Fade to Black Redux

Chapter 1

Summer Vacation Begins! A New Friend Achieved

What's it about our world that makes it so fascinating? The people and animals inhabiting it? Possibly. Or perhaps the undiscovered mysteries covering this big ball of rock and water we call home. Being so large, it's no surprise we know very little about it, or even the reality we live in. What if I told you though, those stories you call fiction actually held some truth to your world? Stories of vicious monsters and ghoulish beasts. Ones that could rip the flesh off your bones and devour it without a second though. Sounds pretty crazy right? That's exactly what young Julie Scott though, before her world turned upside down. All because of a boy, and the secrets he withheld from the world.

The day began as any for the Scott family. A nice, refreshing bath at 6 A.M, followed by an hour of news, before beginning their day. For Julie though, it meant something more. Summer vacation had started only a week ago, giving her plenty of time to indulge in her more personal hobbies. The only questioned remaining was, what would she wear? Jacket or tank top? On one hand, the jacket would avert any perverted gazes, but on the other, she couldn't risk burning up.

"Hm…So much for a choice. It's either getting baked or stared at." She sighed, while grabbing the grey tank top. "And for good measure, I'll bring my taser too."

Given to her three years ago by her dear dad, it allowed her to defend herself in case anyone suspect approached. In which case, they'd get a good taste of it. Looking into the bedside mirror, she couldn't deny how cute she was. Whether for better or worse, she'd come to resemble her mother quite well. Short, neatly combed, dark, red hair, with two long bangs that hung down over her shoulders, gorgeous, purple eyes, and a lovely, curvaceous form, with large D cups filling out the chest, with a slim, grey tank top, dark green running shorts, and white running shoes to cover it all up. Unfortunately, it led to some rather uncomfortable encounters during high school.

"Maybe I should go look for something a little more conservative." She wondered, before glancing at the reflection of her diploma resting on the shelf by the bed. A reminder of past trials and hardships she'd endured for the past 4 years."No-no, you've got this, Julie. Just ignore them and you'll be fine. Nothing to worry about."

In the end, would it matter? Perverts were perverts, and it wouldn't keep them from looking her up. Besides, it wasn't as if she lacked self-defense tactics. One swift kick to the crotch would send them to the ground in a millisecond.

"Alright, I think I'm all set." She said to herself in excitement. "Got my rag, got my taser, yep. Okay, we're good to go."

And so, having secured any necessities, she moved out of the room and down the stairs outside just outside her door. When looking around, one may have thought it looked a bit small. When in actuality, it was the perfect size for them. Two bathrooms on both floors, three bedrooms up on the second floor, a well-furnished and decorative living room, a decently sized kitchen and dining room, and, of course, her father's personal gallery. Overall, a pretty nice little home for them both.

"Maybe I'll stop by the arcade and see how they're doing. I think they've got a new game coming in. What was it called? Monster's Rage, I think?" She tried remembering, while marching towards the front door.

Her words hadn't fallen on deaf ears however. For the gripped the door knob, the stern voice of her father called out to her.

"Hold it."

For a 45-year-old, his overall physical status hadn't lessened one bit. Still just as toned as back his younger days of being an officer. Although, the hair could have done with some improving. Anyone could tell by the way it shined, that he used gel to slick it back. Did it look good? Yeah. Was it a bit gross? Kind of.

"What? I'm going out for my morning jog."

"Mhm. And what was that about an arcade?"

Oh, caught in the act again. Out of her hobbies, throwing away money on worthless machines wasn't something he approved of.

"Dang it…"

"Julie, you know how I feel about you wasting money on those things." He sighed in disappointment, before holding out his right hand. "Hand it over."

"Seriously? There's not that much." She whined, after reaching inside her pocket for the little coin purse.

"Nevertheless, I'd rather you save what you have, than throw it away so willy nilly." He started, combing back a few blonde locks.

"Come on. A few quarters."

"I said no, Julie."

"One quarter."

"Nope."

Talk about being strict. Then again, it shouldn't have as a surprise. Fathers were fathers, and their children were their lives most of the time. And the same went for Mr. Rorik Scott. Probably not best to push her luck.

"Fine." She sighed in defeat.

"That's my girl." He chuckled, giving her head a little pet. "You remind me so much of your mother, especially your stubbornness."

"Really? Bet that was a fun time, huh?" She teased.

"Hm…maybe a bit. If anything, it kept me out of trouble." He chuckle, having found it a little humorous. "Anywho, I'll see you back around lunch, okay?"

"Yep. As promised."

"Good. Have fun and be wary of predators. They could be anywhere."

"No worried, I've got a couple things for them." She assured, giving the left pocket a pat. "…You sure I can't have just two?"

"Nope."

"Thought so." She said with a little smile, before opening the door. "See you at lunch."

Watching her leave was hardly ever easy. In fact, it could be downright worrisome. Gangs weren't a problem, for sure, but it wouldn't stop local punk scum from causing trouble now and then. The way they treated girls like pieces of meat, it sickened him? But what of his daughter? An 18-year-old, all alone on the town, without any backup? What could have possibly gone wrong? Lots of thing. Still, out of respect, he chose to quite the storm in his mind.

"You're overthinking it again, Rorik. It'll be okay, she'll be perfectly fine" He kept telling himself, after walking the other way. "Go to your happy place. Your colorful, artistic, happy place."

Fresh air, sunshine, and not a cloud in the sky, could she have asked for better jogging weather? It sure beat the crap out of being crammed inside several small rooms for 7 hours, five days a week. Being cautious of any oncoming cars, she carefully made her way across the street, towards the local park. Now, normally she'd take the long way around, in hope of more off. However, due to the wonderful weather conditions, what better place was there for a relaxing jog than a beautiful, lush park?

"Alright, let's go." She huffed, while moving forth. "On the plus side, it'll get me to the arcade faster."

The overall atmosphere felt very nice. Birds were chirping, while the light from the sun helped illuminate everything in the surrounding area. Flowers and trees, all looked splendid when captured in its rays. As did the fountain up ahead, for who's ever running water glistened. Such things helped enhance said atmosphere, as she followed along the dirt path.

"Mmm, yeah. This is good, this is really good." She happily sighed. "Oh. I know, I'll hit up the forums and see what's coming out this week. There's gotta be something coming out this week."

Summer time meant free time, and free time meant game time. Every so often she'd sign into the first video game forum that came to mind, in search of something new for her PC library. At times plenty came up, at others, not so much. It solely depended on what her fellow gamers were talking about. In the midst of her thoughts, a specific noise caught her attention. The footsteps of someone following behind. Another runner, perhaps? She'd find out soon enough, as their shadow approached from her right.

"Are they following me, or-." She questioned.

In that moment, an answer was given to her. From behind, a boy jumped forth, nearly startling her in the process. By his appearance, they looked about the same age. His long, black hair, having been tied back into a ponytail, dropped down to his lower back. While his eyes shined like pieces of orange Clinohumite. For a moment, it felt as if time had come to a halt, as their eyes met. Only for him to speak up.

"You-"He said in a soft tone.

"Me?" She questionably asked.

"You...dirty…little sky rat!" He exclaimed from out of nowhere.

"…Sky rat?"

Watching him run ahead meant the insult hadn't been directed towards her, but a bird, who'd somehow gotten a hold a slice of cheese toast. Back and forth he ran, bobbing and weaving between the surrounding trees, in trying to catch the stupid thing and reclaim his snack. As stupid as he looked, and as loud as he could be, seeing him jumping up and down to try and grab the creature made her chuckle.

"What's with this guy?" She wondered, finding it difficult to hold in the laughter.

How could someone be so desperate as to go after an innocent pigeon? Moving closer to the fountain, an opportunity arose to reclaim what had been his.

"Get back here! You'd best be ready to face your punishment, fowl. You'll be on my barbecue pit soon enough." He scowled, kicking off its stone surface.

Using the structure as a stepping stone, he'd hoped to achieve cheesy deliciousness. So close, he could almost smell it. Reaching out further, his fingertips brushed against its flaky crust. So close, just one more grab. A shame luck hadn't blessed him.

"I've got-Wait, where are you going?" He hissed, as it flew into the distance. "You bird bastard!"

In a soft thud, he returned to Earth, having landed on his left shoulder as a result. Seeing it happen almost caused her to cringe, after having recollected of a similar fall way back in her pre-teen years. It nearly popped the point out of its socket.

"Oof. Is he alright?" She wondered, while walking over.

Fate mustn't have abandoned him completely, having sustained no physical injuries. Then again, the soft dirt may have helped out. Rolling over on his back, the bright sun bestowed upon him its warmth. Like he needed it.

"Yeah, thanks, just what I need. More freaking heat." He groaned, feeling only disappointment. "I lost to a freaking bird…"

Such an embarrassment. How could an animal have outwitted him? Had he been too slow? Or too lenient? Whatever the case, it couldn't be helped. The thing had made off with his only piece of breakfast, leaving his stomach grumbling with hungry. It couldn't get much worse. Oh how wrong he was. To help take his mind off the outcome, he tried resting his eyes. Only for a gentle, feminine voice catch his attention.

"Are you okay?" He heard her ask.

"Hm? Who what?" He asked in return, before opening them back up.

A girl, around the same age as him, was kneeling over him. Her hair resembling the color of a rose, and eyes as beautiful as Amethyst stones. Speechless. What beauty could have taken in interest in a weirdo like himself?

"You're not hurt, are you?" She asked in the same sweet voice.

Feeling the situation growing more awkward, he instantly jumped back to his feet. As if nothing had happened.

"Never better." He assured her.

"You sure? You're shoulder isn't dislocated, is it?"

"I assure you, I'm perfectly fine." He promised, flashing a confident smile. "I've taken worse falls than that before."

"If you're sure." She said in a suspicious tone.

Judging only by their conversation, he seemed pretty nice. Though maybe a little weird. So long as he hadn't hurt himself though, she was happy.

"So…um…you…?"

"Al, you can call me, Al."

"Al, huh? Mine's Julie, just so you know." She announced, offering up a friendly handshake.

The way she presented herself certainly piqued his interested. They'd just met, yet, she felt the need to worry about his well-being. An interesting character, for sure.

"Pretty name. Though, I would have guessed Rose." He teased, giving the hand a firm shake.

"Is it the hair?" She asked.

"Mhm. Still, Julie's a good name."

"Thanks." She said, smiling at the friendly comment. "So what was that all about?"

"Right. I was sitting not too far away from here, ready to enjoy what I thought would be my breakfast. Then this stupid bird came down and snatched it from my hands. Ungrateful little thing."

The thought alone caused a giggle to escape her mouth. Never had she seen someone so desperate for something so petty in her life.

"It's not that funny…" He muttered.

"A little." She giggled, finding it hard to stop.

"Oi. Well, have a good day, I guess."

"Wait, I didn't mean it like that. I promise." She pleaded, having forgotten her manners. "Sorry."

As much it stung, the fact she came over at all, as well as apologized, helped him look past it. Every one made mistakes, right? It would have been petty to walk away.

"Not that it's any of my business, but where were you headed?" He asked out of curiosity.

"The arcade. Nothing too special."

"Really? You're a usual?"

"You don't know the half of it. I've been going there since I was 10. Kind of a home away from home."

"You don't say. When are you usually there?"

"Kind of depends, but usually between 7 in the morning and 12. Sometimes I'll go in the afternoon if nothing else is going on."

"Holy cow this is weird."

"Hm?"

"I think I've just met my gaming double." He said in amazement. "Quick, what's your favorite games?"

"Oh, uh, Air Hockey, Alien Showdown, and Covenant."

"Two out of three, not bad."

"You like them too?"

"Mostly Air Hockey and Alien Showdown. Not really into the whole aim and shoot kind of games."

It too surprised her quite a bit. Rarely did she meet a stranger who held the same interest, let alone the same games. What luck! On a side note, he seemed pretty friendly. Not at all a pervert or thug. The future was looking good.

"Are you doing anything?" She questioned.

"Nope."

"You want to go play some games?" She asked again, with a smile.

"Yep."

"Awesome! It should only take us 10 minutes, so-"She replied excitedly, only to remember what happened before leaving. "Oh shoot. I forgot."

"Something wrong?"

"My dad took my coin purse. I've got no money to use."

"No bills either?"

"No." She sighed.

Seeing her grow depressed, an idea came to mind. With it, both would have a fun time.

"Well, you're in luck. I've got around 15 dollars' worth of quarters in my pocket. I'd be willing to part with some." He offered out of the kindness of his heart.

"Really?! You're-Wait a minute, I know what's going on. You're gonna want something in return." She insinuated. "What's it gonna be?"

"Huh? I'm not sure what you're talking about, but if you want to pay me back, that's cool."

Crap, she'd screwed up!

"No-no, it's okay. It's just, most usually ask for something in return. You know?"

"Yeah, but, honestly, it's gotten kind of boring playing all by myself most of the time. And with you being you, I thought I'd help out." He sincerely explained.

"All alone, huh? I guess it couldn't hurt. Okay, lead the way." She instructed.

"Onward!"

Friendship: a part of life nearly everyone enjoyed. From creating memories though experiences, to shared feelings, it engrossed quite a bit of everyone's life. And for the first time in a while, she felt as if she'd met another one. Sweet, generous, kind of funny, Al had proven himself through and through. And while a darker side may have still been possible, to her, it felt unlikely. To her though, it felt very unlikely. Still, a little precaution wouldn't hurt anyone. Crowds of people cluttered the sidewalk, which was why they took the joggers/bike lane. Because of the city's population, separate walkways were built and blocked off for people who needed it. Big enough for both bikes and people, it provided a straight path a place called "Jack's Arcade Lounge". A fairly old place that's been up and running since the 1980s. Yet, the owner kept it up to date with the more popular games released. Where they going to try them out? Nope, they'd come for a classic: Air Hockey. Two quarters, that's all it took to start it up. It must have went on for nearly six minutes, with each putting up their best performance.

"Heh. You're pretty good at this, Julie." He panted, while blocking off the puck.

"Not too bad yourself." She said in return, knocking it back against the side. "But there's an obvious gap between in our skill levels."

The cocky tone in her voice, he didn't like the sound of it. Sliding the striker over in a defense position, he accidentally moved it a bit too far. Causing the puck to slide right by and into his goal. A semi loud jingle went off to signify thus.

"Heh heh, that's another point for me." She teased, casting a smirk his way. "Best up your game, Al, or you'll be standing in the loser's corner."

"Oh yes, that mighty one point. The horror! Whatever will I do?" He replied in a playful tone, grabbing the puck out from its pocket.

"Careful. Luck wasn't with you earlier, what makes you think it will be now?" She reminded him.

"…Thanks."

You know, as glad as he was for finding someone who liked the same hobby as himself, their meeting conditions could not have been any worse. No, strike that, it he'd accidentally run into her and groped her chest, that wouldn't have been the best first impression. Knocking it back, their next round began as usual. Drops of sweat dripped from their chins, as kept going at it. The game itself wasn't too exhausting, but coupled with the intense heat coming through the window next to them, along with a broken down air unite, they couldn't help it.

"Hold up, time." He said, wiping his forehead.

"Ready to quit?" She suggested.

"Not at all. Just gotta take this off." He grunted, throwing the blue top aside.

Leaving the white shirt to fend off the sun's rays. The way it clung to his body, mostly due to the sweat, gave his opponent a pretty significant view of his body. Other than a well-toned form, very little stood out as amazing or overly sexy. He definitely knew how to take care of himself.

"Ahhh. Much better. You feel like taking something too?" He teased, gesturing to her top.

"Uh, no thanks. Besides, I know your game here. You thought you could distract me with seduction. Trying to play those mind games, huh? I'll have you know, I'm not one of those who-"She began spouting off.

"Time in." He stated.

"Huh?"

Like clever rat, he's jumped at the opportunity for a free point, by scoring when at her most vulnerable. The victorious jingle played again, as he flashed her the same cocky smile. Hey, paying attention helped a lot.

"You cheat. That's a cheat!" she declared, frustrated by the ploy.

"I said "time in". Maybe if you were a bit quicker…" He pointed out, chuckling at her behavior.

"Tsk. Freaking cheater. We'll see whose side luck is on." She growled, before starting it up again.

Talk about intense. From that moment to the end of the game, both tried their hardest to out to the other. Al was quick, but Julie was a bit quicker in comparison. Moving from side to side, he tried blocking all attempts at advancement, only to come up short. In the end, his defenses weren't enough, giving her the victory. Eight to ten, the final score that ended it all. Yet, not a single drop of salt came from his mouth. In fact, he did the honorable thing, and treated her to a nice, refreshing drink from the vending machine near the entrance.

"Whew. Who knew you could sweat so much from a game. I feel like the Wicked Witch." She said with slight contentment, while wiping her face with her clean rag.

"Same. My shirt's probably going to collapse into a glob of sludge soon." He replied with a smile, heading back over. "Here. One water for you, and an Orange Cream Soda for me."

"Thanks." She said in appreciation.

With a sigh of relief, she took a few sips, feeling its coolness wash over her body nearly instantaneously. A welcoming feeling, after playing for nearly fifteen straight minutes. He also enjoyed his drink, having chugged nearly half of it at once.

"Nice chugging skills." She said in response, finding it a little amusing.

"Ah! Thanks. How's yours?"

"Refreshing. Thanks for the game and drink."

"No prob. I should be the one thanking you, though." He said in a thankful tone. "My other friends are always so busy, it's kind of tough getting them down here. So it's good to find someone else who shares the same passion."

"Heh. You're welcome." She chuckled, giving his back a playful pat. "You don't have a job or anything?"

"Kind of, it's more of a situational deal. Go in, do what needs doing, and leave, that's pretty much how it goes. Simple and clean." He explained. "What about you?"

"Not at the moment, but…I do have something I want to do. But I'm not sure how dad would like it."

"Is it dangerous?"

"Yeah. I…I really want to become a police officer."

Okay, he didn't expect that. Due to her looks, he would have guessed super model.

"Really?"

"Mhm. There's a lot of scum out there, and I want to protect everyone from their stupidity. You know?"

"Yeah, I get you. It's a nice dream. But, I'm more interested in what you'd look like in uniform. Would probably be pretty hot." He teased, giving a mischievous grin.

"In a police uniform?" She asked, giggling slightly.

"Hey, we all have our preferences. I like women in uniforms. Plus, you're already cute, it would only add to that."

"And you just say that out of the blue. You're a pretty weird one, Al."

"You got that right." He agreed, giving off a bright smile.

Before continuing their conversation though, he phone began vibrating. A possible phone call, maybe? Nope. A text message, from someone named Emma.

"A friend?" She wondered.

"Sister, actually." He corrected, opening up the message.

It read:

In need of your help. Please come to the usual spot.

Sincerely,

Emma

"Crap. And when I thought I'd have more time too."

"Your job?"

"Yeah. It sucks, but I've gotta get going." He groaned in dissatisfaction, while grabbing his shirt.

"Oh, okay. Well thanks for the game and all." She graciously stated, in response to his kind sentiments. "Maybe we can meet up some other time."

For a moment he stopped, after opening the door, taking her offering into consideration. It wasn't every day a girl asked him such a question. Why not follow it up?

"Actually, I'll probably have tomorrow off. Want to hang out then?"

"Where at?"

"You know how they have this big festival after schools are let out? We can go there and hang." He suggested. "There'll be lots of food and rides. Surely you like that."

"Hmmm…Isn't that usually downtown? Kind of risky, isn't it?"

"Psh. Trust me, they'll end up with a few broken bones when I'm done with 'em. I guaranty that."

A pretty tough decision, admittedly. On one hand, it sounded like fun, but, on the other, downtown Magnolia was known for its annoyances. Mostly thugs and muggers. Then again, a simple bus ride would remedy that. And plus, they'd get to talk more. The only obstacle in her way, was the big man himself.

"Can we meet down there at nine in the morning?"

"Sure. No problem here."

"Not sure how my dad will react, but if I don't show up, could you bring me a little souvenir?" She asked of him, in a most innocent tone.

"I'll buy you two. Oh, before I forget-." He told her, before reaching into his left pocket. "A little something for being a pal."

As a token of appreciation, she receive seven dollars in quarters. More than enough to keep playing if she wanted.

"Wait, you can't just give me this. We just met and all."

"Sure I can, I just did. See ya."

And like that, he left. Leaving her with a small gift and possible day of fun to look forward to.