Jagged Glass Ballet
By Brendan Detzner
He opened his eyes. He was in a small, cozy little room, about ten by fifteen feet. The walls were bare drywall. On the ceiling there were wooden panels and on the floor there was a dark red shag carpet. It was so deep you could feel your feet sink into it like quicksand. He was lying on an inch-thick foam mattress laid out on the floor. There was no pillow. One wall of the room was entirely occupied by an antique oak bookshelf. Partially filling some of the shelves was a wide variety of clutter: a red plastic bucket, a box of black ball point pens, a package of six light bulbs, some copper wire, some dusty old paperbacks, a camcorder.
The light bulbs, he presumed, were for replacing the one on the ceiling that was lighting the room. He didn't know what the other items were for. The only other distinguishing features in the room were a small mirror hung on the door and a large metal grill screwed into one wall to cover a ventilation shaft.
He looked at himself in the mirror. He was about five foot ten, had red hair, blue eyes, and dark tanned skin. He was wearing a pair of tight fitting black jeans and a loose fitting white shirt. He was about fourteen years old. He felt something itch on his scalp. He reached for the spot, and felt a long line, reaching from the top of his neck down to his front hairline. A scar. He scratched it, and the feeling went away.
Aside from the ventilation shaft, the only way out of the room was a thick wooden door. As he reached for the plastic doorknob a parade of loud noises from outside blew him backward. The noise connected immediately in his mind- gunshots.
Guided completely by instinct, he slid up against the wall and opened the door just a crack, slowly, so it wouldn't creak. There was a long dark hallway outside. He couldn't see exactly what was happening because of the light. The only key was the sound of gunfire, which was becoming more frantic, and the sound of a single, screaming voice. He couldnít be sure exactly what was being said over the gunshots, only the screeching tone, like a flock of psychotic geese.
A group of the men ran down the hall. Little red laser sights darted across the walls. As the lead figure passed the door, he made a sharp turn, swung the door open, and dived into the room, right in front of the observer.
Their eyes met for a second. The person from the hall was the same age and size as the observer. He was wearing a ski mask, a pair of black jeans, a brown T-shirt, and a tool belt filled to the brim with guns, knives, and other things the observer could not identify.
They both heard the sound of the other men stampeding down the hall.
"Get down and pretend you're asleep!" the boy in the ski mask whispered. He pushed the observer back onto the mattress. The observer closed his eyes and held his breath.
Over the next few seconds, there were seven shots and two screams. The observer managed not to flinch. He waited five minutes after the noise stopped before he got up.
There were four dead bodies. One had been shot; the others had eight-inch wooden sticks stuck in different vital areas- neck, heart, eyes. The wounds were very precise- there was hardly any blood.
The observer wasn't shocked by any of this. He was surprised, but he took the situation in stride. He'd seen worse.
The observer thought for a second. When, exactly, had he seen worse? He felt himself reach back for the necessary information, but nothing came. He couldn't remember anything at all, not even the basic stuff, name, address, phone number. What's a phone? He knew it was some kind of independent object, but didn't know what. He reached back as far as he could. He remembered a texture, a cold, smooth surface, up against his ear. Plastic.
He thought of what else he knew. Iím fourteen, and Iím a basically good person. He tried to reach for more, but the well had gone dry. There was nothing else.
He returned his attention to the bodies. They were dressed in identical black body suits. Their heads were covered by black ski masks, which were covered by black helmets. Each helmet had a black plastic visor. Most of the visors had been punctured by one of the wooden splinters. He removed one of the helmets and tried it on.
He looked through the visor. Everything was tinted in warm colors. He waved his hand in front of his eyes. A soft glow came off of it. Infrared.
He heard the buzz of static in his ear, followed by a panicked voice.
"WHERE ARE YOU! COME ON! YOU HAVE TO KILL HIM! WHAT HAPPENED!"
"Who are you?" The observerís voice was very shaky.
The voice coming from the helmet stopped for a second, then came back angry.
"I'LL KILL YOU WITH MY BARE HANDS YOU LITTLE FUCKER! I DON'T GIVE A SHIT IF YOU'RE WORKING WITH THAT BITCH, I'M GOING TO KILL YOU ANYWAY! EVEN IF I HAVE TO BREAK INTO THE COMPLEX IN..."
The observer put down the helmet.
He took a closer look at the bodies. Each one had an empty gun holster strapped across the shoulder. As he looked, he noticed a slight bulge in the side of one of the soldier's suits. He took a closer look, and saw that there was a pocket placed there. It was meant not to be noticed, but it was filled with too many things, and bulged out. Inside the pocket, there were two objects, a handgun and a Swiss army knife. He removed the weapons and began looking for a hiding place. He grabbed one of the books, and considered cutting out the pages to make a compartment, but rejected the idea because the book was too small. Instead, he turned the gun upside down and put the gun underneath. He stuck the knife in his sock.
The only thing different about the room was the metal grating- it had been ripped off. Whoever had done it must have used wire cutters. It had to have been the kid in the ski mask. There was nobody else left alive.
He heard footsteps coming towards his room. He jumped back onto the mattress and closed his eyes again. A group of people entered the room. The observer heard the voice buzz through the soldiersí headsets.
"TAKE THE BODIES AND GET OUT OF HERE! ITíS GOING TO BE MORNING! YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF THERE!"
The soldiers took two bodies each and left the room. They shut the door behind them.
It was a long time before the young man opened his eyes again. When he finally did, he was not sure if he had fallen asleep or not. He crawled to his feet, and rubbed his eyes. He was starving.
He considered his alternatives. He didn't hear any more gunshots, so the door might be a sane option. He checked the metal grate. With help from the knife he managed to pry it open. The vent was wide enough for him to crawl inside. He was about to enter the tunnel when he heard someone knocking on his door. He dived back for his mattress, hid the knife, and closed his eyes.
They knocked three more times before they came in. The young man couldn't tell exactly how many there were with his eyes closed.
"Wake up!" a sharp feminine voice rang out.
The young man opened his eyes and looked up. That was not the voice of someone who wanted to kill him.
There were five of them. They were all around the young man's age. The girl talking to him was about his height. She was pretty scrawny- it looked like he could encircle both her wrists with one hand. She had long hair that was natural red in some places and died black or green in others. Her eyes were green. She was wearing a thin tan dress over a pair of jeans. On her head was a beret made woven out of a brown extension cord.
Standing to her right was a tall boy, about six feet. A slight case of five o'clock shadow suggested he was older then the others. He was dressed in a pair of extremely baggy black pants, made out of some material he was not familiar with. It looked like fake leather. He also wore a red jacket, which was actually a raincoat crudely torn in a few key places. The jacket parted in the middle to reveal a series of oriental-looking symbols written across his tanned, muscular chest. He regularly glanced at the rest of the group, as though he were doing a head count. He was barefoot.
On the other side of the scrawny girl was another girl, a black girl, very small, and slightly overweight. She was dressed in a red and orange tie-dye shirt, sky blue canvas shorts, and heavy brown combat boots decorated with stickers. She had a deep smile that seemed like a permanent feature of her face.
Behind the group of three was a boy of about the observer's height and build. He was hiding behind the others, so the observer couldn't get a very good look at him, but he saw flashes of green and gray clothing, as well as a heavy backpack.
Finally, there was another boy on the other side of the room juggling beanbags. He seemed to ignore the rest of them completely. He was dressed more or less like the observer, but his clothes and skin were filled with short messages written in magic marker. The handwriting was messy and the observer couldnít read it at all.
"Good, you're up!" The girl in the middle seemed genuinely pleased. "You're new, right?"
The observer huddled back into a corner of the room.
"Oh no..." The girl's mood immediately reversed itself. "I'm sorry, I forgot how freaky it can get the first time..."
The observer wasn't sure what was going on, but he felt awful that this girl felt bad. He got up and walked toward her. She immediately lighted back up.
"Oh, great, you're up! Do you have a name yet?"
The observer shook his head no. "I can't remember what it is," he said, embarrassed.
"Don't worry about it. That happens to everybody. You have to pick one."
"How do I do that?"
"It's not hard. You just have to look around. Most people just take something they remember and put it with something they find here."
The observer thought for a second. "Can I do that right now?"
"Well..." The girl was startled. "There's no hurry, but if you want to do it now, I guess that's fine."
"Okay." The observer walked over to the shelf and looked at the paperbacks. One title attracted his attention. "Flight of the Dragon- A Black Dragon Adventure." He looked at the cover. A ninja in a black suit was throwing a star at another ninja.
The observer put down the book. "Dragon Plastic. Is that any good?"
The girl ran the name over her tongue a couple of times. "Dragon Plastic. Drag On Plas Tic." She smiled and turned to the others. They nodded in assent. "That's pretty good, Dragon. I'm Scraps. Scraps Glasswork." She shrugged her shoulders. "Itís not very good, I know, but itís the only word I could remember. This is Big Mike, right next to me." She motioned towards the boy in the red jacket.
Big walked up to Dragon and shook his hand. Dragon shook back, and acquainted himself with the rest of the group. The black girl was called Simon Wildflowers. The juggling boy was Crazy- just Crazy, no last name. The boy in back was named Robert Y. Frost. He was always referred to by his full name- no abbreviations.
"Well, now that we're all acquainted, do you want the full tour?" Scraps said. She giggled in between sentences, words, even syllables. Dragon nodded, hesitantly. He hoped he didn't seem too reluctant- he'd hate to hurt her feelings again.
"Great!" She grabbed Dragon's hand and pulled him into the hall. Mike smiled in a knowing way and followed the pair. Everybody else followed on Mike's heels, except Crazy, who waited a full minute before catapulting himself through the door after the rest of the group.
Outside the room, and past the hallway that led there, Dragon was introduced to one of the most strangely beautiful sights he would ever see.
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