Anson moved like lightning, leaping onto Ryan's back and wrapping an arm around his neck, locking Ryan in a chokehold. Becker made his own move and grabbed one of the ballpoint pens from Jana's drawing table. He wasn't planning to actually use it, but it was a weapon if need be. Security, he later supposed.
Ryan, however, fought back, grabbing Anson's arm and, in a move of pure power, flipped him right over his shoulder onto the stone floor. Anson crashed with a terrible thud.
Wait, you don't understand! Ryan said, holding his arms out as defense to the now-charging Becker, who began to stab at him like a maniac. Zippler was quicker, though, and moved just behind a wooden support column. The pen jabbed into it and stuck, but Becker ignored the loss of his weapon. He kept going at Ryan, who made a quick dodge under a fist and backpedaled for the bathroom in the corner. As he reached the door, Becker made a last tackle attempt, but Zippler was that much faster. Becker ended up eating a mouthful of wooden door.
Son of a b*tch! Becker called, regaining his composure and banging on the now locked bathroom door. You can't hide in there forever! There's no window!
Let me explain! Came Zippler's voice from the other side of the door.
You have 30 seconds before I have your brother tear this door down at the hinges! Becker shouted. Eric stood, looking very bothered, but he cracked his knuckles menacingly. Ryan was not of the same stature of his younger brother. He was a normal sized person, similar to Jana in physical means. However, he seemed much more well groomed than his siblings.
Alright. Ryan replied. I came here to talk.
Talk about what? Anson asked, joining Eric and Becker at the door. You smell like gasoline, Shredder!
Shredder? Ryan asked, sounding genuinely confused. The hell is that?
You know damn well what it is! Anson cried. You smell like gasoline!
I'll have you know my house just burned down. Ryan said calmly. Arson, the cops said. Crazy guy with gasoline, they supposed.
How very convenient. Jay added, putting his own ear to the door. And I suppose the arsonist left a message?
Actually yes. Ryan said. In green spray paint.
They weren't expecting that. But then again, wouldn't the Shredder know his own work? Of course.
What'd it say? Becker asked, backing away from the door a bit.
Blame the Family.
Jay and Eric both raised an eyebrow curiously. Becker couldn't tell, but he had the feeling they were probably sharing one mindset now. The family? Why the family?
Listen. Ryan continued. There was a shuffling sound. I came here to talk. I have the family documents here. But a bunch of them are missing.
Oh, Christ. Anson muttered. He's making sense now!
How would the Shredder know your file was missing papers? Becker asked Eric, who shrugged.
So Ryan's are missing some, and mine are missing some. Eric concluded.
Wait, maybe his are an extension of yours. Jay added. And if he's missing some
But yours don't finish his and his don't finish yours. Becker wondered, putting a finger to his temple. Two thirds of the whole file.
Then someone has to have the last third Eric finished Becker's thought.
Then everyone immediately was on the same mindset Jay and Eric had shared. And somehow, Becker feared this was the same wavelength as the one he and the Shredder had once shared. It scared the living hell out of him. They all knew who had the last file.
Did I miss something? Jana asked, peeking her head over the stairs railing and staring down at the four boys gathered around the bathroom door. In her hand was the folder of drawings.
Becker laughed nervously.
With the odd mess about Andrew's house, you'd think he's a packrat. But then again, you'd be wrong. He was actually more of a lazy guy; a bit too laid back. When the rest of La Migra crashed at his pad every Friday, it usually ended the same way: weed and moronic existential conversations. Becker was aware of this, but he decided this would be the best time to show them their now-finished demo CD.
After waiting a good three minutes after knocking repeatedly, Becker decided to make his own entrance. The door was unlocked. Foolish in hindsight. Anyone could burst in and find them stoned out of their heads. But in this case, he found little more than a living room filled with wasted beer cans, assorted paper items, and a saxophone that appeared to need a cleaning. Walking to the back of the house, Becker suddenly became aware of a strong scent of pot smoke, and he followed the scent like a bloodhound to find La Migra in the dark basement, with instruments nearby but not being used.
Becker stepped lightly over an amp and toward the group. Mike turned his bloodshot eyes toward him and gave a laugh. It echoed oddly in the stone basement as Becker took a seat on a nearby armchair.
Kris nodded to Becker.
'Sup? Kris asked nonchalantly. Becker shook his head.
You're all pretty messed up it seems. Becker replied, his fingers flowing across the surface of the CD. Jana's picture of the figure in the streetlamp's light reflected warmly in the light, like an old friend waiting to be greeted.
Is that your demo? Andrew asked from a nearby chair, his hair messed and what appeared to be a vulgar word printed on his head in sharpie.
Sure is. Becker replied. You got a stereo?
Andrew nodded and stood on wobbly feet. He staggered over to a nearby table and began throwing a few things aside from it: papers, gum wrappers, plastic Shop Rite bags. Eventually, he grabbed a small remote and aimed it at the opposite wall to him. The stereo, attached to the wall, began playing some generic prog rock. Becker tossed Andrew the CD, and in a moment, Becker was listening embarrassed to his own work. Mike and Kris listened with closed eyes and open ears. Their faces were blank slates, waiting for the finish to give judgment. After the album ended a while later, Mike and Kris opened their eyes, but Andrew had obviously fallen asleep in his chair. This worried Becker until he remembered what La Migra had been doing.
Yeah, not bad. Mike said. Soloing needs a little work, but otherwise, I think my uncle could toss this around to a few labels, see what happens.
That's how you guys got signed? Becker guessed.
No, we never did get signed. Kris sighed. People aren't much into our form of soul rock.
Oh. Becker said calmly, standing. Well, I should go. The charity concert's next week, so remember.
Hang on. Mike said, standing and digging into his pocket. I know you won't like this, but it looks like we might have company. My uncle found this the night you guys recorded.
He removed a small slip of folded paper and handed it to Becker. He hated the feeling of this little paper in his hand. Each fold was another threat, another welcoming glance of destruction. That little wavelength was coming back. Becker already knew what the note contained. Opening the last fold, Becker read aloud.
Your act of love is meddling in affairs beyond your control. Beware.
Becker read it over and over to himself. He silently folded the note again and threw it aside.
Doesn't seem definitely threatening. Kris assured Becker, but he wasn't hearing any of it.
No chance. Becker said. He's up to something.
Your paranoia is getting a little extreme. Mike replied in a worried tone. Seriously, chill out, dude.
No! Becker yelled, running for the stairs. As he reached it, he turned and announced to La Migra so loud Andrew awoke. This madness is spreading. It's a damn disease!
And with that he disappeared into the upstairs. A series of loud footsteps were heard, followed by a slamming door. Mike sighed harshly and turned to the rest of La Migra. Andrew yawned and stretched awkwardly before fully listening.
He's losing it. Mike said, burying his face in his hands. Oh, Christ this Shredder's eating him inside
Kris put a finger to his chin in thought.
Unless that's the idea. Kris suddenly stated.
What? Andrew asked.
Maybe that's it! Kris shuddered. The Shredder's making Becker go nuts.
Kris, that's a little far-fetched. Mike muttered, sitting back down.
Sure, but Kris trailed off.
Yeah, come on, man. Andrew agreed. I think you're the one who's nuts.
Kris nodded sadly and turned to the wall, thinking to himself in a form of fearful melancholy. Something was wrong here. Something off, and something tuned perfectly in, like a radio. A perfect station with no static or interruptions. Pure thought and convoluted skies. A perfect end, and a perfect beginning. Nothing more, nothing less.
Jay reached emptily into the fridge, looking for some sort of morsel to eliminate the dying hunger and boredom he felt. A cold bit of air smacked him right in the face, causing him to recoil in utter disgust. It was a hot night, but not hot enough to stand in front of the fridge all night. The darkness in the room was creeping slowly in on him, held back only by the small faded color light bulb in the fridge. The foods were uninteresting, aside from the container of hummus and package of crackers Jay was looking forward to in the pantry.
They would be going for Jana's files tomorrow. The family, together at last. Some answers to be got, and more questions to ask. He was worried nonetheless. Some godless thing was awaiting them in momentary time. Some unforeseen event to plague their lives. Eat them up and spit them out. Bile and vomit is what they were.
He sighed and closed the fridge. There was nothing more to get. His strawberry milk was waiting for him at the table, but he still needed the crackers. He began wandering in the darkness toward the pantry, groping the emptiness, looking for something to guide him. But in the dark, nothing came, and he fell into the open pantry, landing on a stack of ramen noodle cases. He groaned slightly and stood, flicking the pantry light on.
He looked down. The noodle packages were crushed beyond consumption, but that was beyond his ambitions. His father would deal with it later. Looking up, Jay suddenly felt himself slipping away. The rows upon rows of food were rows and rows of books. Inside the books was more information. And alongside the information were questions. More and more damned questions! An endless supply of inquiries with no answers.
The buzzing began in his ears and his hands shot up to his head. The hummus package fell to the ground and spilled all over with a PLOP. The screech in his head; the driving headache! It was causing him to dream things never dreamed before: to fear God and life and all the little nuances it held. The drumbeats grew more and more out of time. His drum corps marching tempo was out of time; growing more erratic. The madness!
Are you okay? Kristin asked from the doorway, fresh out of bed.
The screech faded. The tempo returned to normal.
Yeah, just fine. Jay lied to his sister, picking up the hummus package and turning to her. Fine.
Okay, well Kristin muttered. Go to bed. We're going to get Jana's papers tomorrow.
Yeah, okay. Jay agreed, walking out of the pantry and toward the table to finish his midnight snack.
Kristin turned back to the pantry and stared at the spilled hummus on the floor. The amorphous shape stared back, daring her. It was like looking into an abyss.
Charlie rolled over in his bed. He wasn't asleep; merely dozing. No sleep could come to him tonight for some reason. The mere mention of fleeing into unconsciousness caused him fear. He didn't want to be left prone. Too open and weak.
Opening his eyes, Charlie stared sadly at the photograph of the girl the Shredder had left in the stall back in New York. He could remember everything. He just didn't want to.
He flung his legs over the edge of the bed and rubbed his eyes sleepily. The world was a blur and nothing made much sense anymore. It all began to dissolve in his head: the reality and figments. He found himself walking apathetically toward his bedroom door and opening it into the hall.
But he wasn't in the hall. The calm, cool atmosphere of his home had melted into an all too familiar scene: a house party. People rushed by in little rivets and the scent of alcohol was clear in the air. Charlie smiled. He was back where he wanted to be.
Looking down, he realized his pajama bottoms had been replaced with dark jeans and a casual dress shirt. He was now in the element. His own world indeed.
Flowing through the crowds, he smiled. The reality of it all seemed so far away now, like everything in it was just a distant memory. Here he ruled his life. The blur was finally interesting.
Then he saw her: the girl from the photograph. And then, it seemed to grow; the rising action in a novel. Somehow, he had separated from his body and was watching himself flirt with the girl. He was a spirit among men as a drunken partier passed through the watcher portion of him. The solid dreamscape portion of him was still at it, and the girl giggled. Charlie gagged. He knew how this went. It was a system: talk her up, get heated, offer her a place to stay, violate her, leave her, repeat. With a laugh, the girl gladly took his hand as he led her off to another room. The watcher portion of him gagged again. This wasn't him! Not now! Not anymore!
Back in reality, Charlie awoke from his terrible dream. He was standing in the doorway, staring out into the wall. It stared back, flat and cold. No more than he had left it.
Becky. He said in the darkness, suddenly aware that he was alone.
The basement had no form, and no well being. Anson was a creature, watching the specters of his past walk to and fro across the room, his eyes glazed over. They watched in apathy, not caring who or what passed him. Sensory deprivation had killed him long ago, and the aftershocks were just becoming apparent. The scars on his lower back burned.
And he suddenly felt himself stir. He was there, lying on the leather couch in Becker's basement, watching his own hallucinations dance. His back cracked harshly as he sat up, and the figures danced faster. An acid flashback?
No, he was there, and so were his mother and his father and his brother, all dancing hand in hand. The family dynamic was gone; lost to time and space. All he was was a seventeen-year-old boy crying in the darkness. His mind was melting. And he knew somehow he wasn't the first.
The ceiling creaked above him, and he knew Becker had just come home. The music began to ebb and flow from upstairs, and Anson soon realized it was Chagrin's demo tape, being played over and over. Becker was obsessing. Anson shivered.
The cold of the night welcomed him. The slow decent was comforting, he knew, because it would wrap him up and drag him down. Just like drowning in the lake mom used to bring him and Tony to. And he would smell dad's cooking and the divorce papers would burn before his eyes and everything would just go away forever.
Anson laid back down and rolled over, facing the couch cushion. He sighed.
Jesus Christ, it's going to be a long night.
Fires. Always fires. And now Eric could tell. It was her hair. A dubious reflection of the fire that killed the innocence. How he watched from a swing set as his life slipped away. And now, watching the Daily Show alone in the living room, he almost felt the same. Alone and kept secret. Everything the Shredder had revealed to them; all the subtle things. They were lessons.
The sudden feeling of having company awoke Eric from his momentary slumber. A short figure had joined him on the couch. Fiery red hair. Jana sighed.
Can't sleep? Eric asked her.
Yeah. She replied.
Me too. Eric agreed. He looked back at the TV. The Colbert Report eagle flew across the screen. He gave an amused murmur and grabbed his guitar he had left next to him. Jana watched in fascination as he pounded out a quick acoustic solo.
Solo to Inferno'? Jana guessed with a smile.
Yeah. How'd you know? Eric asked amusedly.
Well, I got my own copy of your demo. Jana laughed. After all, I did make your album art.
Yeah, that would make sense. Eric said plainly. A pause followed. Then, he changed the subject. What do you think we'll find tomorrow?
Jana bit her lip.
I don't know. She admitted, shrugging slightly. I hope we can find out where dad is.
Yeah. Eric agreed. Where'd Ryan end up?
The H.H. motel off 226. Replied Jana. He called me afterward.
You gave him your number? Eric asked incredulously.
Yeah. Why not? said Jana. He is our brother, after all.
Sure, sure Eric sighed. His guitar suddenly felt like lead in his hands. Heavy, slowly poisoning him. He felt the world become thicker. Pea soup in a bottle; his house.
And somehow in the dark, neither of them knew what to say. It was the comfort of the moment: the knowing silence. They couldn't tell how it would end, but the family ties felt like the blood bonded between them was cursed somehow. Then Eric said it.
Insanity runs in the family, doesn't it?
Jana looked to him in lucidity.
Yes. It does.