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EmotiMarkers (Part 2)

Georgia shook her long auburn ringlets as she stepped inside the small waiting area of the Asian Palace. The oriental decor was brightly hung from the yellow walls, the reds and blacks contrasting appealingly. The asian cuisine restaurant was small and quaint, the one room dining area smelling strongly of chow mein and egg rolls. Troy was already seated, and waving her over. His eyes looked a littler brighter than usual. Obviously, the threatening FDA investigation had escaped his mind. Georgia casually strolled over to his table and took a seat across from him.
“You look pretty tonight,” Troy said in his most casual, friendly way.
“Thanks, but you know why I’m here.” Georgia gingerly picked up the menu, and idly flipped through it. The waiter hurried over, his neatly pressed shirt wrinkled and stained.
“Welcome to Asian Palace. I take your order?” he said in his heavy Asian accent.
“I’ll have the Chicken Chow Mein with Egg Drop Soup.”
“Same here.”
Troy had lost that little spark in his eyes. “Look, Georgia, can we please just enjoy the dinner? I need a break from work.”
“Troy, we need to talk this over. The FDA are on our heels. Whatever you’ve kept in secret needs to come out.”
“But I-”
“Now, Troy.” The little warmth in her voice had left. Her job, her reputation, her whole career revolved around this. She had worked so hard, for so long, she wasn’t ready to let this go easily.
“Fine.” Troy leaned in towards her, and signaled for her to do the same. “I added an addictive chemical to the markers.”
Georgia’s jaw dropped. Her immediate reaction was to run out of the restaurant, but her panic kept her firmly seated. “Troy! They’re gonna sue the pants off of us! Why would you do that?”
“They needed a little perk.”
“You’re an idiot. The whole business is going down, and I’m not letting myself go down with it.”
“Wait, you’re quitting?” Troy looked thoroughly confused.
“You expected me to stay?! No way, not ever, would I stay,” Georgia gathered her things, and stood up. “I knew this was too good.”
Troy called after her, but the ringing in her ears prevented her from comprehension. Her heels clicking across the sidewalk, she hailed a taxi, climbed in, and went directly to her fourth floor apartment. Tears stinging her eyes, she climbed into bed, fully clothed, and sobbed herself to sleep.

*****************************************************

Fred tripped over the raised gutter and was sent sprawling across the sidewalk.
“Neil! C’mover here,” he stuttered while picking himself up.
The sandy blond boy dramatically leapt over to him. “What do you need?” He said in his jokingly soap-opera tone.
“I think I found ‘em. C’mon.” Fred grabbed Neil by the wrist and led him briskly into the darkened alleyway. “You got it all?”
“Yep. Fake I.D.s, cash, and,” Neil glanced back out in the bustling street, “just in case, I brought the markers.”
“Why would you bring those?! Do you know how much they cost me?!”
“Dude, don’t flip out. It was just a precaution. Besides, you don’t wanna be stuck outside with nothin’ to do, do you?” Neil slid the contents of the backpack back into their zippered prison. He strode farther into the alley.
“You sure this is the right street?”
“Positive. Look, there’s the door.”
The stairs that led up to the looming, black door were spattered with several different colors; of what substance they were was unidentifiable. Fred could feel the thumping, loud music vibrating through the walls. He tentatively crept up to the door.
“Are you trying to look like a scared 16-year-old? Dude,” Neil slapped him on the back, “we’re gonna be fine. Look, if you really need it, here’s some Confidence. I might as well have some too.” In turn, he stroked the side of each finger with the glistening, golden ink.
“That’s an odd place to put it.”
“Don’t want the bouncers to see it.” Neil repeated the same process on his own hands. “I heard they’re about to make these illegal.” He climbed the grimy steps and clinched the doorknob so tightly that every one of his veins in his arm looked like a bloody spiderweb trapped beneath his skin. He yanked on the door, and to his surprise, it swung open with ease. Fred glanced inside, his feet carrying him in without his mind’s recognition. The bouncer’s thick, meaty arm was the only thing that stopped him from getting in to this teenager’s haven.
There was everything he could ever want: an open bar, dimly lit seating, and the entrance area slightly separated from the main room, putting a concrete wall between him and the bouncer. It was the perfect stage. Now all he had to do was wait for the others to arrive.
“Hold up, there, pipsqueak,” the bouncer boomed into his ear. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Fred whipped out his I.D. The flimsy, laminated piece of paper made him nervous. What happens if I’m caught? He thought to himself. Back to the station? They’re already looking for me; I was on the 6:00 news. After the third time, you’d think they’d start to catch on. His heart didn’t stop racing until the I.D. was securely back into his pocket, and the bulky man was out of sight. His attention returned to the scene in front of him.
“Where’s everyone else?”
“They said they were in the back room. I think I see the door; come on!” Neil practically yelled over the blasting speakers, and wove his way through the mass of dancers, completely disappearing from Fred’s view. He ran to catch up to him, only to be blocked out by the flailing dancers. One of them turned towards him. His breath was thick with alcohol, making his speech sound more like a lumbering bear than anything else.
“Heywhadjadothatforyououghtawatchwhereya-” His slurred speech was cut off as Fred found this pause in the motion a perfect opportunity to charge into the crowd.
Meanwhile, Neil (having already found the door) was growing concerned about the inside of his fingers. He had put on much more EmotiMarker than he usually did, seeing as he needed more Confidence. The area where the marker was was swelling and turning purple, an odd contrast against the glittery ink. Fred finally burst out of the crowd, inhaling exhaustedly. He sighted Neil, and jogged towards him.
“How did you get through that so quickly?”
“Never mind that. Let’s go in. I hope we’re not too late.” Neil tentatively wrapped his bruising fingers around the doorknob, and as silently as physically possible, slid the handle downwards.
Inside stood the leaders of the gang: Hank, Pauly, and Mason.
Their figures, shrouded in a mix of shadows and blackened clothing, were identifiable only by previous encounters. Fred vividly remembered the first time he had sprinted into one of these ominous creatures while being chased by the grocer carrying two smashed gourds. The 16-year-olds, now 19, had made his heart seize up in chills, his palms grow clammy, and his feet cement themselves out of pure fear in the matter of a second. They hadn’t said a thing, but a balcony light illuminated a section of Hank’s face, revealing a single scarred, scowling eyebrow, sending Fred back the other way, faster than he had entered the alleyway.
This time was different. He was going to show them he wasn’t some sniveling baby. He was here to show them, show them he was worthy of being a part of them.
“Glad you could make it, although you’re late,” croaked Pauly in a voice that was incapable of the slightest hint of warmth. “Let’s start initiation.”
“You passed the first test: getting past the bouncer,” Mason cut in, his voice peppier than expected from a hulking 200-pound teenager, but in a rustic, intimidating way. “Why don’t you join the other recruits?” He flipped the hidden switch, and the buzzing, fluorescent lights flickered into existence overhead, illuminating the faces of three other boys. Fred and Neil seated themselves at the end of the row.
“Let’s get down to business. First off,” Hank pulled a grocery sack off the low counter situated behind him and held it open towards the seated boys, “all EmotiMarkers in.”
Fred nearly let his jaw hit the floor. He could see the guilt rush into Neil’s eyes for bringing them. Lucky for Fred, Hank started at the other end of the line, and when Neil started to reach for the bag, Fred held him securely back, locking him in eye contact that spoke louder than a bull horn. Neil leaned backwards, diffidence fighting against loyalty. As Hank passed them by, Neil relaxed ever so slightly.
“Next in the order of operations,” Pauly exclaimed, “is combat. As you obviously already know, our rival, the Maerds, are constantly infiltrating our territory, as we are theirs. Combat, hand-to-hand or not, is probably one of the most important skills you need.” He began wrapping a light cloth around his knuckles.
“To get in, you must hold your own against Pauly,” Mason pronounced, his effect more resonant than he expected. “First up.....” He seemed to be counting, but in a less orderly form. He finally pointed to Neil. “You.”
Neil stood up, his knees appearing like they were about to buckle beneath him. He raised his fists, attempting to look like he actually thought he stood a chance. Mason and Hank stepped off to the side as Mason called the start.
“Normally fights aren’t organized like this, but for the experience, we’ll do it this way. Fighters ready? Begin!”
Pauly immediately swung a flying fist towards Neil, which he dodged with some difficulty; agility wasn’t his strong point. He released another punch, which found it’s target, Neil’s left ear. He reeled, regaining his wits just enough to land a square hit on Pauly’s face. Pauly reached up and touched his fingertips to the four golden ink lines now scoring his face. His rising fury was echoing off the walls as he hit Neil so hard it sent him slamming into the now empty seats, the recruits diving to the corners, Fred snatching the backpack on the way.
“Where are they?! Huh?!” Pauly planted a well-aimed kick on Neil’s chest, the cracking ribs making Fred recoil in horror. “Where are they?! This little scrap of weak’s got EmotiMarkers!”
Mason and Hank jumped into the violence, hitting Neil wherever the others weren’t. Fred, his eyes blurry with tears, both out of terror and shock, could barely make out the farthest recruit from the assault dialing his phone.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
9. 1. 1.
Fred had to get out. Now. He slid over to the door, waiting for the perfect moment to escape. He silently stood, viewing the full monstrosity of the attack. He turned the knob, tears now coming freely, and sprinted as fast as his legs had ever taken him, out the door, through the club, into the alley. He could barely make out a pursuit following him, but he didn’t care. Neil was dead. Because of him. He whipped around the corner, barely staying on the sidewalk. He could see it up ahead. Miniature columns, connected all by a thick concrete beam, dark, fatal waters coursing angrily below. He took a step up, sirens growing louder by the second. Two seconds. That’s all it takes, he thought.
3.
2.
1.

He muscles tensed, forcing all of his weight forward. Time slowed so drastically, he felt he spent an entire evening falling into the river.
I’ve seen others kill. I’ve helped them escape. Now I’m the reason. The reason he’s dead. The reason his skull was kicked in, his ribcage was crushed, his life was taken. All because I couldn’t give them up. He didn’t deserve that, I deserve that. I don’t even deserve to die, he thought.
The last thing on his mind as he submerged into the icy current: Murderer.

*****************************************************

Georgia strolled into her old office. The once flashy walls, falsely bright, were now blank, stripped of their wallpaper and hangings. The walls were a reflection of the whole room: incomprehensible, hollow, and barren.
Her heels clicked on the tile, announcing her every movement. She was glad she turned in Troy. No more lies, no more secrets, no more guilt. She was now free to do what she wished.
A gunshot rang out. The bullet broke her skin before she had time to flinch. Blood, as thin as water, poured generously down her left arm. The floor suddenly next to her head. A man, his eyes bloodshot and droopy, stood over her, one hand wrapped tightly around a revolver, the other, a stickered laptop. His highly familiar voice was barely audible over the ringing in Georgia’s ears.
“Sweetie, I don’t lose. You ruin my life, I take yours.” He loaded the gun and aimed it right above her nose. “It’s as simple as that.”
Click.
Bang.

*************************************************************************************
The door slowly creaked open. Sarah flinched, the sound like nails on a chalkboard. She was sprawled across her victorian-style shay in her lavish dressing room, basking in her success of the night, when in walked her costar, Wally.
“Wally, my darling, come in, come in.”
“You’re sounding more and more like a Hollywood diva every day.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing. What brings you to my domain?”
Wally looked uncomfortable resting ever so slightly on the vanity. His fingers danced across his lap. “The director wanted me to talk to you.”
“About my Tony Award-deserving performance tonight? I expect he wants to raise my pay after the three encores,” Sarah said, still lapping up the taste of fame, two years after her Broadway debut.
“Not exactly. He found an EmotiMarker. You know how he feels about those.”
“They are not ‘cheating!’ They’re like steroids for the theatre. Soon everybody’s gonna be using them!”
“Well, he’s banned them.” Wally looked at the carton on the dresser. He strutted over in a falsely cocky manner. All of the cast knew two things about Wally: he was deathly afraid of drugs, and he was the director’s “little pet.” Almost muttering nervously, he gripped the container and hurriedly scooted them into his satchel. “These will be taken care of soon enough.”
“You can’t take those! I paid good money for them! Give them back!”
“Sorry, Sarah. Director’s orders.”
“Stop it! Come back here!” Sarah leapt up from her shay and snatched at Wally’s bag. Her fingernail caught one of the threads on the corner and ripped off. “Aaugh!”
“Sarah, they’re markers.” Wally was thoroughly taken aback by Sarah’s behavior. He fumbled nervously with the jammed door handle.
Sarah wiped at her watering eyes. “They aren’t just any markers, Wally. They’re my career. I was a nobody before those miracles. Now look at me. I’m on the brink. Those things made me who I am. I can’t give that up.”
For a second, Wally looked sympathetic, but snapped out of it. “My apologies, Miss Weatheby.” He finally opened the door, stepped through, and slammed it on his way out, walking away with what was left of Sarah’s hope of ever becoming a starlet.

*****************************************************



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This article has 1 comment. Post your own!

Imaginedangerous This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 16, 2010 at 5:15 pm:
Wow! When I figured out the premise of this story, I thought 'You've got to be kidding me'. But I was wrong! These are very well written, I love the plotting- you did a great job.
 
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