Campaign of the Month: November 2014

Shadowrun - The Rat's Nest

Rain Dogs

Personal Log - R. Kowalski, PI

Personal log of Kowalski, Roger

Outside I could hear the rain drops. I could hear how they were drumming against the scratchy flimsy plastic window that keeps the streets out of my office. On a hot day you could smell the solvent transpiring from the plast. The thin poisonous stuff that’s making it soft and wobbly and without the plast will be left brittle and with tiny fissures. Tired of living and it will tend to just splinter at the next chance, ending it’s life, falling down to the streets, swept away in the gutters by the rain, lifeless dead and sorrow.

She was lying in my arm. The arm I didn’t really have anymore. And she was looking a lot better now than yesterday night. The wall was still immersed in the multi-colour white noise of the projector, photons thrown at the wall like drops of rain leaving traces and memories of the film last night. Memories that still exists like my hand on her belly. Which is like a memory that is not mine. Like to touch her over a long distance call mixed with the loss that I never will be able to feel her, like my hand tells me I do.

Carefully I stood up to make a coffee. Carefully not to wake her up. Carefully not to feel what I’m feeling, when her slim body pressed against me. The cuff had left a bad bruise on her wrist, so I snapped them open and put them away. It must have hurt her plenty but she didn’t say a word about it after she one time asked me to take them off.

It’s sad that I had to hurt her like that to – to what? Safe her? Is it that? Or is it simply that I can’t see her like that? That I can’t see her standing down there in the rain, her feet on the curb to get away from the puddles on the streets, that reflect the lost dreams of the neon lights of the night like a copy of copy of copy of what should have been.

Her bruises are back to shadows on her pale skin today. Like cancerous freckles. Like the fractal beauty of rust on a sheet of shining steel. A reminder how her body, the life in her is struggling for survival and even gets over this. She’s rubbing her eyes, the smell of fresh coffee in the air, stretching herself, this slender body coming up from the waves of the blanket and falling back into the seas, pulling it over her head. Her long hair is falling around her, the color something between ebony and soot, I don’t think it’s her true color. But it’s in sharp contrast to her skin, making it even paler than it is, ghost-like as if she is not from this world. With her pointed ears sticking out of that sea of black hair, like in these Japanese comic books. But somehow rotten. And the rotten part, I suppose, is me. Me looking at her.

Maybe that’s the reason she loved my arm that much. Which gives me the creeps. The girl that was not there. Somehow lost between the worlds. A phantom as my arm. Like the world of that goblin king from her movie. Like a dream, like I would imagine her. Like it’s not fair.

A few dougnuts later that had to be our breakfast in bed and a pot of coffee, she’s lying on her back, rubbing her wrist. “You stink”, she said. “What.” “I mean, you stink. Not as much as I do. But we both stink.” “What…?” “I did’t take a shower for days and this width-drawl. I really want to take a bath or something.” “Hm”, I made. “I know this place. Upstreet of main. NuYou, havn’t you seen it?” “I did.” “They have a pool and sauna and a breakfast buffet. All you can eat. It’s worth it’s price.” “You mean that NuYou bodymod clinic?” “It’s a sports center, too. Everything for the body.” I thought about that. “And people would see us.” “You think, that’s a good idea?” “Definitely”, she nodded. “If you want to stay here and get some street cred, you should.” “Can I trust you?” “Don’t know if I can trust myself. But if you think of crave. I’m feeling fine.” “I mean – why?”

“Why what?”, and she was rolling over and putting her head on my lap again, looking at me. “Drugs.” She shrugged, “comes with the job.” “No. Really.” She bit her underlip and started to think about, said nothing for a time. “You know? It’s like I’m in control of myself. Control of my moods, my emotions. I feel bad. I take some Aisa. If I’m in the mood for a holiday, I throw a Zen, if I work hard and want to work hard and have to work hard, I push me with an eX. And if I sniff a line of snow, I’m the queen of the day.”

I watched her, said nothing. Nothing to say. “But now”, she mused, “I am not in control. I feel what my body tells me what to feel. And that worries me. I don’t know…” She sighed. “Just a leave in the wind”, playing with her hair. “You know what? I even don’t know if I want to fuck you. I’m just… just…” She stopped. “Out of myself.” “I think you are yourself for the first time for… how long?” “Don’t know. Feeling funny. Life is more shallow now. But I’m feeling mixed up. Not just one feeling. Several. Like a drink from a barman that doesn’t know his job.” “What?” “You know, you get a drink and don’t know what’s in it anymore.” “But that’s a good drink.” “Is it? I don’t know.”

I sipped my coffee and outside some van was stopping on the street, people yelling, some sort of delivery. The streets that sell dreams at night are somehow sad and depressive in the morning. Somehow they look even worse than the normal streets like a crashed junkie that’s falling back to reality. She was a bit like that.

“You know if you can go through that?”, I asked her. “I don’t know. I don’t know if I want. Feeling so helpless. Out of control.” “That’s an illusion”, I said. “Your trip was a one-way, you know that? You’ll make a halve a year, a year tops. Then you’re dead.” “I know”, she was caressing my arm. “If you wouldn’t be there in that alley they might have snuffed me out. Or worse let me alive with the rest they had left of me.” “Control is an illusion. You don’t control your life with some pills.” “I know”, she said. “But it’s a nice illusion, isn’t it?” “Okay”, I said. “Make yourself presentable, we take a walk to this sports center.” “In the rain?” “In the rain. You’ll like it.”

She insisted in wearing my stuff. Black cargo pants, which were too large and where she stuffed it into her boots and let the rest hang, over that a very large t-shirt that was even too large for myself and was hanging down on her like a mini-dress, she fixed it with one of her belts. That black one with rhinestone, that contrasted with that creme yellow shirt quite well. “I need new stuff”, she said, “maybe I can sell this for some money.” “Why do you have sorted out all that red things? Your miniskirt was nice…” She looked at me. “You know nothing, what? Color-code, man. I’m not allowed to wear red anymore. This is for Crimson girls only. Are you Crimson?” “You mean…” “If I wear that, they give me a bashing that make the thing in the alley look like…” “That thing in the alley nearly snuffed you…” “I mean… They would make me never do that again.”

I didn’t know what she meant, but didn’t ask her to explain. But I had an idea. We were walking down the sidewalk, condoms and glitter washed down by the rain, the streets were empty and a leaden light was coming through the thick layer of clouds above. Just a few neon lights were still on, just the cheap AR things were flickering pale and ghostly in the air. I don’t think that she was able to see them. That’s for the tourists and clients, not for the personal. I didn’t think she had any modifications but that bit of ink, this small white rabbit on her shoulder. The thing that somehow looked sad. No rainbows in acid rain, just a nice dawn and dusk light like from a trip on zen. Skies turned to neon light these days.

People were looking at us, but quickly looking down again. A couple of streetgirls were stepping to the side, when we were coming. I wandered: “Do you know those?” “Havn’t you seen their color?” “They know?” “Of course.” She suddenly slipped into one of those gaplike shops in the storefront, pulling me behind her. A second hand clothing shop. I looked around and found a lot of the stuff that must have been the streetware of the last fashion. Clothes in perfect condition, that were on the market for a few Nuyen. Because the fashion said, that you must not wear this anymore. She was gesticulating and bargaining like on a bazaar, finally she came back to me with something that seemed to me more stuff than she had before. “Shit”, she said. “I really look good in red. I have to find a way to overwork my looks.” “I like your looks.” She ignored it.

“Look there! Kinky!”, she said and pulled me into the next shop. A big troll woman in a mini latex costume was behind the counter. She was wearing one of these masks. “What the… Babs…?!” But she already had started rummaging the stuff, fishing out something I didn’t recognize at first. “Who much these?” “Girl, stop doing that.” The lady behind the counter was watching us closely, taxing us. “Just tell him, that it’s not nice to do this”, she said and showed her her black and blue wrist. “I want these here!” She was holding up two pairs of bondage cuffs, these things made of leather and spiky steel buckles.

With a deep rumbling voice the saleslady watched her wrists. “He used steel cuffs on you, darling?” And she looked in my direction. “Babs, let’s get out of here”, I said. “Are you mad? You damn jerk haven’t heard that you have to keep that safe, didn’t you? Damn jerk. She’s just a girl, man. Didn’t anybody tell you sucker to play it safe?!” “But…” And her voice was going up a turn in volume: “YOU GO AND BUY HER THIS, OR I TRY SOME OF MY SPECIALTIES ON YOU! Damn sucker. Sweetie, did he hurt you bad? Wait, you get this for your bruises.” And she was looking down to get some special balm, “Nanotech enhanced”, she said, “not cheap, but he better pays for that.” “But I really…” “YOU SHUT UP! YOU JUST PAY. Come on, darling. How long.” “Four days.” “FOUR DAYS?” “Five.” “FIVE?!” She was stepping from behind the counter, standing in front of me. “What else do you want, sweetie?” I had raised my hands, “Sorry, this is a misunderstanding, really.” “I REALLY NOT WANT TO HEAR SOMETHING FROM YOU. BUT SCREAMS.” And she used a whip to slash on one of the shelves. I decided to keep my mouth shut. “Can you lock the things so that I can’t get out? With these kinky steel padlocks?” “Of cause. Did he bind you?” “Just fixed me.” “Here is the spare key and you get this little black collar from me for free. Sweet.” “And how do I get a bit more room to move?” “You want chains or ropes.” “Ropes I would bite through. Chains… I don’t know.” “Here. How’s this? What’s your name, sweetie?” “Babsie.” “I’m Thekla the Troll. Here, you have my number. If he hurts you again this bad, you just call me and we’ll have a little fun, will we?” She giggled. “Okay. PAY!” And she was holding me the slot for my checkstick. I slotted in, typed the numbers.

Walking on the sidewalk for while. “You really enjoyed that, did you?” “I did”, she giggled. “That was fun.” “It was eating away much of the money we’ll need to get over the month.” “But it was fun.” She couldn’t stop giggling for a while. “You should have seen your face, man.” “What the fuck.” I said it without much emphasis. “I should have been leery with that black window and just this gothic ’Thekla’s’ sign on it.” She laughed. “Your face, man. Really, I better had shot it with my comm and make it a hit on the net.”

She was still smiling like a cat in the empty goldfish glass, when I paid for the club, my ebbie going down fast. If I had not that money from the alley cats, I’d already had hit bottom. She closing my broken black umbrella she had been wearing when she tugged herself under my arm. The water running from the umbrella down my neck, which was a thing I didn’t care about, when walking with her. In we went, through a mist of showers, more rain and white clouds, another world of mirrors and mist. Surreal turning in from the shattered streets of daylight Touristville.

She was wearing that black bikini thing, that looked like a mini skirt and a asymmetric shoulder-less top, splashing some water into my eyes, still giggling. “Your face, man!”, and she dived. The folk in the club was mixed. There were some tourists, some natives, some people that seem to have anything to do with the red light district at all. These baths were funny places. People were stripped off their clothes and social status, you could have met the drug dealer from the corner and on the other side of the pool there could have been a medium executive from a nearby corporation with his secretary, doing office work in a nice environment. Just with the pimp with his favorite on the other side, sharing a drink.

She said it’s a good way to be seen. This bath. Together. It’s neutral ground. No colours but the aqua blue of the water, the washed white of the walls and the fake mahogany of the lobby and bar.

I dived after her, tried to catch her. But she was fast and agile and I felt clumsy and old. Finally I got her cornered and pushed her down, she struggling and protesting. I let her go and she blew air and water in my face, laughing. “You’re so slow”, and she pressed her body against me. “Don’t”, I said, but she kissed me, then let me go, giggling, but then she went serious and came swimming near me. “Look”, she said. “I know that you feel something for me.” And she turned herself with the back to the curb a stream of water massaging her back. “Not that there would be no physical evidence”, she giggled. “It’s just this”, and she snipped with her fingers. “Don’t do that. Don’t mess with me, would you?” “No.” And her voice was getting serious and she touched my bad hand. The hand I sometimes would turn against me and could be choke me to death when I slept. “No. I don’t. But really, I’m messed up and you are at least as fucked as I am at the moment. I really”, and she let go and was drifting herself in front of me. “I really don’t know what I want. If I want to have sex with you or not. But you always reject me. That hurts.” And she bit her lip. “You know, really that hurts. And without some crank it’s hard to get over that. So please, make up your mind, will you? And think about us. And if you really think you should not. We, I mean. If you really, really think it’s wrong. So wrong? Then you make up your mind about that. Because I’m sick of being rejected. It hurts, like a bolt of light in my belly.”

She touched my stomach with her hand, pulled herself close. “I’m not playing with you. I think I’m not. And it’s not just that I’m messing with you. I think. I’m not sure what I want. But I really like to be with you. I feel good pressing myself against you. Better than anything I have done since some time. Better than anything I felt for some time, even with drugs. So…” And she watched me closely, keeping her mouth just a breath away. “I’m not messing with you. You are messing with me. Next time, I kiss you, you kiss back, will you? If there is anything you feel for me. I’m sick of being rejected. I mean, maybe it’s just the toxic washed from my system. But I really…” “You two, Stop that”, the bath keeper walking by, “last warning. No sex. No fucking in the water.” And he pointed to the sign.

She let go. “But… I…” Maybe she was crying. Tears in the bath. But she was just swimming the lane, not turning back and I watched her, getting control over my body again and get my heart from pumping. And I wouldn’t be able to leave the water for some while. I closed my eyes and let the water carry me. It’s the worst thing anybody can ask you.

What the hell do you want?

We didn’t talk a word for the rest of the time. Water. Two bodies. Hot steamy rooms. Water. Time. Dancing. Eyes. Slowing movement. She just watched me. As I watched her.

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