No More Zero ~*One Player*~

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No More Zero ~*One Player*~

Post  Aster on Fri Oct 28, 2011 2:14 pm

~brrrzz~
~brrrzz~
~brrrzz~
*click*

"What?"
"So cold, Samuel! And here I am, calling to congratulate you on your second victory. You'll never be popular with the ladies with an attitude like that, you know? Then again, lots of girls will strip down for the cool, loner type... I bet you already have a band of groupies waiting on their knees for you back at home..."
My expression twisted into something less comfortable. Sometimes her cutesy French accent makes me forget just how twisted she really is. "Christ, Sylvia. Does your mother know how lewd you are?"
"My mother is an old bitch. Besides, I'm not the one holding someone else's head."
I had to chuckle at that. "Got me there."

I let the severed head drop to the cold, concrete floor and began to make my way to the rooftop's exit. Minutes ago, the head had been attatched to the body of a tall and slender man, probably in his thirties. His name was Death Adder. Or, at least, that's what he called himself to everyone in the Association. As a fighter, he wasn't anything special. Proficient enough with his sword cane to cut most people down, maybe, but it was clear during our match that I was far out of his league. His hands were swift, but his combat senses were far too sloppy and unrefined to keep him alive. He hadn't lasted longer than a minute.

"So, how was it? Are you beginning to feel it now? The thrill of the hunt? The ecstacy of the kill? Are you forming an addiction to the feeling of fresh, warm blood against your skin?"
"Shut it. There's no 'ecstacy' or any of that crap involved. I'm gonna kill the number one. That's it. Everyone in my way before that is just a means to an end."
"I see. What a shame. I would have loved to have seen you tainted by the Garden of Madness... oh well. You are now ranked number nine, Samuel. Keep up the good work! Just seven more and you can add the number one's head to your collection... assuming you don't lose yours first."
"And you'll keep your end of the deal?"
"Of course. Though I hardly think it's necessary. The second ranked assassin isn't foolish enough to challenge the current number one. You're the only idiot stupid enough to try."
"It won't be stupid when I win."
"I believe in you, Samuel! Eye of the tiger! Write your legend in blood! I'll contact you when I've set up your next match. Ciao!"
*click*

I stuffed my cell phone back into my jeans pocket and descended the long, winding stairs that led to the lobby of the abandoned office building. I hadn't reached the unpainted wooden doors before the whirring of helicopter blades echoed dully from the roof. After every match, the Association cleans up whatever bodies are left lying around. I wondered, as I stepped outside to the greeting of the autumn chill clawing through my leather jacket, if they did it to keep the town tidy and carcass-free or if they simply didn't have the kind of funding to bribe the local fuzz into staying off their backs. The fees they were constantly throwing my way led me to assume the latter. Association entrance fees, individual match fees, fees for violating the Association's rules of conduct... who knew being an assassin was so expensive?

It was the middle of November, but in the sky, there wasn't a cloud in sight. Overhead, stars dotted a pitch black canvas as far as the eye could see. Snow never falls in Santa Destroy. A lot of folks take it as a sign, as if even the weather knows that nothing so beautiful is worth gracing a town built on blood and greed. In Santa Destroy, you learn how to live or you die by the educated. That's just how things are. In my twenty-one years of living here, I've only seen one flower grow out of the dirt; my father. He was a knowledgable man, full of love and life. Even in this home for muggers, rapists and murderers, he could lift the spirits of the hungriest begger with a smile. I reached for a cigarette only to find an empty pocket. I had sold my last pack off to pay the rent.
I let a puff of breath out into the cold. "Guess I wanted to quit anyway..."

A pair of lights enveloped the sidewalk in front of me, and with them the sound of a running engine and tires crunching against pavement. I stopped and turned in time to see a glass window rolling down to reveal a familiar face. A girl around my age sat behind the wheel of a tiny white car. Rust tinted hair dangled in curly tails down the sides of her rounded, freckle-dotted face. Her large chestnut eyes and naturally accented cheeks made her look something like a chipmunk; something guaranteed to make her furious if you should point it out. "Hello, Marideth."

She scowled. "Hello to you too, Sammy."
Hearing the word made me cringe. "I told you not to call me that."
"And I've told you a million times to call me 'Mary'", she said haughtily. "So we're even."
I rolled my eyes. "What do you want, Mary?"
"What do you think? It's freezing out here, idiot. I'm giving you a lift home."
'Idiot' seemed to be a popular adjective for me that day. It was almost starting to worry me. "What happens if I say no?"
"Just get in the car before I come out there and beat your ass."
With a shrug, I walked around the car and climbed into the passenger seat. It wasn't that I believed her or anything; trust me, I've taken off more formidable heads than hers. But I knew that if I'd refused, she would have followed me anyway, hollering at me from the comfort of her seat. So I figured I may as well make the trip as short and painless as possible.

"Where were you headed from, anyway?", she asked. I could swear I saw a glimmer of suspicion on her face as she said it, and it made my heart skip a beat. The Association has a giant bill in store for people who let the cat out of the bag. I averted my gaze to the barren mid-town road. Wandering around at night was something no one without a death wish did in Santa Destroy, and it made me wonder if she was very bold or very naive.
"The store", I lied.
Now her expression was definitely suspicious. "Where're your groceries?"
Damn. There's a reason I don't go out of my way to talk to people. It only gets you into trouble.
"I was just dinner shopping. Didn't see anything good." It wasn't true, of course, but it was a story that could have been on any other day.
The next look on her face was one I had difficulty reading. Something between disappointment and pity. "What do you feel like?"
"What? Oh, no, I'll just find something at-"
"Suplex Pizza it is."

~***~

Marideth is the daughter of the lady who used to be my dad's boss, a big-wig member of the town council or something like that. He worked as an architect, and it wasn't uncommon for the pair of them to stop by our place so they could talk over his blueprints. My father made sure that I was wary of every face I met when I was very young. In a town where the people are as polluted as the air, you can never be too careful. So naturally, I always kept Marideth at arms length when she came over. I wasn't like most kids my age, anyway. When she'd ask if I wanted to play hide-and-seek, I would send her to hide somewhere and sneak off to read a good book. I only see her once in a while nowadays, and when I do, there's a pretty obvious wall between the two of us. Needless to say, she isn't someone I would have expected to be eating dinner at a pizza joint with.

"There. Eat." She returned from the counter and set a plate in front of me. On it were two slices of Santa Destroy's famous Suplex pizza. To anyone outside the area, the food isn't much more than a hot, greasy, melted mess. But to the locals... well, it's about the same, but it's as close to fancy restaurant as you can get. Weddings at Suplex Pizza aren't uncommon. Before I knew it, I found myself wolfing the food down like an animal. I had been living off potato chips and canned soda for months now, and all the parts of me with etiquette were pushed aside by the part of me that was starving.
Marideth looked as if she were watching a lion ripping apart a wild gazelle.
"Geez, Sam, breathe a little! The pizza's not going anywhere. Well, except your face."
I tried to remember my manners. "Sorry", I said before swallowing a glob of cheese and wiping my face with my wrist. "It's been a while since I've had a decent meal."
She shot me a hopeless look and handed me a folded up napkin. "If you call this a decent meal, I'd hate to see what you usually eat."

I wiped off my hands and ran my fingers through my hair. It's a habit I have, when I'm uneasy. "You didn't have to do this, you know."
"Hm?" She squeaked in reply, big eyes peering over a slice of pizza. She really was like a chipmunk.
"I said, you didn't have to go through all this trouble. I could have fended for myself."
She lowered her food from her face and flashed me a cheery smile. "What can I say? You looked like a helpless puppy."
I felt my shoulders sink.
"Haha! Look at your face! I'm kidding, Sam. Don't worry about it. We're friends, right? It wasn't out of my way at all. Besides, mom's been busy with work all the time lately, and I don't figure you get dinner company often, so it was a nice change of pace for both of us."

The night carried on without abnormality. Marideth would ask me things - where I've been, what I've been doing - and I would answer her vaguely or in fibs. I felt a little bad, having to keep so secretive. She was only trying to make conversation. But I couldn't exactly tell her that I'd been murdering people cold-blood under an organization of assassins. The less she knew, the better off the both of us were. I had no reason to tell her anyway. But throughout our meal, I found myself thinking back to what she had said.

She was right about one thing... I didn't get dinner company often. Or ever, for that matter. But did I really mind it that way? I had always been cautious of everyone except my father, so the solitude wasn't anything new to me. As a kid, I never really questioned whether I would be better off surrounded by people all the time, since I always had my dad to keep me company. With things the way they were... was I okay with being on my own? Just then, she had called me her friend... but how well did I really know Marideth? We'd known eachother since elementary school, but the truth of the matter was, I knew next to nothing about her. I shooed away the self-doubt she'd left wriggling in the back of my mind. If I had never thought to ask myself if I was content, then I must have been content enough. I looked up at her. I must have been lost in thought for a while. She was already nibbling her way through her last slice.

"Um...", I started. Her eyes zipped from somewhere distant to focus on me. I ran my hand back and forth through my hair. "I don't really have any..."
She smiled again. "Some date you are. ...Kidding! Geez, lighten up a little. It's on me."

~***~
I shut the door of Marideth's car and walked around to her window. "Thanks, Marideth. I owe you one."
She glowered angrily at me. "MARY. Ugh, Marideth makes me sound like such an old grandma. All my other friends call me Mary, so get with the program already."
She had said it again. 'Friends'. Did she really not see the gap between the two of us, after all these years? How could you be friends with someone you barely know? I couldn't wrap my head around it.
"Sorry, sorry. Thanks... Mary." It felt strange coming off my tongue, like I'd uttered a special code that marked my initation into her circle of best buddies.
"Don't mention it. It was nice, catching up."
"Yeah. I'll see you around." I wished I'd picked a better choice of words as soon as I said them. I started to head home, but she stopped me mid-turn.
"Hey, wait a minute." She pulled a leapord print purse out of thin air and shuffled through it, items of who knows what kind clanking and churning loudly. At last, she triumphantly unveiled a black marker. "Ha-ha! Sam, give me your arm."
Before I could properly object, she had reached out of the window, grabbed my arm and was scribbling hurriedly onto my skin.
"There. That's my cell. Call or text or whatever whenever you want. Later!"
"I don't really-", I began, but the car had already sped off into a curtain of darkness, vanishing quickly among the dim illumination of streetlights.

What I call "home" is actually a somewhat poor example of the word. I live in a room at the No More Heroes Motel. I flicked on the light switch and locked the door behind me. The lights gave a few exhausted flickers before wheezing out a low, constant hum. No More Heroes gets a lot of people every day asking for a permanent room, and for good reason. The quarters aren't anything spectacular, but an upper quality room like the one I occupy has three separate rooms within it - a bedroom, a lounge room and a bathroom. It's not much, but it beats the hell out of being homeless. Unfortunately, of the hundreds of homeless folks who've asked for a spot, I'm the only one to ever actually get a key. The owner was, luckily for me, a good friend of my father's, so he's letting me occupy a room for keeps as long as I can keep up with a monthly rent.

I shuffled lazily over to the red couch against a wall of the lounge, swept a pile of magazines onto the floor and dropped exhaustedly onto it's stiff cushions. Something dug painfully into my skin. I willed my joints into propping myself up and fished the culprit out of my coat pocket. I looked emptily at the object in my hand, the folded, compact form of my katana. The image of the weapon in my palm triggered a flood of thoughts that hit my tired brain all at once. Thoughts of who I was, and what my future held. It wasn't long before I gave up trying to organize them all, and soon I had fallen asleep.
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Aster

Posts : 16
Join date : 2011-07-10
Age : 25
Location : New York

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