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The rain fell like it normally did. The sky was gray and so was the lake, and so were the streets, and so were the trees. Rockaway’s boots sunk in the wet sand and his t-shirt was becoming damp and uncomfortable. His black jeans were new. Big Boy gave them to him because he liked Rockaway. Rockaway was happy about this. It encouraged him.
The waves of the lake crashed onto the shore and the wind picked up. Rockaway pulled his hand out of his pockets and examined the knife he was given. It was a switchblade. The handle was worn out from over use but the blade retained its dangerous lust. The “A” on the handle was peeling. Rockaway grinned remembering the story Danny told him. Thinking of the Luckies Danny carved up with the knife gave Rockaway a sense of meaning. He had to prove himself. He needed that leather jacket.
Rockaway was a man. He was approaching forty and he had nothing to show for it. Danny had skinned and gutted towns of Luckies before he was thirty-five years old. You don’t even start thinking about doing that until you’re at least in your forties. Rockaway needed to catch up with the pack. He had to prove he wasn’t a child. He had a late start. He wasn’t into the whole idea at first but after Nerissa died he really had nowhere else to turn. His wife, April, left him because she was “disgusted” and “appalled” and a bunch of other words that Rockaway now lives for. Rockaway told April it was probably best to leave, anyway. Nerissa wasn’t going to come back. She was gone. He told April to take down the pink walls and to throw out everything and anything flowery and cute. Rockaway’s new family was the Adults now. Danny, Big Boy, Craig, ZW, and Fisher. Those were the Adults Rockaway belonged to now.
When Big Boy approached him last week Rockaway was on the side of the street, just walking. The rain fell then too, and the harsh wind chapped his lips. Rockaway walked on thinking about everything. He didn’t hear Big Boy pull up next to him on his motorcycle. It was what he called “El Juguete”. Rockaway was told about an escape from the pain or at least revenge. Rockaway was told about how he wasn’t alone and how the Adults knew the answer. That was all Rockaway had to hear and got onto El Juguete and rode off with Big Boy.
They pulled up in front of a terrible looking building on the side of a terrible street. The windows were either broken or boarded up. The walls were covered in graffiti and thresholds were becoming overgrown with weeds and roots. Big Boy parked El Juguete right in front were only a few other cars were. A big van sat between two cars on blocks and a fairly nice Ford something-or-other was double-parked. They entered through a door that was on one hinge and Rockaway followed Big Boy. They walked casually through the first floor, which was barren of anything resembling civilization. Only brick pillars stood around holding up the second floor. They came to two black doors opposite of each other in a narrow hallway. On one of the doors the words “Looking” were scribbled. On the other door, which was chained up and padlocked the word “Found” was etched in. Without saying a word Big Boy walked into “Looking” and descended a metal staircase that resided in an overall disturbing brick stair well. The walls grew increasingly dark and corroded and rotten and ghastly. Rockaway was nervous. He leaned over the rail and watched Big Boy descend without looking back. “Hey, what’s in Found?” Rockaway shouted down to Big Boy.
Rockaway looked at the door locked up in all its chains. The chains were old and so was the padlock. There was a low drone coming from the door that made the chains slightly rattle. Rockaway was drawn to this. He was drawn to this not unlike a moth that is drawn to a bug zapper even though it knows, deep down inside, that it’ll be his demise. Big Boy had vanished completely and Rockaway quickly hurried down the numerous flights of stairs to catch up. At the base of the stairwell was a door with no handle and Rockaway pushed it open. He knew that the room he was now in would be his home in due time. Couches lined the walls and old tables were scattered here and there. A wood top bar was in the back and three other guys just hung around, drinking away their pain.
“What happened to you was bullsh*t,” Big Boy said looking at a map of some forest that he sprawled out onto the table.
“Yeah. I know. But I’m not going to get anywhere crying about it,” Rockaway replied only trying to act cool. Big Boy was the man to be. He was nearing his sixties but he still retained that handsome porn star look. His facial hair still had color and his skin still gave him a young excitable glow. It was sort of miraculous to Rockaway, who has been balding since Nerissa passed.
“And your old lady left you too, huh?” Big Boy didn’t lift his eyes from the map knowing his answer already.
“I don’t think I’m fully ready for what you guys do…”
“Do you know what we do? Do you know who we are?”
“We are Adults. We have had hardships but we’ve grown up and moved passed them. We’ve had the same hardships you’ve had. That is what binds us. That is what our brotherhood is based off.”
“I still don’t think I’m following.”
“Do you know what I’m looking at right now?”
“A map. It’s a map of Morsus Forest.”
“Right. Danny is there now. Would you like to come with us and see what he’s doing?”
“Yeah. Let’s go.”
“Okay. You ride with ZW.”
They left the building in no hurry at all. The Adults embraced the stormy night. They didn’t flinch when the cold rain pelted their jackets, which was designed with what looked like illustrations of little skulls on it. It made Rockaway a little bit sick but he was drawn to the jackets. He wanted one. He needed one. Following ZW to the black van he drove he wondered how he’d get one.
“You’ll need to prove yourself, pal,” ZW explained cutting into Rockaway’s thoughts.
“Yeah. You’ll see what I mean once we get to the forest. It’s a little bit of a drive though. You okay with that?”
“What am I, a child?” Rockaway asked attempting humor.
“Not for long you’re not. Get in.”
The only things darker than ZW’s skin were the trees and sky that blurred past the window. The things darker than that were his eyes. They were big and solid and inescapable. They looked full to the brim of secrets and pain and violence and it seemed that his eyes would burst open at any moment and spill the black tar of his heart all over the van’s interior.
“You won’t believe what you’re about to see. But just hang in there. It’ll all be worth it in the end. It still might not make sense but it’ll be worth it. Once you find it.”
The two sat in silence for the rest of the drive. The radio was off. All that was heard was the hum of the road. Rockaway felt his heart beat. He dug his nails into his ratty blue jeans. His plaid button down was drenched but he knew that one day he would be wearing what the other Adults wore. One day.
The van entered the forest and followed Big Boy on El Juguete. Following ZW and Rockaway was the Ford, which carried Craig and Fisher. The night was impenetrably dark. The headlights from the vehicles illuminated only the trees directly in front of them and threw horrific shadows over the others. The rain slowed down a bit but the tone was still ominous and dreadful. All three vehicles came to a stop around the largest tree. Spots of gold sparkled in the muddy grass around the tree and there was an Adult standing in front of something with his back towards the others.
ZW turned off the van but kept the headlights trained on Danny. He was standing in front of something, looking down, in front of the massive tree trunk. The gold still sparkled around his feet.
Rockaway followed ZW as he walked towards Big Boy who was just sitting on his bike watching Danny. Craig and Fisher caught up.
“Alright. Lets go,” Big Boy directed and all of them walked up towards Danny.
Rockaway walked and bent down to pick up whatever was shining golden. The rain made the ground muddy and Rockaway had to wipe off most of it. Rockaway was confused. It was a coin. A small golden little coin that ones of chocolate are resembled after. There was some weight to it and Rockaway pocketed it. ZW saw him and told him take it out, and throw it away. It wasn’t for him.
The Adults surrounded Danny and all looked down. Rockaway caught up and jostled himself in between Fisher and Danny. He looked down and was confused.
Lying in the mud, between two massive tree roots, was a bloodied up little man who was beaten to a pulp. His nose was broken and blood poured downward mixing with his grey beard. His eyes were purple and swollen and his teeth were mostly absent. Mud and blood stained his socks and he was missing a shoe. The man’s green over coat was torn and ratty. His arm was clearly broken and the bone was creating a lump in his sleeve. His hat was boxed in and lying in a puddle and his baldhead was purple and black and looked like a nebula.
“P-p-p-please...please…I don’t know who Jenny is. P-p-p-please,” the old little man sputtered out in a genuine Irish accent. Blood sprayed as he said this and he started crying.
“Well one of you does. One of you had to. She never stopped talking about you little freaks,” Danny started. He was equally teary eyed except his tears were from rage. “She never stopped talking about you. Not once. Just tell me where the rest are and don’t try bribing me,” Danny threw a handful of golden coins at the little man and thunder cracked in the sky.
It started raining harder.
“P-p-p-lease. P-p-p-lease,” the little old man begged. He managed to crawl on his bony knees and he clutched Danny’s leg. Danny pushed him back into the mud.
“I’ll figure out one day. Don’t worry. Now say, ‘Sorry Jenny.’”
“S-s-sorry J-J-Jenny,” the old man whimpered between heaves of crying.
At that moment Danny took out a worn out switchblade and pierced the face of the man. He fell back writhing in agony, clutching his already destroyed eye. Mud was getting splashed everywhere and the Adults started laughing and cheering Danny on. Rockaway watched, not knowing what to think.
Danny plunged the knife into the little old man’s guts again, and again, and again, and again, and again. As Danny pulled the blade out of the man his pink and purple intestines wrapped around his wrist. Danny started slashing and hacking, left, right, up, down, right, right, left, right, up, right, down, down, right, left, up. The Adults loved what they were seeing. It was the show they’ve been waiting for.
“I think I saw his lady over there,” Craig said holding up a club he must’ve taken from his car.
“Then let’s go,” Fisher replied all too eagerly. He was holding a wooden baseball bat and the two raced off into the woods. Their cheers of vulgarity were heard from afar.
Rockaway didn’t know how to react. ZW looked at him and gave a look to reassure him, although it didn’t work. The fact that the Adults were totally okay with this was the very thing that was disturbing Rockaway, but he didn’t look away. He couldn’t. He loved what he was seeing. He loved what was happening and he loved what the Adults stood for. He couldn’t wait for his turn.
“Okay, Danny. That’s enough. Lets get out of here. Fisher and Craig will catch up, I’m sure,” Big Boy said walking back to El Juguete, “You can ride with me.”
Danny put the blade back and kicked some mud onto the mangled bloody pile of purple and pink and green. He reached down and yanked off the body’s buckled shoe. Danny tossed it up and caught it and looking at Rockaway said, “Found.” He then walked over and got onto El Juguete holding on to Big Boy.
“Any questions?” Asked ZW, heading back to the van.
Rockaway didn’t say anything. He didn’t even look at ZW as he walked back to the van. He couldn’t explain in words the warmth and joy he felt in his heart.
Thunder cracked in the sky and Rockaway tightened his grip on the switch- blade. The waves were getting larger and Rockaway started pacing left and right keeping an eye on the crests of the waves. He was told that the Beauties come when it’s storming, but that they can also sense danger. Fisher told him that the best tactic would be to feign drowning and lure them to you. Rockaway understood completely and now this was the time. He put the switchblade back into his jeans and started trudging out into the choppy, tumultuous water. The water immediately started flooding into his boots. His body started shivering despite how much Rockaway willed it not to. He trudged on, the water rising to waist level. The sky turned a darker gray and thunder cracked. Rockaway thought of Nerissa and of how much he missed her. He needed to be an Adult, so this was the last time he was going to let himself cry out of misery. The next time he cried it would be out of rage, like Danny.
The water was now up to his shoulders and the salty waves splashed up onto Rockaway’s face. Rockaway thought that it was funny, how the sea was washing away his tears. He grinned a little bit and took the knife out of his pocket, it feeling weightless under the black-gray-green water. No, not yet. They’ll see it. He swam out further, further and further. Soon he would feign to drown…
As he submerged his head, down into the abyss, he heard humming and gliding, and the laughter of a little girl. This was it, don’t open your eyes, they’ll see them and be scared. Eyes as red as the devil’s do that. He came back up and started thrashing around in the water. Yelling for help, yelling that he’s drowning, Rockaway splashed and kicked. His tears became real, and his cries grew sincere for in his own yells he could hear the screams of Nerissa.
The impact nearly knocked the breath out of Rockaway and took him deep down underwater. Slender arms, silky hands, rapid oscillations, took Rockaway deeper and deeper. He could feel the Beautie’s hair tangle around his arms. He could feel the Beautie’s heart beat, her breast, her everything. She started lifting him up, taking him to shore. She started to save him just like Fisher said she would. Be ready Rockaway. This was it.
The heels of Rockaway’s boots scraped against the sand and his head surfaced. Water was everywhere; Rockaway was almost completely out of the water. If he waited any longer the Beautie would toss him on the shore, and leave him for fear of being seen. He must act fast. He quickly took out the knife, and feeling the heat of the “A” he plunged the blade into her porcelain back. A shrill screech brought Rockaway’s toothy smile back. She quickly let go and tried to escape. Rockaway had a handful of her gorgeous hair and started stabbing again at anything he could manage. Sometimes the knife hit water and he heard the splash, and other times it hit flesh and other times it hit something else entirely. In all of the panic and commotion the Beautie inadvertently drove them closer to the shore. Rockaway now on his side, tangling with the Beautie, driving the hot blade of revenge in and out of everything, rain pouring, lightening striking, thunder cracking, Rockaway let out a yell. The last yell of innocence, he thought. No, the last yell of ignorance.
The water, at first black, was now burgundy. He sat down; the water up to his waist, with the Beautie sprawled on his lap, her once pale torso, now a splatter paint canvas. Rockaway was delighted. Freed, or at least starting to be. The rain fell harder and that was okay. He could head home to his Family now. The Beautie gave one final splash with her tail. He then slowly hacked it off and that was what he Found.
That night Rockaway locked up the door scribbled, “FOUND” leaving it reeking of seaweed. He went downstairs sliding his arms into his new leather jacket, fingering his brand new knife. The bricks seemed slightly newer, slightly cleaner, and the stairs didn’t clang heavy with grief. He met his Family sitting around a table, around a map. For once Rockaway didn’t think about Nerissa’s old toys, or old bedtime stories. For once Rockaway didn’t hear Nerissa’s laugh, or worse, her cry. He knew this feeling wouldn’t last long though. He’d have to keep it up.
“Look who decided to show up,” Big Boy said, “We’ve been waiting for you.”
Rockaway gave a shrug, not feeling the need to answer.
“Listen, Craig wants to go down to Poena Plains and break off some nice horns. Are you in?”
“Is it horse hunting season already?” Rockaway laughed.
The Family went out for the night.