//: P h o b i a:
Why?!” Ulysses kneeled shouting to the gods above the green sky for his answer. His humble home, which took months to build, filled with the treasures he scouted in his line of work was nothing but a pile of junk. It was always a pile of junk, but it was a pile of junk with a roof over its head. Link stood over him also sulking, he too contributed in the construction. “I-it's ok! It can be rebuilt!” he said trying to look at the bright side.
“It will take forever!” Ulysses pounded the ground as he sang his song of despair. “All of my cool stuff is gone! My tools, my neons, my books— Oh dear lord- my miniature robots! Kiora, why thou de- de-...” The teen plumbler struggled to pronounce the words, so he said instead, “abandoned me?!”
“W-wait, we can fix it! let’s sort out the heep and see what's salvageable,” Link suggested. “I’ll get my truck so we can temporarily store it in my home. Cheer up! I can help you construct your home again!” Link sat on his knee and rubbed his back tenderly.
“Do you really think you can handle this horrible trek again?” the brunette glanced up with fake tears at the angel beside him.
“Of course! I have leftover cement and other materials from the farm after it was set on fire! I’ll go get them while you design a plane.” Ulysses clung to the farmer’s leg, sobbing grossly for dramatic effect. “I love you so much Link! If I weren't sexually repressed, I would marry you!” Link just laughed.
After rummaging through the pile of debris, the boys realized most of Ulysses’ things were indeed preserved. The same could not be said about some of his neons and little robots. “So much effort for this… At least Aindrea is safe,” the brunette said dejectedly.
“I know you will make something better from the scraps. How about we clear this all up and we start fresh in the morning?” Link asked.
“Where am I going to sleep?” Ulysses had to ask. His options were limited.
“Well you can spend the night at the farm,” Link offered with a wide grin. “It would be like those sleepovers we like to do!”
“After what you told me? No,” the creeped out plumber instantly shut down the idea.
“Then what do you suggest?” Link asked as he plucked a cigarette that was pinched between his ear and his head.
“I shouldn’t be in the church when it will be a refuge for the many that lost their homes…” Ulysses thought about it but he really didn’t want to impose.
“I am positive Sister Lazarus will welcome you with open arms,” said Link with a smile.
“Still, she has enough to deal with. I will find something. For now let’s get my trash stored and clear the field.”
“Got it. Let me park the truck closer.” With enthusiasm, Link ran to get his truck and materials to start with the base of the home.
Meanwhile Ulysses contacted Ghost through his wrist computer. “‘Sup ‘Lysses?” said the pearlescent teen as he materialized through the projection lense.
“Do me a favor.” Ulysses pointed the camera of the computer towards the disaster area for Ghost to see. “My house crumbled--”
“Holy shit! Dude! Are you Alright!? Was anyone inside!?” Ghost bursted with questions, almost breaking through the lasers.
“Dude chill, and no, no one was inside. I need you to get me a few plane ideas to build my house,” Ulysses said, and swatted at the projection.
“Oh, Alright at least,: Ghost sighed as he relaxed into his chair. “Sorry dude, you had one hell of a birthday.”
“Yeah, well, I’m still alive. Anyway, I need you to do me ‘nother solid, I need a temporary home that is near my job.”
“Can’t you just stay with Link--”
“M’kay,” The binary lasers said before clacking at the glowing keyboard. “I won’t be able to be there personally because of the landslide in my city, but I can give you everything digitally.” Ulysses received several zipped files, and they automatically downloaded to the internal memory of the arm brace.
“I imagine. Thanks anyway.” Ulysses sat down and removed his brace to prop it on the ground to continue sorting. “Any news about the Terrorist attack?” he asked.
“To be honest… No one knows the five ‘W’s’ to the answers,” Ghost asked watching Ulysses go through the metal scraps and coloured cables.
“How the hell did you even know it was gonna happen?” the brunette asked.
“My associate from the Block of Green Ice shared a warning in the radio stations about The Red-Light District being a target for a terrorist attack, the main target being the hospitals. He says some strange extremist group is trying to make a point at Silicon Valley.”
“That is oddly specific…” Ulysses responded sarcastically.
“Dude you don’t know the half of it. They are the activist of human trafficking and baby designing. It’s really stupid. I can let you in on the mess another time.” The data transfer was completed. Ulysses grinned and opened the many many files. “I am honestly happy you are a techno-hermit,” he said with glee.
“Haha! That's rich coming from you! Anyway, I gotta go offline for now. Later.” Ghost logged off.
In record time, Link drove back to Ulysses’ property to get started. “You got a plane?” Link asked as he got out of the truck and began to unload the new materials and loaded it with Ulysses’s belongings.
“Yep. I'm gonna add extra rooms and reinforce the house with more pillars and walls. Also I think I want a tool shed.” Ulysses took inspiration of many planes to build a custom home.
Link chuckled. The blonde produced a box of cigarettes and shoved one in his mouth. “Then let’s start with the basement,” he said.
The boys dug a massive hole and followed the plane instructions to make the house perfect. Ulysses planned the electrical circuits and Link prepared the cement to create the base. Once they distribute the cement to the ground, they kept an eye for cracking and smoothed it with planks of wood. Then, after the base of the basement dried properly, they lined the walls with rivets and stone blocks sealing them with cement.
The worked on the clock, none stop till the early morning. Link sighed as he shook his fourth empty box of cigarettes hoping one would magically appear. The bummed out farmer looked over to Ulysses as he lined the cement blocks of the living room. “Ulysses, we need a break,” Link said. “Wanna go eat breakfast?”
Ulysses sighed and dropped the last block. “Sure, let's eat.” Ulysses was also fatigued and welcomed the idea of food. They cleaned up and drove off to the district to find their favorite diner, Bunny and Clyde. Ulysses liked it because they serve good food and Link loved it because it was a reference to a famous couple. However, due to the lack of water sources they had a limited menu and the prices skyrocket, that didn’t stop them from eating. It was the same everywhere in the district.
Ulysses sat at his booth in front of Link eating a broccoli, lettuce and tomato sandwich, and Link ate a grilled cheese.
“Are you working today?” Link asked.
“No. I am too tired. I will go tomorrow though,” Ulysses answered. He took a bite and spoke with his mouth full. “Vwhajt avoutj jhew?”
“I have to work. I got a triple shift,” the blond teen said and slowly enjoyed his sandwich. Ulysses felt guilty, he swallowed and said, “Link, you can't work this tired…”
“Triple shifts mean three packs of cigarettes per shift.” Link smiled. “Anyway. We must discuss your living arrangements.”
“Well… I am sure the rooms are full at the church and you live too far.”
Link hummed and looked out the window noticing a sign for a motel near the outskirts of the city. “Hey, look. Why not spend a few nights at a motel? it’s cheaper.”
“Motel, huh?” Ulysses thought about it, it was enticing. He traced the motel with the GPS and it met the requirements.
“Yeah, I guess Motel six--...sixty nine... Jesus fucking christ--”
“I think it's pronounced Cancer,” Link interrupted Ulysses.
“Huh?” The brunette dumbfounded, cocked his head questioning his best friend.
“That's the zodiac of June, Cancer, a sixty-nine. The hotel was named after the zodiac, its grand opening was on June twenty first,” Link said as he propped his chin over his hands.
“Interesting,” Ulysses said with a shrugged.
“For any other person who is looking for a quick romp, sixty-nine is also a nice draw in symbol.” Link chuckled and Ulysses rolled his eyes. The plumber finished his gross sandwich and left seventy dollars on the table. “Well, let's go check it out after this,” he said. “Your shift doesn’t start yet right?”
“No, I have time,” Link answered. He left his payment of ninety-six dollars on the table before walking out with Ulysses.
When they arrive to the Motel, they felt an eerie sensation devoid of hope. This Motel was a clear sign that it was indeed hell’s pit stop. It was decaying on the outside, but it stood its ground when the earthquakes hit. Ulysses didn’t expect it to be so small either, it was only three stories high.
“Are you sure you want to spend the night here…?” Link asked. His voice hinted with intimidation and insecurity.
“Yeah, I am sure.” Ulysses had no option. He did, but he didn’t want to be an asshole about it.
Walking in, the corners of the room were lined with neon lights of lime greens and pinks. Ulysses hated the set up, specially with the mirror floor and ceiling. It was an illusion of an endless dimension.
What made the experience worse, was the annoying music of the number one hit diva, Holo-GLAM.
The clerk reclined on his chair as he slept. He was covered in piercings, limelight tattoos, and bad decisions. “Excuse me,” Ulysses called but he resumes to sleep. Both boys were impressed the mess of loops playing on the speakers didn’t wake him. “HEY!” Ulysses shouted as he slammed the desk.
The clerk opened his neon white eyes and a creepy smile spread on his black stained lips. He pushed his purple hair to the side and sat up straight. “How can I help you gentlemen?” He reached for the can of rancid meat on the desk. A neon pink roach crawled out with maggots.
“I’d like a room,” Ulysses said slightly grossed out.
“How many nights?” The clerk looked in his drawer for a spoon, he resorted to eating with his pocket knife.
“Give or take a month.”
“So many nights for a romantic get away?” The clerk laughed. Ulysses scowled and gritted his teeth. “Just give me the key…” he threatened.
“That depends… would you like one bed or two?”
“Can you just give me a fucking room?!” Ulysses doesn’t understand why he was so irritated but he could guess it was how unnerving the man seemed compared to the building he ran.
“Alright, alright” the clerk tossed the can over his shoulder and licked his fingers to savor the taste of blood before he painstakingly looked for a key.. Link whispered to Ulysses, “I don’t know if this is a good idea… We can find another location.”
“Link, it’s fine. I know I can manage alone and it’s temporary.”
“Here you go,” the clerk turned back with a dirty key with a key chain of the room number five, three, three, seven. “I rounded up for the month, it will be a total of nine hundred, a thousand and sixty-seven dollars.”
“‘Kay.” Ulysses wasn’t made of money but he knew how to manage it. He took the money from his wallet and handed it over with no hesitation. “Please, enjoy your stay.” The clerk beamed as he counted the bills.
Ulysses and Link walked up the stairs, they prefer that than to be stuck in an elevator if another tectonic shift hit. The halls were dark and gloomy. They didn’t hear anything, like if the residents were trying to hear them.
They stood in front of the room five, three, three, seven. “Well, this is it.” Ulysses unlocked the door the boys were greeted with a small room containing a bed and a bathroom. “I don’t like this...” Link admitted.
“I don’t like it either but I have to.” Ulysses stared at his bed and then at the window which was protected with security bars.
“Are you sure you don’t wanna sleep with me? I can lend you the truck.” Link asked him yet again.
“You need the truck more than I do. It’s fine, Link. Go home you need rest. Thanks for your hard work today.” Ulysses smiled.
“No worries. Night Ulysses. Please call me if anything were to occur.” The moment Link walked out and shut the door, he regretted his offer. Ulysses was very close to running back to Link and beg him to sleep with him, but he had pride and Link needed to rest. If he did go with him, Link will be devoted to his guest like he usually was. His best friend was too nice for his own good. He knows Link would never hurt a fly.
Ulysses needed a bath after a long day. He set up a timer so he wouldn't waste water. The plumber walked to the bathroom expecting to find roaches or any rodents, as he pulled the white plastic curtain, he found a man around the age of twenty, curled up in the shower. At first glance, with all the foam and blood in his nose, he looked dead. Ulysses couldn't help himself, he just screamed, but it sounded more like a yelp, a very tired yelp.
The man in his tub woke to see Ulysses. He was obviously disoriented. “What time is it?” he asked.
“Time for you to get your ass out of my room!” Ulysses shouted. He aimed his slingshot at him to threaten him.
“Oh… They rented out the room.” He rubbed his nose from the blood as he sniffed. “I’ll break into another room.” He had hoars and slow laugh as he agonizingly climbed out of the tub and stumbled out to the door. “Oh...” He turned to Ulysses and asked, “what is your name?”
“Ulysses, Ulysses Iron Pipes,” the teen doesn’t know why he gave his name to a meth addict but he hopes he was always this passive.
“My name is Nicco... You may find it weird coming from my mouth but... Never leave your room or come home at two thirty in the morning.”
“If Candy sees you Candy will kill you…”
“Candy?” He lowered his slingshot, seeing as the man was no longer a threat ad instead offered information. Granted, it could be just a wild story, but Ulysses’ life is in itself a wild story. He couldn't judge.
“Yeah... a thrill seeker,” Nicco said bitterly. “Candy killed my girlfriend after she was forced to play Candy’s game. I never came back from the high after her fiery funeral.”
“R-right...” Ulysses didn’t know what to think, but he really wanted him to leave. Nicco sniffed harder and wiped his nose with his arm. “It was a pleasure...” he said before walking out the room.
After that chiller encounter, Ulysses locked every entrance he could find to avoid any similar encounters again.
It wasn’t long till he heard moaning in the floor above him, gunshots in the floor below him, and worse of all, he could hear the hot trending underage diva’s music remixed with stronger Dubstep in the room next to his. “Link, I think I am willing to take that offer...” Ulysses finally broke and dialed Link's number on his wrist computer. To his horror he was living in a literal dead zone, no call could go in or out. He sobbed as he fell sideways onto his moldy pillow.
He woke up at five as he usually did. The building was quiet, ‘cept for a couple having sex down the hall. “Geeses, they had been going for hours...” Ulysses remarked.
Ulysses wished he could magically finish his home but he can’t. He is not made of magic. He inspected the shower before he jumped in. The plumber screamed once the frigid cold water hit his face. He washed the essentials and trembled out the tub. The brunette didn’t even bother to dry himself he just threw on his uniform. He made sure his tools and belongings were accounted for and left his room locked.
Once Ulysses reached the lobby, he froze when he witnessed the clerk shooting heroin into his black tongue. Ulysses cringed and exit the premises quickly.
The pipes were a disaster. Triple B was blowing steam, “are you all Idiots!? Get your fat ass back to work!” Big Boy Ben noticed Ulysses clocking in the while he was indeed on temporary leave, Ben was thankful Ulysses was stubborn and a hard worker. The boss shouted, “Ulysses, Thank God!! fix the fucking disgrace these assholes left behind!”
It was a heavy day. moving broken pipes, clearing waste paths, and get rid of the monster that was stuck in a pocket. This monster was rather big from the ones he faced. This monster was easy to kill thanks to Ulysses’ hobby invention: The Megaton Wrench, capable of leaving the target either dead or brainless. “Never underestimate the power of a child's imagination ages three and up.” Ulysses chuckled and strapped the wrench against his back to help dispose of the monster: setting it on fire.
It was a long shift but the moment he resurfaced Link was waiting outside the plant holding lattes and a cigarette danced around his grin. To his surprise Ghost had joined him for the fun. He also saw Aindrea climbing down the back of the truck and running towards him excitedly. “Hey!” Ulysses shouted with joy seeing he was surrounded by friends and family. The teen was gone for a day and he didn’t realize how much he missed them, specially Aindrea. Ulysses hugged him tightly. “You look so much better!” And he did. The old man smelled really good, like the ocean. “Did they took care of you?” Ulysses asked and Aindrea answered with a happy grunt.
“Get in, Dude, We got so much work to do!” Ghost shouted from the back of the truck.
“Where are going?” Ulysses asked.
“I gathered enough manpower to help build your house faster.” Link said, and he handed a latte to Ulysses.
“Dude, did you even sleep?” Ulysses had to ask.
“Nope!” Link laughed.
They rode back to continue construction. They shared little words in the car, mostly planning how the house will look.
They made it back to the field and Ulysses saw that Ghost brought his giant robot home, Jack//Knife, to do heavy lifting. They set up the ground floor and walls with beams and cement blocks. Ulysses and Ghost worked on the electrical wiring while link and Aindrea did the heavy lifting with Jack//Knife.
“So, how is living at a motel?” Ghost asked.
“Well… One would expect the cliché of it being a run down building with junkies and whores… So, I am thinking about living with Link till I finish my home.”
“That bad huh?” Ghost couldn’t imagine himself in that predicament.
“Very... I met one of the neighbors. He was sleeping in my tub. I will make sure this house doesn’t fall apart,”
“I am sure we will finish under a month. I have the time calculated,” the hacker assured with a digital wink.
“Oh yeah. Remind me to set an alarm. I have to be home by twelve,” Ulysses said as he dealt with the circuit breaker of the house.
“I got work tomorrow.” Ulysses didn’t really wanna get in on the details of his situation just in case it was just a junky fantasy. Why was he returning was a fucking mystery to him.
“Right, setting your alarm to eleven forty five.” Ghost clacked at some keys at his wristwatch and Ulysses’ wrist computer vibrate with the notification. “Alright, let’s get done as much as we can,” the hacker proposed.
Because of the man power the team had, along with the heavy lifting of the magnificent Jack//Knife, they were able to finish the shell of the house, set up the wires and pipes up and running. They drove back to the district to eat at the diner Bunny and Clyde. This time they were limited to raw sandwiches. They made conversation, a few jokes and planned the finishing touches of the house, “...I am sure that by tomorrow evening the windows will be installed,”
Ulysses said thinking out loud.
“I am pretty sure I can drive back home and bring them,” Link suggested.
“Nah, let’s rest today.” Ulysses was grateful his friends wanted to help him finish but he couldn’t over work them.
“Hey did you guys hear the radio show I sent you last night?” Ghost asked.
“Oh yeah that was insane!” Link said.
“I never got anything, my room is a dead zone. What happened?” Ulysses was curious with the new development.
“No wonder you didn't answer. Anyway, long story short, the population in The Red-Light District plummeted from ten thousand to six thousand after the terrorist attack.”
“What?” Ulysses was baffled as how many people died because of the terrorist attack and not the earthquake.
“And it's still going down with all the murders and monster sightings. Things are getting bad as of late,” said Ghost.
“And with that activist group Pareidolia--”
“You mean terrorist group,” Ghost corrected Link.
“You can't think it was them who are bombing our resources,” Link asked.
"Yes they are, look." Ghost retracted his keyboard and extended it on the table and a screen projected in front of them with a mug shot of a man with white hair and pale eyes along with many other images of him working with the terrorist group. Aindrea couldn’t help himself and placed his hand through the hologram, Ulysses suppressed a chuckle. "One of the members is sound physicist Dr. Ian Soundwave, he is a suspect behind the earthquakes using strange sound technology," Ghost explained.
“Kinda like the ones Tesla used to use back in the nineteenth century,” Link added.
“So what is the point to all this?” Ulysses was skeptical.
“They wanna get rid of the synthetic and start a new,” Ghost answered.
“Well, good-luck with that,” Ulysses scoffed.
“Come on! what’s so weird about the sound thing?” Ghost asked.
“It is proven you can move a mountain with sound-waves,” Ulysses commented. “Proven or not, it is a ridiculous thing to think about... Please, start a new? I doubt it. there is no such thing as a clean slate.” Ulysses waved the subject off and started a new one, “On top of that the war is going strong. We currently secured Mercury and Pluto, from what I heard.”
“That was a month ago,” Ghost said and showed him an article of the Prism Troops on planet Jupiter. “We secured Jupiter and managed to force back the enemy fleets,” Ghost summed up the article.
“To think Earth is actually threatened by demon gods...” Link said in awe. “Our troops won't be back for another year right?” Link asked.
“Nope,” Ghost answered.
“I mean what’s coming back to?” Ulysses asked. They all turned to him to listen. “Earth is a doughnut and there is always a disaster each day. The ones left behind are kids doing the adult work. If I had to choose, I would go ahead and shoot myself but I am a coward and I am afraid of what is waiting for me in the sky.”
“Ulysses...” Link said softly watching him stare out into the green sky. “You do know that killing yourself is never an answer.”
Ulysses glanced at Link and Ghost and then to Aindrea unsure what to say. “Maybe a mercury bullet will disintegrate my soul...” That was key to knowing he was kidding. Aindrea continued to stare at him. It was a judging stare, and it made the teen feel guilty for even saying it.
“Anyway, I gotta go rest. I got work tomorrow, and this is really wearing me out,” Ulysses said.
“Oh, Alright, you want me to drop you off?” Link asked.
“Nah, it’s cool.” Ulysses was about to stand from his booth but Aindrea pulls at his arm. Ulysses stared at him as Aindrea cooed in the crook of his neck and Ulysses answered with a low hum and purr, “I’ll be Alright, Aindrea...”
“What is he saying?” Ghost asked.
“He is worried about me,” Ulysses chuckled and pulled away. “This old man thinks I am his biological kid. Not that I mind… "
“Dude, what if he understands what is happening?” Ghost presented a possibility of the old man's ability to grasp. Ulysses scowled at his ignorance. “He does understand, he just can’t communicate like us,” Ulysses corrected.
“What I hopefully think Ghost is trying to say,” Link said shooting a warning glance at the silly hacker. “You are literally the only one who understands his melews and growls.”
“Yeah well, he and I was going at it since I was younger so It kinda stuck on me as a second language.
“Yeah but... you and I have been together around him and I never learned,” Link answered. It was mind boggling when he thought about it, but Ulysses did practice it more than Link ever did. “Oh well, that’s a shame. Anyway, I got to go. I want to rent out a book to kill time in the night.” The plumber left his cash at the table and left the dinner, “g’night.”
It was almost eight when he found the library. Librarian Lora was ready to close up and head home herself. “Wait, wait! I need a book!” She sighed and turned to Ulysses, who was breathing heavily, holding his wallet. “It won’t take long I swear!” Ulysses plastered his pretty smile to convince her. She stared at him unimpressed. “Make it quick.”
After a few minutes of browsing, he found a new book of his era, Screen Name Not Found by Ink Prosa Maga. He was captivated by the drawing in the cover and decided he should check it out.
He ran out to the motel and quietly took the elevator and found a girl holding a shovel with strange white target eyes, like— “...My name is Sodium Chloride...” Ulysses remembered how sad the boy sounded. “I haven't forgotten you... Salt...” He thought to himself.
“So...” He heard her speak. “You are the newcomer? I was expecting some degenerate but I guess you're alright...” He glanced at her with the corner of his eyes. If he didn’t look he would have mistaken her for an android. Her throat must have been replaced with an electronic one, perhaps her throat gave in to cancer or she just wanted it that way. She wore pastels of pink and purple along with black details.
“Oh, well, I am a temporary resident. Hopefully I will leave by tomorrow. What’s your name?” Ulysses asked her.
“Katya. And you must be Ulysses?” Ulysses stopped breathing for a few seconds. “Uh... yeah, How did you know?”
“Mars told me, the clerk downstairs?” Katya explained. Bit that didn’t seem right, why would he tell her anything, it would make more sense if Nicco told her, then it got him thinking perhaps Nicco and the clerk are the same. Obviously, he was wrong.
“I see you like to read.” He looked at her again and she was staring at the book in his hands. “Yeah,” Ulysses answered, he was stuck with her in the elevator so he had be nice just in case she struck him with her bat.
“Do you have a girlfriend, Ulysses?”
“Nah. I’m not interested in relationships. I’m kinda sexually constipated, you hear what I am saying?”
“Yeah, you sound like a siren.”
“A what?” Ulysses scrunched up his nose at the comment.
“Just that you sound like a siren. You sound really good,” she explained and turned her head with a sultry look in her eyes. “I bet you sound delicious when you scream in agony, Ulysses.”
“Thank... you?” She was too close for his comfort. He was happy the elevator stopped but horrified when she followed him to his room. “Ah, so your neighbors with Nicco.”
“What about him?” Ulysses looked for his keys while keeping an eye on her.
“Don’t trust him, he has a nasty habit of living in la-la land. Dirty hobo.” That shattered his theory entirely. “Yeah, well, g’night.” Ulysses wasn’t one to be rude, however, due to the circumstances, he needed to shut the door in her face and refuse to continue the conversation. He sat down on his bed and removed his gear and got ready to eat the boo he rented.
After a while of reading, he heard someone scream down the hall, a woman, and then he heard sounds of violence and a man shouting at her. Ulysses was dying to go help her, but the clock warned him it was almost two thirty in the morning.
“Oh fuck it.” The brave plumber got out of his bed burst through the door witnessing the clerk wearing tight leather beating a girl to a corner with his bare fists. “Hey! pick on someone your own size!” Ulysses aimed his slingshot with a wrench and shot it at the guy, knocking him out cold.
Ulysses ran over to the girl and asked her, “Are you hurt? Can you walk?” as he checked her wounds. The girl looked so strange she resembled a little Frankenstein. Her skin was patched together with different hydes and fabrics. Her eyes were droopy and mismatched, and her pink wild hair had the texture of dolls.
Ulysses stood away in horror when he saw what she was holding, a vulva. All she did was stare at Ulysses. “C-Candy...?” he whispered. He glanced at the clerk in leather thinking he might have fucked up. From the other side he felt another presence. The presence of death itself. He turned his head and saw a punk boy holding a scythe. He had a skull mask hiding his face and medium length black hair.
“Thank- you!” He heard the girl say standing on her long legs towering over him and handing him his wrench. Ulysses took it and watched her skip happily to the boy to go down the elevator.
Ulysses heard the clerk groan in pain as he woke up from his concussion. Ulysses wanted no part of this madness and ran back to his room locking the door tight. He tried to read, but he found himself reading the same line over and over again. He tried to call someone, but the signal was abhorrent. He even tried to sleep but he couldn’t do so, he could only count the seconds.
The plumber heard footsteps walking down the hall. He heard a knock, then a second, a third. He held himself to control his shivering body. He heard another knock, then a second, finally a third. It was louder than the first set. He debated if he should open the door but as soon as he decided to do so he heard the footsteps go down the hall.
Ulysses snuck out the motel the moment his clock struck morning. He didn't want to be seen, luckily the clerk wasn’t at the desk. The events of last night haunted him and he really didn’t know what fungi fumes he inhaled in that musty motel room but he was sure as hell he won’t be able to sleep another night there. He knows that today will be the day his house would be complete.
He received a text the second he left the premises, Link wrote to him: “Sorry, today I have a triple shift at work. We will finish the house tomorrow, I promise.” Ulysses wanted to die, figuratively not literally.
He ran to work, and he hoped he had a triple shift too. He only had one shift sadly. At least there were no monsters to worry about. He wasn’t sure his performance was in top shape after the night he had.
At the end of his shift he decided to work on the painting of the house. He picked a light yellow for the walls, dark blue shingles and dark blue doors.
He was getting excited the second he set foot near his future home. Once inside the skeleton of his home he explored. It had a living room wide enough for guests and sleepovers, a small kitchen, the bathroom had an industrial shower installed, and his bedroom had a skylight he was dying to use. The next room was a smaller living space with its own door leading outside and windows, perfectly designed for Aindrea to stay over instead of living in a fort or in the garbage.
Ulysses sighed with joy as he walked out of the house with paint cans and brushes. He nearly had a heart attack when he saw Katya standing outside with her shovel. “So, this is where you, ‘live’,” she said with air quotes.
“What are you doing here?” Was the only thing Ulysses could ask her. Katya ignored the boy and continue to gawk at the property. “This is a nice house, do you live here with someone?” she asked.
"Did I fucking stutter?" Ulysses snapped at her. "I asked what are you doing here?"
“So demanding, I am here to help.”
“I don’t need help. Get out of my property or--”
“Or what?” Katya interrupted him. “Are you going to shoot me with that stupid sling shot you made?”
Ulysses froze in his spot, “who the hell is this girl?” his mind wondered. The plumber was ready to attack, he reached into his utility belt but his slingshot was missing.
“Looking for this?” Katya said as the slingshot slid down her long sleeve hoodie into her hand. It had dried blood on it.
“Give it back, Katya.” His tone was commanding and scary with a hint of fear. A few seconds of soaking in tension she finally tossed the slingshot and Ulysses caught it.
“Anyway, you won't be able to finish today,” she said cynically.
“And why is that?” he asked. Katya pointed at the sky slowly turning darker and darker dense with electricity and water.
“You can’t work under bad weather,” she said before strolling away. Ulysses didn’t wait a single second and made a dash to the one refuge he knows he was always safe in, church. He walked in quietly during a sermon and took a seat in the back waiting for it to finish to speak to Mary Lazarus. He spotted Aindrea in the corner hidden in the shadows. He could hear him singing or muttering to the choir. Ulysses approached and crouched beside him. “Hey,” the teen whispered quietly. Aindrea took notice of him and handed him a score to sing with him.
Aindrea’s hair was in the way. He must have accidentally lost the hair tie that held his hair together. “Aindrea, do you want me to untangle your hair?” Ulysses asked. The old man didn’t answer, but he didn’t seem against the idea. Ulysses found a small stool and sat on it behind the old man, beginning the Odyssey his fingers occasionally experienced.
Little by little Ulysses untangled every single tress of black hair. He found strange things in the nests and knots, wrappers, twigs, food, bubble gum, a broken wing— Ulysses cringed when he held the rotting wing. He tossed it aside and continued.
Ulysses heard him struggling to pronounce certain words so he would pronounce a word slowly for Aindrea to repeat. “Mehhrccsilll...”
“M-me... Merxill…” The old man repeated.
“Uuumnaaaiii...” Ulysses said slowly.
“U-U...Uu...Umnaii…” Aindrea pronounced.
“Good!” Ulysses cheered quietly. He braided his hair and held with a spare elastic for his slingshot. “There.” The plumber wiped the sweat of his brow and stood up to see his face. It was such a shame. Aindrea, despite his smelly perfume and wild tresses, he was a handsome man with stunning green eyes and a lovely skin color. He was covered in marks and bruises but it was normal for a wanderer. Maybe he will dedicate more time to taking care of him now that his home will better accommodate the elder man.
“He is beautiful isn't he?” Mary Lazarus said holding her holy book smiling brightly. Aindrea grinned and nuzzled on her neck cooing at her. The nun chuckled and leaned in to the touch. Ulysses flushed at the scene. “Yeah, he is,” he agreed and smiled sheepishly.
“I heard about your home, I am so sorry,”
“Ah! Don’t worry about it. Link, Ghost and even Aindrea are helping me build a better home. You are welcome to visit us sometime!”
The nun laughed. “You are so sweet, Ulysses.”
Ulysses grinned softly and rubbed the back of his neck. “Thank you.”
“Are you hungry? I was just about to start lunch,” Lazarus offered.
“I could eat.”
Ulysses and Aindrea were eating a bowl of mushroom soup. Both have a strange obsession with mushrooms, and when Lazarus cooked them, they can’t get enough of it.
“Thank you for the meal, Lazarus,” said the teen plumber.
“I am glad you enjoy my humble meal,” the humble nun said.
“How are you able to manage the water crisis?” Ulysses asked.
“It is a challenge but the staff of the church had been filling up jugs from the river and bringing them back here.” She giggled and sat at the table with the boys. “So, how is work?”
“It's pretty rough, we found a monster the other day.”
“Oh my, is it dead?”
“Yeah, we set that shit— uh.. Thing on fire.”
“Oh, sweetheart, I wish you would just pick a different job…” The nun looked down at Ulysses with concern and placed a gentle hand over the boy's shoulder.
“Oh come on it's fine! I love my job! Besides your church always calls for clogged pipes, gives me more of an excuse to come over and visit!” the teen laughed.
“Still… I can’t help it when I feel you're in danger.” She touched her cheek and looked frightened.
“You should have more faith in me, I was raised by many and I am no wuss.”
“Alright...” She smiled softly. “Where are you living in the meantime?”
“Oh, Motel Sixty Nine,” Ulysses felt the nun tense up quietly. “One more night and my home will be finished.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay here with me?” For a moment Ulysses thought about it, but he needed to be less dependant of her and he needed to prove he was strong.
“Nah, It’s just for a night.”
“If you want to spend the night here, the church is always a sanctuary no matter the time of the day.”
“Thanks, Mary Lazarus,” he smiled brightly at the nun.
“Before you go...” The worried nun stood from her chair and gathered a small pin in shape of an angel with a tear shape gem encrusted. She pinned it on the child’s shirt and crossed him. Ulysses felt a warmth sensation the moment she pressed her lips on his forehead. “This is the tear of innocence. This will offer some protection.”
Ulysses smiled. “Thank you...”
On his way to the motel he got caught in the rain. He quickly made it inside the motel lobby and he noticed Nicco was standing by the counter waiting. He was shaking and his breaths were uneven. “It will be a cold night...” he heard Nicco
say, “it will be a very long, cold night… Melissa... Melissa... Will you wait for me in the furnace...?” he kept mumbling. Ulysses examined him as he quietly walked to the elevator. He stops as the door opened, he took into consideration if the lights fail he will be stuck in the elevator.
He decided to take the stairs instead. As he went up, he heard a lightning strike, and the power went out. He groaned and ran up faster to the floor of his room. The first thing to punch him was the foul stench roaming the air, like skin burning, maybe a rat was set on fire but at the moment he didn’t wanna think the worst.
He dug into his pocket and he couldn’t find the key. “Goddamnit...” looked around his utility belt to find a lock pick kit and as soon as he dug the tools in the lock the door creaked open. There stood Katya, he assumed it was Katya, the counter lit figure was holding a shovel over their shoulder. “Ah, you're back early,” her voice confirmed it was indeed Katya. “Seems like the entire city is going through a blackout. Rain, black out, night time, perfect weather for hide and seek, don’t you think?”
“I don’t play kids games.”
“You do, you have childish hobbies, like... building tiny Japanese model robots. Am I correct. Not only that, you love to play pretend, or at least you used to...” She grinned. Ulysses didn’t believe what he heard. It was the last straw. “Alright, Katya,” Ulysses walked over to her and dragged her out the room, “Get the hell out.”
“You shouldn’t be afraid of me, I am not a killer.”
“You could be the messiah for all I care! I said get the fuck out!” He threw her out the room and locked the door. He sighed and walked to his bed, tripping over something, and fell face first to the floor.
He reached for his flashlight to light up his path and saw an arm sticking out from underneath the bed.
Ulysses reached a shaky hand out to grab the arm and tugged to pull a dead decapitated body of a boy. The farming uniform was too familiar and his stomach drowned with dread and paranoia. He looked for anything in the pockets and he found cigarettes along with a wallet with Link’s identification drive.
Ulysses dropped the wallet and went into the bathroom, hyperventilating. He felt a hand wrapped with a rag with a strong scent hold his mouth close, and an arm snaked around his torso holding him in place.
“Let’s play Hide and Seek,” a male voice purred into his ear. Ulysses was falling asleep in seconds and there was no chance to react. He never wanted to scream so hard in his life. He had exposed Link to this because he was such a stubborn jerk.
He can’t believe how low he sunken.
He wanted nothing but to go home.
Ulysses woke up in a room lit by a flashlight, his flashlight. He felt disoriented and in seconds he had flashbacks of previous events. The frightened brunette felt the rush of adrenaline as he picked up the flashlight and lit up his surroundings. He found a note taped to a locked door,
“You will hide and we will seek, you have till dawn to escape, and if we find you, you will die. Keep in mind, it is dark and all the windows and doors are locked. If you wanna escape, seek the keys. Happy hunting!
“I am screwed…” Ulysses shuffled nervously. He scrambled around the room to find the key to the door. He searched every drawer, the bathroom, under the bed everywhere. He was starting to feel the heat and deprived of oxygen.
He then thought about his tools. His belt was gone. Ulysses had nothing. “Goddamnit!” The scared teen lashed at a desk beside him and he heard a chime against the concrete. He froze.
He shone the light around the room and found a key. He quickly took it and jab it at the lock of the door but it didn’t open. “Argh, you’re such a cuck!” Ulysses stored the key away just in case and found another way to get down.
He heard stomping from far away, his heart dropped when someone or something was trying to break through the door. Ulysses looked around the room and decided to resort to his flashlight as a weapon. He stood against the wall near the door waiting for the inevitable as he shut off the light. The door burst open, and a figure ran though throwing a weapon around. Ulysses quietly stepped towards the door and the second he was out he waited for thunder to light up the halls and he saw the stairs and made a mad dash to them. He prayed with every fiber of his being that his feet would carry him and not drop him midway.
The frightened teen made it to the next floor and the instant he did the smell of chlorine overwhelmed his nostrils. He shone the light to find a clue, but the smell was killing him. Ulysses couldn't proceed without finding a solution to the obstacle. He went up the stairs but his feet slowed down when he heard hard boots on concrete.
His light shone on a man wearing a gas mask holding an axe. Ulysses realized that keys to doors were a metaphor and if he wanted to get out alive, he had to fight bolt and wrench. The guy lifted his axe to strike at Ulysses and the brunette shut the light.
The man hit the ground after a loud thud. Ulysses was behind him holding a bleeding flashlight. Without thinking it twice he grabbed the axe, and he dug it in the back of the man over and over again.
Normally, wouldn’t kill people but the circumstances were unique.
He dropped the axe once he figured he was dead enough and flipped the body over. He took the gas mask from the guy, revealing his decaying, jawless face. He found another key in the man's pocket with a note attached to it.
“CANDY LOVES A FIGHTER. KEEP IT UP IF YOU WANT TO LEAVE. YOU HAVE TWO MORE FLOORS BEFORE YOU CAN WIN THE GAME. WE HOPE YOU ARE NOT A GERMAPHOBE~
The clue crumbled in his fist and he said between gritted teeth, “I will give you a piece of my goddamn mind...”
Blood splattered across the tight corridor and himself. The smell of chlorine, blood and burnt skin was dizzying him. He took the mask and secured it on his face despite how slimy and gross it felt over his skin. He had worse things crawl his face, this was nothing. He took the axe walked down the corridor.
Ulysses ventured the second floor again this time calmly searching for his way out. He checked each door with the spare keys he found and managed to get one door open and a girl was eating from a heap of bodies. She turned to the scent of Ulysses, she had a long jaw filled with sharp yellow teeth with braces. She also had a bulging belly and four legs. She crawled to Ulysses and opened her mouth wide to take a bite. The plumber wanted none of that and slammed the door shut in her face making a run for it.
From the elevator shaft another girl came out, she was fused with another girl, one had pink hair and the other had black hair. He doesn’t understand how they could breathe in that atmosphere but he had other troubling thoughts plaguing him. The door where the first girl was broke down and she ran down the hall to eat Ulysses.
Ulysses didn’t know where to swing first, so he spun holding the axe and hit both targets and incapacitated them. He chopped at one target and before the other had a chance to stand Ulysses slashed them till they couldn’t move anymore.
“...They can come back to life...” He remembered what Salt said that day and took precautions before he investigated the next floor, Ulysses chopped them into pieces. When he cracked one of the skulls, he noticed a spiked collar with a key hanging from it, along with another clue.
“Oh, how wicked! He escaped the jaws of death! HAHAH! But can he escape the sound of our queen and goddess?
Love, Candy ~X♡X♡”
He sighed and walked over the elevator, the door was open and the shaft was halfway down. The stairway was sealed with cement, his only way down was through elevator shaft. He needed to escape, so elevator shaft it was.
He climbed down the cable to the next floor and nothing, absolutely nothing attacked him. The next floor was filled with music, a synthetic voice was heard with an electronic beat, he instantly recognized it, he just scoffed at how stupid and silly the remix sounded. It really disappointed him how far people would for to sound like the diva.
The music was getting louder, soon Ulysses glanced inside an open room seeing a large mannequin made of metal like a cyborg. He really wanted to avoid her so he continues to walk down the hall to the next flight of stairs. What he didn't expect was her sensitive hearing picking on him stepping on broken glass. The mannequin turned its head, the head was human. She had long braided, purple pigtails and a mouth similar to a cockroach. Her scream was a sort of Dubstep song.
Ulysses ran and shut the light so she would lose track of him. He made it inside a room, sliding under a bed and staying stiffly still and mute. The teen held the axe tightly in his hands and waited for her to go away.
A long arm reached out and took a hold on his neck and dragged him out. Her feelers touched and creeped on his face and body. She was so close the music almost blasted off his ears. “Shut! Up!” Ulysses swung the axe cutting her head clean off. Her body went limp, both the body and Ulysses hit the floor.
A swarm of roaches and other insects crawled out from her neck opening looking for a new refuge. Ulysses scrambled away from the room, he no longer wanted to play this psychotic game.
Once he felt safe, the plumber gasped for air, he took off the gas mask feeling ironically suffocated. One more floor to go, the lobby. Ulysses put on the mask and ran down the hall to the next flight of stairs into the lobby. The neons and lights were dead still, and no one was at the desk. “Hello! Is somebody here?!” Ulysses shouted for anyone to hear. Since he got no answer, he quickly ran to the front door and tried to pull it open but the door was also locked. Ulysses kicked the door and screamed in frustration. He jammed every single key he had but none undid the lock. He hit the metal door with the axe and didn’t even make a dent on the door. That didn’t stop him from lashing out at the door. “God fucking dammit!!”
Ulysses gasped for air once his arms grew tired. He looked back and shone the flashlight at the desk to find another key but the key holder was empty. The possibility of the missing key being up in the next floor really pissed him off.
So the irritated teen dragged the axe with him up the corridor and down the hall to find the key. He searched every room, every corner but he couldn’t find it. Then a thought went through his mind as the head of the roach monster stood alone near his boot. The collection of hairs on his spine stood up as a chill went down. “Where’s the body…?” Ulysses breathed quietly.
A female roach flew to his face and attempted to crawl inside his lips. He swatted it away and stomped it. He looked around and he jammed his lips close but his eyes blew wide. The headless roach monster was standing in the ceiling upside down surrounded by the swarm. A key hung from the neck cavity. “Oh, fuck me...” Ulysses cursed internally. He needed a plan to get that key. The best-case scenario is to let it die after a month, but he knew he didn't have a month and this roach monster possessed the best quality of a roach just to spite him. He shouted and threw his axe at it. Surprisingly it knocked the monster from the ceiling and it landed on its back.
Ulysses grabbed the axe and chopped the monster and to his building frustration the body had a metal shell. Then he got an idea, he kicked the monster and ran up the corridor to the elevator and climb up the next floor.
The monster crawled on the walls of the shaft and with its long legs it tried to tumble Ulysses from the cable. The fumes of the next room were already hitting him hard, but he pressed on and jumped on the ledge of the room where the monster followed. The second the little roaches touched the floor they slowed down and eventually stopped moving. The same was for the roach monster. Ulysses covered his nose and mouth with his arm and waited.
The monster was persistent but so was the teen. Since the monster was very slow, Ulysses reached his other hand and dug it in the disgusting cavity and pulled out the key. “Sorry, but nothing can best the original…” he said with a cocky grin and secured the key in his pocket.
Ulysses stumbled down the corridor again after long exposure to the toxic fumes. His vision blurred and an intense headache pounded his brain. The brunette reached one of the sevelar cables his mind created and fell down the shaft.
— “AHHHH!” Ulysses screamed as he fell. He hit the ground floor hard. His lungs were compressed and heavy, choking on his breath constantly. The poor teen could barely move, he was sure the pain was of broken bones. He was going to die in a couple of minutes. The last breaths he drew were choked sobs before he spat his own blood.
When his eyes opened the color orange was all he could see, the blur became more clear revealing a dimly lit room with a furnace. He was in constant pain but he was able to move again. He lifted his head and was greeted him was the clerk holding a gun to his head.
“My, you made it down here in record time,” Mars said, smiling brightly.
“Uhgg!” Ulysses groaned and laid his head back. “Just kill me already!” he begged. The madman laughed and cocked his gun. “What’s the fun in that?” Mars asked as he ingested some colorful pills and powders.
“Can you at least tell me why are you doing this?!”
“Why tell you when I am done playing games?” And just like that, the hair on his neck stood and with a soft whisper Ulysses uttered his fears, “Candy…”
“Wrong. However, It is a pleasure. I will give you credit, you did almost knocked the life out of my body. You got one hell of a throw.” Somehow Ulysses felt cheated. He knew he could have easily killed that man out of context but he still survived all because he was the antagonist of his story. “Son of a bitch... Just what are you?”
“I am a simple thrill junkie. This was by far the best rush I ever felt, no white dust could compare.” He caressed the boy’s face with the gun and he chuckled. “I am saddened you killed my girlfriends, but If you want to live, you can stay here as a thrill seeker.”
“Are you fucking insane?! Wait— don’t answer that! Of course you fucking are! Mother fucker, just kill me! I want no part of this!” The desperation was obvious in the pitch of his song.
“Suit yourself, Ulysses.” Mars cocked his gun and aimed, Ulysses for a moment felt one of his teeth come off loose from his gums. He had a crazy idea but if it worked, he could escape. He spat the tooth and hit the man’s eye. The psychotic clerk dropped the gun and held his eye with his hands. “Jesus fucking christ!” He shouted and stomped the ground. Ulysses took this opportunity and took the gun, as heavy as it was, and he shot Candy in the head. That was all left to chance and Ulysses might as well be Lady Luck herself because he knew that was impossible, even for his world’s standards. Ulysses dropped the gun and, despite how badly his body hurt, ran around the room for an exit.
“You fucking rat!” Mars shouted when he recovered his gun and shot at Ulysses. The terrified plumber just ran around the room to avoid the bullets. Once Mars' gun was empty, he cocked the gun, and it shifted to a light saber. “I will cut you in half!” Ulysses panicked, he found another axe hidden behind a heap of crates. Lifting the axe prove to be a challenge with his aching bones. Ulysses charged the wood of the axe to protect it from the radiating heat of the saber as they collide.
Ulysses and Mars struck at each other with great brutal force to push each other to the furnace. Ulysses managed to keep him close enough, he found an opening and wedged the axe in Candy’s chest. He didn’t shout, he didn’t wince, he just stood there with glowing rage. Ulysses backed away slowly holding his hands up shakily. He was doomed, nothing could kill this man and his body was close to giving under the stress.
From the fiery hell flames of the furnace, a severely burned man wrapped his arms around Mars and pulled him in with him. “Ah! let go of me!” the clerk protested.
“Y-You ki- killed M-M-Melissa... J-j-... Join us in Hell...” the man hissed and burned with the psychotic man in tow. The screams bounced off the concrete and into Ulysses’ ears.
The furnace died down and became nothing but glowing embers. A hand slowly creeped out from the opening, holding a red hot key.
Ulysses stood there shedding a few tears due to shock. He looked around for any form of gloves to protect his hands from the red burning key. All he found were fabric based and waiting for it to cool down would take a while. When he looked again, the key was still red hot, he took his chance with the fabric and it was frigid cold. He took the key and unlocked the door of the basement and the Lobby, it was a master key and Ulysses was very lucky it came from nowhere.
Ulysses didn’t stop running to his little sanctuary, it was never wise to run in the dark while it rained but he didn’t care. He clutched the pin in his chest and thanked every fiber in his brain for being so quick witted. He was breathing roughly and at times dry heaved. He was going through a bunch of emotions but he was slowly coming to his senses. He had lost his friend in that hell hole and he was such a coward he left him behind. He never did found his head. He had, also, lost his phone, his book, his tools and almost his life in that motel. However her reached the end of it.
Or so he thought.
His eyes widened at the sound of a light giggle. The brunette raised his flashlight and carefully looked around the house for the culprit. Ulysses was tackled down. His assailant’s eyes piercing as she held a sharp machete knife.
“Get off me!” Ulysses shouted trying to hold her unusually strong grip on the machete. “Give me your voice, Ulysses! I need your beautiful voice!!!”
After a loud pang, her eyes rolled back, and she fell limp over Ulysses. The frantic brunette kicked her off and crawled away as the mystery assailant grabbed her by the hair holding her in the air. “I will make sure you don’t steal from me again...” He dropped the girl and cut her hands with the shovel. She screamed, Ulysses almost felt sorry for her. He couldn’t stomach the scene.
Then, the mystery hero cracked her skull with the shovel, over, and over, and over again till her screams were nothing but a gargled mess. He stabbed the shovel through her neck and kicked it to decapitate her with a sickening squish and crack like a skilled butcher.
The lightning made him more frightening, his eyes were hollow and his face stern. His long blond hair wet and stuck on his skin. Link stared at Ulysses but didn’t speak. He can’t get over the fact Link was indeed alive and much less capable of murder.
“Oh my god...” Ulysses whispered, dumbfounded. “Am I losing my goddamn mind?”
“I guess it's a good thing I came back to get my things,” the farmer chuckled.
He quietly handed Ulysses a shovel and he, for a moment, was dubious of his actions, but with their silent understanding they dragged the girl outside and dug a grave deep enough to bury the nightmare. “You’re full of surprises...” said Ulysses breaking the silence. Link chuckled warmly and kicked the body of the girl in the hole, covering it with wet dirt.