Julian was sitting by the window, nursing what looked like a black coffee. Marco slid into the seat next to him, his black woolen coat making nary a sound as his rear end swiped along the gaudy plastic seat. 1 comment
"Glad you could make it," Julian said, blowing the top of his Styrofoam cup.
"Thought I might have been late," Marco admitted.
Julian waves dismissively. "It's not like we have a particular time we have to be there."
"Where?" Marco said, his curiosity rising.
"You'll see," Julian said, casting him a small smile.
Marco nodded solemnly. He wasn't about to argue with someone who might be instrumental in helping him kick smoking once and for all. He noticed that when Julian smiled, the smile seemed to come from his eyes, but it seemed muted somehow; as if the smile was broken. He had seen that selfsame smile once before- in a girl he used to know that had become addicted to crystal meth. Now when she smiled, she looked like a death's head. Even though Julian's face looked much more normal, there was something about the haunted look in their eyes that held constant. 2 comments
Julian sipped the cup, staring out into the street as people bustled by outside the dirty window. "Look at them," he said.
"Who?" Marco asked.
"Them," he said, raising his hand and waving unspecific ally. "All of them, the living, breathing crap of the world. They think they're above their baser instincts, but they really aren't." 1 comment
"What do you mean?" Marco asked.
"Most of them aren't even really living," Julian said, "they simply exist. Simply living out their impossibly short, inevitably uneventful lives in comfort without ever exploring the wider world or even their deeper senses. They're subjugated by the world they live in."
"I suppose you're right," Marco said carefully.
"Take your smoking habit," Julian said after a particularly long sip of coffee. "You're a slave to your own body. Nicotine is a drug that gets you physically addicted to a high that only it can give to you. As a result you keep coming back time and time again in order to get back that same feeling. Only the feeling changes because Nicotine is a liar and a cheat. You feel great the first few times but after that you waste money and time trying to recapture that first feeling but you can't; it never comes back."
"You can say that about any drug," Marco pointed out.
Julian nodded as he sipped his coffee again. "Any drug. Acid. Weed. Even alcohol. All of them exist to give you a fleeting feeling and then take it back. They work to keep you chasing a dream."
Marco nodded. This was making sense to him. he remembered how the first drag he had taken way back in high school had felt to him and how much hours and money he had spent trying to get back that feeling until he realized one day he was no longer doing it because of the draw for the high but because he just simply could not stop. "So how do you break the habit?"
"By replacing it with something that gives you the thrill and rush, but one that doesn't die out over time," Julian said, a sinister light shining in his eyes as he moves his gaze to hold Marco's. "There are things you can do that will give you a level of satisfaction you can't get anywhere else."
"Are you talking about wood crafting?" Marco said in an unsure tone. "I don't do crafts well."
Julian smiled at him. "What we are doing has more of a...human element to it than wood crafting. You can call it psychological crafting if you so wish. It's interesting really..."
"I don't understand," Marco said.
Julian nodded as he sipped the Styrofoam cup again. "You will, I'm sure you will. Now, every craftsman has tools right? There are two kinds of tools: tools of the trade, and tools that help the trade. For example, take a carpenter. He has a hammer and nails for building, but he also has a tape. The tape doesn't actually do anything to the thing he's building but it gives him an idea of how big it is and how much he has to manipulate it to get what he wants, right?"
"I guess so," Marco said, barely grasping the concept, but hanging on to it with the tips of his mental fingers.
"Just trust me on this one,' Julian said. “You already have tools that you don't even know about."
"If you say so," Marco said, thoroughly lost now.
Julian glanced at the sky. "Let's go," he said, tossing down a handful of change to tip the waitress. Meekly Marco followed him out of the diner, under the grey, unforgiving sky.
* 2 comments
Marco noticed the little girl he had been following skipping down into an abandoned subway station. He had seen her go there once or twice before; he thought it was probably a shortcut to her way home. Kids had this innate sense of finding shortcuts in places where they ought not to exist. He remembered as a kid how he would pass through a supposedly solid stand of trees that would cut his walk home in almost half. Sure it was trespassing, but the guy who owned the woodland was barely ever around.
Even when he was grown up he could find shortcuts with relative ease. He felt it was a throwback to those days of trying to find the shortest and most efficient way to do things. It usually allowed him to do a lot more with his time. He was the master of time management in high school; sometimes being able to do four or five hobby-related activities at the same time. He suspected that if he had friends he might even have had time to hang out with them.
He walked over to the steps and peered down, the dying light fading into a semi gloom at the bottom of the staircase. The old metal bars that lined the stairs were rusted and pitted with marks of violence. Marco wrinkled his nose, expecting the smell of unwashed human to come flooding to him. These kinds of places were the kinds of places one would expect to find the remnants of society huddling for protection from the elements and making their nests. There was no smell aside from the scent of moss and the wetness. He could also detect the faint whiff of something different; something strange.
He shook his head and to clear it and the dank under-smell disappeared. He could hear her footfalls echoing down the dark passageway and hurried after her, slipping his hand into his pocket to extract a bit of cloth and a clear bottle with a clear liquid. As he disappeared into the dark passage rain started to patter down outside, reminding him of that first time with Julian.
They had followed this girl, a bright young thing of the age of seven or so, from a playground near to the one he had frequented today. As they were walking Julian had told him about many things about blending in with his background and looking nondescript. As the evening wore on and they started stalking the girl, he had started to get a little antsy.
"I don't like this," he said to Julian.
"Relax," Julian said as he chewed on a toothpick he had snagged from the diner. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to. This is for my replacement habit, not necessarily yours. You can stay here and stand watch."
The girl they had been following ducked into the shelter of one of the abandoned buildings at the edge of the industrial district. Julian and Marco watched her go and huddle in the eaves as the rain started to patter down harder. Slipping his hand into his pocket, Julian withdrew a cloth, and smiled at Marco. "Come on mate," he said, grinning manically. "Showtime!"
In a heartbeat he had crossed the deserted street, Marco following after him. The girl was looking into the middle-distance and didn't see Julian coming. He slipped the cloth securely over her mouth and nose and she resisted and fought for a few seconds before she melted, limp in his arms. He took her along the edge of the building as the rain started pouring down heavier. Kicking the metal door along the rear of the building he dragged the girl's form inside. Marco stared at him until he disappeared and then turned around to look out.
It was about a half hour before he started hearing muted cries, a mixture of terror and pain. Her voice became stronger as whatever Julian had used to sedate the girl wore off. He could hear her voice cry out and a couple slaps. He could hear her start to cry and her voice becoming hoarse with the strained treatments to her implacable foe. 1 comment
It had become too much for Marco and he threw a glance toward the road to make sure no one was coming. Outside the thunder crashed and the wind howled, covering up the small cries of the girl. Marco brushed a bit of old plastic aside, peering into the semi-twilight of the warehouse to see Julian having his way with the little girl. He could see the tears mixed with the blood from her mouth where Julian had slapped her no doubt. He was naked form the waist down, taking her innocence one thrust at a time. Marco found himself staring at the sight like a man transfixed. He knew he should be revolted at the sight but he was...dare he say it...excited.
At the height of his pleasure, he saw Julian snatch up a metal bar lying nearby and buried it into the little girl's head with an inhuman bellow. Then there was silence. Marco felt his insides quiver at the sight of the little girl's blood pooling around the prone body and he found that he wasn't bothered by it. Julian looked up and saw him staring in at the sight.
With a smile, Julian took up a scissor and cut off a lock of hair from the now dead child. "For posterity," he said with a grin.