Short story written for unit final. Please review.


Caecus

Lingering.

He shifts, impatience bouncing in his booted feet. Feels shrunken amid the groping masses; they sway as one rolling entity to the heart-shaking pulse. The beat in the air and in the floor, and in his veins.

Somewhere . . . in that sweat-ridden pen.

And the skin of each creature is dotted with beads of violent color, ever-changing, silhouettes thrown into the privacy of darkness. Air thick with everything that is hidden in daylight, when all eyes can see: Heckling, teasing, lust, the smoldering "come-hithers" that are released.

"One person!" The skinny teen mutters savagely, and no one hears. No one cares of his routine. "I can't find her, can't find her."

Blessed with olive-toned facial bones, dark, wind-tossed tendrils, she is something that haunts and taunts him with a mere existence. Years of little more than barely-casual acknowledgements will never justify his worship of her, and it is difficult to ascertain why it prevails. Reminiscent of a magpie, he has several of her things, some missed and many not. Rearranges them frequently. He is a shadow stepping in the imprint of her daily paces.

He knows exactly how many steps her life takes.

"R-red," he stammers. "R-red dress. Short. Ruffled from the waist. No straps."

Scans for any glimpse of her crimson attire, it is all beginning to swim and undulate, his vision on a fast-track to what his mind considers his "locate-mode". When his palms perspire and his heart will hover on one frantic note as he struggles not to fall into his humiliating tic of repetition.

R-red. Red. Red. Short. No straps. Short. Red. Red.

"There!"

Lost in the modern electronica, is his outburst. No one knows who he is. One among a thousand.

He owes many apologies; his frantic darting and shoving, however anonymous, is rude.

He sees.

Never in a niche of her own, never amongst friends; she is alone, shining, everything. It never occurs to him how anyone could possibly not crave to be at her side, when all the qualities swell up and soak him like a salty tide. She never needs to speak or be the center of attention to command all bodily and heavenly things.

"Benita."

He is the shadow, she makes the steps. He paints the picture she creates in her wake.

(Quite literally; his walls are adorned with artistry. Luckily, it isn't all of her. It is a hobby magnified.)

A lanky teen is watching an oblivious girl dance her demons away.

Benita. Benita. Benita.

His monotonous chant speaks in time to her percussive movements. All gorgeous skin and face and being, yet he does not see (or can't see) her hollow eyes.

A figure separates from the gyrating mass, moves swiftly toward her with a firm and steady pace. For someone so large, shoulders slicing through the varied creatures like a smoothed knife, he does not alert anyone to his presence. He has no swagger, but anger emanates so potent that the skinny boy shudders, his involuntary step back setting him off again.

"Benita. B-Benita."

Whispers are lost in the air between them. Unable to be heard.

A hand clamps around the girl's wrist; she halts her dancing and faces the large stranger, yanking away in quick defense. Painted lips form the name, "Doug."

Doug. Doug. What is he doing to her? Doug. Who is Doug?

Brows are set in fury; he drags her like a string-less marionette throughout the bodies. Skinny boy hesitates, steps back, steps forward.

Decides to follow.

The stranger is hurried. Grip tightening, he swings her around to face him, and both males watch her eyes flash; feral. She struggles, face growing gaunter by the second as he shakes her; she tosses her head back and—

Saliva slaps her aggressor across the face.

As his hand jerks her upper arm, as she hangs nearly off the floor, the lanky kid still watches, and cringes in response.

Benita. Vile. She's not vile. Is she? Benita?

He hears her spit again, and: "No!" Her protest is faint against the striking bass.

And her petite body was shoved into the crowd, as if pushed offstage. Gone. Lost amid the creatures and their sweaty pen.

No. Benita. Vile? He'll hurt her. He will.

He stands alone, unconsciously swaying with the entity.

Does she know? Can she feel me?

A decent sense of direction aids him thus: He pokes through the mass with his bony shoulders in timid flight. Constantly dodging and ducking and pursuing without thought.

As he always has.

Reaching the back wall, he lunges for a door he finds ajar. The lights skim over where he exits, the departure shrouded in anonymous darkness.

"Move, move!"

Through a dingy alley his sneakers pound, synonymous with his heart; ahead, he hears the inimitable struggles of a confrontation. Streetlights carelessly toss their telling beams. The air is cold and shadows shift across the ground, and he is scared and he knows something is wrong, he's hurting her. B-benita! How dare he? How dare he?

Rubber skids on the sidewalk, halting him as the frightened, high-pitched note bursts from his throat: "How dare you?!"

Krsssh! Krsssh!

And she does not stop. The cuts seem to etch themselves into that stranger's face, violently, swiftly, over and over and over –

"You—hurt—me—you—bastard!" she shrieks, passing her clenched fist across his face, raising slices instead of bruises. The boy who followed is stock-still, half-hidden in dimness as his voice shatters in his gullet.

Krsssh! Krsssh!

"—telling—me—I—was—crazy!" Every expulsion from her lips is another carving into her victim's face.

What hurts the silent witness is how he faces her and takes it, each insult, parrying her untoward hysteria.

"—hope—this—hurts!"

Krsssh! Her prey finally stumbles back, sucking air between his teeth while yanking his dark hood over his face. Hiding his shame, her anger. Red liquid glitters, in rivets in the webs of his fingers, like the flash of her feral eyes.

"I'm sorry," he murmurs.

A car key lands with a delicate tink at his feet, and she bolts. The boy in the shadows watches her, dark hair streaming, olive skin, ashen. Watches her run and with each footfall, he feels his gut twisting in sick, sick knots. A deep suture wrenches his mind this way and that, some unexplainable pain.

"What are you doing here?"

The hooded boy stares at the lanky one, watching him watch her. He sighs.

"Frickin' crazy girl. Never thought she'd snap like that, but then . . ."

A barely-there flinch flits across his injured face, his pain palpable. "This isn't new—"

"Benita—"

"—is a demon in disguise."

"B-but—"

Growling, the boy yanks down his hood. "Are these marks of a sweet girl? Idiot. Everyone and their mother are fooled by her."

The other has nothing to say. Simply clutches his head, shaking it slowly.

"I was rough, I know that, but damn it, I needed to talk to her. I needed to get rid of her. I needed to . . ."

" . . . M-make it stop."

It was clear what had gone on, and how difficult it was to admit. How difficult it was, now, for him to see.

Intakes sharp breaths, shudders. The smaller boy bends down to snatch the bloody key from the sidewalk, body vibrating all the while.

He starts as a strong hand falls upon his scrawny shoulder.

"People aren't always what they seem, kid."

He backs away from him, startled, and pockets the key. Tearing his gaze away from the bleeding slices and red rivulets, he takes off down the sidewalk in the opposite direction of Benita's departure.

Pathetic, that he cannot help the tears.


"Y-you."

And he stabs the key into the drywall, straight through a snapshot of her olive-skinned face. Drags it through her slender neck and chest and off the edge; travels in a shaky line through dozens of photographs and sketches. Tearing the pictures, the fakeness of them all, with the rough, gold teeth streaked in red.

Swinging his arm high, he digs again, grinding his molars and trying to quell shakes as it etched marks into the wall. Like her charming masquerade that tore through his mind; his thoughts are tissue-paper shreds.

On and on he goes, creating curled paper-tails that flutter to the floor. Eventually he abandons the key, attacking the indiscernible artistry with his cut-to-the-quick fingernails. Knees crushing against the floor, he lets out a wail of despondency that no one hears. For which, no one cares.

And he grips the wall with white hands, fingernails embedded.

"W-who were you?"

Digging, dragging, despairing.

Fingernails leaking.

"What . . . am I?"