Essence excerpt 2 - Steven
A/N: Since he won the poll, here’s one of Steven’s shorter scenes with a transition into one of Daemon’s at the end. Like the last excerpt, it’s still pretty rough, so feedback is not only welcome but treasured and mounted on my wall…except not really. Please. I’m not that creepy.
This takes place on Alice’s fifth day, her second in the “oasis.” She is uncertain how her new acquaintances will affect her future, which is largely uncertain itself; despite her plans to leave the hideout, she enjoys their company after so much isolation.
I don’t think anything needs explaining other than “Dave” and “Sonya,” two radio hosts from an unsettling broadcast Alice hears on her second night, and Ivan’s partners: Grime is “short” and “always fuming” like before, as Steven says, but Putrice now has a robotic arm. The "game" Steven and Acer mention is the "contest" to see who Alice chooses to work with. Also, Alice does not constantly stutter like she did in the previous excerpt; after Linus repairs her internal heater, she does not shiver and stammer as much.
A key for the dialogue – A for Alice, S for Steven, Ac for Acer, D for Daemon, AM for Anchorman, AW for Anchorwoman.
The fragrance of biscuits only leads me to soggy crumbs in the kitchen sink. But one peek into the garage cures my disappointment.
I make a beeline for the motorcycle, breezing by the dingy crossover and coupe. As the sunlight strikes the metal, the grip taunts me to twist it, the leather to straddle it. I grind my teeth, crouching before I give in, and distract myself staring at the blades inside the wheels.
For all my effort, I only hurt the bike when someone moves and I smack my head. But nothing else answers the metal’s cry. After a minute I creep toward the window, where puffs of smoke bloom and fade.
Only smoke – no fire, nothing else.
Before I can retreat, a pebble smacks the glass. I inch closer, but a single culprit haunts the window, having thrown itself just as the smoke lights itself.
I turn from the pebble –
-- to find glasses and boxers looming right behind me.
Through the window on the patio, nonetheless, but the glass does nothing to soften Steven’s laughter.
As I rush outside for vengeance, Steven doubles over hooting. I’m amazed at how quickly my vision clears when he drops his cigarette and grinds it into the porch.
A: “W…wait…You didn’t have to stop for me.”
S: “Heehhh…hooo…So…you’re gonna come and strangle me, but you won’t deny me a final smoke? Heh…heh…it’s the least I can do, Pink, when you’re not killin’ me for scarin’ you again.”
A: “Hmmm. Haven’t spared you yet. ‘Cause you’ve got a real problem.”
S: “Hmmm. Does the problem have to do with my underhanded deeds…or my underwear?”
A: “Ggghh – l-look, I – ”
How quickly I forget that the eyes I can’t see can see mine perfectly fine.
A: “I was looking at the pattern.”
S: “Well…penguins are pretty sweet, but you don’t have to explain yourself for staring at my boxers.”
A: “S-…sorry. Do what you want, but everyone else I talked to was dressed this morning.”
S: “Tch…I find it hard to believe there’re people who put clothes on before noon.”
A: “...Either way, you can smoke if you want. I’m metal, anyway. It’s not gonna hurt me.”
S: “Hmmmmmm. So you could actually enjoy it without all the drawbacks. I’ll light ya if y’want one.”
A: “Sure. Maybe I’ll mellow out and you won’t be able to scare me anymore.”
S: “If you stop getting scared, then I’ll just have to try harder.”
Before lighting his, Steven strikes the tip of mine. The smoke chars my mouth as I suck, but it ebbs in my chest like there’s nothing there.
A: “…Or maybe I’ll smoke something mellower than tobacco. That is a pretty shady garden you’ve got.”
S: “I know you’re certainly not referring to an illicit substance. If we got caught now, we’d get in enough trouble as is.”
A: “Heh. I guess…losing my body’s made me more reckless.”
I don’t realize how insensitive that might’ve been until he swallows the smoke, mapping his entire respiratory system for me. What his lungs absorb vanishes – the rest flows up and out of his throat.
A: “It…you don’t mind that I’m out here, do you?”
I nearly sigh as he chuckles and flicks away ash.
S: “I wouldn’t’ve scared you if I didn’t wanna hang with you, Pink. It’s my way of welcoming you, not wardin’ you off. So tell me how you’re doin’.”
A: “Uh, well…better now than yesterday.”
S: “Glad to hear it. I meant to ask if you learned anything from Linus yesterday, but Acer wrecks any sort’uh stable thought process.”
A: “Yeah…my system’s unstable, especially my memory. So I can’t learn much about myself or even know what I can learn without glitching or shutting down.”
S: “…Gah. That sucks, Pink.”
He holds the smoke in a long time before huffing it out.
S: “I won’t say I’m sorry and act like I can even begin to understand. But who you are what you do now’s important, too.”
A: “…I’d like to do something important.”
S: “I think you’ve come to the right place. Once things’ve settled down, maybe we can take the bike and spread the serum.”
And maybe that’d be the best way to leave the hideout.
A: “I know it’s not easy to get otherwise…so how did all of you survive?”
S: “Linus, Mak, ‘n Ada moved here before it spread. Somehow, Acer ‘n Daemon cheated it ‘til we could vaccinate them here. An’ I couldn’t catch Blight ‘cause Blight couldn’t catch me.”
S: “Couldn’t find me. I’m invisible.”
S: “…Seriously, though. Once you contract it, that’s it. It’s quick, but it’s torture. We’re all lucky we weren’t infected or we wouldn’t have made it.”
Watching weeds skid the sand, I wonder if ‘lucky’ is the right word. Even in the oasis, demons uproot life, but Cath still resisted their scourge in the lab. How did he survive a hundred blighted corpses for nine months? He must’ve been vaccinated – or –
S: “I’m lucky to be alive…but I feel luckier to have the people I’ve got. Don’t know what I’d do without at least one love to wake up ‘n make breakfast for naked e’ery mornin’.”
A: “Does the hideout’s invisibility have anything to do with yours?”
S: “It hurts when you don’t even react, Pink.”
A: “I know. It’s negative reinforcement.”
S: “What would you think if I was naked except for an apron?”
S: “It’s not a shameful fantasy.”
A: “I think you’re getting shamefully desperate.”
S: “…Desperate for ice cream. Wanna?”
A: “For breakfast?...Why not, I guess?”
He stomps his cigarette and leaps around me to hold the door, though he sighs as I duck by.
S: “Barely nine in the mornin’ and you’ve already beaten me down. I need to drown my sorrows.”
A: “…In frozen milk fat. Of course.”
S: “But yeah, to answer your question, Linus analyzed my cells to make a cloaking mechanism.”
As he scoops the rock-solid vanilla, I wonder how much muscle he puts into it.
S: “’Cause if we weren’t invisible plus as careful as we are, Big Brother would’ve rigged this place to blow up long ago.”
A: “So…Dave was prob’ly as unfortunate as I thought.”
S: “Yeah…Dave bought the bullet, and there’s no telling what Sonya saw, too. But don’t let that color your judgment.”
After handing me a bowl, the glasses guide me down the hall into a den.
S: “I mean, don’t get me wrong – the whole vaccine thing’s a right shame – but otherwise, the government’s turned doomsday into paradise. Look ‘ere.”
He plops down, eating, but my ice cream’s good as mush once he starts the TV.
So perky he’d shame Sonya, an anchorman springs from the close of an insurance ad.
AM: “Goooood moooorning, Southwest! Hope you’re all up and at ‘em by a quarter past nine, because our resident heroes have been hard at work as always. That’s right – time for Elizabeth’s Morning Miracle Workers.”
A cheery old woman dubs clips of neon clowns in gray streets hammering beams, ladling soup, and stuffing bins with recyclables. While a withered man stoops to plant a lily, a fluorescent tween girl ties a scarf around his neck.
AW: “As you can see, there’s no age limit on the love our devoted military spreads. Through local politicians’ generous donations, our soldiers have tirelessly worked toward restoring our fields, highways, and homes.”
From the grandpa’s sniffling, the camera snails back until the white colossus shading his garden crams the shot.
AW: “I’m proud to announce the opening of a new SBBH in Clovis, where the poor, homeless, and downtrodden devastated by Blight’s impact are invited to come receive food, shelter, and treatment.”
The cameraman plods through shiny laboratories, where smiling doctors take patients’ temperatures, and posh bedrooms, where clowns stroke the grease from rasping children’s heads.
AW: “As you know, our new Sacred Beacon Blight Home is part of the national effort to combat this tragedy with unparalleled care. In order to provide new treatments the moment they’re devised, luxurious patient quarters are built side-by-side with state-of-the-art research facilities.”
A: “They’re…quarantining the people who have no way to avoid contracting it.”
AM: “Thank you, Elizabeth. By uniting the most compassionate service force with the most brilliant professionals, hope is being fostered in those who may feel hopeless.”
S: “There’d be plenty of hope if the big boys freely distributed the vaccination. They very well have the power to. But they don’t want that.”
A: “…Intentional selection.”
S: “Once again, Pink – right on the mark. They’re first-class murderers.”
A: “And those goofy uniforms are…they look like cartoon characters. It’s just wrong.”
As wrong as a dolled-up, cotton candy android that butchers people. Although it melted, I finally sit and taste my ice cream, ready to scarf my rage away.
A: “But it’s exactly how they want to look.”
S: “Eeeeyyyep. Makes ‘em less intimidatin’, huh?...More approachable? Harmless? I’d promise you half the members are as dopey as they look, though. Brainwashed cattle.”
A: “Dopey was the defining characteristic of the blonde guy I had to deal with.”
S: “Blonde guy?”
A: “This tall, blonde grunt with a thick accent. He managed to screw everything up the first time he came after me…then the second. Then the third.”
S: “…Did one of his partners have a robotic arm? And the other was short ‘n always fumin’?”
I check his glasses, but they only reflect the buzzing screen. I start to speculate when another buzz fries the room and every theory I’d mustered.
A: “Ggghhh! Acer – ”
Can anyone greet me around here without compromising my sanity?
As Acer hurdles the sofa and faceplants between us, mumbling into the pillows, I realize the answer:
No, they can’t, because no one around here is sane. While I think that, Steven sighs, refusing to be lumped in with the spread-eagled weeb, and pulls him up.
Ac: “ – and then Linus chased us away but you left me and went off with Daddy, Alice!”
A: “…Ever so sorry.”
S: “That just means you’re losing the game, mate.”
Ac: “Don’t you ‘mate’ me, mate. You’re pretty pathetic yourself, bribing her with ice cream…but you’re stupid if y’think you’re gonna win with vanilla.”
…Are we still on this ‘best man winning’ thing from last night?
S: “So what’s your plan, then?”
Ac: “…It’s too elegant for your uncultured mind. It’d be a waste of time to explain.”
S: “So you have no idea.”
Ac: “You have no idea, riffraff, because you’re so unrefined that if I told you my idea, you wouldn’t even realize it was an idea because…you don’t have ideas.”
S: “Define your idea of an idea.”
Ac: “Make me bacon.”
S: “There is no bacon to make bacon.”
Ac: “Where’s Daemon?”
S: “I can’t make bacon from him.”
Ac: “Nooooo, I just want him. He is cute enough to eat, though. My li’l, sock-footed, cutie-patootie, ragin’ Asian plant-boy star. ”
S: “…Can’t say I didn’t see this comin’. Glad you’re out. I always knew you liked that pierced green fellow a little more than platonically – the one from that…’Sabbatical Girder’…whatever-it’s-called game?”
Ac: “Oh my God, shut up, no, I just wanna plays cards with ‘im. My server’s down and I just wanna play – ”
S: “ – with an unpierced green fellow.”
Almost on cue, the unpierced green fellow peeks around the portal, recoiling an inch for every inch Acer’s grin spreads. As Acer calls him in, I try to puzzle out why the hideout’s shiest resident hesitates to join the most rambunctious, but Daemon finally floats in at the prospect of a game.
D: “I…c-came in...to listen…”
Leafy bangs veiling his cheeks, he dips his neck and sways the sprouts toward a CD-covered stereo.
Ac: “That’s cool, man, that’s cool…WAIT – ”
When Acer gasps, Daemon’s saggy clothes jump with him. They practically drop off his bones when they settle.
Ac: “We could use my boombox – and take it outside – and go frickin’ picnickin’.”
S: “Pffffffffffff, we know you don’t go outside, Ace. Just leave Daemon to it. Y’feelin’ better, by the way?”
While he’s less pale than yesterday, Daemon still frowns at the question.
D: “I’m…just fine. A-and I don’t mind going out.”
He barely breathes the words before Acer darts, grabs the player, and hounds us outside. Scuttling beside Daemon, who only hurries at Acer’s cries, I wonder if we both play along because we have nothing better to do. I try to read his face – looking down before he notices – but I stare at his polka-dotted socks so long his cheeks flush anyhow.
Also, don't smoke. It's bad for you. Even if you have something mellower than tobacco growing in your shady garden. Even if it happens to be exactly 4:20.
No drugs, give hugs...to nude invisibros in aprons instead.
Story/characters (c) Shinkami/SheerGlade
Essence excerpt 3 - Acer/Steven
They're obviously just raising a large enough supply to cure Blight. Duh, Reiko. What other use could such a respectable group of young people possibly have with such a plant?
...//casually turns on a fan and spritzes suspiciously sweet smoke with air freshener
Steven can't wait to show you his pen...guins. oDo
I see you're giving us more details on the blight and how society reacted to it, that's nice. ^^ I've been curious to know how Cath survived since the first time I played, but I guess you won't tell us so early, will you? XD
I'm so excited, I see the final version of Essence is going to be awesome! X3
yeaaah, i can't give away Cath's secrets quite yet ;D
thank you dratini, I really hope it does turn out well!
By question, do you mean Steven asking about Ivan's partners?