Airtime

Airtime

A Story by SauceC
"

Unfinished, looking for feedback

"

Airtime 

 

Hi; my name is Airen Aerial Atmosphere, and my story goes like this: You see, I was born on an airplane somewhere over the Atlantis Ocean. So, from the beginning my life has been surrounded by air. My mother- Windy Aira Windsmill, she was a stewardess for the only airline willing to set up shop in New Steelport/Stillwater. My father- Jet Highrise Atmosphere was in the air force. Most of my childhood we’ve traveled (by air) all over the territories. I was fortunate to experience the divided nation at an early age, the different people, customs, traditions, accents, all that was nothing short of wonderful to take in; but none of that could prepare me when I decided to live at the Quarter-way. 

“Pack your things Airie.” My mother would always say one the balcony. We always loved to have dinner there, just overlooking the downtown area. At first, I would protest but she would sway me with the romanticized notion of riding in an airplane again. It got me every time, so after dinner I ran to my room that was up in the attic and filled my suitcases. My father would come in and apologize for having to leave so suddenly, never seeing my friends, classmates, and (later) lovers.  

“It’s okay dad!” My words shocked him. “Mama said we’re going on the airplane!” His small, sad smile was the first hint of it... 

 

“Okay. is Mr. Airen Aerial Atmosphere here?” The teacher says looking around. I’ve never been good at roll call; my head is too busy being in the clouds. 

Before I raise my hand, however, “What kinda name is that?” One of the boys in the middle says followed by laughter. The 2nd grade is brutal, but Jet didn’t raise no b***h! 

“It’s a fly name! It’s not my fault your parents didn’t love you enough to name you something cool!” I blurt out and raise my hand, “Here!”  

He opens his mouth to say something, while the class is going crazy, “Alright, alright that’s enough. Everyone has really nice names; trust me I’ve seen worst.” The teacher expertly defuses the situation. She continues with the role, “Mr. Ripcord Hangtime Johnson?” 

 To my surprise...that’s an amazing name, who is th- it’s the a*****e who made fun of my name. “We have similar names, you Black Sox fan!” I say more vexed than angry.  

Before Ripcord says anything, “Calm down, both of you. Before I take some of your good student points!” Ms. Smith threatens. Without another word we sit back in our seats.  

After school, none other than Ripcord comes up to me, followed by two other girls. “...I wanted to apologize...about you know...” he says almost mumbling. 

“Say it like you mean it.” One of the girls says annoyed. You’d think she’s his older sister, but they look nothing alike.  

“I’m sorry for making fun of your name, I was just jealous that you have a cooler one than me, I hope we can become friends.” He reaches out his hands. 

I look at his hand perplexed and tilt my head. One of the girls laughs and shakes her head, “It’s one of the traditions we kept alive, it’s called a handshake. It’s a sign of friendship.”  

“That’s really weird but ok...” I say and cautiously grab his hand. He suddenly starts to move our clasped hands up and down. I go along with it, thinking it’s the ‘shaking’ part.  

“It’s nice to meet you, I’m Ripcord Hangtime Johnson.” He says with a friendly smile. 

“I’m Airen Aerial Atmosphere, it’s a pleasure.”  I smile back. 

“Woah! That is a cool name!” The other girl says and shake my other hand, “Para Chú, and it’s nice to meet you!” As she finishes her introduction, a car honks and her entire mood changes. “I have to go.” She said almost in monotone, a complete 180 from here cheery disposition. With a quick wave to us three, she rushes to her car.   

“Anyway, I’m Ariana Erin Sinclair.” She adjusts her glasses. “It’s a pleasure.”  

Not knowing if I should go in for the handshake or not, I decide on a respectful nod. “Same here.” She’s no doubt the oldest and has a scary aura about her.  

The three of us talk it out, until one by one our parents come to pick us up. When my mother picks me up, she wants to know all about my day. I tell her everything, the good, the bad, the ugly. “I’m glad you were able to make some friends, Airie.”  

I put on my seat belt, “Please don’t call me that.” Her words hold some weight. When the excitement from riding an airplane fades, I get sad I must start anew. Which doesn’t work out since, I stare into space and the other kids label me as ‘weird’. So, when I do make friends we move soon after. “Mom, can we stay here for a little while?” 

Her smile drops and so does my heart. “I can’t make any promises...” The rest of the ride home was quiet.  

Over the next few weeks, I valued my finite, ticking time with my 3 closest, and only friends Ariana, Ripcord, and Para. I decided not to tell them by nomadic habits so our collective time wouldn’t be bittersweet. Our dynamic was: Ariana the cynical, protective one; Ricord was the mature, fun-loving, responsible one; Para was the cheerfully aloof, oblivious one, and I was the level-headed, open-minded, adventurous one. Together other kids and teachers call us the Air Heads.  

Well one weekend, at Air Head Base which was just Ripcord’s unusually big tree house. The four of us are eating and talking, having a good time. It’s been a short amount of time to say, but I love these guys! Ariana doesn’t trust or like other people but treats us three like family. Although we started out rough, Ripcord is like an older brother to me; his strong personality and sense of duty brings us all together. Para is like the loveable, honeybun we must protect. She can see no evil or wrong and it’s all sunshine and rainbows with her, she’s quick to lighten the mood also has the best jokes.  

“What do your parents do Ripcord?” I ask a bit curious. Para seemed to tense up at the question, I decide not to call her on it.  

“My mom is a professional snowboarder, and my dad is a stunt man for movies.”  

“If you’re wondering about his name, it’s after a big stunt his father pulled off to launch him into fame.” Ariana adds, getting an angry look from Ripcord. “He has to explain it a lot.”     

“What about you Para?” Ripcord asks to redirect the conversation from him.  

She visibly looks shaken up and takes her time. “O-Oh father was in the army, the Paratroopers division...she thought it would be funny to use our family name to put a play on words. You know Para Chú... Parachute.”  

“My dad’s currently in the Air Force. He would always bring me on base and let me fly in a fighter jet with him.” I’d say to bring the pressure off her. The other two got excited and asked endless questions about it.  

Para always adopt a gloomy mood around certain topics, no one points it out. She must be bipolar or has bad memories bottled up...I hope she opens up to me so we can talk about it.  

So, what are the Air Heads gonna do today?!” Para is back to her usual perky self after finishing her food.  

Ripcord stands up in response, walks to a window and just points out towards the city. My eyes follow his finger to a sea of nowhere in particular, just buildings alongside some skyscrapers. A silence fills the treehouse living room as we wait for an explanation.  

“But where in the city Rip...” Ariana finally asks. 

“I’m thinking about that, but somewhere in there. I feel it.” That’s Ripcord for you, once he gets the feel the Air Heads are in for a great time.  

Suddenly, he clasps his hands together, “We’re going to go on top of the Entire State Building!”  

Para lets out a joyous squeal and runs to the corner and opens the floor hatch. We follow and head into the city. The living, breathing streets of the 5 Boroughs.  

The sidewalk is filled with people shoulder checking and pick pocketing, the streets are unmoving and filled with colors. Big coats, big attitudes, big buildings, big rats, etc. We stick together and push our way up the street.  

“Let’s stop at a Bodega for some food.” I suggest to general acceptance. We make a turn to our favorite spot.  

“Aye stop dicking around with the chopped cheese and make some bacon, eggs, and cheese deadass!” Ripcord called out to the man behind the counter on the other side of the store.  

Yo watch yo f****n mouf B.” He replies holding up a cleaver. “I already have some made.”  

Another guy comes from the back, apparently with a hangover. “Everybody shut yall f*****g mouths. Loud asses.”   

“Look ova at this f*****g bum. How you been Unc Paulie?”  

Ahhh don’t worry about me you little s***s. Keep disrespecting your elders you gonna find a few blue hairs in yo hot dogs one of these days.” Mr. Rufiani says opening another bottle.  

“Where is my favorite Bodega cat?” Para says sweetly looking around.  

Yo Little Apple! The Air Heads here to see you.” As if on cue, a blue and white-haired cat comes in. He has his golden boots on with his durag on tight. “Gave him a special potion from a friend...”  

Little apple walks along the counter and stretches. “Ayo yarn B.” The cat says aggressively.  

Para is overfilled with joy, while the rest of us are shocked and horrified. This cat just talked to us... “Swear on your foot butters that...that cat didn’t just talk!” Ariana says out of character while taking a step back.  

“Yup, some scientist uses some parrot juice to make some animals talk for a few days.” Paulie says headed back to the other room. 

We get the food and some drinks while Para plays and talks to the Bodega cat. He only knows a hand full of words and phrases but still can have a basic conversation. Para is the only one who gotten used to it. After prying her away from the deli counter we continue our journey.  

As we get into the lobby, we walk up to the desk. “Hey Melissa, we’re going up to the roof for a while.” Ariana tells her almost in a stern tone.  

“Yea sure, just be careful.” She replies pointing at the special elevator, the golden one next to the standard silver two.  

We get in and relax. Waiting to be ascend to the top, the elevator stops a few times for people wanting to head down. After what seems to be a couple of minutes the doors slide open and we see a man standing on top of the railings just moments away from jumping. 

“Hey!” I yell out and sprint towards the man. The others quickly follow behind. He turns around to look at us and lets out a heavy sigh.  

“What do you kids want? I'm busy...”  

Ariana studies the man’s expression and makes a face of disgust. Nothing out of the ordinary. “What kind of a monster would traumatize a bunch of elementary students?”  

Without another word he steps down. “Sorry I didn’t realize...” His voice trails off as he heavily leans against the rail.  

There’s an awkward silence on the roof. The man looks as if he wants to cry but is too deep in thought. We’re glancing between each other, over the balcony, and at the man unsure what to do. Para’s happy humming makes us all glance at her as she doesn’t seem to understand the situation. 

“Hey mister...if you’re sad you can do what I do and sing a song in your head!” Her sweet tone makes the situation seem worst.  

He picks up his head and turns it towards us. The red in his eyes tells us all the crying he’s been doing. A man whose spirit has been broken is staring into our own souls. It’s filling us with despair 

 With a skip, continuing her humming she heads over to the man. She holds out her hand, “I’m Para hawa Chú. What’s your name?” The three of us are stunned. None of us really knew if she had a middle name, she never said it. 

As the man stared at her, I noticed her expression...could be cloaked. Hints of intense, seriousness lies beneath that cheerful, jolly disposition she always makes. She’s afraid...maybe not of how dangerous a man with nothing can lose can be, but what’s going to happen when we leave this roof. That’s just the type of person she is... “Eugene Orion. I don’t remember any happy songs.”  

“That’s fine! I forget them sometimes as well!” She says with a little laugh. He offers a quick smile before it drops. “Tell us about why your sad and maybe it’ll help.”  

He considers it for a while. It felt like several minutes before he sits up properly. Para sits next to him and the three of us breaks out of the fear to gathers around them as to protect her. “Alright...well where do I start?”  

Para offers a chopped cheese that I had my eye on. He takes it and eyes it for a few moments before tearing up. She watches him as he starts to break down and catches himself. Para’s smile grows wider as Eugene wipes his tears away. “Yea...you remind me so much of my daughter. Her name is Summer, she was the only reason I was putting up with...that b***h.” He opens the wrapper and takes a bite. Ripcord looks up at us and Ariana shakes her head. I lean back on the rail and release a silent sigh. “I caught my wife in bed with another man...she cheated on me. I treat her better than a queen! I put her up on this high pedestal and this is how she repays me? You kids wanna know what she said to me after a long, immoral session of adultery?” He pauses for a spilt second before continuing. Para looks up at him, while Ripcord and I share concerned looks. Ariana rudely displays a bored look. “This b***h told me to go get some drinks! I pulled out my pocket calculator, because s**t just wasn’t adding up! When I came back with the drinks, she basically told me that she’s been unfaithful as long as we’ve known each other. The fact that Summer couldn’t be m...” Tears began to appear in his eyes. “...is what guided me to this rooftop.”  

The only sound we can hear is the wind blowing and birds doing their mating call up above. None of us has nothing to offer this pathetic man. Ariana is halfway through her food, not making a sound, she clocked out of whatever this is a while ago. The view of the city is being enjoyed by Ripcord and me; still half listening. “Well...how about this Eugene.” Para finally says after a lengthy consideration. “Whether or not Summer is your daughter or not doesn’t matter. As far as you know, she’s the only girl in the house calling you daddy a-” 

“The only girl in the world.” Ariana corrects her.  

Ripcord blows air from his nose with a wide grin and I quickly put my hand over my mouth sharing that grin with him. “...yes, well my point is that Summer considers you as father. You’re the man that’s taking care of her and she obviously loves you. Dad or Stepdad that love won’t change.” Para says also sounding like a pep talk.  

“What if she wants to meet her real dad? I can’t bear having him around the two most important girls in my life. He’s a home wrecker and will be a bad influence on her!”  

“Look if you decide to jump at any point in the near future, three things will happen: You will never know if she’s really your daughter, the man your wife is cheating on you with will take your place, and Summer will turn out just like her.” Para’s tone shifted at her last point.  

The air suddenly got heavier. None of us made a sound. Para dug deep into this man soul and we feel it. Eugene stopped shaking and is in deep thought. A mental tug-o-war. At this point, subsequently following her last reason, we’re all paying attention. The muscles in his face relaxed and he leans back. Tears are flowing freely to his chin and dripping aimlessly into his lap. I guess...even his tears gave u- 

“MY BABY!!!” Eugene screams as a war cry. He pushes Para away from his arm and leaps up full of energy. With a dedicated sprint to the golden elevator he eagerly presses the button dozens of times almost breaking it, how fast he’s pushing it. “Don’t worry...daddy will make sure you become a respectable woman.” He says to himself as he practically jumps into the elevator. Doing the same to the lobby button the doors slowly start to slide. “Thank you, guys! I almost made a horrible mistake; I’ll never forget this!” As he waves goodbye, and the doors are almost shut, I can see that his pupils changed...they’re now both hypnotizing swirls.  

“Now that he’s finally gone, let’s try and enjoy the rest of the day please.” Ariana says annoyed.  

“Of course, Ari!” Para says springing up, back to her regularly merry self.  

Our adventures around the Yankee territory, I’m sure none of us will ever forget. Sneaking into the Black Sox stadium to spread Yankee propaganda, going into the territory's treasury to see the famous 2,000-dollar bill with Baby Ruth on it, drinking aged apple juice over a pier in Bopper/Cone Island, etc. As we hang out more and more, Para starts to act weirder each time; like she acts out of character, being overly anxious and worried. I decided that it’s none of my business so I don’t bring it up to the others, must be a family thing. My time with them is something I could never replace.  

 

Å 

 

“Happy birthday!” Everyone says excitedly, clapping and smiling. I’m genuinely surprised I have so many people at my party. Ever since moving to Yankee Territory, I started off alone, then met the Air Heads, then befriended more people as our legendary adventures gain rumors. Ariana and Para give me a hug and Ripcord remembered the special handshake. As I greeted and thanked everyone for coming, the party continues also it run smoothly. We eat cake, talk about the good old times, open the presents, reveal our report cards, etc.  

As the party winds down, the Air Heads relax on my balcony while our parents talk in the living room. “Thank you, guys, for coming.” I say glancing over towards Para who looks guilty.  

“We wouldn’t miss it for the world Airie” Ripcord says teasingly. I punch him in the arm and take another bite of my cake.  

“I can’t believe you’re 9 now.” Ariana says looking over the balcony. Para nods in agreement.  

I look over my shoulder back in the living room and see the adults talking, their body language gives away what they’re talking about-my departure. Para’s dad looks over at me, his narrow, green eyes always scared me. I quickly look away and consider if I should tell my friends as well. My parents always leave the bearing of bad news to me. I don’t know exactly when we’re leaving so, I guess I have some time, right?  

 

Turns out I didn’t, right after they left, I received another present from my parents. The three of us know what’s inside, I can’t help but get a wide, sad smile. It’s a plane ticket.  

After a brief amount of time bouncing around, we head down south to the territory of Zhe Swamplandz. At this point, I would have been around 15 years old. My father got a major promotion and was ordered to be stationed at the base here in the territory. Without much success at fitting in my first year of high school, I wasn’t too upset to leave. My mom and I unpack into our apartment in the city of Old Nu-Nu Orleans, it’s a really nice place, we managed to get the top floor. I eased into other territories fairly, but the next few relocations would be a complete cultural shock.  

“How do you like our new home Airie?” My mother askes in a grimly cheerful tone. 

“It’s only my third day out here I don’t know”  

“Well I hope, you find a way to fit it...” The ping of guilt in her voice, makes me feel horrible for some reason. 

“I always do.” I reply headed to my room.  

I lay back in my air mattress and look up at the skylight. The blueish-green sky with the black cloud looks beautiful. Self-care has always been important to me, but lately I don’t even know how I’ve been feeling. Hollow? Empty? Full of air? Moving is such a constant stain on my social life, I don’t know... 

I didn’t know I feel asleep but a knock on the door wakes me up. It’s my father, he looks dead tired. “How you liking your room? Lots of space and a sunroof!” 

I sit up and stretch, “It’s amazing dad, I feel free.”  

“Good...” He comes to sit on my mattress, “...Look I know you don’t like to move away from everything you worked so hard to build up. I’ve watched you all your life, starting over and over. All because of my job.”  

Before he continues, “It’s alright, I don’t mind it one bit. You said it yourself, we were meant to be free, and can't stay in one place.”  

He nods and puts his hand on my shoulder, “Once you turn 18, you can move anywhere you want in the nation and I'll have money saved up for you. The time is coming where I'll be stationed at an Air base indefinitely and I don't want you to be there. You have a life to live.”  

I look forward, staring into space taking it all in.  

Jet stands up and sighs, “Have a good day at school, tomorrow. I’ll have less free time so if you need me, I’ll be on the base. Remember your ID Key card.” He gives his small, sad smile and head out.  

I lay back down and watch the sky, before I close my eyes, I get a call. Begrudgingly I answer, “Hello?”  

“Hi Airen! How are you?!” Para says laying down on her bed as well. 

“I'm fine Para, what about you?” I ask slightly annoyed. The airheads still stay in touch from time to time. A year after I left, so did Ariana after her father died.  

“Better.” She says is a semi-serious tone. I decide not to pry. “...So how are zhe swamplandz?”  

“I just got here, but I did eat at this chicken sandwich at Chicken we’ll Fill Ya.”  

She gets excited, “I always wanted to go there! Is it as good as they say?” 

I laugh drowsily, “Someone was selling shining knight armor and wooden sticks, I brought it and had to fight my way to the counter, so yea it lives up to the popularity.”  

“You’ll have to take me there sometime...” She says in a tender tone. I didn’t catch on to what she is implying 

“If I can stay in one place for more than a few years...”  

“Where do you think, you’ll be off to next?”  

I look at my map, “The only territories we didn’t live in is the country of Florida, Piru territory, Mungo country, and New Vegas. Things are picking up in Redd city so we might be stationed in Piru for a while.”  

“Interesting...hey I have to go, I’ll call you later, okay?” She hangs up before I respond.  

“What a weird girl.”  

 

Å 

 

I close my locker, and she walks up to me. “Brown skin, blue eyes, jet black hair, 5’8, alethic build...you look exactly like my next boyfriend.” 

I chuckle as I turn to her, “If you don’t mind long distance relationships then check the football field with that description.  

Sneauxy Cider my one and only friend here at Old Nu-Nu High school. She constantly flirts with me and it’s annoying, but she shows me around and help with the various culture shocks that comes with the region.  

“You’re no fun...but hey what are you doing after school?” She says with a big smile.  

Uhh...homework, sleep the usual.”  

“Well not anymore! We’re going to Whiskey Street!” Before I can protest, she tries to sweeten the deal. “I know, I know you’re not much if a drinker, but you can chase it down with my apple cider.”  

I cross my arms and stare at her.  

Once again, she sweetens the deal, “...and I won’t treat it like a date.” 

I sigh and roll my eyes, “Fine but if qzi-” Her bodyguard finds her, and she runs off. Shoulder checking me as he passes. “A*****e”  

The thing about Sneauxy is she’s rich. I mean uptown affluent; all because of the smartest branding in the nation. Her family’s apple cider tastes like piss, so someone thought it was a great idea to rename it Dixon Cider. After her late, great grandmother who had a piss poor attitude.   

I get up and as soon as I do another person bump into me, “I know y’aint messing with my Japanese Denim.” His accent is either thick or Sneauxy isn't from here.  

Without a word I turn and head to cooking class. Today we’re making seafood gumbo...  

When the final bell rings, I come out the front doors and there she is standing with her bodyguard, next to her sliver limo. She waves me over.  

“Are you ready?” She asks clearly eager. “Gotta get there early if we want the good stuff.”  

“It’s 2:30, we’re not going drinking this early.”  

“It’s a tradition, we have to go!”  

“We’re 15 Sneaux 

“The drinking age is 13 here!” 

“What about your parents?” 

“They got me into drinking!” 

“I don’t want to throw up in your limo.” 

“We have cleaners! Are you done with your excuses?” 

I let out an overextended sign, “Alight let’s go.” I turn towards her body bodyguard, “And you’re okay with this?”  

He shrugs, “I just get paid to make sure nobody kidnaps her for ransom.”  

I get in the limo without another word.  

She wasn’t lying, the street is packed with drunk people. Kids to the elderly, all wobbling and walking. We find a parking spot and head out.  

“Watches! Watches! Get your watches!” A guy yells out to the crowd. A guy who didn’t look his way, walks pass him. “Man... f**k you!”  

Someone grabs my shoulder, “Where have you been! I been looking all over for you, Shawn!” A middle-aged man who looks he been through hell is crying and thanking the Gods.   

“I’m not Shawn, keep looking” I shout calm, clear, and slow for him.  

“SHAWN!!!” He screeches down the busy street and keeps looking.  

“Airen! Is that you?” An old woman in a booth says waving franticly. 

I carefully walk to the booth along with Seauxy and her guard. It’s not until I get close until I realize it’s the soothsayer, I met my first day here.  

“Hello Airen.”  

“How do you know my name?”  

“Soothsayer...fore sight...future vision.” 

“Right, what are you doing here?”  

“I knew you were going to be here, and I need a message to be delivered. When you met someone named Sauce Capitol Cee, tell him the following list: Anti negative water, edible rat poison, three grams of gold, five parrot shoulders, and an unlucky penny.” As she’s saying this her eyes glow a bright blue.  

“Is there a certain time or day to tell him?” I ask making a mental note.  

“Just any time before April 14, 2025.”  

“Right well I’ll write it down before I get drunk and forget.” I say turning away towards the bars.  

Oh and tell the Captain I said hey...also side with Para!” She yells out.  

“Vague as hell” 

As he enters the first bar, the bartender throws an ice cube at us. “Show me your IDs.”  

Sneaux looks at him angrily, “Do you have any idea who the hell I am!?” 

“Yea, your Dixon Cider is trash, show me that ID or I’m shooting you.” He spats out in complete seriousness.  

They stare each other down for several seconds and he slams a quad barrel shotgun on the counter to back up his point. I look at them, then at the patrons in the bar. Everyone is dead silent, and frozen. The atmosphere in the room is acutally starting to suffocate me, how stuffy and dense it is.  

He picks it up and c***s it, “Last chance...”  

Sneaux stands defiant and doesn’t move. He aims it at us and switches the safety off. Staring down one barrel is scary but four?! “I warned y-” 

“WAIT!” I franticly shuffle through my pockets spilling coins and other pocket items all over the floor.  

Suddenly the entire bar burst into laughter including the bartender, Seauxy and her bodyguard. Confused I look around and see I’m the only one at the butt of the joke. Embarrassed, I start picking up everything I dropped.  

“Come sit down, saved you guys a sit.” He says wiping the same spot as they do in the movies. They go and sit, chatting it up with the other customers. When I finish picking everything up, I sit with them.  

“Sorry for the scene, blame Ms. Cider for that.” The bartender slides me a drink with a large ice ball sitting perfectly in the middle of the s**t glass. I eye it for a moment and give it a quick sniff. Whatever this is, it’s strong.  

“It’s Whiskey kid, none of that weak s**t either, it’s made, raised, and aged here in Old Nu Nu Orleans!” He proclaims proudly. 

“I told you to call me SneauxyPaulie!” She says in slur, already on her third drink.   

“Careful, I’m sure this isn’t your last stop.” Paulie says sliding another drink. He turns to me and extends his hand, “Anyway, I’m Paulie Rufiani. Welcome to my bar Paulie Rufiani’s Poison Bartering!” 

I shake his hand with a smile, “Thanks for not shooting us”  

“As a celebration...” She pours half of her glass into mine. “Finish your first drink, you need to catch up!” She finishes her glass and Paulie slides her another.  

I look at my glass that’s almost filled and decide to gulp the whole thing down. I slam the glass and tilt my head back forward, but for some odd reason my head is three times as heavy and I slam it on the bar. I don’t have the strength to pick it up and things go dark.  

“YEAA!”  

“What the...” 

“YEAAAA!” 

“...” 

“YEAAAAAAA!!” 

I open my eyes and slowly pick my head up. I don’t know how long I was out but the whole bar is cheering in unison. Some have their shirts off and all fists are in the air. Sneaux is sitting on someone’s sholders, her raised fist scrapping the roof. They’re gathered around the 150’ flat screen that’s mounted and taking up 1/3 of the side wall. 

“You missed it, Young light weight!” The random a*s woman is screaming at me.  

Wondering what’s going on I rub my eyes and turn to the tv. The Old Nu Nu Orleans Crawfish just scored to tie the game with the Piru Shooters in the sacred game of Water Polo. “Wh-” 

“YEAAAAA!!!” 

Sneauxy! I’m awake and my ear drums are about to pop! Time to leave!” I shout barely loud enough for her to hear.  

She reluctantly jumps off the guy and finishes a random drink from a table. “Put the cost on my tab Paulie.” She says tripping over air as we wait for her to get to the door. After a difficult and clumsy trip, she makes it to the door. “Alight lets head to the bar!”  

We jump bar to bar, each one more ridiculous than the last. The Old Nu Nu Orleans ended up beating the Piru shooters 15 to 10. Soon after the game ended, there was a massive shootout. The only injury was one of the water boys. While I’m happy everyone made it out alive, I’m trying to do the same drinking as least as possible, since anything more than half a shot glass sends me to a whiskey induced mini coma 

After leaving from our 5th bar, none of us can walk in a straight line, our legs are wobbling, and we blend right in with the people around us. “Hey!” Is all Sneauxy can say, while pointing at the police station.  

Grreat I-Idea!” Her bodyguard says a loud. They make their way in the police station and I try to follow. Bottles of whiskey and other liquor are open, and half served. Even the people in the cells have a few shots in their system, judging by the empty glasses around the floors.  

“Hide your drinks boys! Ms. Cider is here!” One of the officers yells out. The prisoners laugh and all in unison, hold up their drinks.  

“Nice to see you Officer Fleur de lis!” She eagerly yells out and goes to hug him.  

“What do we owe the millionth drunk visit?”  

“We want to start a street parade!” She screams out, throwing her arms in the air. “I want to empty the cells and have them join us!” The entire jail house erupts in joy. This is crazy... 

“HEY!” Fleur de lis howls over the celebration. “You guys have until midnight to be back in your cells. If you’re not, we will triple your sentences at 12:01. We will come looking for you at 7am and if we find you or if you not in your cell by the sun rise you getting executed.” He presses a button, scans his finger and each cell slides open.  

I look at my phone and it’s 7:48pm. Are convicts gonna roam around the city for a couple of hours? The initial joy has died down, but some are still gutty. They file in the lobby buzzed and grateful.  

“Are they ready Fleur?” Sneaux looks at him expectedly.  

“Just about...” After a few moments a group of men come in from the basement, each carrying a different instrument. Saxophone, flute, trumpet, electric oversized banjo, bass guitar, and of course the legendary harmonica. They look tired and out of it, but when they start their first song, my feet start to tap without my permission.  

“Let get this started!” A prisoner says passing a bottle of gin around. The front door is slammed open with an explosion of music, prisoners, and drinks. The marching band at point, then us three behind them, and behind us is a crowd of prisoners enjoy themselves and dancing.  

I pour myself a tall glass of Horse Bourbon, “how did I get here?”  

One of the prisoners puts his arm around me, “If the highest didn’t want you to be here, you wouldn’t.” 

I dart my eyes, “Someone wise as you behind bars? Why are you in jail?” 

“Public intoxication. Smart a*s. My point is to enjoy yourself; we live in crazy times...after the great fall and all.”  

I take a sip and sigh, “F****n A.”  

“Oh, and also for theft.” He pats my shoulder twice, before casually falling back in the crowd of convicts. 

pat my back pocket to not find my wallet, and my drink that I was holding is gone as well. It's gonna be a long night. 

It’s been an hour and a half, and we’ve amassed dozens of people. We walk up and down Whiskey street, attracting more and more people to march with us. Song after song is playing played, we march around the city. The mass of around 350 drunk people are dancing, drinking, eating, and throwing up. It feels like an enlightening pilgrimage: dodging bullets in 12th ward, stopping for jambalaya, helping people set up early for tailgating, etc. For some odd reason, I’m extremely grateful and relieved that we haven't lost one person. We keep the same number throughout our journey; unrealistic things like that are things you pay attention to when you’re hammered.  

We decide to rest up on a hill overlooking the levee. Some logs were laying around, so we chopped them up and stared a bond fire. The marching band changed their tone to pure smooth jazz, genuinely relaxing. We all sat around the fire to warm up. We tell stories, give advice, crack jokes, and of course dance and drink some more.  

I lean back on a log and take yet another sip. 

“Good stuff ain’t it?  

I look up and notice a girl sitting on the log...in fact I'm sitting in between her feet. “Yea...too bad I'm not much of a drinker.” 

I lean to the side and try to support myself on her calf muscle, to keep from laying on the cold ground.  

 “...I was like that not too long ago, but these people will drink to anything.” She says with a laugh.  

I lose my eyes and enjoy the warmth of her leg. “You’re not from here?” 

She takes a second before answering, must be taking a shot. “No, came all the way from the New Vegas providence.” 

“The fortunate teller told me; I’ll met a guy from there, sometime in college.” I suddenly remember promising to write it down later.  

She sighs, “Jezzabelle Akriví̱s Esmeralda...she’s amazing, isn’t she?” She starts playing with my hair; weird as hell but I’m at a bond fire filled with convicts on a Tuesday night. So, the word weird has lost all meaning tonight.  

“She’s very weird. I try to keep my distance, not too big of a fan of the magical, anthropophagical side of life. You know?”  

“Yea I hear you...try living with her tho 

I try to sit up and turn around facing her, “You don’t say Ms...” I must be really fucked up; she literally looks like a goddess.  

“Cassandra Esmeralda, her 14th generation granddaughter. It’s nice to meet you!” Her drunken laugh is loud.  

“Then you know who I am?” I ask slightly embarrassed.  

“I don’t have fore sight like her, if that’s what you’re asking. The two of us meeting is just a stroke of fate.” Ending that statement off with a swig straight from the bottle, really made that suspicious.  

Sluggishly, I stand up, which was a bad idea. The world around me won’t stop moving, my vision is blurred to hell and back, and I feel like throwing up. Unless you’re a few feet from me, I probably couldn’t hear you. This is my limit. 

I sit next to Cassandra and smile. “You’re saying there’s some lyrical, spiritual reason for us meeting?” Things stopped spinning once I sat down, focusing put my sight at a manageable level, which made me almost lose my voice from shock. I didnt really notice until now, but this girl is beautiful. Long, and curly hair has always been my weakness. 

While she’s been thinking, I've been unintentionally staring in her eyes. “Maybe, but I know my living ancestor knows something about it.” She looks me in the eyes, and I snap out of it.  

“Oh! Question...If she’s your great, great, great, great, great, great, great...grandmother, how does she live so long? If you don’t mind me asking.”  

She smiles again and looks forward into the fire. “She’s one of the last people to drink at the fountain of youth. It’s an old bedtime story she used to tell me; of how her, Sauce Capitol Cee and Captain Fill-a found the fountain of youth, drained it, and keeps in locked away.”  

I sat there mesmerized. I’m friends with a piece of important history, and hopefully soon to be related to it. “Do you mind if you tell me more about it?” I ask intrigued 

Cass turns to me with a look of disgusted hatred. It quickly fades and is replaced with one of annoyance. “My big mouth and me. I tell this story at least twice a day!” After a long sigh, she forces a smile and places her head on my shoulder. “Fine...only as a sign of good faith.” She gets comfortable by snuggling up with me. Oh my gods, is this what she felt? Having a drunk person invade and lean on your personal space is the worst, even if they’re cute as hell.  

“You’re not gonna fall asleep on me, are you?” I ask looking down at her. 

Both arms wrapped around my triceps, head rested on my shoulder, eyes closed, and of course one the biggest smiles; I already knew the answer. “Of course not.” She lied.   

The pressing feeling that someone is watching me grows to the point where I can’t ignore it anymore. My gaze from Cassandra shifts for the first time is a while and over to see Sneauxy sitting across the fire among the inmates. Her eyes are blood shot red... shes pissed. This is the first time I've seen her like this, and I can feel her hatred burn my barefoot more than the stick she lit on fire and recently threw at my foot. I intentionally lose the staring contest we silently started and pretend I didnt see her...yea its not too late to do that. “Are you gonna start the story?” I say gently shaking my arm. 

She suddenly wakes up, “O-Of course...I’ll keep it brief.” I stay quiet to allow her to gather her bearings. “So yeah, Jezzabelle was born in 1477...” she trails off waiting for my reaction. My mind was elsewhere...at my foot to be accurate. She rolls her eyes and continues, “Her birth was under extremely unusual circumstances, after being born in her Aff village, she soon found herself in piracy at a young age due to the it being attacked. She and her crew sailed the seven seas where they robbed, stole and other pirate stuff. They planned on robbing Ponce de León around 1535 but wanted to see what his new exploration would bring. When they saw that he came back on his ship looking 10 years younger, they went to investigate. Deep in the jungles of Florida, they found the spring of life-giving water. A sip set her from 58 to 49. They drunk until they were in their early 20s. Once of her men drunk until he was a newborn. Seeing the dangers of this, the captain had it drained after they collected samples. They were known as many things over the centuries, as you already know they’re still sailing today. It’s said that they were unkillable, after cutting down the entire crew, they would reappear days later, as if nothing happened. Even Silver Beard sailed around them, they robbed from every and any country, delivered the booty to The Motherland. From 1480 to today. Descendants from the original crew still sail around and act as a vigilante navy.” The stars in her eyes light up when she talks about her ancestor's adventures. It’s the cutest thing.  

“So, have you ever been on the ship?” A random inmate asks. 

We snap back out of our bubble and everyone is staring at us. Sitting and of course drinking, all facing us. Embarrassed, she inches away from me.  

She clears her throat and sits up, “Of course I have.”  

That was enough to get oohs and ahhs from them. They start blurting out more questions. Active inquisitiveness is intimidating from convicts, especially from a large group of them. 

“Oh, would you look at that, it’s 11:37. Yall better get back to the station!” Sneauxy announces sitting in between two of them. Reluctantly they take most of the alcohol and they began to make their way down the hill.  

One of them comes up to me, “You know... I’m in jail but it doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.” He hands my wallet, and a new drink. He also hands over my phone...something I didn’t even know was stolenhe’s good.  

Thanks, I’ll put in a good word for you.”  

“Mane...I ain’t f*****g going back!” Someone angrily yells. “I’m from Piru territory! I’m not going back, I ain’t no b***h.”  

The other prisoners look at him disappointed. One of the older men walks up to him, “You must be new...so I’ll tell you straight up. Go back to your cell.”  

He slaps the old man hand off his shoulder, “F**k that! I been in for five da-” 

“And you have 25 more to go! We all have 1-9-month sentences! Don’t throw your life away over an intoxicating taste of freedom.”  

As an act of defiance, he starts running away. “I’m making a name for myself, remember the name, Gilbert F*****g Jenkins!”  

A few others run off as well, many of them with our bottles. The remaining vast majority start to head back with haste. They continue to drink, and the marching band follows behind, playing angry jazz. With no music, little to drink, and the bonfire drying the non-imprisoned citizens start to head out. 

“Looks like the party comes to an end.” Cassandra says in a sad tone. She turns to see me frowning and disappointed. “But don’t worry, we’ll definitely see each other again.” She plants a quick kiss on my cheeks and walks with the second crowd of people.  

There I was drink and tired on a weekday night. Shot at just hours before, in a self-made parade with local convicts, and met two people that are 14 generations apart. Life is crazy. 

I sit there for a few moments with my hand on my cheek, trying to process everything that occurred. When suddenly... 

“Let’s go b***h!” Sneauxy yanks my arm with strength I never knew she had. The pain is non-existent...in fact my whole body has been numb for a few hours now. I fly out of my sit and she’s literally dragging me down the hill. “Talking and flirting with other girls...you must be out yo goddam mind...” 

After a stern talking to from Sneaux, I finally get to crash out in my bed. I check my phone to read 3:49 a.m. When I get to the front door, I can hear an argument between mom and dad. I’ve never heard them argue...if it’s about me not coming home, then I better make myself seen. I unlock and open the door carefully to see them standing across the dinner table staring at me.  

“Where have you been Airen!” My father asks in a surprising calm tone despite him yelling seconds before.  

Before I can answer my mom cuts in, “Can you belive that your father wants us to move to Piru territory! He must not love us, sending us to a warzone and basically a death sentence!” 

His deep voice comes back in a yell, “I didn’t ask to be assigned there!” 

I close the door and awkwardly stand there, not to give away I’ve been drinking.  

Piru territory is just like Roanapur and Ergastulum: wacky, dangerous, not to mention no place to call home.” She points out in a softer tone. “Anything can happen Jet.”  

“You two can stay her-” 

“NO!” She suddenly yells out. “We’re not leaving you in a place like that alone; military or not.”  

My head gets the better of me, so I make my way up the stairs. They take note of me wobbling but doesn’t question me about it or stop me from excusing myself. When I collapse on my air mattress, I melt in it like it was a waterbed. My muscles relax as the cool air from the night sky sway in from the skylight. It’s taking much longer for me to fall asleep in even through I’m tired; I just might be afraid of living in Piru territory. My deep thoughts are interrupted by my mother.  

“Still awake?” She asks softly.  

“Yea.” 

“Your father and I saw you on the news.”  

The fact that she ended it with a chuckle is scary. “You did? That’s crazy...” I sit up dazed with bed head. I don’t know when, but I took off my shirt. It’s cold. 

“The fact that our son can start a 400 man parade full of criminals alongside the daughter of the biggest company in Nu-Nu Orleans, drinking some of the best alcohol, and ending it all with a big bonfire is just scary. You’re growing up and we don’t mind you doing so...just try and stay out of trouble. Especially since we’re leaving in a week...” She lets her words hang in the air for a few moments before leaving.  

I spent the better part of a week avoiding Sneauxy as much as I can. She’ll be devastated to hear the news, so I can justify not seeing her for the last week. I know how she gets when it's time for me to leave whenever we normally hang out so this...this is going to break her. Say goodb 

“If it’s f*****g hanging out cover it up! I’m coming in!” Sneauxy’s voice echoes from the locker room. Gods damn it.  

I play with my gym clothes inside my locker nervously as I hear someone stomping around. I hope she doesn’t notice me, but I feel a hand on my shoulder. Before I can turn my head, she forcefully swings me around, slams my back against the locker next to me and plants her cold hand on my stomach to keep me from going anywhere.  

“What’s going on with you? Why are you avoiding me?” Her enraged tone is a clear indicator that I shouldn’t mess around.  

...but this is our last moments together. “Oh, you know...around doing stuff and somethin-” She hits me with a left hook with a serious amount of force. She always keeps her rings on the left hand.   

“I’m not f*****g around here!” The blood dripping from my face seems to back that up. “If I did something to piss you off let me know. We’re friends, aren’t we?”  

“Of course. Something just came up is all.” I deflect cautiously.  

“What did? I’m sure it’s something the two of us can handle, like we always do.”  

“No... just don’t worry about it Sneauxy.”  

“Bullshit! We always tell each other any and everything.” Her voice starts to get shaky.  

She’s caused a big enough of a scene and everyone is staring. I sigh and rub my neck, “I'm moving Sneaux...to the Piru terrority.” Gasps and concern fill the room.  

Her hand drops after I break it to her. Tears gather and fall down her cheeks. She takes a few steps back and puts her hand over her mouth. I broke her it seems. Neither of us says anything after, we just stare for a few moments. I guess she’s still trying to process it. The bell rings soon after and it snaps her back from her thoughts.  

“When...”  

“Tomorrow afternoon.” 

I thought it was a bit unnecessary, but she punches me again with the same non-dominate left hand and runs out the locker room with tears trailing.  

Later, after my last class, I hear a familiar voice as I’m walking out the school. “Hey soon to be dead man!”  

I turn to see Sneauxy with a serious look on her face. “Follow me.” 

Sitting in first class with my headphones on, I reflect on my time spent in the territory I’m traveling over. I left fun memories, a good friend, and my virginity in Nu-Nu Orleans. I’m sore... 

 

My fear of Piru terrtory wasn’t irrational. The fact that my mom squeezed my hand tightly throughout the entire plane ride, my dad gifting me a gun when the unpacking was done, and the meaning of Sneaux’s goodbye present just fueled me with uneasiness. At this point, I’m 17 years old and finishing high school. Transferring to a new school in the middle of the semester will be interesting. In fact, the bus stop was when things took a turn.  

“Watch out!” One of the boys yelled and dived to the ground. The rest of the students did the same including me. A high-speed chase passed us soon after. Bullets flying in every direction, no cop cars, and gun sounds. The perfect introduction to the city.  

As I got on the bus every eye was on me. I did dress different from everyone, not wearing red and such. I’m thankful my dad told me that wearing blue is banned from these parts or I would have been shot long ago. I don’t even try to ask anyone if I can sit with them. I get to the back and sit in one of the last sits. I decide to observe the others around me. The dude sitting on the opposite side is cleaning his gun, the couple behind me is silently have sex, someone in the front is blasting rap music...that might be the bus driver. I don’t feel safe.  

We get to the next stop a few blocks from mine and a guy gets on. We instantly make eye contact. He stares me down as he makes his way to me. “Aye you in my seat n***a.” 

“Oh...my fault. Can I sit with you?” I ask getting up.  

He thinks it over for a second, “You new ain’t you?”  

“My first day.” 

Ight n***a, but I’m lettin you know na, I don’t play that fu-fu s**t.”  

“I don’t either.” I say with extra base in my voice as I sit down.  

He doesn’t say anything for a while, but curiosity gets the better of him. “Where you from n***a?”  

“I came from Nu-Nu Orleans...”  

“Na, I mean where you from”  

“Oh...I was born on an airplane so technically nowhere...my people been bouncing around so everywhere I guess.” I explain, not actually giving it much thought. Sneauxy or the Air Heads never asked me.  

He bobs his head a few times, “What’s yo name?”  

“Airen Aerial Atmosphere. What about you?”  

“Rowan Piru McShooter.” He holds up his hand at a tilted angle.  

I found it a bit weird, but I hold out my hand like I was taught.  

“N***a you don’t know what a dap is?”  

“No, I’m not from here you know.”  

“Put your hand like this...” I follow his hand movement and extend my hand out like he does. “The other hand, you neva dap someone up with your left.”  

I switch hands and we clasp hands, making a clapping sound. He slides his hand away and I do the same, but he suddenly folds his fingers; his fingernails digging into my palm. I follow his lead as I do the same. When we let go of each other’s hand something came over me and I snapped my finger for some unexplainable reason.  

He laughs loudly, “Somethings can’t be taught. Even the white kids who learn how to dap someone up snap. It’s instinct.” 

“Is there anythin-”  

“Windows up!” The driver shouts as the students rush to do it. Soon after cars with tinted windows pull up beside us and start shooting. I drive to the floor and close my eyes.  

N***a get up.” I hear Rowan says clearly annoyed.  

I get up to see him flipping off the people in the car and see the other students teasing them. When the clip is empty, they speed off. “What was that?” 

“Just some clowns, tryna make a name for themselves. The whole bus is bullet proof, so stop acting scary.”  

“Making a name for themselves?” I ask. 

“When you get into a gang, you’re given a role, if your role a shooter then you have to prove that you won’t be scary and pull the trigger. That n***a didn’t know the bus was bullet proof, so they were being tested.” He explains.  

Talk about a culture shock.  

I start coughing violently due to the marijuana smoke that’s gathering inside the bus. It gets so bad the driver starts coughing. “Crack the windows!”  

“First day at Blood Gang High School huh?” Rowan says starting another conversation 

I nod, “Anything I should know?”  

“You know not to wear blue, almost you shouldn’t say the name Raymond at any point.”  

“That’s a random banned name.” 

“Raymond Washington was the founder of the rival gang years before the great fall. They went by the name Crips.” He says in a lower voice.  

“Say less, I’m sure you can’t be saying this freely.” I say piecing some things together.  

The rest of the bus ride went by rather smoothly, I even got used to the gunshots in the distance. As the bus pulled up to the school the other students began to file out.  

“You a cool dude...no homo tho. If you want to stay outta trouble you can hang with me.”  

“Yea, I don’t think I’ll last long on my own.”  

“Bet...Where’s your gun?” Rowan says as he steps down from the bus.  

“Huh?” 

“Don’t tell me you lackin n***a.” He says again in a hushed tone.  

“How was I supposed to know you can bring a gun to school!” I repeat his tone.  

He reaches in his bookstack and pulls out a pistol. “I want it back when we get on the bus.” He hands it out, and I cautiously take it.  

“Thank you, I’ll be sure to take care of it.”  

“If you shoot it, you gotta buy me another clip.” He adds with a smile, revealing several gold teeth.  

“I got you.”  

The cafeteria is enormous. When we walked in, a cloud of smoke hits us. I cough immediately, struggling to breathe. Other than me fighting to inhale, it’s lively, loud, and busy. Students selling guns, ammo, mixtapes, etc; tables debating who’s a better rapper, girls gossiping, among other things. As messed up as things are, I feel a strong sense of community around me.  

Wassup Ro” I snap out of my thoughts to see that we’re at our destination. Where Rowan normally sits, I'm guessing. “Who dis?”  

I look at the tall, dark skinned dude with long hair. His eyes are red just like Rowan’s is, but it has a judgmental sting to it. “Aye my n***a, what you lookin at?” He says reaching for something.  

“Chill Manino, he’s new here.” The guy named Manino relaxes a bit. “I met him on the bus, and we chopped it up on da way here.” Rowan explains.  

“My fault...” He holds his hand up at that tilted angle, and I dap him up along with the snap. “Manino Bose.”  

“Airen Atmosphere.” I say in a friendly tone.  

“Let me introduce you to the homies.” Rowan says turning to the table.  

I turn to the table to see four other students. One has a tired, angry look on his face. He has his hood on and on his phone. He’s smaller than most of them at the table and still share the unusual red eye color.  

He looks up and just nods his head. I do the same, feeling a bit awkward. Rowan goes behind him and puts him in a head lock, “Don’t mind Jayy, he’s not himself when he doesn’t smoke. He a really chill n***a.” The bags under his eyes, makes him look even cooler.  

“Next we have...” He points to another guy on the phone near the table. He’s pacing back and forth. “Phoenix Redd.” He has brown eyes, and a short haircut. Not much taller than me really, and honestly nothing special that stands out.  

I can’t believe that I didn’t notice it sooner...but only one person is eating. The rest of the table is being occupied by a f*****g rocket launcher! I just stand there and stare at it.  

“You finally notice it huh?” Rowan jokingly points out. “That thing there belongs to Reed Blackson...He doesn’t talk much.” I watch him wipe it with a towel with a color that I’ve never seen before. He has long dreads tied in a knot. His red bandana goes with his outfit. Scars are all over his right forearm, and his eyes are a dark brown. He suddenly looks up at me, not smiling or frowning, just a blank face with a straight line for a mouth.  

“I’m just a n***a with a rocket launcher.”  

Rowan taps the next guy on the shoulder, he has his headphones in and bumping his music in peace. Long dreads going past his shoulders, no shirt, red bandana, an eye patch over his left eye, a cross shaped scar on his right shoulder, wearing black tattered jean shorts, and black air forces. This guy is something else. He kind of reminds me of a pirate, I don’t know if that’s the look he was going for but it’s there.  

Yo new n***a, what’s up?” He says holding out his hand.  

I dap him up and smile, “I’m Airen Atmosphere.”  

Piru Sunflower.”  

Before I can comment on his name, he puts his headphones back in. “Don’t take offense to it, Piru just values vibing above everything else.” The girl sitting next to him says sweetly.  

She’s beautiful. Clear brown skin, along with her black, braided hair, red eyes, and currently has my heart. Before I stare too long, I pull myself together and try to form something...anything to say.  

Cherida Red. You can also call me Cherry.” She says with a smile.  

“Airen...Atmosphere. You can call me your ne- I mean...Triple A.”  

Rowan catches wind what I’m trying to do, “Aye I don’t think your balls big enough for you to be doing that...” He sits down after whispering that in my ear.  

I sit down between Jayy and Piru. It’s awkward to say the least, everyone’s doing their own thing and I’m just existing. Phoenix comes back from his call, looking happy to say the least.  

“Our loose end is officially cleared, Boss.”  

Rowan nods, “That’s what I’m talkin about!”  

Before I get nosey and ask about it, a light skinned guy with curly hair goes up to the table. Of the dude, I can tell he has a charismatic, sleazy vibe about him that boost his untrustworthiness.  

“Ro, word around the way says you got a foreign new recruit.” His golden eyes met mine and I could just feel I’m going to get exploited. His grin revealing a silver tooth, the gleam in his eye, and him extending his hand makes me feel like I’m about to sell my soul.  

“Emiliano Yzaels”  

Against my better judgment, I gradually reach out and shake his hand. “Airen Atmosphere.”  

“If you wanna know any gossip, sensitive information, or whatever that’s who you talk to.” Rowan informs me, almost giving a little too much praise to this...devil. 

“That’s right, I can also hook you up with whoever, whenever, wherever. For a price of course.” That last part came out causal as all hell. “Right well, I just wanted to see who I was going to be working with. I gotta get back to work.” He starts to walk away getting distracted by a passing pair of jeans but before he does, “Welcome to the 33rd Street Pirus!”  

I turn to Rowan for an explanation. My curious and somewhat scared look annoys him. “Come on n***a, you honestly think I’m not part of a gang?” 

 

Å 

 

After surviving my first day at Blood Gang High, Rowan thought it would be productive for me to get into some extracurricular activities. Lucky for me, his f*****g little club takes new members year around. No GPA required! This b***h a*s n***a baited me into this! I go on the bus and to only get a text message, instructing me to return his gun at their hideout. No directions, no explanation, no apology. I sigh looking at the warehouse door, if there was ever a point of no return, I’m turning the knob to it. Inside beyond the sea of red, black and white, it does look like a makeshift, rundown club house. As I'm admiring the place, the fact that every gang member inside is staring at me finally registers in my brain. Before I can get a word out, guns are pointed at me and someone runs up to me and pats me down. Of course, he finds Rowan’s gun and pulls it from my waist band.  

He examines it for a second and turn towards the front stage, “Friend of yours boss?”  

The man himself looks up from a table, “Oh...yea send him up here!”  

“You heard him...” He says handing me the gun.  

As I’m walking and maneuvering through everyone, they go back to what they were doing as if I never came in. It has a friendly feel to it despite being surrounded by guns, drugs, money and condoms. There’s a whole lot to do in here: a corner reserved for a kitchen, a closed off area for an indoor shooting range, ammo crates to refill magazines, a storage for guns I'm guessing, and various love seats, couches, and mattresses scattered around. I get up the stairs and see Rowan surrounded by other members; they’re looking over a black billiards table that’s being used for a map of the territory. Chess pieces and markings, the whole sha-bang.   

“Glad you didn’t stay home.” He says as he daps me up.  

“I knew you’d shoot me, if I stayed home and didn’t return your gun.”