Contains mature language.
This is Part Two of the story. Part One can be found here.
Humans are fickle things, changing themselves with every form they take. One could take a hundred of them, subject them all to the same horrors and wonders in life, and each would be affected in a different matter. Some would glorify the wonders, others would condemn the horrors. Some will see many of the wonders as horrors, others will see many of the horrors as wonders. There is no dividing line, no clear distinction which has been set in time to serve as a guideline for human growth.
There are only the Roles. Even they, though, are subject to the forever shifting nature of the human race, presenting themselves in ever-evolving manners.
The Hopeless, for example, is often a sad, pitiable creature. Without hope, a human is devoid of the most basic principle of life—the idea of a better tomorrow. However, even this eternal role is subject to the erratic basis of humanity, and sometimes—as in this case—the Hopeless becomes strengthened by his tragic existence, becoming a paragon of resolve.
But what is resolve without hope? Even when the Hopeless is strengthened by the void in his life, he is still a sad, pitiable creature.
Jack swung, pivoting his hip as he did so, adding extra force to the punch as his fist collided with David's face. He didn't let up, quickly shifting his weight and slamming his left fist upward to smash into the underside of David's chin, causing his head to snap back as he stumbled, his back contacting the brick wall behind him, before he sank to the ground, sobbing. Jack turned his head, spat. He took a step towards the high school freshman, hunkered down before him.
“Here's the deal, David,” he said, reaching into his pocket to pull out a pack of full-flavored cigarettes. He lit one, before proffering the pack to David. David didn't respond, and Jack shrugged before replacing them into his pocket. “Here's the deal,” he repeated, after taking a drag. “At the core of it, once you strip away the staff, the faculty, a school like this one is...well, it's a bit like a community, David. You have your preps, like that cheerleader bitch Melissa Hargrove, and they're a bit like the politicians. They're concerned with being liked. Appearance is a very big deal to them. And, just like every politician in the world, they want to appear to be a great deal better than what they actually are. And that's fine, because almost everybody is like that, but a problem arises when you decide to start telling stories about how people like Melissa Hargrove have acid, David. Do you know why?”
David shook his head, his breath coming in quick and ragged bursts through his nose. Both of his hands were to his face, one gently cupping his injured chin, the other covering the side of his face where a bruise was surely forming.
Jack nodded, taking a long drag from his cigarette. “I thought you might not know what the problem with that is, David, which is why, I'll wager, tell stories you did.” He stood, taking another drag, and began pacing back and forth in front of David. “The problem is that Melissa Hargrove has connections that let her get such a wonderful chemical. Very good connections, that make for very good acid. And since Melissa is so worried about appearance, if she were to get caught with a chemical like that,” his voice turned to a blade of menace, “well, she's probably not going to want to fucking share anymore—if you catch my drift.”
“But—but, she didn't get caught. I heard the principal searched her, she didn't have anything!”
Jack nodded. “I'm well aware of that, David. Do you know why?”
David shook his head once more, and Jack nodded. “I didn't think so. See, I'm not like you. I don't get straight A's. Teachers don't smile when I walk into the classroom, despite me being here a year longer than you. But all the same,” he stopped pacing, crouching down in front of him once more, his voice changing into a low hiss, “I am smarter than you. There's a reason why every fucking student in this school knows my name. There's a reason why I can break Terry Fudd's arm in the middle of the goddamn cafeteria, and no one saw it. And there's a reason why I can find out about your runaway fucking mouth,” he reached into the pocket of his coat, pulling out a small vial half-filled with a clear liquid, “and inform Melissa that it would be in her best interest to 'misplace' her supply.”
“Well, we're, we're good now, then, right? I mean, you have what you wanted, right?”
Jack shook his head. “I think I'm actually more concerned with what you want, David. You clearly wanted this acid to disappear.” He tossed the vial into the air, caught it. Tossed it again, caught it again. Once more, he tossed it, but this time in a gentle arc that bounced off of David's knee before landing to a rest between the freshman's legs. “So make it disappear.”
“What—what do you mean?”
“Exactly what it fucking sounds like, David. Drink it. All of it.”
“But...a normal dose would only be a drop or two! Nobody could drink that entire vial without—”
“You can either drink it, or you can have your skull smashed into the fucking wall behind you,” Jack interrupted, flicking his cigarette away before cracking his knuckles and reaching into his pocket to pull out a pair of black gloves, sliding one on each hand. “Make up your mind.”
Tears now began streaming out of David's face. “Please, I don't wanna die,” he said, his words broken by sobs. “Please, please don't make me do this.”
Jack snorted. “If you don't want to die, I'd suggest drinking up. There's a chance you'll just get out of it with some brain damage. If you're really lucky, you won't even really have to deal with that, and you'll just get the trip of your life. Now...last call, motherfucker.”
Trembling hands unscrewed the cap from the vial, and pleading eyes looked into Jacks. They found no pity there, only hardened, ice-blue flints of uncaring malice. He let the cap fall to the ground, and he sniffed the bottle.
“It's odorless,” Jack said. “Tasteless. I'm sure you're well aware. Quit pussyfooting around and drink it.”
David sobbed again, and lifted the vial to his lips, letting the liquid trickle into this mouth. He swallowed, and opened his mouth for Jack to see.
“Good boy,” Jack said. He pulled off his gloves and stood. “Next time...well, why don't we be sure there's not a next time, hmm?” He turned, and began to walk away.
He rounded the outer corner of the cafeteria a moment later, and Zeke was waiting for him, dextrously maneuvering a pen between the four fingers of his right hand. “Well?” he asked, sliding the pen into his pocket and falling into step aside Jack. He was a tall, lanky man, who looked more like a nerd than anything—and his intelligence backed up that claim, registering well into the genius range. That said, the sixteen-year-old was surprisingly adept at the Israeli martial art known as Krav Maga, and, thanks to a few impromptu demonstrations of the his brutally efficient combat abilities, he was given a wide berth on campus.
“He got knocked around a little bit. Nothing too serious. And he drank it.”
“Did he fall for it?”
Jack chuckled. “He's freaking out right now, probably trying to make himself throw up, thinking he's going to flip his shit any minute now.”
“And you have the real stuff, right?”
Jack patted his chest, indicating the inner pocket of his long coat. “For free dollars and thrifty cents. She was all too happy to give it away for free, as opposed to getting searched and arrested.”
Zeke laughed and clapped Jack on the back. “It's gonna be a hell of a night, man.”
Jack turned, leaning his back against the bricks of one of the buildings and looking across the common area, at the hundreds of students safe and sound in their cozy little cliques, worrying about grades, or parties, or whatever insignificant problems they have that they consider so very important.
Jack frowned, the memories surfacing almost against his will. He wasn't proud of the person he used to be, even though he couldn't deny that he had often wished he could turn into that person again.
The Roles Incarnate are a rare breed, often leading lives that in some ways defy conventional logic. There is no clear, discernible reasoning behind the course that any human life takes, but when a human comes to embody a Role so deeply that it becomes Incarnate, the course of his life is inevitably altered, sometimes taking turns that seem almost mystical.
Jack held the eyedropper above his open mouth, squeezing it, feeling a drop of the LSD burst against his tongue, then a second, then a third. He closed his mouth, running his tongue around his teeth. It tasted like water. He knew that, he expected it, but it still somehow surprised him, and he couldn't help but wonder if it was legitimate.
Zeke took the eyedropper from him, a look of resigned trepidation evident on his face. “Here goes nothing,” he said, tilting his head back and letting a drop of the drug fall into his mouth. He handed the dropper to his girlfriend, Sonja, a spunky girl with short blonde hair and a pierced nose, and she did the same.
“So how long is it going to take for it to kick in?” she said, passing the eyedropper back to Jack.
Jack squeezed the leftover acid back into the vial before screwing the cap back on, putting the vial and eyedropper into his pocket. “Half an hour to an hour,” he said. “Sometimes longer. But it's my first time, too, so I don't know for sure.”
The three of them were sitting on the floor in Zeke's room, Zeke and Sonja leaning against Zeke's bed, and Jack a few feet away, leaning against the closet door. Zeke's room was a shrine to Gothic nerdiness, featuring large framed posters of Batman, the Punisher, and various other dark heroes and villains. On one wall hung an assortment of fantasy weaponry, various daggers, swords, and axes featuring ornate designs. Below that was a stand featuring more authentic, legitimate Japanese weaponry, a katana, a wakizashi, and a tanto. Zeke's house had been broken into at one point, and the wakizashi had come into play against the intruder, cutting off three of his fingers and inflicting a fairly serious chest wound. After that incident, Zeke's father had rewarded him with a Glock 17, a nine-millimeter, semi-automatic handgun, the butt of which could be seen poking out from underneath Zeke's pillow.
Zeke reached behind him, his arm grasping around under his bed, before he pulled out a shoe box. He opened it, pulled out a small glass bong, and unscrewed a bottle of water, filling the chamber, before reaching back into the box, into a sandwich bag, to pull out a few pinches of marijuana, loading the bowl of the bong. He pulled a lighter from his pocket and sparked the bowl, filling the chamber with smoke, before lifting the bowl and sucking the smoke into his lungs in one impressive pull. His face turned red as he resisted the urge to cough, and Jack snorted, the shadow of a smile on his face. Zeke flipped him off casually, and passed the bong to Sonja.
Jack reached into his coat and pulled out his cigarettes, blazing one to life between his lips. Sonja finished her hit and held the bong out to him, and he shook his head. “No. I want my head to be clear when the acid kicks in.” She nodded, and passed the bong back to her boyfriend, who shrugged before taking another monster hit.
Jack leaned back and smoked in silence, ignoring the two lovers sharing a bong and small talk a few feet away. He finished his cigarette and crushed the remnant into a glass ashtray, considering how in that small little tube, one could very easily see a parody of the human life, a carcinogenic, disease ridden thing that would at one point burn itself out, leaving nothing behind to speak for but a worthless carcass with very little use that would one day decompose to nothingness, and a cloud of pollution to sicken the planet even further than what it already is.
What's the point? He asked himself, reaching already for another cigarette. He hated himself when he got this way, when he turned into this introspective, depressed creature. He fought that side of himself daily, determined to beat it into submission with drugs, a carefully constructed mask designed to hide what few emotions he felt, and pure, unabashed strength of will.
He lit the cigarette and took a long drag. He breathed a stream of smoke out and realized that that, too, could be seen as a parody of life, a loose collection of cancer and death that would eventually fade to nothingness.
He shook his head and leaned back again. His gaze fell to the poster of Batman crouching on a gargoyle jutting from the side of a tall building. He liked Batman, liked the idea of a man dedicated to doing the right thing, to turning his pain into something noble and pure. He wasn't entirely sure why he liked that idea, being as it could quite be considered the exact opposite of himself. He took his pain and inflicted it upon others through intimidation, trickery, or, when necessary, pure brute force, as if as long as the world was hurting as much as he was, then his pain would begin to feel insignificant.
But...it never did. No matter how much he railed at the world, no matter how many people cringed in his presence, no matter how many noses he bloodied or ribs he broke, his pain never diminished, but instead seemed to grow with every passing day, with every passing thought, as if it was a black hole inside him, growing stronger with every evil deed he committed.
Time passed, and Jack become more and more involved in his thoughts, completely ignoring Zeke and Sonja. They didn't bother him, knowing full well that he simply got like this sometimes, and interrupting his thinking at such a time was likely to snap on his 'autopilot', throwing him into an unthinking rage before he realized who, exactly, it was that was interrupting him.
A smile begin to grow on his face as he sat there, and after a few moments, he realized how profoundly happy he was. He took a deep breath, and the feel of the cool air entering his lungs seemed almost profound.
There it is, he thought.
He wasn't sure how long he sat there, slowly breathing in and out, but after a while, he looked towards Zeke and Sonja. Zeke had his arm around his girlfriend, and they both were leaned against the bed, each bearing a somewhat goofy smile.
“How long have we been tripping?” Jack asked.
“Fuck if I know, man,” Zeke responded. “I was high before I was high.” He started sniggering, and Sonja shook her head.
“That was not that funny.”
He leaned over, planting a kiss on her exposed neck. “Funny enough for me,” he said, and she rolled her eyes.
Jack lit another cigarette. He glanced once more at the Batman poster. “Whoa,” he said, noticing that the edges of the poster were slowly waving back and forth. “That's...kind of cool.”
“What is?” Zeke asked.
“Look at the posters, man. They're waving.”
Jack closed his eyes, and was soon is his own little world, his mind expanding into a million different places, his minds eye ablaze with activity. He seemed to slip into a trance once his cigarette was finished and crushed into the glass ashtray alongside it's brothers. He could see the room that they were in, and he saw the Batman poster he had stared at earlier. His minds eye zoomed in on the poster, closer and closer, until he seemed to pass through it, making the molecules that comprise the poster visible, then even closer, making the atoms that made up the molecules visible, then closer still.
He was struck by the revelation that every one of those tiny building blocks was somehow connected to every other, and that what happened to one would invariably cause repercussions affecting not only every building block of that poster, but of all of creation. As this came to him, his vision seemed to pull back out, once again zooming out past the atoms, the molecules, until he could see the poster once more. It kept pulling out, though, eventually showcasing the planet, and then the system, and he realized that all of these were the building blocks of something even greater. His vision kept pulling back, and he realized that the galaxy was the tiniest building block of something greater, and finally, that something snapped into view, this grand, inexplicable work of conscious art that was the master and the product of all of creation.
But what's the point!? he cried out internally, and his vision seemed to zoom back in, impossibly fast, back into the galaxy, back into the solar system, back into earth, inside some house he had never recognized before, and he saw her.
She was short—he guessed only a few inches over five feet. Her hair was long and dark, her eyes the most entrancing hazel he could ever even imagine comprehending. Her clothing was nothing fancy, jeans and a low-cut but fairly casual top. She didn't look like a model, or an actress, and she had almost an air of tomboyishness about her.
She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, and he felt his mouth drop as he stared at her through closed eyes. She wasn't perfect, but her imperfections somehow made her more than perfect.
She raised her eyes to his, and a sad smile lit on her face. “I am,” she said, simply.