Violet City

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The Black Market

After what’s been about three days of consistently staring into my emptying fridge, I decide it is finally time to make “the trip” downtown.

“This stop is Trinity Square. Please be careful of the gap between the platform and the train.

I exit the train onto the platform before glancing around the old, torn down platform suspiciously. I adjust the large sunglasses securely onto the bridge of my nose, and pull my long, black trench coat tightly over my chest. The smells of stale water and garbage fill the air of the platform as I casually walk to the exit. I attempt holding my breath to avoid smelling the putrid fragrances, but I find myself gasping for air shortly after, thus inhale the foul, bitter smells through my mouth.

“Ugh. That’s disgusting!” I cough out.

I arrive at the exit, and quickly ascend the stairs out of the station and onto the streets. I carefully tilt my head down to see over the edge of my sunglasses. In the distance is a small, triangular shaped plaza with very narrow, connecting streets. I quickly come to notice the stagnant, suffocating air trapped within the tightly lined, towering buildings that surround the compacted area. I try to catch my breath, but instead choke as the putrid air fills my burning lungs.

“Ugh. This s-smell is no better. I r-really hate t-this place…” I choke out as I cough, but I know that I have no other choice in the matter of being here.

Once my body adjusts to the harsh environment, I check both sides of the street, wait for a single car to drive by, then I quickly cross the street into the Trinity Square Plaza. I readjust my sunglasses and coat once more, then leisurely stroll in the direction of the large setup of tents, trucks, and booths stationed within the center of the Square. Apart from the large market setup and a few, wandering, suspicious looking people, the rest of the plaza is relatively empty. I approach the entrance of the market, which is highlighted by haphazardly placed, dimly lit, string lights that wrap around the archway, and stare nervously at the two men dressed in black that guard the entryway. Both men stand tall with intimidating expressions and are each carrying large, shiny, black rifles. I gulp loudly as I try to lower my head from their stares and walk past them quickly. Once I feel at a safe enough distance, I breathe a heavy sigh of relief. I then stiffen my posture and raise my head to maintain a keen awareness of my surroundings.

I’m not out of the woods yet. I’ve only just gotten through the entrance. I’ll have to keep my wits about me in this place.

The narrow walkway ahead of me is clouded by plumes of what seems to be cigarette smoke and is surrounded on its perimeter by countless kiosks. Each booth is occupied by a seedy looking vendor who, I assume from first glance, is all too familiar with the term “homicide.” I slink along the broken cobblestone path, trying my best to ignore the putrid smells reminiscent of rotten fish, musk, and cigarettes combined that dominate the area. I avoid all direct eye contact and maintain a safe distance from every person that passes by. Every so often, I find myself taking quick peeks at the various curiosities displayed for sale at the stalls around me. Some of the wares seem relatively valuable (and probably stolen), while others are either completely ridiculous (toothbrushes… that I’m sure some of the merchants could use) or are only a front for whatever illegal or terrifying thing the vendor is actually selling on the side. I quickly become distracted and stop to stare at some of the nearby wares as I shake my head in disapproval.

Honestly. Most of the stuff here is complete junk. Who would even think to buy this stuff?

My attention loses focus on the task at hand as I continually browse (and criticize) the nearby wares until I suddenly bump into a nearby stranger.

“Aye, maybe you’should remove dem stupid shades so you’s can watch ‘ere ya goin’ there, shrimp!” Says the tall, burly man as he hovers over me with a menacing look.

The large man then leans closer to my face, revealing his numerous cavity-filled teeth and the toxic breath to match.

“…Unless you’d like me to gut ya like a fish? Aye, there shrimpy?” His voice booms in my ears as he quickly flashes his knife hidden within his coat.

“S-sorry! I’m s—sorry.” I stammer in fear.

I quickly stumble away from the man’s presence, bumbling down the market path, until I feel safe enough to glance back in time to notice his tenaciously harsh stare as I round the corner.

“Phew. That was scary.” I exhale as I once again pull my coat tightly around my chest.

I recompose myself and continue my focused search through the market. I carefully pace through the winding pathway, taking notice of the numerous large rats that quickly scurry by.

This place is so gross.” I think to myself as I try to avoid stepping on them.

I frantically look around at the different counters as I venture deeper into the middle of the square. Every booth and every merchant I pass blends into one another as I search in frustration.

Where is he? Did he not set up today? This guy is so unreliable.

My irritation grows as stomp around angrily. I feel my head pounding as I roll the thought of giving up within my head, but then my attention is quickly grabbed by one very particular booth that stands out from the rest. It is comprised of three neatly placed and blanketed, fold-out tables. Displayed on the tabletops is a variety of unique plants, some of which I have never seen before. Parked behind the tables is a large, poorly managed van with its back doors wide open, revealing even more plants inside. I quickly approach the set up and enthusiastically search around the area.

“Um, hello? Is anyone here?” I call out. No response.

“Hello?” I call out with a softer tone this time as I turn my attention to the multitude of plants.

I stare at the explosions of vibrant colors radiating from each plant on display. These plants are obviously way more tended to than the van.

I’m not really into plants, but all of these are just so beautiful and full of life.

My sight then settles on one plant that has large, deep red flowers blossoming from its stems.

Wow. That one is gorgeous. I wonder what kind of flower it is. It looks so soft.

I slowly reach out to touch one of the silky petals, but then a voice yells out from behind me.

“MY BABIES! NO!”

Racing towards me with a panicked expression is a lean built man with rainbow-colored dreadlocks that are pulled back into a large bun. He has a bit of facial stubble that outlines his very narrow jawline. His brown eyes are locked on me with intensity, yet his voice is very soft and not at all intimidating.

“Don’t touch my babies! They are very sensitive.” He says as he rushes over and pushes me away from the plants.

“Oh. Uh… sorry, Eugene—” I say before he immediately cuts me off with a raised hand.

“Um. Excuse me, but the name is ‘Cosmos’ now.”

He takes a quick pause before continuing, “…Or maybe I should be called ‘Rainbow Sunshine.’ No no no… How about ‘Moonshine?’”

“Wait. Isn’t ‘moonshine’ an alcohol?” I interject.

This guy is such a kook.

Eugene quickly flashes me a perturbed look. “Actually. It will indeed be ‘Cosmos,’ so please address me accordingly!”

“Oh, alright. Fine. ‘Cosmos.’”

What a hippie.

“So. What can I get for you?” He asks as he delicately tends to his plants.

“Wait! Don’t tell me…” He suddenly bursts with excitement. “You’re here for one of my exotic babies, aren’t you?! I just know it!”

He quickly shuffles over to one of the plants on display.

“I have just the thing for you then… How about a Variegated Monstera Albo Borsingiana? They are quite popular these days.”

“Oh, no… I—” I start to say, before he cuts in.

“No no no… I see. Maybe you want something more delicate? Hm… Oh! I know!”

He scurries to the other end of the table. “How about a Selenicereus Grandiflorus?”

“Um. No, I’m just here for—”

“Oh wait, don’t tell me! I bet you want something that will just take your breath away.” He holds up a plant to my face, causing me to step back. “THIS! You want a Cannabis Sativa! I just know it!”

I give Eugene a befuddled look. “Wait. ‘Cannabis?’ Isn’t that just marijuana?”

He immediately pulls the plant away and holds it closely. “It isn’t just anything. She is a beautiful and magnificent star! She will become a blossoming beacon of hope and joy!”

I laugh, “’She’ will also give you a terrible case of the munchies.”

Eugene gives me a nasty look before gently placing the plant back on the table.

“You know what? Fine. I can tell that you are quite a deal maker. You want my best plant, I get it. You’ll keep twisting my arm until you get it. I’ve got your number though!” he says as he shakes his finger at me.

“This! Behold… the Erythroxylum!” He looks at me with excitement as if to convey an unspoken “ta da” moment. I give him a confused expression in response.

“I just got this delicate beauty in yesterday! It’s extremely difficult to get ahold of…”

He leans forward to whisper in my ear. “… and is extremely illegal.”

“You know, you might wanna act fast on this one. I’ve been getting quite a few takers on these beauties! They sell like hotcakes! So, what do you think? Interested?”

This guy with his damn plants, I swear.

“No, I’m not here for the plants…” I say with an annoyed tone. “I’m here for—my usual ‘supplies.’”

He stares at me with an empty expression, as if his brain had malfunctioned and needed a reboot. I sigh with irritation before removing my sunglasses and pointing at my piercing red eyes.

“Ah. Of course. You’re here for— ‘that.’” He says with defeat.

“Fine. Follow me.”

I follow Eugene around the table to the front of the old van. He grabs the door handle and aggressively pulls until the door cracks open with a loud clunk. I am immediately hit by the smells of smoked marijuana mixed with many other aggressive, herbal fragrances. Eugene climbs inside and gently pushes some of his extra potted plants to the side (as well as a bong) and reaches deeper in to pull out a medium-sized ice chest. He pops open the ice chest then digs inside, creating a slushing sound as he swirls his hand around the icy water.

“Oh, whoops. I totally forgot.” He turns to face me with an apologetic expression.

“I had totally forgotten that some ‘White Wingers’ had come by yesterday and practically cleaned me out!”

“Wait, what?!”

Of course. Just my luck, some rich assholes would come buy out the entire stock. Damn. Those obnoxious White Wingers will do anything to flaunt their wealth.

“Well, wait a sec. Hold on.” He says as he digs through once more.

“There are like—one, two, three—looks like there are four packs left in here, but that’s all I’ve got.”

I sigh, “That won’t last me for very long, but for now I suppose that’s fine. I’ll take what I can get.”

I sigh and pull out my wallet. “It’s the usual price, right?”

Eugene looks at me and shrugs, “Um. Yeah, sure.”

I hand him the money, take off my backpack, and open it to pull out a small lunch box. I open the box, and methodically arrange the blood packets inside around the small ice pack that’s inside.

“Oh! Hey, before I forget. Do you have any more of those colored contacts and retainers?”

Eugene replies blankly, “Uhhh… Yeah, sure.”

He once more rummages through the van until he finds a medium-sized box and a small, plastic container. I take out my wallet once more before he stops me.

“Nah, it’s cool. This one’s on the house. They are easy to come by.”

He smiles sheepishly. “Blood—not so much.”

“Oh. Well, thanks!”

I gently take the items from him and place them in my backpack as well. Eugene casually leans against the van and softly strokes his chin in thought.

“You know. I believe I should be getting a new ‘shipment’ in soon. Why don’t you come back and check on like—Saturday or something? I can hang on to some for you if you’d like.”

“Oh, really? That would be great! These will last me for a short while, but I will definitely need more. I’ll buy as many as you can get me.”

Eugene reaches into his pocket and pulls out a rolled blunt, lights it, then slowly puff on it.

“Oh, come on. Really?” I say as I fan the smoke away.

“Hey, relax. Everything is cool. I’m just using what mother universe provides. It’s a blessing!”

“Do you have to smoke that near me though? It smells awful.”

“Some of the best medicines of the universe have the most bitter fragrances. I am only using what mother universe has so kindly provided to its best.” He says as he takes a long, deep breath of the blunt.

This guy really is something else.

“Just out of curiosity. Why do you sell things for vampires?” I ask, trying to shift the conversation away from plants.

“I mean, aren’t you afraid of us? You’re a human. You’re basically a potential victim if one of your regulars suddenly decides they want their meal to be fresh. Doesn’t that scare you?”

Eugene laughs dully. “We are all only products of the great mother universe. No matter who we are, we are bound to the cycle of life that she has made for us. If a customer decides to get their chomp on, it just means that I’m continuing the everlasting circle of life that she has predicted of us all. It’s an honor to be someone else’s meal. I don’t discriminate.”

I regret even asking. This guy needs to stop smoking so much damn weed. I should get out of here before he starts ranting more of his philosophical nonsense.

“Alrighty then. Well, I’ve got what I need. I should start heading back home. I’ll try to check in on Saturday to buy whatever stock you have to offer.”

“Sure thing, my friend. Heya, before you go. Just so you know, next time you roll around here, just be cautious. There have been some suspicious looking suits roaming about the place lately.” Eugene cautions.

“Huh? What do you mean?” I look at him with confusion, before I let out a chuckle.

“Oh, wait. Are you referring to those coked out cops? The ones that are always looking for a fight if they can’t get their fix?”

“Nah, it’s nothing like that. This is different. Not long ago, some group of suits came into the market acting all tough, mostly women. Saying they were gonna be running the place. Saying the market needed ‘new management,’ and such. At first, I didn’t think anything of it, ya know? Different gangs are always trying to say they own this and that turf, so I just blew it off. Then, one day I noticed that more and more of these other stiffs started showing up. Full on equipped with weapons and crazy stuff. Saying they were working for those suits. Next thing I know, they start charging crazy rents just to set up shops here. I mean, that’s crazy! Nothing like that has ever happened before! Like, this is free to the public! The universe gives us these blessings and people like them try to swoop in and charge us for our free expression…”

“Eugene! Focus!” I shout out to cut him off.

He quickly responds with a soft, yet demanding tone. “It’s ‘Cosmos,’ C-o-s-m…”

He pauses for a moment, as if to process his next thought, then laughs hysterically at his own blunder. I roll my eyes and try to keep his attention by snapping my fingers.

What the hell kinda blunt is he smoking?

“Oh, right. What I was trying to say was—yeah. So, these stiffs came in and took over the place. All of them covered in this crazy, military-like armor and weapons. Rifles, flamethrowers, large knives, crossbows. It’s wild shit, I tell ya!”

“Military armor and weapons? Did they hire in the Navy or something? That’s a bit extreme for something like a small market. Although, the people here are kinda terrifying. Either way though, that doesn’t really warrant something so drastic.”

“I don’t know, but they come in groups—very large groups. Storm around patrolling the whole area. Walk around asking questions and beating random people up. I’ve seen quite a few scuffles and the people unlucky enough to get involved walk away all bloodied up. Some end up not walking away at all. Just completely wild stuff.”

I pause for a moment as the gears in my head start turning.

Wait a second. Now that I think about it. Crossbows and flamethrowers? That doesn’t sound like any military I’ve ever heard of. Unless…

…Could it be?!

“Woah. You want a puff off this one? It’s good stuff.”

And… I’ve lost him.

“Well, thanks for the heads up, Eugene. I’m gonna head home. It’s getting pretty late.”

He raises his hands in frustration and yells at me as I rush off. “It’s Cosmos! Call me Cosmos!”

If what Eugene says is true—and it’s what I think it is…

I cautiously walk through the market, maintaining sharp attention to the people around me. Ever ready to make the necessary actions to bring myself to safety. Following the narrow passageways as my eyes continuously dart in every direction. Taking in every detail of the faces that pass by, waiting anxiously for the one person that may look out of place. Although, to be fair, everyone within the market carries a suspicious look. I keep at my pace, weaving through the increasing population of crowds while keeping a safe distance. I finally reach the area of the square where I had entered the market and let out a sigh of relief.

I guess everything is fine. Nothing seemed too out of the ordinary. Maybe Eugene just imagined it all. He is a weird guy after all.

Well, I guess I should just head on ho—.

“…Huh? What’s that?” I mutter to myself as I notice something out the corner of my eye. One of the strangest things I’ve seen before.

A figure at one of the far ends of the plaza, standing near a narrow street that trails off into the shadows. The odd figure, completely draped in long, crimson red cloak, stands menacingly without any movement. As if the mysterious figure was patiently waiting for—something. For a few minutes, I keep my eyes glued to the hooded figure as it remains eerily motionless, waiting for something—anything—to happen. My tense stare remains for what felt like an eternity, until the cloaked being suddenly runs off into the narrow street, vanishing into the darkness.

“Huh? What the heck was that?” I whisper to myself as I keep my eyes fixated on the darkened street, waiting for the off chance that the mysterious hooded figure returns.

“Hm. That was weird. I’ve never seen anything like that before. Kinda creepy.”

I wonder… could that figure be related to that new suspicious gang that Eugene had mentioned? Maybe they were just out keeping watch or something. Hmm…

I pause for a moment to think before I once again inspect the area to decide if it’s safe.

I take one final look at the corner street where the figure had disappeared and then softly shrug my shoulders.

Whoever they were, they are gone now. I shouldn’t worry about it. Best to just get home.

A little over an hour later, I arrive back home with a defeated sigh. Not only was my trip to the market relatively pointless, but now I will have to go back again on Saturday.

“What a pain.” I grumble as I casually toss my keys onto the coffee table and plop myself onto the couch.

“If only there was some easier way to get ahold of the supplies that I need. I guess I’ll just have to suck it up for now and deal with this.”

I grab the nearby TV remote and lethargically flick on the TV, then slowly browse through channels as I let out a large yawn.

“I guess I’ll just watch some TV before I head to bed. Maybe something interesting will be on tonight.”

“…Another body has been found by police within the Portview area…” says a voice as I accidentally continue scrolling through the channels.

“Wait, what was that?” I perk up with curiosity as I quickly change the channel back.

“…This has been the third body found on the docks this week. The victim has been identified as Carlos Sanchez, who was reported as missing over a week ago. His body was found with numerous slashes and gruesome bite marks all along his arms and neck, similar to those of the previous victims.”

…Neck bite marks?

“Police believe that the numerous recent reports of missing persons around the Prism District and these victims could all be linked. They also believe that these incidences could be the work of a dangerous serial killer on the loose. Police have advised citizens to stay on the lookout and not wander the streets alone at night, especially around the Portview area.”

I quickly turn off the TV and stare at the blank screen while my mind quickly returns to the previous night when I wandered the docks.

That man…

That strange man at the docks. He had mentioned something about disappearances and deaths happening in that area. He was so creepy. Could—could it have been…?

I maintain my blank stare with an empty expression as my mind wanders over the possibilities. Then, I quickly shake the thoughts away and remind myself of my need to go to bed.

“Tomorrow is my first day at work. I need to get a good night’s sleep. I should head to bed. No use getting myself all worked up about some murder case. Stuff like this happens every day. Nothing I should get all flustered over. I’m sure it’s all just a coincidence, that’s all.”

Besides… I’m sure whatever it is, the police will have it handled in no time. For now, my own problems are of way more importance. It’s time for me to get some sleep.

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