Proportionate Consequence, Karma, Closure, and Other Cruel Lies
Zoey never saw the semi-truck. He lost consciousness before the driver could recoil in his seat. The boy’s body came into view through a filter of the driver’s coffee as it splashed over the windshield, slightly obscuring his concussed form as it landed several feet away. The driver leaned right to see around the runny stain, having worked out a system for this kind of situation. He recalled the plan as several pedestrians rushed closer from the sidewalk, calling out to the boy while others began recording the aftermath with their phones. If the kid was dead, he’d claim that the little bastard jumped in front of the truck- painting him as either one of the countless rabble of suicidal children, or an ambulance chaser with a poor sense of judgment. If he was alive, that was just too bad. Zoey wished he could have seen the debacle. Zoey thought it sounded cool and morbidly captivating in equal measure.
In fact, Zoey did not die. He regained consciousness only a few hours later. Given that the truck was going considerably slow, he avoided serious injury. A few cracked ribs, a mild concussion, and a broken elbow. He also skinned his left knee- which was probably his least favorite part of the whole affair. The doctors had tended to him, and he was otherwise unbothered after they set his arm in a cast. His parents were off on business trips in other states, and no other family members lived close enough for it to be practical to visit him when there was no reason to believe he was dying. He was actually thankful for this; being sociable was something he always excelled at, but almost never had a shred of interest in. He was 15 years old, summer break had started a week ago, and there was no one around to bother him; he even had an entire hospital room to himself. No skin off his bones! Well, not once he got to the hospital, anyway.
He sat in a reclined hospital bed, a blanket pulled up to his waist and a hospital gown hugging his slender frame. He had attempted to read a magazine left on the table beside his bed, but found it was a bit too difficult to read without his glasses, or the reliable function of both arms as opposed to one. He took to watching the hospital’s parking lot through a nearby window, watching the vast spectrum of people who were either coming or going. There were discrepancies of height, race, personal hygiene (to the extent that it was visible to HIM, alarmingly.), and affluence; if their clothes and cars were any indication. But the most basic and unnerving difference only became apparent to him after almost an hour. Some were relieved. Others defeated. It was the least obvious variable, because no one wanted to let everyone around know how they felt. Those who received good news eventually couldn’t help but relax their posture and look bored now that tragedy was no longer up in the air. Those who received bad news tried to walk in as controlled a manner as possible, but they all had ticks that gave them away. Too much effort in a blank expression. Too much purpose in the distance of each step. Once people realize just how little they control what can hurt them, they need to salvage as much self-control as possible. Zoey found that rather sad.
As he began to tire of people-watching, the door to his room opened. He expected it was a nurse. The blurry, humanoid shape occupying the doorway could’ve been a statue for all he knew. Again he damned the loss of his glasses from the accident. He expected the person to come closer, but they didn’t seem to move at all. Several beats of silence passed, and Zoey furrowed his brow. “Hello..? Are you a nurse?” He felt rather stupid, having to ask.
“Nope.” Zoey paused… It sounded like a woman’s
voice, but it was laced with an intonation he did not recognize. He couldn’t
recall having heard the voice before, in any case.
“Do you have the wrong room? There was a man in here with a leg brace a while ago, but they moved him somewhere else. I think to the… West wing, but you might ask-“
“You’re here. If you’re here, this is the right room.” She closed the door, coming closer to Zoey’s bed, the silence punctuated by her heavy footsteps. Suddenly the passive whine of the door hinge became as intrusive as a bellow of steam from a rusted pipe.
“Okay… And who are you?” He started to worry that she was a reporter or something, but as soon as she was close enough to appear clearly to him, all presumptions were null and void. He felt a bit of a pit in his stomach as he took in her imposing self. She looked to be a little over six feet tall, the mysterious woman gazing straight into his eyes with her bloodshot ones with an unreadable expression. A short jet-black Mohawk ran over her head, seeming to be the most meticulously kept part of her. Her crimson sweatshirt was ragged and covered in scratches, stains, and full-on tears. Her jeans were in a similar state of disrepair, but the most eye-catching part of her was her face… It was decorated with a complex series of scars; full slashes, faded bruises, lacerations and even a few burn marks. He traced them with his eyes methodically, her injuries forming a violent mosaic that wrapped around her ebony features. A perfect example of haunting beauty… Just as the foamy wrinkles of an ocean wave, her remnants of mutilation never made an artistic mistake. They just carried on, flowing into each other with an unconscious organization. Just as he realized that she never answered his question, she picked up the remote to the wall-mounted television hanging in a corner of the room, and pressed the power button- all while never taking her eyes off of him. The screen chippered to life, a news broadcast appearing through minor static. On the screen, a woman spoke from behind a lengthy desk, her delicately applied make-up highlighting the wonderful plastic surgery she’d gotten, at the age of twenty-three. Her expressions were entirely robotic; currently she was carrying out a ‘creepily symmetrical smile’ protocol. “The representative made it quite clear that this proposed introduction of ‘chicken-burgers’ will mark the most bold addition to the fast-food chain’s menu since they started serving breakfast items during all hours of the day. That risky endeavor in-arguably paid off, but that was nearly forty years ago. At this point, IS it wise for the company to tempt fate? More on this at eleven… In our new segment, ‘Most ironic accident of the week’, fourteen year old Zoey Stawson was hit by an 18-wheeler delivering a shipment of contact lenses, while he was crossing the street to pick up a new pair of prescription eye-glasses. Witnesses commented that Stawson did not appear to see the vehicle prior to the impact.”
“Well uh,” The camera panned to focus on her cohost, a middle-aged squeaker of a man with an obscenely well-oiled hair piece. “I guess he could have used those contacts ins-instead… Huh? Like uh… I uh, suppose there’s no argument, between which is better now…” They both allotted four seconds for reserved chuckles.
“… Well that’s not very tasteful of them…” Zoey commented with a bewildered frown. The female broadcaster’s face transitioned into a stiff-lipped grimace.
“Of course our deepest sympathies go out to his family. He obviously died at the scene of the accident, prior to the arrival of EMT’s… But now! We go to the enigmatic Benny Jackson for his hectic coverage of this year’s national chili and gumbo convention.”
“Ah-heh, oh boy, that’s… That is, that’s gonna be, some unusual… Coverage.” Another click, and the television set briefly flashed and whirred, before it (and thus the room) was rendered silent. Zoey still stared at the screen, a mix of feelings simultaneously set into motion and brought to a grinding halt, the internal paradox creating a very unpleasant mindset. “… I really hope this is a dream…” He said meekly, finding the whole situation far too laden with coincidence and surrealism to make another assumption. How did she know to turn on the TV at that exact moment? Why did she want him to see that? Why was he being declared dead when in fact, to the best of his understanding, he was alive?
“Well, good. Because it IS a dream.” Zoey raised an eyebrow, snickering despite himself.
“… Well, usually something in a dream doesn’t tell me I’m having a dream… This could be one of those awful candid camera shows, but I doubt that I’d be run over for the sake of one… Somehow I feel like I’m going a little crazy. If none of this is real-“
“Oh, it’s very much real. I don’t know why you’d suspect otherwise.” She seemed oddly disappointed. “For now you can think what you will, though. If you want to play this logically, you’re probably in a coma. Or really fucked up on morphine.” Zoey shrugged… He had to admit; those were the best explanations he could think of.
“So… I’m probably going crazy… But, really crazy people have no idea that they’re crazy. That’s why they’re crazy… so I’m not, FULL, crazy… I’m not off the deep end, just dipping my toes into it… Okay. I can deal with that.” He was kind of scared that what he just said seemed remotely logical to him. “So why are you here?” He figured that if he truly was hallucinating this woman, making some inquiries couldn’t hurt. She hardly seemed malicious. “And I never did catch your name.”
“I’m here because I’m bored. Excruciatingly bored. You’re nowhere near perceptive enough to be bored like I am.” She still stood as she addressed him, her voice a bit less systematic.
“So, you want to… Cure your boredom?” That was reasonable enough. Yet, she clicked her tongue with a slight narrowing of her eyes.
“I want to cure our boredom, brat.” Zoey was thrown off by being called a brat, but she didn’t say it derisively. She’d said it as if it was his actual name; not that he was sure if that was better or worse to him.
“You just said that I’m not bored.” Somehow he was a bit let down. He’d always hoped that if he became unstable enough to hallucinate some kind of personality, it’d be a bit more sensible. She didn’t even seem consistent.
“You are, just not like I am. I’ll only be able to fix our boredom when yours comes full circle like mine. The rampant fear inside of you will certainly pose a problem, of course.” Possibly sensing his objection, she continued before he could open his mouth. “Oh yes, you are afraid. You’re terrified, actually. You’re scared of dying. You’re scared of being mutilated… But perhaps most of all, you’re scared of those little cravings and impulses in your head that you pass off as beyond your control.”
“Everyone’s like that. What you’re saying is just Freudian cold reading.” As he finished, her lips curled into a very small smile. That smile became a very toothy grin, as she let out a single bark of laughter. “And about your name..?”
“I don’t have one. Not in the sense that you do… Do I need one?” Zoey shrugged.
“I’d like to have something to call you.”
“Pf… Alright. Then call me Tao.” The newly baptized ‘Tao’ seemed much more thoughtful than before. Her attitude no longer carried mechanical overtones. ‘… Well that’s a bit on the nose.’ Zoey thought to himself, considering his next move.
“So what if it’s on the nose? According to you I’m a figment of your imagination. It’s not my fault that you lack subtlety.” Zoey froze. He looked much more weary of her now, which seemed to please Tao a great deal. “… Yeah, I’m tuned in to your thoughts.” She confirmed, sitting on the edge of the bed as she continued to observe him. “Things just got interesting, didn’t they? If I want, I can go rooting through your brain to parts you barely know about. You might want to revise the cold reading idea.” She paused to get a silver flask from one of her sweatshirt’s pockets, taking a swig as Zoey reviewed the situation. When she finished mulling over the taste she yearned to hate, she looked back to find him glaring at her distrustfully. “Oh my…” A twinkle danced through her eyes and she chuckled softly, returning his glare as she resolved to chug the rest of the flask. Four swallows later, and she tossed it to the floor. Whatever she’d drank didn’t seem to harm her composure much. “Have I struck a nerve..? Maybe you’re wondering how long I’ve been poking around your thoughts… Do I need to try, or am I just keyed into everything constantly?” Zoey found himself anxious and excited at the same time… He knew what this was for Tao; a game. It was inconvenient to not know exactly what game they were playing, but he recognized her last statement as bait.
“… Even if you can read my mind, I wasn’t wrong before. It’s normal to have urges you end up feeling ashamed of. Whatever depravity I have going on is average, all things considered.” His elbow was starting to hurt again, in the form of a pulsing heat.
“You know perfectly well that you don’t believe that. You might think it, but you don’t believe it at all. You, think, that the bowels of your mind aren’t any more slick with that boiling tar than the next person. But if you’re honest with yourself… When you’re deep enough in your head, and no one’s around to judge, you’re delighted with how tainted you are. Free to wallow in your own filth, and be thankful that you really are more disgusting… Your vote of confidence, conveniently, is with thought… But you should be very skeptical of how you’ve been thinking before now… I mean, your sense of reality is built from your thinking, and I don’t need to remind you that this reality is under suspicion. It’s starting to melt… For instance; did you have any problems looking at the TV? Trouble seeing people?” Zoey quickly shook his head no. “… And you don’t think that’s weird? You need me to walk right up to you to see I’m not a nurse, but the picture on a TV just as far away gives you no trouble?”
“SHUT UP!” Zoey roared, his good hand clenched in a fist. Unphased, Tao watched his lip quiver in anger, suspecting that he’d start crying soon. She smiled warmly.
“You look like you’re passing your first kidney stone, brat… I bet you’re taking yourself real serious, but that’s the kind of face I expect from a retarded kid who keeps putting their hand on a stove after it burns them.” She sneered at him confidently. He raised his fist, rearing back to throw a punch and causing Tao to grin much wider. Yet he froze. So much shame and lividness was invested in him, but ultimately he only gritted his teeth at her as he held the pose. Her smile gradually faded. She looked at him pensively, sighing.
“Brat… You really got my hopes up there…”
As most come to understand, people put a lot of stock in expectation. Whether it’s good or bad, people are much more functional when reality progresses in some way that they at least vaguely accounted for. When reality goes against all expectation, it’s common to enter a brief state of aloof nothingness. Zoey experienced this for a few seconds, when Tao began to move. So he was simply too jarred to react properly when she lunged for him, her face contorting into a very painful looking snarl. It’s very rare for a human to snarl in earnest, on account of the incestuous dilution of their psychopathic tendencies since they escaped the ways of beasts.
Tao had managed to enter this beastly state with her own form of grace. There was still a mass of cancerous monotony allowing her to have such fermented rage be released. That’s what produces a real snarl. Tao wasn’t snarling to show how mad she was, or to intimidate Zoey. She was just entering a fit of psychosis, which demanded that every bit of her evolutionary pedigree revert to something indecently primitive. Even in the case of a landmark of development like the human species, something is waiting. A fetus gestating in the moist gullet of the id, unable to mature. Ready to scream, and strain unfinished bones until they shatter, if something dares to notice it.
As Zoey was dragged around the hospital room’s floor by
his hair, Tao’s yell drowned out any noises he made. His ears had been ringing
since she started in with the war cry, but in all fairness her sustain was
impressive. She finally took a breath, pulling him to his feet. Around the
fourth time that Tao threw him by the shoulders in various directions around
the room, she bashed his casted elbow against a wall, cracking
it enough that she could remove the cast by hand. She stood him up again to do
so, humming as Zoey shook from dizziness and the combination of physical and
mental disturbance. “… What’s wrong?”
She tilted her head tauntingly, the tremoring boy’s only response being his
uneven breathing as he looked down fearfully. “… Now, dear brat, it’s only
civil to look at a lady when she’s talking to you. Meet me half way on this,
would you?” He hesitantly raised his head to look at her, his gaze focused on
her pupils. What a furious conviction they held… If only he had the slightest
idea of what that conviction was for. “There’s a good boy.” After snaking a
hand to the back of his head to keep him in place, she promptly rammed her
forehead into his, holding it there as the blow sent vibrations through the
whole of his skull. Zoey gagged, finding his legs became much weaker as a blob
of numbness where she’d head-butted him refused to wash away… Feeling did not
return to it. Tears streamed down his cheeks while he remained still, whimpering
while Tao still pressed into the spot. “There we go… You’re nice and lucid.
That concussion needed some help… Now, my filthy, evil, externally masochistic
and internally sadistic brat… We’re
going to be seeing a lot of each other after this.” At that, Zoey managed to
groan in distaste, wincing.
“Ngh… No, no…” He replied quietly, as if awkwardly disagreeing to a dinner party invitation.
“Yes, yes, brat. We’ll get to be good friends. Tao noticed a bizarrely thick trail of blood leaking from one (or both) of their foreheads, the vast majority of it streaming between Zoey’s temples and diverging at the bridge of his nose. Zoey’s glassy eyes and general air of exhaustion didn’t indicate that it bothered him much. “Now, if we’re going to be friends, you should know the answer to a question… Do you know what I am?” She waited patiently for a reply. Her playful eyes were again filled with undiluted dominance. “Answer! ANSWER!” She barked, Zoey yelping uncomfortably.
“I-I don’t know!” He managed, earning a smile from his tormentor. She pulled her head back, revealing the small wound she’d left on him. She used her free hand to delicately stroke his cheek.
“Oh, of course not… You see… I’m a part of you that’s facing the music…” Her hand moved from his cheek to his cut, slowly wiping her hand all over his face to spread the gore evenly, much to his visible disgust. “It has occurred to me, that if I want to keep enjoying myself… I can’t just ignore you- as much as I’d like to. I need you to go somewhere you don’t want to. If you can’t see reason, and come along willingly… Well, I’ll just have to drag you the whole way. And if you die in the process, that’s your problem… Oh, shut up.” She scolded him for attempting to spit some of the blood from his lips, only managing to cause a few sputters. “It’s good for you.” She wiped the remaining blood from her hand off on his hair, throwing in waves of red to go with the blonde. “… Wow, you look like hell…” She couldn’t help but laugh rather maniacally, patting the boy’s head. Honestly he looked lobotomized. “Oh, kid… You’re not having a good day, are you?” She looked down at him almost sympathetically.
“… Is it…” He started with his hoarse voice, looking up at her blearily. “Is it, worth asking why nobody else has come in?”
“Okay…” He had become rather accustomed to the constant aches and pains. ‘… Well, it can only go up from here, right?’ he offered to himself.
“I see. All work and no play, right?” She stepped closer to him, taking his good arm and placing his hand on her waist. Zoey whined indignantly as his not-so-good hand was taken in her own. Despite being in a delirium as he was, he thought he understood the idea.
“Do you not know how to waltz?” She was back to being (given the circumstances) polite about the whole thing.
“… No… I do not know, how to waltz…”
“… Well aren’t YOU an exasperated little shit. Not to worry! I’ll lead.” Zoey stared at her for a while. This woman was killing him. Exhausting and battering him on the inside and outside... Something located between his frontal lobe and the reptilian layer of his brain finally opened up. A gradual drainage of everything he’d felt since she arrived, sloshing over his brain in a warm, soapy discharge. His new friend grinned with satisfaction, laughing with him. “Ah, there it is~ you’re starting to figure it out, kiddo! We’re too far gone! We’re absolutely screwed and that’s all there is to it. The Old Chaos is knocking on our door. Well to hell with it, huh? We’ll keep it waiting until it breaks down the door, and we’ll do it with class! We’ll offer the son of a bitch a martini~” With that she began leading them around the room in a slow waltz, the now giggling Zoey fallowing along to the best of his abilities, suddenly no longer concerned by the sharp pain in his elbow.
“You're insane…” He’d come to this conclusion quite a while ago, but at the time saying it to her face didn’t seem like a good idea. “… You're real... The pain is all real… You're a sociopath...” It was the best he could do, sadly. He wanted to hit her, bite her, scream out very nasty and convincing threats. But he never did. And so he wallowed in his dread. He choked on every vocalization, reduced to crying anxiously as blood dripped into his eyes to join the tears.
“In Napoli where love is king~ When boy meets girl here's what they say~” Zoey’s crying fit was kept up as Tao started singing. This was the most unpleasant fun he’d ever had, and it was getting worse all the time. “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie,
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine,
That's amore~” And on they went for a while. Zoey didn’t know how long he lasted. He only knew that it was far too long.
"Demon... You're not a woman, you're a demon!”
Zoey accused, his body trembling in her grip again while Tao rolled her eyes.
“Oh please! Demons don’t have anything on me. I’m a devil.”
The loopy boy supposed that was fair enough. Tao lowered him carefully into a dip. But she didn’t raise him back up; he was just hanging on her hands. It already felt like three migraines were pushing to the core of his brain from different directions, and this certainly wouldn’t help. “O-Our father, who art in…” Tao shrugged, letting him fall onto his back. Tao let out a disinterested yawn, lowering herself to crawl on top of him, her hands flanking the ground by both of his shoulders. Laughing to herself, she again rested her forehead on top of Zoey’s, lightly nuzzling into him.
“Ah… Silly brat. I’m not a devil~… I’m not a devil…” Her voice shifted to a withdrawn tone, her eyes becoming tired but all the more suspicious. “I’m… An ulcer. An aneurism… An invasive cancer. An evolution of the black plague. If I were a demon, I’d be too weak to consume you without tricking you into some boring bargain. But I’m just, going to eat you. I’m going to leisurely chew on your insides, without a care in the world for what it does to you one way or the other. But you’ll keep it fun for me… Fun-fun-fun. You’ll run, and run, and fight, and fight. Maybe I’ll just swallow you whole, like a little goldfish…” Zoey found that Tao’s yellow eyes were really beginning to look like they belonged to a wolf. Her skin felt like tested leather against his own. He had a sense that she could simply crack his skull open like an egg if she cared to exert much force... He tasted her breathe... Like the smoke of a funeral pyre. He warned himself to not find it too intoxicating. Somehow he couldn’t help but admire her. Whether she was simply a maniac, a hallucination, divine entity, or some kind of binary force of nature personified and wrapped in flesh. Something about Tao was far too easy for him to empathize with, even as she tortured him. “… Are you actually brain dead this time?” It was a fair question. The amount of abuse Zoey endured was getting to be impressive. He attempted to shake his head no. “What’s got you all quiet and contemplative?”
“I’m trying to figure out why I feel like we’ve met before… And what makes you so beautiful.” For the first time that Zoey had ever seen, Tao looked honestly surprised. Zoey coughed, letting out a pained mewl of discomfort as the needles of pain pressing against his cranium penetrated further, straight through his entire skull.
“… I actually broke you, didn’t I?” Zoey smiled, showing a few bloodied teeth.
“I have no idea… Maybe that’s not so bad… Uh..? Tao?” Zoey furrowed his brow in concern. Tao looked sad… She was smiling, but at best she was feeling bitter-sweet. “What is it..?”
“You’re a weird kid, brat… As for calling me beautiful, you’re either bold or stupid… and if I decide you’re stupid, I’ll break your other arm.” Such a threat might have perturbed him ten minutes ago, but certainly not now.
“You weren’t always like this, were you?”
“Covered in scars? Tall? Violent? Black?”
“Lonely.” Tao tensed up at that… “You seem lonely to me…” The unstable woman wished that she could read some kind of manipulation into his words- some sign that he was just trying to win her over to make things easier for himself. But she couldn’t… Her blank expression betrayed her internal bout of tribulation. She instinctively lowered her face, her tongue coming out to lap some of the drying blood from Zoey’s cheek. As she continued to drag her tongue over various streaks of crimson, a guilty sense of nostalgia was felt. The act was very sentimental, as Zoey would come to realize with time.
“… You’re licking me…” But for the time being, it was just another item being added to the already comically large pile of evidence that she was out of her damn mind.
“Yeah, I noticed.” Even under the blood stains, his face was becoming noticeably pink. He’d fabricated daydreams alarmingly similar to this, but something about it was slightly less kosher. She actually did a decent job of cleaning him up. The ever present remnants of saliva were an improvement over his own blood, anyway. “What?” She apparently also noticed his grimace when she pulled away, the scarlet smudges covering her mouth akin to lipstick applied by a catholic schoolgirl. “… Do you just have a panic attack every time you’re not filthy or something? Hmph… Last time I try being nice to you.”
“… So…” He found it jarring; just how legitimate the question he now needed to ask was. “You, know you’re not… A cat, right?”
“Sure. Even figuratively, you’d be the cat. Hell, you’d be Garfield.” He blinked in confusion. She smiled. “Because you’re not just a pussy- you’re a HUGE pussy!”
“… Why is your sense of humor more childish than mine? And at least I don’t lick people like a dog!” She visibly twitched at the word ‘dog.’
She brought her hands back to rub her temples at the stress he was causing, lazily sitting on his stomach.
“… you… Need a break from me…” His sense of discretion wasn’t in peak condition, much to his detriment.
“Yep. I think you need a new babysitter for a while… Oh, one more thing~” She glared at him in disgust, her pupils quickly dilating as she gritted her teeth and spit at his face, the glob of spit itself still laced with blood. “I’M NOT A DOG!” She screeched, Zoey closing his eyes at the outburst and turning his head away from the unsanitary liquid. “YOU’RE A DOG! HOW ABOUT THAT?” Zoey let out a wet choke as she gripped his throat with inhuman strength, forcing him to face her as his eyes opened again. While the inability to breathe certainly caused his eyes to be open wide, they went a bit wider as he realized what her other hand was holding: a bulky magnum revolver. As she cocked its hammer back, she gingerly placed the barrel against his nose. “Come on…” She whispered, her stare no less intense. “Come on, brat… Why don’t you take this from me? Take it and, shove it down my throat before you pop me like a zit with entrails…” Zoey was simply locking up, hyperventilating again as he shivered. “… COME ON! Fight back, you spiritually malnourished fuck! Have pride as prey!” Notes of desperation became apparent, her hand shaking.
Zoey’s voice cracked as he screamed, his body moving without his own permission to lash out, attempting to slap the gun away. He kicked and screamed, his struggles not posing any further difficulties or Tao, the barrel now moving to fallow his right eye. “THERE it is! Good, GOOD dog!” She growled, her grin returning full force and beyond; her lower lip even ripping slightly, crimson spurting down her chin. “Time for your treat!” She broke into a fit of unnatural laughter, sounding much like a hyena as she finally pulled the trigger.
Zoey didn’t really notice the bullet when it pierced his eyeball. Contrary to popular belief, the eye doesn’t usually pop and vomit fluids like a leak in an inflatable swimming pool under such circumstances. When it starts breaking the front of the eye cracks like a sheet of glass, still attempting to retain the shape it was built for. Of course once the bullet fragmented the outside, it was able to splash the optic juices around and tangle up the mess of nerves, before moving on to make jelly of his brain’s right hemisphere. He’d heard a lot of things; his heartbeat, his screaming, Tao’s cackle; but he never heard the gunshot. Tao playfully ruffled Zoey’s hair, his mostly limp corpse still twitching. Not that Zoey noticed. He was already swallowed up in non-existence, every bit of perception cut off as soon as the gun’s hammer rocked forward.
As the unfortunate boy's body stared lifelessly up to the sky, even more pedestrians had gathered to capture evidence of his demise. His broken glasses reflected the flashes of the vultures' cameras obnoxiously into his remaining eye.