A Close Call:
"Alright, I'll join,"
As soon as those words left my mouth I hung my head in shame at what I had just said. How low have I fallen to join a street gang? Shit, how low have I fallen at all. I went from having food, a house and a family to being a homeless starving punk. And I hated myself for it.
"That is good to hear, da?" I glanced up and saw that Rossi was smiling at me.
"I guess," I muttered darkly.
Later that night, during dinner, (apparently that sack that Julia had been carrying had potatoes in it) the red flash made its last appearance.
I wasn't scared at this point. After all, a maimed tiger with chunks of its black fur missing and red stripes and claws long enough to slash my head off isn't really that scary now is it?
"Bitch, where the hell you been?"
Okay, that had been said by Rosslynn, and to be honest it shocked me. Rosslynn had been so polite, and easy-going, but to hear be that blunt and crude, well I was beginning to think twice about her.
The person formerly know as a huge ass tiger, was now a girl with goldish blond hair that had blue highlights streaked in it walked into the camp. The thing I noticed about her was that her clothes were in much better condition than all the rest of the Artists; with her jeans being untorn, and her shirt being a clean blue, and her jacket being unsoiled.
"Around," She said casually. Rossi wasn't amused
"If you were going out, you should have gotten some food."
The girl shrugged. "I couldn't find any."
"You always say that," Rosslynn growled. "And I am tired of hearing it."
"Well it's true."
"Sometimes I wonder."
"Look, just get off my back! You're not my mom!"
"And thank god for that, Sarah."
Ah, so this was Sarah. She seems charming already.
"Who's this bitch?" She asks in blunt tone as she stalked up to me and Rosslynn.
"This is Kayla. She joined our group."
"Why?" Sarah asked.
"'Cause she has a Zatais like us and if we didn't get her The Bandits probably would."
"You sure she'd be of good use to them?"
"The less members they have, the better."
"Umm," I finally spoke up awkwardly. "Who are the Bandits?"
Rosslynn rose to her feet. "The Bandits are a group of homeless kids like us, and have Zataises, like us, but they use them for...unkind purposes."
"Wait, there are more people with Zataises in this town?" I cried.
She nodded and toyed with the fire and orange cinders flew out like fireflies. "Da, I just said that."
"Yeah, for some reason this place is like Zatais central." Odessa commented. I shot a glance at the girl before looking back at Rossi.
"Anyways, the Bandits like to steal people, and hurt them." She pulled out the stick that she had played in the fire with, and t began waving the chaired, smoking tip in the air like a sword. You see, while we take while they're not looking, the Bandits like to team up and beat them until they're either dead or unconscious. Most of the time they're dead."
She emphasis the word dead, by crushing the scorched tip of the stick to the ground and it let out a dying hiss.
I flinched. "R-Really?"
"As you can guess, they don't like us, and we've had to fight them sometimes." Hannah told me.
"And by we, you mean me, Julia, Ruse and Odessa, da? You and Kyle just tend to hide."
The group chuckled, except for Kyle, and me. He just kind of made an annoyed face but didn't say anything
"Anyways, if you ever come across one, one of the Bandits, don't tell them you're one of us. They will know you have a Zatais, but they won't know that your one of us, unless we meet up with one together. And if you're alone with one, and when push comes to shove, as they say apparently, shove."
She slammed the stick back into the fire and it was quickly eaten by the flames.
"But I don't wanna fight anyone!" I protested. I always taught that violence was never the answer, so why would it be now?
"Sooner or later, you'll have to, da?" Rosslynn turned to me.
"No, I won't." I said firmly.
"You won't have a choice, idiota." Julia snapped. "What will you do if a Bandit tries to get with you? Just lie there and take it? God forbid." She tossed her head to the side.
I winced and looked down. That was harsh, and it had hurt my feelings. I didn't like this at all. Hurting people was bad, and never the right answer. That was my one moral I would always follow. But Julia, as bitchy as she was, was right. What would I do if...that were to happen to me.
"Now, we don't know if they'd do that, Julia." Rosslynn pointed out.
"They're not above killing innocent people," She shot back hotly. "So what makes you think that they wouldn't rape anyone?"
"Y-Yeah, Rossi," Hannah whimpered. "Especially Ian. He'd stoop to any level."
I didn't like the sound of that. "Umm, who's Ian?" I asked.
"A monster." Kyle muttered.
"That's putting it nicely." Odessa replied.
"Ian's the leader of the Bandits." Rosslynn spoke up again. "Like Hannah said, he would...he has stooped to very low levels, but rape, I am not so sure of."
I swallowed. "H-How low are we talking about?"
Rosslynn stopped pacing, looked at me straight in the eye, and stated in a very blunt voice, "He ate someone."
I froze, my eyes wide. My heart nearly stopped. It got quiet and Rosslynn resumed her pacing. I...what? "He...ate someone...?"
"He ate someone. He ate a person, a person like you and me. It was a few years back I think, but he ate someone. He is, how you say, a cannibal."
I...I didn't...I couldn't fully comprehend this. This was just...just too crazy. "How...how do you know?"
"I saw it."
"And you didn't do anything about it?"
"What could I do?" She asked. "The person was already dead. I didn't fight Ian, because, trust me, you don't want to fight Ian."
"He's stronger than you think. He's been shot, stabbed, beaten, and yet he get's up. He can't be killed."
I blinked slowly. "And you'd put this guy above rape?"
"I didn't say that. I have just never seen him rape anyone."
"What's to say that he hasn't?" Julia demanded.
The Russian turned to her and smiled pleasantly. "Nothing, da?"
Julia growled. "Whatever."
Okay, I was blown away by this. Not only do we have more kids that have Zataises living here, we apparently have an evil group of them. And the leader of said group was a cannibal that couldn't be killed. Good, freaking, god. I'm terrified. That's it, I'm terrified. I can't believe this. I'm going to die here. I'm gonna get killed out frigging he-
"Did I say you could eat, Sarah?" Rosslynn's cold, dark voice broke into my thoughts.
I looked up and saw that Sarah had helped herself to some of boiled potatoes, the last of my bread. She sat there munching away before swallowing and glaring at the person who had called her out. "No, but were you suppose to?"
"Da," Rosslynn slunk up to her. "You do nothing to help us, and yet you eat more than we do. If you wanna stay in the group, you're going to have to help out more instead of just disappearing all day."
Sarah rolled her orange eyes. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever, leave me alone, won't you? You're so annoying."
"I could say the same thing about you, da?" Rosslynn hissed.
Suddenly the air got thick and heavy with tension, and hostility. My stomach sank. Oh god, what if a full-on brawl started? A wolf vs a tiger. Now that would be a sight to see.
"You could, but I'd kill you. Now leave me alone, bitch."
It got deadly quiet. It had been quiet before but now if felt like you could hear a pin drop. At this point I was sure a fight was going to break out. I mean, Rosslynn's the leader, so shouldn't the leader take charge?
Instead, she just said in a very low, serious, icy calm voice, "I will leave you alone when you learn your place."
"This was my place."
"Not anymore, da?"
Sarah stood up infuriated. For a moment I thought she would just fight Rosslynn right then and there. But instead she just gathered up her food and bread (my bread) and stalked away.
"Where are you going?" Rosslynn demanded.
"Away." Sarah responded without stopping.
"Hopefully forever." The Russian muttered.
We watched Sarah sneak away into the darkness. Then Hannah, rather stupidly I think, asked, "Aren't ya gonna stop her, Rossi?"
"Nyet," Rosslynn shook her head, still glaring at the tiger's vanishing figure. "We'd end up killing each other, da? And besides, if she wants to be a stupid bitch, then fine, she can be a stupid bitch."
"Oh," Was all Hannah said and we ate the rest of our dinner in silence. After dinner we cleaned out dishes in the creek and Rosslynn told me that I could share Hannah's tent thing, saying that she wouldn't mind, and in truth she really didn't. She was grateful for some company.
The night was quiet, but I still felt like it could erupt into violence at anytime. Tired, I laid down and hoped that the fighting would occur tonight.
I was the second one up in the morning. I was greeted by Rosslynn who was sitting by the fire and poking at it with a stick.
"Good morning, Kayla," She said friendly enough. "Did you sleep good?"
"Yeah," I said stifling a yawn. "But I wish I had some coffee."
She stared at me confused, like I had spoken German or something. "Coffee?"
"Coffee? What is coffee?"
That left me stunned. She had to be joking. "Are you serious?"
"You don't know what coffee is?"
"No, I've never heard of it before."
"Oh my god." I couldn't believe this. Rosslynn was what-like at least sixteen years old, and I'm sure the have coffee in Russia, and I know for a fact that we have it here, so how in the hell could she not know what it was?
"Coffee or café, is something that people drink to make themselves not feel tired."
I turned my head and saw that Julia was now awake and a few feet away from us. The way she had explained it was in smug, snobbish tone, and I turned my gaze back to see if Rosslynn was offended.
In truth she didn't look angry at all. Instead she just smiled and her purple eyes narrowed playfully. "Thank you Julia, now I know what it is and how to say it in two different languages."
Julia flushed pink and scowled before making a little 'hmmp' noise, tossing her hair, and walking away.
"So you are tired,"
"...! Umm...yeah...I'm still not used to sleeping on the ground..." I mumbled uncomfortably as I scratched the back of my head. The Russian chuckled.
"That's okay, da? You'll get used to it, I think."
She said 'da' again. She's said that a bunch of times now, so many times that I could take a drink every time she said it. Ya know, if I actually had things to drink.
"Da?" There it is again.
"Why do you say 'da' so much?"
She looked thoughtful. "Oh, it's how people say a verbal tick. It means 'yes' in Russian. For the longest time I have been saying it, but I'll stop if it annoys you."
"Oh no, no!" I shook my head rapidly. "It doesn't bother me at all! I just wanted to know why you did it."
I looked up at her. She was smiling mischievously, I would almost call it cat-like. "What?" I asked.
"You are weird, da?" She said chuckling. "Da, I think so. I think so very much!"
She broke down into small laughs and I cried out, "Hey, I'm weird, but you're the one with the verbal tic!"
Rosslynn stopped laughing but she didn't look like her good mood had been dampened. "Da, I'm strange, and I do have a verbal tic, but you are weird and you have blue eyes, so we really aren't different, I think."
"That makes no sense." I grumbled.
"Oh, doesn't it?"
"Oh, good morning Ruse!"
I looked up and saw said Asian walking towards the woods. He turned at us and gave Rossi a tiny smile. I blinked. When'd he get there?
"Oh, uh, hey Ruse!" I said awkwardly. He just gave me a small wave before continuing on his way.
"I am going down town soon, Kayla. Do you want to come with me?" Rosslynn suddenly asked.
"Oh, uh sure." I stammered. Why is that her English can go from advanced to very poor at the drop of a hat? "When are we leaving?"
"As soon as Ruse get's back."
"Back from where?"
"Back from taking a piss."
My face went hot and I started laughing. That was actually pretty funny, (at least to me it was). But then again, there goes her politeness to just plain crudeness. I wonder why she keeps jumping to both ways?
Ruse came back a few minutes later, and Rossi and I stood up. Ruse, we are going down town, da? You wanna come too?"
"..." He nodded, and Rosslynn smirked.
"Alright, let's go."
On our way out we passed Julia, still looking a little moody.
"Julia, we are going down town. Make sure Kyle and Hannah don't destroy everything, da?"
The Spaniard glared at us. "Si, oh sabio líder," She sneered. "Whatever you say."
This chick is starting to annoy me. What's her deal? Rosslynn didn't seem fazed though. "Good. See you later, Yuliya."
'Yuliya' snorted and walked back into her tent thing, ya know what I'm just gonna call them shents, shelters and tents put together.
"Well, " The Russian began pleasantly. "Let's go."
Did I mention how awkward going on a walk with two people you just met is? Well, it is. Or at least unsettling. It was quiet, a long very uncomfortable silence.
"So, um, Rosslynn," I awkwardly enough. "Where are we going?"
"Hmm? Oh, nowhere really. I just wanted to take a walk, da?" She answered casually. I wanted to do a pratfall. "We have enough food to last us till tomorrow, but if we find anymore, we'll just bring it back to camp, da?"
"Hey you! Rossi!"
That was a new voice. It was masculine, and though he was shouting he sounded friendly. Rosslynn's stiffened and look around. There across the street was that old butcher shop, and a man standing in the doorway. He was an older man, not old old but probably middle-aged. His hair dark and slightly curly, and he was dressed in what I assumed was the outfit a butcher would wear.
Rosslynn smiled and went up to him. The air around her changed, like it went less serious to excited. I don't know how to explain it- she was like a dog ecstatic to see its master. Ruse and I followed her across the road.
"Privet, Mr. Makainia," She chirped happily.
"Good morning, Rosslynn," He said warmly. "Hello, Ruse,"
Ruse smiled and waved.
"And who is?" He asked curiously.
"This is Kayla," Rossi introduced me. "She joined our team."
For a split second I was sure Makainia would bring up something about Zataises, but instead he just said kindly.
"Ah, so you've made a new friend." Rossi beamed.
"That's good to hear. Nice to meet you, Kayla," He reached out his worn hand," "I'm Makainia. Mr. Makainia, if you don't mind."
"Nice to meet you too," I answered awkwardly as I shook his hand. Okay, I'm not so good at meeting people. I feel uncomfortable about it, all right? Jeez...
He looked at me for a moment before turning to Rosslynn. "Hey, Rossi, I got a job for you and your friends. You up to it?"
'He didn't even tell you what it was yet.' I thought.
"Well, I got some trash that needs to be run down to the junkyard a few blocks down. I can't carry all of it down without making several trips but I figured maybe you guys would want to do it. I'll give ya some food if you do. Whadda ya say?"
"Sounds good to me," Rosslynn said. "Ruse, do you mind?"
"..." Silent boy shook his head.
"Well," 'Well, of course I mind, it's garbage!' I thought bitterly. 'But I don't wanna seem rude, so...' "I don't see why not."
Makainia smiled. "Thank you. The trash is around back. If you see anything you like, feel free to keep it. I gotta work on the store. See you later, kids."
With that he walked back into the store and we went around back. Thankfully, the trash seemed fresh and was in plastic bags so it would be too much trouble. It was awkward silence again as we lugged the junk down to the, heh, junkyard, none of us really talking until we came across a certain street.
"Maybe Tina and Pidge are home, da?"
"Oh, they are two other homeless kids, but they don't have Zataises. They live in the next alley."
Soon enough we came across said alley and Rosslynn hollered into it, "Hey you! Tina!"
"Strange, da? They're usually home."
Ruse nodded in agreement.
"Maybe they left to get food or something?" I offered.
"Da, but they don't do this often. Hmm, we should go."
I was a little put off by this, but I just decided to roll with it. "Uh, okay. Maybe we'll see them."
"Hmm, maybe." Rosslynn whispered.
It was several more blocks before we had actually reached the junkyard. Yeah, just a few blocks away, Mr. Makainia, you asshole.
Upon arriving, Rosslynn decided it was good idea to look around for things that team might need. I didn't know what she could find in a dump, but hey, I guess I should keep my mind open. Rosslynn and Ruse seemed to have no problem searching through the mounds of trash and filth but I just decided to stay out of it. I paced along, back and forth until I finally saw Silent Asian walking up to me.
"Whatcha got there, Ruse?" I asked before then looking away and saying. "Oh right, like you're going to answer me."
Suddenly I heard a scribbling noise. I turned back. It was a notebook and scrawled out on it were two words.
I stared at it surprised. I glanced back up at him and then back at the notebook. "So you can understand us?"
He wrote down some more before showing me. Kayla, I am mute, not deaf.
I have to admit, laughed a little at that. "I never thought that you were! It's just that you never talked. " Suddenly that realization sunk in.
He's mute. He doesn't choose not to talk, he can't talk. I suddenly felt a rush of sadness. "You're mute?" I asked softly.
Ruse shrugged, not looking to be bothered by it.
"I guess that'll come in handy, eh?"
I chuckled. Maybe he wasn't so bad. Ruse turned back and searched through more junk for a few more moments while I went on thinking about nothing in general. I was walking a long a pile of trash, when I heard what sounded like something slithering across the ground. At first I thought that Ruse had gone Zatais, but then I began to question why he would do it here. The sound of something sliding through the dirty ground was heard again, and it was followed by something that scared the living shit outta me.
I froze and so did everyone else. I looked around the mound of garbage and what I say horrified me.
Ya know the term, 'junkyard dog'?
'Cause that's what it was. A hug, freaking, junkyard dog. It was a German Shepherd, or at least a German Shepherd mix. It was a little heavier than average for that breed, but it looked like it was still as agile as ever. It's collar was not spiked like one would expect. Its brown eyes glared viciously and it's fangs were bared. It started barking, loud, rough baying sound, and I glanced back for a second to see Rosslynn jump and Ruse briefly hold her in his arms. I looked back and the dog was lunging, trying to get free of its chain that was holding it back.
Then I looked over and ya know what, that motherfucking red flash appeared and I saw another monster.
Now, I wouldn't like to meet anyone with an unknown Zatais in a dark alley by myself, but this one was, I think I'd rather killed myself than had to actually greet. 'Cause this one...this on probably has a bad temper. It was a bull after all. A very large, black and gray bull, with a whip-like tail, and stamping grey hooves. It snorted and looked around, its copper eyes staring round. It's horns...dear god its horns were at least three feet long and were centered in the middle of its head and were pointing outward. They were stained with blood.
I whipped back around the mound and froze, Ruse and Rosslynn staring at me. I blinked and slowly looked back around to see what was there now.
The bull was gone, but ya know what? I still wouldn't wanna meet this thing in a dark alley. Because this guy...this guy was huge. Like huge. Like he's gotta be at least seven feet tall. I mean, oh, my, god. I mean, other than his height, he still looked like a normal kid. He had greyish-brown hair, it was a bit fringed out on the sides, but no big deal. He looked round to the sound of the barking and I quickly pulled myself out of his sight.
The dog kept on barking, and I heard the kid say, "What's it? What's it, boy? Someone there?"
Strange, his voice has drawl to it, and he sounds southern, and not very bright.
We heard footsteps, I glanced down to see a shadow moving closer to us. Fear flooded through me and I glanced up to see Rosslynn mouth the word 'run'.
And man, did we run! Like, a top speed. I've never ran faster than I did. Seriously, we got out of there really fast. We had to, lest that guy rip us limb from limb. He heard us. He heard us leave, he heard the sound of us running away. I don't know if he saw us because we were down the streets in a matter of seconds.
Finally we stopped in vacant alley, exhausted and panting. The guy hadn't followed us. Eventually, when I had enough breath, or at least when I felt like I wasn't dying, I gasped out. "Who...who was that...?"
Ruse looked at me before writing down.
"Yeah," I huffed. "I thought so... but...which one? Was that Ian?"
Because if it was, than all of what Rosslynn was saying about him...well some of it must be true.
Rosslynn looked up at me. "Actually, no," She revealed. "That was Max."
"Umm..." Oh god I feel like my heart's gonna explode. "Who's Max?"
"Max," The Russian began as she straightened herself out. "Is a Bandit. He's the strongest of the gang, practically Ian's body-guard. That dog you heard was his dog John, and trust me, both of them are vicious."
"Oh," I blinked tiredly. "So...he's not the leader?"
"Nyet," Rosslynn panted. "Max may be strong, but he's not very smart. Without Ian, he'd be-"
"Shhh!" Ruse hushed and we went silent. I was about to ask him what was up, but them I heard a footsteps. I froze, and my heart stopped. Sniffing was heard. It was John.
"He did, Ian. John saw somethin'."
Ian...oh dear god no. I about fainted.
"I'm sure he did, Max." Another voice. It was casual, and reassuring in a twisted way. It was Ian.
The footsteps stopped, and I saw shadows on the sidewalk. I held my breath as John stopped sniffing, and growled.
"See, Ian? There he goes again. He smell somethin'."
"I t'ink it was an Artist." John snapped at that word. I glanced at the other guys. They both looked ready to fight.
"Yeah. Why else he be actin' like this?"
"He probably saw a squirrel, Max."
"Ya t'ink so?"
"Yeah, and if he did see an Artist than you an 'im probably scared them off. Ya did good, Max."
"Yeah, you too John. Now, let's get home. If we see an Artist, then we kill 'em, awright?"
"Okay..." Max said slowly. "C'mon, John."
The shadows faded away and we all gasped. Rosslynn tensed, and her eyes narrowing. She didn't say anything for a few minutes, making sure that those two were gone.
"That bastard!" She snarled.
"H-Huh...?" I was confused. Ruse looked at her wearily.
"He's toying with us! He knew we were in here. He was lying through his teeth. Da, I'm sure of it!"
I didn't know what to say. I was tired, hungry and just wanted to go back to the camp. I hated this.
We spent the next couple minutes there catching our breath before we headed back to Makainia's.
When we got there he welcomed us.
"Thank you so much." He said.
"You're welcome, Makainia." Rossi replied. "But we must tell you something."
"Yes, what is it?"
"At the junkyard...there was a Bandit."
The butcher frowned and looked worried. "Really? I had no idea. Are you kids alright?"
"Da, we're fine. We were just as surprised."
"Well, this is a problem," He said thoughtfully. "I guess I'll have to put my trash somewhere else. I'm sorry for putting you kids in danger."
"It's fine, da?"
"No, no, I shouldn't have put you kids in danger."
'Damn straight you shouldn't have.' I thought angrily.
"Here, I'll make it up to you kids," He assured. "I have extra bones, and steaks for you." With that he went in and retrieved the said objects.
"Thank you, Mr. Makainia." Rosslynn said as the man gave her the food.
"No, thank you." Makainia retorted as he patted her bony shoulder. "You did all the work. You deserve it."
'Damn right we do.'
Suddenly, we heard footsteps. We looked around and we saw a very unhappy Julia.
"Julia," Mr. Makainia began. "What's wrong?"
The Spaniard ignored him, and just went up to Rosslynn. "We have trouble. Come on." She growled this as pulled Rosslynn by the shirt.
"Uh, okay," She replied. "See you later, Mr. Makainia!"
The man looked puzzled. "Do you need of my help, Julia?" He called.
"No, we can handle this by ourselves."
'Oh great,' I thought annoyed as Ruse and I followed the two girls. 'Now what?'
Okay, this is not what I would call trouble. When we walked into camp around the time the sun was setting, what I saw was not trouble.
A small, white, curly furred puppy is not what my definition of trouble is.
"Look what we found!" Hannah cried happily. Rosslynn looked at it incredulously.
"You found a sheep?"
"No, silly!" Hannah giggled. "It's a puppy!"
"Great," Rosslynn stated as she rubbed her hands together. "We can eat it."
"What?! No, Rosslynn! We can't eat it!"
"And why not?"
"'Cause he's just too cute to eat!" Kyle said as he cuddled the doggy who wagged its cotton ball of a tail.
"Oh, I beg to differ," Rosslynn muttered scathingly. "Where'd you even get this thing anyways?"
"Me, Kyle, and Odessa found it on a walk! Can we keep 'im, Rossi? Please, please, please, please?"
"No." Her answer was blunt and cold.
"Aw! But Rossi!" Kyle whined.
"Come on! Please?"
"Nyet, now stop it!"
Really, I didn't see anything wrong with having the little pup around.
"N-All right fine!" She snapped, her purple eyes flashing.
"Yay!" Kyle, Hannah and Odessa cheered. Hannah even went up and hugged her.
"Thank you, Rossi!"
Rosslynn growled. "Get off of me!" And shoved her off.
Hannah seemed unaffected and just went back down and hugged the puppy.
"So, what's its name?" I asked.
"WATSON!" The three cried in unison. I did a pratfall.
"Look," Rosslynn said sternly. "You can keep that thing, just make sure it doesn't get into anything." With that she sighed and stalked away.
Watson looked up at her, his tiny black eyes blinking under his wavy bangs and he got loose of three dog lovers grip and he started to follow her.
"Aww, Rossi, he likes you!" Kyle chirped.
"Maybe a bit too much..." Odessa said as...oh my!
"Otoydi ot menya glupaya sobaka grebanyy!" Rosslynn snarled as she kicked the poor mutt away.
The puppy yelped and the three who had found him rushed over to him and started cuddling him. I on the other hand just stood there and looked on in amusement.
What a group.
A/N: And my god it's over. Well this chapter at least, and man, is my neck killing me! I'm sorry this chapter was so boring! It's all exposition and no action. But don't worry, it's going to get a lot darker.
Nyet-Russian for 'No'.
Si, oh sabio líder- Spanish for 'Yes, oh wise leader.'
Privet-Russian for 'Hello'.
Otoydi ot menya glupaya sobaka grebanyy!-Russian for 'Get away from me you stupid fucking dog!'.