Let the weirdness continue…
If this is your first time reading this book, you can find previous chapters here:
- Read Chapter One here
- Read Chapter Two here
- Read Chapter Three here
- Read Chapter Four here
- Read Chapter Five here
- Read Chapter Six here
- Read Chapter Seven here
- Read Chapter Eight here
- Read Chapter Nine here
- Read Chapter Ten here
- Read Chapter Eleven here
- Read Chapter Twelve here
- Read Chapter Thirteen here
- Read Chapter Fourteen here
- Read Chapter Fifteen here
- Read Chapter Sixteen here
- Read Chapter Seventeen here
- Read Chapter Eighteen here
- Read Chapter Nineteen here
- Read Chapter Twenty here
- Read Chapter Twenty-One here
One in a Million – Chapter 22
Everyone Scores Tonight
Linda and Burt walked out of the BART station, holding hands. “You sure you don’t mind the walk?”
“No, I’m good for it,” said Burt. “You’re driving tonight.”
Linda smiled. “You know, if you’d rather play the part of traditional male…”
“Oh, that’s not it,” said Burt. “Not at all.” He made an expansive motion with his hand. “You said you wanted to make it up to me. I’m taking you at your word. Make up, my dear, make up.”
“You are so odd,” Linda said. But she kept holding his hand.
They walked through UC campus, meandering along the paved pathways, through Sproule Plaza where the eternal drum circle lent a bounce to their steps, and finally onto Telegraph Street.
Linda’s plan was simple. She was going to introduce Burt to some of her exes and gauge his reaction, and at the same time make the point to him that she didn’t want Burt to wind up as one of them. They bought coffee from Starson, and had an interesting conversation about their shared auras. At Renaissance Records, Burt bought a couple of soundtracks and Linda introduced him to Eli, the assistant manager. As they made their way over to Moe’s, Linda spilled the beans.
“So, those guys were both exes of mine.”
“Yeah, I kinda figured that,” said Burt. “Eli asked me if I was the current model.”
“Asshole,” muttered Linda. “Still, I wanted you to see them and meet them, and…”
“And get my aura read by them,” added Burt.
Linda smiled. “Starson is definitely one of the most interesting guys I ever dated.”
“I’m starting to feel self-conscious, here,” said Burt.
“No, please don’t,” said Linda. They stopped at the door to Moe’s. “I want you to know that I don’t think of you like those guys. I don’t want to.”
Burt smiled at her, his intentionally charming smile. “I feel like I’m in an outtake for The Graduate, standing here like this. Shall we go inside?”
“Huh?” Linda said. “I don’t get it.”
“You’ve never seen The Graduate?” Burt asked.
“I think,” said Burt, “that given the nature of this,” he pointed at the space between the two of them, “that we have to watch it as quickly as possible.”
“Okay,” she said. “I did tell you you’re odd, right?”
“Yes,” said Burt. “Now, please show me where the bathrooms are in this wonderful bookstore.”
“I think they’re downstairs,” Linda said. They walked down into the basement, one of the quieter places in the store, and Linda pointed. “There they are.”
“Good,” said Burt, “Let’s go.”
“What?” Burt was pulling Linda along, and she was following.
“I owe you for tweaking me the other night and then not getting to close the deal,” said Burt. “And after seeing a selection of your exes, I feel the real urge to conquer you and prove myself.”
Linda started to laugh, but Burt stopped her with a kiss. She tried to pull away for only a second, but his insistent mouth would not be denied and she melted into him. He pushed open the men’s room door and they spindle-walked inside.
Rhonda could see the membership counter from across the room. Ninety eight, ninety nine…
“Give it to me!” she shrieked.
One million. A million subscribers, all watching her. She floated, naked, shining, terrible, beautiful, swathed in ethereal smoke. She’d taken over the servers herself in the last few days, opening more conduits, tapping into every nearby power source, rerouting carrier waves from satellites—all in the name of getting her fans—her minions, her followers—online, watching her, sending her messages of encouragement, love, adoration, naked sexuality, lust, passion, frustration… she took it all in, and it fed her, coursing through her like a connected circuit. This is what it feels like, she realized, to be a god.
“The time has come, my darlings,” she said to the camera. The membership counter was still spinning. “I will choose one of you tonight. You will all watch as we join together and start a new order.”
She could see, could feel in her mind, the messages of affirmation streaming over the feed through her website. But there was one person she could not see. Turk was offline. This was a concern. Over the past weeks, he’d made it very clear that he was competing in this glorious competition, and even posted excerpts from what he was writing. He goaded, cajoled, and harangued the other participants until they were frantic with anger and frustration. Watching them fight made Rhonda excited. They were willing to tear each other up for her.
But now her champion was absent.
Someone was banging on her door.
“Stay tuned,” Rhonda said. She closed off the cameras with a thought and began streaming a dance routine she had to memorize for a commercial. She was dressed as a cheerleader. That would hold them for a few minutes. Rhonda glided silently over to the door and it opened.
Fred Terkington stood, wide-eyed, sunken cheeks, pale and quivering. He had a leather book the size of a photo album cradled in his arms.
“For you, Rhonda,” he said.
Rhonda smiled. She took the book from him, and something in a forgotten part of her squealed with delight. He’d stamped her name on the book. She flipped through it. Every page had writing on it, front and back. She spied some drawings, one or two of them pretty racy, and some poetry. It was massive. Astonishing. And there was something else, pulsing from within the book. Blood.
She turned to him. “Did you cut yourself while you were working on this?”
“Huh? Oh, no,” said Turk. “But I did get a couple of nose bleeds, which is weird because I never get them. But yeah, there maybe a drop or two on the pages. Sorry, I know that’s gross, but I couldn’t tear the page out and start over.” He met her gaze. “I couldn’t stop, not when I was so inspired.”
Rhonda crooked a finger and drew him into her living room. The cameras all came back on. “THIS,” said Rhonda, thrusting the book upward, “is your new bible, written in his own hand by your new high priest. Do any of you dare dispute my claim that this is the greatest gift of all?”
The online chatters instantly began to hail Rhonda and TrancersFan as the new order of things. A few disgruntled souls logged off, but not enough to make her carrier wave flinch. “Then I name TrancersFan—The Turk—the winner!”
Turk had just enough time to whisper “I love you,” before Rhonda drew him up in a clinging embrace, kissing him fully and deeply. She nuzzled his ear and whispered, “Took you long enough, you asshole.”
Turk chuckled and then shuddered. “Oh god,” he said.
Rhonda was suddenly struck by the thought that maybe Turk had gotten a little too excited. She looked up at the cameras and said, “Stay tuned. The highlights from tonight will be available for all to see, very soon.” And she cut the feed with her mind.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Nothing,” said Turk, who was now beet red. “I just need a minute.”
Rhonda shut off all of the special effects billowing around her and said, “Hey, Fred, it’s okay, if you, you know, came. We can take it slow…”
“No,” said Turk. “It’s not that. I’m just…” he stopped and swallowed. “I need to say this, okay?”
“I give myself to you. My heart. My soul. My life. My virginity.”
Rhonda smiled. “You mean, I get to be your first?”
Turk looked confused. “I thought you knew.”
“I thought you’d taken care of it by now. Nice to know you didn’t.” Several wheels began to turn in Rhonda’s head. “We’re doing it. Tonight. Now, in fact.”
Turk made a move towards her, but she stopped him. “Take off your clothes,” she said. “Slowly.”
Turk grabbed for his shirt, watching Rhonda intently. Her face was a softened shadow of sensuality. Her legs parted and she drew her hands down across her hips.
That was all Turk needed. His shirt came off with a modicum of restraint, but not his pants. He stepped out of them in a single leap and bound and then stopped. “What?”
Rhonda was staring, her mouth open, her eyes wide. “Oh my giddy odds,” she said.
Turk started retreating. “Is something wrong? Is it too small?”
“Wrong adjective,” she blurted out. It didn’t clear things up for Turk. He continued to look concerned. “Oh, honey, no,” she said, “everything is fine.” She blew him a kiss and ran her hands over her breasts, and watched Turk physically respond. “Holy shit,” she said. “That’s very…wow. I’m going to need to be on top for that.”
“Whatever you want,” said Turk.
“Oh, Rhonda wants, all right,” said Rhonda, closing the distance between them like a starving mouse being offered a piece of cheese. “Rhonda wants!”
Jerry looked out of the window for the fifth time in as many minutes. As before, he didn’t see anything, but it didn’t dismiss the feeling that he was being watched. It was probably just nerves. “Come on, let’s go.”
Stevie brought over the last comic box and piled it on top of the others by the door. Over twenty in all, containing comics, toys, statues, and other collectibles and rarities. It was geek pirate loot, all laid out like that. Phong had opened the door with the spare key. They had spent the last ten minutes wiping everything down with the paper towels and Windex behind the counter, so as to leave no fingerprints. All they were waiting for now was Sebastian and the Tech Warehouse van.
“Call him,” said Phong. “We gotta get out of here.”
“Yeah, this is bullshit,” said Stevie.
“Fine, whatever,” Jerry said. He no sooner took out his phone than the Tech Warehouse van came swinging wide around the corner. “Hah! There you go!”
They all grabbed boxes and Jerry opened the back doors as Seb brought the van to a short stop. “Let’s go! Elbows and assholes!” yelled Sebastian.
“One second,” said Jerry. “You guys, finish putting that shit in the van.” He grabbed a cinderblock and a paper sack out of the back and waited for Phong to finish.
“You ready?” he said.
Phong nodded. He went back into the store, locked the door, and sprinted to the back to replace the spare key. While he was gone and out of the way, Jerry hefted the cinderblock over his head and threw it forcibly at the glass door. It shattered spectacularly, and the cinderblock broke in two as it hit the ground.
Jerry immediately chose an assortment of glass and a good sized chunk of cinderblock and dropped them into the paper sack.
“Come on!” said Sebastian.
Phong appeared, running at a dead sprint, and jumped over the mess in the doorway of Comix Cubed and crashed into Jerry. They both fell down in a tangle of limbs.
“Shit, you okay, Jerry?” asked Phong. He helped Jerry up and started brushing him off.
“Yeah, yeah, fine, let’s just go.”
They hopped into the van and barely got the doors closed before Sebastian peeled out.
They hadn’t covered a half a block before Mike Bretz threw an assortment of hexes on the van, making it instantly trackable with just a thought. This wasn’t an ordinary theft. There was some real purpose behind it. Mike was dying to know what. He made for his convertible to follow the van, and didn’t even notice the moon hanging low in the sky, colored bright red, and pulling visible spectrums of raw mana toward the Castro.
He started his car up, cloaked himself in darkness, and followed the van.