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Persona: Philosophy of Man [IC/PG-16/No Longer Accepting]

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#161
Dad

Dad

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8/29

Wednesday, After School

Hot, Humid


Quinn rubbed his arm still unable to look Paul in the eyes.

"Listen I was really stressed out. You don't need to apologize, I was really out of line too." Quinn sighed finally turning to look at Paul.

"Then I guess we're square," Paul added. "What'd you wanna talk about?" he asked.

"I know we didn't exactly get off on a great start, but I need..." Quinn cut himself off. He wasn't even entirely sure what he wanted. "I need to be around people who don't really know me right now. So... when you go on your next... acid trip, whatever the fuck, could I like, come with."

Paul nodded. "We'd be happy to have you. Another witness to all of this wild shit is welcomed." Paul's phone buzzed in his pocket. It was a text from Jason.




FROM: Jason G.
TIME: 3:59 p.m.

Yo. Mom will be picking me up to drop me off at your place...what's the address?


"Shit, sorry. One sec," Paul said as he quickly replied to Jason's text.




FROM: Paul
TIME: 4:00 p.m.

4600 Chrysler Street. I'm already omw. See you soon.


"Shit, I gotta book it," Paul said quickly. He opened up his settings and searched for nearby devices with bluetooth. "I'm sending you my contact info again. I'll let you know when we're ready to go on another 'acid trip'," Paul joked.

Quinn's phone would buzz with an incoming contact request.

"See you soon, Quinn. Get home safe," Paul said as he began to jog across Carrolton Avenue. A bus was barreling down the street and Paul was desperately waving his arms to flag down the driver. Thankfully, the driver saw him and slowed down, pulling into the next bus stop. As Paul stepped onto the bus, he could hear the bus driver mumbling something about "stupid kids". He chose to ignore it.

His phone buzzed again after he put in his fare. Jason texted him back.
 

FROM: Jason G.
TIME: 4:04 p.m.

Just left the campus, though it'll be a bit. Have to stop grab gas...ya know, the whole 9-yards...lol


Paul took a seat and sent Jason a reply.
 

FROM: Paul
TIME: 4:05 p.m.

Aight. Bet.




When Paul arrived home, he had managed to be the first on the property that evening. His mother's car wasn't there and Jason was nowhere in sight.

Paul approached the front porch but was stopped in his tracks when he heard a whistle. Turning around, Cavo was standing on a nearby corner, waiting for Paul. Cavo's face was still partially bruised. How he managed to whistle with a broken jaw was another story.

Paul's keys were clenched in his hands. "Whatchu need, Cavo? I don't have time for your shit right now."

Cavo threw up his hands in surrender. "Be easy bro," he said through clenched teeth. "Iun want no smoke. I came to apologize."

Paul stared blankly at Cavo.

"Listen bruh. I ain't know you had them people outchea like that. And I damn shol' ain't know your brother was doin' the damn thing. So we square bruh. No beef. Just tryna get this paper." Cavo slowly backed away, heading down the street. He threw up a hand and waved to Paul before disappearing around the corner. But some of Cavo's words still lingered in Paul's ears.

"My brother," he said softly to himself. Paul balled a fist. How did Cavo know Randy was making moves? Unless he and Randy met. Paul unlocked the iron door to the house, stepped inside, and locked the place down. Randy was back in town and already moving on territory.



Jason exited the vehicle, waving his mom goodbye as she drove off. Guess he isn't home?? he thought, shrugging, heading towards the house's door, knocking on it. "Paul? You home? It's Jason!"


Paul peered out his window. It was Jason alright. On the other side, Jason was facing an iron door with two heavy locks. Behind it, the main door to the home. He would hear several clicks, the sounds of a security system, and a heavy thud behind the main door. Paul pulled it open slowly, trying not to laugh. With his best straight face, Paul stepped into view.

He was holding himself up with his grandfather's cane, and he put on his best hunchback impression and a scraggly voice. "Eh, what's that sonny? You lookin' fer somethin'?" Paul asked with squinted eyes through his spectacles.

Jason just looked at Paul for a good long moment, shaking his head as a smile started forming on his face. "Dude...you might need some work on your acting...my sister might actually be able to help you if you want." he chuckled, shaking his head.

Paul laughed and unlocked the door. He ushered Jason inside and waved to Mrs. Garrett politely before shutting the door. "Glad you could make it." Paul showed Jason to his room upstairs. "You can take my bed for the night. Already talked to my mom so you can crash for as long as you like."

That was true and false. Paul knew how his mom was about visitors. But this was a special case. He was sure she'd understand. He had texted her about two hours ago. It was now 6:00 p.m. She and Ann would be home soon.

For Paul, however, the night would come quickly, and last far too long.


 

The Fool and the Magician

The Poem of Everyone's Souls


When did he fall asleep? Paul had crashed on a hand made cot beside his bed where Jason was sleeping. He was back in the blue room. The Velvet Room. It had been a few days since he had last been here. Paul approached the bars of his cell, trying to ignore the large weight around his ankle. The large dark skinned man from before, appeared at Paul's cell. "The master has been waiting patiently for you," he said with emphasis.

Paul nodded as the large man stepped aside.

"Paul," Igor said, addressing the young man. "I see your journey has come into fruition. How do you fare?"

Paul wasn't quite sure how to answer that. "Well... I'm not dead. And I'm learning a lot about... whatever that place is."

"It has a name, Paul. The Substitute Plain. It is a place where many evils frolic about. It is a place that you will find answers questions to some of your many woes. It brings to light the actions of the selfish and the souls in which they have chained," Igor said.

Paul shook his head. "I don't understand. Chained souls?"

Igor nodded. "There are unique shadows in the Substitute Plain. Those shadows which have suffered greatly and have been captured. They belong to the souls of the people in your world. And you have the opportunity to free them and learn some new truths. Or," Igor said, raising a finger. "You may squander this, and allow your world to crumble into the darkness."

Paul leaned closer to the bars of his cell. "Igor. What do you want from me?"

Igor smiled. "I'm here only as a means of direction, Paul. You may choose which direction you take. I only want you to choose."

Paul frowned. "So," Paul began. "If I keep going back to the 'Substitute Plain', I'll have a chance to save the world, right?"

Igor nodded.

"If I refuse, my world will 'crumble into darkness'. Things are gonna get bad if I don't do something, right?" Paul asked.

Igor nodded again.

Paul paused. He did have a unique interest in finding the owner of the hotel on the first island. He also wanted to learn more about Shango, Grendel, and Personas. Not to mention, he had already promised Quinn that when they returned, he would bring Quinn along. He had to go back.

"Okay then, Igor. I'll go back. It's a deal," Paul announced.

Igor's smile widened, almost sinisterly so. Paul and Igor have formed a pact.

And while Paul could not hear it or see it, the winds of change were blowing in his favor. The Fool Arcana had been formed, and a weak fire burned at its feet.

Paul had one last question, however. "But Igor... why me? Why was I picked to do this?"

Igor's smile faded. "That is a question you can only answer on your journey, Paul. It is the one question I will never have an answer for." Igor turned his chair around so that he was facing the velvet fire of the Velvet Room, his back to Paul. The large dark-skinned man from before stood in front of Paul's cell now.

"Time to go, prisoner," he said.



While the night went on, Jason may or may not have noticed Paul turning anxiously in his sleep. His body would twitch and jerk uncontrollably, but Paul would not make a sound.


 

8/30

Thursday

Hot, Humid


The next day would be mostly uneventful, except for the last hour of school. An assembly was called, where the school's student body was gathered in the auditorium. There was a city wide event being planned for New Orleans: the New Age Satchmo Summerfest, sponsored most notably by the New Orleans Catholic Association and their very own head priest. He reportedly, "wanted to give back to the city in more than one way".

"Life is a game. Play it." - Mother Theresa

Those were the words splashed in bold, red lettering across a white banner hanging in the auditorium.

Father Tiverly proudly stood before the students gathered, to announce that he was giving away nine tickets to the New Age Satchmo Summerfest, and students had a chance to win them. Anyone of any class or year could enter, so long as they were present and placed a paper entry into a brown wooden box at the center of the stage with their name and phone number provided.


 

Primary Objectives:

  • Attend the assembly.
Optional Objectives
  • Make an entry for the New Age Satchmo Summerfest

Drowning in your silence.

#162
Alaina

Alaina

    「Number 1」

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Avery had not been having a good day. Her morning had been nothing more than a set of disappointments with her having to rush to school, only to make it to her first class 30 minutes late. The cause had been that her alarm had seemed not to go off. Or, rather, on closer inspection it had appeared that Avery had never set it in the first place. And her disastrous morning, followed by having to answer questions in class that she ungracefully did not know the answer to, didn't seem to let up. She didn't have any memory of what had happened in Algebra class, as she didn't quite pay attention to what was going on. When lunch came around she realized that she had neither brought anything from home nor had her wallet on her, forgotten in her mad dash out of the house to get to school. 

 

Both hungry and irritable, Avery had done her best trying to survive the rest of the day, thankful that things hadn't picked up too far in their classes yet that she was able to absentmindedly try and take notes. Of course, whenever she began writing notes for class they gave way to notes on something entirely. This also compounded into the last period, where thankfully all they had to do was sit around and listen to someone talk about some kind of summer festival. The girl wasn't quite sure what to expect from it, but she hadn't any interest in going and thus winning a ticket would only give her stressful attention. As the assembly went on, the girl merely looked to her phone, continually opening the one group chat. Continuing  to look at it, the girl seemed to compulsively check to see if anyone would message there, though each time she opened the chat she was met with the same disappointment. Soon enough, she had stopped checking her phone, merely looking around a way to leave the premises as soon as she could and get out of the ensuing crowds.


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#163
radio414

radio414

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“What’s in store for me today?” Thomasin said. She riffled her tarot deck together one more time just to be extra thorough, cut once, twice, and flipped the top card over to reveal an upside-down Six of Swords.
 
“‘Unresolved anxieties will continue to haunt me,’ huh?” said Thomasin. “That’s a mood. I was planning to just freak out a little before lunch, but yeah, maybe I can squeeze in smaller panics throughout the day if I multitask. Maybe.” She leaned back in her chair, half pondering when exactly would be the best time (or times) to just break down, half just… well, if she was being honest, half not doing much of anything; she was idling away until, eventually, her father knocked on the door.
 
“You moving?” he said.
 
“I mean, you heard me take a shower, right?”
 
“Yeah, but-”
 
“I’m not just going to fall back asleep after taking a shower, doing my hair, all that sort of stuff, Dad.”
 
There was a long pause. Eventually, her father said. “Just making sure you’re not late, honey. Mom made muffins if you wanted some, you know, instead of cereal.”
What could be said about school that hadn’t been expressed the day before? Her phone still buzzed constantly whenever Megan or Beatrice had spare time and a spare snark, and sometimes Thomasin would take part but none of it was really worth recounting as soon as the “Sent” tag popped up on her screen and she closed out of Messenger. Kelsey would still cold-call people out of their boredom-induced trances, but Thomasin managed to avoid those this time.
 
She did actively avoid Reno this time, she was still pretty salty about her encounter the previous day. It didn’t always work, sometimes she’d sneak a glance in his direction, but it was never long before she’d snap back forward.
 

From: (504)555-6942
To: (504)555-8213, (504)555-2084
Today’s icebreaker
Because if I have to sit through these so do you
What was your favorite band growing up?
I said Nickelback
No regrets

From: (504)555-2084
To: (504)555-6942, (504)555-8213
New York Philharmonic

From: (504)555-8213
To: (504)555-6942, (504)555-2084
Wow what a nerd

From: (504)555-2084
To: (504)555-6942, (504)555-8213
youtu.be/2NfdS-1-ZzM
It still is.

From: (504)555-6942
To: (504)555-8213, (504)555-2084
Yeah ok nerd.
Bea?

From: (504)555-8213
To: (504)555-6942, (504)555-2084
1d
Not as much anymore
But i admit i still listen from time to time

 
She managed much better with Tyler and Biology. Now that his anklet was old news, she was free to not pay attention to anything at all. The alternative was listening to the instructor talk about… Punnett squares? Or was that last week? Or did she just see that on a syllabus somewhere and the name stuck out? Whatever, thought Thomasin. It’s not like I’m going to use this in real life anyway.
 
By the time lunch rolled around, a total of two things of note had happened: Thomasin had decided to ignore whatever premonitions that single tarot card had given her, and she was definitely skipping third-period Physics, taking the quick walk down to New Orleans City Park, and setting up shop for a bit. She knew she had to be a little careful because of how the assembly messed with the class schedule; she still wanted to make it to Philosophy when the classes changed over. But until then, the only place she wanted to be was the park.

It was a simple system, really. If a customer was displeased with a particular reading, he or she could just leave and take their money with them. But even if they were pleased, it was still a pay-what-you-want model, almost like busking. She even had put out a sign. Thomasin’s Tarot it had in black sharpie block letters. Let Me Tell Your Story.
 
Business was slow today, though. Thomasin assumed it was because the weather, while not, you know, actively hostile to pedestrians, was still kind of miserable to be in for any long stretch of time. She soldiered on, though. Somebody somewhere had to be curious enough to try.
 
In the meantime, she mindlessly shuffled her deck, riffling the two halves together with the unconscious sort of efficiency that could only come from hours upon cumulative hours of the same repetitive motion. Eventually, more out of boredom than anything else, Thomasin decided to do another reading for herself. “A three-card spread, this time” she mumbled. “Just to keep in practice.”

She didn’t associate this one with a question. She just cut once, twice, and laid out three cards for herself, her past, present, and future all laid out for her.
 
Her past, she learned, was a reversed Ten of Pentacles, and she frowned at that, even as the rote-memorized words came pouring out of her. “Family difficulties,” she said. “Be wary of ill-conceived projects, and try not to get involved.” Almost immediately Thomasin had realized her mistake. With the absence of a question to guide her thoughts, the vagaries of the cards could just about mean anything. “Ill-conceived projects” could refer to the time her mother had suggested harp lessons, or it could refer to coming out here today of all days at all or anything in between.
 
But now it was there on the table. There wasn’t really any going back from this one. The second card, her present, was Judgement. This one was even more nebulous! It could mean she should look forward to upcoming journeys, experiencing an awakening of sorts by the end of it; or it could mean that she could simply take pride in what she had already accomplished, with the knowledge that she had achieved all she’d set out to; or it could just mean a legal ruling in her favor. So two contradictory options and a boring one. Maybe that did describe her pretty well.
 
All that was left was her future. It was an odd feeling, seeing the cards like this. The past and present were already known to her, and, while it wasn’t like revealing this one was going to predict or change anything, it was just, like, knowing something was there sometimes a bit much. But now she was stalling. She took another breath and flipped over the card…
 
…and The Devil stared back at her.
 
Well.
 
Normally on her walks too and from the park, Thomasin would have headphones in her ears, connected to her old, well-worn iPod stashed into her backpack, and her phone out in front of her. Today was different though. She still had the headphones in, but her music was turned low; she wasn’t really giving it much thought at all. Instead of her phone, she still had her tarot deck, with The Devil placed at the front. “Is someone practicing the dark arts against you?” she mumbled. “Is someone trying to ensnare your mind? Remember that indulgence can be amusing for a while, but too much will only end in downfall.”
 
The way she was holding her cards meant that a few in the middle slipped out, fluttering to the sidewalk. “Alright, that’s enough,” Thomasin said. She knelt down to pick it up, finishing her reading as she did so. “Remember, you are your own mistress. Nobody can hold you back but you.”

She shuffled the fallen card back into the deck and finished the walk back to school.
Philosophy continued to be less than noteworthy. But at least it went quickly, the bell ringing an hour before school ended because of that assembly. Pretty soon, Thomasin found herself elbow to elbow with every student in the school. The assembly was supposed to be about a music festival? With something about a raffle? Most of Thomasin’s assembly time was spent on her phone.
 

From: (504)555-8213
To: (504)555-6942, (504)555-2084
Hey r either of u thinking of going to this music fest?

From: (504)555-6942
To: (504)555-8213, (504)555-2084
Lol probably not

From: (504)555-2084
To: (504)555-6942, (504)555-8213
I might have to, I think.
At least, I might have to enter.

From: (504)555-6942
To: (504)555-8213, (504)555-2084
Its probs not the ny orchestra Tommy

From: (504)555-2084
To: (504)555-6942, (504)555-8213
I may have told the Dedicated Fiction Club that I like swing. Not that far of a leap to Louis Armstrong, so…

From: (504)555-8213
To: (504)555-6942, (504)555-2084
Wow rip
I actually thought about entering to tho
Maybe we both win

From: (504)555-2084
To: (504)555-6942, (504)555-8213
Haha, maybe.


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#164
Super Chaos Sonic

Super Chaos Sonic

    Run, Sonic Run!

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iU8EggM.png

 

The Night Before

 

Jason was actually surprised that Paul let him use his bed like this. A pretty gracious host to say the least. The evening went on as usual for him, though he felt a bit of a weight lifted off him when he mentioned about the true reason his wrist was broken like it was. Through the night, Jason was able to rest...although he felt a small drop of worry...he wasn't sure what his father would be doing right now, if anything. Still, Jason did notice that Paul would be moving in a restless state, though he didn't make any sounds.
 
Probably just is having a dream or something...best not to wake him... Jason shrugged, turning over and falling asleep.
 

iU8EggM.png

 

8/30

Thursday

Life is a Game

 

Jason was surprised that the bulk of the school day was uneventful. Then again, it did mean that the gang's plan to go back to the island would be a bit better this time. Still, all through the day, he was doing his best to try and mentally prepare himself to go back. He still wasn't sure if he was ready for that...
 
Nevertheless, before the gang could even think of leaving, there was a school assembly. This time, in favor of announcing something called the New Age Satchmo Summerfest. Sounded interesting at least...especially since there was a giveaway for nine tickets to join said event. An event...with the possibility of winning free stuff? That was like a dream come true for a high school student! How could Jason possibly say no.
 
Well, it wouldn't hurt... he thought, moving and filling out the paper with his name and phone number written down. He placed his entry into the box and then proceeded to pull out his phone. ...best check to see if the group is ready for that trip back...

 

With that, he proceeded to send a group text to everyone who Paul had contact with on the island: "Hey guys, its Jason. ...so is everyone ready for that island getaway part 2?"


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#165
a bad post

a bad post

    waste quartz 4 waifu

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"See you soon, Quinn. Get home safe."

 

Quinn snorted at Paul's last words for him. "Yeah, I'll try. For some reason though trouble seems to just have a way of finding me." As the young men parted ways Quinn's phone dinged, alerting him of Paul's contact request, which he accepted. 

 

Putting his earbuds in Quinn walked across the school's parking lot to make his way home, however just before he stepped over the threshold of the school's gate he felt a hand around his wrist. In a panic, Quinn whipped around connecting a solid punch on the assailant's stomach who with an audible groan curled in on himself. It was only at this point that Quinn realized that the person who had grabbed him was Riku.

 

"S- solid right hook, Quinn," Riku wheezed, "but, ungh, was it, uh, really necessary?" Riku's voice cracked on the last word, and Quinn immediately took out his earbuds and crouched over to help his friend.

 

"Oh my god, holy shit, oh my god, I'm so sorry! Are you okay?" Quinn reached out, but before recoiled without actually touching Riku. 

 

"Yeah- yeah" a couple more coughs from Riku, "yeah I- uh, I tried calling out to you, but I don't think you could hear me..." Riku chuckled sheepishly. "Sorry for startling you." 

 

"No it's- it's I just thought you were..." Quinn trailed off not really sure how to complete that sentence. "I thought you were somebody else, anyway what' up?"

 

"Well, you've cut the last couple of drama club meetings, and you know I just wanted to make sure you were alright." Riku finally straightened himself up. 

 

"Oh." Quinn stared at Riku for several seconds. "I've been cause I was home so late from the party. My sister's just being... you know... overprotective."

 

"Yeah, I know we got separated in the chaos of getting away from Kevin's party... sorry about that... anyways I don't want to keep-"

 

"Actually do you want to come over, I could use a friend..."

 

"Are you sure? I don't want you to get into more trouble."

 

"No, it's alright. My sister won't be home until late, if at all, she's trying to make partner or something like that at her firm." 

 

-------

 

"So," Riku let his backpack slide off his shoulders as he walked into Quinn's room "what did you want to do?"

 

Quinn flopped down onto his desk chair pulling up Netflix on his laptop. 

 

"Honestly? I kind of just want to watch The Office for the thousandth time in a row, is that alright with you?"

 

"Hahaha, yeah sure." 

 

Pulling up a random episode Quinn angled the laptop towards the bed so they could lounge while watching before jumping in next to Riku, and pulling a blanket over himself. 

 

It would be a couple of episodes later when Riku noticed that Quinn seemed to be just staring up at the ceiling blinking quickly.

 

"Hey, uh, are -"

 

"I-I'm fi-" Quinn's voice cracked, and he sighed "ok, I'm not fine I want to cry but I'm wearing Kat Von D and shit's expensive fam."

 

"Hey." Riku turned his body to face Quinn looking him directly in the eyes. "It's not healthy to keep stuff bottled up like that, it's ok to let it out." 

 

Quinn's lip quivered. The earnest and straightforward words from Riku were the last straw for Quinn and everything came bubbling up from inside him as he let out a loud sob.  

 

"Hey... it's ok, it's ok." Riku rubbing his friend's back. "Do you want to talk about it?" Between the sobbing shaking his friend's body Riku had a difficult time telling what Quinn wanted, but he was finally able to make out the barest hint of a shaken head. "Ok... ok. I'll stay with you until you're better, is that alright." This time a nod.

 

For the next several hours the boys sat in relative silence until Quinn's crying finally died down and, seemingly exhausted, he passed out. Riku moved quietly gently laying Quinn down onto the bed and made his way out the apartment's front door.

 

-------

 

Quinn spent most of the school day in an embarrassed haze. Normally quite confident and assured of himself Quinn couldn't believe he'd actually lost his composure in front of Riku. Quinn felt as though the red blush across his face would be plastered there forever, and could only manage to through himself into his work as a modest distraction. 

 

The school day finished with an assembly, which by some cruel trick of fate had him sitting next to Riku. 

 

"Hey... um, about-"

 

"Don't mention, that's what friends are for."

 

Quinn stared at Riku, and could only groan in embarrassment. "When did you become so cool?" Quinn groaned muffled into his hands.

 

"Hey, why don't we enter this?" Riku tugged on Quinn's shirt and pointed towards the sign that said: 

 

"Life is a game. Play it." - Mother Theresa

 

"A music festival could be fun. Just the way to get your spirits up!"

 

"I mean I don't know... I'm grounded, and I've never exactly been religious, I'm not so-"

 

"When did you become such a worry-wart? Come on!" Riku dragged Quinn forward and both young men signed their names onto slips before dropping them into the raffle bin.


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#166
Hakima

Hakima

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Class was, unsurprisingly, difficult and boring. American History was a blur of names and dates; events he couldn’t remember, orchestrated by people he didn’t care about. His Biology class was debatably worse. It was difficult to bring his grade up in the class because he hadn’t paid attention to the basics years before, so trying to understand the advanced material without a grasp of the fundamentals was hellish. He caught a girl staring at his ankle monitor several times throughout the class, instead of paying attention, which in turn distracted him so he missed part of the lecture too. Stupid b*tch. Luckily, the last half of his day was his two best subjects, Gym and Woodworking, and then he was free for the day.

 

Tyler snatched up his bag and trudged out of class when they were dismissed for the end of day assembly . Normally, Woodworking was a subject he actually enjoyed. It was relaxing to start with an ugly lump of material and slowly shape it into something usable, and they were in the middle of making inn tables, but his thoughts had been consumed by “R’s” mysterious note since he had found it.

 

Still, there was no chance in hell he was willingly sitting through an assembly for some music festival. He slipped out the door the first chance he got and spent most of the remaining hour of school hiding inside of his car. He was mostly just killing time until everyone was dismissed and the clubs would begin.

 

Eventually, once the assembly had wrapped up, he found himself gravitating towards the same place he always went to when he was stressed. A car garage. “Hey. Sorry ‘bout missing the last few meetings, been busy. What we workin’ on today?” he asked, walking into the Automotive Club’s shop and throwing his bag down.

 

Nathan was knee deep in the pit, beneath a 2020 Chrysler with Jake.  “Hey pal,” he called from beneath the vehicle. “Right now, I’m teaching the rookie the ropes.  How to change the oil - properly - and basic maintenance. But you and Hensley can check under the hood of that old Charger if you want.  It should be good. Then after that, I think it needs an alignment.”

 

Tyler stripped off his coat and tossed it onto a nearby chair. “Will do. Normally I’d let you take the lead on this, Hensley, but I’m just tryin’ to veg out today.” He walked over to the Charger and popped the hood. It groaned in protest, but he forced it up with a rough shove. The earthy smell of rust, oil and grime brought with it a familiar comfort that nothing else quite could. “Let’s get to work.”

 

 

When Tyler eventually emerged from school, there would be an old model Impala parked just off of campus, in pristine condition. Outside of it, Paul was talking to an older Latin man with a beard. Then, the Latin man pointed directly at Tyler. Paul turned around and stared at Tyler for a second, before turning back to the Latin man. They were having an indistinct conversation that Tyler wouldn’t quite be able to overhear. The Latin man stood beside the Impala and a pitch black window rolled down, and smoke came billowing out of it. Paul’s head disappeared momentarily, and then the window rolled back up.

 

Paul emerged again and turned around to Tyler and tried to flag him down.

 

Tyler wasn’t sure why but alarm bells were ringing in his head. He kept his distance, but he acknowledged Paul with a nod. “What’s up?” he said loud enough to be heard across the parking lot.

 

Paul looked to the Latin man and then back at Tyler. He slowly started approaching Tyler, hands in his pockets. “You got a minute?” he called back.

 

Tyler gestured to himself. He was covered in grease from head-to-toe, his hair plastered to his head by oil and sweat. “Kinda tryin’ to get home and take a shower. Why? What’s up?” He looked past Paul to stare at the man leaning on the Impala.

 

Paul turned back to the large Latin man and tried to wave him off. He shrugged and got inside the Impala. However, the vehicle didn’t budge. It simply idled on the side of the road. Paul kept approaching, not wanting to say anything too loudly. Finally out of shouting distance, Paul stood before Tyler and kept his head down.

 

“Did you get a letter? Today? Recently?” Paul asked.

 

Tyler’s demeanor shifted in a flash. His shoulders stiffened and he worked a muscle in his jaw, tilting his head back slightly to stare up at the clouds. “Say that I did. Why do you want to know?” he was speaking softer now, but there was a tension beneath his words that screamed danger.

 

Paul let out a slow breath. “Because… I know the author.” Paul stopped to let that sink in. “I don’t know why he wrote you, but I know he’s bad news. But I’ve been asked to ‘persuade you’ into visiting him. But since they can’t hear me, I’m just gonna leave it at that.” Paul straightened up and looked over his shoulder.

 

They were still there.

 

Tyler glared at the Impala unflinchingly. “Aight. Tell ‘em I heard the message. Oh and... “ he raised his voice loud enough that the man in the Impala would hear. “Tell him stay the funk away from this school. I don’t mix business and personal life.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Paul said. “I’ll let him know.” As Paul walked away, he shivered. He angrily threw up a hand at the Impala and began walking toward Orleans Avenue. The Impala pulled alongside him and more smoke skewed the view inside.

 

However, Paul could be heard barking near the top of his lungs. “Stay away from my funking school,” he snapped. Paul pulled his head out of the window and marched off. The Impala skidded into a u-turn and peeled away.

 

Tyler called after him before he got very far. “Paul!” he fished his keys out of his pocket. “You want a ride home? I, erh… Dunno if that caused you to miss the bus or not. Haven’t seen you drive so…”

 

Paul stopped where he was and turned around. “Uh,” Paul looked around. It was a little after 4:50. With 5 o’clock traffic about to start, he wouldn’t get home at this rate until after eight p.m. “Yeah. Yeah, I appreciate it. And maybe we can talk in private.”

 

“Alright.” Tyler clicked his keyfob and a car a few spaces over suddenly rumbled to life. “That one’s mine. Quick rundown of the rules: no drinks without screw-on lids, no food that crumbles, and if you smoke you better get it out of your system before you get in.” He walked over and opened the driver’s side door after that, fishing a few towels out of the back and draping them across his seat.

 

Paul nodded. “No worries. I don’t smoke and I have a bottle of water with a lid so we’re all good. Nice ride by the way,” Paul said, admiring the vehicle as he approached. “What year is it?”

 

“2013. My old man got the hollowed out body from a scrap yard when I was twelve and we restored it, inside and out.” Tyler leaned on the roof of the car and grinned. “Imagine rolling up to your tenth grade year in this thing.”

 

Paul opened the passenger door slowly and slid inside, careful not to slam the door behind him. While Tyler’s vehicle was a marvel, he couldn’t shake the conversation they just had. “Let’s take the scenic route. I’ll leave you a dub for gas.” Paul pulled a crisp twenty dollar bill from his wallet and left it in Tyler’s cupholder; it was a brand new bill. That was his way of apologizing while trying to suggest they ride slowly to discuss this evening’s events.

 

Tyler dropped into the driver’s seat and pulled his door shut behind him. “Will do,” he said, eyeing the twenty as he pulled his seatbelt on. Maybe he wasn’t the only one getting into some dirty dealings. “I’ll be real, I ain’t tellin’ anymore than I’ve gotta, and I’ll decide what I’ve gotta tell you based off your explanation for whatever the funk that was.”

 

He pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street, headed for the nearest highway. If they were gonna cruise, they were at least gonna cruise at a reasonable speed.

 

 

“The Latino homie is Tito. Not his real name obviously,” Paul started. “He’s the number one. Right hand of ‘god’,” Paul said with air quotes. “I’ve known him for sixteen of my seventeen years on this earth. He’s my non-biological guardian. When I’m short, he’ll just hit me up, no questions.” Paul was skirting around the real issue.

 

“But I’m sure since you’ve seen his face, he’s not the one you have questions about.” Paul sat up straight in his seat and got comfortable. “His boss goes by Red,” Paul explained. “I know him because he’s my good for nothin’ brother. And he’s been making a lot of noise down here for the last… year and some change from what little I gather.” Paul never took his eyes off the highway in front of them. “He owns the East coast and down south Guerillas. They’re a mix of bloods and somethin’ else. It’s an old gang that’s been rebranded.”

 

Tyler grunted. That certainly filled in a lot of gaps in what was going on. “So your brother, this Red guy,  he’s tryin’ for total control right now?”

 

Paul scoffed softly. “Tryin’?” Paul kept his head straight. “Tito said he’s got everything. Crip hoods ain’t crip hoods no more. Latin Kings have no territory. Cops being bought out. Weight being moved like never before. And he’s got eyes and ears everywhere. But I’m willing to bet there’s one spot he won’t ever take.” Paul thought about the Quarter. “Jackson Square and the Quarter. He always said he hated Switzerland but even the streets got rules, I guess. Plus, whoever got the Square and the Quarter is not to be funked with. Even Red wouldn’t go there.”

 

Tyler laid on the gas and pulled into the passing lane, rocketing past several cars. “Okay, correction, he’s in nearly total control. So why’s he botherin’ me?”

 

Paul finally looked up from the highway and raised an eyebrow. “My best guess? Whoever you were runnin’ with was good people with him or his connects. Red might be a piece of sheet but he’ll never let a hustler go hungry. Or,” Paul said, facing back to the highway. “He needs a new soldier. He might be recruiting again and got your name from your previous people.”

 

Paul shrugged. “Only other thing I can think of, is, Red needs your eyes for something related to our school. But that seems highly convoluted and unlikely, so it’s probably one of the former.”

 

Tyler didn’t say anything for a few minutes. The highway blurred around them and the cars turned into flashes of color in the window, the dial on his speedometer quickly rising. “So what’s your stake in this? Just the innocent little brother?” he finally asked, breaking the silence.

 

Paul shook his head. “He wants me to be his successor or some bullshit. Talking about how he’s building an empire to leave to me. I don’t fuckin’ want it. But I’m always benefitting from it,” Paul said, as he thought about that day in the park. “He keeps sending me and mom money. Bills are always paid. He sent me--he sent me a funking check to cover my tuition for any of four or five colleges I choose.” Paul’s fists were clenched.

 

“I keep trying to get away from him. But it’s like he and I are drawn to each other,” Paul said. He sighed. “Look, I know that’s the last thing you wanna hear, and I’m sorry. But it’s true. And I’m sorry that you got wrapped up in his sheet. But if you want out, I’m sure I can make him see reason.”

 

“Sorry?” Tyler snorted with laughter. “Center console, beneath a couple of rags. Grab the envelope.”

 

Paul opened the console and pulled out the envelope. It was filled with money--at least a grand! “sheet,” Paul whispered.  “So, what’s your move?”

 

“Not really sure. There was a letter with it to, tryin’ to recruit me. Found it yesterday in my locker, spent most of today pissed off trying to figure out who the funk ‘R’ was,” Tyler said. He slowed down the car to let someone merge onto the highway. “I thought I had gotten you mixed up in my mess for a minute. I’m an jabroni, but I ain’t tryin’ to pull anybody else down with me.” He was relieved to know that he hadn’t accidentally funked someone else’s life up. “Your brother wants me to meet with someone in Kenner this Saturday though. Think it’s worth showin’ up?”

 

For whatever reason, Paul chuckled. “Believe it or not, yeah. Yeah, I think so. You gonna want company?”

 

“Well, two bodies are harder to hide than one, so probably safer that way,” Tyler smirked.

 

“Aight then. It’s a deal,” Paul said.

 

There was a moment of silence between Paul and Tyler. Neither of them could hear it, but voices spoke on the winds of change. Paul and Tyler had formed a bond and reached an agreement.

 

BGM

 

I am thou, thou art I.
Thou hast acquired a new vow.
It shall become the wings of rebellion that breaketh thy chains of captivity.
With the birth of the TOWER Arcana, I have obtained the winds of blessing that shall lead to freedom and new power...

 
 

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