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"To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself." - Soren Kierkegaard

Blink. I blinked my eyes, and tomorrow night it was. Cindy and Anthony were already asleep because tomorrow was a big day. Tomorrow morning I would be shipped off to military school, as far as they knew. So out I went, once again, the same way I had gone before. I was honestly surprised that I was able to get out unnoticed, simply because I really did make my getaway the same way twice. They were certainly slacking.

As I began to walk the ‘tranquil’ streets, which were quite empty at this time of night, I began searching for her. I hoped that she was really going to be there waiting for me. What would I do if she wasn’t? Would I come back and accept my fate here, or would I venture on alone? This whole thing seemed almost like a fantasy, really. I wished with every ounce of my soul that it would come true. And it did, far sooner than I had expected.

“Tristan!” Was Shadowshade talking again? No, it wasn’t him. I turned and looked behind me. A silhouette was moving in my direction. At first I was a bit frightened, but then everything connected. There she was, moving gracefully in the dim light from an overhead streetlight and then back into the darkness. She walked in and out of the lights, in and out, then in and out again. It was hypnotizing. I stopped and waited for her.

It didn’t take her long to reach me. I was really there. She was really there. All of it was really happening. We were going to leave the nightmares behind, or at least trade them for new ones. It was a refreshing feeling.

“Come on, rapscallion,” she said as we awkwardly embraced each other through our luggage. “Off to the moon.”

“Hey, wait, isn’t that from our dream?” Anna was jealous. She was there, walking alongside us. I reflected for a moment, remembering the dream in little bits and pieces. There was a park, a slide, the moon…it was so long ago.

“Oh really? The moon?” I asked. “Well then we’ll never go hungry. The moon is made of cheese.”

“Do you love me?” Scéléra asked. What? I wasn’t expecting the question. I supposed that I did. Can one love someone after three days? I believe so. Who would say otherwise? You are in love as soon as you are in love. Love has no time requirements.

“I do.” Anna wasn’t pleased with this.

“That’s good! Ha-ha, I love you too. I probably wouldn’t want to run aimlessly into the future with you if I didn’t.” She had a point.

“Where are we going?”

“Shall I tell you now, or would you rather find out when we get there?” Had she already figured me out? I did enjoy surprises.

“Hmm, I think I’d like a surprise as long as we can get there by morning. They’ll be looking for us by then.” She looked at me with a cunning piercing stare, one I was sure she had practiced.

“I thought you might like a surprise. Have I already figured you out?” She let out a little giggly squeak. Could she read my mind too? “No, I’m sure I haven’t figured you out yet. I’ve figured out that you’re a billion different things, and that many things are really impossible to figure out all at once. But can I read your mind? Maybe just a little, every now and then. We’ll certainly be there before morning. Don’t worry about that. I know about the ‘theys’ of the world and their persistent looking. I’ve been planning this.”

Okay, maybe she really could read my mind. But ‘planning this’ could either mean ‘planning this for a year’ or ‘planning this since this morning’. Either way, it didn’t matter much to me. The time for planning had passed.

“Sometimes I wonder why I’m not like them, you know,” I began. “Like the people living inside these houses. They must have money if they can afford to live here…so they want to be here, they chose to be. They’re content with merely this. They applaud the uniformity. They blame my difference on my past, or sometimes they just blame me for being ‘defective’. I don’t think that wanting out of this predictable monotony qualifies as being defective.”

“Of course you aren’t defective. You’re real. You’re not a robot. You don’t allow yourself to be programmed like a fucking computer. You feel. You’re a person.”

"How they can live like this? How could I live like this? I couldn't. If they come for us, they'll have to kill me. This isn’t worth being sent back to, not to me. I'm far less afraid of death than I am of living here. Here I can, like everyone here probably can, see so far into the future that I’m dead already. I can see my future. I see what will happen for the rest of my entire life. I’ll end up living a book that I’ve already read from cover to cover. I’d be living a movie that I’ve already seen and then saw as a rerun. Every fucking thing was planned! Everything…

“I’m only willing to live out a story that no one has ever read before, something unexpected, different because of what it means. I feel alive, Scéléra. Right now I'm alive. I have no idea what is about to happen. I've never read this chapter before. At last, the scripts have been burned! We don't have to read from them anymore! It's so beautiful, the's the only thing that keeps me going." She was silent for just a second.

“Fuck.” She gave me a look that I was very happy to receive. When someone says ‘fuck’ and then looks at you like you're tasty, you know that you've said or done a good thing. This is true unless they're a handsy hobo, or perhaps the person at the bar who agrees with everything you say but is too stupid or drunk to know what you’re saying...she was neither of these. “Yes. I agree. It’s like we’re flying. We’re feasting on experience, like Dionysus. I can picture you as the god of wine.”

He was one of my favorites. I couldn’t decide between Dionysus and Hades. Maybe I could mix them together in myself. We turned a corner and were now on the street leading out to the highway, still a fair distance away from the exit. House after house passed by…they were still clearly visible even at night because of how incredibly white every single goddamn one of them was.

“Houses,” I said. “I guess they’re people habitats, really. The sink is the hamsters’ water dispenser bottle, and so on. When little birds fly away, do the mother or father birds call the bird police and have the little ones forced back into the nest? Of course not! That sounds ridiculous. But tomorrow morning my mother and father bird will try their hardest to make that happen.”

“You’re right,” she replied. “Then the little birds would get sent to psychiatrists and military schools where they can be ‘corrected’…seriously? How can a person, a human being, be corrected? What the hell? It sounds like a term that could only exist in a totalitarian dictatorship.”

“Someone thinks that someone else is incorrect. Maybe they want something to be done about the terrible ‘incorrectness’. Maybe they have the money to fund the correction…the inhumanity…because they sold their souls to the government. They changed the term from ‘sell out’ to ‘buy in’ to feel better about themselves, then copied and pasted their overlords’ definitions of what correctness is into their minds.”

“If you don’t possess the characteristics of what the people with the money decide that ‘correct’ is, they’ll pay to have you fucked up. And someone will gladly fuck you up for money, because people will do anything for money and they’ll find some illogical way to justify doing it. People can justify anything, especially to themselves. They’ll justify why they’re being the rich’s bitches and fucking you up for money. Maybe it’s cool to destroy the ‘incorrect’ people and treat them like they’re trash. They’re terrible, after all. Maybe it even gets them off when they beat the undesirables down.”

“Yes. Freedom is an illusion,” I said.

“Only because we allow it to remain one,” she replied. “We don’t do a damn thing about it when they send their people to punish the runaway slaves. Maybe that’s as bad as punishing the slaves ourselves. They say ‘shut up, you stupid fucking whore, and do what you’re told’…but no. Not me. This stupid fucking whore has something to say back to them!” She was yelling now, and I couldn’t really blame her for it.

“But shh,” I warned, “Or they shall know that their slaves are running away. They’ll be out to whip us, to beat us down, to put us away so that we can’t see the moon glitter in the night sky. We can’t allow them to do that. We’re free today. Maybe freedom exists in the darkness, where no one can see it to take it away.”

“But is it really freedom if it has to hide, if it can’t show its face in the light?”

“Whatever can hide in the darkness is good enough for me, especially when we’re the ones hiding.”

“Yeah, I am pretty damn special…” she admitted. “…‘Malfunctioned’.”

“They may call us that, but that doesn’t make them right.”

“Nope. It makes them like the first graders who point at you, call you a weirdo, then walk away.”

“Well these first graders have the money to hire the high school football team from the F-rated academy to destroy you, if they determine that you’re disagreeable.”

“We’ll hide underneath the bleachers.” he had a good idea.

“It’s all sort of high school, isn’t it? Even the ‘adult’ world has similar little cliques. They just don’t call them cliques because they’ve stigmatized the word…I’m not sure why. It’s like they’re hiding from themselves. They bleep out ‘fuck’ on the TV so we can all live in pretend worlds of our own.”

“Did you know that the pagans worship ‘demons’? The ruling parties have labeled their gods as such. That’s what my parents told me. My parents’ gods were Abrahamic. The Abrahamic religions have consumed the world.” They certainly had. I really didn’t care what people believed as long as they weren’t telling me, or someone else, what should be done and believed. That single request was an order of unspeakable tallness here. I would have to resort to being the ‘unspeakable’, terrible Ivan.

“I think that consensus and comfort are far more important than knowledge or truth to most people…at least to most of the ones I’ve met. Maybe things will be better now. We’ve almost left Tranquility Acres behind.” And I was very glad that we had. We were only a block and a half from the highway. Where would we be going from there? I wasn’t sure, but apparently Scéléra had something in mind.

“So why do you think the people living in these houses want to be here? How do you think they go about defining their ‘correctness’?” She asked.

“Maybe they base it on what they were told growing up. Maybe it has something to do with the media or the church. Maybe the people who think like them and do what they’re doing just happened to be the ones who accepted them. Who knows? It doesn’t matter, they’re irrelevant now. Turn around.” We both turned around. We were facing the entire neighborhood, standing right in front of the big Tranquility Acres sign. It was completely lit up, shining brightly in all of its ‘classy’ plainness. I found it to be grotesque.

“Adieu, fuckers!” I shot both middle fingers up in the air.

“I own my life!” She screamed the sign and all of the white towering clones behind it. “And you can’t have it! You can’t have it! It’s mine now!”

“The Cleaver household is broken today, for sweet little Beaver went bad and away…”

“Oh, hoorah! That rhymed. You should continue.” She enjoyed my little poem. I dedicated it to the glowing sign.

“…Forced him, and forced him, and forced him to stay, but he can’t return with his red letter A.”

“Bravo, bravo, sir. Goodbye, Clonesville.” She waved a final goodbye and we spun back around to face the highway. The road was a bit larger here, sort of like an open ended cul-de-sac. It was time to leave the soul-sucking place behind us.

“So which shall it be? Left or right?”

“Actually, down.” Down? How? What did she mean?

“What do you mean?”

“Down!” She plopped down onto the ground. Plop. Did she mean to sit down?

“Why are we sitting? Don’t we need to go?”

“Nope!” There had to be a reason for this.

“Okay.” I sat down facing her. Plop.

“It’s only eleven fifty-eight!” I had lost track of the time, but I thought I knew why we were sitting down now. Eleven fifty-eight…we had planned to meet here at midnight. We were waiting for something, or someone. But what was it, or who? I assumed that the ‘what’ was a vehicle, so the ‘who’ was the only mystery.

“Our ride is nearly here?” ‘Twas my best guess.

“Good job! Gold star for you, buckaroo! Yes, yes! Nearly here, dear! You’ll like these people. They’re very unique.”

“Sploogerific! I suppose that we we’re pretty unique ourselves.”

“Of course! That’s why you’ll like them. You’ll be able to relate. Do you believe in magic?”

“I think yes, but not in a conventional way.” She smiled at this.

“Oh, you’re not conventional? I didn’t know this. Dear, you couldn’t be conventional to save your life.”

“Well of course not. I wouldn’t have a reason to save my life if I had to spend it conventionally, now would I? But magic…magic is a very human thing. We create it. We don’t necessarily ‘draw it’ from anywhere except from within ourselves. At the same time, there are ways to trigger magical effects inside us.

“Do I think that there is objectively a mystic magical aura floating around, and an alternate reality full of supernatural mythological things? No. I think that in the end it is all in our heads. But all that really matters is what’s inside of our heads, Scéléra. We’ll never be anyplace other than inside of them. Magic can be thought into reality. If it exists in our heads, it exists. Perception becomes reality, and reality happens on a personal level.”

“Do you think that I only exist inside of your mind?” Anna asked. She was still there, playing with pebbles on the asphalt next to us. I had not yet figured out the answer to her question. But if I believed what I said only a second earlier, and I did, then the question was irrelevant. She was real to me, so she was real.

“No.” I didn’t want to offend her with an ‘I don’t know’.

“So what shall we think into existence tonight, Sir Thinksalot?” Scéléra asked.

“En garde, Sir Jumpsalot,” Veia echoed in my ears. Why can’t I stop hearing her voice? Why? Then unexpectedly, right on cue just like Cinderella’s midnight pumpkin, we were greeted by a black Crown Victoria pulling into the cul-de-sac. Ho. Ly. Shit. A fucking cop. I was ready to run for my life. I was going to get out of this damn place even if I had to get tased a few times on the way. They’d have to kill me. I’d rather let them mutilate my body than let Tranquility Acres mutilate my soul. But something was off. Scéléra was laughing hysterically.

“Oh!” That was all she could say. The car came to a stop about ten feet in front of us. Was this our ride? Was it not an undercover cop? What the hell? “Oh, god…” she finally said. “Your face! I’m so sorry! No I’m not.” She only whispered the last part. Okay, this was our ride. What a bitch! Scéléra got to stare at the two middle fingers that Tranquility Acres viewed moments before. She was mean, but who was I kidding? Mean was what I was into. The trunk of the car popped open.

“Pop!” said the trunk. The passenger’s side window opened, and out came a male voice.

“Throw your shit in the trunk, my fine feathered friends.” So into the trunk our shit was thrown. As we stood behind it, Scéléra forcefully jumped into my arms and kissed me, really smashing her face into mine. We spun around and around in the rain. It began just as we came together. We were twirling, swirling, yes…this is what life felt like. I was sure that I had found it at last. Life, love…but I was about to fall on my ass so I quickly let her down. The rain stopped when her feet touched the ground. How odd. It had come just for us.

“Fuck you!” She screamed at the top of her lungs while facing the Tranquility Acres sign. “Ha-ha! Burn in heaven!”

“Sir and Madame, it is time to depart!” The man sitting in the passenger’s seat was ready to zoom away. “Ándale, ándale, ándale!” So we complied, something we didn’t do very often, because they were taking us away. We were rid of the nightmare at last! This night was better than a Halloween birthday. I got in on the left, and she on the right. Immediately after the doors were shut the smell of cigarettes and pot was evident.

“Damn!” I exclaimed. “This is the first undercover cop car I’ve ever been in that smells like weed.” The cop car I had been in before wasn’t an undercover, but the statement worked better the way I said it.

“You should’ve been there when they got me and Squirly in high school…” A woman’s voice said. She was the driver and sounded super-spacy, kind of dream-like. Maybe that meant she was high. “…that fuckin’ undercover cop car must’ve smelled like bud for weeks after we got chauffeured in it for fifteen minutes! Fifteen minutes is all it took with me and Squirly.” Was that an innuendo?

She sort of laughed and coughed at the same time, like an evil villain in some old cartoon who chokes on his laughter. He does this and then for some unknown reason people laugh at it. The only difference was that I actually thought this was funny. I couldn’t see her very well because I was sitting directly behind her, but I could see him. He had tan skin, dirty blonde hair, and a full beard that came down to about the middle of his chest. It came to a sharp point at the end, sort of like a beard one might imagine Cartoon Satan to have. Only this guy’s was blonde.

“Sup, sluts? I mean ‘wonderful wayward passengers’…I’m Drake, like Drake ‘n’ bake. You must be Ivan the Terrible. I’ve heard of you and your merry misadventures.”

“Ha!” The driver squealed. “Drake, you’re so grandiose tonight. I’m Vera, by the way.” Vera…that was only one letter away from Veia, and the memories persisted in spite of my attempts to send them away. But these people seemed quite interesting, maybe like people I could soon befriend. Drake had heard of my ‘misadventures’? What had Scéléra told him?

“Goodafternevening, everyone.” Goodafternevening, mademoiselle. It was said a second time that only I could hear. It was me, or maybe a ghost of me. I shook my head to expel the reminiscence and continued on. “Escapades? What have you heard of these?”

“Oh, the wondrous night at Obscurité,” the man replied. “You made a poor young lad go totally duck fucking mad! Muy excellente, señor.” Wow. What exactly did he know?

“Don’t worry, love.” Scéléra must have been reading my mind again. “I only said that you drove the poor boy to insanity, nothing more.” This was good. I didn’t really want them to know about Henri’s flight from the balcony.

“Okay, dears!” Vera shouted. “You’ve boarded Charona’s ferry, now we must be off to the Wonderworld! Buckle up, or don’t! I don’t give a shit! Ride at your own risk! Viewer discretion is advised. However, if you choose not to view then you probably aren’t the viewer that Charona wants on her ferry…but that is neither here, nor there, nor anywhere. Ha-ha! Tally ho! We’re off!” This is going to be exciting. The engine of Charona’s ferry roared to life. Just like that, Tranquility was a thing of the past.

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