The Mysterious Occurrences in Wakefield, USA

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Dying Lights

The two men arrived at Ward St. Underground Station by sunrise. Back before either of them were born, bullet like trains slithered around along tracks underground, taking people from place to place. Whether from West Fort to East Fort, or from Knoxville to Thespianora, people got where they needed to get to. But now monorails did that- this time the trains billowed through clouds, up so high people can punch holes in the sky.

Robin excitedly jumped on the balls of his feet. He had never been more happy with his best friend, Peachfuzz. Not only did Peachfuzz allow him to come to the Weird Underground, but he would introduce him to Gem. Gem would no doubt buy the bottle of fireflies Robin had captured. He spent all night getting the best of the best. They looked sleepy now as Robin looked down at them, and Robin shook the jar, once, twice, three times. The fireflies slammed around in the jar but slowly their bottoms lit up like broken traffic lights.

At Ward Station, Robin noticed, nature grew wilder that anywhere else in West Fort. Trees erupted from concrete, causing large, wild cracks in the ground. Leaves scattered the steps leading down to the entrance of the Weird Underground. Flowers, weeds, and blades of grass sprouted feebly from the cracks in the concrete, whether natural or caused from the trees. Robin offhandedly thought if anybody dared to mow here.

Robin also knew that deep within the town square of West Fort, old forts that famously gave the neighborhood its name stood tall. Robin had been here once when his mother took him and his sister to the monorail, since the one in Knoxville was broken. When they saw the old forts, where buildings and new life sprouted up around it, Robin’s mother sighed and ran her finger along the wood. “This is our history, children.” She said quietly, before grabbing both of her childrens hands and leading them uptown to the monorail.

Later when Robin asked her what she meant by history, she sat him down across from here and asked him if he had ever gotten into a fight. “Of course I have, I get into them all the time.” Robin said.

“But have you and Mia fought over a specific thing?”

“You mean like fighting over the last biscuit?”

“Yes, exactly. Say that the entire island of Wakefield is a biscuit. And you want the biscuit, but so does Mia. What do you do?”

“You fight for it!”

“Exactly.”

Peachfuzz shook Robin’s shoulder and jarred him from his memories. Robin turned to look at the taller male, but he was already bounding down the stairs. “Are you ready?” Robin watched him turn back to meet his gaze.

“Yeah. let’s go.” Slowly, Robin nodded, and began down the stairs.

The Weird Underground was flourishing. It always was flourishing, but at this time of day, when stall vendors are opening up with new and fresh products, business was good. Despite the bright colors of the people and the stalls, the abandoned subway tunnels vibrated with every noise, the dark walls reeking with mildew and a certain tang of oldness. Peachfuzz had been down here ever since he could remember, scrambling around and selling stuff he found around the house. It was only when he was eighteen did he get into his fire-breathing business and make loads of cash. Fire-breathing was the name of his business down here. He worked at his owns tall, adding an assortment of spices to different alcoholic beverages and boiling them off- that is, most of it off. His products were so hot and spicy that he was often called the Dragon of Ward Station.

Currently, he was saving up to get cancer treatment at Kindrid Hospital in East Fort so his father could be cured. It was a long process. As Robin darted around the place with a mystical expression on his face, Peachfuzz set up his stall and turned on his oven. He remembered when he first met Robin. He was only sixteen, and was smuggling his mother’s curling iron and a few bottles of fireflies across the border of Knoxville into West Fort. Robin had spotted him from his hidey hole and stopped him in his tracks. Peachfuzz, so scared he was going to get caught, spouted lies from his mouth right on the spot, but Robin wouldn’t buy it. Robin forced him to confess, and thus their friendship was born.

The metal was already hot when Robin returned a few minutes later, face shiny with sweat and excitement.

“This place is magical!”

Peachfuzz frowned and spared a look around the place. The low thrum of voices could not disguise the sound of the dingy underground. Violence was around every corner and the people who dwelled down here all their lives would have to live with the lack of sunlight, the unmistakable freezing temperatures, and the disruptive night life and bustle when things really kicked up. The only person dying to come here was Robin. But then, Peachfuzz could not be bothered to be surprised.

Robin sat his jar of lightning bugs on the stall and rested his hip against it. “So, when will I be able to see Gem?”

“It depends. She usually comes in later.”

“But I heard this woman would buy these off of me.” Robin’s voice went hard and serious, and his expression became menacing. Robin’s dangerous.

“She will, don’t worry. What do you need the money for anyways?” Peachfuzz tried to steer the subject of Gem away. Robin’s face softened a fraction, but his frown was not lessened.

“I need it to buy some good weapon.. Something nice, something new, something..” He ran his tongue along his teeth. “Something dangerous.”

Peachfuzz’s heart skipped a beat and he forced a smile. “What for?”

“To kill Matthias Wakefield!”

Robin was sent away before he was able to visit Gem. He needed to clear his thoughts, and his bladder. He jumped off of the platform and down onto the train tracks, then strolled casually into the darkness. Flickering, white lights shone down on abandoned platform as he idly made his way to a good spot to empty himself. The darkness and creepy atmosphere of the Underground didn’t bother him, if anything he felt at home. He knew if the shadows peeled off the walls and came and stroked his face he would not stop them. He would get them to join his army.

When his mother told him it was right to fight for Wakefield, he asked what this had to do with his history. His mother bit her lip and messed with her black curls, sighing. “Well, you see.. Our family was here before the Wakefield’s came. The Wakefield family wanted to make a city, and we wanted to keep things the way they were. So we both fought for what we wanted, and we lost.”

“Why mama?”

His mother paused. “They were stronger. All I know is that if we won, we wouldn’t be here right now. We wouldn’t be eating bread with mold and you and your sister wouldn’t be surrounded with kids who are sixteen and already have tattoos.” “But tattoos are cool!”

“But they get tiring. Think about it. What if you saw the same thing every single day with no stop?”

And as Robin grew older, his hatred grew towards the Wakefields as he realized that he did see the same thing everyday. Every day, a Wakefield in office, every decade or so, another inexperienced one took the reigns. They all look the same- pale skin, light eyes, dark hair. The boys have stubble and the girls have curls, but every single day, Robin looked upon the sky and upon the magazines at the Brass Horse and bit his tongue to keep his hatred filled words down his throat.

His life had been affected by the Wakefields, and it would never stop if he didn’t do anything.

Robin finished his business, zipped his pants up, and began his walk back. He walked on the empty platforms this time, passing broken trash. Distant yells echoed off the subway from far off, but even if they were closer, Robin wouldn’t be seized with a fit of panic.

His foot hit something and he spiraled towards the ground. His face smacked against jagged concrete, and metallic smelling blood filled his nose. Robin steadied himself with both hands and knees of the ground. He snorted once and droplets of blood scattered along the concrete. He sat up and turned to see what he tripped over. A mirror, the surface pearly and smooth, sat, untouched and unbroken. Why somebody would throw such a thing away was a mystery to him. He picked up the fake, golden handle of the mirror and brought it to his face. What he saw shocked him.

He blinked once, shaking his head. He looked like a tiger.

He blinked again, opened his eyes, and saw the same thing. His golden skin was now covered in something darker and oranger, like her was wearing circus paint. It highlighted his temple, cheekbones, and eyelids. Faded black stripes swirled out from his equally dark hair and curled along the edges of his face. His nose was charcoal black. Whiskers sprouted from his cheeks, ruffled with agitation. He turned his face- nothing had changed. The same pattern was there. The only thing that changed were his eyes. When he turned his face, his irises became darker, and his pupils slit quickly, like a cat’s would. His breathing got quicker, some in panic and some in excitement. This is just what he needed! This is how he could kill Matthias Wakefield!

But why? Why did he turn into a tiger? Was it just in his genes, or was he imagining this? Was this some sort of trick, or was it doomed to happen either way? Thoughts bubbled in Robin’s mind like boiling water, before he swatted them away. Who cares? He can kill Matthias now with his tiger powers.

He just needed to check one thing. He grinned. His teeth were sharp- but not sharp enough. His canines were a bit duller than he had expected. His face fell in disappointment and his whiskers drooped.

“I gotta sharpen them...” Robin crawled on all fours. He supposed he would need to practice after all, if this was how Matthias was going to meet his end. He searched and finally found what he needed. A rough piece of sandpaper hidden in a heap of trash.

“This place just keeps getting more and more amazing!” Robin plucked the sandpaper from the trash and grinded it against his teeth without hesitation.

And kept going.

After Robin was gone for about fifteen minutes, Peachfuzz got a bit worried. He was standing outside of the large cave-like hole in the wall Gem’s shop was in, and he was clutching Robin’s jar of fireflies timidly. It was clear they were damaged goods- their lights were going out. If he was any longer, these fireflies would be no good to the woman.

Another thought trickled into Peachfuzz’s mind. What if Robin finally snapped, what if he just lost it and is running through the dingy Underground communities, stark naked and screaming about Mattias Wakefield? What if-

“Young man?” A dreamy voice called from inside the cave, the voice echoing. “Has your friend returned?”

Peachfuzz cleared his throat nervously. “No, Miss Gem. He should be back soon.”

The voice sighed. “Well, I’m afraid I can’t wait much longer. Do you mind showing me what you have with you?”

Peachfuzz walked into the hole, and was hit with a solid wall of incense. Tables lined the dingy hole, holding items such as jars full of spices, fireflies, animal parts, glowing liquids, and smooth, amber like substances solidified like brick. The cave reeked of perfume, but despite this, the woman sitting on top of a pile of pillows seems unmoved by this.

Gem was a weird woman, but beautiful in her own way. Her skin was tinted green from modifications, but her green skin hinted that before the coloring, it was smooth and dark. Tight, jet black ringlets sprouted from her head and fell around her soft face. Her lips were painted light red, and her eyes were both different colors. One was light pink, and the other was dark yellow. But both of them focused on Peachfuzz’s face as soon as he walked in, and saw right through him. Despite going to the Underground for years, Pechfuzz was always a bit uneasy around Gem.

“Theodore Peaches... How nice it is to see you again. Last time I saw you was a few years back, was it not?” Gem straightened up on her pillow, her thin eyebrows folding in a frown.

Peachfuzz bowed his head in shame. “Miss Gem, I go by Peachfuzz now... I know I promised that I would visit you more often, but life caught up with me.”

Gem smiled gently, and Peachfuzz’s heart lifted. “Don’t worry about it at all. Now,” She put her hands in her lap. “What has your friend got to offer to me?” Peachfuzz handed her the jar. She looked at it, and peered into the glass. The glass made her pink eye look three times bigger than it was, and Peachfuzz couldn’t help but smile. Gem opened her mouth and ran her tongue along the glass, smudging it. She smacked her lips and nodded. “Very nice. I have been running low on these.” She motioned to her jar table.

“How much are you willing to give for them?”

Gem inspected the jar again. “They’re near death, so I will only give ten dollars.”

Peachfuzz nodded grimly as Gem shuffled through a crocodile skin, silver- buttoned snap purse. She brought out a few bills for him and traded him for the jar. Peachfuzz smiled and folded the bills. “Thank you, I’m sure he will be overjoyed to find out you took the fireflies.”

Gem grinned, her pearly canines glinting. Peachfuzz moved to the opening. He spared a glance at Gem, who had swiped her hand over the firefly jar. The bugs lit up a bit more brightly and Gem smiled like a proud mother. Peachfuzz draped the flap covering the hole away.

“Theodore.” Gem says again. He turned, looking at her once more. She smiled, her curls bouncing. “Save me some Dragon Breath.”

Robin’s teeth kept cutting his bottom lip, but he supposed that was okay. As he stood up, his hands shook madly and he dropped the sand paper. His fingertips were bloody and rough.

Peachfuzz was calling his name. Robin quickly switched to pouncing position and snaked along the shadows of the platforms, his concealed form moving quickly. When Peachfuzz’s lanky shadow came into view, Robin’s heart lept to his throat in joy. He bounded towards him on all fours, and Peachfuzz screamed, falling backwards.

“No! It’s me! Robin! Peachfuzz, look at me! Hey!” Robin sat on Peachfuzz’s chest and looked down at him like a confused puppy. The older male looked up at Robin, staring, his eyes wide in fear. Fear... Seeing fear in Peachfuzz’s eyes was absolute insanity- and Robin hesitated for a slight second.

“What the hell? Get off of me!” Peachfuzz had stopped thrashing but his chest was rising and heaving, and Robin heard the fear in his voice. Instead of hesitating, Robin growled and bared his teeth, getting close to Peachfuzz’s face. The boy kicked him off and Robin went spiraling across the platform. Anger and pain ignited deep in Robin’s heart.

Robin scrambled up on his feet as Peachfuzz did, both breathing heavily. The two stared at each other for a second, and Robin growled again. How dare Peachfuzz kick him! It was absolute injustice!

“Robin...” Peachfuzz heaved. Robin growled once more, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.

“You dare kick a tiger? Do you have a death wish?” Robin barely growled out the last sentence. Peachfuzz’s eyes widened.

“Did you sharpen your teeth?” Peachfuzz said incredulously. His eyes were still wide.

“Well yeah, if you’re a tiger, you gotta have sharp teeth!” Robin’s eyes narrowed. He forced himself to growl once more, and his growl was deep and throaty.

“What? What is wrong with you? You aren’t a tiger, you’re a human being.” Peachfuzz took a step forward and Robin took a step back, growling again. It thrummed against the walls. “Stop doing that! You’re human, you’re a human!” Robin could see quite clearly Peachfuzz was in denial.

“I’m sorry, Mr. I-Can’t-Grow-Hair, but this is who I am! Don’t you see it? I’m a tiger! And you can’t tell me anything else!” He peered at Peachfuzz, whose face paled.

Peachfuzz stared at his feet, his chest rising and falling in large, heaving motions. “What?” Robin asked.

Peachfuzz glanced up at Robin and shouted, “You look the same, Robin! You’re a human being! You’re a human and you’re- you’re the best friend I’ve ever had! You’re not a tiger, alright? Now, we’re going to go home!”

“You’re so… stupid! It’s so blatantly obvious that I’m a tiger! I am a tiger! I have the stripes, the whiskers, the nose, I even have the teeth!” Robin spat out, and blood and spit flew from his mouth. “I’m going to kill Matthias Wakefield with my new powers, whether you open your eyes or not! I-I will, mark my words! Come and find me when you open your, your mind… and you believe your best friend for who he is!”

Peachfuzz was backing away now but Robin wouldn’t take it. He pounced on all fours and bounded towards Peachfuzz. Peachfuzz screamed and started to run but Robin was faster. The lean male burst through the opening between Peachfuzz’s legs and once out, kept running. He ran into the darkness of the Underground, running away from Peachfuzz’s voice screaming, “Robin, wait!”

Peachfuzz walked down the empty roads of Knoxville. Twilight was fading and the fireflies were returning home. Pain rippled through Peachfuzz’s heart with every step, watching the children peek their heads through curtains.

Peachfuzz limped slightly, dragging his left foot behind. When Robin ran through his legs, Peachfuzz fell and landed on his left leg. If he hadn’t hurt himself, he would have looked for Robin. He refused to believe the man was a lost cause. He was hurt and he was possessive, but he wasn’t hopeless yet.

The Peaches Residence was the nicest house on the block, but that didn’t cheer Peachfuzz up whenever he saw it. He always had a tendency of feeling bad for the young children who didn’t have running water or heat during the winter. If he wasn’t housing a sick father, he’d allow people to seek shelter in his brick oven house.

Peachfuzz unlocked the front door and slugged into the house. The door slammed shut behind him and a dog yapped from upstairs. Peachfuzz limped through the hallways to the kitchen.

His mind was restless with thoughts of Robin. Right now, Robin was probably in the Weird Underground with a bleeding mouth and intentions of killing. He saw the anger in his eyes and heard the hate in his voice when Peachfuzz contradicted him.

Peachfuzz opened the fridge and looked at the stacks of beer bottles. Brews and Brothers was stamped across the baby blue label. Brews and Brothers was the Peaches family business and the only functional pub in Knoxville to date. Peachfuzz had to take over after his father got sick.

His hand lingered over the bottle, before he shut the fridge and rifled through the cabinets for some tea bags. He boiled some water in a red metallic kettle and waited until it had simmered down before making some green tea. He poured the tea in a small china cup and carried it upstairs.

As he passed his room, he looked in it. Robin’s shirt from when he last stayed was slung over a chair, next to a crude drawing he made. Peachfuzz drew a long breath in and kept it there as he forced himself past.

“Hey Dad, you feeling better?”

Henry Peaches was sitting in bed, weighed down with duvets. His ginger hair was matted to his forehead in sweat and his eyes were closed. A collie with a faded, brown coat sat, alert, at Henry’s feet.

Peachfuzz walked over and set the cup on the beside table. Henry’s eyes fluttered open.

“Thank you, Theodore.”

“Don’t mention it.”

Henry reached forward and took a sip as Peachfuzz perched on the edge of the bed, grabbing a rag. Peachfuzz wiped the sweat from his father’s brow and forced a smile.

“How was your day with Robin?” Henry croaked.

“It was fine, dad. I… I had some fun today.”

“Did you two run the pub alright? I heard some complaints the other day.”

“What do you mean?”

“Somebody- a regular- called me the other day and said the pub was closed, in the afternoon hours. Did you have plans, son?”

“I had a doctor’s appointment. I should have told you, sorry.” Peachfuzz wiped his father’s brow again. Henry smiled.

“It’s alright, but where were the other workers?”

“I put Frank in charge but I suppose he had plans too.”

“Talk to him, will you?”

“I will, dad.”

Henry smiled again and Peachfuzz got up. He stretched in the rays of morning sunlight. “I’m gonna go open shop.”

“Weren’t you just at shop, though?”

Peachfuzz paused. “Things were slow. I’m just hoping today will be better. Maybe early morning hours will help.”

“If you say so.”

Peachfuzz walked to the doorway then looked back. Henry had closed his eyes again. The collie formed a tight ball at his feet. Peachfuzz leaned against the wall and looked at his father. “Love you, dad.”

“Love you too, bud.”

Robin had been in the Underground for hours before he stumbled upon the hut of somebody. A small garden had been planted there but with no sunlight, the flowers and plants had crumpled into dust and only weeds stuck in the grass. He reached his bloodied hand out and gripped the banister of the house. Somebody was inside, Robin could hear a shuffling.

He tilted his head and crawled along the side of the hut. One half of the house, the back of the house, was sagging off of the platform and onto the tracks below. A chain was hanging loosely from the door which was barely on it’s hinges. At the end, a mangy dog was fast asleep, it’s chest rising and falling rapidly.

Robin sensed aggression. Judging on the way the dog seemed ready to pounce even though it was asleep and the flick of it’s tail across the dirty floor. Every time the dog heaved another breath, his teeth bared slightly.

Robin growled from deep in his throat. He peeked his head around the house and watched as the dog lifted it’s sleepy head. At once it began to growl back.

A voice drifted out from the window. “That dog again? I told you, Rachel, we shoulda left it on the tracks where we found it.”

“Oh shut up.”

“Now, now, I’m just sayin’, that dog has been disrupting…”

The voices trailed off as they walked away from the window and towards the door. Robin had to act fast, the dog was sniffing the air, looking for him.

He pounced. He missed the dog by a few inches and landed on his side. The dog barked loudly, running forward. The collar tugged at it’s throat and it snapped back, the door swinging by its rusty hinges.

A strike of fear stabbed at Robin’s heart as a figure emerged from the door. It paused, and Robin paused too, the silence overpowering the constant growling of the dog.

Robin frowned and bared his teeth. Almost at once, the figure disappeared inside. “That’s what I’m talking about!” Robin was just a bit surprised to hear the change in his voice. A lisp captured his speech, making everything choked with spit and flecks of blood.

The dog bucked it’s head and body, the chain billowing in suit. Robin waited patiently, pacing on his hands and feet.

Then, a searing ball of fire rushed towards Robin’s head. A few black hairs singed and drifted to the floor. He yelped and scrambled back. Anger flared deep within him just like when Peachfuzz kicked him. He wanted to fight, he wanted to growl, he wanted to kill.

A torch scattered down the hallway, the fire lighting up the floor and walls nearby. The dog had stopped wriggling but was still growling and snapping, it’s jaws frothing with angry foam.

“Get out of here!” A scared voice shouted. It was the voice who complained about the dog. Robin snapped his head over to look at the figure. It was a man, shorter than most men, with a barrel-like chest and frightful eyes.

In any normal situation, Robin would feel bad for the man. He’d even feel bad for the dog. But he wasn’t Robin anymore. He was a tiger.

Robin snatched the torch off the ground, the orange fire blazing in his hands. The figure was still in the doorway but was inching back into the house. Robin clutched the torch tighter and turned to look at the dog, then the house. “You don’t mess with a tiger!”

“What?”

The torch flew through the air before landing on top of the roof. Almost at once, fire spread along the top of the house, tendrils of white-hot smoke pumping into the air. The figure screamed and ran inside to alert his companions while Robin ran back into the darkness.

There, from a distance, he watched the house burn to the ground and turn to runny, black ash, the dog still attached to the door.

Peachfuzz wiped the glass clean with the dirty rag. Normally, he’d be happy to be back in the bar, but today his mind was somewhere else. His mind was still in West Fort, under the bustle of the city, shock still while he watched his friend run. Sometimes, he put his mind on rewind and the tape went all the way back to when Robin spent the night on weekends and the two of them watched TV from the broken AI.

Sometimes, he rewound so far he even remembered what life was like without Robin, who boring and lackluster and lonely it was. As Peachfuzz wiped the glass, he started to feel the life he escaped with Robin inch back.

He closed his eyes and leaned his head against a cabinet. The door of the pub opened and closed, the tiny bell ringing. Peachfuzz heaved a sigh and kept his eyes closed. “Hello, welcome to Brews and Brothers, how may I help you?”

A lispy voice answered, “You’re not at home.”

Peachfuzz opened his eyes and glanced over. There stood Robin, his hands shaking. Blood caked his face and covered his mouth like red lipstick. His clothes were ripped and hanging shreds from his twiggy limbs. A bruise was starting to show around Robin’s left eye and one of his sharpened teeth was chipped.

Peachfuzz’s heart hammered against his ribs and he felt fear mix with the anger and sadness that encaptured his heart. “Robin… What do you mean? What did you do? What the hell did you do?” He shouted, and Robin flinched.

“Your dad didn’t die from cancer.”

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