extravagant son of a b***h, but what was Lucy going to do about that? He had no kids to worry about either.

    He was balding, almost a real-life portrayal of Bill Dauterive from King of the Hill. He even had the stained white tank top and jeans to match. The differences lay in his age, pride, wealth, and lack of shame. He was an avid fan of cartoons like that which Bill appeared in, and he enjoyed heckling characters and daring them to live life to the fullest. Peter, Homer, and even Hank disappointed him, and Stan Smith would be an exception if he didn't become emotional at the end of every episode. "No shame, you idiot, no shame!" he would chant.

    Today was another day to flip off the school bus as he read a newspaper and sipped his coffee. He embraced the "Smug with the Mug" slogan on his cup, letting all of the teens watch one more bird fly past their windows as he sat in front of his. The driver was also a familiar sight, giving him the sideways stare that he returned in a heartbeat. The driver tipped his hat lower and mouthed an obscenity, and Ralph offered a salutation by raising his mug. The bus had stopped during the exchange, and now it left for its target middle school, chugging puffs of gas as it removed itself from his sight.

    "Ralph, my man, you are a son of a b***h," he told himself. "Why doesn't Dateline run a story about you? Oh right, Ralph sits for nobody." He began to make for the kitchen and load the platinum dishwasher he'd installed last week.

    "You wanna take a seat for me?" There was a hollow voice behind Ralph. The light entering the room had disintegrated, as if the blinds had gone down.

    "Up yours, Hansen!" Ralph spat, wheeling around. "What the hell?"

    He barely registered the masked face in front of him before a baseball bat connected with his temple. Ralph fell to the floor, whereupon there was series of cracks up and down his body, up and down and up and down, like a human xylophone. He was broken but alive, broken but conscious, and broken but a son of a b***h to the last breath before the darkness took a swing of its own.
    ***

    That evening, after a relatively peaceful dinner, Taylor once again had a bed and boredom all to herself. She'd donned a loose blue tee and shorts, making sure not to ruin another dress if she passed out. The annoying patter of rain was again present at her window, knocking with an overzealous enthusiasm as if it wanted her to thrust it open and allow it passage after her slumber had denied that twenty-four hours earlier.

    Darren was something. He'd appeared a nervous wreck yesterday, which given his exterior was surprising, and not a day later he was on the upper edge of cunning, and that also was surprising. How can a person change so quickly? How can a person be so damn confusing to me?

    Taylor's endeavors were in the meanwhile escalating in various aspects. Sure, the last assault had worked, but the public nature of it and the close call with Wilson still rang true as liberty bells and tormented her just as thoroughly. The last two periods of the school day were so muddled by them that she'd forgotten if either teacher had yelled at her for "daydreaming."

    If these infernal reveries persisted, it would be nothing but harsh travail from here. Taylor had sailed this ocean for as long as she could remember, and it had seldom harbored rough waters. It was more often akin to a smooth and thick sheet, and this swath of red that marked her wake was simply decoration, like adding patterns to a patchwork quilt. These troubled swells had encompassed her for some time now, and today amounted to two more pieces of wood from her ship to sacrifice to Charybdis.

    Sometimes, I wonder why the vessel hasn't broken already. I'm tired of this meandering existence, where a wave rests inches below every bit of surface, where the whirlpool threatens to drill further down at every instance. She had felt her grip begin to loosen, and the ropes of her control, once taut, now slackened. In such uncompromising circumstances, I've grown insouciant, and devastatingly so. I've always had the right tools to get along.

    I've grown too used to that.

    Taylor sat up on the bed, clasping her head tight between her clawed hands. She cringed. "S***," she said. "I'm losing it. I've risked myself, tired myself, and I'm losing it."

    Her means of release. Her outlet.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2016
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  8. Zyflair Yes, sir. Of course, sir.
    Zyflair

    Advanced Member Member

    RE: Outlet (Chapter Four)

    Yo. It's been a while. In fact, I think the last fanfic I've read of yours before this was The Price of Revenge, which was - what - back in 2011? ... Yeah, let's just move on before I feel really old.

    Because there's four chapters at the posting of this critique, it's going to be a rather long one if I invested heavily on each of them, so if you felt I didn't quite critique with much depth, I apologize in advance. Also, for now, I'll critique only the first two chapters for now just so you don't have to wait ages for all four (so sorry @[email protected]). As one last note before we get into the actual critique, I will attempt to focus on anything that's not mechanical as your skill is more than sufficient in that regard.

    Chapter One
    The opening of the fiction unfortunately did not instil the best impression I've ever felt. In your attempt to emphasize Taylor's malicious intent, there's suddenly an odd contradiction of description where you say she "wore a bent and twisted smile... [masking] equally twisted intentions." Later on, you then remark that the hoodlums were under the tree "at this time in the evening, when the sunlight was angled right on them," leaving me to believe the setting is currently at sunset, which doesn't quite equate to an evening as far as I know.

    And the interactions between Taylor and the two teens go on, though - this might be only be nitpicking at this point - the diction gets a bit awkward when the dark meeting gets flavoured with more childish phrases as "jump-to-conclusions" and "on your mark, get set, go." Had it not been for that, the scene would have been solid.

    Starting the second section of the first chapter with a one-sentence paragraph looked odd, especially when the following paragraph connected with it just fine. I find it interesting that Taylor seems to be in a pretty decent house given her room, yet has quite the clearly troubled personality. Personally, you drew on a bit too much about her dark side because whatever momentum there was at the start of the chapter was muddled down. Right after, you dragged us back into another dark scene, so the transition proved abrupt.

    Overall, very nice chapter. The only issue seems to be just a few question word choices as I've listed along with the flow of the chapter overall (which is only a personal verdict, as most critiques tend to be).

    Chapter Two
    The start of this chapter confused me; I was rather confident that Taylor's brother "pissing her off with the foghorn he'd hid in his closet, but decided against it," so having Taylor's dream/vision interrupted by just that looked like a lack of fact checking from the previous chapter.

    Another thing that has constantly bothering me is about her "emotional insensitivity," yet she obviously demonstrates sheer annoyance at the very least to her brother, unless that doesn't count as an emotion. Or her angst about her closer(?) relationship with her mother.

    So actually, I didn't really have much to add beyond that, as you're simply driving the plot along. The story is decent so far. Aside from some inconsistency throughout the tale for now, I'll be looking forward for the next few chapters when I get the time for it.

    Happy Writing,
    ~Zyflair
     
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  9. Uralya *ponders everything*
    Uralya

    Member

    RE: Outlet (Chapter Four)

    Yes it has, hey :)
    At first, I questioned what you meant by the first problem, but I see it now. After thinking about it, I'll make the smile a more friendly thing and add "bent" to the intentions.

    As for the evening thing, I couldn't think of a better one atm. How about dropping "in the evening"?
    Fair enough, you're right. It'd be best with a simple phrase.
    The way I went about the structure of this part of the chapter was starting with action and making the reader wonder why she acts like this and then elaborating so the reader is interested in how it will play out. I've played around a lot with how this chapter is ordered and I can't find the right one. That's the one I seem to like most, but I'm open to change.
    Thank you, and the word choice is normally where I end up correcting myself a lot anyways. Nice to have someone to nitpick it where I might have skipped over.
    This made more sense in my head than on paper. *goes and fixes*
    Well, she doesn't give emotion externally, but she feels it internally. I'll play around with it, but yes it should change.

    Thanks for the critique! You're very nice at homing in on the little things, and I appreciate the detail you give while doing so. Chapter Five, now that I'm back from camp, should be in the works soon.
     
  10. Turtwig Retired Mod. Jovimohnaeliackvid.
    Turtwig

    Member

    RE: Outlet (Chapter Four)

    Sorry, I thought I'd already put a critique for your latest chapter. Late or not, here it is! :p

    So as I was reading I noticed your scene change marks (the ***) are small and off to the left, making it difficult to see the separation of scenes. I usually space them out just a little and center them so it's clearly divided. Just a nitpick from me, though.

    The expression "tried and true" is kind of cliche, which everyone should avoid since these sayings have lost their meanings over repeated use. Also, the phrase "the equivalent of" is kind of awkward and too long when you could just say:

    Also, there are other more complex expressions that could be changed. Here's another one:

    In this, I replaced "be edging" with "edge" because sometimes simplicity is the better alternate to complexity for the understanding of a certain sentence. I also added a couple of words to make the sentence make more sense. There were some other examples, too, but I'm not going to explain them all since this single one does a pretty good job at explaining it.

    There aren't many mistakes in your writing (very little, to be honest), but I do think that you could shorten some of the more complex expressions and words into simpler ones. Remember this: while using a unique vocabulary is impressive and unexpected, it can also hinder the overall meaning of the sentence. Try not to use too many words that some people might have to look up. Don't limit yourself on wording too much, but a smaller sentence with simple wording can be the best choice!

    I'm really enjoying this story and can't wait to see how it's going! I love the dialogue and different scenes so far :D Keep up the good work!
     
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  11. Uralya *ponders everything*
    Uralya

    Member

    RE: Outlet (Chapter Four)

    Thanks Turtwig! I appreciate the critique, especially because this is the chapter I've reviewed myself the least amount of times.

    I'd honestly say that my scene change marks are more for simplicity and habit than anything, and nobody else has brought them up in discussion before :p Maybe I should center them; thanks for mentioning that.

    Occasionally I will miss tense uses that could easily be substituted out like the examples you've given. I'll go back and edit those. As for the place where you entered the additional words, I have a habit for using a little trick I learned somewhere back in middle school: if you begin an independent clause with a subject and what follows is a pair of actions, you can skip the "and" by simply using a comma to separate the actions. This is best used for when the actions are subsequent or for when the second action elaborates on the first. I don't know why I've never seen it (mentioned) elsewhere, but I've taken a liking to it.

    As for complexity, I agree that sometimes I do go over the top with that. I've definitely improved on toning it down in the past two years, but there will always be a next step it seems. Thanks for pointing this out too.
     
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  12. Uralya *ponders everything*
    Uralya

    Member

    RE: Outlet (Chapter Four)

    Been... awhile. Enjoy Chapter Five :)

    Discussion of views on emotion and humanity in addition to an intense scene are in here. Tread carefully if you are sensitive to those things.

    V

    People are stupid. People are naive. People have trouble seeing the cold truths, only willing to glimpse the sugarcoated facades of what makes them feel comfortable. But fine. If you want to turn a blind eye to me, all the better, Taylor thought. She'd read this on a blog that she had long since lost within the manifold pages of the internet, but the simple logic it brought to her was enough to sear it into her being.

    Taylor found a mixed blessing in social idiocy. She believed in the eventual ruin it would bring, but she cherished the ease with which she could conceal herself when trying. Any doubt a person had in her would usually fade seconds after it was conceived, thrown to the wind on the premise of faith.

    What makes you human is what makes you stupid and naive. Emotions are the biggest flaw you all have. The effort you put into trying to save yourselves from experiencing the worst in people, to preserve your feelings towards those people, and to lie to yourself that you feel the correct emotions is an effort that could be much better utilized. What makes you human is what makes you weak.

    All the while, as Taylor searched herself for more revelations that same evening, her sight was directed superficially on a news report concerning a double homicide. The victims were newlyweds that Taylor's parents had welcomed to the neighborhood two months ago. Everyone had given their greetings and barely offered a word in passing to them since, and that wasn't surprising considering how shallow people can be when the festivities end. More words went behind their backs than not, on account of the woman being a homebody and the man having nights on the town too often.

    Taylor sat, or rather slumped, on the end of the living room couch, a barge anchored in a sea of white carpet. Noah and her mother were huddled together next to her, a down of disquiet covering their tender faces. Her father leaned forward in his armchair on her other side, a folded morning paper in his lap and his reading glasses put down in haste on top of it.

    "Oh my god..." her mother said. There came a slow series of repetitions, fainter and fainter, as Noah wiped his face and tried to comfort her. Tears soon overpowered her speech and made silent cries of it. Taylor paid more attention at this and noted the fervor her mother had entered when the report described the killing, and again when it announced that the perpetrator was still at large.

    "Who would do something like this?" her mother asked the ceiling. Taylor repressed a sigh, trying to maintain a tactful expression. Her father was tense, his eyes pasted, taped and nailed to the television. "Honey?" Nothing so much as recognition.

    Taylor turned her head to Noah. "Go get your airhorn or something," she said. Noah wiped his face again before springing into a dash up the stairs. "Noah! Or something!" Taylor yelled, and he made his way back into the room, confused. "Shake him."

    Noah approached and jostled the statue in the armchair. It recoiled, leaping in the seat. "Oh, Noah," her father said. "Sorry. What is it?"

    "Honey, please tell me you've been listening," her mother said. Her father held a disoriented stare and a slow contemplation, and she began to spawn a few more tears. "Honey?"

    He stalled. Finally, he was struck by a bolt of energy, rising from the chair and taking Noah's seat on the couch and caressing his wife with both hands. "Of course I've been listening, dear, of course I have! There, there," he assured her. He stroked her cheek and hugged her close at once, pausing to plant a kiss on her forehead.

    Noah caught Taylor's attention with a wave of the hand, and she pointed to the large beanbag next to the couch, upon which he sat with no hesitation. He kept eye contact with her for a few seconds before she shrugged to satisfy him.

    Taylor closed her eyes and concealed a pitiful look with her hand as she leaned on the couch arm. My father could be finishing the newspaper and pondering what to make for breakfast tomorrow, but instead he would rather tend to the disbelief and hysteria of his beloved. Unbelievable.

    "Taylor?" The utterance of her name gripped her head like a clamp and yanked it toward her parents, in particular her father. "What do you think about this?" he asked.

    Taylor sensed a swell of something in her, but it was far too murky. There were bits of anger and irritation strewn about amusement and laughter, but they all were fleeting, dissipating. A bare bed of nothing again. Not a trickle.

    "It's disconcerting, dad." She shifted toward the television, where a summary of the double homicide aired. Taylor gave it mere seconds before she murdered the on-screen reporter and plunged her voice into oblivion with an indiscriminate click.

    Her mother probably had fought through some tears when she said, "Thank you, honey," but Taylor couldn't bother herself to find out. She set down the remote, stood up, cracked her neck once, and found the stairs. Everything else, objections or cries or whatnot, drowned again under a tide of introspection as she climbed the steps.

    Why, then, have I now been crippled by the very disbelief that makes them so useless?
    ***

    The introspection was all-encompassing, a soft and seamless blanket, something to wrap oneself in and create a peaceful solitude. Taylor was sprawled out on her bed, head nested in a cluster of pillows. And nothing was brooding, yet everything was thinking.

    I don't get any of it. That's what it came to in the end. Fold the paper into anything, a swan or a ball to lob into a trash can, and that's what it came to. Any of it. How is emotion good? How is it useful? How are you useful? If you lull yourself into a sense of security just by turning a blind eye and thinking happy thoughts, what good are you? And if you become a teary mess in the face of what you call tragedy, what good are you? If you are wholly dictated in your response to what happens around you by instinct and social appropriateness, what good are you? You help nothing. Sadness, worry, pity, fear, love, joy, everything.

    "What good are you?" Taylor said, sitting up and folding her hands into her lap. "What good are any of you?" She brushed her hair away from her face. What good...

    The answer was a jarring knock at her door. "Taylor, are you in here?" her father asked, his voice growing louder as he wedged through.

    "Obviously." Taylor gave him a blank expression and a blink.

    "Taylor, we need to have a talk." He put himself down on the side of the bed. The creak of the mattress only underscored the mood.

    "Okay, shoot."

    Her father shifted his gaze to his lap and back to Taylor. "Your mother has told me a few things."

    "Why talk to me then?"

    "She's... She wants me to handle this," he said. "Things aren't the best downstairs. Let's say that."

    "I expected as much."

    "I've let you get away with some things over the years. I've always kept my mouth shut. I figured it would be best if you grew up the way you felt was most comfortable."

    Taylor raised an eyebrow at last. "Really?"

    "Yes, I thought it was harmless. Nobody ever said anything."

    "I should hope so."

    Her father stood at that. "To hell with your tone of voice right now," he said. "You listen to me, Taylor. I've held my tongue for far too long. Your mother is fed up. This has to stop."

    "What has to stop?"

    "You, Taylor. You have to stop."

    "What's wrong with me?"

    Her father sat back down and leaned into her space. "Everything, Taylor! Look around you! Look at yourself."

    "I do. How do you know?" she asked. The raised brow was her only palpable change thus far, and it disappeared.

    Her father withdrew and stared at the floor. "Well, I observe. I don't participate much. I watch and process the information I get," he said. "I've seen you at your finest, Taylor."

    "Why did you hole it up inside you then?"

    "Like I said, I thought it was harmless. Nobody complained. As long as you were under control, it wasn't a source of worry." Her father continued to pace up and down the floor panels with his eyes.

    "I see," Taylor remarked. She lowered her head. "What did mom tell you?"

    "Well, she observed some of your restiveness last night. She also said she received a phone call from Principal Wilson, but you know the rest of that one." They looked up at the same time and met one another. "I held it in because your propensity for creating violence and drama has been sporadic at best. But two times since the start of school? I know you're better than that, Taylor."

    "Maybe," she said, and she expected a deep-seated sigh to bubble forth but received nothing.

    There was a good moment's pause, during which she watched her father processing her. His eyes shot and darted from place to place, taking in everything just as he'd explained. "I can see your reluctance. Change is hard. I know."

    "And yet you want me to change," Taylor asserted.

    "That's what I came up here to talk about, yes, but I understand." He halted his speech. "Well, more than I did. I understand the 'what' and all that."

    The murky swell returned in Taylor's gut, swallowing up the nothingness and grumbling with an unsettling presence. She didn't know how to interpret it any more than the first time. "What don't you understand?"

    Uncertainty crossed her father, and he cursed under his breath. Taylor uprighted her position and gave a brief yawn. He was silent. His eyes began to hunt again. Slowly. Slowly. They inspected the furniture and skimmed the bleached surface of the wall. Slowly. Slowly. At length, his focus returned to him. "Why?"

    The swell raged. From the frothing tumult, a vicious paroxysm rose and punctured Taylor, escaping through her mouth. "Because people are weak." It came in a steady and subtle hiss. Her brow had creased, and her father took it in acutely.

    He nodded. "That's partially true. At times, I wish your mother could hold together more easily," he whispered. "You shouldn't invest too much in that outlook though, Taylor. People are capable of great things."

    "Like s*** they are. They're only great compared to what humans normally do." The swell was high but standing now, silent, stagnant.

    Her father crossed his arms, and a smile spread about him. "Wow," he said. "And 'what humans normally do' is weak?"

    Taylor nodded. "And a grievous misuse of what could be better utilized," she added.

    "I understand. You're comfortable with that." Her father put his feet down and stood over her. "I must ask, though, do you feel like the energy I spent here could have been better utilized?"

    Taylor's bottom lip lowered, and her eyes dropped. She slunk back into the mass of pillows, unfolding her legs. "I don't know."

    He nodded once more and began to walk away. "Okay," he said. "I understand, Taylor. Thank you."

    Taylor saw him off until the door shut. A moment before his back disappeared from view, her mother appeared at the top of the balustrade in the hall wearing a pallid complexion. Upon the click of the lock, she asked him, "Well? What'd she say?"

    "Nothing, dear. Not a word." Taylor, perplexed, heard a muffled series of questions and subsequent rejections carry down the hall and into the master bedroom. Evidently, her father was of no use to his spouse right now.

    What good?
    ***

    Luke would drive places, but Jane Bellamy, formerly Jane Williams, drove him insane.

    "Luke, get back here!" she shouted, racing down the stairs in a tank top and yoga pants. Luke, standing in the foyer, was dressed out in a casual tuxedo, his back to her and his hand on the doorknob. He had a slick complexion and short brown hair that curved around his head.

    "Whadda you want from me?" he asked, almost as vehement in tone. "Don't you have a book to read?"

    "Go make yourself useful and write one then!" Jane bounded from the last step, her long black hair flying, and clasped his hands in hers as he turned around. "We've been married for three months! Why do you keep going to parties like you're single?" The last sentence carried pleading undertones with it.

    "I want to f***ing live, Jane! You don't do anything but lay in bed and do chores!"

    "That's because you don't support anything I do, Luke!" There were tears screaming at him as they traced Jane's face and fell onto his suit. "Marriage isn't disregard and happy-go-lucky partying! It's love, care, and something that means the world to some people..."

    Luke's aggravation didn't waver, but he was silent.

    "... and it certainly means the world to me," Jane finished, looking up at him. "I want to know that you feel the same way, Luke. I miss you! All the time!"

    "You don't do s*** because I don't support the s*** you do? What kind of logic is that?"

    "That's not the point, damn it! I want to know that you love me, Luke! Going to parties and drinking yourself to the point of riding home in the trunk is no way to do that!"

    Luke couldn't speak. Jane felt all of the words he wanted to say tossing and turning inside him, making his hands shake and sweat. His tense face was a hilarious mask, and she wanted to rip it off and see the gentle, smart man she married.

    "I know you want to live, but you know this isn't right. My daddy always wanted me to marry another upper-class elitist, but you also know that I'm not like him. I chose to go to a regular school, I chose to talk to you, and I chose you because I love you. I don't care if I pissed him off, or that he threatened to disown me, or that he hates you! All I want is to know that I made the right choice."

    Luke smiled, and his disguise removed itself, like one brought to a masquerade. "You did, Jane. I'm sorry... I'm just so caught up with living that I forgot what a life is," he said.

    "Do you really mean that?" Jane couldn't tell who was more teary.

    "Yeah, Jane. I love you."

    Jane finally made a smile of her own. Peering down, she noticed the drips on her tank top and more on him. "I wonder whose shirt wins this one," she said. She stood tiptoe as he brought her face up to his. She closed her eyes, trusting that he not keep his open.

    There was a small pause, and she stopped moving up. "Hey, what are you doing here?" Luke asked.

    "I'm waiting, stupid," Jane replied. "Is something..." There was a splitting blast close behind her, followed by a squish. Luke released Jane, and she fell to the cold floor, crying out as she opened her eyes. She didn't hear the thump of her bottom connecting with the boards, but there followed a heavy, audible knock in front of her, like a large package thrown at the door all the way from the curb.

    Sitting as upright as possible, Jane stared into the yawning mouth of Luke's stomach, ripped open from the side and trickling like a bloody pet fish bag. His head hung limp over the hole and observed the cause of its demise. Propped against the front door, he was silent, leaking, and motionless, like just minutes before.

    "No, no, oh my god, no..." Jane said, panting. She started crawling toward Luke's body, struggling across the foyer and reeling from shock. The only thing in her mind was Luke: his smile, his kiss, his life, and his death. Closer and closer, farther and farther. The imbalance of reality weighed down on her. Her hands staggered, shook, and hesitated. Closer and closer, farther and farther. The tremor was so great and so affecting that she could only say, "Luke... Luke..." Each breath alternated with his name, hollow and distrustful. Closer and closer. A surge of energy: "Luke!" She returned to gasping. Farther and farther.

    "Oh, shut up already." Jane registered a deadened voice above her and spun around, leaning back on her hands. The muzzle of a shotgun greeted her, rammed into her sternum. She looked up the barrel, and a white hockey mask covered in red spray met her gaze.

    Choked, Jane had no words. Everything blurred around the masked man and the gun. His gloved hand gripped the trigger and gave no halt. The final burst screamed and shattered the spinning images around Jane as if they were glass. She lowered her eyes, and white light concentrated in a quivering sphere rested on her. It pulled the shards in, tearing them from the veil of darkness and exploding in a resolute end of red shades, spilling over it all and thickening into emptiness.

    Maybe her father would forgive her. Jane was done disobeying him.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2015
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  13. Uralya *ponders everything*
    Uralya

    Member

    RE: Outlet (Chapter Six in progress)

    Hey everyone! :)

    Like I stated in the OP when I began this work, I mentioned that school is a natural inhibitor to progress on such. Well, that's true right now as well. I am a little freer since cross country ended, but a little is only so much. While I haven't ironed out Chapter Six to where I want it yet, I have taken as many steps as possible to basically outline and set up the rest of the novel. This is an attempt to curb my previous problems with discontinuing works (four and counting), as I'm sure a lot can relate to. I appreciate those who have the patience to resume reading this after so long.

    I'm hoping that the next week and Thanksgiving break will give me sufficient time to make progress and post Six while getting Seven ready. The gist of where I'm at right now is that Six is something of a transition chapter - what I'm having trouble with is finding a smooth transition to when the crucial stages of the rising action begin in Seven/Eight. Things may seem a little disjointed up to now, which I understand and am constantly looking for a way of writing to make the early parts of this work flow a little better, but events so far are going to tangle together fairly soon. I myself am hungry to get to this section.

    In the meantime, as the OP details, I will give notice if this work is put on hold (edited into the OP), so reviews, comments, criticism, etc. are appreciated at any time.
     
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  14. Uralya *ponders everything*
    Uralya

    Member

    RE: Outlet (Chapter Six in progress)

    Hey there! This was a hard chapter to work through, so I hope it came together well.

    VI

    Steady paths are the safest paths. They promote efficiency, provide comfort, and are void of speed bumps. Taylor couldn't settle for less; she could indeed ask for more, but the minimum had no flaws. However, her path had entangled itself in a convoluted knot, weaving in and out of its own turns indefinitely, doing nothing but wasting time.

    Taylor had operated for a long while by embracing the productivity her path was suited for, going through the motions from one goal to the next. Of course, these goals were often set and prompted by her hivelike mind, but the underlying idea was to get the job done.

    I need help with that.

    Still awake in bed hours past the confrontation with her father, Taylor remained internally reeling, wondering. Even after her father had beaten her in a debate and now "understood" her thought process, he'd refused to fill her mother in. Taylor would have done the same thing, but she knew her motive: it would have been beneficial information to keep to herself, in her father's position. Aside from not wishing to scare her mother into a teary mess again, she had no clue as to his.

    Past that puzzling display, Taylor had reassessed her dire state. Subsistence with the aid of targets was proven but somehow difficult. The targets were her outlets, means of keeping hold of her sanity, yet targets had mutated into obstacles in rather ironic fashion. Darren, Danni, Kevin, and even Trevor had found ways to stick into her hide, like daggers thrown by a stealthy assassin whom might as well be named Life. As a result, subsistence needed a new outlet.

    Help in my life is materialistic for the most part, what a friend can give that benefits me. I dole it out myself as a means of forging my network, and I expect others to do the same by reason of that, even though they may possess different motives for maintaining friendships. Either way, it's nothing short of a necessity. We can't live on our own.

    Taylor shifted around under the covers in search of warmth. Her analysis shifted to where the help she required might come from.

    My family is there for me, but each member has reasons to be kept in the dark. Noah is nosy and immature. My mother would suffer a breakdown or seek counseling for someone. My father has little wrong with him on paper, but in practice he knows too much and keeps too much secret to be reliable. All of my targets are out of the question too, so that leaves the group at lunch, as the majority of my network is composed of no more than general incompetence. Devin is intelligent, Anna is encouraging, Brooke is understanding, Samantha is inspiring, and Thomas is comic relief. Together, that just might work. Despite the haphazard array of traits they supply to me, there has to be some means of release within all of that crap I bother to immerse myself in five days a week.

    She didn't quite know what type of release she desired, but, as her mentality maintained regarding indecision, if one sits on the fence too long, it will go up his ass.
    ***

    Taylor's next venture to the school cafeteria lacked the drama of the day before. The crowd proceeded more quickly, and nobody lined the walls and railings to spectate. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, Danni Griffith and her collection of flies zipped across her view without a word. Such was odd considering that not a single lunch tray was among them, which gave them an opportunity to continue the harassment unhindered, but any peculiarity in Taylor's favor was just that.

    The urge to trip a straggler tugged on her from behind. However, punishment on a silver platter was less than enticing.

    Rounding the side of a pillar and walking down an aisle, Taylor scanned the lunchroom. Trevor was against another pillar adjacent to a table of black teens, and his focus was on them. Darren wasn't there. Taylor swept her gaze around and found her group instead; they appeared to be eating in complete silence.

    As Taylor waited in line for her lunch, she studied the group's collective expression. Most of the heads were down and poring over their meals with amusing intensity. Thomas was close to Sam as expected. Devin and Anna were positioned slightly away from the empty chair Taylor planned to take. A brisker approach will probably be needed here.

    She endured another round of Mrs. Ramirez doting on her clothes, specifically the cross on her necklace and the zigzags of blue and gold on her blouse, in order to receive her lunch. The teenagers around her always displayed some emotion toward this spectacle, whether it be envy, pity, or even frustration with being held up in line, but this had become far too routine to be called drama.

    Upon plunging her hand into the utensil racks, like a raptor surveying its surroundings while gorging on its latest kill, Taylor kept a steady watch on the table. She wanted some affirmation as to her conception of the mood. As expected, the solemnity in the air hung dense, as a shroud of fog, around the inner workings of the group. She was unable to pick up on any chatter, assuming there was any. The utensils were withdrawn from their piles with greater force at that point, each with a stern yank the product of utter frustration.

    Devin and Anna turned their heads as she approached, a bouncy aspect to her gait. She was met with what seemed half-hearted smiles, but that failed to hinder her impression.

    "Hey, guys. What's up today?" Taylor asked, a far broader grin upon her. The majority of the table raised its head and nodded at Brooke. The runner was attached to the table in a similar position to Darren the day before, like a crudely tossed rag doll. There were no tears on her face, just more of the same fog. It was rather pacific, with no discernible tension in her expression. Taylor set her tray down and approached Brooke. "What's going on?"

    "Her dad died on his way back from school today," Sam said. There was a clammy feel on her words that Taylor wondered about briefly. Anna and Devin gave confirmation with another nod, and Thomas spoke his with even more of a choked delivery. Is her peace in the context of accepting defeat? That's strange.

    "Why is she here right now? Wouldn't someone pick her up?" Taylor paused before she added, with head turned to Brooke, "I'm sorry for your loss."

    Devin shrugged. "Beats us. She won't say anything else."

    Taylor nodded, assimilating a half-hearted smile from the others. Another pause. "Is there anything we can do to help?"

    "I appreciate it, but no thanks. I just want some space." Such words came from Brooke. She shifted her head to look at everyone in a sweeping fashion before retreating into the crook of her elbow again.

    Taylor stood over her for a few seconds, twisting a silver charm bracelet about her wrist. She didn't register her own blank stare until Anna's, one of peculiar scrutiny, forced the recognition upon her. She backed up and slid into her seat, quickly taking up in her hands a straw and chocolate milk.

    While the table around her wadded up their scholastic woes and flicked them at one another over Brooke's radiant gloom now that they had the girl's consent, Taylor assessed the situation's drastic turn. She'd nearly blown it over her fascination with Brooke's predicament. Every instance of self-absorbed observation and hesitancy seemed to do that. It was fortunate that Anna, once again, was the only one to notice, but this assured her omission from Taylor's list of whatever the group was to her. The predicament itself was troublesome as well, a skeletal wrench in the plan that warped any support available away from her. Even though the girls were chock-full of idle talk, the collective consciousness was rapt on the morose specimen fastened to the table. The banter simply filled the awkward holes that marked the resulting silence. Damn it. Why did your father need to go today?

    She wasn't sure if help could wait another day. What was twenty-four hours seemed like forty-eight, and forty-eight like ninety-six, and ninety-six like absolute hell. The group had subjectively more important matters, and, regardless of Taylor's self-assertion, it would remain that way.

    She chose to stay seated rather than abdicate her sorry excuse for a throne, this decision made mostly for lack of anything better to do or anywhere better to go. Listening to the emptiness of the group's talk was also something of a pacifier, a subtle reminder of her views that casually set her mind in motion, as a motorboat humming while tethered to a dock. Sit silently, take it all in, and process. Taylor remained like this for the rest of the period and for most of the school day, giving the appropriate verbal and physical responses when necessary. She would resume the search for release at home.
    ***

    Taylor arrived at home somewhat energized. Perhaps the lack of the social exertion she'd expected to give had messed with her, or perhaps the reprieve provided by bearing witness to meaningless chatter was as much a blessing to her as the chatter itself was to others, but, again, she would take what she could get. A revitalized mind would be best for the intense labor she anticipated this evening had in store.

    Release was a harder task than she'd first thought. Gone were the days of toppling block towers and cutting in line for playground activities, and gone were the days of simply interrogating various youths and spoiling others' questionable plans. The program hadn't just been too fast to catch and "get" with; it had run into the f***ing sunset.

    Taylor had given the good old "I have homework!" excuse before entering her self-imposed isolation and had now pondered with no results for the better part of the hour, partly because of fiddling with her social networking accounts. Even if they were used infrequently, she maintained them for looks. She didn't use her phone much either, or even carry it around sometimes, but nonetheless the possession of it kept up appearances.

    Tossing her phone away to the corner of the bed, Taylor determined to focus on her outlets for however long as the timing of dinner allowed. The phone made a half-witted bounce on the edge and threw itself to the floor with a series of hard knocks, but she couldn't have cared less. Still not enough to graduate. Idiot.

    The multitude of possible outlets traveled through her mind in sequence again, and her family, targets, and friends all were put down a la shooting gallery in contrast to the one potential solution that had surfaced the night before. The lack of effort here surprised Taylor, so she thought harder. A stream of denial coursed through her as she refused the possibility of outlets not existing.

    "No. Keep digging, damn it," she told herself. The door was locked, but she could register sounds from beyond it. The lid of the washer opened, and this distracted her long enough to spark wonder. "I hope I didn't forget anything in my outfits this week. Mom had better..." A twin realization of joyous and fearful intonations came upon her, stunting her speech. The man's card was still in the back pocket of her capris, which were likely in the day's load.

    The man was an outlet, perhaps.

    Taylor cursed herself under her breath. Whereas other teenagers would have remembered events like that which happened at the lake in great detail, she had a deadened capacity to recognize magnitudes, although the reason for this was still unclear to her. Hence, the man in the shades was more easily shoved into her mental recesses than one would think. The outcome of the event, however, now shone through in a thousand colors, and she needed that card more than anything.

    She removed herself from the bedspread and lunged for the door, slipping through it and into the threshold of the room to the left of her own. Her mother turned around at this.

    "I thought you were doing homework, Taylor. What is it?" she said.

    "I am. Where are my capris from two days ago?" Taylor scanned the pair of clothesbaskets on the floor and began to rifle through them.

    "I just put them in the washer. Why?"

    "I forgot some lunch money in the pocket." Taylor's head hovered over the top of the machine as her arm fished for dark blue apparel.

    Her mother stared. "I didn't hear any change jingling around."

    Taylor's agitation at the pries bubbled just under the surface. "Bills," she said, with a quick swivel of her head in her mother's direction before leaning further. She stuck her other hand in as well.

    "Okay. Be more careful with your money next time."

    Taylor removed herself from the washer. "Yep." A smile crossed her face, but she was quick to leave the room with her capris, concealing it from her mother. It was one of those smiles that could come across as devious. "I'll be right back with them!" she called behind her as she plucked the card out within the sanctum of her room.

    Her hands turned it over and over, as if to verify its authenticity. The man's face and name remained as they had before. Now having the opportunity to inspect the card, Taylor noticed the bundle of words heaped in small font at the bottom right: "Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Expressive Therapy." She was rather put off by the first two terms, but the mention of expressive therapy intrigued her. What even is that? Sounds like pouring out emotion like in any old psychotherapy session. Can't hurt to look though.

    Taylor made a move for her laptop, pausing her rush to hand back the capris to her mother, and booted it up. While sitting before the Hewlett-Packard model's start-up screen, she idly sifted through the stack of journals and loose-leaf papers to its left. She had a propensity for writing short stories in her free time, as a form of art, but the pile had seldom received additions as the rigors of high school, social life, and so forth had evolved. She promised herself that she would get back to it one of these days.

    The laptop had finished its start-up by this time, and Taylor's fingers danced a tango with her anticipation as they sped through the various required keystrokes. Glancing at the card between her and the keyboard, she typed in the man's name and professions as he had instructed her to do. The search engine turned up a lengthy catalog by virtue of his bland name. She scrolled through the first page, the second, and the third. No dice.

    The pages zipped by as if she were going through a flipbook, all the way up to the twelfth such. Taylor halted here, a stray thought of the bad joke that a shady character would be on the thirteenth page crossing her. She scrolled down. At last, the words "expressive therapy" appeared in bold within a website's description, and her desire to kill something subsided.

    The site was simplistic in coloration and organization, a black and white frame with rounded edges and a systematic assortment of its contents. The site's introductory paragraph described the man as Mark Smith, a licensed psychologist and successful expressive therapist. The one below that explained expressive therapy in clean detail, which gave Taylor more confidence in him. A final paragraph elaborated on the purpose of the site, which amounted to serving as a hub for his practices. It further said that he welcomed "written submissions of any malevolent caliber" via e-mail and that he conducted a monthly group therapy session with live readings of some submissions to help inspire or ease participants into a sense of belonging.

    Taylor smiled, closed her eyes, and folded her hands to rest her chin on, aware of her good fortune. The facts that it employed one of her developed skills and that it required little outside assistance to curb her brooding mind rung like silver bells. Now, despite the relative lack of time as compared to middle school, she resolved to answer the beckoning of the written word. She needed it.

    She clicked a link to bring her to his e-mail and began to construct a macabre symphony, one with appeal to Danni Griffith and her discolored wedding dress. Her desire to kill something made a stylish return.
    ***

    Ralph Hayward had not spoken a word in two days and had not forced the middle-school bus to tune into another episode, yet the whole community knew what had happened. He had died a son of a b***h in his dining room with the remnants of a coffee mug scattered around him, his entire backside torn up by a blunt-force object. With the blinds down, a door-to-door salesman had passed by and, put off by the lack of Ralph flying the bird by him through the front window as usual, called the authorities.

    As with a few cases in the past months, the suspect was unidentified. Taylor found this fact in particular amusing, though the case as a whole was notable in its own right. She didn't know Ralph, but the newspaper article on him cited words from his neighbors that painted him as extravagant, boastful, remorseless, and everything else one could describe a son of a b***h as. Whoever had arranged for him kisses from the floor and then death must have despised him beyond the point of using a dartboard.

    Taylor also found it amusing that his story had been relegated to the morning paper for her residence. It was also rather convenient. The story had likely aired after the double homicide that same evening due to the momentary relevance of the aforementioned, as Ralph had died hours before the Bellamy couple, but Taylor had killed the reporter with the remote before the first story had ended. With her father crammed into a cubicle and her mother called to a conference during the school day, the paper had rested on the kitchen table only pulled from its plastic bindings the day Taylor had begun expressive therapy. Ralph had a section of the front page to himself, or at least the case did, and Taylor had needed a dose of inspiration that evening. He'd slipped into her arms and traveled up the stairs, into her room and away from the world once more.

    Sure, her parents could end up complaining about the absence of the headlines for the day. Tough luck. Taylor had more pieces to compose.

    Transition chapter for the most part and setting up a lot. I'm also possibly going to revise Chapter One soon since the beginning matters so much (but stay tuned on that, Seven won't be put off for too long).

    Edit (1/18): Making more progress on outlining the rest of the novel while school is on. Finals prep has stopped actual chapter stuff, but I do know where I want to go from here.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2015
    Chaos Jackal, Turtwig and Ice Arceus like this.
  15. Uralya *ponders everything*
    Uralya

    Member

    RE: Outlet (Chapter Six)

    I had school off for a few days due to snowy conditions, so this was finally able to be finished. It took a few revisions because the atmosphere had to be just right and pacing had to correspond in similar fashion. In any case, here's chapter seven.

    VII

    Alright, let's try this again.

    The old man kept reading his newspaper in spartan defiance of his neighbors' insistence that he wise up to Fox News. That much was evident.

    Is he human? Yes. Do I care? Let's see.

    He had two living children and five grandchildren. His wife was currently on life support. He had just left his job to help his family through the mess. He donated a lot of his earnings to a charity in his wife's name. He was devout in many aspects of life, truly religious, and he tried to raise his children and theirs as best he knew. Surely, he'd earned his keep in the eyes of others.

    One of his own children despises him. Why?

    Another man's voice entered. "Here I stood in blackness. I couldn't see the point in anything. The kitchen light was still on, but I was left in the dark. My mother was too, as I had found out. All I could do was marvel at the chain of immature decisions my father had linked together. He had that look on his face, sitting in his armchair, that look that caused more disgust in me than anything in recent memory. In short, he had sacrificed his contributions to the family in order to ease his wife's imminent passing and our grief. How inconsiderate."

    Perfect reasoning, Walt. Perfect.

    The old man continued to rock slowly in his chair.

    How inconsiderate indeed. To cut off their liquid assets in exchange for abstract aid is such a waste.

    The gun came up to the top portion of his head, its muzzle sniffing the remains of his scalp.

    Congratulations. I don't care.

    One breath escaped into the thickening air. The old man flinched, raising his head ever so slightly. Not a thought would be allowed to cross him. A bullet knocked once and kicked down his skull, letting out a brief repercussion of bone and blood. He slumped against the arm of the chair.

    "Now, the rest of us can go on with our lives." The gun entered its holster again. "You've done enough damage."
    ***

    Darren was of driving age, so none of his family found it necessary to wake up and see him off in the morning hours. They rarely cared about his daily activities in any case, so he was in fact sovereign over many personal decisions, those both favorable and the kind that media watchers ridicule aloud to their families. He had three suspensions under his belt stemming from violence, and that failed to factor in the bouts that had gone unrecorded.

    He found something in belligerence that granted him energy and something in breaking conservative standards that gave him a sense of power. He liked control over himself, and, even when his efforts were parried, he saw little disappointment in the fact and more thirst for further attempts. Darren enjoyed the taste of invincibility, like he might enjoy a winish beverage in the confines of a penthouse. All of this, and his family rarely cared for him at all.

    He found it odd that this proved false when he walked inside that afternoon.

    "Darren, where the hell have you been today?" His mother, Victoria, came down the stairs like lightning as Darren was locking the front door. She didn't have ideal curves, but her soft and strikingly confident looks did endow her with an adequate marriage.

    "Mom, since when did you care?" Darren asked, only to be answered with another angry slap. This one was higher on his cheek and clear of his jawline, so the impact did not resonate as profoundly as before. Still, it didn't help that this abrupt query had forced him to make a haphazard response. Just a few more seconds would have done nicely. Never make the natural response.

    "Shut up! I know exactly where you've been! You skipped school, damn it!" Darren, now able to focus on Victoria for the first time, noticed the fervor in and around her eyes, the creased brow in particular. This was peculiar.

    "I don't know what you're talking about, mom."

    "Shut up!" Her hand again connected with his cheek, and Darren's recoil sent him into contact with the door, the wide knob burrowing into his side. "Mike, get in here!" Victoria called. She stalked through the living room to fetch her husband, likely confident that Darren would reel for too long to make an escape. She was correct, and Mike Johnson, an imposing man indeed, with thick muscles, squared shoulders, and an impressive mustache reminiscent of a young Carl Weathers, accompanied his wife to bear witness to his own son hunched over like a full sack of trash against the wall next to the door of the man's sanctum.

    "What are you doing, boy?" Mike asked. Not receiving an immediate response, he turned to his wife and said, "Victoria, what's he doing on the ground?" His voice had the faintest intonations of gravel, and perhaps his mustache gave a small filter for his words to travel through. Victoria relayed to him the events of the past minute, and Darren watched his father's face light up hellishly. "Victoria, I'll take care of this. You can go back upstairs." She obeyed and allowed her light limbs to carry her up the steps like an anticipant child, though Darren couldn't tell if that quality beckoned something unwanted from his father or not, as if she was afraid of his wrath. Maybe she just wanted to return to her latest paperback. Hell, that's worth more to her than I am.

    Standing up at last, Darren met eyes with those of his old man. "Hey, dad," he offered.

    "Let's go into the kitchen," Mike said, moving his head as Darren walked through the adjoining room, his eyes fastened in their sockets. He followed close behind.

    Once in the center of the kitchen, Mike craned his neck ever so slightly. "Boy, I know you get to do a lot of s***, and I don't really like the job we've done raising you recently, but going to school is one of the most damn important things you can do in life. I'm sorry for letting you go off and be the king of your own world. At some point, the dream needs to end, and I think now is better than never."

    Darren's body shook with a brief, stifled laugh. "You're sorry for letting me be me? If anything, you should be banging your head against the wall right now, not lecturing me," he said. There was no smile on him, but his other features betrayed amusement.

    Mike slammed his fist down on the counter. "Damn it! Will you stop driving around every point I make? Every f***ing time!"

    "Ha, no way! Remember that time I made you think mom wasn't paying the bills? That was amazing!"

    Mike pursed his lips and inhaled. "Boy, I'm going to say this once. You do this skipping-school s*** again, and I will hand you your ass." He breathed again, straightening his posture. "But enough of that. Sorry. Tell me what's going on. I don't mean to be violent."

    Darren kept a small smirk, but he allowed it to fade before speaking. "As long as I'm not punished any further than you have in mind. Tell me what you have planned right now. Maybe a week without driving myself and being grounded?"

    Mike flinched internally at that. Darren could pick up on things like this. The slightest change in his mouth gave it away. "Uh, two weeks. Fair?"

    "That's what you think? I won't talk unless you promise that."

    "Sure. That's a promise," Mike said, perhaps too hastily. He paused and seemed to question himself and what had just happened. "Now, tell me what's going on."

    "Okay, I'll try to be transparent. It's the least I can do." Darren took a breath. "I met this girl earlier in the week. Pretty little thing, but a tad crazy. I wanted to test that second observation, so I talked to her and tried to be her friend. She attacked me and left a bruise on my cheek. I figured that skipping would be best, to let things simmer down. Of course, I didn't think mom would slap me twice on the same side for that. You can't even see the original bruise." Darren turned his face to display the overlay of handprints on it, what appeared a faint splotch of reddish paint across a fouled canvas.

    Mike stared. He made no moves aside from intermittent exhalations. There was a look of utter loss on him, for words, feelings, maybe any sentiments at all. Darren could see his brain writhing in confusion, like an agitated bundle of worms. His son was a sincere victim of multiple assaults. Was skipping school justified by his peaceful intentions? He seemed to regain some feelings, but the intensity of the empathetic whirlpool Darren had set in motion rendered them weakly assembled.

    Darren kept the contused portion of his face directed at Mike. "I'd think that your own son is the most precious thing to you. Surely, he's pure of heart and only meant well trying to talk to a girl. That's what a man would do."

    A gulp slid down the wall of Mike's throat. He blinked, and his mouth subtly gaped. Despite this, Darren supposed that his mind had sufficiently organized a response. The mass of it just made it hard to sledge off his cold, stiff tongue.

    "Look at me, a trying guy..." Darren started. He cut the thread stringing his words along when he noticed Mike's eyes brighten. Somewhere, he had pulled a wrong wire.

    "You got the s*** beat out of you by a girl? And then your own mother? Boy, you're not just a poor son. You're worthless," Mike told him. The most amused smile in history was wrought into his features. "I'm sorry for letting you grow up to be who you are, but I thought you would have thicker skin. You have nothing beyond asking for sympathy, do you?" He laughed briefly.

    Darren swiveled his head toward Mike. Recover! Turn it back on him! "Are you judging me based on a stereotype? Not all boys grow up to be ideal men."

    "Oh, I know that completely well. You're not a man." Mike removed his hand from the counter and, with little hesitation, unsheathed the belt from his waist.

    S***. Darren recognized the vehemence swelling in the air and took off from the kitchen, positioning himself near the base of the stairs. "What's it going to be, dad? You weren't there for me before, and now my life's in danger because you are! It has to be one way or the other, right? You can't love me and hate me!"

    "I can do whatever the f*** I want! I'm the man of this house!" Mike shouted. His athletic build carried him into the next room in a charge, the hand grasping an end of the belt raised high.

    "Mike!" A cry came from the stairs, and Victoria rushed down even faster than when Darren had come home. She clutched her son in a tight embrace, staring her husband down. "What the hell, Mike? I was letting you take care of it, but not like this!"

    "Victoria, our son is not..."

    "Not what, Mike? A man? I heard all of it." Just as planned.

    "Victoria, I..."

    "Shut up, Mike. What defines men and women is not just a stereotype. Darren knows that. Obviously you don't." She brushed the top of Darren's head gingerly. "I know he isn't a man. He's not even eighteen. He has no idea what it's like out there. To have a job, to have a partner, to have kids, to have life knocking on your door every second of every day. He doesn't know what it's like to never be happy with yourself, to always reconsider how you've lived and wish you'd done it another way. There's not a day that I don't feel that way, Mike. And what you need to realize is that there's more to being grown up than age, experience, gender conformity, and all that stuff. Power is not being a man or woman and being the best at it."

    "Then what is it, Victoria?"

    "What the f*** did I say?" she snapped. "You and Darren don't see eye-to-eye. I get that. He knows what power is but not life, and with you it's the exact opposite. That's what this is. You both need to think for once." Mike's resolve, torn by her monologue, now carried away on a chill breeze, and its former host stepped back, lowering the belt to its side. "Darren, I'm sorry. I hope you don't mind me telling things as I see them."

    "I understand. Carry on," Darren said. "I'd like to hear everything I've missed out on in all these years."
    ***

    Victoria did apologize for letting Darren raise himself under his own roof before the conversation had ended. Darren had also learned about the unspoken worry and trauma of his parents. Mike had put his belt back on and poured out a multitude of repressed memories, prattling about the awful neglect he had practiced and the abundant inner self-loathing he'd had thrust upon him so unwillingly. The man was a fragile soul despite his exterior, and it was something Darren both could and couldn't believe. Victoria displayed similar vulnerabilities, though she spent more time playing the mediator to the apparent tension in the air.

    Darren found himself shuffling between amusement and understanding. No sympathy existed, however. No matter the level of his repentance, his father had failed him, and there are things that even the most open-ended individuals tend not to forgive. Half of Darren suspected that putting on his belt squeezed him just enough to make him vomit that garbage. His mother had assembled a curiously true viewpoint, but her show of ignorance in the past likewise had doomed her chances with Darren.

    Instead of absolving them both through hugs, Darren had given them brief embraces, staring at whichever stood back with a castigative glare. He wished to be allowed simple solitude while his parents dealt with the aftermath, and so had it been granted.

    Darren lived in a dark room, with bent and torn blinds hung over the window and a frail cot to sleep on, much like a customized jail cell. He was left to his own whim with this, and there was something about the quaint sparsity of anything appropriate in his part of the house that gave him little reason to change it around. He liked the picturesque nothingness of the room, a refuge with few distractions. Though his life outside those four walls gave him a thirst for activity, he still enjoyed taking time to analyze, plan, and perhaps learn. It did help him prepare for steering interaction to his liking, and should it not, he could always take away from it what he did wrong or failed to account for. Such would have helped during his argument with Mike, but it had largely gone in his favor anyhow. Things could have been much messier.

    Above all, however, the ultimatum had been set: skip school and die. An interesting proposition, and though Darren was curious as to how legitimate the claim could be, he wouldn't chance it for the sake of good sense. His parents had apologized for and promised a lot that night, but his mother's bipolar spells and father's temperament loomed behind the truce with blades at the ready.

    On the other end, there was a similar, unspoken declaration: come to school and die. Taylor was a threat, more so than either of his parents. Contrasted with Victoria's rage, the apathy in her demeanor could almost be touched, petted if it didn't tear off the hand that drew near. He resonated with it to an extent, as, aside from a handful of people like Trevor and Kevin, the rest just didn't matter all that much. The fundamental difference lay in that Taylor seemed to have a bottomless well of callousness and to hardly care that it bled through at times. Perhaps she was different around others, but Darren had never allowed himself so much disregard. He'd never thought it possible until the moment after Taylor's hand had struck him.

    One would think that those with a common enemy would make friendships, but Darren knew the volatility of people like himself. He had no term for them, but they fashioned themselves as lone wolves, to abuse social terminology. He had dealt with one before who was openly and physically misanthropic yet normal in terms of emotions; Darren kept him around for a week before the danger became clear and his usefulness had soured. There would be no more of that.

    Taylor had several playing fields where her ruthlessness outmatched Darren, to make matters worse. There was no way to appeal to her better nature as he did with most others, and this gave her the edge in confrontations both between them and with a mediator like Principal Wilson. Darren would have talked more than Wilson that day in the office had he held the persuasive advantage, but stalling and playing worthless was all he could do. He had done the same in their initial meeting. Darren knew that a key to victory was manipulation of an adversary's words and actions. One must control all variables that come to mind. Darren had no power against such pure immobility, and that stood to help nothing.

    One thing led to another in a chain of sudden revelations. Darren feared Taylor, one too powerful to keep around. He was angry with Taylor, for he loved who she was. He hated Taylor, because he pointlessly wished for her to stay. And, as she was a threat to his safety, Darren had to dispose of Taylor. She was a beautiful piece of work, but wasted when obstructing the path of someone truly magnificent.

    Again, unless I say otherwise, this story is still ongoing, so a critique/comment/whateveryouwish is welcome at any time.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2015
  16. Uralya *ponders everything*
    Uralya

    Member

    Okay, I figure it's about time. This is the start of the second part of the story. Enjoy :) It's rather short for this story, but it's mostly setup.

    VIII

    Taylor removed her finger from the period key and rested her back on the chair, staring, with a content smile, at her latest masterpiece. She could see the blood, perhaps taste it were it not for the intensity with which she visualized the sacrifice. She turned her head and peered out of a window adjacent to her desk, and, though the sun shone and tinted the skies a brilliant white, there was a red superimposition over the afternoon tranquility. This was much preferred.

    Taylor now utilized her arsenal of weapons on a daily basis and quite often hid them in plain sight. There was little need for the phantom knife when instruments were strewn about her surroundings. The stack of writings had a multitude of grisly newcomers, and almost as many hid in the drive of her laptop. Many had met an end at her hands, either with a pen or her fingertips, the latter of which had curiously assumed a red nail coloration.

    Part of Taylor wished that she had picked up serial killing on loose-leaf paper ages ago. However, there was another part of her, deeply entrenched in her being, that desired to know why she didn't just kill. This new endeavor was exhilarating, but why settle for something that isn't quite the real thing?

    Her mind was split in this aspect of its processing. The same part that relished her new outlet knew quite well the reasons for adherence to it, but the other scorned its conclusions. The other wanted blood for the taste of iron, transfixed by an animalistic longing. Taylor swore that it howled to spite the gentle protests of its brother and whimpered when it didn't get its way.

    Which was sane in the moment: the conditioned voice of restraint, or the primordial bark of hunger? Taylor supposed that it fell upon society to choose for her. She mused: Murder has a special place among criminal offenses. Whereas things like assault and burglary do lead to the punishment of an individual by the presiding law, murder results in collective admonishment. It is by far the most poisonous crime to society in that the death of one affects and puts on edge an entire populace. With this in mind, Taylor found it of no surprise that the community had recoiled so upon discovering the deaths of the newlyweds. Violate a person, and you'll be punished. Take a person out, and you'll be crucified.

    It was that collective animosity, that collective desire for retribution, that made sure that the shadows were Taylor's residence, that relegated her to largely following the advice of the half of her that she rather disliked. She still didn't know what her being amounted to, but she knew that its dichotomy didn't sit well with it. It was as if the peacekeeper had been sewn on at birth. Taylor wished to pry apart the binding seam, but at once it seemed like a necessary evil to keep her unnecessary evil, as society might deem half of her, in check.

    As such was the case, Taylor gave in to the peacekeeper and its recommendation of fantastical killing. She subconsciously howled inside in response, beckoning further questions. Why be such a chicken? What says that you can't overrule in the name of bloodlust?

    Taylor paused. Of course she could overrule. She could hurdle the barrier with ease. There was nothing insurmountable preventing her from starting her work.

    There was, however, the vindictive eye of society, making sure that her work would be unfinished. Apathy, though a psychological vanguard, could do little to shield her from this.

    The wolf howled once more. What the f*** do you like writing for then?

    Taylor actually smiled at that, leaning further back and staring at the white ceiling. This wolf of hers knew which questions to ask.

    What is it about writing that I like? Is it the expression, the ability to paint such vivid colors of how I see things? No, not quite. I think it's the freedom of such expression. I am more than content with being allowed the freedom to project my views with no fear of repercussions.

    I love being unmasked. I love to pretend that I'm alone, able to dance about in all my apathetic splendor and operate in any way I please. But these things around me are everywhere. People. They demand assimilation and conformity. They apply pressure. I was always told by others to "be myself" when I was younger, and I still hear the reverberations of those sentiments today, all around me. They claim to champion individuality. Bulls***. What is it worth championing? It has a subtext of "but show us what we like to see."

    Society does not allow me to dance. Being different is being cursed with wearing a mask to veil oneself from stigmatization. It sucks at times. With that said, I put words on a page to slake my appetite in a less conspicuous fashion.

    Yeah, that must be it.


    There was no end to her discontent, to her discomfort. The howl always echoed, riding the undercurrents of her spasmodic and jumbled emotions, tainting them with a curious vengeance that she had no choice but to channel.

    Without the wolf barking another question, Taylor's rational mind posited the next one: Why do I choose to handle my writing the way I do? I submit it to a man whom is also a psychologist, and it's very possible that my writings could be read to others. Don't I have a guideline about exposure?

    Yes, I do. But this feels different. It isn't quite exposure. The people who would read or hear my fantasies might be like me. For the most part, I especially admire Mark for how much we seem to have in common. Being able to relate to another is a great thing, as it helps you understand yourself, in addition to and in the context of others. He seems to be a practiced social vigilante much like myself. We may differ in terms of motives, but the end result is what matters. We get by and get things done. My ends justify my means save when they might do notable harm to me; I suspect that he's the same way.

    Being able to possibly relate to Mark gives me some confidence in his presence around me. Sure, I may not harbor emotional attachment toward him, but the intellectual bond and benefit that could exist are worth my energy. He makes me feel capable of determining just what it is that I am. I might be able to put the puzzle together and create some peace above the internal din of my chaos. God, help me, because traditional psychologists are too fatally flawed.

    I could simply write on my own, but I like reception. Reception gives you viewpoints to weigh yourself against and more fully delineate where you stand. I know that I'm different, but I don't know perfectly how. I want to solve myself entirely. And, if I did know how, I don't know how to adapt myself now that my favorite niche has been plugged. I'm trading solidarity for assistance here, because I'll never be content with stagnation.


    Taylor liked the premise of all of this, though she had her rational reservations. The phantom knife served as an additional symbol: the embodiment of her ability to detach if things went awry. This therapeutic endeavor was not much different, even if it provided considerable comfort, because there was all the chance in the world that Mark's display at the lake could have been a ruse. For what purpose she didn't know, but Taylor clung to her traditional skepticism. She would have to wade into the waters deliberately.

    Satisfied, Taylor leaned forward again, folding her arms and resting them on the desk. After some idle staring at the screen of her laptop, she clicked the "Save" icon and reached into a pigeonhole beside her, withdrawing a small stack of schoolwork and setting a small notepad from the bottom of it on the desk. The notepad had little writing in it besides crossed-out reminders from daily life, but one new line lay at the top of the first page: "Meeting on Monday." That day marked the end of the last week of August, and, also, one of Mark's weekly meetings. A weekly shot at working on the puzzle.

    It's Thursday now. Never have I been so impatient for the weekend to come, through all these years of school. Not once. Taylor wondered what she would do until then. Live? No. What I do needs substance. I need a rush. Some sort of stimulation.

    What was her mind geared for?

    Taylor replaced the stack of schoolwork with the notepad hidden underneath and resumed focus on her laptop. I'll write to my head's content, and I'll puncture a few hearts along the way.

    I'm also in the process of doing massive overhaul on descriptions, so further progress beyond the other chapters I have done may be slower than even I expect.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2015
    Chaos Jackal likes this.
  17. Chaos Jackal Legend of the Past
    Chaos Jackal

    Member

    So far, quite elaborate, although maybe not very solid. Since most of the chapters so far were more of introductions or ways to set up the story though, that doesn't matter much. In such stories things often don't come together until much later.

    Really like the use of language. The thoughts of the characters are the most prominent thing, and you express them quite well without overusing swearing or being way too polite. You can pick on a character's train of thought and follow it to the end, and you feel like you understand them.

    Also curious to how the story will unfold. Not every chapter is similarly captivating, but the sum of their parts and the whole setting do make me wonder about the possible ways they will develop. I'm looking forward to the next chapter. Take your time and make this good.
     
    Uralya likes this.

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