Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Howl: Come on, Freedom!

Darkness washed over them. Eric's neck tingled. Electricity jolted through his veins. Two words chanted through his mind on repeat with no shuffle: Early release. Early release. Early release. It was a chant that silently hopped from head to head in the cafeteria until it made a final leap from one boy's mouth and became a loud cheer accompanied by a steady pounding of tables and feet.

The lights flickered on, buzzing weakly. The enthusiastic chant became a choir of perturbed sighs. Eric slammed his face into the nest of his folded arms, muttering something about feces and apes. A math class nap (Leigh did not take that class with him, as he was below standard) seemed like the best solution. Then he'd have the energy to take on Balbadir when he got home. The fate of eighty-four star systems were in his hands, and he couldn't let them down. Especially not when it was Karmia's cleverly clothed bod that did the walking.

"What the hell?" Leigh shrugged her shoulders and flipped her palms up, tossing the twins a look that blamed them for the lights return. "Now I have to take a stupid exam in Psych."

"Wow. Sucks," Eric muttered through his denim cradle.

Leigh smacked him on the head, an affront he chose to ignore. The temporary short had distracted him enough to cool down, and he realized that griping about her abuse would only make things worse. After all, it was a bit of a delicate situation with Leigh. Knowing what he did, it seemed like a betrayal of any notion of decency to lash out at her.

"I wouldn't worry about Psych so much," Isaac added as he stirred a few bread crumbs onto his spoon. "It's a pretty easy class. At least, it was for me. I bet even Eric could pass it. Maybe even get an A."

"Well, we aren't all prodigies, Isaac. Just because you're a human encyclopedia doesn't mean everyone can store infinite knowledge." Leigh gave him a hard glance.

The conversation fell quiet after that. Eric wasn't sure if it had ended, or if he'd finally managed to shut them out. Frankly, he didn't care. All that mattered was the sweet silence of sleep. The warm embrace of the green clad goddess. The rush of ravenous rain. The crash of Thor's thundering hammer. The screams of a thousand fleeing teens. The—

"Eric! Eric, get up!" A rough shake snapped him awake. Isaac stood beside him, his hand clamped tightly on Eric's shoulder.

"Whasgoinon?" Eric looked with one eye barely open as his head bobbed up and down carelessly.

"The lights went off again. We're being dismissed early." Isaac grinned.

"Wheresleigh?" Eric slid off the table something like a slug, shakily rising to meet his brother.

"She took off after you started snoring. I told her to leave you be and she bitched me out for a bit before heading at the library. Are you thinking of catching up with her?"

"Nah, nah man." Eric nearly collapsed onto Isaac's shoulder. "I just want to go home. Home and sleep."

"Sounds like a plan." Isaac laughed and patted Eric on the back. Then he eased him away, making sure his brother could stand steadily on two feet. "But you're going to have to head home without me. I want to meet with a couple teachers for the homework. AP classes and all that. They might not count early dismissal as an excuse."

"What jerks." Eric hobbled to one side, and grabbed the table for support.

"Do you have your key?"

Eric fumbled with his pockets. First the one on his right, then his left. Then the two on his chest. Maybe the one inside, next to the zipper? His pants? Isaac was about to hand over his when a jingling chain emerged from Eric's butt pocket.

"Alright, good." Isaac let out a sigh of relief. "You really need to get this sleep thing straightened out, man. It's not doing you any favors."

"Yeah, yeah." Eric waved him off. "Just go get your homework, I'll get home okay."

"Glad to hear it. I'll hold ya to it." Isaac disappeared through a gaggle of giggling girls. They all turned to watch, whispering ratings in each other's ears. Most of them ranked above nine.

Eric toppled to one side and dragged himself across the dark cafeteria, using the tables as a rail. After a few fumbling moments the crust fell off his eyes and he began to hold himself uneasily, moving forward with some vagueness that irritated other hurrying students. By the time he reached the door the world had stopped swaying. Cold rain washed the fuzziness away as he strolled out into the storm and made his way across the parking lot, breezing by the "KEEP OFF" sign and tromping through muddy grass.

Storms always seemed to excite Eric. So much so that by the time he'd reached Second Street he no longer felt tired. He was toying with the idea of booting right into Star Savior and saving the sleep for later (even humoring himself with "fixing the problem"). A hot bowl of ramen would help that right along, he figured. Still, the green clad lady beckoned from a mental distance, and she reminded him just how comfy a pillow could be.

But that evaporated entirely as he rounded the corner onto Lake Street. Chills caught him by surprise, and he suddenly felt completely awake. The world seemed to operate in slow motion as his hairs stood on end. Preparing for the worst, he clenched his fists. When the bushes beside him started to dance, he had a suspicion that someone's dog was off its leash.

A blur dashed out of the hedge, bashing Eric's shoulder and pushing him back a step. His fists spread loose as he tried to balance himself, all too aware of the warm, black meat toppling into him. As soon as he found footing he danced away, counting his blessings that he remained tooth and claw free. His legs revved up a serious kick, but it never had the chance to peel. The black mass collapsed in the street, a tattered heap.

Torn strips of black fabric piled up like a blanket. At the head of it all, face down in a growing puddle, a girl's lips swallowed no air.

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