Jasper shakes in jolts of pain as it rushes through the body, his nerves a lightning storm of electric strikes thrashing through his circulatory system. He groans curling up into a fetal position, his limbs spasm in involuntary motions.
Jenny crouches down rubbing her gentle palms across his dry skin. “Jasper, what do you want me to do? How can I help?”
“Have to heal..can’t help.” He sputters out. Rollling onto his back looking toward the heavens, his discolored eye swirls with a rainbow of different tints tunneling into a shade of darkness, his other eye follows the process.
“This is..my fault,” he coughs up. “I’m so.. sorry.”
“What do you mean it’s your fault?” Jenny picks his upper half up, holding him close. Jasper’s eyes turn to black as his body goes limp. He breathes in and out lightly, his right and left wing jut out catching against the dirt. They lower down as torn wings begin to heal and extend back to its original state. His hand trembles as nerves and flesh contort into an empty space where scattered skin once resided.
His leg straightens out with the knee bubbling and pulsating, a cracking sound erupts as bones merge back into a shell. His chest rises highly, like an eruption is about to ensue, then slowly descends into his rib cage. Jenny sits by watching the show, unaware of how to act, but then remembers his power of healing. She stands up and goes to check on Shawna.
Sitting down on the floor next to her, she picks her head up placing it on her knee. “Hey baby, you okay?” Jenny runs her hand through her separated strands of hair.
“Yeah, I’m okay. I was scared and got short of breath earlier when that man came in. Who was he? What he was talking about sister?” Shawna looks up with doughy eyes.
Jenny looks away and continues stroking. “I don’t know what he was talking about. That man was crazy, never seen him before. Just some f**k boy looking for cheap thrills in a broken apartment.”
“Sorry, an ‘F boy’, I’m trying to work on that.”
“But he knew your name? And who’s this man that saved us? He’s strong, and has wings?” Looking over at Jasper laying on the ground she mutters, “Is he asleep? Is he okay?”
“He’s fine, just sleeping is all baby. His name is Jasper. And I don’t know how he knew me. Could’ve heard my name from any hustler or snake, it’s a small town.”
Shawna coughs picking her head up, closing it with her small balled fist, she pulls it back looking at dots of blood before brushing it off on her dress. Sliding her fist down her rose patterned outfit, she looks back at Jenny. “I’m okay, I promise.”
Jenny wants to say so many things, but chooses to take the narrow path and whispers, “Okay. Why not try to get some rest? We’ll talk more tomorrow and things will make more sense in the light, huh?”
Shawna smiles and turns away, her bone chest lifts slightly with limited air going into her lungs. She was dying slowly day by day and there was nothing she could do about it. There is nothing worse than seeing someone you love losing life, breath by breath, knowing nothing you can do will save them, Jenny thinks. Every exhale they take leaves you on edge, knowing it can be the final one. A sickening game of chess invented by life, play by play, who will be the winner? Will a miracle appear, or will death be the reward of failed attempts? Only time could tell.
Jenny looks around at her surroundings, they were what seemed like a crater judging by the higher levels of ground circling around her. Moonlight peered in through slivers of crowded trees watching over the hole. Their temporary placement seemed to be placed into a point of a cone drove into the mass of dead grass and hard soil.
She wanders away, trying not to stray too far. As she begins to escalate out of the pit, her foot kicks against a chunk of wood sticking out. Tugging back on it, the wood slides out with scatters of rocks and dirt gliding down from the sides. She picks the broken sign up and reads WELCOME TO MOONCR-, the other part of the sign missing. Dropping it, she steps out of the sunken crater.
Broken remains of gravel, embedded into the ground, rest as a reminder of where cars used to run through. Piles of timber are stacked up variously, in a wreck where a house once stood. Maybe where a family once lived. Just out of reach of the hole it looked like the boards have been destroyed long before the sinkhole was formed.
The trees strangled, crying to the sky for rain, they seemed dead for quite some time.
“What the hell happened here?” Jenny asks aloud to herself. The rest of the view was nothing more than decaying trees and light from a swollen moon. She plops down on the ground and looks around, waiting for an ambush or anything that seemed impossible at the time. Rico was insane and unpredictable.
Rico had murdered his parents in cold blood at the tender age of eleven years old. He grew up quickly, in a hostile environment, realizing that you had to take what you wanted, if you wanted to survive in a rough neighborhood. A man, his parents owed money to, showed up to find a blood splattered child, his parents sliced apart on the bedroom floor. He simply looked up at him and waved the knife at him. The man saw potential and took him in.
Rico was a child of two lesbians, unlike most parents he saw on television and real life, he was confused by his home life and didn’t know what to think. He saw a man, he later called “father”, come by monthly for money. After being bullied at school he bottled up his rage and eventually released it onto his parents after catching them making love. Other kids had told him that it was wrong and evil, that it he was a b*****d child adopted by “dykes”. So by catching them in the act, he felt he was “cleansing the world” by killing them.
The man raised Rico as his own for years, turning him into a cold blooded killer. He trained him not to feel pain by beating him daily with whips and belts, telling him it was for his own good, that one day, he would even thank him. He was brain washed to enforce his pain and anguish into hatred towards females of all ages. Father told him females were evil, and should be treated as such. Rico grew up to be heartless and hardened in soul, he hated females with an undying passion. One fateful night, he caught Father with a female and unleashed his fury. He felt betrayed and disgusted, he separated his throat with a blade and chased the girl out.
She ran out leaving Rico alone, a nineteen year old boy with a six year old half-brother also “adopted” by Father. Rico wasn’t left with much choice. He raised his brother Cole and swore he would never let another female cause ruin to their lives. He kept his promise and took over the hood. Father was a pimp, from what he gathered by the random females that came in and out. They were usually tied up and abused. He figured Father (How the man referred to himself) got too close to a street walker and got involved. Rico wouldn’t make that same mistake, he knew where his heart resided, in pure hate. He recruited men with strong perversions, willing to do grotesque things to the opposite s*x. Pretty soon, he had an underground s*x ring in a warehouse Father had owned, with Cole being his right hand man.
Jenny stares at the glowing moon, she closes her eyes and hopes for something good to happen. Good news, good luck, anything at all. A miracle is far from her mind as she feels it would be pointless to ask at this time. Her skin had been tainted by the hands of older men over the years, her innocence taken long ago for mere sheets of paper to ensure Shawna would have a roof over her head.
She pictured her first time being magical or romantic, not in a seedy motel by two strangers. A married couple with a perverse “daughter fetish”. She cringes, fighting back tears, reflecting on her haunting memory and decides to head back down the slope. Making it to the center point she walks past Jasper, his eyes blank staring into the unknown, curled into a ball. She sits down next to Shawna and picks her head up, placing it against her lap.
Gliding her chipped painted fingernails through her hair, she begins to talk to herself.
“I didn’t want this, ya know? I always saw myself maybe getting married or something. Seeing the world and eating at exotic places, having kids and growing old with a soul mate. Guess life had other plans for me. Didn’t think I had it hard enough, I suppose. What did I do to deserve this? Was I not nice enough? Was I that bad of a kid? Cause all I had was my childhood before being thrown into this lifestyle,” Looking down at her sister she says “I never told you what I did, because I was ashamed. It’s not something you brag about. ‘Hey Shawna, I got a job sleeping with strangers for money!’, how the hell could I tell you that? I just wish you knew I did it for you. Mom passed away and I got a opportunity to make fast cash before we got evicted. Money to pay for your medicine even. But life always finds a way to intervene just when you thought it was hard enough. Medicine got more expensive. Bills got higher, rent got higher, f*****g slum lords. Sorry, ‘effing’ slum lords. I wish I could tell you this baby, but I couldn’t.”
Jenny wipes her arm across her eyes and leans back starting to rub Shawna’s hair. “I wanted better for us, for you. I’m trying so damn hard and nothing is coming our way but bad luck. Nothing but hardship. You pray to God, why not ask him why He’s making this so hard for us? Maybe He’ll answer.”
She looks down at her sister, in that moment, something inside of her died. Her lack of faith, she felt, wouldn’t help, whether she believed or not. Miracles weren’t something she grew up having trust in. She was thrown into the pits of despair at an early age. Her small body was what got bills paid, what made sure Shawna got her prescription, not prayer. Jenny starts mumbling to herself, “I met an angel and I still can’t believe that you have love for us. Why is she being punished huh? What did she do! You hear me? Why her, huh? Rapists and murderers walk the streets but children die from disease! It’s not fair! It’s not, she’s just a kid! Now we’re being hunted by these monsters. What is that? Was I not good enough for you? Was Shawna not good enough!”
Jenny brings her head down, sobbing. Her tears fall down onto Shawna’s sunken face. A light breeze blows past, lifting strands of her hair before landing down on her shoulder. Jenny inhales deeply, trying to cut her tears off, and sits back. “This is b******t, we don’t deserve this. You deserve better Shawna. You did nothing wrong.” She slides back, keeping a hand under her before slowly lowering her fragile head unto the ground.
“I know they gotta be close, I saw em head this direction!”
Jenny jerks out of her unexpected sleep and turns around while raising to her feet, she sees an ex con standing on the edge of the slope, his hands held tight to a shotgun. He begins to walk down with a group of men following him, coming from the dark.
Before she can move or hide Shawna, the man reaches thr top of the edge and makes eye contact with her. “Whores aren’t hard to find, little girl. And now you got little Shawna involved. What a shame,” The man shakes his head. “Guess she’s destined to be in the family business.”
“No, she isn’t! Leave her out of this!” She turns to Jasper and yells, “They’re here! Jasper! Wake up, please!”
The man steps down onto the leveled floor and looks over to see Jasper laying on the ground. He hovers over him and places the barrel to his temple pulling the trigger. Brain matter and skull jigsaws splatter onto the soil.
“Wasting your breath after this point, kid. Now, make this easy on yourself. We have orders to kill you both but we go way back, why not come in willingly and talk to Rico. Maybe he’ll let you work it off?”
Jenny drops to her knees. Jasper’s head is a empty shell with watermelon chunks sticking out. Nothing more than a dead body, and the destruction of what was left of her hope.
Jenny cries while picking up Shawna in a hurry. She begins to stumble backwards not removing her vision from the man. “No this can’t be happening, why? Please this can’t happen, she’s just a baby! I’ll do anything, I’ll talk to him, just please let her go! She’s been through enough, she can’t go through this too!”
The man smirks. “You had your chance, really f****d up hurting Cole. Rico wanted your man alive, but hell, he looked dead as it was. It’ll be okay, me and the boys can cover for that. I ain’t wasting time bringing in a stiff. Now, as for you? You’re out of luck. Unfortunately for Shawna, she has to atone for your sins, guess life ain’t fair, huh?”
A group of men begin to spread out from behind him in a line all equipped with a variety of arsenals. Jenny turns to run. Her legs dive into the hard ground, forcing her way up the angled land, a small part of her believes she can make it. That she can outrun them and be safe, somewhere far away. The other part of herself slaps reality into her face, telling her she has a chance of either dying quickly or slowly. She goes for the slim option, and makes her way to the top, heading into the woods.
Bullets zoom past her in short blasts of powder and explosions, a tree branch blasts into splinters next to her as she runs through the thick woods.
“No, no, please, please! Please!”
She runs as hard as she can. Shawna awakes in a fright from the fireworks surrounding her. Jenny’s steps grow heavier with each footing she lands into the brush, her body drains of energy as the men behind continue to shoot. She wasn’t going to make it.
Jenny trips over a root and falls into a wet puddle of insects and stagnant water. Shawna dips into the water covering her up to the shoulder. “What’s going on!”
Jenny rubs her finger in an upward position to her closed lips and picks her up out of the murky water carrying her behind a tree. She sits down, cradling Shawna, begging her to be quiet.
“I saw her go this way, can’t be far!” A man yells.
The men come up close as dead leaves shatter under their weight, their musky smell is closer to identify with their approaching presence. The tip of a shotgun merges around the corner from their resting place.
“Please God, I know I’m ungrateful and unworthy, just please, please save Shawna at least.” Jenny rethinks her final words in her mind repeatedly, like a broken record. She clenches her eyes, squeezing Shawna, suddenly she feels a cold barrel press against her head.