Right, first off, I'm back. Kind of. Not really I guess. I'm not sure if I'll continue writing this story, because as you might have gathered there isn't much plot happening yet and since I'm incapable of finishing anything... Well, you get what I mean.
The main reason I deleted chapter nine and changed it, was because although the story and the characters and the narrative are ridiculous, some line must be drawn. And I'm drawing it at tinfoil underwear, guys, but you do you, this is just me. So I removed that and made it a bit more... something. I can't tell myself.
Have this modified version.
Screeching, Broken and the Alternative
After the initial shock of having travelled back to earth by tearing up a magical leaf as well as doubting having ever actually left this plane at all, Shawn grabbed me and pulled me to my feet.
"Fun, huh?" He grinned at me and nodded enthusiastically as he stroked the trunk next to him. His movements were small and affectionate, almost as if it was an animal, not an immobile tree.
I opened my mouth to respond, although I'm not sure if it would have been positive or negative, but I was cut off before anything managed to breach my lips. Gingey crashed through the tree like an inept bird, learning to fly for the first time and failing miserably.
However, somehow, he had managed to land on his feet, without a scratch on him. Still, he moaned as he stood, grimacing and kneading his stomach.
"I don't like tree travel," Felix moaned, his mouth settled in a pout.
Despite the fact that it was awfully unfair that I'd crash-landed like plane without wings and he'd gotten away with not even a smidge of embarrassment, I couldn't help the grin that spread on my face. I was in Brooklyn. Back in the place where I was supposed to be. One step closer to being back to normal.
By the time Gingey had stopped whining about his stomachache, Shawn had figured out the place we were supposed to confront the disturbance with the map he had somehow produced from somewhere. Apparently, he'd grabbed it from General's desk when I'd been… Incapacitated.
He led us through streets and alleys, passing semi familiar buildings and thousands of cars. It was comforting to hear the buzz of morning traffic, the bustle of people roaming the streets, the greasy smell coming from the hotdog stands we passed. Just like it was supposed to be. Just like home.
As I followed, I started plotting out my escape piece by piece. I thought about making a mad dash through the busy traffic and ducking into a subway station, but I honestly didn't like the images that popped into my head. The thought of getting run over by a car or slipping on the stairs to the subway left me with shivers.
I thought about hailing a taxi while the others weren't paying attention. It could have worked, sure, but the process would take too long and if Gingey didn't realize, then Shawn sure as hell would've.
Shawn slowed his pace and Gingey's incessant fidgeting started up, which distracted me enough to forget about my intentions. Our party of three had gathered at the corner of an alley, huddled together as if we were about to call out a rally shout for our fellow football buddies.
Needless to say, that's not what happened next. What did happen, was that my ears started bleeding.
Not literally, although that might have been preferable, since then there would have been something to clog up my ears from that god-awful sound. There were no words to describe the screeching that rang out from the alley, but it could very well be characterized by the way the people passing by stared inside.
Their faces were all contorted into some kind of grimace, be it pain or confusion or just plain disgust. I must have had one of those expressions plastered all over my own features at the time. Hell, even Shawn looked mildly horrified. His hand travelled to his belt, hovering over the hilt of his knife.
Gingey looked nervous.
"What the hell is that?!" I said, pressing my palms against my ears only to notice that the noise didn't sound muffled in the least, just kept right on blaring. I let my arms fall back to my sides in defeat.
"I guess this massacre of a melody is our disturbance. Wow, how have these people not moved out yet." Shawn spoke with his voice raised, to somehow try and make himself heard. Despite his jovial tone, his fingers curled around his weapon.
When I looked over at Gingey to see whether or not he'd begun crying yet, his eyes were narrowed in thought. The way his eyebrows were furrowed, and his lips were pressed into a tight line made me wonder if he was about to combust, but then he snapped his fingers with a self-satisfied expression on his face. He looked not only like a lightbulb had gone off above his head, but as if he himself was that very lightbulb.
I was mentally searching for the switch to turn him off again.
"I've got it!" he exclaimed, nudging us with way too much enthusiasm considering the headache that was slowly building from the screeching ahead.
"What? Got what," I grumbled, sharing a look with Shawn.
"It's a –" Felix began, only to be cut off by the most horrendous noise imaginable. Like nails in a shredder. Like cracking bones. Like mosquitos flying too close to your ear. Like squeaking wood.
Whatever it was, it had started singing.
Shawn's eyes widened in what I deemed to be recognition and Gingey was nodding at himself. In all honestly, I was just desperate to get away.
Shawn turned the corner first, motioning for the two of us to follow, and it would have been the perfect moment to make a run for it. But then my arm was grabbed and Gingey dragged me after him.
At first, I didn't see anything passed Shawn's shoulders except for the garbage stacked against the walls. From the way everything smelled like rotten take-out and feces, this place had been abandoned for at least a month or two, the only fresh waste stemming from the window on the third floor. Below it, a decent sized pile of diapers had started building up.
Shawn turned sideways, to let us stand next to him. Probably to make us look more intimidating, which was a hard feat to best, considering how Gingey was an orange toothpick, I looked like an angsty teenager and Shawn was still barefoot, which was honestly repulsing.
Gingey tugged me forward.
Now that my vision was no longer blocked, I could finally lay eyes on the abomination that was emitting those ungodly sounds. Before us, sprawled out on the ground with only his head propped up against the wall behind it, was a creature with horns protruding from its skull. The whole thing was covered in hair, head, chin, chest and legs. Although it covered all sensitive areas, I still felt like clothing would have made me feel slightly more comfortable, especially if it had covered the hoofs where feet should have been.
I flicked my eyes back to its face, and my vision went out of focus for a second before I saw things clearly again. The creature's mouth was ripped open in song, eyes closed, as if it was entirely immersed in the 'music'. From the looks of it, it hadn't even noticed we were there, its fingers just kept on plucking at the strings of the small harp resting on its abdomen.
The screeching vibrations echoed in the empty bottles of liquor strewn around the figure.
When I snapped my head to the right to stare at Shawn and finally ask him what this thing was, the thing in question disappeared from sight. Whiplash ached in the back of my neck after I'd turned back to the front and there it was again, contently trilling out a song straight from hell.
"What in the living hell is this?" I said, not daring to look away this time.
"It's a faun!" Gingey said, excited and bouncing on the balls of his feet. He seemed to have gotten over the fact that the deafening sound hadn't stopped yet.
Shawn nodded, heaving a deep sigh and shuffling closer. At first, he tried to clear his throat in order to get the faun's attention, which didn't work, of course. He resorted to bumping his naked foot against the hairy calf, which made my stomach churn. The faun only shrugged and kept right on blaring.
I'd had enough. My ears had had enough. I stepped forward, shoved Shawn to the side with more trouble than I care to admit.
"Will you shut up?!" I yelled, and accentuated it with a rough stomp to the ground, which only served the purpose of not exploding. I saw Gingey shift behind me and Shawn stare at me from the side.
The noise stopped abruptly. No more screeching. No more bleeding ears. It was such a relief that I couldn't hold back the sigh of contentment that rushed out of my nostrils. It was almost as if the whole neighborhood did the same.
When the faun tilted his head to the front and blinked, he stared back in my direction. He seemed to be in a daze, with how his eyes were unfocused, trying to find something to latch onto. It must have been the liquor still affecting him.
At some point he must have realized that it was him we were talking to. That we were capable of seeing the mess he was. He raised a sluggish eyebrow.
"Whadaya wan'?" he slurred, making a grab for the bottle next to him and taking a swig from it before any of us could protest.
Gingey took a step forward, shifting from foot to foot uncomfortably before he let his hands glide down the front of his rumpled shirt and cleared his throat. I could see the muscles of his back coil together tightly, like a cobra preparing to attack, although there wouldn't be an attack. Not when it was weird, awkward, way too timid Gingey trying to convince a drunk faun to fuck off.
"Sir, we are with the OU, you might have heard of our services –" Felix started, but was promptly interrupted by an awful chocking sound that might have been a laugh, but might have also been a dying rat in a sewage drain.
"You's with 'em good guys, aintcha?" he scoffed again, and spit flew in our general direction, "You's a joke, boy. But lemme listen to watcha gotta say ta me."
I couldn't see Gingey's face exactly, but I could imagine well enough his offended face, complete with puffy cheeks and a pout. Shawn on the other hand stayed completely aloof and took over.
"With all due respect," there was really no respect there from my humble side, thank you very much, "there have been complaints concerning your music," Shawn paused on the word, probably tasting the sour tang that came with it when used to describe that atrocious noise, "and we are here to ask you to leave."
"Please," Gingey added, lifting a finger right along with his pleading eyebrows.
Just from the look of his face I deduced that he was hoping for this to go smoothly with full cooperation. Hell, even I wanted that, if it spared my teeth and feet from General's sadistic tendencies, but I was less naïve. This faun was drunk. This faun didn't respect Gingey's weird organization and he most certainly wasn't going to do anything that wouldn't benefit him.
Taking care of the problem would either involve negotiation, yelling or a fist fight.
"You's a funny bunch," he giggled and strummed his dainty fingernails across the strings of his harp, somehow making it sound awful, "but imna stay 'ere 'til ma energy's filled up, yeah? And you boy's can jus' run 'long."
There was a harsh rasping in the back of his throat as he spoke, and the moment he was done he burst out in a violent coughing fit, which he washed down with more liquor.
I threw a questioning look to Shawn who had by now crossed his arms in minor annoyance. He looked at the watch that had been covered by his dark shirt before furrowed his brows. There was a startled look on his face when he realized I'd been watching, but he just shrugged it off and turned to look back at the problem at hand. He'd pulled the dagger out of its sheath at some point and the way the blade was reflecting the light sent shivers down my spine.
He hadn't answered my non-verbal question. Too preoccupied with the time. I huffed a breath and decided to actually say it this time.
Gingey spoke up above the strumming of the harp, "Fauns draw energy from people's enjoyment of their music. See that shimmer in the air over there?" He gestured back to the street where we'd come from.
For a moment, all I saw were the cars and the people's confused expressions, until I noticed the way the air seemed to shift around a thin line of gold just above the hood of a range rover. The puffs of gas that steadily rose from the vehicle's exhaust fluctuated there, as if there was a small gust of wind disturbing the rise.
"I see it," I said, facing Gingey, Faun gone from the corner of my eye. "What is it?
"S'my radius, kid," the creature slurred, which was honestly offensive. I raised an eyebrow at him in challenge as soon as he came back into my field of vision. Something about his occasional disappearing act didn't seem quite normal. My right eye ached.
"Don't call me kid, goat," I snapped back, only to see him raise a hairy eyebrow of his own. He didn't bother retorting though, seemingly preferring to simply take another large gulp of cheap whisky. "Radius of what?" I mumbled then.
"Anyone beyond the radius is outside his range, so they won't hear his awful racket," Shawn supplied.
"Watchu say 'bout ma music, boy?"
"He said you sound like a Justin Bieber concert," I said, which made Shawn break his mostly indifferent exterior and burst out laughing instead.
"Do you mean his voice or the girls," he asked through labored breaths, to which I shrugged, only making him giggle more.
The faun stopped the strumming to set down the bottle on the ground next to him. I didn't like the way his fists clenched. I didn't like angry drunks at all. Shawn didn't seem to notice.
"But anyway, even if you stay for another century, you won't get full with the way you're playing, buddy. So make it easier for all of us and just go back to what you were doing before."
From the way the creature glared at us, he didn't appreciate what Shawn had said. Eyes narrowed and occasionally falling closed due to the alcohol, mouth curved in a frown and forehead creased, the faun stumbled to his feet. He pointed his harp at each of us individually.
"I ain't got nowhere ta go, ye bastards. Ma wife took ma childr-" he hiccupped, gargled, then started again, "Ye don't tell me what ta do, little boys. I imna stay 'ere."
"Sir, please, your music is disturbing people in the neighborhood. Take that into consideration, please," Gingey said, fidgeting with his fingers and then, for good measure, adding, "Sir."
Instead of acceptance, the faun just gurgled out a laugh. I was inclined to join in. Honestly, if Gingey actually wanted this drunk mess to get out of his ginger hair, then he needed to step up his game and abandon the respectful act.
I slapped his arm.
"This isn't going anywhere," I said, stepping closer to the faun, "this goat won't listen to us even if you go groveling on your knees."
Gingey looked about as shocked as he had when he'd caught on fire in the training room, but said nothing. The faun looked massively annoyed, eyebrows furrowed and all, even having gone as far as to set down the bottle.
I crouched down, so I was balanced on the balls of my feet, and I was perfectly eyelevel with this screeching thorn in our side. He didn't look less angry from the new vantage point.
"Get out of here or I'll break your stupid harp in half."
Gingey gasped behind me.
The goat cracked his neck and straightened his back. His face was way closer to mine than necessary. I could smell the alcohol on his breath and there were drops of the liquid running down his chin and into his utterly cliché goatee.
"I don't believe you, twig," he said, emphasizing his insult with a quick jab at my arm.
He didn't react fast enough when I made a grab for his stupid angel harp, but he cried out in time with the crack of the wood.
"AAAAAAAAA!" – "Noooooooooooooo-"
Seriously, all Gingey and the faun had shouted at the same time and I was debating whether I'd preferred the singing over this. When I glanced over my shoulder to Shawn, he only seemed mildly annoyed, like it was simply a minor inconvenience. The grave look on Gingey's face, however, said otherwise.
Although the voices were insistent and really droning in my ears, as I stared back at the instrument in my hands. It was sizzling where I'd broken it apart, little flecks of gold floating in the air. I dropped the pieces when a burst of heat shot through the wood and colored the palms of my hands a rosy pink color.
I didn't like pink. I yelped.
"What were you thinking?" Gingey hissed, grabbing my shoulder and spinning me around on my heels.
He looked a little sick, as he wobbled from one foot to another to regain balance. The paleness that always went with his gingery self, had seemingly reached a whole new level and I assumed it had something to do with the apparent taboo I'd just committed.
Shawn just seemed exasperated. His fingers tightened around the hilt of his dagger.
"You can't just break a faun's harp – it's sacred. You owe him now," Gingey squeaked, jabbing his fingers at Shawn to get a reaction, which he didn't get.
"And you say that now?"
"You didn't give me a chance to intervene!" Gingey shot back, waving frantically with his too long arms. "Oh no! What if he asks for your hair! You'll look hideous!"
I punched him in the arm for good measure. I yelped right along with him, because my stupid brain kept forgetting about the broken fingers.
"We don't have time to find out what he'll ask for," Shawn hissed, squeezing his watch. His eyes were narrowed to slits, lips pressed into a thin line and skin taut. "Faun, do you choose to disregard this mishap and be on your way or will you face the alternative?"
The faun looked up from the broken pieces of his harp and stared for what felt like an eternity. Then said, "Fuck you, kid. I wan' his liver n' his heart n' I ain't goin' nowhere."
The next thing I saw, was a dagger whizzing through the air and embedding itself perfectly in the center of the faun's forehead.
I'm well aware that not continuing to upload right here is rude as hell. I'm sorry. I have one more chapter half-way done, not ready in the least. I'm very unhappy with it, but that's nothing new.
I don't love it, I don't hate it (the story as a whole), I guess it's just this thing I had so many ideas for and too little skill and time and motivation and love for my own writing to continue. There were so many things that were supposed to happen. It's unfortunate but people, we have to move on to bigger and better things and who knows, maybe I'll see this someday and say to myself : "Wow, this is garbage let's rewrite it and make it something worthwhile."
Thanks for sticking with me. I do appreciate it.