December 25th 2015, Early Morning
“You useless piece of shit!” A shout shattered the silence and I woke up as Nana was shoved into the room.
I pushed myself to an upright position just in time to see Boss throw Nana against the table. She cried out and collapsed to the ground. I started to stand but Boss pointed his shaking finger at me, “Don’t you move, boy.”
I froze and sunk to my knees as Boss dragged Nana to her feet by her neck. “You think you’re more important than my reputation, kid?” Nana didn’t struggle, struggling only made things worse. I felt my nails dig into my knees. In the silence of the night, I could hear her gasps for breath in between his words. “You’re not even worth the upkeep!” Even in the darkness, even with the few feet of distance I could see the veins on the back of his hand pop out as he tightened his grip on her throat. Her legs started to kick and she started to claw at his forearm.
She’s going to die.
The thought had barely come to my mind before I transported onto Boss’s back, my arms wrapped around his neck, squeezing tightly. Nana fell to the ground and for some reason I didn’t know, I still held onto Boss. Even as he pulled on my arms and backed up, slamming me into the wall. Part of me, a large part of me, was still kneeling and watching everything unfold. I didn’t feel any pain, but even still I think I was crying. Or maybe I just wanted to. My vision narrowed until all I saw was a small square of Boss’s dark brown hair and my skin burned were my forearms touched his neck. I held on and held on and held on.
Until I heard my name being called over and over, “Kioshi! Kioshi! Kioshi!” I realized the burn on arms was a cold one and there were warm hands on my back. I blinked a few times. Boss was under me, not moving. Nana was shaking my shoulders and calling my name, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Kioshi, he’s dead!”
I stood up, stumbled on legs that weren’t all there, and collapsed against Nana. Wrapping my arms around her and squeezing tightly, I transported us away.
December 25th 2015, Early Evening
I woke up with my head in Nana’s lap. Her body hunched over me, shielding my head from the rain. When her eyes locked with mine, tears started pouring, “What are we going to do?”
I had no answer so I rolled over, wrapped my arms around her, and buried my face in her stomach…
“Rain on Christmas fucking sucks!” The sound of a young man’s voice, startled me into squeezing Nana tighter and turning us both unseeable. But I was still tired from transporting us and the unseeability wore off quickly and the two teenage boys saw us as they rounded the street corner. They stopped, “Are you okay?” the blonde one asked.
I jumped to my feet, holding Nana’s hand, dragging her with me as I started to run.
But I hadn’t run since before Boss, since before the Syndicate, since before my legs became like a cat’s. Pain tore through my legs and I fell, pulling Nana down with me. My heart beat rapidly as their footsteps quickly chased us down. The blonde one, his pale face red with cold, put a gloved hand on my shoulder, “Are you okay? Let us help you.”
December 26th 2015, Morning
I sat on the bathroom floor with my back against the sink as Nana threw up into the toilet next to me. Quiet voices drifted through the door, “We can’t just keep useless stray.”
“Come on, Reese. The girl is pregnant.”
“All the more reason to kick them out now! Cause we sure as hell don’t have room for three!”
“Kioshi?” Nana asked, her voice rough from the burn of puke. “I’m not going back. If they don’t let us stay, then I choose to die.”
I couldn’t respond to her…
I heard the sound of a palm connecting with skin, “If I had said that when you needed the Phantoms, where do you think you’d be now?” An unfamiliar woman’s voice cut through me. I found myself standing up and starting for the bathroom door, wanting to listen closer. As I reached my hand out for the door, it was thrown open and in strode a woman with tan skin and frizzy gray hair. “Welcome to the Phantom’s! Please call me Mother!”
December 27th 2015, Afternoon
I sat on the double bed Nana and I now shared in the Phantom’s worn down home, Nana’s head in my lap. Her long black hair and rabbit ears splayed across my legs as she hugged my thigh as she slept.
A light knock came at our bedroom door. I put a hand over Nana’s ears and answered, “Yes?”
The door opened slowly and the blonde one, Aaron, poked his head into the room. “Hey Kioshi, Nana – Oh.” His voice became softer when he saw Nana laying down. “I have some clothes for you guys.” He set a bag down and closed the door behind him.
January 1st 2016, Midnight
Sparkling grape juice spilled over my hand as Reese clinked his glass against mine. “Happy New Years and welcome to the Phantoms!” I flinched at the loud laugh Reese barked out.
Drunks tend to be rougher.
I scooted my chair a little bit away from him, closer to Nana, who was staring down at the worn table, her glass of sparkling grape juice untouched in front of her.
My heart jumped at the sound of a glass being put down too harshly. I looked across the table at “Mother”. Her hand held her glass loosely and she watched me intensely, her gray eyes cold and unblinking.
January 1st 2015, Early Afternoon
I didn’t sleep. As “Mother”, Aaron, and Nana went to bed shortly after one in the morning and Reese passed out drunk on the worn out couch in the living room right off the dining room, I stayed awake. Sitting at the table. Even when Reese woke up at four and passed me on his way to bed, I stayed.
We were useless. Dead weight. What could we even do for them, none of them even seemed to want to fuck us. The room around me was cold and the furniture old and falling to pieces. They don’t have that much and they are sharing it with us. I put my hand over my crotch. What else could they want from us? What else am I good for?
The light filtered through the broken blinds as dawn broke. And I still sat. As the sun climbed higher and the sounds of the day happened outside, I sat.
After a few hours, the coffee maker began to drip in the kitchen behind me. “Kioshi? Have you been here all night?” Aaron’s voice was tired and hoarse as he called to me from the kitchen. I turned around to face him.
He wore an old stained T-shirt and boxers. His blonde hair was messy, falling into his eyes and his slender fingers were wrapped around a chipped coffee mug. I’d never seen him not wearing gloves.
“Have you been here all night?” He repeated, coming closer. I nodded and he frowned. “Is everything okay?”
“What do you want from us?”
He set his mug down on the table, rubbing the back of his neck and shaking his head. “Nothing really… I mean if you want to stay forever, you’ll have to pull your own weight eventually, but we’ll teach you everything you need to know.” He smiled down at me, the dimples on his cheeks so deep I thought I might get lost in them.
“All I’ve ever been useful for is sex…”
The chair beside me creaked as Aaron collapsed into it. I stared at his bare thighs as he folded his legs underneath himself. “Mother was right… You’re one of the Syndicate’s… Hey, look at me!” He snapped his fingers in front of my face, pulling my eyes up to meet his serious, determined ones. “The people who told you that are fucking liars, okay? You are worth so much more.” His eyes frosted over, “And if anyone touches you without your permission ever again… I will kill them myself.”