A cataclysmic series of events were unfolding in and around the sleepy town of Harmony Hill. A mere fifteen miles away, Jana Zippler was sitting down in a heavily padded chair. Charlie Hanlon was gently rapping on the front door of 39 Armin Road as Becker Heiner flopped down on his bed a half-mile away, gently losing control. Eric and Jason Zippler, a mere hundred feet away from Jana Zippler, sat in the waiting room, contemplating whether or not to spend a dollar on a package of lightly salted pretzels. Anson Fordyce was still hiding in the attic of his real home as the orderlies brought in Franklin Zippler.
Well, if it ain't my dear, lovin' daughter. Franklin said, his voice cracked and cold with his age. It appeared as if he had aged twice the normal rate in Saint Mary's. His head was bald now, but it had once been cut perfectly into shape by the army. His face was tired and coarse, and a short rough beard of salt and pepper hair lay calmly upon his chin. His eyes were almost as gray as the rest of the room.
The two sat across from each other, seated at a silver metal table. A security guard stood nearby, ready to strike if Franklin decided to freak out.
Franklin smiled an almost evil-looking smile. It was a knowing, malicious smile. Jana gulped softly, her lips barely daring to part to speak. But when Franklin gave a vicious giggle, something burst in her. The fear was gone; all the apprehension melted away like candle wax. This man was not her father. He was never there. She had no father. Not even her foster family. They were so distant, but here she stood with the man whose blood ran through her veins. She scowled.
Listendad, she hesitated on the word dad'. It was like admitting to some terrible crime. I assume you know about what's been happening.
Yeah, a black man is president, how weird is that? Franklin replied straight-faced. Jana raised an eyebrow. He's playing dumb, she thought.
Not that. Jana said calmly, folding her hands on top of the cold table. You know the family's being stalked by this
Well, stalker? Franklin finished. That's usually what people who stalk are.
So you do know? Jana asked.
No, I finished your sentence, dear. Franklin laughed, then, as if possessed and forced to do so, said, God, it's strange to see you after so many years.
I would say likewise, but when I dreamed of seeing you again, I didn't think it would be in an asylum.
Y-yes. I suppose. Franklin sighed. I didn't think so, either. Jana nodded glumly, then straightened. She had come here for answers, not closure on family issues. This was a mission, dammit!
Anyway, this stalker. Jana continued, quickly switching subjects. What do you know about him?
Jana, dearI've been locked in this place for fifteen years. Franklin chuckled. What can I do?
I don't knowI just thought But Jana didn't finish. She trailed off, and looking at her father's grizzled, barren face, she realized something. He wasn't responsible for anything at all. Not the Shredder. Not the family. Not his own life. She began to wonder why no member of the Zippler family had tried to speak to him in fifteen years.
But then she caught the devious sparkle in his eye and it struck her like a ten ton weight. He wasn't in control ever. His life was gone; he was a madman. Nothing but Rorschach tests and badly made cafeteria food for him. He was left to wander the voids of this gray place until the end of his useless life. The other Zipplers hadn't bothered to visit him because it was futile. He was alone, just like everyone in the hell town of Harmony Hill.
Jana stood, still staring into her father's eyes. He smiled.
Bye, now, Jana.
Fifteen miles East, a young figure stirred in the empty abyss of the attic of the Fordyce home. It was a house made for the poor; located in what Becker would often call the slums' of Harmony Hill: a group of around twenty houses grouped together with barely enough room to squeeze a car in between. It was a location of poverty and filth, with two stories per house and an attic, but in all, it was barely enough for three people to survive.
Anson crawled slowly in the dark, trying to avoid any wayward rusty nails that would pierce through his hand faster than a thumbtack through tissue. He could see it now: explaining to the hospital how he injured his hand.
Oh, just creeping in my old house's attic.
Yeah, if it were that simple. He hated how he actually had to sneak into his own house. His mother, damn her. His mother had tossed him out like a useless bag of trash. But, he thought, in all honesty, aren't I?
He sat drearily in the dust, legs folded Indian-style. He groped around him for the flashlight he knew they stored on a crossbeam, but his hand kept searching and searching. But finally, his hand wrapped around the plastic tubing he knew as the Mark II Argon Flashlight and he eagerly flicked it on.
The attic was just as he had remembered it: dark, dusty, and destroyed. A number of old, torn boxes were strewn about the 10' x 10' room, taking up space and leaving Anson cowered in the corner. He had barely gotten in by climbing the ivy growing up the side of the house and had slipped through the small grate to the attic, but had quickly replaced it. Even know he wondered if anyone had seen him sneak in.
He had come for one item and one item only: the family photo album. It was a thick as hell, leather-bound book containing every childhood photograph of the Fordyce family. That is, up until the divorce papers found their way into the figurative memory book of the Fordyce's. They were written in the Devil's blood; crafted by a thousand wicked creatures. But where did wicked creatures live, besides in Harmony Hill?
Hell, right where Anson's mind was shackled. He couldn't think straight. Fumbling around in one of the boxes, Anson kept thinking one simple thought.
If you want to throw me away, I'll take all your memory. He said aloud, illustrating a morbid painting of his mind's inner workings. Madness, as they say, is vibrant and colourful, but also gray, dark, and bobbing gently in the sea. Cold chains of frost from old time Anglo-Saxon poems wrapped his thoughts up. He was trapped here in his head. And it was cold.
After searching noisily through three boxes he found it: the memory album, stacked neatly under a pile of Busy Town children's books. He snickered loudly and grabbed the book, relishing this vengeance. But when he went to grab it, the book somehow flipped open, and Anson paused.
It was a small family photo. Anson was probably seven or so in the photo, and from the looks of it, the family was standing outside the home they had just purchased in Harmony Hill. It looked so much cleaner then, with its white side paneling and crisp red front door. But Anson couldn't take his eyes off it. There he was, smiling below his father, when today, he probably would have stabbed his father. The family was whole then. It was oddly heartwarming.
But then Anson's heart skipped two beats. Footstepsnay, the simple sound of someone climbing the ladder in his bedroom closet that led up to the attic. He scurried, heading for the grate, but the dust made it hard to keep his footing. The flashlight dropped from his hand, clattered to the floor, and rolled, illuminating the box from which Anson had taken the album. He moved faster as the shadow of the climbing person ascended. He was there, but somehow, he had disappeared from memory in his family's eyes.
And he began to think he was about to disappear physically, as well.
39 Armin Drive. The address Charlie had on his arm the previous night. The address he had feared for over twelve hours. It was a small house in the eastern central portion of Harmony Hill known as The Hump'. It was the little roundabout of hills just as one exited the metropolis portion of the town, but anyone could walk to the Shop Rite and back in under a half hour. Charlie, of course, had driven his father's Chevy Impala Convertible, but that was just because it made him feel big. God knows he needed a boost in self esteem nowadays. He had almost laughed at his strange trip through time and space. In reality, he was still unsure of what exactly had happened those three days, and if Becky even lived at this small off-white coloured house at The Hump. If she did, he was still unsure what he would say to her. What CAN you say to a girl you've used repeatedly. Oh, sorry about the telling you I loved you for the sex thing? Not bloody likely.
His heart began to pound as footsteps approached the door. The knob turned, and the heavy wooden door swung aside, and Charlie's stomach and heart met somewhere in the general area of his throat.
She was indeed real, with her perfect hair and charming face. Becky was real, and she had never moved out of the hump'. Charlie almost lost his breath at the sight of her. What to say? How to introduce himself?
But that was started for him, as Becky leaned away from the doorway with a disgusted look.
What do you want? she asked bitterly, biting her bottom lip in a manner that made Charlie's mind fog away.
To talk. Charlie tried to explain, but his sentence was cut short by the wooden door slamming in his face.
Damnation. Charlie muttered under his breath, then knocked on the door again. The endless, sourceless footsteps toward the door gave Charlie a new hope, and his brow brightened. Becky answered the door once more, now very visibly upset.
Listen, I wanted to apologizefor everything. Charlie said quickly, being sure no pause would be necessary to get his point across.
Becky bit her lip again, her brow flurrying. She looked like The Thinker, minus the seated position. And from Charlie's perspective, she may as well have been made of marble.
Come on, then. She said, turning away and walking through the open doorway. Charlie paused. She had actually let him in? He was overjoyed, but at the same time, very, very confused. Why had she let him in? What was the point? She could have easily closed the door on him and left him to rot in the overcast gray sun. But then it hit him.
She had come back to the door, hadn't she?
Becker lay in a state of motionless torment. His head had taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque and hadn't looked back. A dark blue curtain now blocked that scentless, open horizon that lay before him, and only the calm breeze seeping in through the thin wooden walls kept him awake. That, and the perpetual thoughts that plagued his mind.
All these deeds. These unspeakable deeds had propelled him into this semi state of slumber. What things had he imagined in this time of madness?
And somehow, blasting through the fog of the day, he could hear the Shredder laughing at him and his puny little friends, his puny little band, and his pathetic existence. That wavelength was burning bright and broadcasting loud and clear. At least five people could feel its sensations.
Then, Becker's fatalistic thoughts were brought to a screeching halt when the echo of the doorbell came to his ears. The world shattered, and he returned to reality. The damned sound, he thought, rolling out of bed and through his cold, empty house to the door.
He opened it leisurely, not wanting to deal with the usual kid selling candy for such and such good cause. What good causes? There were no more good causes. The money he had contributed years ago had gone to the boyscouts. And what had the boyscouts become? Religious, homophobic little things, prancing about with their perky ideals, and parents thinking their boyscout led teens are moral little boys. Not so. Becker could name a number of drug using, sex having boyscouts.
But what he saw was not a boyscout looking for his latest merit badge. It was a young man about Becker's age. With blazing black hair gelled up in a Sid Vicious fashion, the boy was rather handsome looking, but he also had that dull look about him. He wore a heavy leather jacket despite the summer heat, adorned with spikes and studs. Around his neck laid a padlock necklace, sealed forever. His blue eyes stared coolly out from behind heavy lids and his mouth parted to speak.
Hello. I heard from a reliable source you're a bassist? he asked politely.
Sure. Becker said slowly and dumbly, flabbergasted at the punk dresser's manners.
Hey, name's Darryl. I just moved in up the roadand up the hill. The punk said with an honest smile.
Up the hill? Becker questioned, a finger to his chin. You mean, still in the East Elmburgh estates, but up on the mountain?!
The mountain next to the East Elmburhg estates was well known as a location for the wealthy. Apparently, as Darryl described, he lived in one of the half mcmansions on the hills nearby. Becker could imagine it now: perfectly white, leaning precariously, ready to fall. He shook his head a bit, and then looked back down at Darryl.
Anyway, you wanted me for--?
Well, I'm a guitarist, and
You assumed I'd be interested? Becker asked with a curled eyebrow.
Not necessarily. Darryl said, leaning against the doorframe. Well, kind of. I heard you were throwing a benefit concert thing.
Yeah. Becker replied. A good friend of mine's house burned down and she needs some help.
She, eh? Darryl laughed. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say n'more.
No. A friend. Becker reiterated, backing into his house. Darryl followed leisurely, looking about as if he were impressed with the slums of Elmburgh.'
Whatever. Darryl laughed. Got anything?
What, a place in the concert? Becker asked. Then he remembered yesterday's shenanigans. La Migra was out. And therefore, they had no headliner. Chagrin would have to take their place. But that left a big hole in the lineup. There were still two places left.
Actually, yeah. Darryl said glumly.
Now that I think about it Becker paused. I do have a place. But you're new in town, yeah?
So I doubt you know anyone who can play anything else. Hrm. Well, I guess I could go for a side project.
So we've got a guitar and bass. Darryl laughed, then threw his arms up in mock excitement. Yay.
Actually, I will be playing rhythm and singing. Becker smirked. I think I deserve it by now. A little glory.
Sure, sure. Darryl agreed, plopping himself down on the couch. Now, for drums and bass
Yeah, that's the thing. I'd also like to get a sampling of your playing.
No problem. We've got all the time in the world.
All the time in the world. Becker nodded and looked out past the gray curtains into the cold, cruel world. Things had lost their touch. A man had emerged from the fog and started up Becker's creative process again. All the Deus Ex Machina all over again. He sighed and looked out into Harmony Hill; past the power lines, open spaces, the thick forest, the horizon, past all the buildings and homes. Somewhere out there, the Shredder was waiting to sabotage this endeavor. To break him.
They had three days.
Jesus. Charlie buried his face in his hands, overly embarrassed. Becky was understanding, to say the least, but what to say, exactly? How could he explain himself?
Well? she asked.
They were seated in elevated chairs at the kitchen island counter, seated directly across from each other. The tension was so thick; it couldn't be cut with a chainsaw. She was waiting for him. And how?
Becky, I'mI'm sorry. Charlie finally said, breaking the silence like shattering a mirror. But no seven years' bad luck.
You have no idea. Becky replied, pushing her hair out of her face.
Of how long I've waited for you to say that. I never thought you'd do it, is all.
What, like I'm a degenerate or something?
Well, you did say you loved me.
Yeah, all for the sex, I get it. Charlie sighed. Is it enough that I want to make it up to you?
How? Becky asked, leaning on one delicate hand.
I I don't know.
Then she stopped, unsure of what to say. But Charlie ended it for her.
Listen. He said, standing and walking for the door. He passed by her, and his breath quickened, his heart the same. She affected him now. He couldn't stop it. I don't know if this was a fantasy or not, but I remember you having a band. There's a benefit concert in three days at the fairgrounds. I can save a spot for you.
And with that, he walked toward the door, sparing a single glance back at the girl he deceived so many times. She blinked, gave a slight wave, and nodded. Somehow, Charlie knew she would be there.
And as he walked down the road to where he parked the Impala, the last three days came flooding back to him. Still unsure of what had transpired, even now, he sang:
Is this the real life Is this just fantasy- Caught in a landslide No escape from reality