It is 9:30 am on Friday, October 14, though perhaps Shayanna lost track of that. The weather is beautiful, making it easy for her to forget about all of the running, all of the yelling, the dark, the flashing, and the blood. It rained yesterday, and she smells the earth underneath her just singing with joy as the water feeds grass and worms and beetles deep down in the earth. The rain is far enough gone that the grass doesn’t even feel wet, but the earth itself is soft and comfortable. She imagines that this is what those memory foam mattresses feel like. You know, the ones you always made fun of the commercials of? That she always made fun of. Before she ran away…
For the past few months, thinking about having run away might have brought her down, but something about this town is different. Maybe it’s the way she can smell the corn, the way she can almost smell it growing out in the fields not even a mile away. Or maybe it’s the college students. She always used to think of college students as pretentious hipsters, too stuck up their own asses to actually accomplish anything. But when there are this many of them, all of them milling and bustling, and maybe it’s because of what she’s becoming, or maybe she’s just growing up, or maybe she just likes being around real people with petty little problems again, no matter how guiltily, but whatever the reason, these college kids are giving her a buzz. A two cups of coffee first thing in the morning style buzz. And while she’s been content to just lie there on the grass in the quad, students are starting to get perhaps a bit closer to her than she is comfortable with.
A middle aged couple, he in a v-neck sweater and plaid button-up, she in a conservative dress with a high button-up neck, have arrived at the opposite end of the quad. They carry with them large, rectangular boxes, significantly longer and taller than they are wide.
[Passive Roll: Perception + Alertness: 3 + 2. Difficulty 6. 59957. 3 successes].
Shay notices that there are hinges along the sides of the boxes: they fold out. They also appear to be some sort of wooden frame, and she sees bits of paper sticking out of the center, where the two halves are folded together. The paper is rigid, like photo-paper or card stock. She can see furrows in the man’s brow: he’s angry, or maybe worried. A whiff of dried flowers reaches her nose from them as she watches the woman begin to set up tripods.
Shay sits up onto her elbows and looks them over, looking just as annoyed with them. She gets up and moves about ten feet away, keeping an eye on them. Shay lays back down, keeping an eye on them while she goes back to relaxing. The couple sets up a total of 4 tripods, each unfolding to reveal an easel-like holding ledge. They fuss with the easel heights and positions, and then, when they’re satisfied, the woman walks to their parked car and begins to unload some cardboard boxes.
After unloading 4 such boxes, she drives the car away, likely to find a real parking spot. The man, in the meantime, moves the boxes near the tripods, and sets them down.
He lifts one of the long rectangular boxes that he and the woman arrived with and hefts it, setting one edge on one tripod. He then unfolds it, revealing a vision of bloody gore within. Systematically he settles the other half of the folded box onto the second tripod, revealing a scene of bloody violence: a late term abortion in extreme close up and high definition.
Even from Shay’s place on the grass, the image is larger than life. The man sets up the second rectangular box in the same manner, revealing more atrocity.
He begins to open the smaller cardboard packing boxes.
Shay makes a disgusted face and gets up. She picks up her dingy backpack and walks past the man and his display. “If only I was aborted.” Shay says snidely, and makes her way to the library to hide out, not feeling any better about the situation. She cozies up to one of the internet computers out of sight and begins to randomly surf the web.
While Shay’s policy of avoidance initially works nicely, she finds that the internet access available through the public computers has been heavily limited. Social media sites have been blocked outright, and a seemingly random majority of entertainment websites have been blocked as well. She manages to amuse herself competently for a few hours, but as the noon hour approaches, she finds her satisfaction from the limited access to be dwindling.
As she begins to open google for the thirtieth time, preparing to “Feel Lucky” with a search result, a throat clears itself from behind her.
[Reflexive Perception + Alertness: 5 = 77012. Difficulty 6 = 2 successes.]
The voice is masculine, older than her, but young, not a smoker. And it smells like Axe body spray. She looks over her shoulder at the figure and sees a student librarian. He looks a little flustered and reluctant to make eye contact.
“Excuse me, miss? May I see your student ID?”
Undeterred by Shayanna’s silence, the student librarian steps forward, “Miss? These carols are for active students.”
Shayanna continues to be distracted from the librarian, perhaps by the crackling, black and blue spider, about the size of a bread crumb, that has started to weave a delicate strand of web between her hand and the mouse pad.
“So you’re going to have to move on. Freak trash isn’t welcome here. Hello? Miss? Can you hear me you inhuman monster?”
As Shayanna suddenly snaps out of her seeming hypnosis, she shakes her hand out, snapping the delicate webs. She stares at her hand, turning it over, but sees no trace of either web it spider. She finally realizes that threw librarian had been speaking to her.
The words “inhuman monster” stung her ears pretty hard. She scratched her fingers down the mouse her eyes narrowing.
“Inhuman trash…” She repeated under her breath before standing up to face him, she maybe came up to the man’s neck. “I don’t know who you think you are, but I think you’re an underpaid prick a little drunk on what little power allowed to him as a ‘student librarian.’ That’s what I see.”
The student librarian looks simultaneously shocked, confused, and frightened. He stammers, “I I I I’m sorry, bbbut I don’t write the policies. It’s school rules. And I’ve given you like hours, you know? I should’ ve called security the first time you ignored me, bbbut… I was trying to be cool about it.”
Shay stopped and looked at him weirdly. “You, you called me trash.” She put a hand on her head, looking around where they were standing, looking for anyone else. “Look if that wasn’t you, I’m sorry. But if this is some trick, I just don’t know.”
Shay grabbed her backpack and put it on. “Shit, I have to be hearing things.”
Shay moved past him, trying to get out of the building.
The librarian gets out of her way, looking no less confused, but substantially relieved. He keeps an eye on her as she walks out, but doesn’t interfere.
As Shay leaves the library, she finds a small crowd has gathered around the pro-life activists. From where she stands, she hears raised voices in argument, and sees some pamphlets sitting on the ground, their pages wafting in the spring breeze.
from the south she also hears the blat of a train’s horn.
Shay decides to mingle with the crowd around the pro-lifers. She picks up a pamphlet and casually flips through it as she listens in on argument for her own amusement. Something to get her mind off the weird occurrance at the library.
Reaching the crowd is comforting, as each step away from the library carries the weight of voyeuristic glares. While that sensation doesn’t completely disappear in the crowd, it relents.
The crowd’s argument is largely what one would expect; pro-life supporters have joined the initial couple, and pro-choice supporters oppose them.
An accidental glance at one of the posters causes her to feel such an acute sensation of her hackles raising that it’s almost as though an invisible set of fingers has yanked on the back of her neck. Looking to make sure that no such thing has happened, she notices two wholely out-of-place individuals: a man in his late 40’s in a priest’s vestments, but staying well outside the crowd, pacing the crowd’s perimeter, and a man in his mid-twenties with unnaturally red hair in a carefully tailored suit, doing the same, but opposite of the priest.
A loud voice calls out through the crowd, “Fuck your bull shit, old man, you christ hugging cock suckers aren’t welcome amongst real people!” A woman’s choice immediately chimes in, “Yeah, go back to your sheep raping farm!”
This rallies several people in the crowd to join in similar shouts.
[Willpower roll, dif. 6: 4: 5392=1 success.]
And while it somewhat riles Shayanna, tapping into her annoyance with the pro-lifers from earlier, she forces it down.
Then a glass bottle flies through the air, hitting the woman activist in her shoulder, before smashing on the concrete. The crowd erupts with violence and somewhere just over Shayanna’s shoulder, a voice rasps, “Yessss.”
Shay quickly looks over her shoulder to see who or what is behind her as she starts to back away from the violence. No need to get caught up in something that could get her arrested and processed. She remembered the train, maybe it was just about time to get out of town.
She sees nothing behind her but angry college students. Ahead of her she hears the terrified yelp of the male pro-lifer as an angry college student grabs him by the shirt, shoving him back against the poster. The poster rocks and then tips, falling and striking the female protestor in the head as she is trying to recover from having been struck by the thrown bottle.
Just as fast, the crowd surges against Shayanna as students try to rally to the aid of the pro-lifers.
Shay braces herself against the enraged group fighting, using her backpack to cover her head. She desperately looks for a way out of the crowd.
[Stand your ground is stamina + athletics: 2. Dif: 6. 23. Failure.]
Shayanna raises her backpack, but loses her footing, getting carried along and knocked over.
[Rage:2+2 bonus dice, Diff: 4. 0523. 2 successes.]
As she’s thrown by the crowd, Shay feels a deep anger well up inside. It’s as though razor blades are tearing through her soul, not to cut her, but to cut everything around her. The world trembles and quakes, and then she’s lying flat on her back, outside of the crowd, her backpack still clutched in both hands, watching the crowd writhe and seethe against itself like a maw of crooked teeth grinding.
She thinks of this grinding mass of humanity with disgust, a bitter taste of salt and bile on her tongue, “Push me?! Their mothers shall weep…” (was that really her thought?)
And then she’s on her feet, hauled up by the middle aged priest. Up close, he doesn’t look very priestly, though. He has grizzled, peppered scruff on his face, teeth old and yellow (though quite large), skin cracked and lined like a cowboy. Moreover, from across the quad, he looked short and stout, but up close he seems huge, as though his stature barely contains him.
“You okay there, pup?”
“P-pup?” Shay was very scared, very confused. “Who are you? What is going on?!” Her anger pushed her to tears. “I HATE ALL OF THEM!” Shay starts swinging around, unable to hold in emotions. She tries to break away from the man with the violence of her flailing.
As Shay unleashes her outburst, the old man casually reaches past her flailing arms, grabbing her by the neck with an iron grip, and pins her against the ground.
He calls out, “Stop fuckin round, Zylo, I got her.”
From the crowd, the besuited red-haired man emerges, pulling along the female activist who is now bleeding from the head, her shirt torn, her arms limp.
“Bout time, Paddy. She’s made a real mess out of this.” As the young man sets the unconscious woman on the ground, sirens can be heard approaching.
In Shay’s head, “No! Nonono! They know! They know what you are! They know what you did! They will kill you, beastie, they will kill you!”
And the panic continues to swell.
“Get out of my fucking head!” Shay screams out. “Don’t fucking kill me!”
She starts to grab and pull at the man’s arm using her fingernails to scratch him.
[Again, this will be a Rage roll with 2 bonus dice at Diff 4. 5337. 2 sux.]
The red-haired man looks towards the sound of the sirens.
“We gotta bolt. You’ll get pegged for the riot and any minute she’ll start screaming rape.”
The priest nods and produces a small snub-nosed revolver, pointing it in Shay’s face.
“I’m only gonna say this one time, pup. We ain’t gonna hurt ya if ya shut up and behave yerself. I know that right about now you’re scared an confused, but we’re here to help you. We know about Calumet Heights, because we covered it up. And if you scratch me one more fuckin time, you’re gettin whupped!”
He rises and hauls her up to a standing position with one hand.
Shay is instantly compliant, she starts to breath deeply to calm herself down.
“Fine, go. I won’t resist anymore.” Shay throws her hands down. “Can I have my bag at least?”
She reaches her arm miming grabbing at her bag. “So what did I do? What am I in trouble for?”
The red-haired man, Zylo, grabs her arm, placing her bag against her chest, and begins leading her away from the scene.
“Nothing. No trouble, well not with us at least. We’ve been looking for you.”
The priest catches up, nodding, “Yeah, lucky us you didn’t get too far before we caught up with you. Sorry it took so long. We know you been runnin, we know it’s been hard. Yer momma, she ducked us fer too long. We let her too far outta the Bawn.” The way he says “Bawn”, Shayanna can tell it means a lot to him.
As the trio walks south, away from the fracas and away from the approaching police, the wail of a train horn is heard again.