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5. If Love Proves Real

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The shop was dark, as was expected at midnight. Raine, Pike, and Syn were there, waiting for us. I didn’t consider this such a group effort, but it truly was symbolic. This would be my first tattoo, but it connected me to the rest of them. We all sat around a while, talking for a bit, aimlessly.

“So, kid, which one do you want to do this?”

I looked down the line of faces, patiently waiting for an answer. I handed them each a sheet of paper and had them write the words a few times. I took the sheets, circled the parts that I liked and showed them the order. They’d each do one word, the colors shifting from blood red to black and back again. Eventually, I sat down and it started. The order would be – Pike, Raine, Syn, and Darius. The experience was different with each one. Pike was precise; he worked efficiently and effectively. Raine was careful, slow, he’d ask if I was comfortable. Syn was like Pike, quick, silent. They hardly broke a sweat. Then Darius. Darius was cold, bordering on cruel, lacking in compassion. She was the job, though her eyes reflected her true emotion. She avoided my gaze, aware of their betrayal.

It didn’t take long at all. The immortal words were there, and would continue to be, always. Being right handed, it was easier, obviously, to cut on the left. Having the words there wasn’t just out of necessity, it was protection against myself. I wouldn’t dare to tear into those timeless words, the trademark phrase. The think that four simple words could hold so much bearing. Just four simple words. Nothing more.

We sat around a while, Darius took a few pictures. Their lives were preserved in photographs, the shop was filled with them. Darius insisted – a picture is forever. There were endless shots of her and Raine, how they got taken, I’m not sure. But they were amazing, at least to me. The pictures were crucial in our lives, they were proof, they were real. They would last until Time died. Always. In this world, nothing is forever, nothing lasts. But pictures, they’ll continue after their subject has long left this mortal realm. I truly pity the blind, they’re missing out on a true gift. Nothing can substitute for the art of pictures, Darius’ element. She taught it excellently as well. Maybe I could ask her to teach me someday. Pictures truly are moving, they move the mind further, faster than the written word ever could. It simply is. Darius worked in grayscale, black and white. She said that color was merely a distraction – everything seemed gaudy. Yet, she’d find ways to paint red into her work. To her, it wasn’t a color. It symbolized her life, her death – her blood. And it might’ve been. Nobody knows, except Darius. And her lips are sealed.

The night wore on. I still clung to the box. Pike and Syn left us. And I was left with them – the Drakes. The legend. They walked in perfect step with each other, as if they planned it. Even when they changed patterns – flawless. They just seemed so in love, you could feel it from them. It surrounded them, mixed with the air, constant. It was almost intoxicating. I was drawn to them, though my conscience warned that I’d outstayed my welcome ages ago. Both were sedate, lost in each other…yet…hauntingly intense. I tried half-heartedly to excuse myself.

“Wait, stay a bit longer, we want to talk to you. Just a bit.” Darius’ eyes were soft, maternal. I nodded my approval and we continued. For another hour, we walked, reaching a dark alley. We stood in it to talk. The two looked around, the mood quiet, grim. Something had been lost here.

“This is where the legendary Cicero met his end. It was from that rooftop that dear Vincent watched. It was here that Lyric lived and died years earlier. It was here that lives were destroyed. This is the edge of oblivion. Something is lost on every trip.”

“And on this trip?”

Raine approached, “Your ignorance. Tack it to the wall, let the blood stain it, as it does all else. Let it wash away your defenses. It’s wasted.”

I backed away from them abruptly. “What’re you talking about?” My voice was higher, nervous, weak. I held the box tighter.

“Don’t be alarmed, please, Harvey, trust us?” Darius’ voice was still soft, pleading. Her eyes were a glow of soothing colors. They moved close, boxing me in, they laid a hand each on mine.

“Allow us to be reacquainted. We’re your godparents.”

Now this is when reality went on a road trip, perhaps a permanent one. Who knows? Certainly not me. Words failed me as I uttered worthless fragments.

“We’ll explain, in due course. Do you know how to use that thing?”

I stopped breathing. “What…are you?”

“The gun.” Raine smiled simply, as if referring to the weather. He looked at the sky in a somewhat quizzical fashion. He was bored with the weather’s recent consistency. Or so he seemed. I don’t know which of them was speaking, it didn’t seem to matter. I remember the box leaving my grasp, though I’m unsure as to how. It doesn’t matter all that much either way. It’s just a box.

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