Friday, July 1, 2011

Long time a'coming

So I realize I haven't actually posted anything here in awhile. My bad, I'll try to work on that. I also realize I can't actually write stories with happy endings too well. Fortunately, this new bit doesn't have anything even resembling a happy ending, so we're good. Inspired by some conversation held earlier this evening, this one owes a lot of thanks to Kuisti. Near as I can tell, my experiences during the Days of Discordia were generally too wacky and unbelievable to use directly, so I smashed them together with Kuisti's, made some shit up, and stole a character name from Salinger. Also, it's decently long, so I'm going to post a download link so you can read it elsewhere without burning your eyes out, as well as copying the whole thing here. Enjoy, folks.

Also, as always, this hasn't been re-read, spell checked, or anything else. What can I say, I'm lazy.



His hands were pale and nearly useless as he fumbled for a cigarette, awash in a sea of downtown neon and orange. Lane hated the things now, his favorite horrible habit, but they were still the best and only thing he knew to do at times like these. As he managed to free a smoke from the dangerously crumpled pack, the wind kicked back up, a harsh reminder that, yes, it was winter, and, no, he hadn't dressed warmly enough. He took shelter under the overhang of a vacant shop, trying both to remember what had once occupied the now bleakly vacant hole-in-the-wall and force his chilled thumb to work the wheel of his lighter. After a few discouraging failures, the dingy old Zippo finally gave birth to a flame, dancing terrified in the night air before embracing the tip of Lane's cigarette. He blew out the first mouthful of smoke, then took the first drag, the first—and likely the only—satisfying thing of his nightly vigil.
He made the mistake of relaxing for a moment as he exhaled, smoke tumbling out of him in ornate rolls and spirals. His body instantly felt the cold again, and he hunched his shoulders back up and crowded closer to the brick wall behind him. For a moment, the first rush of nicotine from an abandoned habit coaxed out a bitter smile. He thought of how he must look to anyone who had seen him standing here more than once; a single kid, standing alone in a shitty neighborhood, chain-smoking and just loitering.
You've lost it, Lane, ol' buddy. You look and act like a nutjob, and all for something you know just isn't gonna happen.
He snapped out of his self-deprecating humor as the loud voices of a group of people at the end of the block reached him. All four of them were drunk, laughing and swaying slightly as they walked. They were probably college kids just like him, just leaving the bar around the corner, The Grove. It was one of those trendy college bars that just naturally attracted theatre majors and hipsters and everyone else cut from that same cloth that Lane generally just couldn't stand. Oh sure, he'd been in there before, dragged by friends who just wanted a place with a later last call or were, themselves, a part of that pretentious fabric, but he'd hated it. Not just, he assured himself, because she had worked there. No, he also hated how packed it always was, the blaring indie music, the groups of guys in knit beanies and obscure band t-shirts talking about equally esoteric drinks and movies, and so on. And because she had worked there a year ago, and maybe still did.
“Hey bro, can I bum one'a them off you?”
The voice jarred his train of thought off the tracks. He nodded, throwing in an absentminded, “Oh, yeah sure, man.” He didn't even bother risking embarrassing himself with an attempt to use his half-numbed hand to fish a cigarette out for the tall, frat bro who's lady friend was looking longingly at the curb. Instead, he just extended the open pack and a forced smile. The bro took two and left without so much as a thank you, or even a nod. It would have, seemingly should have pissed Lane off, but he found himself oddly apathetic. It's not like he was going to finish the pack anyways. At the end of the night, he always just threw the pack, along with however many cigarettes were left in it, in the trash somewhere on the long walk home.

He remembered when she found out he smoked. He'd tried to hide it as best he could for the longest time, knowing full well that it was a dirty habit and it probably wouldn't help his chances of asking her out any. Back then, they lived three floors apart in a shitty dormitory complex, and they had gradually realized one day that they shared the same walk home from class at the end of the day. After their first conversation, he had made a point to not smoke before his last class or at any point immediately after so he could spend the ten minutes or so of walking conversation without smelling like an ashtray.
All went according to plan until the night he had to cram through an obscenely long and pointless paper and went outside for a cigarette to think his way through it. He was standing in his usual spot behind their building, watching the night's fading traffic, when his phone sprang to life in his pocket. The text message had read: Are you awake/did you just go outside? Lane hesitated, looking around as if he expected to see her jump out of the shadows shouting “boo” before responding: I am and I did. If you werent so easy on the eyes the stalker routine would just be creepy.
Too excited to notice, his cigarette had burned down long enough for the heat to start searing his fingers. He jumped, surprised and dropped it, grinding the already dying cherry into the dirt and patchy grass beneath his feet. As he was lighting another, halfway through his second pack of the day, he got her response: Color me offended. Mind some company or would that be creepy too ;). He hesitated again, this time because he was forced to choose between his secret addiction being revealed or passing up on an opportunity to spend time with her. He didn't particularly like either option, but wasn't about to lose ground with a girl he was rapidly realizing he was falling hard for. He texted back a simple Sure thing and started to walk back towards the entrance. Bringing the cigarette to the grin he just couldn't help but wear, he took another drag, thinking he had ample time to finish this smoke before she came out.
As if on cue, however, she peeked her head around the corner of the building at him. Lane would never admit it, but he jumped back, shocked. She laughed, and then hung her head and pouted, “Aw! I am creepy” before walking over and leaning against the wall next to him. Shocked and too confused to know better, Lane stood and talked with her, his cigarette still burning in his hand. He wasn't sure if she had seen it, and he wondered if it was possible she really hadn't noticed him smoking considering she hadn't said anything about it. So, as they talked, he kept the smoldering cigarette close beside him, pretending as best he could that it simply wasn't there.
After talking for a few minutes, he, again, felt the burning coal meet the filter by his fingers, the heat quickly going from mild to painful. Lane stood, partially listening to a story about her home town hundreds of miles away, mostly trying to figure out how to discreetly dispose of the wad of embers in his hand. His mind raced, and before he had time to stop himself, instinct took over. He pointed across the lawn on which their dorm stood and said, “Hey, look, wild rabbits.” In his mind, as the stump of smoked tobacco fell from his hand, he cursed himself in every way he knew.
Really? Really, asshole? That's the best you can come up with, the old 'Hey, look over there' bit that ran out of gas somewhere back in 3rd Grade? Fuck you, man, fuck you.
And yet, surprisingly, borderline unbelievably, it seemed to have worked. She had turned, staring off into the distance, and by some miracle, had spotted a rabbit staring silently off into the distance. She fawned over how cute the rabbits that wandered into town were, and he just smiled and agreed, thinking about how he'd never eat a rabbit now. He owed the furry little bastards too much.
For over an hour, they stood and talked. He reveled in every word she said, drinking in every new thing he learned about her. She talked about how lonely it got having a single room, what her classes were like, where she came from. It was there, listening to her make idle small talk about nothing of real importance on a dark, early fall night that Lane had realized for the first time that she was different somehow. It was a potent, wonderful, and dangerous sort of different, the kind that he knew could slip right into his heart and his mind and stay there, either blossoming or festering, forever. And he knew he was going to let it.
He wasn't sure he ever wanted to get back to homework, but gradually the realization that flunking a class wouldn't exactly help his cause forced him to end their conversation. He wished her a goodnight, and she smiled and returned the sentiment before stunning him, stepping right up to him. She kissed his cheek with a smile, her deep blue eyes locked with his dull browns, and said, “You should quit those, you know. You'll live longer.” Before he knew what to say, she was already walking away.

Standing there, cold and alone, he realized that was the tone of the whole affair. Throughout it all, she had remained impossible to get a grasp on, and she was always taking the lead. He knew now, when his friends, family, and better instincts all said it was far too late, that it was because she was tied down in the rest of her life—no, in her real life. He winced at that, at the very thought that he was really never a part of her real life, just a diversion, like a vacation or, at best, a dream.
Michelangelo’s—that was the place. Lane gave the cold stone behind him a reminiscent pat, content with having remembered, at last, what the now vacant building had once been. Michelangelo's had been a sort of curiosity shop, selling antiques, books, homemade arts and crafts, and the like. He remembered the old lady who ran the place, her aged frame twisted and hunched with the weight of a long life of joys, sorrows, and likely osteoporosis. She had accused him of trying to shoplift when he had come in before the first date. He was all nerves so he had shown up half an hour before her, deciding to occupy his time looking around the shop across the street from the cafe where they were going to meet.
For half an hour, Lane wandered the aisles of miscellany, occasionally stopping to pick something up and look at it before checking the time and out the storefront window. When he met the stern gaze of the store owner, he had looked away, and had been all the evidence she needed, apparently. She marched right up to him and started laying into him. Lane stood a foot and a half taller than her, weighed probably twice what she did, and was probably close to a quarter of her age, and yet, here she was, right in his face yelling at him about how, if he planned on stealing anything, she would personally kick his ass out into the street. He tried to apologize and explain himself, but that only seemed to confirm his guilt in her eyes. She started taking swings at him with her cane, her face built out of a sort of rage and hatred Lane had never before witnessed.
Under her hail of determined, yet sadly ineffective blows, Lane decided it was best not to make things worse and beat a hasty retreat. Bursting out of the front door and out onto the midday sun, he was greeted first by the surprised face of his date and second by a sharp pain in the back of his head. Dazed, he heard the thrown cane clatter to the concrete as the old crone shouted, “Come back and I'll call the cops, you hooligan!”

Lane couldn't help but laugh, his breath escaping in thick white puffs in front of him. A wiser man would have seen that as an omen, but he had just been too happy that the date hadn't been ruined to think straight. The real kicker was that hadn't even been the only incident in their relationship. There had been the dinner date at Luigi's where their waiter had thrown up on their table, the Halloween party at his buddy John's house where they had bolted out a back window together when the cops showed up, the lunch at Olmec Park that was ruined by a freak hailstorm, and so on. Hell, the first time they were going to have sex, his roommate had come home drunk—fortunately taking just long enough to figure out how his key worked. Somehow, though, despite all of it, he was sure they'd both had a great time, every time. They'd narrowly escape some sort of awkward situation or tragedy, laughing the whole way.
Lane was smiling, wrapped up in the ephemeral warmth of selective memory. But, as the first flakes of snow began drifting down on him, it faded. Slowly, he started seeing things, now as they were only weeks ago, but as they now stood. The memories that he had been so fond of, the little funny stories that had grown out of places all over town like little flowers were all thorns now. Every happy memory with her seemed like nothing more than a reminder that it had all been a lie. Or maybe it hadn't, and she really was going to walk back into his life tonight.
As the clock struck midnight and he still stood alone, the same way it had happened the last two weeks, he wondered where she was at that very moment. It was a thought he immediately regretted. He could see her, sitting warm in a living room somewhere, reading a book while the TV glowed a digital fireplace beside her. She was probably snuggled up tight under the quilt her grandmother had stitched for her when she was ten, the one with all the red roses woven together on it. She was probably snuggled right up to him, her head on his chest while she read, him giving her little kisses on the forehead every so often.
His name, as he had learned, was Sol, short for Solomon, and she had really been dating him the whole time. The first time Lane said those accursed magic words, “I love you,” he had waited until they had been going out for three months. He hadn't wanted to make a big deal of it, and hadn't wanted to freak her out, so he figured he'd wait until it just seemed too natural not to. They had been making out in his new apartment, a movie both had long forgotten about playing in the background, and when they broke for air, he had said it. Immediately, the color faded from her face. She backed away from him, looking sick. It had been his mistake to ask what was wrong—perhaps, he had thought at first, if he had never asked, they could have just gone on as normal with him in blissful ignorance.
But he had asked, and she had laid it all out for him. She said she was sorry, but that she just couldn't say it back, that there was someone else, another man, an ex-boyfriend she just couldn't get out of her head. She had said once before when the topic of his smoking had come up that she didn't blame him, that everyone had an addiction or two, even her. Finally, he understood, and he would rather she had been addicted to crack. Instead, she was addicted to another guy, and she made it very clear that, while she cared for him deeply, she wouldn't, couldn't chose him over Sol. And, before the shock of his completely unexpectedly broken heart could turn to rage, before he could do anything but fumble with words, she was gone.
A day went by before he could even think clearly, and a few more slipped away before he wanted to talk to anyone. Friends and family gave condolences and called her every harsh word they could come up with, but he stopped them. He did, after all, still love her.
On the sixth day, just when he was sure she'd never call again, his phone rang. Just seeing her name glowing on the screen of his cell phone made his skin tingle and his chest hurt. He sat, staring at it for three rings before answering. Neither of them said anything at first. Lane could feel the silence, powerful and strange between two people that had always been able to talk for hours, filling him up. Then she spoke, simply asking if he would meet her somewhere to talk, adding without hesitation that she understood completely if he said no. They both knew he wouldn't say knew, and he hated her for it.

Under the first snowfall of the year, they had met outside of the cafe where they had their first date, right where Lane now stood. He could see the two of them talking, screaming, crying at each other like shimmering neon phantoms in the night air. She told him everything, about how horrible she felt around Sol, about how she had just needed an escape, about how much happier she had been with him. He told her he couldn't stand just being her vacation, that, if all he had ever been was a distraction, she could fuck off, and that, if he had been more, if he still was more, he couldn't help but want to work this out. Because, despite feeling used, despite feeling like garbage because of her, he loved her. She was special in ways no one had thought of words for yet, but that poets and artists had tried desperately to capture. She was every cliché that shouldn't exist in his life; she was love at first sight, she had him at hello, she was why cavemen painted on walls. In his arms, she had felt like the last puzzle piece, the one you thought you'd lost somewhere a long time ago.
Through her tears she tried to speak, but the words were gone. Instead, she only shook her head before turning and running away.

Now, what felt like an eternity later, he stood watching it all play out again in his eyes that only saw the past. He had tried calling once, and had left a simple message: “I'll be waiting there, every night at midnight until I can't wait any more...until you come to take me back or tell me to give up...because I don't know what else to do.”

Lane pitched the last cigarette he could stand to smoke into the street, watching the tip burst angrily into a dozen orange sparks that drifted gracefully with the drifting snow. He laughed at himself. He had picked that day, of all days, to finally quit smoking. “You'll live longer,” She'd said. It sounded more like a curse to him now.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

About that time

I hate having a ton of ideas for things to write and having a bunch of other things I'm supposed to be doing. Add those two in with my natural apathy and I have way too many excuses not to work on anything. Sucks. Anyways, started working on this awhile ago, but was too lazy to upload it because I didn't want to add in all the paragraph breaks. There's more than this already, but, again, laziness. It's a killer.


Shit just never seems to happen quite how you expect.

It was something his father had always said, particularly when something bad happened entirely unexpectedly, like that time he smashed half the bones in his hand into splinters with a hammer. He'd been working on re-shingling their roof, different piles all around him in some kind of order he couldn't understand. His dad, who worked twelve hour days as a line cook at some French joint downtown did that with everything, setting up everything he'd need far in advance, calling them his meez. For the roof job, it had been two packs of cigarettes, Matador Full Flavor 100's, three tallboys of some cheap, generic beer—the kind of swill that tasted like someone else had already drank it once and pissed it back out, still foaming, into the can again—a stack of all the roof tiles that could be salvaged after the last windstorm, a staple gun, hammer, box of nails, towel with grease and blood stains for any inevitable emergency gush of sangre or rush of sweat in the eyes or spilled beer, and a crossword puzzle book for breaks.

What he'd neglected, however, was a pen, a tragedy he'd realized ten minutes after starting, and he'd be damned if he was climbing back down that rickety piece-of-shit ladder he should have replaced a decade earlier when it started rusting and falling apart. Instead, he hollered from the roof to anyone in earshot to bring him a pen, using his usual only semi-coherent blend of profanity, slang, kitchen acquired Spanish, and English that came out specifically when his meez were wrong or, God forbid, messed with.

He had grabbed a pen off the counter, and rushed outside, his older brother in tow, an air horn hidden behind his back. He planned to shock his unsuspecting brother on his way back down from the roof, get a good laugh out of it, and that was all. Unfortunately, as Isaac would swear daily, his older brother was as close to retarded as a bright kid could get.

The air horn squealed for half a second, and then there was a very specific, very instantly recognizable sound that Isaac would remember for the rest of his life. It was the strange combination of a dull thud and a stomach turning crunching, like someone stomping on a pile of chalk but somehow more visceral, personally painful even to hear. Isaac, only ten at the time, had never heard the word fuck said louder—he would swear every time he'd tell the story that his dad screamed it so loud the roof vibrated.

But, impressively, and thoroughly stupidly considering the ridiculous amount of damage done to his left hand, his dad grit his teeth, tied one of the ice-cold tallboys to his hand with the towel, finished hammering down the tile he was working on, and then stepped down from the roof. Isaac, duly concerned, stared on in awe. His dad forced a smile, pain sweat coursing down his forehead, clapped his hand on his son's shoulder, and said, “S'all good, kid. What'd I always tell ya? Shit's never quite the way you expect it to be!”

As he grew up, he thought this made about as much sense as the whole “Expect the Unexpected” bullshit line. You can't expect the unexpected, because, by definition, it's unexpected. You can try to prepare, make room for adjustments to your plans when shit inevitably goes awry, but that just doesn't as much of a catchy saying, he guessed. And of course things aren't exactly as you expect, unless you're Kreskin or something. He figured his dad always meant to be prepared for things to change on you so you can just roll with it, but that just seemed like common sense.

Eventually, and a bit too late, he realized his dad was just trying to say, “no matter how smart you are or how much you know, shit's still going to take you by surprise all the time.” He learned this on a frigid December Saturday, the kind of cold where everything has been plastered with a few inches of snow and ice, and the wind feels like it could freeze the air solid in your lungs. He was just walking home from another boring day of classes, par for the college misanthrope course. Later, he'd try to remember what was on his mind as he stepped out into the crosswalk. He wanted to say it was something intellectual, maybe even pertaining to one of his classes, perhaps something about the implications of Burke's expanded definition of rhetoric. More likely, though, he was thinking about the ass on the girl walking ten yards or so ahead of him. Great shape, nice and round, and the girl was wearing just tights and a long-ish shirt that covered next to nothing so it was perfectly outlined as she walked. Ah, that's right, he was wondering about whether or not he should feel bad about just unabashedly staring at this girls ass.

Then, all of the sudden, he heard it again, that nasty sound of bones being bashed apart into splinters. Suddenly, he was flying sideways, his elbow bumping against the side of knee. How was that shit happening? It was like being in a first-person shooter for a second; he could see out of his own eyes, he was aware that something was happening, and that it was awfully intense and surprising, but that was about it. Or at least, until his now crumpled body hit the pavement. Then it all hit at once, the realization of what would happen, the knowledge of how bad he was hurt, and the pain. Oh sweet hell the pain. He figured it was what it must feel like to be torn in half by a giant or something, his entire middle was far too destroyed to even want to look at...if he even could have. He could vaguely hear voices, could tell they were screaming, but it was muffled. He was slowly becoming aware that even the pain was getting more and more dull—still agonizing, unimaginable, horrifying, but slowly becoming an echo of itself. He'd have laughed at the fact that he was thankful he couldn't feel any pain in his legs if he hadn't also been aware that he couldn't feel anything in them at all, or if he could laugh at all. Breathing was suddenly so hard, struggling just to force haggard rasps in and out through the feeling like that mean ol' giant had his massive mitts on his chest, squeezing and crushing the life out of him.

Keeping his eyes open was getting harder and harder, and everything around him was starting to blur into an incomprehensible mess of lights and shadows, black and white. It was rapidly becoming disturbing that the shadows were starting to blot out more and more of the world. He was aware of sneakers stepping in front of his face and only barely aware of small splash of dirty water and slush that sprayed up in his face. Someone was trying to move him. That's a mistake he thought, absentmindedly, the pain getting further and further away, Didn't anyone ever tell this jackass to not move seriously injured people?

Wait, fuck, I am pretty seriously injured, aren't I?

Christ, this isn't right at all...

I was just walking down the fucking street, car must've been speeding, fucking asshole...
Slid on the ice...
Getting way too damn cold...
This shit isn't right...doesn't work like this...

It's nothing like it was supposed to be. On TV, every death was foreshadowed a few episodes in advance, and the dying character always got their final, important, heartfelt episode. Then, after sufficient tears were shed and enough loose ends were tied up to make things poignant, someone could punch their clock for the last time. In movies it was the same damn thing, and everyone always died in some really cool way. Everyone who died in movies got shot or blown up or killed by some crazy super disease or eaten by zombies or kung-fu'ed to death by Bruce Lee. And video games? God, those were the worst of all. Any major character had to go in the most dramatic fashion possible, probably saving the entire human race or taking the big baddie down with him.

But this? Fuck, this wasn't right at all. Walking home and hit by some speeding douche? Wrong. Incorrect. Try again, asshole.

No, not wrong. No dramatic comeback when the audience doesn't expect it. No extra life or save file waiting so you can pick things up after the unexpected. Just a thud and blamo, one more set of slightly used organs for the hospital.

No, fuck that. I'll wake up in the hospital. Probably won't walk again. Sucks. Sucks hard. But not dead. Not like this. Doesn't work this way.

As the driver, mildly intoxicated and terrified, the girl with the nice ass, and a group of other gawkers and shocked nobodies crowded around, and amidst the snow-muffled sounds of the paramedics getting closer and closer, Isaac reached out by instinct alone, his hand bloodied and shaking. He was grasping for something; what that was, even he wasn't sure. But something was there. Something had to be there.

Slowly, he became aware of the texture of something in his closed hand. It was warm, soft, familiar. Skin. Someone was holding onto him.

Gradually other sensations started falling into place: warmth from the touch, some cold, hard surface underneath him—was he naked?--the feeling of his heart beating hard and fast in his chest, the sound of voices.

“—another one? Looks like a fucking kid.”
“Shut it, Marcus.”
“Oh, getting all maternal on me, sweetheart? How cute.”
“I said shut it, Marcus, or I'll shut it for you.”
“Try me, cunt. Try me.”
“Both of you cut it out. He's almost done.”

Done? The fuck am I doing exactly?

The last sense to come back was sight, and God, what a sight! Tits, easily D's, in some kinda tight body suit that left very little to the imagination. He was in someone's lap, some hot girl's lap, apparently, in something that looked like an old Gothic cathedral. He tried moving, and his body responded, slowly, sluggishly, fighting him at every impulse. He looked down to make sure everything was still there—holy shit, he was naked—and found with some degree of shock that it was.

“Easy, kid. Don't wanna take it too quick, these marble floors are just as hard as they look.”
The girl, smiling, sat him up and gave him a look over. He covered himself quickly.
“W-what...where...where the hell...ah shit...this is hell, isn't it?”
The girl, the very large, very black man who was telling him to stay down, and a few more, a group sitting a few dozen yards away on an altar, all laughed, but not heartily enough for Isaac's liking.
“Not hell,” the mountain of obsidian said, tossing a pair of slacks onto Isaac's lap, “Probably not, anyways. Put those on and we'll try to explain.”

Isaac tried his best to hide his shame in front of the girl who, giggling slightly—was that a good or bad thing?—turned around. He slipped on the pants, amidst more laughs from the peanut gallery on the other side of the cathedral. There were three of them, all of them with enough piercings, crude ones at that, to look like they'd just barely made it out of a scrape with someone wielding a nail gun. One was a lanky bastard with a long, greasy, and jet black mohawk, another was a short, stubby kid, probably a full head shorter than Isaac with a shaved head, and the last was tan, handsome aside from the metal work and tattooed lines zig-zagging their way up and down his chest and face, with wild, long white shocks of hair jutting out at every angle from his head. Isaac had been in school long enough to know what they were, even if the term was decidedly a little too juvenile for these clearly grown men: bullies. The little one was the toady, the mohawk was the loudmouth, and the expressionless tan one was...well, that one was a mystery, but he just seemed to ooze a don't-fuck-with-me vibe from every pore.

“Hammer, you know you're wasting your time,” shouted the loudmouth through his massive shark-toothed grin. Isaac had heard of people getting their teeth sculpted and filed into rows of razor sharp fangs but had never seen it before. “Trying to help out another green faggot is just gonna gonna get you burned again.”

Hammer, a fitting name for the massive African Isaac decided, simply shot back a cold stare, and took his firm hold on Isaac's shoulder again. Together, with Girl-With-Big-Tits, Hammer led Isaac out of the line of sight of the loudmouth and company and they sat on a small bench under a massive circular stained glass window. They sat in silence for a second, Isaac between the two, looking back and forth at the two very opposite figures, waiting for words that never came. Finally, confusion got the better of nerves and shyness and Isaac spoke out. “Either of you nice folks want to explain what in the hell's going on? Where are we? Didn't I just die on the pavement, like, five minutes ago?”

Hammer held up one of his gargantuan hands and shushed him. “Not yet. Sorry, it'll be easier when everyone is together,” he offered, his accent thick but easily understood. Isaac stared at him for a moment. That was it? I'm magically transported without my clothes to a dark, creepy-ass cathedral where I'm getting cuddled by some babe, and I get hushed by the one who knows what's going on? Serious bullshit, man.

“He's stern, but he's just trying to make this easy,” came from his left, along with a hand on his shoulder, “Hammer's a really good guy, I promise.”

Isaac forced a confused smile, and sat up straight. Apparently, even in hell he still wanted to impress pretty girls. “Finally, someone who isn't an ass or a mute! Mind telling me what's going on?”
“Sorry, I can't say I really know all together too well either. It's best to let Hammer explain it; he's been here longest. I'm Karen, by the way.”
“Isaac, nice to meet you...kind of. I...ah...well, thanks. For earlier I mean.”
“Earlier? Oh, um...gosh,” she said, blushing and looking away, “I was just, um, I was putting my Shadow back on and you started to, well you know, and I was just right there and, it was like, I couldn't help but want to, you know, make it easier I guess?”

Note to self: Hottie will talk way too damn much without saying much of anything if you let her.
Isaac smiled and shook his head. “Sorry, but I really don't understand. Not even a little, actually. Putting on your 'shadow'? Sorry, but to the uninitiated, none of this makes a whole lot of s—shit!“
Before he could finish, a sudden burst of light flashed in one of the empty rows of pews, sending a sudden shock wave of wind, dust, and old cobwebs out in every direction. Hammer and Karen jumped to their feet and rushed off to the source without a word, Isaac scrambling on his still-wobbly legs to keep up.

It was like seeing the divine work of creation first hand, both beautiful and somehow terrifying. There was a faintly glowing outline of a person yet to be, like God's own design sketch, just sitting there in one of the pews. Then it started. First were the bones, starting from the spine and growing outward like a time-lapse of growing tree branches. Then the heart grew in place and started beating out rushing tendrils, veins, arteries, capilaries, and then the brain too, sending out what seemed like a never ending system of nerves throughout the body-yet-to-be. And soon blood, so much blood! It formed splotches like dripping ink which slowly shaped themselves into organs, muscles, everything. The skin started to cloud up in patches, spreading as if it were an infection all over the body, filling out every last line and detail of the glowing design.

Suddenly, where there had only a minute earlier, there was a man where there had been no man before. He was older, frail looking, probably in his late fifties, and he was just there. Isaac realized, while he was just gawking, jaw agape like a moron, Karen and Hammer had been moving. Hammer had clothes in hand and Karen was standing behind the pew with a blanket. The moment the old man was done materializing, she wrapped the blanket around him and stepped back over to Hammer's side. And there, they waited, staring down at the seemingly dead man for what seemed like an eternity. Gradually, he started to stir, moving slowly like a baby still fascinated by his own body's existence and capabilities. Must've been just how I looked, Isaac thought, still staring.

But when his eyes opened, there was only a moment of panicked looking back and forth before the screaming started. He flailed and struggled, Hammer easily holding him down, his arms and legs slamming against the immovable pillars holding him fast like they were made of gelatin.

“No! No! You can't! Get off of me, for God's sake someone stop him! Help me! Please, God, help me!”

Hammer didn't move an inch, didn't say a word. It was Karen who leaned into the fray, dodging and slipping the old man's frantic swings to try to calm him. Eventually it worked, and he stopped, panting and gasping for breath.
“God in heaven...where...where is he? That...that salesman! He...He stabbed me! He had a paring knife or something...put it in me right here! Right here, don't you see?” he said, slapping at his chest, “And then! God, and then! He held his hand over my mouth so I couldn't scream and started ransacking my house! But this...what is...where in God's name are we?”

The dull thud of feet on marble echoed slightly through the cathedral. It was the loudmouth. “Step back, Hammer, I'll take this one. Loooord Almighty knows this old piece-of-shit won't last, might as well let me take him.”
“Marcus...” Karen started, but this time he didn't even hesitate.
“Save it, slut. Oh, and old man! God? Yeah, if he's up there, he deserted your tired old ass right about the time some burglar stuck you, got me?”