Waltz of the Macabre
Short young elf, glowing tattoos on right arm
A relatively young elf, short with dark hair and blue eyes. She has glowing tattoos that sweep up her right arm.
Some would say I’ve been unfortunate. Home was a run down pit of despair located in the depths of the poorest parts of Seattle, where the only entertainment involved painting dubious murals on the buidlings already daubed in slogans and hateful slander. Redmond – it sounds like a nice gated community doesn’t it? I had my family though, and that was all that mattered – my younger brothers, Mattias and Nikolai, and younger sister, Raimi. My elder brother, Lucas. Then there was Emilia, my twin sister. Thick as thieves, we were, and even our parents had trouble telling us apart!
That was before they came. Swift in the night, they took us all. I was just 12 when it happened, hardened beyond her years by circumstance but still beholding the naivety of childhood. Lucas woke me from my sleep and shushed me, hurrying me into the closet. A reassuring smile and kind eyes met mine, calming me, before clothes were thrown haphazardly over my shivering body. Emilia rolled under her bed, wide eyes matching my fear as we heard shouting. Gunshots rang and I clapped my hands over my ears, breaths coming quickly.
The door was kicked in with a thundering crash and I heard yelling. I screwed my eyes shut as I listened to Lucas fighting whomever has decided to storm our house. I hoped for the first time ever that sirens would sound, but the police had abandoned us to our fate. My eyes flew open as I hear a scream. Emilia! I’m too terrified to move though. I heard her crying as silent tears tracked down my own face. Boots thudded against the floor as they searched for something, someone, and her screams die off. I froze in place as an assailant stopped not three feet away.
I glanced out of my hiding spot and saw someone hauling Lucas over his shoulder. I closed my eyes again, hiding from the world. Maybe I’ll wake up… Instead, the image of the star on the back of the black jacket is burned into my mind. The coat above me is pulled off and a blank mask stares back. I think I scream, but I’m not sure.
My next memories are of pain and sterile white walls. I don’t know how long passed, only that they kept us separate. I could almost sense Emilia on the other side of the wall. One night, I don’t know how, Lucas appeared at my door. He looked around frantically and the door slid open. I stepped out to see my brothers stood shivering, holding Emilia close. He pushed us forward, a finger to his lips, and I can’t ask about Raimi and our parents.
My very bones ache with movement. We made our way silently up the stairs, winding our way to the surface. As I started to feel the hope that maybe we can make it out, the lights burst into life and a siren sounded deep within the building. Ushered onward by Lucas we started to run. We burst into a corridor and see soldiers approaching.
Suddenly my younger brothers were yelling and running off down a hall to the left. Confusion joins the terror – they was running much faster than I would have thought possible. A strange look fell over Emilia’s face; two of the soldiers had followed after Mattias and Nikolai, but two more stepped forward. She matched them for it. Lucas reached out to stop her, but with a dancer’s grace she struck first. Before I can blink, one of the soldiers is unconscious and the other disarmed, locked in hand to hand with my brother. Something about the way she moved was unnatural though. Too quick, the movements smooth. This was not the street brawling could have been learned in the slums.
Lucas was just as shocked, but didn’t have time to react before more footsteps were sounding. Turning left and right through a labyrinth of endlessly white corridors we sprinted away from the fight, hoping we found something, anything, useful. Blind faith led us to a heavy metal door. Praying that it worked, I watched as Lucas pressed the keycard to the pad. After an age it flickered green with a soft beep. He swung it open with relief, but soldiers rounded the corner, guns raised. A plastic key is pressed into my palm and Lucas was speaking to me rapidly in low tones. I only understood some of the words, fear filling my every thought. He pushed me out of the door and screamed at me to go, so I span on my heel and sprinted away before I could think about it. I heard a bullet crack into the wall beside me as he did. I screamed and ducked away. I could smell the sweet smell of fresh grass – the odd thought that it must have rained recently passed through my mind. We were so close!
I don’t know what happened then. I just ran, as Lucas had made me promise to do. I wove into the alleys and back streets as soon as I could, staying away from the main roads. I didn’t stop until I couldn’t breath any more and was forced to stop. Tears streaked my face. I let them take my family.
I’d heard tales of the Corporations taking ‘volunteers’ for their experimentation, but never believed the horrors would come to my doorstep. In a morbid way it made sense – who would miss us? Who would notice our disappearance, or investigate our murder? Who would care that strangers in the night had stolen my loved ones? I wandered aimlessly, wondering what to do next. That was how I met Jenna.
Jenna was a beat cop when she picked me up. New to the job and looking to make a name for herself. She told me she’s been a child of the system herself, so she took me under her wing. Set me up in a couple of nice places. None of them stuck though.
I met Joseph when I was just 17. It was one of those tragic whirlwind romances you have when you’re young, when they seem like the be all and end all of your existence. Sadly, whilst I loved him, he couldn’t believe me. One night when we were out I guess I smiled at another guy or something, because before I knew it he had me hauled up against an alley wall, his fingers closing tightly around my throat. Vicious words spat from his mouth as he leered in my face. My vision darkened as I gasped for breath, my windpipe slowly yielding to his grap. His weight suddenly vanished and I fell from the wall, catching myself on the dumpster to avoid tumbling to the ground. I glance up at my saviour and see a punk African chick, clad in black leather and a spiked choker at her throat, gun held steadily with the muzzle pointing right at Joseph’s face. I never saw him again, thankfully, and Aiya became my best friend.
I took a couple of crap jobs over the years, waitressing and the like, trying to save for a better life. I never could forget that star though. So when Aiya mentioned she needed a hand on a run, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Over the next few years I got experience from those runs; what I lack in muscles in turns out I make up for with cheek and charm. I’m a quick study, and running in the right circles meant I picked up a lot of useful tricks in this trade.
Unfortunately for me, our last run did not go so well. It should have been simple; get in, get out. A client wanted us to lift a memory stick with company secrets from one of their execs, which is a simple enough job. The problem was the security. With Aiya and a fellow runner distracting our friends outside Deanna, a new hire, was able to slip inside with relative ease. A bit of charm on a guard earlier in the evening and I had his key card, passed out in a flat somewhere Downtown, the drugged glass of whiskey drained dry. I used that card now to open a side door and clip it to the waistband of my skirt. Our hacker had blueprints of the place, so we were able to get to the office quickly and a white blanket of static enveloped cameras as we passed, courtesy of the same guy. I nod to Deanna before entering the office boldly, striding across the space about to inform him of the commotion outside and move him to a ‘safe location’ when my words fail.
A jacket hanging on a coat stand is emblazoned with a gold star. My vision blurs and for a second I’m a scared 12 year old again.
“You,” I breathe. I hear him say something, probably asking who I am and what I want. “You took them.” My voice becomes more certain. “Where are they?” I demand. “How sick and twisted are you?” I continue throwing accusations and the so far unflustered man becomes increasingly agitated. I say I know things, that I’ll expose him for the criminal he is. Stupid, I know that now. He grabs my arms and shouts in my face how I have no idea what I’m talking about. That he won’t stand idly by while some bint storms in and spreads lies, anger transforming his charasmatic features. He pushes me toward the door and advises me to leave immediately. I swear to him that I’ll be back, and leave to find the hallway empty. Either Deanna is gone, or she heard things going south and aborted the run and, as the camera pans toward me, I see she took her hacker friend with her. I hurry toward the side exit, and run straight into a Lone Star patrol vehicle.
Jenna gets out and looks at me in disappointment. She gently places a hand on my shoulder and turns me, placed my slender wrists in the cuffs. I’ve been in trouble before, but she’s always looked out for me and never used her cuffs. 21 and being carted off to the big house. I look across the street and see Aiya in the shadows. I can tell she wants to come forward, to help. Our tank is behind her and raises his gun, levelling it at the car, but I shake my head with a sad smile. A nod, and she vanishes into the night with her partner. At least I had one person I could count on.
Still, I’d been in stickier situations. Given I’ve always been petite and not exactly a lot of braun, I’ve had to learn how to use my other talents. A flashback to my childhood was less than helpful for quick thinking, but I’ve usually been good at improvising. I’ll talk my way out of this one too. At the station, I sit primly on the other side of the metal table, eyes downcast as Jenna asks me what I was doing there. I had explained that I had been seeing one of the guards there, and he had told me of the fantastic views across the city were possible from the higher levels. He had promised to bring me, and then passed out drunk, so I thought what was the harm? I heard the gunfire outside on my way back out and got scared, ducking into the nearest room which happened to be the exec’s office. Then I had gotten confused. I had a traumatic experience growing up, didn’t she know? The shots and fear had cause me to lose myself, and I wasn’t proud, but these things can happen.
She raises a skeptical eyebrow and asks where the guard is now. I say I’m staying at a friend’s and give her the address of the unknown flat. I chose my target carefully though – “He’ll deny knowing me though,” I add. I wring my hands and tip my head back, sniffing. I give her a derisive look, “His wife probably wouldn’t like it.” I sigh, pausing for effect. “I bet I’m not even the only one,” I finish sadly, I dip my head in forced shame.
Jenna considers me a moment and shakes her head in resignation. “You have to turn your life around, Juliette.” She stands and leaves, another officer escorting me to my cell for the night. I’m informed the next day that they had found the man and that he had been extremely hungover and confused about where he was, but guiltily glancing at the bed’s unmade sheets. As expected, he denied any affair, but no one bought what he was selling. They had returned his card to him, and him to his wife. The exec didn’t press assault charges, but I was held for a week or two with only Seattle’s finest for company. No charges, but they wanted me to think twice before trespassing again.
Now I plan to take Jenna’s words to heart. I need to turn my life around. I just have to keep my head down for a while. I got a quality fake SIN – I am now apparently Bo Dennis – from a Fixer an inmate had informed me of and planned to make a new start. That star though… I know he told me I was wrong but I can’t help that niggling curiosity, the burning desire to know what happened. I know the truth is out there.