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Sometimes a small pneumatic combustion cannon is the right tool for the job. At least when the job is spraying blood and gore into a fine mist, anyways.

FUNK brs @FUNKbrs

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The Cutting Garden: Chapter 17

Posted by FUNKbrs - June 5th, 2008


Chapter 17

Berry woke with an itch.

She pulled herself off the couch Sunday afternoon, twisting her mangled hair back into some semblance of order. Her fashionable wristbands hid the still savage looking scars on her wrists, but then again, that wasn't the first time for that, either.

She stood and stretched, leaning so far back as to fall right back on the couch where she started, where she'd laid since dawn that morning. She lay there in a heap, savoring the luxury of sleeping late until the itch struck her again.

She stood once more, this time not stretching, her head cocked to the side as she tried to locate the source of the itch. It wasn't a physical itch, but a mental one, a hunch, a tickle in the back of her mind that something was wrong, like an unlocked door or an oven left on. Millennia of instinct were going nuts, twisting her guts, screaming at her that she had been betrayed, that she needed to discover some dirty, hidden truth.

Despite Berry's cute appearance, her childhood and teenage years had been anything but coddling. Sometimes knowing when her mom was cheating on her dad was the only way to avoid a vicious fight, fights that sometimes kept her out of school for a week at a time while her bruises went away.

Never again.

The itch. The itch was how she knew, how she survived. You feel the itch, and you start looking. You start looking, and you find mom's blow, or her meth, or her pills, or whatever it was her new boyfriend was hooking her up on behind dad's back. Once you knew, you could steal it, throw it away, sell it, or leave it, because either way mom would deny it, and if dad found it, he'd blame it all on you if he could.

Raz. It had to be Raz. The itch always struck close to home. It was a survival instinct, an animal thing, the same itch that makes a dog howl in a thunderstorm. However bad things were, Raz was her lifeline, her sole means of support. If he left her, no more car, no more apartment, no more ramen noodles, nothing. It would mean back on the all-night scene, sleeping in gay bars while gray-haired queens watched her with worried mother's eyes. It would mean living off of free beer and bummed French fries, going on dates just for the hot meal and a place to stay.

Which was how they met, wasn't it?

No. She'd already lost her focus, her drive; whatever it was inside her Mrs. Black had taken away. She wouldn't lose her meal ticket, not without a fight, not without standing up for herself. She wasn't anybody's bitch, not his, not anyone's.

When reputation is all you have, even the slightest insult has to be met full on. Otherwise, they'd just peck you to death, wouldn't they?

Todd looked over at Raz, over at his quiet, introspective friend. He didn't feel any different towards him, though he felt he should. There was no connection there as there was with a woman. It was like something just came over him, something new, something that hadn't been there when they had first started hanging out.

It was gone now, whatever it was, leaving him in this awkward position. Raz had scared Caroline away, but then again Caroline had been starting to weird him out lately anyways, showing up to his bed with fresh scars and talking out of her head all the time.

Raz was more than willing to fill that vacancy, but then again, he always had been. Raz had always been this way; it was him, Todd that something had changed in.

The sex had felt amazing. There was no doubt of that. Raz had a way of taking what he wanted while still respecting his boundaries, something Caroline couldn't seem to keep a handle on with her kinky excesses.

Still, Todd felt there was a pallor over the affair. He didn't feel in control of himself with Raz as he did the first night with Caroline, although the first time he'd felt that weird detachment had been with her. He was tempted to talk with Berry about it, but considering Raz was all but living in his apartment due to Berry's anger issues, it was probably a bad idea. What if she was jealous with him the same way Raz was with Caroline?

Things were so confusing; it was so much easier to sit back ad lay in the moment, letting events wash over him like the tide. Right now, right now he was sharing a bed with a good friend, a caring friend, and a surprisingly good lover. Why question it? Why label it? Was it really so necessary to judge the things that he did based on what he thought he knew of himself?

No. It was much better this way, allowing life to take shape around him, living like a bird, pecking whatever caught his eye with no worries as to why it appealed to him. Just let animal instinct take control; that was the easy way, the fun way, the passionate way.

He'd spent enough of his life with logic, with philosophy, with school in general. All it really did was force him to conform, and charge him so much for graduate tuition that even his job teaching general education courses in public speaking left him in this dumpy little apartment.

Raz suddenly snapped awake next to him, not once yawning, just bolting upright in bed.

"Did you hear that?" He asked in a burst, tense and fully lucid.
"Hear what?" Todd replied, trying to croon Raz back to sleep.
"My car. I heard my car." Raz continued, if anything becoming more tense.
"It's a whole complex. There's lots of cars going in and out all the time."
"My brakes squeal funny. It's my car."

With no sound to compare it to, he had no way to get Raz to relax. After all, it wasn't like Raz didn't have a legitimate reason to be worried about where his car was all the time.

Before Todd had a chance to think of something to say, there was a bang at the door.

"Aren't Jehovah's Witnesses supposed to be in church on Sunday?" Todd mumbled jokingly as he threw on an old pair of workout shorts to answer the door.

Raz didn't laugh.

"Where's Raz?" Berry demanded, trying to peer past Todd into the apartment.
"...sleeping..." Todd said slowly, as if to say, "What else would he be doing?"
"That's funny. I don't see him on the couch." She fired back spitefully.
"Who said he had to sleep on the couch?" Todd diverted. He knew what Berry was like when she was looking for a fight.
"Well, considering that mop on your head screams 'I just woke up' I'd say because you guys don't normally share a bed."

Berry took advantage of Todd's sleepiness to duck under his arm, bolting into the apartment like a stray cat.
"Raz!" she cawed like a tiny harpy, "You better fucking be here." She finished under her breath.
Raz walked out of the bedroom, surprising both Todd and Berry by wearing nothing but a sheet.
"Oh, I've been fucking here. Been fucking TODD," he said with emphasis, nodding towards him. "You know, someone who actually gives a shit about me."

Immediately crocodile tears began streaming down Berry's face.
"You know I fucking love you!" she wailed hoarsely, trying to cover her lies with emotion.
"Bullshit." Raz spat. "You only ever 'loved' me long enough to get your shit moved back into my apartment."

Todd was taken aback. He didn't expect Raz not to play along, not to try and hide anything. Raz was burning bridges he couldn't build back. It was too late now to realize that Raz had nothing to lose if he though he was going to have a relationship with Todd. To Raz, it seemed perfectly logical that good friends who start sleeping together would become more serious, but Todd had never even considered the idea.

"C'mon, guys, you two've been on and off for years..." Todd attempted to mediate.
"SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Raz and Berry yelled at Todd in unison.

Then Berry took the offensive.
"Don't give me that shit!" I've been devoted to you this whole time!"
"Devoted to me this whole time?!" Raz repeated incredulously. "That's funny, you spent a lot of time with Caroline for someone devoted to me."
"You knew about Caroline! You were in on it the first night we were together!"
"What about those other nights?" Raz threw in her face. "We were supposed to share her, but you just wanted her to yourself."
"I couldn't help it she wasn't attracted to you!" Berry defended.
"And you think I was attracted to HER? You were the one that started on that, not me."

All of a sudden Todd realized how deep this all ran. Raz had a vendetta against Caroline for stealing his girl; that's why he exploded when she tried to butt her head in between them. He was trying to get revenge by stealing Caroline's man: Todd. He was gambling everything on a bond he thought they shared that Todd didn't return.

Todd saw what was coming, though he should have known it all along, and now it was too late to stop what Raz was about to say.

"Look Berry, it's taken me a few years, but I see through you now. I didn't want to be alone. Now that I have Todd, I'm not. You may need me, but I don't need you anymore."

This time, Berry's tears were real.

"Now give me back my keys."

It was over, Berry thought. No chance to runoff with the car until Raz cooled down, and a witness to stop her from slapping him. If she didn't give up the keys now, it would prove Raz right.

She handed over the keys, contorting her face for sympathy. She found none. Berry couldn't believe her ears, as Todd said the stupidest thing she'd ever heard.

"Raz, no, you don't understand. I...I was just in a weird mood, and you were available. I mean, I thought you were in a relationship. I didn't expect you to get ideas..."

That sealed it. Raz's eyes blinded with tears, despairing that he'd ever find people who wouldn't use him that he'd ever fit in, or be content. He marched into Todd's room, haphazardly yanking on his clothes. Todd tried to touch his shoulder, to say something comforting, but Raz pushed him away, his face soaked with rejection.

He'd gambled everything, gambled everything and lost, that was all Raz could thin as he drove manically down the street. He couldn't go home; too many bad memories. He'd just left Todd's, maybe never to come back, and he was in no mood to deal with any of The Fool's Card regulars.

He hit the expressway loop, trying to lose himself in the mindless pattern of driving fast, trying to feel he was a winner, like he could achieve something.

Raz was startled back to sanity when he realized he was low on gas. He was thirty-five, and everything was ending. His friendships, his relationships, and now his gas tank, all empty. He'd always been depressive, even as a kid, but when he'd become an adult he thought he'd grown out of suicidal tendencies.

What did he have left to lose, though? He'd never wanted children; he knew he would have been a terrible father. Other than sex, what was his goal? He'd even fucked his fantasy, and it hadn't been worth it. Stupid kids games had eaten his life. Really, he'd never been alive anyway, just faking it to try and make everyone else happy. Right now, he just wanted it all over.

Raz reached into his glove box for the baby .22 Berretta he kept in a fake purse. He'd never told Berry about it because he didn't trust her, but he'd promised his brother he'd keep it ever since the robbery.

If only his brother knew what he planned for it now.

Raz smiled, the easy answer coming into view. The best years of his life were over, he was losing his looks, and he was only getting older by the minute. He had nothing to lose anymore, not now. She wanted to kill him inside, to strip him of all he was over a quick fuck? She might not have known what she was doing, but he'd be damned if she didn't find out before he'd drawn his last breath.

A flurry of angry knocks startled Caroline awake Sunday night, just an hour after she'd finally been able to rest. She scrambled for clothes, the tension of the past few days slamming back into her and knocking her out of whatever peace she'd had. It had happened too many times, a stranger showing up on her doorstep, and she wouldn't allow herself to be caught unaware again.

The banging continued as her oversized nightshirt full of holes settled over her panty-ed figure, covering the flaws in her skin tone. She popped open the utility drawer, grabbing an old rusty screwdriver and cupping it gently behind her wrist with her fingertips, giving the illusion of her hand empty at her side despite holding a stabbing weapon. If she'd only kept her kitchen knives, she thought in perfect hindsight as she walked quietly to the door and peeped through the hole.

Not Thug, not Nate, not Mike, but Raz was on the other side, a madcap grin smeared across his face.
"What do you want?" she asked through the crack in the door with the chain still in place.
"I just came back to say I was sorry." Raz replied, his grin threatening to stretch all the way back to his ears.
"Oh God, thanks for that!" Caroline whooshed, relieve the situation wasn't serious. "I'm sorry for what I did too. I never even considered your feelings before I acted."

Caroline brought the chain down to let her friend into the apartment when Raz interjected.

"...sorry I can only do this once..."

There was a loud CLACK and suddenly everything went red. A sound came, like a laundry basket falling off a doorstep, then silence. Caroline tried to calm herself; she wasn't in any pain, but she couldn't see. She realized she was still standing, just blinded by some inconsistent dark red shadow. She reached up towards her eyes to feel for the damage, but the stickiness on her glasses foreshadowed the grisly scene her eyes were glad to be unaided to see.

Caroline's nearsighted blur helped cover the details as she looked at what a blindly optimistic person would call a pile of wet laundry, but her blood called the incapacitated body of Raz.

There was no fear now, only calm as she focused on the trance. She pushed through the rainbow static, bull-dogged her way in as hard and as fast as she could with the strength of a mother pulling her babies out from under the rubble of an earthquake.

Already Raz's dark purple soul had the telltale hairs Dom had warned her about. The solution... solution... the solution... didn't he do the avatar bubble first?

Caroline formed the rainbow static into a ball, only to slip in her control and have the whole thing dissipate back into the ether of the dream-space. She pulled again, the time more calmly, but she couldn't figure out how to hollow the ball. The hairs on Raz were ever lengthening and beginning to writhe like spaghetti thin worms as she berated herself over what to do next. She tried to form a depression in the ball, only to have the whole thing shatter once again.

The umbilical! She had a knack for the umbilical!

She formed the image in her mind of a tendril extending from her navel, just as she remembered doing with Dom. The umbilical extended, taking a tiny strand of her own soul with it just as it had done before. She braced herself for the non-numbness of contact, contact she remembered all too well from Mrs. Black.

Unlike with Mrs. Black, however, Raz's soul avoided her umbilical, dodged it just as Raz consciously rejected life by spraying his brains all over Caroline's apartment. Suddenly a voice projected itself, Dom's voice in black oscilloscope lines, like tiny tears in the dream-space ether.
"Don't worry. He'll accept it when he gets desperate enough. Poor kid doesn't know what he's done to himself."

It was then she recognized Dom's black vortex avatar, nothing like any soul or avatar she'd ever experienced. Why was he different? More morbidly, how did he know to come?

Sure enough, Raz's dying soul latched onto Caroline's umbilical. The thickening tendrils ceased and were reabsorbed, but unlike Mrs. Black, Raz had no idea how to communicate in the spirit world. He was still alive, but in a zombie state, like some sort of human pupae.

"So what are you going to do now?" Dom asked, still not bothering to explain himself.
"I...I...I don't know." She said through the pain, a pain she was learning to cope with even as it increased over time.
"Do you know why I'm here? Have you figured it out yet?"
"No...I just don't want him to die. Not another one. Not because of me."
"Right now, I'm the only one that can help you." Dom expressed reservedly. "Do you remember how Mrs. Black's soul reached for something? That something was me. I'm not a man, and I don't claim to be an angel. I'm the garbage man of souls, the counterbalance to the promise of everlasting spiritual life. I'm Death."

The pain and shock overtook Caroline as she fell through the umbilical into Raz's body, her soul mixing with his in a lover's embrace. Every touch was pain and pleasure, Raz's raw life force caressing hers with abrasive destructiveness as it scrabbled at life like a drowning man pulling a would-be rescuer to a watery grave.
"Come with me and let go." Raz called to her from inside his head. "We can go forever. Forever, together, alone and forgotten."

The peace and pleasure of it almost overwhelmed her before it struck the hardened core that had formed with Lucille, that iron core left in her after tasting the flesh of her new bloodline. She separated herself from him, refusing to mix their souls and become one only to die for nothing. She regained control of herself, the pain now like being dragged across a gravel road.

"Tell me what to do, Dom!" she wailed.
"You have to fix his head, so his body can hold his soul. A living soul can't inhabit a dead body." Dom advised sagely.
"HOW?!" she blasted at him.
"Feel out the damage. Use his body to heal itself, but use your soul to force it to happen more quickly. The healing comes from him. The power comes from you."

She entered Raz again, this time riding his pain into his nervous system to the damage, demanding the individual cells reconnect before permanent damage was done, domineering the small copper slug the size of the tip of a pinky out of his head through the peristalsis of his knitting flesh.

"Quick, get out before Nate finds me!" Dom trumpeted.

Too late, a brilliant sphere of pure light appeared, the opposite of Dom in every way, projecting its light through the ether.
"Ah, Caroline, nice to see you've come along," said the brilliant sphere, almost godly in its magnificence.
"No Nate! She doesn't get a choice! I won't let her!"

The glorious sphere of shimmering light touched everything around, like the smile of a god. It was so warm, so unlike the cold clutches of death Caroline had struggled with. She reached out for it instinctively, like a toddler stretching out a hand to the warm licking tongues of a summer bonfire.

It was then she noticed the black bar, the silvery blade. It was then she noticed Dom for who he really was, seeing past his gregarious demeanor to the Angel of Death it hid, saw his brother for who he was as well, the liberator, the light-bringer, the... the...

Lucifer.

Dom dropped his scythe across Caroline's umbilical, and it was all over.


Comments

haha

This chapter made me laugh, several times.

My favorite part was "Berry took advantage of Todd's sleepiness to duck under his arm, bolting into the apartment like a stray cat.
"Raz!" she cawed like a tiny harpy, "You better fucking be here." She finished under her breath.
Raz walked out of the bedroom, surprising both Todd and Berry by wearing nothing but a sheet.
"Oh, I've been fucking here. Been fucking TODD," he said with emphasis, nodding towards him. "You know, someone who actually gives a shit about me."

It supposed to sound uber snippy and faggoty, the way Raz couldn't WAIT to flaunt himself sexually. At the time I wasn't trying to be funny, but I have to admit, looking back, that shit's hilarious.

I mean, a fag and a chick fighting over the same dude who wants neither of them? PRICELESS.

YES! Like, I guess now I look like a total asshole for laughing, but what you said, the fact that it was two dudes and a chick, it just cracked me up. I'm sorry. lol

It was a very good chapter, I just enjoyed it more than I should've.

lol im a pervert.

Yes. Yes you are. Perv.