Bitter Sun

by elie

Hi, I am Elie Attie, and I was born in Lebanon. I have always been interested in reading, and writing...

[Editor’s note: I’d like to thank Elie for submitting this story. Despite having some problems with formatting, I found it to be an interesting story with a lot of potential, so I have posted it as it was received. If you have any suggestions as to how to make this story better, please leave them in the comments section at the bottom of the page.]

This story starts like any other story, maybe, I’m not sure…

Karac (the main character) was lying on his bed, the only comfortable furniture in his one room apartment, I say only comfortable furniture because he owned other stuff, for example the record player he bought from his old neighbor for the hefty sum of $70, a collection of records old and new; a big part inherited from his uncle and the rest gathered (illegally maybe) from the various record shops around town with music ranging from Rock and Roll, the Blues and Desert Rock. He of course was in possession of a laptop, and the building had internet service for all his needs. The Shack also contained a small fridge, a heating plate and plumbing (toilet, shower and sink included). An acoustic guitar lay against the corner of the room, so did an electric Gibson Les Paul, next to an Orange amp.

So yeah, he was lying on his bed gazing out the window, flying above the stars thanks to a craving sated by no means through his laptop.  The record player was spinning “Lost In The Cold Sun” by Earthless, and a cool night breeze gently dried the sweat accumulated on a hot summer day.

Since he was living in the city, it is only natural that the record player wasn’t the only thing producing noise. The city, especially in summer talked, and tonight it had a lot to say. Tonight the streets were laughing, singing the latest pop songs and speaking in a multitude of languages.  This suits Karac just fine, the mélange of his own world, the music, and the universe made him feel like he was part of something, a collective, without having to actually make an effort. For after all what is a rebel if he doesn’t have anything to rebel against.

Suddenly, a rap at the door. Who could it be, at the midnight hour?  Thought our leading main. He was accustomed to having visitors at all times, but he always wanted to use the term midnight hour in a sentence. He chuckled and painfully got up, wore a pair of jeans and slowly, as if in a daze (not as if, he was in a daze) made his way towards the noise.

They were now sitting on the floor, him and his guest, silent. One from disbelief, and the other with an amused smirk on his lips (lips isn’t exactly the correct term).  Karac was staring at a man in a suit, although maybe, he wasn’t as sure as to the gender of the being sitting across him. He wore a suit dark as night, Torn and frayed at the jacket and pant sleeves, and two sizes too big. The pants were supported by a fat leather belt with different symbols engraved into it, a spiral sun, a howling coyote, and many others giving it a Mexican look. He also wore brown cow boy boots and only had two hairs sticking out of the top of his skull, wild hairs short and frizzled always on the cusp of drifting away. How did Karac know that the being was male? Well because as he was staring at him with eyes that showed disbelief and a mind on the verge of madness, the stranger told him who he was. This is what he said more or less: ‘Hey man, I’m Robert Johnson’s skeleton, you like the boots? I’ve been to Mexico recently.’

Robert Johnson’s skeleton was staring, (although how can you stare when you have no eyes, just infinite black amidst hard hitting white) at a man in his twenties, wearing a rumpled pair of jeans, and a big circular earring on the bottom of his left ear. His hair was shoulder length and very curly, and he sported a week old beard. He had a thin kind of muscular build. Although you couldn’t really tell because of the hair on his chest, which also covered his arms and legs. A look that fazed many people today, but not a 103 year old person/ skeleton that spent most of its lifetime on the road.  Upon reflection he kind of looked like Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac circa 1976. A year in which Robert Johnson’s skeleton attended many music festivals.

The needle scratched, and the music stopped. Robert Johnson’s skeleton stood up, almost killing karac of a heart attack, because when faced with the complete unknown, any movement can be seen as unusual, as deadly, and as incomprehensible. And went to the record player, he shuffled through the stack of records and finally, with a satisfied gesture picked up Shinki and Friends. He carefully put it on the turn table. He placed the needle at the middle part of the 33 and” Gloomy Reflections” came on. He walked back, and slowly sat on the floor, he said: ‘Ah shinki Chen what a treasure of a record this is.’

Karac was staring. Still, breathing regularly. No signs of panic, always on the verge, never getting there. He stretched his arm, and reached for the ashtray. He took the hand rolled cigarette, brought it to his lips, and lit it.

Robert Johnson’s skeleton looked at the hand making an arc from the ashtray to the lips with an intensity that reflected strong desire. It was too early to reach for it. It was dangerous, might kill the kid, if sitting motionless was fine, movement however slow (it might seem ominous), or fast (it might seem like an attack), was still a couple of steps away from the realms of acceptance.
Robert Johnson’s skeleton spoke his voice raspy but commanding:’ okay, this is what you know. I am Robert Johnson’s skeleton, and when I remain motionless you don’t get hurt. This is what you will further accept: I am Robert Johnson’s skeleton, when I move you don’t get hurt’.  With that he stood and walked three swift steps towards Karac who remained stationary, his body tense. He was tall, if karac was 1m 88cm tall, he was at least 5cm taller, he bent down slowly and reached for the ashtray, he took “it” to his lips and further said: ‘So, want to meet a soul?’

The noise on the street had quieted down, and only the low music coming out of the player could be heard. Rob went to the corner and picked up the acoustic guitar. He went and sat next to Karac, still tense, and began strumming the instrument. The particular brand of blues and its subsequent darkness filled Karac’s head. He reached for a bottle of cheap Whiskey and took a small swig. He passed it to Rob, who stopped playing, put down the guitar, and after a moment took the bottle. He chugged. Put the bottle down, and resumed.

They sat in silence all night, as in no one said a word, passing the bottle back and forth. The record player long quieted, the only sound coming from Rob sliding his fingers up and down the fret board, singing his songs.  By the wee hours of the morning Rob asked: ‘So, you want to meet a soul?’

Karac spoke, a stuttering whimper:’ whose soul?’ ‘Mine was the answer given back, or should I say Robert Johnson’s soul’. ‘Where is he?’ asked the former. ‘You know the legend; Robert sold his soul to the devil in exchange for amazing guitar skills.  At age 27 the devil came to collect.’

Okay, was all Karac could muster to say, and with that the toll of the night took him and he fell asleep.

The busy streets woke him; he looked around his apartment, barely daring to breath, empty. He put on a red cotton shirt and a pair of black converse. He checked his face in the mirror, red blood shot eyes and dark rings underneath, a bad taste of Alcohol and Tobacco lingered on his tong. He brushed his teeth, and cooled his face. As he left he reached for a box of smokes sitting atop the record player. He lit one and hit the pavement. He wandered around aimlessly, the hard sun hitting his skin, telling him that this was all real. He stopped at a bar, not really checking which one. The place was dark soothing his sun grazed face. He sat at a stool, and a gothic looking bartender took his order. His eyes followed her as she got him a beer; on the bar rest a copy book full of illustrations and lyrics. The beer came, he smiled and paid. She smiled and went back to her illustrations. At the back of the almost empty joint, except for a few college students, and workers enjoying the lunch hour, played a band. They were playing an acoustic version of a Red Hot Chili Peppers Song (not being a great fan, I couldn’t tell you which one). Afterwards they passed a hat around, and Karac dropped two bucks in it. Having finished his beer, he stood to use the bathroom, as he walked he saw a dark shadow sitting at a corner table. Fear struck him, but so did acceptance. Coming back, he headed to the figure’s table and sat down: ‘is this a coincidence, or have you been following me all day? ‘

They talked in hushed tones. ‘So are you in?’

‘Yeah I’m in Rob, but I can’t do it alone. I have this friend; I know he wouldn’t mind tagging along.’

‘Okay he can come.’

‘Good we’ll need to pick him up, he lives by the sea side a couple of cities over. We’ll ride the midnight train. It shouldn’t take us more than a couple of hours. By the way how come people don’t freak out when they see you? I mean how come your sitting here? ‘

‘Tell me. What was that bartender wearing?’

‘Umm…’

‘Exactly’, said Rob and after a pause added: ‘people are too preoccupied with their own lives.’

‘And if one sees you?’

‘Then I tell him his reality, and I tell him he accepts it.’

‘Oh’, said Karac a sad smile forming on his face.

Karac headed home, thinking of all the things he was going to need for this trip. His tooth brush, smokes, the acoustic guitar (for what is a road trip without a guitar, as cheesy as that sounds), money, music which his friend could provide along with the car, and his knife, or stiletto switchblade to be precise, usually hidden under his bed.  The rest, the road would have to provide.

Being packed and ready, he headed to the rendezvous point.  It was now dark outside. He had spent the afternoon listening to records and reading “The Savage Detectives” by Roberto Bolano. All the while smoking, and taking big swigs of Whiskey hoping it would calm him enough for what was now his reality.

Somewhere else:
Mick (short for Michael) went to the kitchen of his small seaside cabin. He had just come from a swim and was jonesing for a beer. He stood at the doorway, and watched a figure in Jeans and denim jacket bent at the fridge.  The Stereo was humming some 70’s white man blues in low tones (“Coast Road” by the Gravy Train, if you’d care to check it out). He approached, and grabbed her by the waist. She had wild ginger hair, very curly, seldom brushed, and was slim without being too skinny. With his other hand he reached for a beer. She turned around. Kissed him, grabbed him and after a few hasty steps took him on the wooden sink area.

Where we were before:
Rob and Karac were sitting on a bench in the train station silent, their baggage at their feet. When the train came into view, they stood, and with a deep heavy breath, headed to their wagon.  Rob was wearing a black hat. First, because it complemented his suit, and second, to strengthen the illusion of him not being.

The train was chugging along, sceneries drenched in darkness. Someone was listening to Exile on Main Street by the Stones and the sound carried over. Rob and karac were talking.
‘So, Robert’s soul really is in hell, huh?’

‘There is a place, lost amongst the stars and timelines. It has a guardian. Whether you think it heaven or hell is all up to you, answered Rob in a serious but friendly tone.’

‘So, this guardian…?’

‘He’s not who you think’, trailed Rob, ‘he was the first, a couple of millennia before the second.’

‘Oh’ I see karac whispered Karac, ‘and I suppose he’s the leader/ guardian because he knows the place best.’

‘Yeah’, nodded Rob and added, ‘and he also understood the ways of travel, that’s why “he” was able to come here and make a deal. The story has convulsed through the years. Fear playing a big part in it.’

‘So…what really happened?’ asked Karac shifting in his seat.

‘Well, Robert was an accomplished blues player. The guardian being hip to earthly sounds really fell in love with the music. One day he came to earth and proposed something to Robert.’ He said: ‘Robert, don’t be afraid, I am real accept it. Look I love your music, and when your soul leaves this place, when you will come to my kingdom I want you to play me your blues every day’. ‘Robert sensing the melancholy in this being, and feeling flattered accepted.  Of course he thought he still had long to live, how was he to know that a jealous husband would poison his drink, and end his life at age 27.’

‘Okay, so?’ Said Karac not really understanding; ‘if there was no foul play, then why this trip?’

‘Because…I’m still here’, was all Rob said in response.

Karac nodded, and they sat in silence once again. Rob was looking straight ahead of him when he noticed a man a few seats over, dressed in a red cloak. The man eyed Rob and gave him the middle finger, but did nothing else.

The train stopped, and the passengers left the wagon. The only three people remaining were Rob, Karac, and the red hooded stranger. All three of them stood at the same time, and exited to the now empty platform quietly, with caution. They stood facing each other. Karac knew there was trouble; Rob had said so during the ride. The man attacked first, swiftly. No words were exchanged. He ran at Karac and just before slamming into him, halted his step and side kicked him. The foot slammed into Karac’s jaw and he fell to his knees. He spat blood. ‘Damn’ he whispered ‘I was expecting a tackle’. With that the hooded man kneed him in the face. Karac went down cold; he looked at the clear sky and fainted, blood gushing from his mouth and nose.  Rob took of his hat and posed it next to the bags. The crimson figure walked towards him, he stopped a few centimeters away. This would be hard; he thought having clashed with Rob in the past. Rob stood, looked at him, and said:’ The Brotherhood of the Red Temple, will you guys ever leave me alone?’ ‘You should not be here’, his opponent spat back. Yeah tell me about it, thought Rob.

The human attacked first. He jabbed at Rob aiming for the face, this time he was wearing brass knuckles. Rob side stepped the jab, and caught the punch in a grip one hand on the outer side, and his arm resting against the elbow. He applied an immense amount of pressure, and a crack was heard. The assailant screamed in pain, he took a few long steps backs. Tears and snot ran down his face.  His vision, blurry and his hands shaking in panic, he searched his robe for something. A vial he unscrewed it with his teeth, and swallowed the bitter powder. ‘This’, he said to Rob his voice quivering, ‘makes the pain go away’. Suddenly he regained his composure, his bad arm dangling by his side. With his good arm he swiped the snot and tears.  ‘Crap’, thought Rob, ‘Mexican Mushrooms’. To be precise, it wasn’t just mushrooms it was a mixture of herbs and mushrooms, a medicine only known to the members of the Brotherhood.

A chill went through Robs bones. He looked around the platform for an escape…There was a hall way in the wall, but it was too far. The train, but the doors were shut. Plus he couldn’t leave Karac passed out on the floor. No choice but to fight. He ran towards Red, his figure tall, and imposing.  The other one waited. Suddenly when Rob was at arm’s reach, Red jabbed. Rob expecting this blocked it with his elbow. The Brass knuckle against bone damaged both. Except one couldn’t feel the pain. Red front kicked, hitting the lower midriff, Rob took the hit. He hooked Red’s face, and a cut appeared right above his eye. They were like animals savagely beating the living hell out of each other with little regard to defense, except for killing blows.

Karac opened his eyes, his face hurt. He sat up, groaned, spit blood on the pavement, and tried to stand. The world spun around him, but he didn’t allow himself to fall. He slowly walked, swaying, towards the fight. The two others locked in blows, not realizing. He stopped at the bags. He opened his, and took out the switch blade. With a swift motion of the wrist the blade sprung. A few more steps; He was standing behind the red hooded punk. ‘Hey, mister pain don’t hurt’ he shouted before grabbing Red by the top of his head, and plunging the blade in his lower back. He kept his hand on the handle. Red sensing the sting of the blade but not much else turned his head and back fisted him. Karac staggered back, and fell, dropping the knife, he was out again. Rob catching this opportunity, tackled the now profusely bleeding assailant, and when he went down mounted him and punched him in the face until he felt the spirit leave the body.

Karac sat up, his back against a column, and took the rumpled pack of cigarettes out of his jeans pocket. He took one out, lit it, and threw the pack and lighter towards Rob. Rob caught them, and did the same. They stayed like that for two minutes, not talking just enjoying the soothing effects of the tobacco. Rob stood up of the definitely dead Red. ‘Come help me hide him’. Karac went to him, picked up his knife on the way, and helped Rob throw the body under the stationary train. ‘You think anyone saw us?’ asked Karac. Rob exhaled and said ‘come on, let’s go’.

They were in the train station’s bathroom, Karac washing the blood out of his beard and face, and Rob attending to his elbow. Suddenly karac lurched over. He staggered to a booth and puked violently. ‘Sorry, he said, now back at the sink, his elbows resting on the marble, ‘I’ve never stabbed a man in the back before’. ‘It was him or us’ answered Rob in a serious voice. ‘I know that’s why I did it’. ‘How’s your elbow? ‘It’ll heal.’ ‘Yeah, how do you that? Smoke, and drink and heal I mean.’  I don’t know but I have a theory’ said Rob as he looked at his skull in the mirror, checking for cracks. ‘Maybe I have strong ties to the earth, maybe that’s why I still live. She liked the vibrations of my music, and as long as I keep playing, she takes care of me. She makes me feel human.  She heels me, mud, water, plants, and I’ll be as good as new in a couple of days, also Milk helps a lot.’  ‘Umm Yeah sure’ answered Karac an amused look on his face.

They left the station.

They walked, carrying their baggage. ‘Mick lives an hour walk from here’ Karac told Rob.

On the way Karac inquired about the man in red. Rob told him a story. The man was part of the Red Temple Prayer Brotherhood, a small group of men who where based in the Mexican desert. They had a big church there.  ‘They captured me when I was camping in the desert, a bottle of spiked wine, and a box of smokes my only companions. There was a meteor shower that night, and it seemed like the perfect way to enjoy it. ‘They had attacked while he lay on the sand gazing at the starry sky, watching comets with multicolored tails shoot by.

At one point Rob went into a 7/11, and came back out with a bottle of tequila. He handed it to Karac and told him to drink. Karac gave him a puzzled look.  ‘It’s your nose, its broken’ was the answer he got back.

Rob took the lead, and led them into a dark alley. Karac unscrewed the bottle and took big gulps. He then reached into his pocket and lit a hand rolled “cigarette”. Knowing of what was to come. He took a few long drags, carefully put it out, and back. At this point Rob grabbed Karac’s nose, and using his two thumbs, readjusted it. He screamed in pain, and passed out. As he was about to fall Rob caught him and gently lay his back on the wall. He sat next to him, grabbed the acoustic guitar, and waited for his friend to wake up.

On the beach:
Mick woke up, and kissed his sleeping girlfriend Izzy on her belly button. He got out of bed, put on a pair of jeans, and lit a cigarette. He went to the kitchen, put a record on “Zeppelin 3”, and sat at the kitchen table thinking of the call he got last night. His high school friend Karac had called him and said: ‘hey man, me, and a friend are coming over, we’re taking you and Izzy on a road trip. See you in the morning’.  ‘My friend and I’ had responded Mick in his best Mister Vargas, their old English teacher, voice.  ‘Go screw yourself’ was the answer shouted back, followed by a laugh, and then the line went dead.

Mick laughed to himself, and started remembering all the road trips they had taken in the past, Mick, Izzy, and himself. Skipping school to go to music festivals, sleeping on the road, going to watch old movies in run down cinemas, going camping on the beach, getting in trouble with dealers, cops and nobodies…he smiled.

‘Hey babe’, Izzy said, bringing him back to reality as she entered the kitchen, she was dressed same as him. She grabbed his long blond curly hair, pulled his head back and kissed him. She ran her hand through his curly bare chest and lightly slapped his abdomen. ‘What’s for breakfast?’ ‘We’ve still got some cold pizza from last night’ he said getting up and grabbing the grub, and two beers from the fridge. They ate; him at the table, her sitting on the sink area. He got up and grabbed her by the waist; he then lifted her, and laughing, ran, with her on his back, towards the water. She was laughing hysterically, and they tripped landing face first in the sand, her a few centimeters away from him.  They laughed uncontrollably, looked at each other and ran to the water, a lustful look in their eyes.

Back in the alley
Karac woke up, feeling dizzy. He turned his head looking around as he travelled from the dream world back to this reality. Rob was sitting next to him playing some Mississippi blues, his audience the various alley cats sitting peacefully around them. ‘How long was I out?’ he asked. ‘Two hours’ Rob replied. They stood and went on their way. ‘So’ said Karac ‘continue your story’. Rob told him about being captured, how he was being held for two month until he finally escaped. ‘They’ve been after me ever since’.
‘What d0 they want with you?’

‘They know my story, who I am. They ran tests to see why I still live, maybe they are trying to achieve immortality, maybe they are trying to help people…I’m not sure, and I don’t care’, said Rob shrugging.  ‘Anyways how well do you know these friends of yours?’

‘They were my high school friends; we did everything together, got into a lot of trouble. Izzy, and Mick were together even then. Anyways when High School ended we started a band, the three of us.’
‘We tour a couple of month a year, hitting small clubs around the country, and when we’re not touring or recording, I see them on the weekend… although I haven’t seen them in the past two month.’

Red Temple Prayer Head quarters: a big wooden chapel situated in the middle of the Mexican desert.

The Queen: ‘Guys, guys listen up…we lost Tim.’

Peon 1 or “Trevor”: ‘what? How did you find out?’

The Queen: ‘He tweeted me, here: Getting my face rearranged by a skeleton, LOL xoxo ’.

Peon 2 or “Todd”: ‘Ugh, social media…he’s addiction finally took him’ I mean if he had defended himself from the blows…’

Peon 3 or “Benedict”: ‘His dead? The guy still owed me money’.

The Queen: ‘Trevor, Todd, Benedict…take the Hummer, and find that Skeleton’.

The Peons: It would be our pleasure, Queen.’

Rob and Karac finally arrived. They knocked on the door. All kinds of thoughts were going through Karac’s mind. Mainly, please don’t freak out, please don’t freak out. Izzy opened the door, she saw Rob and punched. Rob staggered backwards. She looked at Karac, she had gone pale, she said: ‘Karac you know you’re being followed by a skeleton right? And what the hell happened to your face?’Karac looked at the floor and said: ‘Izz, meet Rob, Robert Johnson’s skeleton, we’re gonna find his soul.’

They were all sitting on the beach, talking, and smoking. Karac strummed the guitar as Rob explained to them his ordeal, and told them about their adventure so far. They spent the rest of the day like smoking, drinking and talking, a little radio tuned in to the local Rock and roll station. At dusk Karac went into the wooden house. Izzy followed him a couple of minutes later. She we went to the fridge and got two beers, she sat next to Karac on the living room couch. She was beautiful, he thought, in her jeans and MC5 t-shirt, in anything really. She handed him a beer, and he started crying. ‘We’ve been in lots of trouble, growing up I mean. We had to fight or way out of bad situation a couple of times’. He said in a low barely audible voice. ‘But, I’ve never killed a man’. ‘I know’ she answered, and she hugged him. They stayed like that in silence. After a long while, he broke the hug, and wiping the tears of his face, said ‘I would’ve asked you to marry me a long time ago…If you weren’t with Mick’.  ‘I know’ she said. She handed him a “hand rolled cigarette”, and put an arm around him. They stayed like that; smoking passing it back and forth, and drinking their beers, Howlin wolf’s music could be heard faintly coming from the radio on the beach.

An hour later Rob and Mick came in.  ‘We leave tomorrow morning, we’ll take our car’. ‘Where are we headin’?  asked Izzy. ‘We’re going to the Mexican Desert, I think that’s where I’ll find the most answers’ responded Rob.

Rob went to bed, so did Izzy. Mick and Karac stayed up talking about the trip.  The Truck fighter’s Gravity X spun on the stereo.

The next morning as the sun was rising, they hit the road. They had packed a bunch of music CDs, blankets, basic hygiene products, beer, a bag of wacky tobacco, and they were each pocketing a knife. Their vehicle of choice was Izzy, and Mick’s my dad (Mick’s) went through a mid life crisis 65 mustang (of course).  The gas guzzler was speeding down the desert two lane blacktop. Rob was driving, the Truck fighter’s “Motor” blared from the stereo.  Mick and Izzy, in the back seat, where passing around beers and rolling.

They drove like that for 5 hours before Rob switched with Mick. He sat in the back seat and talked to Izzy: ‘Hey’ he said thanks for coming on this trip’. Before she could respond, a black hummer that had been following them for a while now rammed them from behind.  The car shook violently, Rob looked back and said: ‘Shit it’s the brotherhood’.  Mick swore and slammed the gas pedal with all his might. The car sped. The Hummer, relentless, kept on their tail. ‘Come on, you piece of crap’ screamed Karac to the decrepit Mustang. The Stereo was now playing “Desert Cruiser”.  Izzy reached for a bottle of beer. She sat on the window, her upper body out of the car, and threw the magic drink aiming for the Hummer’s windshield. The Beer exploded on impact. Rob passed her another one, and she threw it, and another and another, until the Hummer’s front was covered in liquid and shattered glass. But still they kept coming. They rammed them again, and she grabbed the top of the car so as not to fall. ‘Fuck’she screamed. The hummer was now stuck to the Mustang’s rear. Rob reached into his dark as night suit, and produced a slim bottle. He handed it to Izzy ‘throw this at them’. For a moment she inspected the bottle, a brown liquid swilled in there, and engraved on the glass: “That Old Evil Spirit”. ‘Whiskey’ said Rob, ‘a special brew, throw it at them’. She did, the bottle shattered, and the liquid splashed the black beast’s windshield. Rob then lifted his upper body out of the car, took a Zippo lighter out of his pocket, flamed it, and shucked it. “Me And The Devil Blues” played on the stereo. The liquid went ablaze, and the Hummer relented. It parked at the side of the road, and three red hooded men exited the vehicle.

‘What do we do?’ asked Mick. ‘Let’s get this over with’ said Karac. ‘Yeah I’ don’t want to waist anymore good whiskey’, acknowledged Rob. The four of them stepped out of the car. The radio was still on, and Karac turned the volume to its max. Rainbows are free’s “Believers in medicine” blasted through the desert silence, mixing with the wind. Mick smiled ‘I love this song’. Izzy lit a cigarette. The hooded men approached them: ‘You killed Tim’ said one. And they attacked. One of them, big and stocky approached Izzy: ‘I’m Benedict, and I have no qualms hitting a girl’. She looked at him, and suddenly grabbed the cigg and extinguished it in her assailant’s right eye.  He screamed in pain, and she punched him, a hook to the jaw. He went down. Meanwhile Karac and Mick were defending themselves against a particularly strong foe. They were both down, ass to the pavement. Todd stood a smile on his face. They both got up, and rushed him, Todd defended against Mick’s punch, but received Karac’s front kick square in the belly, and he bent over clutching his midriff. Mick went to ground and tripped him, Todd fell, and Mick was on him, wailing punched and kicks to his face and sides. He grabbed Mick’s sides and overthrew him; he stood and began kicking the downed friend on the ribs. Karac ran and jumped elbowing him on the top of his head. Todd fell down unconscious. Quickly Mick searched the downed opponents cloths and took out a small vile. Karac smiled at him. He smashed it on the ground.

Benedict was up again, he ran and side elbowed aiming for Izzy’s head, she ducked at the last moment. Expecting this, he kneed her straight in the stomach. She fell, the wind knocked out of her, shaking she puked. Mick saw this and ran towards the bastard. But for nothing, Izzy quickly went to her feet. The guy hooked her; she countered the arm by punching at the inner elbow, and with a continuous motion slapped him on the ears. She then turned her body as to be behind him, and with her knee to the back of his, fell him. She followed and was on top, her knees on the pavement. He was trapped between her legs, and was still dizzy. She grabbed her knife, and with one swift hit crashed the butt on the top of the idiot’s nose, right bellow the eyes. Blood exploded and he lost consciousness. She grabbed the small vial from his pocket and threw it.  She got up, and smiled at Mick.

They all turned their attention to Rob. His opponent Trevor had him in a bear lock. Rob put a hand on his captors’ chest, and wham, sent him staggering backwards, crushing the torso in the process; the zero inch punch. Life left the red hood’s body and he fell to his knees, before his head hit the blacktop. By the looks of him, he had a broken arm; a knife wound in his left leg, and was missing an ear. ‘That bastard, use to come to my room every night, I was restrained…he use to enjoy breaking my bones.’ said Rob in an angered voice, he then added ‘I let him inhale the drug before the fight.’

They sat by the side of the road catching their breath, listening to Muddy’s “I just want to make love to you”.  Mick spoke first:  ‘How did they find us? ‘I don’t know, but I think this cult might have a clue on how to reunite me with Robert’s soul’ responded Rob.

They took off, leaving the others passed out on the road. They drove for more than ten hours, passing various sceneries. At one point as they were driving besides a river, Karac looked at Rob and reached for the C.D box. Rob gave him a look as if to say ‘Don’t you dare’. They stopped twice, once to restock on food and drink, and the other, to go swim in the ocean, and rest their battered behinds. That time, they spent about three hours goofing around swimming, building sand castles, and drunkenly singing.  For a while, Mick and Izzy disappeared to a nearby sea cave.

They finally arrived to the desert as the song “Smokestack Lightning” was playing. Mick turned off the radio, and they got out of the car to stretch their legs. The wind hummed, and the sun was setting. Izzy sat on the desert sand, and looked up at the now apparent crescent moon.  She rolled a “cigarette”. They all sat next to her, and they passed it around, Rob took out another bottle of his special brew, and they drank, the taste was heavy but sweet. The brown liquid didn’t burn going down, and it hit fast. Karac staggered to the car radio and put in the “Valley of sand” CD. They all approved with their silence. They sat for a while, tired and shell shocked. Karac passed a box of American Spirits and they all lit one, enjoying the music as it mixed with the sounds of the desert. After a few hours, the whiskey empty, cigg buds littering the floor around them, they fell asleep.  Karac woke. He stood, and with heavy legs went for a walk, the crescent moon above being his light in the darkness. He climbed a sand dune, and when he reached its peak, took off his shirt. The wind hit his body, a pleasant sensation, he thought. If he squint his eyes he could sort of see a figure on its knees, facing him. The pleasurable sensation grew, rampaging through his body.  For a moment the stars shun brighter, the wind howled, and he passed out.

They woke up the next morning, all where there except for Karac. ‘Probably went for a piss’ said Mick. Before anyone could answer they saw him walking towards them. ‘I think the desert went down on me last night’. They all looked at him, a quizzical, almost amused look on their faces. ‘Yeah okay’ said Rob, come on, the chapel isn’t that far from here, let’s go.’

Being sick of the car, they decided to go on foot. After an hour’s walk they reached their destination. ‘So how many members?’ asked Karac. ‘Well they were 9, but we took care of 4 so that leaves 5, including their queen, The Queen’. ‘Wait, her name is The Queen?’ asked Izzy. ‘Yeah, I think that’s where her sense of entitlement comes from. ‘Actually there might be 7 in there; the 2 we beat might have come back’ said Karac. ‘Whatever, no way to know till we’re there’.

They entered the “church”, using the front door. Waiting for them inside was The Queen, and four of her minions. She spoke: ‘Well hell, I guess the guys couldn’t capture you after all.’ She then added with a concerned look on her face ‘are they dead?’  ‘One of them’ said Rob, ‘I don’t know what happened to the rest. Now tell me, how do I reunite with, the soul’.  She laughed ‘Johnson’s soul has been following you, from up there’. She pointed upwards. ‘How do you think I’ve been able to track you? If you want to reunite you’re going to have to go where the earth meets the beyond, where dark meets dark.’ ‘The Ocean’ said Rob. ‘Yes it’s a portal’. You other half is a being made of space dust’, a tiny universe within himself.  I think that’s what we call the soul, that’s why I’ve been studying you.’ ‘Maybe’ Answered Rob, ‘it’s a bit farfetched, lacking any proof, but I’ve got nothing else’.  ‘I know’ said the Queen angered, ‘That’s why I need to run more tests on you. Imagine us humans traveling the stars, living as earth, and as light. I could finally be one with the beautiful moon’.  ‘Sorry, but I don’t owe you any favors; find another way to fulfill your fantasies’ said Rob getting ready to leave. At this moment two red hooded men blocked the door. ‘we can’t let you leave, this is important to all of us’, ever since we met on that online forum, and came together as the brotherhood…I, we can’t let you go’. Karac and Izzy looked at each other and launched at the two guards. Mick followed, but his pass was blocked by the third one. Rob walked slowly towards The Queen, and her bodyguard.

Mick got punched in the face and out of his pocket fell a small transistor radio tuned to the local rock radio station, The Who’s “Going Higher” was playing.

Izzy and Karac were facing their opponent, two big muscular men who had just swallowed the content off a small vile. ‘Fuck’ said Karac. Izzy looked at him, and gave him a sad smile. They both took out there knives and lunged at their enemies.

The Queen and her body guard were circling Rob; they both equipped brass knuckles, and were waiting for the opportune moment to strike.

Mick countered a jab, and retaliated with a side kick to the head. The Red Hood staggered backwards, dazed. Mick seeing his chance ran at him and grabbed the small vile from his body. He crushed it in his hand, and let the content slip to the floor.  The Hood rushed him, and tackled him. Mick went down, and soon as, he received a flurry of kicks all over his body. He reached for his knife, but it was kicked away. The pain was too much, he was bleeding from his nose and mouth, and from small cuts on his hands, and he couldn’t use them as a shield much longer. He had to act. As a kick came towards him, he grabbed the sole of the foot with both hand, and kneed upwards towards the assailant’s crotch. He hit him, and the Hood staggered backwards screaming in pain, grabbing his lower region. Mick stood, his body shacking in protestation, and ran at his enemy. He jumped and landed a front kick on the guys face. An attack delivered with anger. The Hood grabbed his face in pain, and Mick uppercut him, a second attack to the groin. The now Eunuch couldn’t believe it. There was a killing intent behind those hits. He tried to compose himself despite the massive pain, and bent his arm at his chest in a boxer’s defensive position, but it was too late. Mick was already on him; he grabbed him by the neck, and with one final punch to the face, knocked him out. He let go of the Red Hood’s throat, his body fell with a load thud. Mick walked painfully towards Karac and Izzy, who were having trouble with their fight, but before he could reach them, his body let out, he fell, and passed out.

Karac took a defensive position, he was bleeding from the ear, and a bruise had started to form on his left arm. He took a few steps forward, he was limping. His knife was on the floor a few meters away. His opponent was in better shape, except for a few cuts on his hands and arms, no stab wounds.  The muscular long haired foe approached Karac swiftly, he feint a right hook, but foot swiped instead. Karac fell, his head hitting the marble floor. He groaned, and fear overtook him. He looked left and right, searching for something, anything, and he found it, on the corner by the door stood a basin full of red liquid.  The transistor played “Rock and Roll Nigger” by Patti Smith.  Karac got up, ‘I’m not gonna kill you’.  The Red Hood laughed ‘Yeah, no kidding, you can barely move, you little shit’. He ran towards the laughing maniac, each step sending sharp needles to his brain. He went in for a low tackle, but it was blocked. The Hood put a foot forward and bent his knees which stabled him; the momentum of the tackle had no effect.  He then delivered a flurry of punches on Karac’s back who was still grabbing him. Each punch loosening his grip, rattling his bones, but he held on. He then moved his body as to be behind his catch. He slid his arm from around the waist, to the back of the neck through the armpits. He had him. ‘What now?’ asked the caught man in a mocking tone ‘are you going to finish me?’ Karac forced him to the basin, and dunked his head into the crimson liquid. ‘Drink he yelled, drink or drown’.

The Hood swallowed big gulps, half emptying the content of the small basin. Karac loosened his grip, and the hood lift his head ‘what a load of dung, you thought you’d get me drunk, and I would pass out?’ He was slurring his words, his legs were wobbly and his arms were shacking. Karac let him go, and took a few steps back. The hood turned around, facing him, he took a few steps forward swaying. Karac started to tear up, realizing what he had to do. But for nothing, the hood took a few more steps looked at his friend fighting Izzy and said ‘This is senseless’. He turned around and walked to the corner of the room. He sat on the floor, and passed out.

Karac looked at Izzy. She was in bad shape, she held her stomach, and blood was dripping from both her thumbs. Her foe was laying his back against the wall screaming, his hands covering his bleeding eyes. She was lost in shock. She then recovered and ran to Mick who was still unconscious on the floor.

Rob had knocked the bodyguard out with some difficulty. He was now facing The Queen. She was strong, adept in brawling, and many forms of martial arts. The more he looked at her, the more beautiful he found her. She had a feral aura; she had long black hair, and her muscular arms were covered with tattoos, she wasn’t thin, but she wasn’t fat either she looked like a girl who enjoyed life (whatever that means).  She fought with a certain sadness he thought. Sure she hit hard and fast, a feline energy pouring out of her …but she fought like she had no choice. Rob had difficulty parrying her jabs, and kicks. He fought back, he owed her that much. After a couple of exchanged hits, and grabs, she axed kicked him. Her foot landed between his shoulder and neck.  The shock made him kneel, but he held true. He caught her leg with his arms, and pushed forward using his body weight as momentum. She fell to the ground, and he was swiftly on her, he grabbed her by the throat. “Finish this” She ordered.  “Sorry, he replied, but I don’t owe you that much, you fought well, and the least I could’ve done was take you seriously, but nothing more’. He loosened his grip and walked away.

They left the “Church”. Mick spoke: ‘we really should have come by car’. Karac followed ‘it’s good you didn’t kill her’. Rob answered: ‘is it? Izzy butt in ‘By letting her live you put whoever might come in contact with her next in danger’ she then added ‘ but yeah’.  ‘Come on’ ended Rob ‘let’s go swim with the sirens’.

The End.

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This is the home of the Foil & Phaser writers workshop, a spin-off community website for fans of the Sword & Laser book club and podcast who want to develop their writing skills.

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Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Short Story (<7500 words)
Divide and Conquer: A collection of short stories from the workshops of Foil & Phaser for your Kindle or ePub reader.
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