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2. Proper Courtesy

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Please excuse me; I’ve forgotten my manners. I should properly introduce myself I imagine. My name is Dean, least; it was the last time I checked. Most people don’t really call me by my given name. That’s because I don’t usually tell them my name. So they’ll call me whatever comes to mind. Usually, it’s Havok. Dean or Havok, whatever you see fit to call me, I’ll answer. Well, I might, depends on the situation. You need help; I might come running. You want the guy that broke your buddy’s arm? He went that way. Back to the point, my name’s not all that significant. I’m 21 years old; least I was last time I checked. I have to check on these things a lot lately, never can tell anymore. I don’t do much with my life – I work, kind of. I do all kinds of odd jobs, whatever I can find, whatever gets me through the days.

            Galat and I have been friends for half of forever, we were gang mates once upon a time. When the leader went missing, the structure fell apart and war broke out. We were “fortunate” enough to survive the mess and move on to have lives. Luck or skill, I’m not sure. Either way, we got out before it got bad. Kids died; kids, that’s all we were. To die so young for no purpose, no point; yet they died. The streets ran with blood for weeks as the weak fell and the strong were overtaken and mutiny became the world’s bedfellow. Loyalty was a distant memory, a long forgotten idea that screamed betrayal at its’ whispering. Next chapter.

            So that part of our lives died out and we got our individuality back, a rebirth of sorts, if you will. And we started over again, the gang disbanded mostly and the younger ones took over and remade what we’d destroyed. Hence, Dev. She took over where Cicero and Vince had fallen. She was worthy, in her own sense I imagine, we didn’t really keep score. We grow up and out of such games and things.

Streets run by kids, like we were once upon a time. Dev was the latest and greatest model, yet there was no loyalty in her ranks. If I did a little research, I could probably learn why. Her crew and the other main group were always at odds and ends, always messy, never ending. Nothing truly important ever really ends, and as long as it matters to someone, it is, theoretically important. That’s my idea of it anyways, perhaps. Maybe I’m just being foolish.

Dev’s reputation precedes her, though it was nothing to compare to the greats; Cicero and Vincent’s names were permanent in the minds of the weak, in the victimized and social. Dev…where she came from, I’m not sure. But she crawled out of the madness and took control of what remained. How she took hold…I’m not sure of that either. It’s like how she ended up in my bed, one of those things you’re just not sure of. Anyways, she took charge. I knew the names and faces, the times and places, I’d been there too once upon a time and there wasn’t much time between them and me. I just grew out of it, the sense of dying for petty nothing. I learned and adapted to reality. The nemesis in our tale, his name was Marcellus. They were the two gods, the high masters. And each was ruthless in its’ methods, Marcellus more so. True, Dev had fought her way to the top, but she retained the simplest human emotions. Marcellus didn’t believe in loyalty or trust…how he managed a gang without those, I’m not sure. There’s not very much I am sure about…

His name was Cellus actually, Marcellus was too…”proper” and drawn out. What kinds of hippy reject parents name their son, “Marcellus” anyway? Hippies that smoked up a little too much all together…somehow, he became a gang leader though. With a silly name like that, a gang leader. It’s funny if you really think about it from a logical standpoint…well, maybe not as funny as I’d like to imagine it was. Once upon a time; did so much change in such a short time? It was…five years or so since dear ole Vince disappeared. What a tragedy, he was so sorely missed. Cry, cry, tear, tear.

So there was Galat and I. We were pretty good in our time, but like I said, days come and go, and our time became outdated. New faces and places; the cycle continue; the gears still turn. Galat had several talents, he was marksman, medicine man, negotiator; he was the embodiment of the jack-of-all-trades. I was a considerable shot; I was the more rational of the two…but my attention span kept me from being negotiator. In life threatening situations…I tend to go…well, somewhere out to the left and up and three steps back and one more to the right. You know?

Toryn…I knew I almost forgot someone. She was the doctor. Who she learned from and how, nobody knows. Rumor has it that Elysium herself taught Toryn how to stitch people up with string and dull needles. You never can tell. The stories go that Elysium is the best-known doctor this side of eternity, but there’s always a catch. The only way she’ll come to your side is if you’re not breathing anymore, if you understand what I mean? Maybe, we’ll pretend for now, it’s not all that important, I can go back and do revisions later. Stories and rumors and legends, it’s all we have to keep going, it keeps us moving and thinking and from them we get new ones and it never ends. Revisions, life is, a series of revisions to the known and the unknown, a tweak here and there and now it’s satisfactory. This doesn’t have anything to do with Toryn, but it’s kind of relevant. If I figure out why…I’ll be sure to let you know.

The child slept the night, or so I’d imagine. I crept into my room at one point to assess the damage. I had obituaries gracing the walls; they were laminated in most cases and hence, were protected. The really important ones were framed and placed delicately. The legendary ones were all together. And in the center, the crowning jewel – Darius and Raine Drake. The double entry, the legends themselves and from them, all other branched. Everyone was there. Lyric and Harvey, Syrius, Madison and Sketch, Cicero…all the late and great were there. The stories were legend, everybody knew. My wall was covered with legends, my bookshelves held more clues. And if you pieced them all together, you’d still be missing half of forever.

She slept. So Galat and I stayed up the night and talked about whatever came up. He did work too…I don’t think it was the most legal of jobs, but I learned at a young age to not ask questions. Better for your health. You’ll live longer that way, I promise. Well, I shouldn’t make promises like that, it is kind of foolish…dangerous. Then again, everything’s dangerous. Housing the leader of a gang is punishable by death in street justice, depending on the case and point. Cellus could have crucified us out of boredom if he damn well wished if he ever found out we were housing his mortal enemy. All we wanted was to remain neutral…but when Death asks a favor of you, you don’t put him off until next time.

So we held onto her as we were told. We didn’t have instructions detailing how long we were supposed to hold on to her and what we were supposed to do now…so we waited. She calmed down a bit; we’d take turns going in to give her food and things. A couple days of sedatives and we were able to let her out. She was broken still; even without pills and meds she was fairly weak. And still fairly strong…we let her roam around the place to get her bearings. Galat went to touch her or something to get her attention, and she decked him one so quick he was on the ground before he knew he’d been hit. I jumped back and kept a safe distance…Dev wasn’t a big kid but she had power to her, power you wouldn’t expect. Bombs in small packages, remember? He got up and dusted himself off, nothing broken or hurt, just a little tiny bruise on his pride. But hey, guys are guys, you know? A smaller, younger female just sucker-punched him and sent him sprawling. We heard clapping from the doorway.

“Maybe there’s more to that one than meets the eye.” Toryn’s eyes were shining; she looked us all over, the two of us, dazed, lost. We were like children to her because of our ignorance. And Dev was one to be respected. Is age nothing anymore?

Toryn crept inside, how long she’d been in the doorway, I’m not sure. My mind’s a bit fuzzy sometimes; please bear with me. She sauntered inside the place, careful to keep out of Galat’s range. He wasn’t too pleased with the situation and it took ever ounce of restraint in me to keep myself from laughing. Toryn moved right up to Dev and sized her up, pacing around, like a predator.

“So, you took his place?”

“His?” was the defiant reply.

Toryn laughed slightly to herself, facing Dev. “Vincent. Tragic isn’t it, how he just…disappeared.”

Dev never missed a beat, she curled her mouth to match Toryn’s sly grin and took the step forward to match the challenge. “Course, absolutely…tragic.”

And Toryn gave her a little look and turned to move over to me. She looked me up and down and laughed again. “You going to light that, or is it just for decoration?”

I realized I’d subconsciously taken Galat’s pack from him and took one for myself, though I’d yet to light it. My stream of consciousness returned and I lit haphazardly. Toryn just stood with the two of us and we all kind of glared at Dev. Why we did this…hey, it was kind of fun. Maybe we’re all just…”kind” of sick. Could go either way you know.

Now, side note – Toryn had a bit of a thing for Vincent. She was his right hand girl; when Elysium wouldn’t clean up for him, Toryn was the one to have at your side. When she wanted to be, she could be cold and cruel, we’d been…fortunate enough to see it firsthand on occasion. When dear Vincent vanished and the fights broke out, we figured that Toryn would step up and take her rightful place on top. Somehow, that plan went out the window. If my memory serves correctly, Toryn was lured away and left town for a business trip to help family, help they didn’t need…sound set up to you? So she comes back and guess what? You got it, Dev’s in charge of the old crew, Galat and I bailed, and most of Toryn’s loyal followers went over to Marcellus. Everything you ever knew, gone. Poof. So you could say that she was a tad bit bitter of the situation at first. Dev owed her life to Toryn, can you imagine? Think about it…

Toryn smirked and smiled and sauntered away as stealthily as she’d entered. On her way out the door, we heard her whisper, “Tell them all she won’t be back.”

And she was gone. Toryn did bizarre things like that a lot, we knew to expect it. Dev was standing firm, straight and tall…and knowing all the broken bones and things wrong with her, standing like that must have hurt. She turned and walked away and found somewhere else to sulk. Toryn was usually on our side, but every once in awhile, you leave her alone to her own devices and she’d cause all kinds of trouble. And that she did. I’m getting ahead of myself.

The days kind of dragged by, Dev was improving ever so slightly. Toryn would drop in and check on everything, and then she’d brief Galat on what to keep a watch over. After the first few days, she stopped tearing things apart and just gave up fighting us off. In reality, she was in too much pain to deal with us and we were trying to help – you don’t just throw something like that out the window. You can kill with good intentions, but we had no such motive. We were asked to do a favor and the perks of doing a favor for someone like that are highly beneficial to your well-being. Dev was a handful in her own sense, but she was tolerable. When we let her out of the room, I went in to put my life back together. It wasn’t much of a life, just a collection of stories. Stories are all we have.

“You have all of them?”

She was standing in the doorway, watching me, pointing to the design of obituaries. I nodded half-heartedly. I knew I had to be missing chapters, but I had the major players. That’s all that matters, to me anyway. She came closer and looked at the careful net of names, the stories and times and places, the names and faces, and she looked from them to me.

“Where does yours go?”

And I stopped in my tracks, my mind moved backwards, the gears grinding together. I didn’t belong in the chain, I was a has been, a never was. I was just a lackey in my time and now I’m just the collector of misery. I collect the records, the methods and madness and record the insanity for the world to observe. The obituaries stretch back to the beginning, to deaths before my time, I managed to get them anyway. Harvey’s is there, Harvey, the legend of decades before. Dev belonged in the chain, as Cellus did, they were leaders, they would be legends, they already were. All the leaders had stories of ruthlessness and cunning. They were all known for something. I was just the timekeeper.

She kept staring at me and seeing I wouldn’t answer, she kind of smiled a evil grin and sauntered out. I yelled after her as she went, “What’s Dev short for?” She came back.

“What do you think?”

“I don’t know, hence why I asked you.”

“Maybe.” And she left the room. I still stood there, staring at the names, the places, the legends. Once upon a times but no happily ever after. Fairy tales and bedtime stories and make believe written in blood and pain. Pain winding through years, engrossing lives and deaths and everything in between and it’s reduced to names on a wall, names and times and places and faces. Change the wall color and it’s still a wall, it’s still real. Reduce them to less and they’re still people, they are still pain.

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