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EZEKIEL:

It was the worst pain I ever felt in my life… and I’ve felt all kinds of pain. It felt like thousands of smoldering needles were being pushed into every square inch of my body. It started with the feeling that something was pricking me. I’d scratch and the pricking would stop. But as time went on, it got worse and worse and all I could think about was ‘cocaine’. I tried suppressing the need but it got worse…and worse and worse!

When they tied me to the bed, I thought it wasn’t going to work. I thought it was Tanzanir’s way of getting back at me for all I had done to him. I thought everyone wanted me to suffer under my own plate, everything I’d been through in the past few years being brought upon me by none other than myself. Being tied to this bed, with this searing pain that ran to the deepest veins in my body was retribution all in itself. I thought it would never end, that it was hell on earth.

I remember it in explicit detail… I remember screaming at Beth to the top of my lungs because the pain was so great. But she stuck to the plan. I’m glad she did because fast forward three weeks after she and Heaven left, I didn’t have the dependency anymore. For that I was grateful, but the treatment didn’t leave me the way I was before I became a cocaine addict.

There was this indescribable void in my chest like something had been ripped out and I needed it back. I was stuck on trying to figure out what it was. These feelings were suppressed when Beth stood in my room with a chalk board writing letters on the board. She pointed to each one with the chalk.

“A…B… C…” She said, I having to repeat her. This would last for hours and hours at a time, distracting me from that depressing lack of completion. As time added up, I memorized the letter and began applying them to words, with Beth’s help. She’d smile.

“You’re doing good!” She said, rubbing her fingers through my curly hair. I actually was…completing something, making progress. I was doing something actually worth while. This feeling was something I never felt before… something purposeful! It compelled me to read and read more, going through several books in days.

It was then Beth stood in my room, looking mortified.

“I’m leaving…” She said. It made my heart stop.

“You’re leaving?” I asked.

“I’m taking Heaven with me. I can’t keep him here with father acting like this. I’ll be back, I promise but you have a promise to keep too. Make sure you stay off the streets! Keep your head in these books! Learn as much as you can! There are jobs you can get simply for knowing how to read! You won’t have to go back to that life anymore!” She said, tears welling up in her eyes.

I got to my feet, every joint aching like a needle was piercing it. Tears began to stream down my face as I took painful steps over to my sister. We hugged, a tight embrace that did not last long enough.

“Tell Zanir I’m sorry for everything… Everything…” I said.

“I Will…” She said, our embrace coming to an end. I watch her go down the stairs, the last time I saw her.

It got me to thinking… maybe this void I was feeling was for Zanir. How he helped me so even after my cold betrayal. What kind of person would do that? I don’t know but he was the kind of person I wanted in my life. I doubt that we’d end up seeing each other again though. He probably considered me an enemy just like many other people in Jeurridam.

I waddled back over to my bed, easing into it. I was so…sore. I picked back up the book, fascinated by how simple letters could be turned into elaborate stories and form images in your mind. They pulled on your imagination unlike anything else. It was beautiful…

I read, book after book after book! Beth had left me a giant pile. Each day, my reading getting better and better. I went from tripping over words like ‘know’, ‘bright’, ‘child’, and ‘shape’ to understanding complex biographies and encyclopedia entries. Words truly were the most powerful things humans invented and not to be able to read was a big disadvantage. They also were addicting, just as addicting as any drug.

That night I read and read until my eyes exhausted and I had to close them for rest. I dozed off, suddenly awoken by my door being burst through. It was dad, in a fury. He seized me by my shirt.

“Where are they, boy?” He asked.

“Who?” I asked, lost.

“BETH AND HEAVEN?” He yelled.

“I don’t know…” I pleaded, being truthful. I didn’t know where they were but I did know that they most likely were with Zanir. That, my father already knew. He just held my by my shirt, staring at me for a long time. He roared out, throwing me back to the bed.

“Great…” He said angered, “Now I have to pick up their slack…”

It was becoming terrifying to live here. I didn’t even wanna go downstairs to eat. It’d give my dad an excuse to beat me or something. All I did was read, leaving this crazy world, entering another. I was torn from the imaginative world when my door creak open. It took my focus, casino şirketleri forcing me to look up. Peeking his head in, uncle Miguel slowly entered the room, gently closing the door behind him.

“I’m not much of a cook…” He said, “But I had to do something since your brother is gone? I may have started something last time I sent him after her. Beth and Heaven were never this close.” He had a bowl of hare stew, placing it on the counter. He looked at the pile of book.

“So you’ve been reading, huh?” He asked.

“Yeah…” I finally responded.

“Why aren’t you coming out of your room?” He asked, confused.

“It hurts to move. I have no energy and plus I don’t want to fight with dad… not feeling like this…” I said. Uncle nodded, fully understanding.

“I see.” He said, “And cooking for twenty plus mouths is hard. I see why Heaven always looks like he’s about to pass out by the end of the day. You know where they headed off too?”

“I’m not sure. It’s probably Zanir related.” I sighed, really wishing he’d leave. I just wanted to get back to my reading.

“I’m seriously starting to think those two are a thing…” Uncle said, truly surprised at Beth’s willingness to help.

“They’re not…” I said, “Zanir never liked girls.” Uncle’s eyes bucked with shock.

“Really?” He asked, “And Beth is going out her way to help someone like that? Well I guess it’s good to know he won’t try anything funny with my niece.”

“I seriously wonder,” I said looking at my hands, “Why did he still help me after the fucked up things I’ve done to him.”

“Maybe because he’s one of those rare people that are just plain good… Like one of those people who can walk in a field full of rotting men, slaughtered by mechs, see one daisey and smile.” Uncle said, obviously perplexed as well.

“I thought he was going to kill me that day,” I began, ” Everytime I go to bed, I end up having that dream with all the floating knives surrounding me. But it didn’t unfold the way it unfolded when he left A99. He impaled me with all of them and then I wake up…”

“Everynight?” He asked.

“Yeah…”

“Well,” Uncle sighed, “Your father has had us all searching none stop for Beth and Heaven. It’s like the two vanished into thin air. I wish we can find them so he can get off our backs… You know what he’s been trying to make her do right?” I looked at him concerned.

“What?” I asked.

“You know, since she’s the only one here who knows computer language and advanced mechanics, he’s been trying to make her answer repair calls and to fix the machines Zanir built. The empire is crumbling, Ezekiel and I feel like you’re gonna become the scapegoat.” Uncle said, having concerns of his own. I felt he was right. My father was an old fashioned, twisted man and my life may be in danger.

“I don’t know what to do…” I said, truly and utterly helpless.

He looked at the door making sure no one else would witness what he was about to do. He reached into his pocket, pulling out a huge wad of cash.

“These are my last few pennies. The fact that you’re sitting here…reading has shown that you’ve grown up drastically… in days! Keep this wad with you at all times! When shit hits the fan, you’ll have something to take care of you! I want you to have a bag packed for having to leave at any given moment! I want you to eat that food, it might not taste too good, but please! It may be the last solid meal you’ll eat in a while… And I want you to take these truck keys… I have a truck hidden in the refinery about ten miles north, full tank! You know how to read and write now which is a change in the entire scope of the game! You can do fucking anything in Jeurridam, now! Leave before your dad…” Uncle said, obviously having heard my dad say something grim.

“Ok..” I said, that being the only words my lips could form. Uncle walked to the door, looking at me one last time. The concern in his eyes made it clear I was in danger.

“Get the fuck out of here…” He advised. I nodded, unsure what this could mean. Where would I go, where would this lead to? It was so very daunting but I had to do something. I did what uncle told me. I packed a bag, hanging it from a nail on the door so incase something happened, I could grab it quickly. I ate the stew, my appetite not back in full force yet. Still thought, I ate it, knowing it was important. I hid in my coat pocket, having it hanging from the door as well.

The next few days felt…taxing. I didn’t leave my room, uncle sneaking in food occasionally, upset that I was still here. It was harder to leave than he thought. I’ve long believed there was nothing out there in the world for me, that the world would rather vandalize and violate me rather than use me. It was not easy accepting the fact that I now had an advantage against many of those who held me back. In fact I didn’t think I could accept it, not when I was feeling so incomplete, so pieced back together yet still missing a vital component.

Every time I heard footsteps casino firmaları coming down the hall, my heart stopped a little. It was even worse when these footsteps had a little urgency. It finally happened, my dad bursting into the room while I was busy reading.

“You…” He said, frustrated with his string of terrible luck, “Just sitting in my house…” He rushed over to me, picking me up out the bed. He threw me to the floor…

“DAD!” I screamed, my joints still aching. The fall was excruciating.

“Get up…” Dad demanded. It was hard to get to my feet. I had to ease up but my dad was not a man of patience. He hoisted me up pinning me to the wall, closing the door, “This is all your fault… ALL!!” My bag and jacket were just out of arm’s reach.

“DAD!!” I screamed, hoping to plead with him.

“Don’t CALL ME THAT!!” Dad screamed, tightening his grip, “You’ve caused your family all of this turmoil and you’re just sitting around being a freeloader as usual?”

“Dad!” I croaked, it becoming harder to breath.

“I said don’t CALL ME THAT!” He said, throwing me to the floor.

“I’m sorry…” I pled.

“Sorry?” He said, being angered more, “Will being sorry get me all of what I lost…?” He loomed over me causing me to crawl away. He continued to advance on me, striking fear down into my soul. He lurched forward, seizing me once again.

“I want you out my HOUSE!” He screamed, dragging me to the door.

“Wait… let me get my stuff!” I begged, reaching for my jacket and bag.

“NO!” He shouted, opening the door. My belongings were once again out of my reach. I held onto the door seams as he yanked me painfully. I couldn’t let go though. I’d be thrown out of the house without a cent to help myself along.

“NOOOO!!” I heard someone shout from down the hall, “Don’t hurt him!” It was uncle Miguel, “Beth and Heaven left and came back before… They’ll be back again.” It did nothing. Dad was still yanking on me. I had to do something… I kicked him as hard as I could.

“AHhhh…” He squealed, “You little bitch!”

It was just enough time for me to grab my things and be thrown down the hall.

“You wanna hit me?” Dad asked, his face completely flushed with rage.

“Dale…” Uncle said, standing in between me and father. Dad rushed past him, uncle grabbing him, trying to restrain the powerful man. Dad looked at him warningly.

“MOVE!!” Dad demanded.

“Don’t hurt that boy!” Uncle said. Dad, a very bearly man, pushed uncle away with ease.

He rushed me as I barely gathered myself. He seized me in those meaty hands, rushing me down the stairs.

“I want you out my house! Never come back!” He said, pushing me out into the kitchen. My brothers and cousins watched in horror. Dad opened the kitchen door to the veranda. He pushed me so hard, I tumbled down the steps, hitting my head on the cobbled stone. I was dazed… I got my bearings and picked up my jacket and bag.

Dad just stood there, nostrils flared and fists clenched. I didn’t look back, walking off of the property. I kept walking, and walking… I was torn between believing this really happening and telling myself of course it had happened… My dad was just a wicked man. He often made me feel incapable of doing anything, like a waste of his gene pool. I understood why I was feeling like this really couldn’t be happening. I never truly have been out on my own and my father beat it into my head that family was everything and without family, I couldn’t survive. He made me so dependent on ‘family’ that it became like a secondary withdrawal, one that had me wrapped around a finger. I kept questioning how I’d survive without them.

Somewhere deep in my head, a voice was telling me I’d be fine, that I could make it if I pushed myself. Still, it was overpowered by the need to feel a part of something. I just wasn’t the type of person that liked to be alone…

I had to stop…to think clearly. I was just walking with no objective. I reached in my pocket remembering the wad of cash. I unfurled the money seeing it was over five hundred dollars. It could last me weeks if I really stretched it. I stared at it for a long time, it feeling strange to have this money. It was like I didn’t know what to do with it. Let this had been two weeks ago, I would have blown this all on cocaine. Now… It was hard for me to decide what to do with the money but drugs were a no go.

I sighed, placing the wad back in my coat pocket. The jingle of metal caught my attention. I pulled the wad back out remembering the truck keys uncle had given me. A sense of relief fell upon me, one I hadn’t felt in years. Anxiety began to build back up as I made my way to the truck. I trekked across miles of desert, reaching the silicate refinery my uncle left the truck at.

This old factory was huge. It covered dozens of square miles on its own. It used to be inhabited by giant serpentine mechs that could fly but the Ravager faction came and whipped the mechs out. The deemed the area a quarantine güvenilir casino zone and guarded it for about six years before deserting it. Years before that, a rival faction, the Revivalists quarantined Sloan building a perimeter around it that took years to build. They herded all the feral mechs into it but it is still guarded in areas. I seriously think they were doing something twisted to the mechs there.

It was hard to believe that Zanir actually went there when he was a kid and stayed for three weeks. The place was said to be ridiculously dangerous. I had so many questions for him, so many unanswered questions… and an apology I wanted to make as deeply personal as possible. It seemed we’d never be able to clear the ground. I reached the truck, unlocking the door and climbing in. I took off my bag, reaching inside it for an item I’d cherish for forever. It was the pair of underwear Zanir let me keep. The black matte and shiny stripes on the silk briefs were so sexy. I could just imagine Zanir with that long flowing hair parading around in them, alone in the shack with no one but his imagination. God, what we could have been if I would have been a little stronger. I’d forever be left wondering, unless a hand in fate changed and we ended up together.

It was my fault Zanir left. It was my fault my father’s empire crumbled and it was my fault Beth and Heaven were being pushed the way they were. But still, it wasn’t much of a life for Zanir and it was clear he was reaching his limit for endurance. He was so guarded though. He never made it clear why he did what he did. That little worthless mech he was building must had been really, really important because he was irate. I still remember those floating daggers surrounding me, rotating over and over again. They seemed so spent on wanting to stab me but Zanir held restraint. After the betrayal, he still had the desire to help me. What kind of person would go to those lengths?

It made me wonder… If Beth and Heaven went with him somewhere, he still must be in Jeurridam. However, it’d be impossible to find him. Jeurridam was too massive of a place and people were never at the same place at once. But why would he be here though? I thought he said he’d be heading north? What reasons would he still be here?

This brought up issues of my own. What would I do here? I had a very limited skillset and this place was cutthroat. There was only one thing I knew how to do but I didn’t want to do it yet. I had to figure out how to stretch this money out and buy things I needed. This truck would now be my home for quite a while.

I opened the glove department checking for anything useful. There was a matte baretta as well as several clips of ammo. Underneath that were several black books, a flint and a small knife. It wasn’t surprising. This afterall, was uncle’s truck. I crawled into the back, opening the window. Looking inside the truck tool box lead to some surprised. There was a combat shotgun, a machete, a fire starter, an oil sifter and a shit-ton of mechanical tools. I wasn’t much of a mechanic so most of this was useless to me. I did know how to use a gun, though, having to learn dealing with Da Lagon. They were a twisted gang of banditos and I hoped I never ran back into them.

There were no blankets or bedding though. I’d definitely need to purchase something to make living out here in the desert… comfortable. This was going to be strange. Even the times I ran off on my own, I wasn’t alone. I had an entire gang of banditos to fall back on. Now, I had nothing except the clothes on my back, this truck and a few hundred dollars. I really wasn’t the type of person that liked to be alone. I needed company.

The night proved to be difficult. The void of needing belonging came back hard. I couldn’t sleep because the same recurring nightmare of Zanir finishing me of kept pounding me. It all felt very defeating. I cranked up the truck beginning the long ride to the market. I stopped in Henderson, parking at the petrel station. Looking at my jacket, the Logatti badges stood out plainly. I reached in the glove department for the knife, cutting the stitching off. I didn’t need people knowing I was a Logatti. Sure it came with perks but the Logatti family had a lot of enemies and I didn’t want that type of attention… especially with where I was about to go.

I was on my way to A Fool’s Paradise, the southern Vegas Ruins turned market… It was a gorgeous place. Many fallen towers, many relics from the past and many renovated buildings made the region beautiful. Many people flourished here but that was just the surface. It was called A Fool’s Paradise for a reason. Underneath the quant surface was a prostitution ring. Some were freelance professionals while others were just owned. All were territorial and didn’t take kindly to new arrivals. It was a dangerous business… one I knew all too well.

My truck would have to stay parked here at Henderson. Vehicles and A Fool’s Paradise didn’t coincide unless you were filthy rich. It was about a forty minute walk to A Fool’s Paradise. Upon arrival, the streets were thick with people from every walk of life in the Mojave. This market was the only of it’s kind for hundreds of miles. The market itself had everything you could imagine, clothes, produce, livestock, job listings… everything.

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