Poetry-Thing Thursday: Made “For You”

You play a good game.
Most would surely miss it.
But there’s no denying,
the heat on the air,
or slight stutter of breath;
that quiet calling,
the closer we get.

You can try to deny it,
fool even yourself,
but I know the truth.
Know it as you do too;
that heat and that lust,
that animal want,
that searching for pleasure,
that you and I share.

It is passion confined,
compressed to singularity,
and no matter our senses,
it will always endure.

We can fight it forever,
die with it alight.
Stay separate to douse it,
but it’s stronger than might.

Last of all,
we could feed it.
Unleash its full force,
on one another,
hope to survive–
to hell with our senses
and the consequences.

No matter our choice,
little may change,
whether we like it or not,
our “I,”
is made,
“for you.”

Hard Lessons: Part 11

11.

Walk the Walk

Angela sat in yet another filthy alley awaiting Titus’ contact. There was no question as to his arrival, only how long. He was as likely to show early as late. Dealers were like that. Most times, it couldn’t be helped or blamed.

So, she sat, helmet on and arms crossed atop her bike. She’d pointed it for an exit in the unlikely event a fast getaway was needed. The rain made sheets of low visibility between here and there. Good; better prepared than trapped.

Rain drummed on her helmet, perfectly blended with external mics feed environmental sounds to her aural implant. It gave rhythm to her thoughts, forced her to face facts; Crystal and Arthur had been right.

Right or not, Lucas was her brother. She had to help him. At least try. Their conversation replayed in her head endlessly, examined for selfish intent. Over the rain pelting her and the morning thunder rattling her chest, one question he’d posed rang true; why hadn’t she gone back for them?

Truthfully, she couldn’t be sure. She’d left her siblings to criminally overbearing parents a decade ago. Wrongful as Lucas’ accusations were, she hadn’t attempted to re-establish contact. After Julia, she could easily have transplanted Lucas and Alison from their parents’ dangerous invasiveness.

Then again, whether Ali could be saved most pressing. She’d grown up almost entirely without Angela. The teen-aged girl might not remember her beyond photos together. Angela couldn’t bear the idea of having left her behind, alone.

At least Lucas went through the worst of it with Angela. They were together when they’d first learned of the cult-mentality of their parents and their religious groups. They endured an utterly nonexistent privacy brought about by a so-called open home for precisely as long as they had to, then fled.

Angela was certain her parents’ surveillance cameras and intrusive snooping trained her to be the thief she was. It gave drive to violate that net of security, regardless of where. Or, at least, it made it more bearable and natural to do so.

As soon as she could, Angela put the past to work for her. She’d never have known anything about herself or the world were she there much longer. Sexuality, adrenaline, success; all “improper” for a girl of her stock. So, she fled to the streets and ended up stuck there.

For far too long.

She’d had enough one birthday night. Childhood was excruciating. Adulthood wasn’t looking better. Street life was cold reality; day-to-day survival of eating from dumpsters, trash cans, drinking from half-crushed cans and broken bottles, choking on random cigarette butts and refuse.

No-one would’ve blamed her for having had enough.

Were it not for Julia’s timely discovery of Angela’s slow death, their eventual love, she wouldn’t be around to worry about her brother’s addictions. She wondered if that was a bad thing, but immediately recalled Crystal.

She breathed easier, if only a little.

Wet ceramic squealed from the import beyond the alley entrance. Her helmet faded and compensated for the rain and light reflected from the NSX’s futuristic angles. A skinny Japanese kid, no more than nineteen, hustled into the alley. He stopped mid-way through.

This wasn’t a dealer. Angela saw it in the rigid spine, the uncertain but shrewdly narrowed eyes. He was a courier, running any and everything any and everywhere for cash. A kid with a part time job under the table. He had no idea what he was carrying or what he was doing.

Angela swung her leg over her bike and started over, helmet on. She stopped at arm’s length. He hunched forward, cradling something.

“All here,” he said.

Angela unzipped her jacket, exchanged a manila envelope for the bag. They double-checked their swap, then about-faced. Angela zipped her coat, chest now damp from the bag, and returned to her bike. In moments, she was gliding through pelting rain.

Across town, Titus sat at the bank of laptops, increasingly more concerned that Saito had yet to show. Most of him didn’t mind, not at the thought of Crystal’s milk-white body nude beneath the blanket behind him.

The rest of him felt the same, professional agitation of any long-term job. He did his best to calm himself with that thought; just another job. He sparked a joint, deciding he could wait as long as he had to. Extra time with Crystal, wasn’t something he’d mind.

They’d tacitly agreed on no strings for now, unbidden as the future was. All Titus knew was that he’d managed a night with a woman aching for pleasure, and was now aching from his best attempts to provide it. Judging by her deep sleep, he’d done a decent enough job.

He kicked back, puffing deep on the joint to watch the various camera-feeds. Their drones were still flying pre-programmed routes, quick and easy labor he’d cooked up during job-prep. With the aid of a GPS satellite and locator chips in each drone, he wrote macro subroutines strung together in a specific structure;

A series of flight routes within a few blocks of one another. Between their size and camera feeds, they could monitor most of the area three-dimensionally, auto-adjusting against wind within tolerances to retain patrol feeds. What was more, they could be live-edited to compensate for the worsening rain as it blew in from the Pacific.

In effect, he had total command of the area. Until now, he’d only ever used components of the system, but the various drones’ programming seemed to need only ironing out, polishing. In other words, it was smooth sailing until Saito finally decided to show.

As it had been since the job had begun. Agitation was the monotony setting in then.

Titus didn’t like complications, but he liked monotony even less. It made him anxious. Mostly, monotony meant the target, in this case Saito’s hidden vault, was used to an interruption in its routine similar to his method of interacting.

In other words, that it was aware of his presence, however benignly. That problem was obvious to anyone aware of his and Crystal’s intent.

Crystal stirred amid sleep, but did not wake. He couldn’t help but glance back. The toned muscles of her back and silk-smooth skin showed the obvious commitment to making herself whole again. She’d lived on the streets long enough to know; caring for every part of oneself was as much a privilege as a responsibility.

It wasn’t hard to see how far she’d extended that mentality. Her hair was long, luscious. Her eyebrows were prim, even. Her skin was soft, clear, and clean. Her entire body, as Titus could attest, was pampered. More than that, it was appreciated, loved anew as few could be.

Crystal had received a new lease on life. Any astute observer knew that. Therein it gave her something few others had. A lust and love for life impossible without her history. It intoxicated him with his own lust for life, especially given the profound and beautiful woman few wouldn’t be enamored with.

Alarms rang in his head.

He’d kept things fast and loose for the sake of work. Letting anyone in exposed both sides to risk. Especially for two playing the game on different levels. It was dangerous to be more involved than necessary. Crystal didn’t know the extent of his role in the game. And It was for the best. Certain affairs weren’t for the faint-hearted. Even less, for those potentially vulnerable to their knowledge.

He couldn’t allow Crystal too deep in yet. Otherwise, she might end up learning things she wasn’t allowed to know. Not yet, anyhow.

Selfish as it seemed, the game took precedent in every facet of life. Everybody playing knew that. That rule extended to partners, was the sole reason he refrained from any, serious ones.

He admitted himself a bit of a romantic. Not a bleeding heart, of course. Far from it, in fact, but a man aware of a few specific things about relationships. He used them as guide-lines, nothing if not principled. A reality that made him all the more fit for the game.

Unfortunately, it also made it more difficult to admit there was more to bringing Crystal.

The thing at the heart of matters he hadn’t been ready to admit, now confronted him beneath the warmth of cannabinoids, post-coital ecstasy, and plain emotion.

He was forced to admit he liked Crystal. Liked her in a way that would lead to more.

Careful or not, it was there. The more he denied it, the worse he’d make things. Much as Crystal was right about his vulnerabilities, she’d missed the extent. His actions were entirely transparent to. He’d miscalculated, and for someone living on output, that was dangerous.

For all of his smoothness, all of his careful planning and cool, Titus was a romantic and he did want Crystal.

But those were vulnerabilities.

Forced to recall his own sentiments about vulnerabilities, he reached an epiphany; he felt a helluva a lot better off with Crystal around than not.

Short Story: Love or Not

Taryn was young, lean, and more or less healthy– if eternally under-the-weather looking.

Strawberry-blonde flax crept from her head. The strands formed great sheets of otherwise-silk whose ends were too frayed to allow proper naming. Her clothing was perpetually clearance-rack, tattered edges, and at least one-two sizes too big in one placed or the other. Nonetheless she was happy.

She loved life. She loved living.

And she loved the smell of opium. Mostly, its flowery hints blooming on her tongue between lung-smothering bellows of robust smoke. Real opium was hard to find nowadays. Even harder when the bi-annual shipments to pharma-corps vacuumed up the poppy harvests like whores on-the-clock. Everyone felt it those times; street dealers, their suppliers, their supplier’s suppliers. Everyone.

Even the large corps like Bonne Nuit and Neuro-Kinetics needing stuff for their own, meager manufacturing for inhouse aug-testers were left with only scraps. No help for the poor bastards with neural-shock from malfunctioning augs during those dry times either. They were as likely to off themselves then as the addicts drying out in gutters.

Users and abusers weren’t the only people hurting during those times of year.

Taryn personally recalled hearing the feelers from Megacorps like Cameron and Byrne for any and every hint of true Opium from the shadows. It was obvious in the rumors of double price for already-astronomical street values.

No user or abuser had that kind of cash. Corps wanted hard stuff. Real stuff. What Uncle Emile and his Bonne Nuit ilk cooked up in synth labs just wasn’t pure enough.

Taryn had taken one, deep whiff and agreed; Opium had started thousand year wars for a reason. Funny to think it could do it again if it tried.

She relaxed like some ancient rebel under dim light, to smoke it now. New. Sweet. Fresh. Sprinkled a gram of grass that those ancient rebels never could have dreamed would exist. She inhaled far deeper than few else could.

Dry times meant an end to the extremely sluggish downers that kept her mind limber. She was too high-strung, anxious otherwise. Always had been, really. To a point, sometimes, of unintentional self-harm.

Only past a certain age had she learned the usefulness of street drugs in treating that. Doctors all insisted her condition was normal adolescent angst.

Until a shadow-dweller took her to his street-doc.

Even as she kicked back in the dingy apartment, she remembered the visit. As if it’d just happened. Burning opium buried a damp mildew that clawed through the darkness. Its filth was held at bay by her leather clothing, but she barely recalled it later.

She was focused at her nostrils. That was how she remembered it. How she wanted to. That first hint of flowering sweetness.

Spot looked the typical shadow-type; half-balls, half-brains and utterly average save his personal history and grotesqueness. He’d gotten his nickname from a massive burn along one half his face. It left him eternally looking like he’d lost a fight to a waffle-iron. Nobody would have laughed about it. He was more a mental image of Harvey Dent than any actor could hope to achieve.

Ironically, that scar was earned as a result of someone else’s two-facedness.

Spot had been married once. Technically still was. He’d even been by a corp-suit. Not an exec, but high-up. He had all the nice things a suit had, too: big penthouse condo. Super-cars in the garage.Drivers and limos, and more money than even the catholic church managed at its height.

Anything he didn’t have, he had access to. Even Opium. Any time of year.

Then, one day, Spot arrived to find his best friend drilling his trophy wife on his kitchen table. The fight that ensued ended with the guy dead and Spot looking freshly-cooked. The guy stupid enough to be drilling the wife did so while she was cooking Spot’s dinner.

Consequently, Spot was stupid enough to lose the upper hand and have his face held to a burner.

Spot’s former-friend didn’t last long after that.

That was the end of it. The eventual repercussions, perfectly in-line with what one expected of corps, swept the murder under the rug and ostracized him from his former-world. Because of his ugliness, they disowned him socially.

He burned through what remained of his accounts and and took to the shadows. He’d been screwing the corps every chance he could get. And Taryn, too. Incidentally, he’d never said what happened to trophy-wife. Taryn didn’t much care anyhow, but knew not to ask.

All the same, Spot was good to her.

Since the day he’d taken her to his weird-ass street-doc, they’d been working together a while. They’d been screwing only a little less. It wasn’t love. Just sex. Neither really believed in love, anyhow.

But both believed in orgasms.

The one nice thing about their partnership, for lack of terminology, was the mutual benefits they afforded one another. Ones other people simply couldn’t provide. Sex wasn’t even one. Anything with genitals could fuck.

Sometimes, even without.

What was most important was their link, one they’d decided was the same between confidants, but stronger. She could look at him, ignore his scars, listen like a human being. No staring. No judgment. He could let his guard down.

And she, too.

Neither were squeamish. Utterly lacking any ability to be physically disgusted– for her, another effect of her conditions. Because of it, he enjoyed hints of normality.

She, on the other hand, enjoyed his presence. The Jaded, corp-life rebellion. The simple, delicious irony in his new roguishness. His gun-for-hire ways perfectly complimenting her invisible thief’s skills.

In a world full of boring, typically average people Spot had connections, stories, motive. He had plans. He was human. He knew big-time players too. From his status and previous employment. More than that he– and her through him– had full access to resources most only dreamed of.

They were a hell of a pair. Brought together by what they’d learned at the Street-doc: Taryn wouldn’t live as long a life. She had, at most, twenty years before her heart gave out.

For anyone under thirty, that seemed unfair.

How could it’ve been missed? How was the street-doc sure? It was, he said, a difficult disease to diagnose, both due to obscurity and being commonly mistaken for arrhythmia. He knew it though, had seen it.

The disease– whatever it was the Doc called it, had a long and irritatingly difficult-to-pronounce name. She never bothered trying to learn it. Spot might’ve known it, but like the trophy-wife thing, just never bothered bringing it up. It served as equally little purpose to either of them.

Taryn left, utterly overwhelmed. Unaffected by everything in life until then, she and Spot returned to the apartment only for the tables to turn completely.

Suddenly,Spot was listening, making her feel human. Then, something altogether new. It manifested something more until the pair found themselves drenched in tears, faces wet and choked for air like small, sobbing children. She, for her lost time; he, for fear of being without her.

Neither recalled much afterward, more an effect of the Opium they’d taken to. They still worked, kept themselves clear-headed thieving and gunning, but all bets were off after punching out.

Most time was spent working, fucking, and getting high. Or, when the Opium was light two or three weeks in purgatorial boredom before intervening normality where new memories were formed in various ways.

Problem was, of course, once the next phase of smoking came about they dissolved again.

Didn’t matter, Taryn felt; she lived for the moment, never guaranteed the next. Besides the drugs kept her from spazzing out more often than not.

She took another hit, heart skipping its arrhythmic beat as if reminding of her dwindling time. Life wasn’t shit, but it wasn’t roses. It was a flowery hint of something wafting on smoky, mildew-damp air; as fitting a metaphor as anything.

He submerged himself in smoke, carrying a brown-bag of groceries in from the door. Simple day-time stuff. Just bare essentials. Neither had a taste for much else.A strange normality from a dysfunctionally average life.

That strange semblance of normality culminated when she found her, upright, naked on the sofa. Her feet flat on the floor. His face pressed her groin; scarred and smooth sides brushed her inner-thighs in a similarly dysfunctional mirage of feeling and rightness.

It was the same sort of duality, she decided, that their lives were filled with. The slow death and fast life. Their coldness fostering peculiar warmth between. Their love that wasn’t love.

But because it was more, something stronger.

All of it was their lives. For good or ill. Through thick and thin. And she never wanted it to end, and thus knew it must. Eventually.

She locked her ankles behind his head. Folded scar-tissue pressed one thigh; warm stubble the other. She thrust against him. She decided then that twenty years or less; twenty years or more, and love or not, life was for living.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Nothing So Cutting

Sweat Glistens.
You listen–
skin-to-skin–
to my lesson.

The heart beat is true,
but one of few,
yet to be felt,
‘tween thee and you

Sex clings to air,
fingers grip hair.
So sealed are your fates,
of impassioned despair.

Stuttered breathing.
Milk-white breasts,
heaving.
Hefted in-hand,
what devious seething.

Miles away,
‘tween millions of days,
none can deny,
the animal sway.

It could be wrong,
but long heard’s the song,
of those now regretful;
“don’t worry, just do it,”
and
“cause life isn’t long.”

But the sea’s in your eyes,
and though known to defy,
even shallow oaths,
should now make you comply,
for recall there’s nothing so cutting,
as the sound of “goodbye.”