Aug. 9th, 2016

Amber Alert

Aug. 9th, 2016 02:02 am
jack_babalon: (Default)
The knock on the door arrives hammer steady, sharp panic nailed into a rare block of sleep. Burst awake into the red glow of the alarm clock quick drawing the .22 stashed under the pillow. It's 1:56 AM. I got the snubbed barrel trained on a blacker square of darkness that's my bedroom door. The knocking continues. Realizing it's coming from the front door, I scramble options through the noise.

Option #1: My apartment is located in the only building on Solomon Street, flanked by kudzu choked fields while sitting across the street from an abandoned house with I-20 flowing behind it. Brick, two storied, and in a part of pre-gentrified Terminus where a 911 response time runs somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour to roughly never. It's a one bedroom, cheap, located a few blocks walk from Cowboy Ted's Stadium and the Gold Dome. Scuttlebutt from the neighbors has it that the tenant before me had been broken into on numerous occasions, home-invaded twice, and one time got beaten savagely by an especially irate delivery boy with the wrong address.

Option #2: My last job crunching numbers and tallying debts for Bud and his Maniac Squad earned me some long term grudges in the process of carrying out my duty. Bud's in jail now and the last I heard it was open season on my shaved head out there in the mosh pits, dive bars, and bong smoke soaked bunker apartments where armed man-children still animal growl at the utterance of my name.

Option #3: Bad drama with Vertigo Vicky's Marine Corps beau. He's looking to have words with me since getting wind that some ex-squid was finger banging his gal at the back of the Hush Club last weekend. An accusation completely true by the way, except for the nagging detail that that ex-squid was my former USS Artemis Hound shipmate and ex-roomie, Jeremiah Sinn. Personally I've never gotten further with Double V than a pair of rolled eyes at the first hello.

Option #4: The Law.

Option #5: A friend being chased by the Law in need of a place to hide.

The knocking continues without shift in tempo.

Focus now. Narrow down the options. I seriously doubt anyone looking to kick, beat, or roll my ass would do me the courtesy of knocking first. If it was the Law then I'd be waking up to a series of gun barrels in my face delivering a no-knock warrant and if it was one of my friends they would've scaled the wall outside by now and came in through the kitchen window.

The knocking continues...

... and I rise out of bed, tuck the .22 into my boxers, muscle memory tip-toed steps from bedroom through hall to front door, and press vision to peephole as quiet as I can. A fish-eyed view of a round eared elf in a leather jacket knocking steadily on my front door.

Flip on the light switch, hook the chain, unlock the door and crack it open.

Framed in a narrow slice of bleached yellow light she stands there waiting with fist frozen, raised and palm forward as if greeting a fellow activist. Malevolent pixie of face, disheveled short hair coming up no higher than the door's chain. Under her black leather jacket a thrift-store green sundress hangs down to just a few inches above scuffed up combat boots.

"Uh... yeah?," which is as much of a coherent greeting as I can muster.

"Where is he?," she demands peering over my shoulder into the apartment.


"Who do you think?, " she huffs, "Jethro."

My eyes bulge open in comprehension of a vital detail only now recollected.

Jethro, or Jethro 77 as was his nom de guerre in the Punk Scene, is my current roommate and brother to Mike Slapper, drummer extraordinaire to legendary local punk rock act - Slapper. Jethro was an amiable pill-fiend who looked like a blond, hillbilly-hobbit version of Psychic TV front-man Genesis P-Orridge. Truth is for the first month he lived with me I assumed he was an imaginary friend created to keep me company after Violet moved out after we broke up. I don't even recall asking him to move in. All I know is that one morning, before work, I stepped out of the bathroom and found him sitting on my couch, nonchalantly rolling a blunt on a copy of Naked Lunch, as if he had always been there and always would be. When he lit that fucker up we got to talking and laughing and confiding and the next thing I knew I was calling out 'sick' somewhere around four in the afternoon. He crashed that night, and the next, and the next, and soon I had a roommate who I was content to have pay his way with company and drugs. When the memories of my ex became too much I moved out of North Avenue to Solomon Street where he was there waiting on the stoop of my new home - PIL blasting on the headphones and hissing hits off a roach.

Tonight, however, Jethro's crashing at his mom's place out yonder in E-I-E-I-O land north of the OTP, which is exactly what I tell Little Miss Thing who seems to be sniffing the air beyond me for some clue of his whereabouts.

"He'll be back tomorrow night," I say pausing to yawn and scratch the back of my scalp, "can I give him a message."

"Tell him Amber needs to talk with him."

"Amber?," the name rings familiar.

"Griss...," she says rolling her eyes as if I didn't know, "Amber Griss."

Alarms bells shriek through the skull. Rewind and flashback some two weeks. Jethro's sitting on the couch, counting 'bars' in his palm, (these are long skinny white tablets packed with 2mg of Xanax). I'm sitting curled up in the living room's sole window frame watching some fool chase a chicken around the abandoned house. Bored, stoned, a little intrigued I ask Jethro what's the story with that chick he went home with weekend before last. Jethro gulps down the bars with a glug of Mountain Dew. He gives a little happy shudder, wipes his mouth, and drops the update. First impression, sexy interesting, sure, but there's a deep crazy not far beneath the surface. Example: Apparently, as an ongoing 'project', she's begun stalking random strangers for weeks on end and taking photos of them on the down low. She gets shots of them everywhere they go - at home, at work, out shopping, or meeting with friends, or on hook-ups, or in the shitter, or from several inches above their sleeping faces... we're talking some serious crouch in the bushes window peeping level of crazy. But that's not where the crazy ended. Nope, that was just the first step one of the Grand Project.

The next step was pasting those photos of her subject all over a mannequin, effectively mummifying it in black & white surveillance shots of her prey. Weird, but ultimately still within the harmless realm of what was colloquially referred to in our time as 'Art School Bullshit'.

It wasn't until the final step was reached that shit started hitting Charles Manson levels of creepy. For in the final stage of the Grand Project, she would break into her subject's home (sometimes while they were there sleeping), plant the photo mummy in the apartment, and sneak back out without touching a thing. Sometimes her subject would wake to use the bathroom only to find the photo mummy standing there waiting behind the shower curtains or sitting in front of the TV or in the kitchen posed over a stove or stuffed inside the refrigerator. Sometimes she'd leave a ransom note tied to their head. The note would state in collage letters that the subject was being held hostage by their own routines and unless an absurd ransom was left in some arbitrary location - (a pack of naked playing cards left at a bingo game, a suitcase packed with rubber snakes left on the steps of a randomly selected home, etc) - that the Nihilist Liberation Front would forcibly free the subject of their routines forcing them to become either a Buddha or someone who screams at God on the subway.

When I asked Jethro to what purpose these actions served, all he could surmise was that she was fucking nuts, brilliant hot, but ultimately fucking nuts, and that was all the purpose she needed.

"Amber," I repeat her name with faux idiot servitude shutting the door slow as if sneaking over a sleepy grizzly, "right, got it. I'll let him know you dropped by next time I see him. Thanks, later."

Her boot's tip jabs between the dwindling crack of the door.

"Hold up," she says looking up at me with perfect imitation of my customer service smile, "do you mind if I use your bathroom real quick? It was kind of a long ride over here if you know what I mean?"

"Yeaaaah, sorry, but my toilet's busted, don't flush right, landlord hasn't gotten around to fixing it yet but if you want there's a field behind..."

"Seriously," her smile flattens, "you're not going to let me use your bathroom?"


"Because if I have to I will pop a squat right here and piss all over this hallway," her voice raises and is amplified by the hallway. "Don't think that I won't ."

"Look lady...," I begin to protest until she steps back, bunches that thrift-store green sundress up around her hips and crouches down right in front of my door.

"Alright, enough already," I plead through the chained crack, "you can use my toilet... just... make it quick, alright? I got work in the morning."

She straightens up, I shut the door, unhook the chain, and pause at a grip of the handle. A few feet to my right in the kitchen is a second door into my apartment. One that leads down to the backyard and into all those acres of raw field. I could open that door instead of this one. Hide out in the kudzu, sleep with the winos alongside I-20, or even sneak over to the abandoned house to crash with the crack heads. I don't even give a fuck anymore. She can knock on the door all night for all I care. Piss up the hallway like a cat that hasn't been fixed. It's not my problem, it's Jethro's and why should I lose sleep over it when he's not.

But there's this sick curiosity in me, a stick-your-hand-in-the-sink's-garbage-disposal feeling that overcomes me and I open the door.

She barges in, brushing into me the way you do when you want to start shit with someone at the bar, and the way she's looking around the place tells me that she ain't looking for the shitter.

"Jethro," she shouts marching towards my bedroom, "quit hiding and get your ass out here."

"Hey," I shout going after her, "what are you doing?"

As if I didn't say a word she storms on into my bedroom and slams the door on my pursuit. I hear the doorknob click locked. I rattle it anyway. Then I settle for pounding on the door, bellowing Fred Flintstone style, for her to open up or else. In reply I hear my bed getting flipped over, my curtains being yanked down, my closet being emptied.

Knowing full well that I'm kissing my deposit goodbye I put shoulder to door. At least I would have had she not opened said door the exact split-second before impact sending me to charge into the room and pratfall over the toppled bed.

By the time I'm back on my feet she's tearing the shower curtains off the rod in the bathroom.

I'm coming up from behind quick, ready to pounce, and get no more than a foot away when she spins around to thrust the snub nosed barrel of a .22 straight into my face.

That's when I notice the distinct absence of my .22 pressing against me from the waistband and I step back raising the hug's opening up into raised palms of surrender.

"Where," she stabs the air with my pistol, "is he?"

I repeat the answer I gave her from back when she was on the right side of my door's chain, only this time peppering it with a combination of stammers and curses.

She orders me to shut up, turn around, and get back in the living room. I comply and she follows a few steps behind with pistol trained steady on the back of my head. She tells me to take a seat on a couch I found on the curb outside a house being attended to by men in white biological containment suits. I take a seat and she lights a cigarette. When she catches me staring wistfully at my own pack on the coffin that doubles for my coffee table (night club stolen and worth at least 10 Goth Points). She gives me the go ahead with a nod. I light up, sigh, and open my arms in that universal gesture of - 'Well, what now?'

"So who are you supposed to be again?"

"Jack Babalon," I flash the old Han Solo smile, "Writer, DJ, Discordian Geek-Punk Savant."

It's a poor job she does of hiding how unimpressed she is by this title but then with a pop of an invisible light bulb over her head she wags my gun at me in recognition - "Oh my god, you're his stoner roommate, aren't you? The pseudo-intellectual who works in an office and whines all the time about how he can't get laid."

"Yeah," I sigh again, "that too."

"Well okay then, Mr. Writer DJ Geek Whatever, do you have an address you can give me?"

"What for his grandmother?," I shrug, "somewhere up north in Road Kill County is all I know."

"How about a number?"

"I'd give it to you if I had it," I draw deep on the Camel, "but if you know Jethro at all you know he doesn't... do the phone thing... if he wants to talk to you he just sort of... appears on your couch or next to you on the bus or on the roof of a house you're passing by... I don't how he does it all I know is that's what he does."

She knows exactly what I'm talking about. You can read it clear on her face from behind the .22 that she at last lowers and aims at the floor.

We don't say a word. The realization that Jethro's not here on her end and that I might not be getting shot with my own gun on mine has deflated the possibilities of what can be said. She puts her cigarette out in the lap of an ivory statue on Ganesh sitting on a speaker, walks to the kitchen, nabs the bottle of Jack sitting on top of the fridge, unscrews the bottle held one handed by the neck, pops the cap to the kitchen floor, and glugs back a healthy shot.

"So," I say looking to break up a silence rapidly grinding away at me, "uh, what did he do to you anyway?"

At this my 'guest' gives a little laugh, glugs again, and puts the bottle down on the counter.

"'What did he do?'," she's smiles the way chimpanzees smile before biting off your nose and laughs again as if nothing will ever be funny again, "I'll show you exactly what that mother fucker did."

At this she steps into the open doorway of the kitchen, trains the pistol back on me, reaches under her sundress with her free hand. After a bit of wiggling she slides off white panties polka-dotted with primary colors of different shapes which she steps out of. Then she grabs a fistful of sundress and yanks it up over her hips. "Here, take a look at what your roommate's done to me."

All blushes and nervous reflex I throw a hand up over my face to act as a blinder trying to respectfully look away.

"I said 'look', " she snarls and I do, the eye following where she points the barrel towards her sex.

There, on a shaved mons pubis, is a tattoo. It's the head of a smiling white guy, a 1950s era businessman of some sort with a fatherly pipe clenched in an orgasmic grin. Those in the know or at least know adjacent will recognize him as the face of Bob Dobbs - fertility god and salesman messiah of the Church of Subgenius.

"Uh... so he what?," I gulp bashful, "tattooed you or something?"

She blinks, she doesn't say anything, just stares at me before answering - "It's not a tattoo."

"Come again?"

"Turn off the lights," she orders pointing the barrel towards the switch between me and the front door. Not knowing where this going I do just that.

There in the fresh gloom around us I can see the face of Bob Dobbs glowing like a ghost above the surface of her silhouette. Maybe it's the lack of sleep or too many drugs over the years but I swear that glow-in-the-dark-face winks right at me before I flip on the lights.

Immediately I light a second cigarette off the first with trembling hands and finally manage to eke out a - "What is that?"

"No idea," she says dropping both the skirt and the bunched up front of the skirt, "all I know is Jethro was going down on me like it was the end of the world and when I came I saw tiny little UFOS circling round the room before I passed out. When I came back to reality, like a minute later, he was gone and I had this... this face on me all of a sudden glowing there in the dark."

And with that explanation the front door to my apartment, that I had failed to properly close when my guest barreled her way on in, bursts open between us.

Now in steps some angry Goth-dude with a baseball bat. Don't laugh off the all black outfit, the painted 'raccoon' eyes, and skull t-shirt. He's thin, sure, but rock sculpted with a steady diet of push-ups and rage. So while might be tempted to snicker at the sneer in his black lipstick you'd be missing the look in his eyes. That special look guys like me, who've had their ass beat a bunch of times, recognize instantly radiating off those who do the ass beating.

"You Jack Babalon?" he asks pointing the business end of that baseball bat at me.

"No, sir." I smile raising my arms helplessly, "I'm his roommate, Jethro 77."

"Bullshit," he says and whacks the bat across the coffin making the ashtray jump. "I know you're fucking, Jack Babalon..."

"We don't have that kind of relationship actually," I explain with smile unwavering and before the last syllable scorches the air he's got the bat raised above his head to bring it down on mine.

"The real question actually," Amber says pressing the barrel of the .22 against the back of his crew-cut, "is do you know fuck all about the woman with a gun to your head at the moment?"

"No, ma'am, I can't say that I do," and the way he says it hips me immediately that this cat is ex-military but then I do a quick 2+2 and come up with Vertigo Vicky's jarhead beau.

"Then I'd say it'd be in everyone's interests if you dropped the bat and sit your ass down on that couch with 'Jethro'." She says coolly driving the gun into his head to emphasize her point.

The bat drops, bounces off the coffin, and rolls on the floor. Goth Jarhead complies, sitting down while I scooch as far from neck-chopping range on the couch as possible.

Goth Jarhead checks out her, by which I mean my, gun and snorts.

"A fuckin' .22," he smirks at her, "what are you going to do with that but piss somebody off?"

"Actually," I explain, "the .22, while not as powerful as other handgun options, has quite an impressive kill rate amongst handheld firearms. This is attributed to the fact that the .22 has sufficient enough 'punch' to pierce flesh but not enough to puncture back out of the body of its target. This means the bullet tends to ricochet around, ricocheting around until it plunges into a vital organ"

Goth Jarhead looks at me and then back at her.

"What he said," she shrugs, "Anyway, we were kinda in the middle of a conversation before you so rudely barged in on us without so much as a 'hello'."

"Yeah, well it's this asshole's fault for diddlin' my woman behind my back," Goth Jarhead jabs a thumb my way.

"'Diddlin'?" she repeats the word with feigned innocence.

"You know...?" Goth Jarhead makes an upside down pair of devil-horns and starts wiggling the middle two fingers, "diddlin'."

"Ohhhh... I see," she nods as if a small child explained the name of their favorite doll, "well that's neither fair nor right is it?"

"No, ma'am," Jarhead Goth says squinting sky blue eyes murderously from the depths of the black rings painted around them, "it most certainly is not. "

"And I imagine you came here tonight seeking..," she looks away from him to me, "you're a writer, Jack. What's the word I'm looking for here?"

"Recompense." I answer knowing full my cover's blown anyway.

"If that means getting some payback then yeah, that's why I'm here." Goth Jarhead continues to drill raccoon eyes into me.

"Then payback you shall have," she laughs and points the gun from him to me, "Jack, be a dear and jerk this poor man off already."

Gun or no gun, Goth Jarhead bolts off the couch and spins on Amber to let her know what's up.

Amber bitch slaps him across the chops with the .22 and drives it into his mouth.

"Sit. The. Fuck. Down." She whispers through gritted teeth and Goth Jarhead sinks slowly with the .22's barrel jammed between his lips.

"Now then," she continues, "you came here looking to get even for him giving a hand job to your lady. Well that's just what Jack's going to do now, isn't he?"

She's looking at me now and I realize now that my hands are still up in the air like an idiot.

"Look, Amber," I tell her lowering my arms steadily, "Here's the scoop. I... I didn't do shit with his girlfriend, okay? Seriously, I wasn't even at the club that night..."

"Do I honestly look like I give a shit right now?"

I shake my head 'no'.

She turns her attention back on the Goth Jarhead for a second opinion, "do I?"

Goth Jarhead answers 'negative' with as slight a shake of the head as he can manage.

"Right, then as the Good Book says 'an eye for an eye and a hand-job for a hand-job...," and without taking her eyes off his she reaches down into his lap, deftly unbuckling, unbuttoning, unzipping until her hand is massaging a sizable bulge lurking beneath a pair of smiley face boxers. Goth Jarhead grunts and pops a sweat with eyes bulged on hers when she guides his hard cock out through the flaps of his drawers.

She glides her hand smoothly along a few good solid inches of meat with a tenderness that borders on cruel and then with a wag of her brows - "Go on, Jack... don't let me hog all the fun."

"Nuh-uh," I tell her shaking my head in denial at that act from which I cannot look away.

"Either he melts in your hand," she winks, "or a bullet melts in his mouth. I'm down for either to be honest."

"Jesh duw ewt," Goth Jarhead growls the words around the barrel and she must've broken a tooth
off when she jammed it in because there's a trickle of blood running down its length. Wincing, I nod in agreement, spit into the palm of my hand, and nervously receive the baton from her marathon grip.

It feels odd and familiar at the same time so that the nerves firing from hand to brain are confused by the disconnect from its doing and what its feeling.

Amber, her non-gun hand free now, slides it back up the folds of her dress, and with heavy breaths begins rubbing quickly between her thighs.

"Quicker," she hisses at me and quicker it is as I begin pumping as if I my bicycle caught a flat in a bad neighborhood after dark .

Goth Jarhead is breathing fast and shallow through his nostrils the way a bull does before charging a matador in cartoons. The blood trickles out of his mouth, along the barrel, and down to the knuckle of Amber's index finger. She begins grinding her hips into quickening friction of her touch, swaying as if in trance, with only the arm extending into a gun remaining steady between her captive audience's bloodied lips. There is the crackle of a fireplace burning coming from beneath the folds of her dress, where upon its surface the outline of the face of Bob Dobbs begins to burn through the fabric.

A hand pounces on the wrist of free hand. Goth Jarhead guides it to his throat. Knowing what to do I multitask, squeezing gently his larynx even as I up the tempo on working the beast. I can feel every muscle in him constricts into itself and the sweat I'm working for him gets in his eyes so bad he's crying black tears down his cheeks.

"That's it, that's it, that's it," Amber begins chanting and the glow under the sundress is lamp bright now casting the room around us in shades of primordial forest.

A little dog whimpers as the Marine Machine buckles, a drowning man's kick topples the coffin, he grips the couch as if it's about to take off, and I'm squeezing tighter now watching the veins pop up his neck like a serpent rising above the surface of dark waters...

"... that's it, that's it, that's it...,there."

... and all those constricted muscles beneath my grip explode all over the body in a wave of tremors. Hot white death sprinkler fires up across the skull of his t-shirt, splashes into the blood soaked knuckle of Amber's trigger finger, and scores a hit direct in my third-eye.

Then Amber releases the scream of a woman giving birth to nuclear missile as the burning light from beneath her skirt drowns out the world around us, reducing us to frail shadows, before everything goes UFO green.

The way letters rise on a spoon from the depths of a bowl of milk, my living room, my guests, and finally my own body rematerialize into reality.

Yet the only thing I can focus on are my own two hands, staring at them with the sudden realization that they are capable of deeds beyond the surface of my deepest restrictions.

Freed from the gun locked in his jaws, Goth Jarhead rubs his throat, blinking beyond the walls, beyond the now, beyond the furthest remote possibility that this was how his night was gonna go.

Amber stands there pistol dangling forgotten in one hand, the other hiking up that sundress yet again, and it's clear why she can't stop giggling. The face of Bob Dobbs is gone now with not a mark that it had ever been there. She drops the folds of her dress, leans down, across Goth Jarhead (who doesn't move much less blink when she does so) and gives me a peck on the lips.

"Thank you," she tucks the .22 back into the waistband from where she found it, rises up with a pivot, and walks on out of my apartment.

I sit there listening to her footsteps clomp-clomp-clomp down the stairs and vanish down the block. On that note Goth Jarhead rises up as if hypnotized to do so, he steps towards the door, pauses to bend over to pick up his bat, and heads for the door. Equally dazed I follow him as if escorting out a plumber or electrician.

He gets through the doorway, does this zombie slow turn back around, and grabs me by the back of the head to pull me into a hard, wet kiss that he bayonet thrusts halfway down my throat. I'm still dazed when he pushes me back away and drives the handle of the bat into my gut.

The shock and the pain drives all the air out of me doubling me over.

"You tell anyone about this... and I mean anyone... you're a fuckin' dead man. Got it?"

Unable to do anything else I nod and satisfied he double-times it down the stairs.

I summon up the strength to straighten back up. I lock the door, slip on the chain, and slide the bolt. I walk into the bathroom, refuse to look myself in the eyes while I wash my hands, and when I walk back into the living room there he is.

Jethro, of course, who else?

He sits on the couch with no concern for the overturned coffin-table and packs a bowl from a fresh dime bag all while humming 'I could be wrong, I could be right'. I sit down next to him on the couch right where Goth Jarhead was sitting no more than three minutes ago. We don't say a word, he just keeps humming and packing until he reaches the pipe's fill upon which he hands it to me. I put the pipe in my mouth and he lights it for me.

The smoke hits harsh but I hold it, leaning back, letting it soak into the mind, and closing my eyes all I can hear is my heart. It knocks steadily, drowning out thought from head and ambient noise from ear. Knocking without end upon a door that now open can never be closed again.


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