23180

Nov. 15th, 2009 03:39 pm
backdrifter: I won NaNoWriMo 2009! (nanowrimo 2009)
[personal profile] backdrifter
Dillon was like a hawk, circling Ryan in wide, far-flung arcs during recess as he watched him intently. He was still low-key since Victor had told him off, but he had never stopped viewing Ryan as prey.

Ryan was stuck in a sinkhole he'd fallen into in the corner of the playground when Dillon decided to finally strike. Funny, of course, how Ryan was the only one who'd managed to fall in this hole, funnier still how somehow he could still see everyone around it, which included Dillon striding toward him, fists swinging at his hips.

"Kamikaze!" Dillon shouted, and when he said it it was comma-kozzy, because that was how you said it in English, just like carry-okey and cunny-chawa. Ryan looked up, way up, at Dillon coming at him head-on, and Dillon socked him in the jaw. He supposed he should have thanked Dillon, because the physical sensation of knuckles slamming into his face rescued him from the sinkhole. Instead he staggered, just a single step back, and then knife-handed Dillon in the throat.

Dillon went down with the follow-through punch, because no matter how intimidating Dillon was, no matter how aggressive he was, he was just a culturally devoid white boy, and Ryan was the fist of the rising sun, the palm of the Japanese nation! Dillon was everything he wanted to look like, Dillon was mocking him with his flat cheekbones and red hair, and for this egregious crime he would have to pay.

Dillon had rightfully waited until Ryan was in a shady corner of the playground, a bunch of climbing blocks obstructing the view of the nearest teacher supervising recess, and on some backburner of his mind Ryan delighted in the irony of this tactic being used against Dillon. When Dillon got back up, rubbing his throat but nonetheless charging at Ryan, Ryan blocked the oncoming fist with a sweeping forearm. As Dillon preoccupied himself with trying to get his arm back, Ryan's other hand curled tight and came cannoning upward into Dillon's chin, sending the fair boy careening backward. When he fell his legs flailed in the air before they came down, too, and Ryan came around to stand over Dillon, just by his shoulder.

"Please," Dillon sobbed, obviously sorry he'd messed with the Asian kid (and Ryan hadn't meant to, but he had only reinforced the stereotype that all Asians knew martial arts). He held up his hands beseechingly, though still close to his chest, protective. "Please, I'm real sorry, p-please..."

Ryan looked him over coolly. Dillon's skin was so pale it reflected light, the blue veins in his ungloved hands stark, and though his freckles were barely visible in winter, Ryan always knew they were there. His nose was narrow, his eyes so straight-set they almost looked a little droopy. Unconsciously, Ryan touched a hand to his own face, the high cheekbones, the flattish nose, the eyes that were still slanted enough to point out his ethnicity.

"Comma-kozzy," Ryan muttered, and then his leg swept up over Dillon's abdomen. Dillon started to make some scornful remark about how Ryan had missed him even standing right next to him, and then Ryan knocked the comment out of him with a heel smashing into Dillon's solar plexus.

"Comma-kozzy, comma-kozzy, comma-kozzy!" Ryan said louder now, and he knelt by Dillon's pain-twisted face. "Comma-kozzy!" And a hammer first cracking across the bridge of Dillon's pleasantly-formed nose bloodied it, the red liquid running down the side of his ivory face to the dirty rubber matting that covered most of the playground. "Kamizaki! My name is Kamizaki!"

Big adult hands—slim, brown, Miss Vaughn's—grabbed his wrist on an upward swing, and when he swung his arm around to break the hold, Miss Vaughn sounded even less pleased with him than usual.

"What in the hell is going on here?" she demanded, gesturing wildly at both boys. Dillon was sobbing on the ground, gingerly holding his bloodied (but not broken) nose, his other arm a poor shield over his stomach. When Ryan didn't say anything, just looking at her, she snapped about how this was the last straw, and you're coming with me, mister, and she grabbed him by the forearm to haul him off into the school building. He knew better than to break the hold this time.

The principal's office was on the first floor, which was also where the kindergarteners were put. Four and five year olds stared at him openly from the doors of classrooms as Miss Vaughn dragged him by, until their respective teachers pulled them back in and shut the doors. They made Ryan feel huge, an alien feeling after being made to feel small by Victor for so long.

The principal was one of those who employed the "I'm your principal" catchphrase to try to get students to like him. It worked with some of the nerdier kids, but most students found as stupid as anyone else. His name was Principal Lauer, and he tugged at his grey suit lapels endlessly, just as he kept readjusting his red striped tie. Miss Vaughn pointed Ryan to the seat opposite Principal Lauer, and went to stand next to the principal on the other side of the desk.

"What seems to be the problem?" Principal Lauer asked, looking at Ryan though he was speaking to Miss Vaughn.

"I caught Ryan here beating up Dillon Murrow," Miss Vaughn said, eyeing Ryan as well. "I've never had this kind of problem with him before, and neither has any other teacher." She bent to lean her arms on the principal's desk. "In fact, until recently he'd been a model student, and now either he won't answer in class, or he gives the wrong answer. This is on top of the recent violence." She stood straight again.

"These are serious accusations," Principal Lauer said, speaking to Ryan now. "Young man, what do you have to say for yourself?"

The problem was that everything the principal had just said was tinged with static, because Principal Lauer and Miss Vaughn were inside a TV in front of Ryan. Young man, what do you have to say for yourself? Like an episode of some teen drama. What do you have to say for yourself? Ryan had nothing to say, because a bony hand had stolen them from him before they'd even reached his throat. There was no way he could express this, though, to the adults in the TV, because after all, he had no words, and they were inside an electronic appliance. He decided they couldn't be talking to him anymore, because they were no longer real.

"Ryan, say something." He watched the screen, waiting for a character named Ryan to appear and say whatever it was they wanted to hear, but it never happened. "Ryan." Principal Lauer started snapping his fingers, and then Miss Vaughn reached from inside the TV to grab Ryan's shoulder, pulling him back into the TV. He bit his lower lip until the skin split, trying not to scream, and he struggled to lean away from the screen, but it was like the screen came to him, and he was sitting properly in Principal Lauer's office again.

"Is there something the matter?" Principal Lauer asked, and Miss Vaughn's face appeared in Ryan's line of sight, looking concerned. "Ryan, focus." They sure said his name a lot, Principal Lauer in particular. He seemed to like the way it started off as a growl and ended as a yelp. Ryan thought that was it, anyway.

"Why were you hitting Dillon?" Miss Vaughn said, finally asking a question that actually made sense.

"He hit me," Ryan mumbled, watching his swinging feet. "He called me Kamikaze. He..." Ryan was going to mention that Dillon's nose had been making fun of his nose, but Miss Vaughn stopped him there. She turned his face to inspect his jaw, found the mark of Dillon's fist there, and made a clucking noise behind her teeth.

"Dillon will be punished too," Principal Lauer said, "but you must remember that violence is never the answer." Violence is never the answer. Ryan was starting to fall out of the TV again. Miss Vaughn pulled him back in with a hand on his shoulder. "I'm going to have to call your parents, Ryan."

Ryan couldn't bring himself to care. He knew he was righteous, he knew that in destroying the monster called Dillon he'd only done good, and it was only an adult opinion that he'd been wrong. He twiddled his thumbs, blank-faced.

Chubby, pasty fingers did a little polka on the keypad of the chunky phone on the desk, and Principal Lauer lifted the handset to his face, tugging again at his tie with his other hand. He seemed to wait forever, drumming his fingers on his desk top, and just as he looked at the clock on the wall, he swallowed his next breath and snapped to attention. "Yes, may I please speak to... Naomi Kami... Kamikaze? Kamizaki? Kamika—ah. Ah, yes, I apologize. Yes. Yes. ... This is Principal Lauer calling about your son, Ry—yes, he's been a very good boy until lately." He glanced at Ryan. "We had to pull him off a classmate today, as he was brutalizing him."

Ryan tuned out the rest of the conversation, his thoughts nonexistent—until he spotted Not-Victor standing to Principal Lauer's other side. His fingers froze, his entire body stopped. Not-Victor's smile started small, and grew until each side touched his ears, the natural corners shredding open to accommodate what seemed to be hundreds of teeth. He lifted an open hand slowly, waved it, and said, "Hi, Ryan."

Not-Victor flung both arms out, and fell forward to crash palm-first onto the desk, inky eyes never leaving Ryan's. His left knee lifted to clip Principal Lauer's ear, but the principal didn't seem to notice. Victor crawled across the desk toward Ryan, the tears in his face from mouth to ears oozing dark blood. Ryan shrieked, and he threw himself from the chair sideways. Miss Vaughn and Principal Lauer looked up almost in unison, Ryan's mother a squawk for attention from the handset, and Miss Vaughn was telling him to sit back down but Ryan was off.

He swung around the doorframe of the principal's office, through the maze of cubicles that was the main office, and then he was in the hallway, the kindergarteners now safely locked into their classrooms. Every time he looked behind him, Not-Victor was there, walking—strolling—no more than ten feet away. He raced for the boys' bathroom, and when he slammed the heavy wooden door behind him, he exhaled hard in relief. Not-Victor hadn't followed him in here.

"Oh, Ryan," a horrible voice said from behind him, and when Ryan whipped around to look, Not-Victor was leaning against the radiator by the windows, licking the blood from his face as his hand slipped under the waistband of his tight jeans. "Oh-oh-oh, ohhh, Ryan..."

Ryan screamed, the sound tearing itself from his throat, and he threw the bathroom door open again to make his escape. He ran directly into Miss Vaughn, who caught him by both arms and gave him a little shake.

"Have you lost your mind?" she snapped as she knelt to be eye level with him. "What is wrong with you, what do you think you're doing running off like that?" It was then that they both noticed the tears on Ryan's face—he'd been so afraid he hadn't even known he'd started to cry—and she wiped one off his cheek with a brown thumb, frowning. "Ryan, what happened?"

How could she have not seen Not-Victor? How could she have missed a teenager in an elementary school, never mind that his face had been ripped open, or that he had shark's teeth behind those rips. He looked at her as though she were crazy, and to be honest he did think she was crazy, to not have noticed such a...person enter the room.

"Didn't you see him?" he whispered, searching her confused eyes. "H-his face, it was cut open..." He drew imaginary lines on his own face, from the corners of his mouth out to each ear. "All the way out, and... He was crawling on the desk..."

"Who was?" Miss Vaughn asked, looking more worried than ever. "Do you mean Principal Lauer? But he was sitting the whole—"

"No!" Ryan interrupted. "No, next to Principal Lauer, he was coming for me, he—'Ryan! Ryan!' He was coming for me!" He tried to twist out of her arms now, trying to check and make sure that Not-Victor was not standing right behind him, but Miss Vaughn held him straight, angling her face so she was always looking him in the eye.

"Ryan," she said slowly, "I think you might be sick." She held her hand against his forehead, and when he felt cool to the touch, she shook her head. "Not regular sick, but definitely, there's something wrong. I think you need to see a doctor."

"No, no, no, no," Ryan whimpered, staring at the floor. Doctors knew things just by looking at you, and Ryan was sure that the doctor would know about VIctor, just by looking at him. He would know that Ryan knew more than any nine year old should know about how a mature male body worked, he would know that Ryan had seen how that body worked. "Don't call the doctor, not the doctor, don't call the doctor!"

"We're going to call your parents again," Miss Vaughn said in a considerably softer voice, pressing the back of her hand to Ryan's cheek, a final check for fever. "Are you sure you feel alright?"

"Don't call," Ryan said, but Miss Vaughn was getting up now, and she took Ryan by the hand to lead him back to the principal's office.

"What happened to him?" Principal Lauer asked when Ryan was sitting down again, hands folded meekly in his lap. It seemed he'd hung on on Ryan's mother in all the commotion.

"I don't know," Miss Vaughn said with a weary voice. "He says he saw something, but he's too old for imaginary friends, so, ugh. I think he might just be sick. No fever, though." She stood by Ryan now, arms crossed and weight shifted to one leg. "I think you should call his mother back to come pick him up."

"You're still in trouble, young man, sick or not," Principal Lauer said, shaking a finger at him, but nevertheless he picked the phone back up, fingers beating a seven digit tattoo on the keypad of the phone.

His mother arrived forty minutes later, to gather him into a cab and take him home. Just like Miss Vaughn, she put her hand to Ryan's temple, frowned when she didn't find a fever. "You are a little warm," she admitted. "But no fever."

When they got home, Victor was waiting in Ryan's bedroom—real Victor, with square front teeth and tired eyes—and he pulled the covers back for Ryan to climb in. Ryan's mother pulled his coat and shoes off, then his sweater and pants, Victor standing well clear of the pair of them, and then Ryan rolled into the bed, where his mother pulled the covers over his shoulders neatly.

"Thank you so much for coming by," she said, holding Victor's hand with both of hers to shake it. "I hope you're not missing any class, Victor."

"We had a substitute for last period and she dismissed us early," Victor said, flashing her a little smile. "It's okay."

"Oh, you have a bruise on your face, you know," she said, staring at it. "Are you alright?"

"I tripped," Victor said, touching it. "Maybe you've noticed I'm not very graceful, haha..."

"Well, try to look where you're going," she said, smiling in bemusement. "I have to go back to work, but again thank you so, so much, Victor, I swear I'll pay you double for this."

"Don't even worry about it, Mrs. Kay," Victor said, waving her off. "Have fun at work."

"Uh-huh, right," she said, rolling her eyes before she darted off. "Bye, you two!"

The door locked behind her audibly, and the two boys looked at each other in silence.

"What happened?" Victor finally asked, and he, too, did the hand thing. "Jeez, you're warm..."

"Nothing," Ryan muttered, and he turned over in bed to face away from Victor. "I got into a fight, but I dunno why they sent me home."

"You're sick, kid, that's why." Victor's fingers made little walking motions on Ryan's temple, pulling his hair out of his eyes. "I think you're getting a fever."

"They said I didn't have one." Terse.

"It's coming, though." There was a long pause, and then Victor rested a hand on Ryan's waist. "I'm sorry, for what it's worth."

"Sorry for what? You didn't make me sick," Ryan told the wall, and a little bit of his pillow.

"You know what I mean."

"You're not gonna stop, are you?" The inflection in his voice was flat, not hoping for anything. Asking just to ask.

"I want to stop, Ryan." Victor's voice was always soft, submissive, these days.

"I miss you," Ryan mumbled, and the hand on his waist withdrew. "I miss how you used to be."

Victor left the room, and didn't come back until an hour later, when he returned with a sandwich and a glass of milk for Ryan. Even then, he sat quietly on the corner of the bed, looking at his toes. He didn't touch Ryan once, though.


Ryan's fever spiked at 101°F the next morning, his mother tutting as she wiped his saliva from the thermometer. Victor couldn't come to watch him, ostensibly because he was in school, and she couldn't take a day off from work, so their retiree neighbor from across the hall moved into their living room for the day. Mrs. Allen paid Ryan very little attention, leaving his bedroom door open so she could hear him if he shouted while she crocheted on the couch and watched daytime television.

Mrs. Allen brought a grandchild with her, however, who couldn't stop paying Ryan attention. He was a good three years older than Ryan, but mentally he was somewhere in the vicinity of five years old. His name was Peter, with wispy light brown hair and blank hazel eyes. Peter started by standing in the doorway of Ryan's bedroom, chewing his fingertips as he watched him intently. Ryan thought it was mildly annoying, but he turned over in bed and did his best to fall asleep, and with that he shut Peter out.

When he woke up, covers sweaty and twisted, Peter was standing by the bed, clearly fascinated by what he saw. Ryan flailed to get away from him, almost falling off the other side of the bed. From that safe side of the bed he observed Peter's chapped knuckles, the bad skin and protuberant Adam's apple that signaled the oncoming of manhood, the drool on his chin. If anyone was "apart," it was Peter, not him. People could see Peter's separateness. The worst part was that Peter wasn't even aware of his separation, couldn't feel it even though everybody could see it, and Ryan felt it burning through him every day.

He grabbed Peter by the face.

Peter howled, gangly red hands slapping at Ryan's wrist, but Ryan only pushed, sending Peter stumbling away from the bed. Mrs. Allen was partially deaf; the open door was just a gesture. Ryan heaved himself out of bed, and the cold air hit him like hammers, but he dragged himself forward anyway. Peter made pleading, moaning noises, and Ryan backhanded him. The rush was delectable as Peter crashed to the floor, long limbs windmilling as he squawked. Peter was going to be tall, too, Peter with his pathetic light-colored eyes and his brown hair that caught the light from various angles. Ryan snarled. "Shut up."

He stepped over Peter's torso, sat slowly on his waist and waited for the room to stop spinning. Peter struck out wildly with floppy hands, and Ryan gathered his wrists to cross them over the older boy's chest, pinning them there one-handedly. Peter mewled unhappily, head knocking against the floor.

"You're separate, Peter," Ryan said, and if voices could be poisonous, his would be dripping into Peter's eyes, searing them blind. "You're not like everybody else. You're—" and he paused looking for the word that might cause the most pain, "You're a freak is what you are, Peter." A dizzy spell rocked him, and Peter burst free of his hold, bucking him off to stagger upright. Unbalanced, he careened into Ryan's dresser, and then launched himself into the hallway, making noises that sounded like sobbing. Ryan rolled to his feet, gripping the corner of the bed to steady himself, and then he was off after the autistic boy.

He found Peter cowering in the kitchen, apparently under the illusion that the tall stools around the island that served as the dining table would hide him adequately. Ryan approached him silently, and Peter let out a strangled noise of surprise when he discovered Ryan next to him. Ryan softened his face, and offered a hand of peace to Peter as he said, "Hey, Peter, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that."

Peter stood slowly, eyes looking everywhere but Ryan, and Ryan stood on tiptoe to pull a miniature chocolate chip cookie out of the cookie jar—shaped like a daruma, one of his Japanese relatives' jokes. He put it on Peter's fingers, pulled the boy's thumb around so that he grasped the cookie properly. "I'm sorry, Peter. Have a cookie." Ryan felt white noise behind him, could feel his own words pushing him to the edge of the TV screen that he knew was there—have a cookie—but he held fast, watching Peter intently.

Peter stood still for a long moment, and Ryan wondered if he'd registered a word he'd said. Then Peter lifted the cookie to his mouth, finally trusting that Ryan meant it.

Ryan slapped the cookie out of Peter's hand, and Peter screeched. He tried to crouch to get it back, succeeding only in crashing to his knees, and when he reached for the fallen cookie Ryan kicked it across the linoleum, out of Peter's immediate reach. He started coughing, and Peter took the opportunity to throw himself cookie-ward, but Ryan forced his last cough out and drove his elbow into Peter's back, flattening him. Peter curled up on his side, far from the cookie and crying, and Ryan knelt next to him.

"I'm normal," Ryan whispered, more for his own benefit than Peter's, and he felt the static of the giant TV melt away. "I'm not apart. I'm like everyone else." He touched his own face. "Nobody can tell..." And he touched Peter's face. "You're not normal, and everyone can see that. Everyone can see you're a freak, Peter, you're not right, you're not normal." Peter wailed, tears streaming down his face, and Ryan grabbed him by the jaw, forcing him to face him, though still Peter's eyes rolled like a panicked animal's. "Look at me when I'm talking! You can't even look at me, you're the freak of nature! Not me!"

Peter threw his head back, moaning, and Ryan slapped him with his free hand. "Pay attention! Pay attention, pay attention, pay attention!" Something he'd been told a thousand times lately. "Pay attention!" He still held Peter's face, but with his other hand he pulled at the elastic waistband of the older boy's faded navy sweatpants, fingers passing the top of Peter's underwear. He gagged when he felt hair, overwhelmed with all his other memories of the sensation, and his head literally rolled. His hand fell away from Peter's face to hit the cold kitchen floor, and the temperature pulled him back to reality, just barely.

Peter grabbed his wrist with both palms, and Ryan could swear his brain was spinning inside his head, he felt so nauseous, but Peter was focusing now, was paying attention. Peter was not as big as Victor, but it was still enough that Ryan's whole hand wasn't enough to hold onto him. Peter's head slammed against the faux tiles of the floor, wham wham wham, still howling, and when Ryan—dizzy, fevered, nauseous with memory and illness—made him ruin the front of his sweatpants, he outright screamed, clawing at Ryan's ears. Ryan withdrew his hand as if bitten, trying to get away from the sticky feeling, and he scuttled backward.

Peter left him alone for the rest of the day—for the rest of his time in the building, in fact—but when Ryan washed his hands with scalding water and buried himself under his covers, he found he felt no less apart than he had before. If anything, he felt ten times worse.
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