Thursday, June 10, 2010

Jak's story

 Jak eventually became a werewolf in the WOD game, after a year of being human. This is Jak's backstory, rewritten slightly, and then expanded to include some game events. Hope you like. 

Lightning flashed in the distance, bearing silent witness to the sudden, violent nature of my life.

A moment later, a tide moves in. Small waves splash across my feet. The water is cold, as always. My skin tightens at the contact; my heart swells. Its beating rushes my ears, drowning out the sound of the lapping waves. My head swims and the thumping continues. My thoughts are crinkled like static as the water deepens and floods the room. I'm treading water and it keeps coming. It's choking me, clouding my head and I feel the panic setting in. I taste it like bitter acid, and shiver under the flood.

Wake. Wake from the repetitive horror. Wake in relief. Shower. Dress. Turn off, close up. Run.

Run. Run as minutes stretch into hours. Run until I feel the cold fear melting off my body. Heat eats away the dread, and I run until I'm burning. I keep running, working past fatigue, pulling strength from my faithful reserves. I'm running from things I can't escape.

"You headed out?"

"Yeah, tomorrow."

A deep quiet crept in, choking the air.

"You coming back?"

I took her in. She was a work of smoke and mirrors. Overdone hair, glossy confection-like nails; tight, suggestive clothing. Her face was frozen in time, an attempt at remaining her younger self.
The mocking, sarcastic question; "Like you did?" rang dully in my head. It took a great amount of restraint not to voice it. Instead, I told her the truth.

"No, I really don't think so."

And with those words, I separated myself from the past and what most would call home. I didn't have any real attachment to the place, the time or the woman who laid claim to mothering me. I hold tight to the memories, though.

I turned and moved towards my truck.  I ship out to the desert the next day.
We used to be the Pak- me (Jak), my brother Mak and our cousin Zak. Boys known not by name, but by initials. I still introduce myself that way. I can't shake it.

Mak was the all American golden boy. He was smart, popular, tall, dark & handsome. He had an endless supply of girls, all pretty & willing. He was good at everything and excelled in sports. I dreamt of being as good as Mak. I wasn't shabby at anything, but I used to have a confidence problem.

Zak was a different story. He was a slacker, a wild boy, and a hooligan. He had this shock of red hair, and shared the same piercing blue eyes we all had. He was a charmer like no other, and could talk the birds out of trees. He had a way with the ladies, too. He had a mind full of a million ideas. He was smarter than anything, but hated honest work. He loved adventures and trouble. He loved to dare us into crazy predicaments. We always went with it. The adventures invariably led to hours of stupid, raucous laughter.

Me, I was the quiet blonde one. With Mak and Zak around, girls rarely gave me a second glance. I had it bad for the neighbor girl, Jess; but I could never tell if she was interested. I was the workhorse. I’m not “cut” or a bodybuilder, but I can lift, move or carry just about anything. I did all the fighting, and usually won. I’m good at it. I’ve always been good with my hands, too; so I fixed a lot of the things we broke.

My mom was long gone with Zak’s dad- our uncle. Zak moved in with Mak and me, and my dad tried to keep us in line. He spent most of his life trying to get to the bottom of a bottle, so he didn’t always succeed. If we got caught, we made a few apologies did some yard work to make good.  I did a lot of yard work.

Like anything good, it had to come to an end.
It starts with a dare from Zak. Mak is 17, and Zak is 16. They have some unspoken contest going on with each other, the typical testosterone-laden crap. Zak is ahead at the moment, and he’s egging Mak on. He wants to swim the river a few miles from our home. Mak isn’t a strong swimmer and is doing his best to get out of it. Zak knows which buttons to push and we end up at the river, with promises of beer and babes for the winner.

We all jump in and start swimming. The water is ice cold, and moving fast. I love to swim, but I hate the river.
The river. It’s so fast. I’m working hard to stay ahead of the current when I hear Mak yell.

Undertow. Rocks. Mak. And blood. So much blood.

I’m drowning in blood by the time I get to Mak.

I get Mak to the other side, but he never wakes up after that. He lasts an hour past the hospital doors.
 The nightmares start. They go on for a year before I adjust.

The town was divided on whose side to take, and so was I. My youth and anger want to lash out at Zak, but the guilt knaws away at me, making me believe it’s my fault. Zak moved out right after the burial. We went our separate ways for a few years after that. I was young and bitter, and I have a mean temper. I didn't want to be tempted by my anger or my guilt. I start to keep myself away from people.

I smile and wave at Jess every day. It’s my only touch with warmth or affection for many years.
I tore into swimming and running with a vengeance. I needed something to do. I needed something that I did alone. I needed a way to escape. It didn't work that way, though. I was a senior in high school when I saw Zak again.
“Kritterz” is the only place in the county that doesn’t play country. The crowd is thick. Voices buzz and drift in the smoky air, drowned by the music pouring out of the speakers. I’m standing at the bar, and Zak is ordering rounds. We’re both experienced drinkers and I keep up with him for a while. Then I see Jess, the girl from two doors down. She smiles at me. I nod and head her way.

I bring her a drink, and I dance with her for a while. I’m relaxed. I’m confident. I’m a much better dancer than anyone on the floor, and Jess definitely notices. She wraps her arms around my neck and we’re doing a crazy, seductive grind for a few minutes. She breaks it off at the end of the song, and leads me to the back corner booth, where Mak had a bell he rang for every time he scored a victory. The bell’s still there.

We slide into the booth and the world around me falls away. I’m kissing Jess in unbelievable ways. Soon, I find a foil square and we’re grinding to the music in the dark.

Jess guides my hand to the rope on the bell, and it rings out as the music quiets for a moment. Jess is smiling and everything is right in the world.

A moment later, I hear Zak’s voice, yelling. I’ve heard the tone before. He’s in trouble, and it doesn’t sound good. I kiss Jess one last time. Then I’m dressed and in the middle of the crowd around Zak in a flash.
Zak’s being held by two bigger guys. I think their names are Duke & Greg. They’re older by a couple years, but I know who they are. An even bigger guy, Steve, is facing Zak. He’s the sheriff’s son, and a mean drunk. We’ve run into him before, and it was never good.  It’s obvious he’s been pounding Zak already.

I can smell the Jager on his breath, and know that whatever Zak’s done, I’m going to pay for it. Steve slurs that Zak was hitting on his girl. Zak just grins and shoots a look at her. She’s a babe. I know Zak was like the fox in the henhouse- he just couldn’t resist.

Steve sees me coming through the crowd. I’m about to say something when he snarls.

“You coming to the rescue? Like you did with your brother?”

I lunge after him as he swipes a broken beer bottle against Zak’s throat.

I don’t remember anything for a while except rage and blood.

I finally snap out of my violent haze. I see Jess, her face a wreck of pride and horror. Zak is dying or dead.

I’m covered in blood. At my feet is a jumbled, broken mess of bodies. I’m trying to make sense of the bones and faces when the Sheriff walks in.
I smelled the mountains on him right away. I pegged him for Washington or Oregon, but he was a Virginia boy. We met in basic, sweating out our personal demons. Mine were mainly comprised of anger, guilt and frustration. I never learned his. It never seemed my business. The Georgia sun made us just as hot as our tempers, and we spent a lot of time running extra miles together. We never talked much. There was no real need. Drummer was a rare man- a man as quiet and passionate as myself, with the ability to run further, longer and harder than I could ever imagine. We spent many nights under the stars, not talking. We became friends, and good ones at that.

The drill sergeants at Ft. Benning hated me. They couldn’t break me. They kept throwing punishment at me and I kept taking it. I discovered that I can take a lot of pain and keep on going. After a while, they threw me into the medical corps to get me out of the way. It’s where I learned I can heal. Just not myself.
I sweat through the four years in Georgia before I ship out. It’s hot in Georgia.
The nightmares keep coming. On really bad nights, I hear the clear tones of the bell at the bar, and I see Jess’ face smiling at me in that perfect moment before my world went to hell.

After nights like those, I find random drunks looking for fights. Winning really isn’t the point, but it happens a lot.
 It’s hot in Georgia. It’s even hotter in Afghanistan. Through a stroke of luck, Drummer and I end up in the same squad. We watch each others' backs as best we can. My captain quickly realizes I can carry twice as much as the rest of my squad and I’ve got loaded sacks. We’ve found a cave and we’re camping in the day to avoid the heat.

Drummer steps out from the cave to find the latrine, and shots ring out. I hear him hit the ground, and I smell blood. I charge out into the firefight.

There are four dead when I come to. I get a commendation, but I’m transferred out of the unit and shipped home. I bury my dad a week later.  I'm surprised he lived this long. It's something of a family tradition to die young. I'm trying to break it, but I don't know if I'll see 30. I sell the house and move as far from home as I can.

Chicago in all its metal glory is a strange reflection in the past behind me. That strange street kid wound up riding with my furniture down to Austin. He's the only link back to Chicago in my life.

I still remember carrying him to the old man's shop, and holding him down as the night unfolded.  I stayed by him, watching the hooks slowly slide out of his unconscious form. The kid almost died several times. I still can't understand- he refuses my help but he won't go away. I saved his life. I tried to give him food & a bed. He walked away, but he keeps coming back. He came into my home and I made him a part of my family, but I still don't know his name. He's like a wound that won't heal.

My world has just been blown apart. It's not that I don't understand. It's not that I'm in denial. It's like someone's touched a wire to my skin -I'm alive with anger, passion and instinct. Even as Rovan brutalized me and I was staggering to what I thought would be my death, I couldn't stop. I couldn't resist the call, the pull of whatever was happening. Then that blistering moment came when my true mother showed me her face, and I was reborn. Raaf and Ed were woven into my life with the afterbirth, injected like medicine I didn't know I needed. I keep holding my breath, waiting for them to cure me of life.

I've stayed away from what happened to my body that night. It is everything I need. Honest, simple, powerful and strong. It doesn't offer explanations and doesn't make excuses. It just exists. The lure of the form beckons me, jangling in my head like the receiver in my kitchen. I know I won't be able to resist the call when I do go back; so I'm not picking up the phone right now.
It's been a while. Ed had to go to Chicago and Raaf took over. Raaf's been gone and I've been left with the pieces. I built a bed (and a life) for Red, and I've been teaching X about his place in our society. Now I understand why Ed was so mad at me all the time. There's got to be a way to tell him he was right without admitting weakness. I have enough to deal with as the de facto leader of this family -showing weakness is not anything I can afford to do.

I've denied myself nearly everything that is mine. I haven't slept in my bed in about a month now. Sleeping in the moonlight as has taught me a lot. Having my mother’s light shine on me has been – illuminating. I watch over Red more at night now. I haven't watched a movie since she moved in. I haven't fired my guns in longer. Guns seem irrelevant in comparison to my other abilities. X keeps telling me I can do more than just fight- and his words are powerful things. I have to keep my head clear, or he’ll talk me into picking up the phone.

I roam my territory as the great white hunter in the early hours of the day, my feet no longer needing shoes. As my hand unfurls, I see my other forms shifting across my skin. White fur covers my arm, and it stretches out in front of me, becoming stronger, tougher, and filled with purpose. I see my destiny strongly in front of me.

Each of us has something to give; and I know the day will come when I’ll have to give everything to Edrid, Raaf, Ginger and David to keep them safe.

If the call comes, I'm picking up next time.