Category Archives: Fiction

Prohibition

Standard

“I can’t believe it’s been three years.”

Logan paced down the hallway, halted at the dead end and glanced back at the lounging form of his friend. Kahlan was crouched on the floor, her head absently leaning back against the wall. She appeared to be lost in thought; the distant look in her eyes told him she was preoccupied. She had been different since the previous Raid. Everyone in their building had been subjected to repeated questioning and screening as was the standard protocol subsequent to a Raid. Must’ve really gotten to her…

“Yeah…” He replied as he took up his previous march up and down the corridor. Kahlan shrugged his dismissive response off her shoulder. Logan had to admit, even he felt uneasy due to the increasing frequency of the Raids they had experienced lately.

At present, he was struggling to stay fully conscious. His mind’s ear had a soothing and rather intoxicating haze filtering his consciousness in and out of the moment—inspiration was a hard plague for Logan to ignore. He couldn’t stop hearing the notes in his head, the words playing atop them, the endless beat seizing his veins, pulsing, pulsing, and pulsing—always. The world is quiet, but loud. It is moving, but at the same time, frozen.

He clenched his calloused fists and pounded them against his head, grinding his teeth till they throbbed. Logan knew where to go to relieve the cravings—Kahlan did too.

It’s illegal, they both know this; he knows this.

They had promised themselves, perhaps a bit hastily, that they would both stop, that they would keep each other from “relapsing”. Kahlan fought him at his every resistance; she had the strength to lay down the instrument and walk away after a long night—Logan didn’t. For all his ingenious qualities, he lacked this simple discipline.

He desperately yearned to return to the room with red curtains—3 blocks from that rundown pizza parlor into a crumbling motel, past the long hallway, right turn, down the stairs to the cleverly concealed elevator, into the familiar bright room with white carpeting and red curtains. For Logan, the illicit risk wasn’t about the high. It’s never just about the high! Besides, I’m good at what I do… Trying to justify yourself again, Logan?

Logan slammed his back to the stained concrete. Shut up conscience. His fingers subconsciously thrummed against the fabric of his denim covered leg. NO. Stop. Fingers ceased their fidgeting movements. His palms connected against the wall behind him with a resounding smack, causing Kahlan to flinch. Logan mentally rebuked himself for that.

Sweat had begun to form on his brow and upper neck. His body was coiled tight, the tension winding through his tendons and joints had made his muscles ache. The steady acceleration of his favorite muscle commanded his blood to shoot dangerous impulses into his biddable finger tips. God, this must be what with drawl feels like.

All he had to do was take Kahlan’s hand and lead them both out the door to another destination, away from these prisons dressed up as protective residences—away to their real home.

The overhead lights began to rattle as the floor trembled despite its solid molecular build. A familiar sensation began prickling across Logan’s skin as his stomach dropped. Kahlan instantly met his gaze, her eyes reflecting the exact realization found in his: Raiding time. Suddenly, darkness enveloped the hall; the building’s power had been cut.

Logan heard Kahlan stagger her way to his side within the suffocating shadow; her hand tightly wound itself in the folds of his faded blue shirt before abruptly jerking him backwards.

“Kahlan?”

“Logan, you have to leave. C’mon, move it!” Kahlan’s voice trembled uncharacteristically.

“Please, you have to go now!”

Logan swiveled his body to face his friend. In the blackness, Logan was unaware how badly Kahlan was shaking. “Logan, don’t give up. Promise me you won’t ever give up.” A quizzical expression swept over Logan’s face as he blindly reached out for Kahlan’s hand. Her frantic tone frightened him.

“Kahlan, what are you talking ab—”

In an abrupt explosion of dust and murky haze, a flood of Boston’s finest stormed the mouth of the hallway, automatics raised and loaded. Ominous beams of piercing light shirked back and forth as black clad men belted out short commands. Logan knew the routine. Lie down, hands behind your head, don’t speak unless asked a direct question, and don’t you dare move until you’re alone again.

“He’s in there!” A voice announced. Within a few feet of Logan’s position, a wooden door groaned as it fought an assailing dense weight before busting off its hinges with an anguished squeal; that’s when the screaming started.

Logan tightly clamped his eyes shut.

His neighbor’s new baby girl wailed from her parent’s apartment. She wasn’t familiar with this life yet, and what’s worse according to Logan, she will never experience the full extent of “it”—not the sound, the word claiming the sound, or even the definition of it. It will be eradicated from her world before she is even able to prevent it. Perhaps she was lucky in this ignorance.

“There’s the one!” Logan tuned out this warped static. The commotion beside him was irritating and taking too damn long. Grab the poor guy already jeez…sounds like they’re killing him. He ignored the furious scuffling and returned to his thoughts.

He wished he was as ignorant as that baby—that he did not remember. The memories are haunting and inescapable, especially to a drop out music major from the Bronx. Honestly, what did his parents expect him to do after the Prohibition? Suddenly find biology interesting? Major in that shit? He had known since he was six years old, the first time his fingers had flown across the gleaming white keys of his grandfather’s old baby grand— he knew at that moment that his body and soul was made for that. He had had a bright future ahead.

Logan clenched his jaw roughly. And the Prohibition ended it all. How has Kahlan adapted to this so quickly? She’s in the same situation as I am after all… Logan deftly stretched his arm out and searched for his friend.

“Kahlan,” his voice was hoarse, “where—”

An angry roar of gunfire violently invaded the atmosphere. Logan swiftly retracted his arm, and pressed his limbs firmly to the clammy floor. More grappling, followed a muffled scream. That voice…

A slew of obscenities preceded an outburst of frustration overhead, as the pounding of fists on bullet-proof vests, the sharp sound of shattering glass, and finally, a hopeless cry and the inevitable thud perturbed the hall: escape is futile. It only took a few minutes—some kind of “contraband” confiscated. Probably sheet music or something miniscule like that, Logan mused bitterly. If the Probi’s only knew what “contraband” I have.

A frenzied shuffling of blurred leather feet passed through Logan’s sight; his eyes adjusted slightly to the dark. A struggling rubber sole nicked the tip of his nose; shoe burn for sure this time. Kahlan would tease him later for that.

The bustle was receding—arrest made, case closed. The seconds ticked by sluggishly. The floor was like sand paper on Logan’s cheek. The distinct smell of sawdust and stale sweat filled his nose.

The light silently returned. The hallway was empty again and a woman nearby was crying. The hall was home to one less occupant now, and someone had lost a friend, a lover, a daughter, or a brother. Those taken during a Raid didn’t come back. The mere thought of a loss of that magnitude made Logan’s stomach churn uncomfortably. As he stood, Logan cautiously brushed his clothes free of unwanted particles, and turned toward Kahlan—no one was there.

“Kahlan? Oh ha-ha, very funny. You can come out now you tease.”

Logan moved toward their apartment. His throat tightened as he halted his step. The remains of their door were clinging limply to the mangled hinges. The rest lay pathetically scattered around the frame.

“Kahlan?!”

Logan darted to the end of the hall, fumbled down the molding stairs, three at a time, then four, before he threw open the misted glass door, immediately casting his eyes to the ground away from the blinding barrage of the sun. He quickly spied a local kid slouched on the steps poking a partially melted neon bottle with a broken piece of piping. Logan anxiously knelt in front of him.

“Kid, did you see a girl with long dark hair and a burgundy jacket leave here?”

“Y-yeah, those ‘Probi’ dicks hauled off a chick with a red jacket.”

“Are you sure?! You’re absolutely positive?!” Logan firmly shook the kid by his scrawny shoulders.

“Yes! Jesus, I’m sure man!” The boy exclaimed before clamoring out of Logan’s grip and dashing inside the complex.

Logan exhaled sharply, running a gruff hand through his hair as his legs began moving. Damn it…Kahlan, what happened? We were so careful—what went wrong?! Logan made his way to the end of the narrow street. His reflection seemed to mock him from the convenience store windows.

He turned down an alley. Think, c’mon, think Logan! His lips pulled into a thin line. He glanced down at his wrinkled shirt; the faint impression of Kahlan’s fingers were still there. Why had she been so desperate to get him out of there? It isn’t possible Kahlan. There’s no way they knew what we were doing unless—

“They were after me.”

Logan almost collapsed to the ground. His hand shot out and caught his weight against the nearest structure. She had let them take her. He stumbled.

“They were after me from the start.”

His vision blurred.

“They were supposed to take me, not you.”

His knuckles dug into the raised gravel wall until they bled, as angry tremors shook his frame and he cried. Logan finally fell to his knees, beating the ground with a senseless fury.

“Not you, Kahlan—it wasn’t supposed to be you! Why!? Why didn’t you…call out for me…Why Kahlan?”

It was dark before he was able to stand again. Getting back onto his feet made his whole body ache and lurch uneasily. But he had made the decision—no…Kahlan had made it for him. A shaky sigh escaped his deflated lungs as Logan allowed his soles to take him to where Kahlan needed him to go.

Back to the room with red curtains; the room the Prohibition desperately hungered to purge, the room the Probi’s would annihilate if it could. It was the room Logan and Kahlan had made—the last room with music.

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Of Lions & Men

Standard

A brusque savannah wind visited a sun-stained tent with a faint rattle. The inhabitants within remained unmoved, slumbering under the mid morning heat. A lithe figure springs up from a cliff below, her graceful limbs carrying her within a few feet of the tent before happily settling down upon the dry grass with a slight grunt. The relief to her weary muscles was a blessing; the instant pleasure of simply sitting down was almost alarming. How could something so mundane feel so remarkable?

Chuckling softly, she set aside her spear and took a moment to stretch out her long legs, admiring the healthy curves as the sweet tension in her muscles conveyed their hard work. A howl from some distant animal pricked at her ears. The sun’s harsh light would soon be upon them she noted; the white stars had already started to recede and blur into the hazy blanket of warm hues predicting the day to come. The others should be reluctantly waking soon, or she would be forcibly waking them—a marvelous task in itself. The deft warrior scoffed, rolling  her amber eyes to the shadows.

“You’re up early, Saska.”

A scruffy head poked out from the make-shift tent, before a lean body followed, sitting down beside her. The groggy young man gave her a silly grin, which she returned as she ruffled his hair playfully.

“Always am Ruufin.” Saska answered, “You’re going to need another trim soon if your hair keeps growing out like this.”

Ruffin gently pushed his mentor-figure’s hand away, scratching his scalp awkwardly before attempting to smooth out his unruly copper hair. They had always been this way—friendly and content. Saska had taken up his training after he was found on the outskirts of the Third Barrier, the border between the land of the Lions and the land of the Tigers. He glanced up at Saska who was resting peacefully not two feet from him; the huntress was propped up from the tawny grass by her palms, eyes closed, a soft smile playing on her lips as another gust of morning air danced through her wild bangs. Ruufin licked his lips; his eyebrows arched like those of a begging cub as he gulped and struggled to force his vocal chords to produce the speech he’d been rehearsing all damn night. He knew he had to tell her now while the others were away, or else he would never have the chance. As he leaned over, intent on clearing his dry throat and opening his mouth to speak, he found it instead firmly pressed against Saska’s.

“Mooorning everyone!” a sing-song tune arose suddenly into the still atmosphere, surprising Ruufin so severely, he flew almost five feet from his previous position, clutching at his chest in horror. “Etro Ruufin, what the heck?” the petite girl giggled, running a hand through her short sandy locks, “You look like you’ve just been caught with your hand down your cloth, or you just had a panic attack.”

“No I wasn’t, and I didn’t. Be quiet and mind your own business Kenu.” Ruufin snapped, looking over to Saska who had mysteriously disappeared. What have I done?

Turning away, Ruufin glumly readjusted himself on the hard ground, and fidgeted with his dusty sandals. Kenu smirked and hopped over to Ruufin’s position, draping her arms loosely about his shoulders before leaning in—a little too closely for Ruufin’s taste—and whispering in his burning ear. “Were you about to do something naughty? Or…say it instead?” Angrily pushing Kenu from him, the young man hastily darted off the cliff, clear agitation twisting his reddened features as he heard Kenu erupt in a fit of laughter. Ruufin was too far away to hear the powerful slap that came after.

When he eventually returned, the sun was low in the sky. Ruufin could hear the bustle of the pride before he swung himself over the top of the cliff. Everyone had finally returned from hunting and from bartering supplies with the other clans at the ravine out-post, and were now remounting their own tents and lodgings. Suddenly, the reunited atmosphere halted and Ruufin felt the steal glare of over forty Lions perforating his body; the looks on their faces ranging from disgust, to solemn passivity, to sympathy. Moments later a fist flew past his face, as another connected resolutely with his abdomen. He looked up to see Alpha, and cried out as a sharp pain enveloped his right eye and cheek. He could feel the gash burn through his tears as a crimson haze filled his sight and traced down his chin. Ruufin could hear the rest of the males cracking their knuckles, and through the blurriness he made out grim expressions, and gleeful sneers. And that was when he knew he’d been marked—he had been banished.

Ruufin landed firmly on the cracking stone, his strong legs instantly breaking out into a sprint through the tangled forest. The colossal branches of the ancient trees, mingled with the intermittent clumps of crumbling ruins jolting out from the roots below proved a comforting distraction to his battered body and mind, as he mentally rewound his severely screwed up attempt at confession.

“What were you thinking Ruufin, you idiot!? How could you kiss Saska!? She’s betrothed for Etro’s sake! Now look at you, you are such a dumbass! You deserve this!”

Ruufin gruffly leapt from one gnarled limb to the next, not caring in the least about his direction as long as it was far from Saska and his ex-pride, the last place he had called his home. Ruufin’s brow creased together in a fit of brief agony. His foot pushed off from crisp bark, the pungent smell of the dense wood filling his nostrils. How could he be so careless? He was finally beginning to be accepted as a Lion, and now this—he had destroyed everything.

As Ruufin’s weight connected atop the next bough, a loud crack met his ears as the branch deteriorated beneath him, his body screaming with the tremulous, gut-wrenching sensation of free falling. His cry caught in his throat as
another rang out from under him, his back colliding with a foreign object much softer than the ground. Ruufin was roughly tossed aside, groaning as he landed face first in a mat of tall grass. Cautiously, he hoisted himself up, rubbed
his enflamed spine, and wiped the grime off his injured face, only to have it swiftly plunged down again in the muck.

“What are you doin’ here Lion cub?! This is Tiger land, and you’re trespassin’!” A terse, yet clearly feminine voice demanded of him.

The land of the Tigers? Had he reached the border already? Ruufin swiveled his head as best he could to one side, taking in the form of his attacker. He had been correct in his assumption—he was pinned to the ground by a girl. Her roguish dialect and demeanor did little to hide her femininity. She appeared to be around his own age. Her bronzed skin was darker than his and her hair a deep reddish-brown, but the piercing burgundy of her eyes is what alerted him—she was definitely a Tiger. Ruufin scoffed.

“You’re just a cub yourself—and a female one at that!” Ruufin gurgled under his surprisingly strong opponent. The arm pressed firmly against the base of his neck jerked downward roughly, causing him to cry out as electric shocks surged down the length of his back. This was getting old, Ruufin mused.

“Well this female cub is bloody kickin’ your ass!”

“I could toss you off me in a second if I wanted to!”

“Well go on then, ain’t no one stopping ya!”

Ruufin tested his words against the pressure on his back and the unnatural twist the Tiger had on his arm, grunting in frustrated defeat when he finally understood the futility of his actions. She had him paralyzed. If the situation hadn’t been completely humiliating for him, Ruufin may have complimented her.

“…What’s your name?” he asked.

“Faris.”

“I’m Ruufin.”

Silence.

Ruufin sighed and dug his nails into the parched soil. Apparently he was going to have to apologize to get anywhere with this girl, and out of this situation. “Look, I’m sorry I insulted you or whatever. I was angry and distracted when I ran into you…it wasn’t your fault and I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”

Momentary shock passed over the Tiger’s face as Ruufin locked eyes with her, and slowly Faris disentangled herself from the hold she had on Ruufin. He stood up, dusted himself off and retrieved his bow and leather pack which had been scattered about him in the commotion. Noticing Faris’ scrutinizing gaze, he faced her from his full height.

“What’s wrong? What did I say?” Ruufin inquired, unsure why the girl was gawking at him like she was. Flustered, Faris turned away sharply. “Tch, nothin’!” was her curt reply. Ruufin huffed and made a move to leave.

“It’s just—I’m not used to people tellin’ me what they really think is all. Or admittin’ they’re wrong.”

Faris glanced over her shoulder towards Ruufin, her face oddly serious, devoid of all mockery, and Ruufin found himself frozen in raw captivation. She seemed to struggle to keep it as her hands adjusted the cerulean Sari draped across her shoulder. Ruufin knew that Tigers rarely revealed this kind of emotion, so he quickly tucked it away in his memory as he would a precious treasure.

Not accustomed to silence, Faris cleared her throat and crossed her arms over her chest. “Well, you are still trespassing Lion. What are you doing here anyway? Don’t you know how dangerous it is for you to be here—especially alone?! You should go back to your pride!”

Ruufin tentatively touched his bandaged eye. “I can’t go back…”

“Wha—” Faris opened her mouth to speak again before shutting it, the realization of the matter finally dawning on her. “Fine, but if you’re gunna traipse around in Tiger country you better be damned ready to defend yourself better than that sorry show earlier, or team up with someone who knows how to fight. I suppose you can come back with me an’ rest up; better my clan get cha’ than someone else.”

She picked up her spear and water flask, pulled them across her shoulder and began walking off into the tall grass. Faris cocked her head in Ruufin’s direction. He was staring at her like a clueless cub. Are all Lion’s this slow?

“Oi! Lion! Let’s go! I ain’t askin’ again, got it?”

And with that, Ruufin scrambled after the Tiger. Maybe he could find a place to fit in after all, if only for a night.