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October 29, 2012

I Hraet You (50)

Beat 50: Slobberknocker of the Soul

Mrs. Overdose sighed heavily.  “Well, isn’t this just great?”  While she massaged a temple with her palm, she cast an eye down to the ground floor -- to the desk where Lloyd had collapsed, and had completely stopped moving.  “Damn kid couldn’t even answer a few questions.  I knew this was a waste of time…but I had to go and be nice.  Last time I’m ever doin’ that, that’s for sure.”

She leaned forward, ignorant of the golden stars spinning around her, or the mole-faced mask hovering before her chest.  “Hey.  If you’re not dead down there, I wouldn’t mind you tryin’ to prove that this wasn’t a crappy way to spend an afternoon.  You have any idea how many of my stories I’ve missed because of you?  Not to mention my court shows…damn, I hope I caught ‘em all on my DVR.”  She turned aside, teeth grinding and hands clenching.  “And if I missed Family Feud, someone’s gonna die tonight.”

No answer from Lloyd, of course.  He just laid there, one arm stretching across the table while the other remained clamped against his chest.

“Huh.  Well, somebody’ll come pick you up eventually.  See you around, kid.  Hope you get a nice funeral.”  And with that, she spun on her heel and started on her way.

“…Since when were you under the impression that we were done here, Mrs. Overdose?”

The gunwoman stopped and groaned.  “Seriously?  I think I liked you more when you were pretty much dead.”

“Is that right?  Well, I’ll change that soon enough.”  Lloyd dragged his body off the desk, and stood on two wobbling legs once more.  For a moment, it looked like he might buckle over, or topple and crash against the ground.  But he didn’t.  Somehow he not only stayed on his feet, but stabilized himself, and slowly drew himself back to his full height.  And amidst it all -- amidst what could only be called a resurrection -- he smiled.  Smiled, and stared up at Mrs. Overdose. 

“What’re you so happy about?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Lloyd answered, his eyes nearly glittering.  “Now I can see your heart.”

“With what?  X-ray vision?”

Lloyd shook his head and folded his arms, his smile now alight with dazzling heat.  “I know what I must do now -- in more ways than one -- and I have you to thank for it.  Forgive me for the delay, but you’ve given me all the tools I need to begin my counterattack in earnest.”  He laughed softly to himself.  “You’ve taught me an important lesson: if I’m to succeed, sometimes I’ve no choice but to get a bit rough.”

He slammed his palms on the desk.  “Mrs. Overdose!  In order to save you, I’ll have to BREAK you!”

“Hey, that’s great.  Very cute.  But I’ve already lost interest, time, and money.  So I’m outta here -- and if you know what’s good for you, you won’t try and follow me.”

“And where will you go?”

“Anywhere that isn’t here.”

“And then what?”

Mrs. Overdose’s lips started to tighten.  “I’ll go make some money.  REAL money.”

“How?”

“I’m a hired gun.  I think I got it covered.”

“And suppose you do make some money,” said Lloyd, folding his arms.  “Then what?  What do you intend to do with it?  Spend it?  Save it?  Use it to buy your daily bread?”

“Do you not know what money is for?”

“I do.  And I know this: even if you’re handsomely rewarded for your efforts, you’ll only receive a finite amount.  A finite payment to survive on, until your next success and your next reward.  And so you’ll strike out on your own, receive payment, live, and then repeat the cycle all over again, and again, and again, and again.”

Mrs. Overdose furrowed her brow.  “Uh, yeah.  That’s how it works.”

“Yes, of course.  Services offered result in payment -- a necessary reciprocation, and the foundation of society.  But in the end, what do you stand to gain?”  Lloyd held out a hand, and his smile faded.  “You are at the mercy of the monetary Ouroboros -- an endless chain of struggle, strife, and service, so that you can eke out some measure of a pleasant lifestyle to call your own.  But in the end, are you truly getting what you want?”

Yeah.  Money.  This is not a hard concept, kid.”

“Of course not.  Merely a blinding one.  For if my guess is correct, you have yet to earn the amount of money you desire.  As such, you’ll offer your services, time and time again, until you reach your goal.  But when will you reach it?  How will you reach it?  And once you do, what will you do with it?  Will it be enough to handle your desire for necessities and creature comforts?  How long will it be until your well of wealth runs dry?  How long will it be until your body, or your mind, or your will gives out, numbed into depression by way of a goal too far out of reach?”

Mrs. Overdose glanced aside.  “Seriously not a hard concept.”

“You’ve yet to answer my questions, ma’am.  Practical as you may be, there’s an implicit impracticality to your worldview.”  He rubbed his thumb and middle finger together.  “Everything about you is a result of money.  Strip that away, and what do you have?  Nothing.  As such, in order to become something, you must continue to gather it, building yourself a sort of fortress of it deep within your burrowed hole, never to be seen or touched by unwanted fools that would surround annoy you.  A sound conjecture, yes?”

“Yeah.  And?”

Lloyd’s grip tightened around crossed arms.  “Is this truly the life you envision for yourself?  I would assume not, given your state of affairs.  If you were where you wished to be, then you would be happy -- happy, and wealthy.  But you aren’t.  You’re still offering your services to people, still taking up arms for their sake, not yours, pretending to be their ally so as to coax them into parting with their funds.  The question is, why?  What do you stand to gain by lowering yourself to the level of a common goon?  Why would you continue to align yourself with people -- someone, anyone -- when you so obviously hate them?”

Mrs. Overdose winced, and for a split second her fingers started to twitch.  “You’re supposed to hate your employers.  That’s just how jobs work.”

“You’re certain?  Because I tend to think otherwise; doubtless there are tyrants out there that treat their men like dogs, but there are countless others that would sooner flay themselves than mistreat one of their comrades.  But can you say the same?  Can you, who would devote herself so readily to the endless, fruitless pursuit of money argue that you’ve ever been reciprocated emotionally -- or better still, reciprocated in return?  Has there ever been a single person in your life -- employer or otherwise -- that you can earnestly say you’ve enjoyed the company of?”

Another wince, another twitch.  “Can’t say I have.  Sorry to be so blunt, but I have this really bad habit of finding everyone around me to be a pain in the ass.”

“As I surmised.”  A slight smile started forming on Lloyd’s face.  “You are a difficult woman to handle, Mrs. Overdose -- perhaps too difficult for the common, impatient man to handle.  So I imagine that the feeling of annoyance is mutual between employer and employee.  As such, you face another endless cycle -- one in which you hate, and are hated in return.”

“Speaking of cycles, this whole conversation’s startin’ to sound like one.”

“Oh, but I intend to break the cycle soon enough.  For you see, I have a question for you.”  Lloyd shot a hand forward, as if eager to take hold of Mrs. Overdose’s answer.  “Have you ever been served?”

Mrs. Overdose cocked her head.  “Say again?”

“Have you ever been served?  As little more than an employee, you’ve likely done your fair share of work for your employers -- more than enough, I’d wager.  But when has anyone ever offered you anything in return besides money?  Has anyone ever worked for you, be it for monetary gain or merely to put you at ease?  After a hard day of work, do you have anyone to come home to, eager to offer what meager services they can to please you?”  He shook his head before he could even get an answer.  “No, of course not.  How could they?  They’d have no reason to; you would have to offer them money and a list of demands, the former of which you’d never want to part with…ESPECIALLY if that meant giving it to someone other than yourself.  And who would work for free, assuming not only that the realistic, pragmatic world you espouse would REFUSE altruism, but because they’d have no reason to find anything about you even remotely endearing?”

Mrs. Overdose’s twitching went into double-time.  “What the hell are you trying to say?”  She snorted loudly.  “Jeez.  This is all such a huge load of --”

“Trying to defend your psyche with sarcasm yet again?  I’m afraid that technique will only work so many times.”  Lloyd waved a finger at her.  “You’ve strong defenses -- but even the strongest wall starts to break after enduring enough offenses.  And it’s high time for that wall of yours to start tumbling down.”

“What wall?  What are you --?”

“I believe I’ve heard nearly everything I need to from you.”  Lloyd’s eyes darted toward the desk for a moment, and then focused back on Mrs. Overdose.  “The offenses I make now are, in essence, your own.  Just as you would pressure me with questions on my mindset and goals, so too will I pressure you with matching zeal.  And in doing so, I’ve come to realize this: my ideals may not be perfect, but yours fare no better.  They are both paths with their strengths and weaknesses, both paths with contradictions and risks.  You’ve shown me…no, this entire day has shown me just how fallacious I could be in my pursuits, and if I’m to succeed in the future I’ll have to overcome them.

“But with that fresh in mind, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer the same to you.  The problem is that your steel-hearted resolve has proven to be more of a curse than a blessing at this point.  It has blinded you, shielded you from your path’s myriad flaws.  You’ve grown lax and complacent, all too eager to rest in your ideological tunnel, cushioned by unattainable riches and reflexive sarcasm.”  He slapped his hand against his chest.  “But I’m here now.  I’ll do all I can for your sake -- to break down any wall, to pull you from any tunnel.  I am right here -- and I won’t leave until I open your heart!”

Mrs. Overdose clapped a palm to her forehead, and stared incredulously at the ceiling.  “Oh my God…” she muttered, shaking her head rapidly.  “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God… I cannot believe how stupid and annoying you are.  Who the hell talks like that, you purple-haired…you four-eyed…you pretty-boy little…” 

She let fly a hefty groan, and spread her arms wide.  “You know what?” she asked, glaring at Lloyd.  “Screw.  This.  I am outta here, right now.  I don’t have to take this crap anymore.”  She turned around and --

“Mrs. Overdose.  One last question before you go,” said Lloyd, reaching over the desk.  “By chance, is there a Mr. Overdose?”

That stopped her cold.

Lloyd started to smirk -- not a malicious one, but more than a bit smarmy.  “I’ve been wondering that for quite a while, you see; usually, the title of ‘Mrs.’ Indicates a married woman, so it’s only natural to assume it fits, given your preference for it.  So?  Care to indulge me?  I’d love to hear all about him.”

No answer.

“Hmmm?  There IS a Mr. Overdose, isn’t there?  Surely in all your years on this earth, you’ve found a kindred spirit.  Someone to share your emotions with.  Someone to enjoy each new sunset.  Someone who can, and will offer you services with the only payment required being reciprocated love.  Or is that too high a price for you to pay?”  He pressed a hand to his chin.  “Could it be that all your bravado on the world’s workings was just to justify your life?  Could it be that the one you asked such scathing questions was not me, but in fact you?”

Still no answer.  Just more twitching fingers.

“Nothing?  Then given the evidence, allow me to make a claim.  As you are…”  Lloyd thrust his finger forward, like a rapier primed for the killing blow.  “The one who actually cannot be loved…is YOU!”

Mrs. Overdose didn’t move from her spot -- but then again, she didn’t need to.  Her stars spoke louder than any action, or any word ever could.  One of the stars shaved off half its glowing luster.

“Say it again.”

“Hmmm?”

Mrs. Overdose’s twitching fingers curled into fists -- and little by little, she turned toward Lloyd.  “I said, say it again.  I wanna hear it from that big mouth of yours.”  She only showed her profile, but that was all she needed to reveal -- all she had to do to offer a glimpse of her snarling, almost feral glare.  “Say it again -- and I’ll be happy to prove how wrong you really are!”

But Lloyd just stood there and smiled.  The time has come. 

TO BE HEARTINUED… 

2 comments:

  1. Noice post dude, hope you compile the full story together at some point. P.S. I moved blogs, I am based over at http://blogthatisoftimmins.blogspot.ie/ now. It's comfortable and more spacious.

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  2. Thanks. You can read the other 49 chapters at any time if you want (just check the archive link at the bottom of each posted chapter, or the tab at the top of the page). I'm about to end the arc and put the story on hiatus -- and from there, add some "additional materials" -- so there's never been a better time to start playing catch-up.


    Also, I've got your new blog all saved up and ready to read. Looking forward to seeing what you put up there.

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