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Thursday, 25 August 2016

A Step Too Far - Chapter 9

Looking around, I couldn’t help but think there’s just a dearth of good bodies to find these days.  Young, well conditioned people used to drop dead all the time of this disease and that impaling.  Where’s a burly 24 year old dead man when you need one?

I could see a baby dropped dead a few houses down, not long ago.  I hardly have that much time on my hands.  An old man a little further away had his final stroke recently enough.  I’d be better off waiting to be an adult again than hobbling over at the rate that body could walk.  There was a reasonably good body up in the mountains, fell off a cliff last night, should still be serviceable, but that was too far to get back in time.

Ugh.  I hate drug addicts.  Dave was at least not so heavy a user to be unbearable, but the real addicts, their bodies stick like some kind of fungal glue.  Disgusting.  The girl was just two miles away though and was mostly grown.  Guess beggars can’t be choosers, she’ll have to do.

I’ve never been particularly fond of using female bodies – or is it being inside female bodies?  Taking female bodies?  I really need to come up with some useful terminology, if only to make my own thoughts on the matter more clear.  For whatever reason I’ve considered myself male as long as I can remember, but the distinction was really meaningless.  I simply preferred being male.

First of all, the monthly bloody excretions are both uncomfortable and undignified.  Being shorter and weaker is rarely beneficial, and while I thought being sexually attracted to my own body would be entertaining, the novelty wears out quickly.  And sex with other girls?  It just doesn’t work as well as you’d think.  Either that or I lack in creativity.

Honestly, I’m just not very good at being female.  I’ve tried it a few times before, so I know the ropes well enough.  But I feel more like an effeminate man than an actual woman, however hard I try to fit the part right.

Looking at the girl from up close, despite the blood and injuries, she was really quite pretty.  It’s a shame what kids get up to these days, but you can’t save people from themselves.  Passed out in a park, alone at this hour, filled with drugs, fresh needle mark on her arm, she’d only died a matter of minutes ago.

I couldn’t help but hesitate a moment.  I never liked taking too recently dead bodies.  The kind I could just fix up and send on their merry way.  Such a pretty little girl, it seemed I should give her a second chance.  But who ever takes advantage of those?  Certainly not some crackhead whore.  Besides, other innocent lives were likely at stake back at Dave’s body tonight.  This wasn’t entirely a selfish endeavour… Mostly, but not entirely!

No, this girl made her choices in life and they were wrong.  She died and nothing else known could bring her back.  I could spend all my days jumping around the world, saving every fool who died time and time again for the rest of eternity and it wouldn’t help a soul.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  No, she had her chance, and now I need her body for my own purposes, at least I’d put it to good use!

As I dived inside her, I could feel the usual cold sensation, the fog of the drugs still coursing through her system, the pain all over.  With a flash of concentration I purged and repaired it as best I could.  Even I can’t fix everything, but she was in good enough condition to be functional for my purposes.

Reaching into her back pocket, she was pleased to find a wallet with cash and cards in it.  Apparently I’m “Annie” now.  “How adorable,” she thought sardonically.

A Step Too Far - Chapter 8

Stephanie stirred slightly and felt the sensation of almost falling out of bed.  But she could feel the hard, damp ground beneath her, then a wave of nausea swept over her.  She almost wasn’t able to move in time, but she rolled to her side and threw up violently on the grass.  “Where the hell am I?” she wondered, confused, but not particularly worried.  Her eyes glanced past another person lying face down, just a foot away.  She was sure she was at a house party last she recalled.  Must have been really heavy to end out here.

She rose to her knees to look around and see who else was there, but the motion made her head reel and her vision blur.  She fell back to the ground and threw up again, as much on herself as on the ground.  She’d really gone overboard this time.

She took a minute to recover and looked around again, vision still blurry, memory almost blank, but she could see it was just her and that other person, a girl.  Long brown hair, jeans and a t-shirt, her right arm seemed bent at a very odd angle.  She must really be wasted.  They probably went for a walk to clear their heads or something and fell asleep.  Better check if she’s okay.

Stephanie moved closer and patted the girl on her back, “Hey, you still out?”  No response.  Her eyes focused a little on the side of the girl’s face that was showing.  It had blood on it.  And her eyes were open.  In the glint of the moonlight she could see the green eyes, surrounded by red, and tears still on her face.  The text message.  “Annie?” she whispered. “ANNIE?!” She turned the girl onto her back and saw her battered face clearly.  Without thinking she shook her hard by the shoulders.  “ANNIE? What are you doing here?  Annie!”  The right shoulder wobbled in her grip unnaturally, dislocated.  No response.  Stephanie felt panic rising through her, she was panting.  Annie wasn’t breathing.  She put a finger to her neck.  “Annie?  What happened?  Annie!”  No response.  No pulse.  Stephanie let out a quiet whimper with each gasping breath.

She looked around desperately, it was still night, no one to be seen.  Ambulance.  Her phone.  She dug into her pockets and pulled it out, still had charge.  Dialling emergency services, she rose to her feet, pushing down the dizziness that threatened to overwhelm her.  There was a main road just a few hundred meters away and she could see the lights of cars going past.  “Annie, please hold on!  I’ll get help!  I’m not leaving you, I’ll get help!”  As the phone rang she raced as best she could for the road to flag down anyone she could.  Annie couldn’t die, not her, nothing could stop her!  How did this even happen?  Stephanie asked for her help, now she was alive and Annie was dead, that’s how.  No, Annie couldn’t be dead, she couldn’t be…

A Step Too Far - Chapter 7

When the text came at three in the morning, Annie immediately felt sick to her stomach.  The desperation somehow communicated through those four simple words.

She should have gone with her instincts.  She knew something was wrong the moment Stephanie stopped taking her calls regularly, but she felt it would be insulting to make a big deal of it.  Stephanie wasn’t the frightened little girl she knew all those years ago.  She was strong, intelligent, capable and confident.  She was a champion and a star.  Everyone needs help sometimes, but to force it on her when she didn’t want it seemed presumptuous.  Maybe Stephanie felt exactly the same way about asking for help…  No use dwelling on what should have been, Annie quickly threw on some clothes and rushed to her car.  Joe’s house was only ten minutes away, less with some extra speed.

Annie pulled up at the side of the road and saw lights were still on in the house and a few cars were parked outside.  Obviously a small gathering, maybe 10 or 12 people.  It made sense, if it was a party and people heard Stephanie was there, it would have flooded into the street and the police would have closed it down hours ago.  She walked to the front door and knocked loudly.  After some stumbling and crashing sounds, it was answered by a very unstable and slurring Joe.  “Well holleefuck if it isn’t Jesus with tits!  Welcome your holiness!”  Annie had heard that nickname before, but never really paid it any heed.  “Hey Joe,” she said perfectly normally “can I come in?” “Stephanie said she was here and I haven’t had a chance to see her since she got back.”  “Of course, of course!  Come in princess!  Must be the first time you’ve ever been to a party with us mortals.”

Annie enjoyed the parties they had when she was younger, just friends, fun, music, dancing, games.  She still enjoyed the same with her close friends, but it seemed whenever the numbers went past a dozen or so, alcohol always found its way into the mix, and there was no fun in spending time with people who weren’t really there.  “Thanks Joe.” she smiled, stepping into the house.

Crudeness didn’t bother her, and if she seemed too worried about Stephanie, he could just not let her in, or cause some other trouble.  She could call the police, but who knows how long they would take, and if the trouble they could cause Stephanie would outweigh the good.

Joe put an overly familiar arm around Annie’s waist and pulled her to his side, half directing her to the living room, half using her for support.  “Little late to be showing up at the party isn’t it?  Or did you just come for the fun part and skip the boring bits, Steph said you could get some action hey?  I always knew you had a naughty side!”  He was clearly high, he wasn’t normally like this, he was normally quite shy.  Annie let herself be led, it’s where she intended to go anyway.

They reached the living area and most of the 10 or 12 people she anticipated were hanging around the couches and floors.  Some already passed out, one trying to play Xbox very poorly while another couple cheered him on enthusiastically.  One couple were having sex right in the corner of the room behind a table, no one else had even noticed it seemed.  Annie saw everyone looked 4 or 5 years older than her, in their early 20s, and clearly there wasn’t a person in the room that wasn’t high as a kite.  Needles were strewn around and traces of white powder were in lines on the table.  That made more sense, it was Joe’s older brother’s friends there and he was just along for the ride.  She’d only seen Joe’s brother a few times before, but he had a reputation.

“Here!” Joe said handing Annie a large cup half full of a brownish liquid with a strong stench of alcohol.  “Only the best for betitted Jesus!”  Normally Annie would have sat him down and just talked for a bit until he sobered up and straightened himself out.   She’d had to do that more times than she could easily recall.  Ever since she was a child she’d always taken care of her appearance, though not to cause an effect, just because it was the dignified thing to do.  At 17 though, even without her long dark hair and emerald green eyes that seemed to look straight into a person’s soul, just the way she carried herself, straight and tall, warm and friendly, always with a bright smile, people couldn’t help but be attracted.  She didn’t have time to help Joe now though, she was here for her friend.

She took the drink politely with a “Thanks”.  “Do you know where Steph is?”
“Probably throwing up, she parties hard!  Common Annie, I was just teasing with the tit-Jesus thing, let me introduce you around.”
“It’s fine, I know.  I’ll just go see Steph is okay and I’ll be right back to meet everyone.” “Where’s the bathroom?” she asked, slipping out of Joe’s arm.  He pointed and she walked briskly toward it.

“Stephanie?” Annie knocked hard on the door. “Are you in there?” The door was unlocked and she walked in to find Stephanie alone, unconscious on the floor.  Quickly checking for a pulse she took out her phone to dial for an ambulance, a pulse was there, if weak.  “God Stephanie” she whispered almost to herself “Stay with me.”  She now regretted trying to be careful and not just barging in.

Annie rolled her into the recovery position, making sure her airway was clear and she was breathing.  Her lips and nails were bluish, her mouth dry and tongue slightly discoloured.  Likely a heroin overdose.  It was bad, but hopefully she arrived just in time, she was breathing and her heart was beating.  Annie let out a small slight sigh of relief and the phone rang, if the ambulance arrived soon she should be - Annie crashed into the floor, her phone flying from her hand and a pain shooting up her spine from a shoe stomped hard against her back.  “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” yelled an angry male voice behind her.

Annie rolled onto her back and saw Joe’s brother Evan standing over her, she was disoriented from the shock and hitting her head against the floor, but she knew he must have thought she was calling the police.  They’d all end up in jail. “I’m not calling the police!  Just the ambulance, she’s overdosed!”  He stomped on her phone and it shattered under the force.  “Are you fucking insane calling the police in my house?” Annie tried to push herself up, she had to calm him d - his punch landed against her face, knocking her hard to the ground.  “Joe!” Annie called as loudly as she could muster, it was the only thing she could think do.  Evan knelt over her and grabbed her throat, “Shut up bitch!”  Annie was choking and started to panic, Stephanie was dying!  The thought hit her from nowhere, she was dying too.

She mustered all her strength, grabbing his arm with both of hers and rolling over hard.  Although much larger than her, unprepared and in his drugged state, he lost his balance and fell to the floor, letting go of Annie’s neck.  “Ple…” she tried to talk, if she could just make him realise she wasn’t trying to get him arrested, but her throat seized and she had to try again.  He jumped back on top of her and reached back for another punch.  “Evan!  What the fuck?!” Joe yelled leaning against the bathroom door.  “Stephanie is dying! We have to call an ambulance!” Annie blurted out as quickly as she could.  Evan covered her mouth with his hand, holding her arms in his other.  “Your bitch girlfriend was calling the police!  Do you have any idea how fucked we would be?”  Annie struggled to say something and Evan shifted his position to put a knee in her sternum, pressing hard.  She yelped under his hand, but couldn’t manage any more.

“Settle down man, you’re hurting her!”, Joe’s last word got cut off as he was shoved into the wall and into unconsciousness by a larger man behind him, “Who the fuck called the police?” Steve asked.  “This little slut tried, I stopped her, she wanted to fuck us over ‘cause she wasn’t getting enough attention!”  Annie felt tears forming in her eyes, she could hardly move, she couldn’t talk, her friend was dying right next to her, it seemed a thousand ideas flooded through her mind, all of them worthless.  Anger overwhelmed her, a feeling she’d only really felt once before, but that time 7 years ago she chose to be angry, this time it just came.  The tears stopped and her eyes glared up at Evan, she wasn’t going to lie here and die, she wasn’t going to let this useless bastard stop her from saving her friend!  She pulled her arms apart with all her force and kicked sideways again to break lose.

The pain was excruciating, he pressed his knee hard into her and twisted her right arm around, till her shoulder popped and she let out an agonised scream.  Her eyes were wild with fear and she started to tremble, she knew how this was likely to end, she just had to hope they’d both make it through the night alive.

Evan reached down to her belt. “No, that’s a bad idea,” the other man said.  “You rape her, you gotta kill her, if her call rang even once and she’s raped and dead, they’ll know her last call came from near here.”  “Oh fuck off man!  It’s too late now, if she’s alive, I go to jail as it is.  Might as well earn my time there.” He pressed his knee down hard again to make his point, Annie could only squeal. “Dude, don’t be fucking retarded.  I don’t need two dead girls on our hands!  We’re fucked if we do that!  Look, we dump Stephanie at a hospital, no one did anything to her.  If she dies and they somehow tie it to us, she got high on her own drugs, we took her to hospital, not our problem!  If she lives and even remembers she was here, well we saved her!”

“And what about this bitch with the broken arm?”

“Annie right?” Steve directed his words to her.  She nodded.  “You want you and your friend to live, you’re going to fucking say nothing.  We get you a bit high, dump you at the hospital with her, and nothing happened here.  Right?”  Evan took his hand from her mouth. “Please,” she pleaded, “I just wanted to help Stephanie, I don’t care about a broken arm, please just hurry!”

Steve picked up Stephanie like a sack and walked out of the room, “Heroin’s on the kitchen table”.  Evan grabbed Annie and marched her out “Not a fucking sound.”  She complied.  He quickly drew liquid from a container in the kitchen into a clean needle and went out to the car.  No one in the house so much as turned their heads.

Stephanie, still breathing, lay in the back, Steve at the drivers seat, Evan sat holding Annie in the passenger’s seat.  “Stay fucking quiet and don’t move,” he said, pressing the needle into her right arm.  Annie was numb, she didn’t dare do anything.  She was fine, a broken arm heals, pain goes away, drugs wear off, her friend has a chance to make it.  She’d never felt helpless for a moment in her life, she was always in control of herself at least, even when things around her were out of her control.  Now she just sat there, hoping.  She felt the liquid enter her body.

Evan was angry.  This was the safest course of action, but he was looking forward to a few hours of fun.  Now it was blue balls and worrying about if it all works out.  He took advantage of the seating position - Annie on his lap - to at least get a good feel all over, and get himself off against her.  Slightly less blue balls.  He figured she’d either talk or she wouldn’t, this wouldn’t make the difference between the two.  She may not even remember it at all.  After an initial slight twitch and gasp, she didn’t even react.

Annie felt what he was doing to her, but was too numb to care.  It didn’t matter.  He could have raped her, if Stephanie lives and this works out, she didn’t care.  If she lives too, that’s a bonus.  She felt useless, relying entirely on these two druggies and rapists for her and her friend to survive.  But it looked like they were going to make it through after all.  If she never saw the text, never came to help, never entered the bathroom and never got beaten, broken, drugged and abused, Stephanie would likely still be there, unnoticed, left to die by the morning.  It wasn’t a well planned success, but still, she achieved what she set out to achieve.  She felt Evan finish under her.  It was disgusting, degrading, her just sitting there while this was done to her, knowing anything she did could ruin everything.  But it degraded him more than her.  She was here to save her friend’s life.  He was a slave to drugs, his penis and his own mind.  Tomorrow she would be herself again, and he would be himself.  She almost felt sorry for him as the effect of the drug started to kick in.

They were 15 minutes into the drive and Annie started to shake, first a little, then harder.  “Evan, what the fuck are you doing to her?”

“Nothing!  She’s just going off!”

Annie’s mind was going wild, images filled her head, dark, twisted images that stepped out of her head and into the world around her.  Swinging at her, clawing at her!  They were moving so fast, they weren’t even on a road any more, her head was being pumped full of something, it was going to burst.  She couldn’t see any more!  Just darkness, but the screeching sounds grew around her.  She could just make out the words between the sounds.

“I think she’s ODing!”
“What the fuck? That’s impossible, you just gave her one shot of heroin right?”
“No!  Not even, I gave her a shot of the water on the kitchen table, I put a couple of roofies in it earlier, I thought that would be better, so she’d forget!”

“You fucking what?!” He swore incoherently at Evan for a minute, unable to coordinate his thoughts.  “You fucking, useless God damn moron!  I put half our ‘cid in there!”
“Why the fuck, how the fuck was I supposed to know?”
“Shit, shit, shit.”  He floored the accelerator, racing the last few miles to the hospital.

She was overdosing.  Amid the sea of confusion she understood what was happening.  Her chest seized up.  Tears filled her eyes again, it couldn’t be!  They’d almost made it!  Both of them, how could this be it?  She wasn’t ready to go.  All her friends, Stephanie, even her own mother, indifferent as she was, was never truly bad to her.  All lost, everything she’d dreamt of, gone.  And just like this, helpless in a car, by accident, by the man who spent her last moments grinding against her.  She could still make it - more importantly, Stephanie could still make it.  She clung to that thought.  She always achieved what she intended, tonight she intended to save her friend and even if she had no say in it what happened now, even if she died, she hadn’t failed yet.

“Pull over!” Evan called. “What?” “Man, pull over!  This is fucked, we fucked it.  We gotta just dump their bodies and go!  Who knows who will be there when we get to the hospital?  We’re screwed, this was a crazy plan!”
“Christ.” Steve turned off the main road to an exit near a park and pulled in.  Together they took both girls out of the car and dumped them on the grass in plain sight.  There was no use trying to hide them.  “This is fucked, we’re so screwed!” “Just fucking go!  We just go home, clean the fuck up, get everyone out, nothing even happened!”

Annie screamed at the top of her voice.  “No!  No please!  You can’t!  Take her to the hospital!  Leave me, take her!  She doesn’t even know anything!  HELP HER PLEASE!”  But the only sound that came out was a trembling whimper.  It was all in her head.  “Listen to me!  Please!  You don’t need to do this!  You can still save her!”  She heard the car doors slam and the tyres screech as they drove away.

They were alone.  She couldn’t feel her body any more, just that it was cold.  She thought she must be lying next to Stephanie, but couldn’t tell if they were touching, or far apart.  Her mind was racing and reeling, the sounds and images only getting stronger, but she fought as hard as she could to remain lucid.  She had to call for help, to get up, to get Stephanie’s phone!  Nothing happened.  Her body was out of her control, motionless, but she was sobbing inside.  She worried her friend was suffering as she was, alone, afraid.  Did Stephanie even know she was there for her?

She’d failed her.  She failed her when she didn’t enquire harder what was wrong months earlier.  She failed her when she didn’t insist on breaking through the walls she was putting up as time passed.  She failed her when she didn’t just fly out straight to her and find out what was happening.  When she didn’t call the police as soon as she got the message, when she didn’t run straight past Joe to find her, when she didn’t have any backup plan, when she was so arrogant she - a 17 year old girl - walked into a strange house full of strange older men high on drugs and didn’t think what could happen.  When she chose to stop resisting and hope it would all work out.  Every step of the way she failed her to the end.  She wailed hopelessly in her own mind.

They were discarded like trash.  As Annie faded into oblivion, she remembered the look on Stephanie’s face when she first saw her after she had read the math story.  She remembered how Gary always looked at her with the kind of love she’d always thought her father may have had for her, had she ever known him.  And the feeling of a man she never knew, touching her all over, grinding against her, as she sat there helpless, as she and her friend were taken to their deaths.

The bright, emerald green of Annie’s eyes and the warmth of her smile would never light a room again.

A Step Too Far - Chapter 6

Stephanie hadn’t seen Annie in over a year, and part of her was almost glad she hadn’t.  Annie would never judge her for the mistakes she made, but she judged herself, and confronting Annie - who had helped her so much in the past - just seemed unbearable now.  At 17 and far more famous and successful than Annie was, she shouldn’t need her help any more!  But she did.

Life was so much easier, so much simpler when Annie was around.  She didn’t really understand that, until she wasn’t around any more.  Fame came quickly after the national championships four years back.  First some music videos and YouTube clips, then TV appearances, now she was in demand the world over, her impossible dream was a reality, but not at all as she’d always imagined it.  She called Annie every day when she first started travelling.  Then she called less, and Annie kept calling to no response.   Then as the months passed, she tried less and less and their last conversation a month ago was more like a Twitter status update than a conversation.  Annie was cheerful as ever and wanting to talk, Stephanie wanted to pop a few pills and nurse a migraine away.  “Going great, yeah really busy, need to sleep for my show tomorrow.  Goodnight.”

Fame had its price, the haters, alcohol, sex, drugs and the rest were part and parcel of the role.  While she was at home with her dad, with Annie to talk to and be there for her, it seemed too easy, so simple to deal with it all.  The haters didn’t bother her, she would never dream of ending up like her dad was all those years ago!  People tried manipulating her and taking advantage of her, but her dad had a keen mind for business affairs and Annie somehow saw right through anyone who didn’t mean well.  It was the dream life for those few years.  Fame, fans, fortune, friends, family, travel and of course dance, the thing she’d loved since before she could do anything that resembled it.

Annie always said she’d miss her when she goes, but she should go and live her dream and they’d always be best friends and see each other again soon.  Her dad was sad to see her go, but knew she would grow up one day, it was just to be sooner rather than later.  Neither would hold her back from achieving her goals in life… Part of her now wished they did.

The first time she tried Ecstasy - some six months ago - she knew Annie would never have allowed it, but she needed something to give her energy to keep going, and all her new friends seemed to think it was fine.  She wasn’t dependent on Annie anymore, and even she could be wrong!  She was always sweet, and clever, but Annie clearly hadn’t grown up as quickly as her, she was too innocent, not worldly like her.  Annie’s goodie goodie attitude and lifestyle wasn’t suited to the real world, when people had to work, and stay up late, and keep up with their even more energetic friends.

Her trip back home was supposed to be brief.  A couple of interviews, a show at her old school for some positive publicity, say “Hi” to dad… And hope to somehow avoid being alone with Annie.  Now Stephanie lay in the bathroom at her high-school crush’s house, covered in vomit, mind reeling, heart racing.  She didn’t know what she had taken exactly.  Definitely a lot of alcohol, definitely Ecstasy, probably meth, possibly something else.  One of her friends was throwing up in the bath next to her, and at least two creepy guys were hoping to get into her pants when she came out, if they didn’t get impatient and come in to find her there first.  She couldn’t believe she got herself into this situation.  Or maybe she did it on purpose.  The only thing she really knew was the last time she felt fear like this, she was 10 years old and sobbing on the floor.  With what was left of her coordination, she sent Annie a text, “Joe’s house.  Help me.”

A Step Too Far - Chapter 5

I became oddly fond of Dave in the short time I had as him.  There is something to be said for having no responsibilities and no redeeming qualities to distract you from unabashed debauchery.

Not even classy debauchery, the kind that takes money and power to really indulge in.  Just a raw, undignified, degraded obsession with personal gratification of the lowest level.  The kind where going to sleep covered in stale pizza, dry semen and steeped in sweat extruded while pissing off other Warcraft players till they rage quit, is actually an ideal day. One where I could sleep knowing I’d really made it go right to pull that off so well, so to speak.  It’s way more rewarding on a deep, spiritual level than it sounds.

No, there wasn’t anything likable about Dave, but I liked him regardless.  I would have been perfectly content to spend the next five or ten years as him.  But that was no longer an option.  Killed by such scraps.  There was a time I would have just about died from embarrassment at the notion of being killed in such a pathetic way.  Now I’ll settle for killing all of them instead.

Bodies are so much stickier these days than I remember them.  Or perhaps it’s me that’s sticky?  As Dave’s body lay dying in a pool of its own blood, I felt the last dregs of life seep away and my attention lifted out of it - it always felt freeing to be unencumbered by the mass of a moist, heavy, pulsating body.  Dave himself was long gone to oblivion, now his body could join him - but no use crying over spilt blood.  I’m going to honour my friend Dave, with a death far better than anything he deserved.  He likely regretted his hopeless life in his last moments before passing.  But no one has ever lived to regret dying well, and even if he never knows it, he will die a bad-ass.

New plan!  Much simpler, I kill those six guys and make it look like Dave died in a random mugging, taking six men out with him!  Like a boss.  This will need to be quick, if they dispose of Dave’s body before I make it back, it will be hard to make this seem legit.

Oh… Come to think of it, there’s also the whole human trafficking, prostitution thing.  Should probably get that sorted too.  It would be kind of a dick move of me to just let that slide when I’m like, right here.  I guess it’s two birds, one stone time.

A Step Too Far - Chapter 4

Walking from her dance class with her closest friend Stephanie, Annie was physically exhausted, but still bursting with energy and excitement.  Stephanie was just selected to represent their dance school in the under fourteen national championships!  A long way from the shy, awkward girl Annie knew from primary school, in the last couple of years Stephanie stood tall, with look of pride in her eyes and a smile on her face.  It was good to see, after so many years of sadness and tears.  And now, she was reaching to truly realise her potential!

———————

Life had been hard for Stephanie.  Losing her mother to cancer at just six years old, and her father to alcohol soon after.  Alternating between angry and violent, and frightened and sorrowful, he struggled to keep himself going, let alone take care of a young daughter.  Annie never saw Gary at school, he never picked Stephanie up, or came to any school events.  She first met him when she was ten years old, and Stephanie nervously asked if she’d like to come over and play before her dad got home from the bar.  Annie never knew her own father and her mother paid her little heed, so she knew she had nothing to worry about getting home late, and happily agreed.

They played for hours in Stephanie’s room.  Talking, drawing, dancing, it was the first time Stephanie had a friend at her house in years and Annie felt a little honoured that Stephanie asked her before anyone else to open up to.  Her father rarely came home before midnight - especially on a Friday - so there was no need to hurry.  Annie felt she would like to meet this mysterious man she’d heard so little about and seen nothing of, but she knew Stephanie didn’t want it, so didn’t press the matter.

But on that night, at just 8pm there was the sound of a car pulling into the driveway and Stephanie suddenly went rigid.  “Quick Annie, run out the back!  You can climb over the fence and get out that way.”  Annie wasn’t scared exactly, but she could feel Stephanie’s fear, as if it pressed around her, making her uneasy.  She shook off the feeling and calmly said “Okay,” then quickly made for the back door, part of her worrying what made her friend so frightened, part of her not wanting to betray her trust by insisting on staying.  “See you tomorrow… Call me if you can, we can still talk tonight if you want,” she said with a smile, then turned out the door and ran to jump the side fence and time her exit so she wouldn’t be seen.

She glimpsed Stephanie through a window, running into her room and quickly putting things away, clearly to hide that anyone else was there.  “This isn’t right,” she thought to herself.  It’s one thing to respect her friend’s wish not to meet her father, but to run away from her when she was clearly afraid?  Annie read enough books and though she mostly avoided the nonsense in newspapers, she read enough to know about the world.  She suddenly felt a pang of guilt.  She rarely thought about the bad things in the world, there was just so much to do and so many things to interest her, it seemed pointless to dwell on the bad.  But she did know of it.  She knew children like her and her friend were abused in all kinds of ways.  She knew parents sometimes hurt their children, she knew a child doesn’t become as introverted and nervous as Stephanie without reason.  And all she did was say a few nice words to her, stand up for her when she was being teased, help her a bit when she fell behind in school.  For a moment Annie felt hollow inside and the bright spark that seemed perpetually in her eyes clouded with the hint of tears.

She stopped and turned.  Then crouched by a window to watch, and listen.

The man who walked in seemed almost like a beast Annie would draw or write about.  Not so much in his size, though he was large enough at six foot tall and over two hundred pounds.  But his eyes, the way he clenched his fists, the way his face looked like it was about to burst with anger, Annie couldn’t help jerking back out of sight, and just sat there listening.

“Those fucking cunts!” He yelled, almost screamed, “They keep me back two hours to finish a job, then they thank me by telling me I’m fucking fired!”  “To hell with them, I should burn down the whole God damn place and see how smug they…!”  The sharp sound of glass breaking disrupted his sentence.  But the sound didn’t come from him, it came from another room.  A moment passed in silence, “What the hell did you break?” Gary roared, his voice now coming from there as well, the living room.  “You fucking stupid bitch!  How the fuck do you walk into a giant God damn TV without seeing it?!”  “That’s the only bloody thing in this house worth it’s weight in shit and,” he paused and in the silence Annie could clearly hear Stephanie’s sobbing.  She should go to a neighbour and call the police… “Stephanie would hate her.”  “He might hurt Stephanie,” the thoughts came thick and fast.  “If I leave to get the police, he might do something before they get here, I can’t just leave her!”  She couldn’t get this wrong.

“I’m sorry honey,” he was quiet now, “I just… It’s just been a hard day, I, I don’t usually take, I just needed something after, you just need to be more careful, we can’t…” Stephanie just continued to sob.  Annie realised now, this was worse than usual, he was on some kind of drug.  She peeked in and saw him reach to embrace his daughter and out of the corner of his eye, he saw her.  He froze for a minute, not entirely sure what to think and his eyes focused on Stephanie, next to her on the floor were two used glasses she was trying to sneak back to the kitchen.

“Get out of here you fucking brat before I come out there and shove your head through that damn window!”  Annie vanished from the window in an instant.  This was her fault, she should have left when she was told, she shouldn’t have come in the first place, she shouldn’t have carelessly peaked in again.

He slapped Stephanie in the face and she fell backwards.  “What the hell did I tell you about bringing people over here?” he yelled, spit flying from his mouth.  He pulled his fist right back, Stephanie cowered against the wall, arms over her head, he towered over her huddled figure, “Please daddy, no!” - “NO!” screamed another voice.  The sound of a weight thudding against the wall next to her caused her to jerk.  It was Annie.  She’d grabbed his arm just as he went to punch Stephanie right in the face, he followed through and slammed Annie into the wall, through the plaster.

Annie passed out for a moment and came back to her head exploding.  The parts of her body she could feel were agony, blood dripped from her nose, her forehead, bits of plaster stuck in her right arm and leg, she was sure she was going to die.  But she couldn’t die now, she couldn’t just leave Stephanie with him.  Using every ounce of mental strength she had, she pushed away the pain, the dizziness, the exploding pressure in her head and slowly rose to her feet.  She couldn’t push away the fear, for the first time her her life, she really understood what terror was.  She couldn’t push it away, but she could hide it.

She stood an average height for her age, a little over four and a half feet tall.  Her dark brown hair still in a pony tail, but now in disarray.  Her school uniform, normally perfectly clean, pressed and neatly worn, was torn, dusty with plaster and red with her blood.  Stephanie just lay on the floor whimpering now.  Uninjured, but she had nothing left in her.  Annie stood between her and her father and looked up at him, she couldn’t help but tremble a little.  He could break her with the flick of an arm.

“Do you want more you stupid shit!?” “Get out of my way!” he was set now, he wanted to punish Stephanie and he was not going to be stopped.  He reached out his arm to shove Annie aside violently.  This time she had a moment to dodge, “NO!” she shouted and threw her entire weight into his belly with her right shoulder.  The pain seared down her arm like fire, he didn’t move an inch.  She fell a step back, hands clenched in fists and eyes glaring up at him.  “NO!” she almost squealed, “I know you don’t care if you die, or go to jail, or go to hell,” she shouted - she knew it was true - “BUT SHE’S YOUR FUCKING DAUGHTER YOU CUNT!” Her scream was so loud it even shocked her, filled with an anger and hatred she never knew she had in her to use.  She’d never even used those words before, but she knew that’s what was real to this man.  The only thing he understood right now, anger, hatred and swearing.

Gary stumbled backwards, looking down at this tiny thing glaring back up at him - her emerald green eyes burning with intensity - looking at his daughter sobbing on the floor.  A brief flash of lucidity, and he fell to the ground in tears, curled up like a baby in the womb.

Annie fell to the ground, unable to hold herself up any more.  Her body trembled and she had to hold back from throwing up.  She turned to Stephanie and held her until they both could sit up and talk again.  She inspected her own wounds and Stephanie quickly got up and helped her tend to them as best they could.  The bruises went deep, and some of the cuts, and she felt a sharp pain on the side of her chest.  She felt a sharp pain almost everywhere.

She didn’t leave the house that night, and a phone call to her mother was enough to satisfy her that everything was alright.  If anything, Gary was more of a wreck by the time he sobered up than before.  Despite her injuries, Annie stayed up all night and brought him some cool, damp cloths, water, coffee, some bacon and eggs - Stephanie hid in her room.  He eyed Annie the entire time like she was some monster, ready to pounce, and didn’t say a word beyond a barely grunted “Thanks.”  He couldn’t look her in the eyes.

Annie had no idea what the right thing to do in this situation was.  For all she had read and for all her cleverness and insight, she was still a ten year old girl and wasn’t equipped to deal with this.  So she talked to Stephanie, who just wanted her old father back, like before her mother died.  Annie knew if he had no chance of rehabilitation, she probably wouldn’t be alive now.  And she finally talked to Gary, head mostly in his hands, looking down at the table, or his feet, talking in a whisper.  All he could really do was say he’s sorry and keep offering to take her to the hospital and turn himself in to the police.  But Annie needed better than that.  Him being in jail did nothing for anyone.

So she Googled and read and called this number and that anonymously to ask questions and by Monday Gary was in a residential rehabilitation program, Stephanie was being looked after by an old friend of her mother and both were back in school.  The red mark on Stephanie’s face had faded quickly, and Annie laughed at how silly she was to be playing chasey and slipping down a flight of stairs when she finally went to hospital Saturday night.  She was so cheerful about it, no one questioned the story for more than a moment, even with Gary looking distraught in the background.  Her mum was vaguely irritated with her for it.  With fresh clothes on and her all cleaned up, it was just a cut above her right eye with a few stitches that showed.  The other thirty were covered.  Her broken rib made movement a bit sore, but it was easily bearable.

———————

At thirteen years old now, Annie was proud of her friend, going through so much and coming out so strong.  She looked forward to one day seeing Stephanie on TV, along with the rest of the world, watching her dance with the passion she always shows now.

Annie was a fine dancer herself, but it was a fun hobby for her, not a goal or a dream.  Her dream was to teach.  To help children be able to learn better, to help teachers be able to teach better.  What problems could be solved if such a thing could be broadly achieved?  Drugs, poverty, hopelessness, depression, what can’t be helped at least somewhat by being better able to learn?  One day she would figure out how to combine her writing, her art and her natural abilities to really make a difference, to actually help some people.  But today, she would help her friend celebrate with enough ice-cream to start their own shop!

Entering their favourite ice-cream and crepe place they saw a beaming man in a well tailored suit, rising from  a table near the window.  He ran over and lifted Stephanie right off her feet in a bear hug, as she laughed.  “Dad!  I thought you weren’t due back till tomorrow!” He put her down and held his arm around her shoulders, still beaming down at her.  “I wasn’t, but the dance school called me this morning to tell me the news, so I cancelled my appointments and flew home, sorry I missed the announcement, but they told me you were walking down here, so I thought I’d drive ahead and meet you.”  Gary turned to Annie and they embraced warmly, he looked down at her like a second daughter.  Annie smiled brightly back at him, knowing how difficult it must have been for him to make it back today.  They all took a seat at the table and talked and laughed together until the waiters ushered them out hours later.

A Step Too Far - Chapter 3

Dave was just minding his own business when this all started a few days earlier.  Walking out of a games shop when he copped a wallop right in the gut - winded, down on his knees.  They grabbed his wallet and bag and ran off before he could even catch his breath, which admittedly took about five minutes thanks to his sorry state.  Inside that bag was a good $2,000 worth of rare cards he’d managed to slip in without anyone noticing.

Being Dave was really a full time job.  It took dedication.  He was an angry man and having such an unfair thing happen to him enraged him beyond words.  He stormed home swearing a lot, and then sweating a lot as he impotently punched cushions in his room.  He hated that anyone would dare do such a thing to him and angrily masturbated to the most violent pornography he could find on short notice while plotting the deaths those men would suffer at his hand!  If he wasn’t, well, him…  Then he lay down and slept for a while, only to go back to playing his games.

That should have been the end of it.  Problem was, Dave really wasn’t himself.  No, try as he might to pretend otherwise, Dave was well and truly gone - heart attack, mid climax about three months back.  And the Dave that sat there playing his games like nothing had happened, that Dave had options.   That Dave could make Dave’s usual impotent plotting quite real.

Looking into matters a bit further found a fortuitous twist of fate.  Turned out the guys who mugged him were irrelevant members of a moderately relevant gang that partook in some quite relevant criminal activity.  Drug dealing, weapons and more interestingly - for Dave at least - some human trafficking for prostitution.  No one cares when petty drug and arms dealers get taken down, but human trafficking - even just a handful of people - now there’s a news story!  He promptly created a new Twitter account; @Moistman.  Saving lives, killing those wretches who dared accost him, superhero Twitter handle.  Dave’s fantasy world come to life.  Delicious.

Until he was stabbed the third time.

Being killed I can live with.   Being outdone by a bunch of thugs, uncouth peasants, I can not.

A Step Too Far - Chapter 2

The entire third grade sat in a daze on the first day with their new teacher.  Some looked blankly out the window, others fidgeted with whatever was to hand.  The middle aged man droned in a monotone about the subject of the hour - math - not expecting anyone to learn a thing and long since past caring if they did.  One boy near the back intently picked his nose with all the gusto of a miner during a gold rush.  One girl, Stephanie, looked desperate, like she was about to cry.  It was a struggle to keep up with math before, but she could never learn this, and would be in trouble for it.

The entire class, but for one that is.  At a casual glance, Annie could have passed as just another student in the room, but anything more than that and the illusion would quickly shatter.  While the other children struggled to remain on their seats, Annie sat comfortably and straight in her chair.  Head down, her bright green eyes were a strong contrast to her dark brown hair, and to the dead looks on every other face in the room.  They were focused intently on the notepad in front of her.  The pencil in her right hand flowed swiftly over the page she was holding gently flat with her left hand to ensure an even surface.

Her hand danced over the page, effortlessly forming shapes that became faces, and trees, and animals.  From her nine years of experience, she knew not to look too interested in what she was doing, or it would draw attention to her and likely upset her teacher.  She certainly didn’t dare use colours.  Sometimes it was hard to look bored, as was expected of students in class, but in a way it was a skill, like acting, and it was fun to practice.  Truth be told, she wasn’t very good at it.

She already knew the math from when she was little, but still listened as she drew, to ensure she missed nothing of importance.  The words the teacher used were long and grand, forcing even Annie into her dictionary once or twice - the only times her attention went off her drawing.

The drawings she made quickly filled the first page with characters all of her own creation, with careful shading and texturing giving an almost lifelike sense of dimension and motion to the simple grey and white characters.  Lines of perfect cursive, that would have been calligraphy if such a pen were to hand, crafted a short, simple story.  Just something she dreamed up some days ago and hadn’t got around to giving life to yet.

Annie paused for a moment as she heard a quiet sniffle come from Stephanie in the corner, and knew she was holding back tears.  She was a nice girl - they played together sometimes - but she was often sad, and struggled to keep up at the best of times.  From the moment the new teacher introduced himself, Annie knew Stephanie would be in trouble.

She quickly resumed her drawing and kept her attention on that, not wanting to have it incomplete by the end of class.

The remainder of the class went by with Annie silently, swiftly, yet carefully drawing and writing away, her work done as the bell rang for the end of the day.  Even that wasn’t enough to bring the children out of their daze immediately, but as Annie neatly packed away her things and carefully folded her drawings, most of them brightened up remembering it was time to go home, and the sounds of chatter and laughter quickly filled the room.

Stephanie was the last one out of the room besides Annie, walking slowly and bumping into a table as she headed to the door.  Annie walked up beside her and gently put a hand on her arm, giving her a smile and handing her the pages she had been working intently on during the class.  Stephanie took the pages, saying nothing as Annie walked away.

Stephanie went and sat alone outside, not having the energy or the desire to get her things and walk home.  She had no idea why Annie had handed her those pages, she was always a bit strange, but was never mean to her, unlike the other kids.  Not yet anyway.  She hoped Annie hadn’t noticed her in class, sniffling away, and made one of her drawings, but with her as some kind of stupid character, sobbing and looking useless.  She didn’t think Annie would do that, but if any of the other kids could draw, they certainly would.

She unfolded the pages and glanced over the images.  No stupid looking girls with drool, or snot, or horns, and as pretty as all her drawings were, if not as colourful.  She started reading the story Annie pulled from who knows where.  The story of a young girl who needed to learn a great secret, to save her lost brother.  It must have taken her days to draw and write such a thing.  And almost hidden amongst the story, the basics of numbers, and symbols and all the complexities of long, impossible to remember words, woven into the simplest of images and ideas.

Stephanie sat reading the pages over and over again for half an hour, hardly able to believe what she was seeing.  Annie had taught her the entire lesson without speaking a single word.

A Step Too Far - Chapter 1

I foolishly failed to notice that Wattpad doesn't let people read full stories without signing up!  So I'm posting my story here as well for those without an account.  If you like it, sign in to Wattpad for the latest updates, other stories and of course to vote, share, like, favourite, link, star, tweet, hashtag, follow, embrace, caress...

CHAPTER 1:
It was the third stab that really sold Dave on the notion things weren't going entirely well.  The first two didn't count, striking peripheral body parts that tend to recover well enough with time.  The third though, through the sternum into the heart, that was quite the show stopper.

Dave was a weedy man, in his mid thirties and still living home with his mother.  His body was well formed to maintain several hours of extended gaming, "bonging" and masturbatory sessions, his slight scoliosis giving him a little discomfort, but not enough to interfere regularly.  His thick, black hair was permanently greasy, likely from the sweat incurred from his private sexual gallivants, and he was just tall enough to qualify as short for a man.

The whole thing was very awkward, it really went back to the name, "Dave". Only saying it just plainly as "Dave" doesn't do the awkwardness justice.  It was more an extended, slurred "Daavvee", when he first heard his new name called out from a presumably drunk or high friend; and "Daavvee" is just not a name you want to take into a serious situation.  But it seemed okay at the time, and so it stuck.  And now Dave was stuck with a knife in his chest. He really felt he deserved what he got and was resigned to his rather tedious (and frankly, quite uncomfortable) death.

Deserving or not though, dying now was not conducive to his supposedly well laid out plans.  That was the mistake he always made, not considering his own weaknesses when planning something important, a failing that caused him no end of trouble over the years.  How hard could it be fighting through half a dozen second rate thugs?  Turns out punching someone in the face without any body mass, strength or speed to help is of limited effect.  Dave's last thought as he lay in a growing pool of his own blood was how embarrassed he was.  He almost blushed.