"Jeurridam: A Fool's Paradise" - Chapter 5


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, 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.
“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 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 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.
Everything in my head was kind of mucky right now. I couldn’t really focus on things I needed. This mesmerizing place could do that to you. Of course, I was still very much in my struggle. I pretty much forgot why I was here. I had to stop and focus…. Yeah, a tent and blankets! I went to the utility stretch, still thinking about anything I could possibly need.
There were tent kits everywhere! I simply picked one, not being too fussy. My budget couldn’t call for anything too top of the line. I had to get fuel for fire which was very easy to come across. We simply used imported toilet paper, alcohol and old tin cans. Then came time to buy blankets and bedding. It was a long walk to the other side of A Fool’s Paradise but nonetheless, I made the trip. The few hundreds of dollars I had began to whittle further and further down. So much for stretching this money for as long as I could. Something had to be done because I didn’t even have enough money to buy myself food.
Sighing, I made my way back to Henderson contemplating what could be done to earn extra money. I had stolen someone’s cart to make carrying all the necessities I bought easier. It was unguarded so why not steal it? Upon reaching the truck, I placed the blankets in the rear seats of the truck. The flame tools were placed on the floor and the tent, in the bed of the truck. All the while, I was contemplating what could be done to to earn more money. There was only one thing I knew for a fact I was good at… and it’d take my last few pennies.
But first, I had to relocate my truck. I drove to another condemned area, Dredge Valley. It was condemned for an entirely different reason than the refinery in A99. Many strange creatures have been pulled out of the Bay of Vegas and many people have been reported missing in the region. I knew these rumours were authentic because I’ve seen one of these creatures dead before. I was here that day when they dredged the abomination out of the bay because I temporarily had a job as a dredger. Shortly after, I quit, running back to daddy to tell him of my horrifying experience.  
It was all an excuse to go back home and free-load. But now, things were different. The Vegas dredging project was abandoned shortly after many of the workers went missing. Dredge Valley was now where all outcasts headed, finding them a remote patch of thicket to call their own. I was about to do the same.
I looked at my gas hand. It continued to dwindle down as I drove. Not only would I have to feed and clothe myself in the future, I’d have to put petrel in this tank. This was now do or die. Upon reaching a secluded area in Dredge Valley, I made my way back to Fool’s Paradise. The sun was beginning to set and the scape of the city was beginning to change. The nightlife was about to take form.
My mission was to head to the novelty store. I knew my way around them all too well. With the last few dollars I had, I was gonna buy a pack of cigarettes… and some Illisian braided tights. They were the weakness to many men of A Fool’s Paradise. With no more money, there was no turning back. It was now time to become apart of the markets of A Fool’s Paradise.
I changed out of my t-shirt, boot-cut jeans and jacket in one of the many alleys of the region, placing them behind several vacant boxes. The braided tights were, as the name suggested, tight! But the leather texture gripped areas like no other clothing could. Even my scrawny frame looked like something with these tights on. I had lost a lot of weight since I got addicted to cocaine… My muscles and tone simply faded away. All I had left was a tight V-shaped physique stretched over a six foot frame. I wasn’t completely just...nothingness. There were still some muscles left but they were nowhere near the way they were two years ago.
Standing on an isolated corner, smoking a cigarette, it didn’t take long to draw some attention. An old man riding in a very, very, very old car rolled down his window in front of me.
“You’re looking for a ride?” He asked. I knew his type. He was going to pleasure himself with me, and then say I did a terrible job and pay me as little as he could. I gave him an eye roll.
“You couldn’t afford me…” I sighed. He drove off as I exhaled the fumes from the cigarettes.
Minutes later, another old man came by with a much, much better ride. He rolled down his window, looking at me from head to toe.
“You wanna night around the town?” He asked. I looked at him, my gaze burning through his offer. He was another type, very common around these parts. He’d lure you in, take you back to his home, drug you and do tortuous things to you for days at a time then eventually let you go...with no money. It was all in how he asked the question…
“I’d recommend,” I began, “You go to East Paradise where the newbs are… They’d be easy victims…” He looked shocked, rolling up the passenger window, driving off really fast! I couldn’t help but laugh.
Then came the roamer. A dark skinned dude, wearing very svelte jacket and leather pants made his way down the path. He wore sunglasses… at night… I already knew what this was gonna be about, puffing on my cigarette.
“Hey,” He said, “My territory, bud.” I slowly turned to him, a devilish smile coming across my face. I puffed smoke out of my nose before returning to staring aimlessly at the night market. “Did you hear me?” He rushed forward, ready to move me off his lot. I side stepped his advance, reaching in my rear to grab my knife.
I placed a firm hand on his throat, slamming him against the building. I edged the knife closer to his throat, my smile broadening as the horror in his eyes grew.
“This,” I began, “Is our territory…”
“Dude…” He pled.
“Who do you work for?” I asked.
“Rachi…” He said.
“Awe,” I smiled, “Poor kid… You’ll learn…”
“Just let me go…” He begged.
“So you can snitch? Or worse… Get yourself hurt? How long have you been doing this, kid?” I asked.
“A few months.” He said.
I eased up my grip.
“Stick with me for tonight and I won’t come back to your territory again.” I sighed, letting him go. He just stood there lost, “I just ran off two guys that would have taken more advantage of you than you would have liked…”
“What?” He asked, confused. I went back to leaning to the side of the building.
“Do the Rachi clan have a serve all who come policy?” I asked.
“Yeah…” He said, very angry that I ran off two potential clients.
“Damn… They just don’t care…” I sighed, puffing on my cigarette.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“They simply want their money… they don’t care what will happen to their workers…” I said. He stared for a long time.
“You worked these streets before?”
“Yeah. When I was strung out on cocaine, this was a big part of my life… I’d make money to simply give it away to get a fucking drug…” I explained.
“You were on cocaine and you got off?” He asked, shocked.
“I had a lot of help… help I never would have thought would come.”
“Well if you had so much help, how’d you end up back here?” He asked, truly skeptical.
“No matter what they tell you about how this is good for you, that someone has to do it, that you should be lucky for this position… Don’t buy into it. You’ll either end up a slave to drugs or a slave to someone’s fist. I ended up back here because I messed up what I had back at home and now I’m on my own. It’s a start… a way to put a little cash in my pocket until I work my way up. This,” I explained, “is only the beginning…”
“Work your way up?”
“I don’t plan on selling myself forever,” I said, a group of young, well-off looking guys catching my eye, “Those are the type of dudes you want…”
The young man looked to the group, unsure what I saw.
“My god, they aren’t teaching you at all are they?” I sighed, “They are rich kids, out on the town looking for ways to blow money. They come from far and wide and are easiest to take advantage of… You ready?”
Excitement filled the young man’s eyes.
“Yes!” He said. I smiled.
“Your name?”  
“Luke…” He said.
“Ezekiel…” I responded, walking towards the group of young men, “Act like we know each other…”
The young men saw us coming, Luke and I looking very striking to the foreigners. Now, I wasn’t one to brag, but I knew I was a good looking fellow. Some people tended to over exaggerate the way I look but I was decent. Luke also was a very handsome young man, dark caramel skin, black wavy hair and green eyes that came to say hi as he took his sunglasses off. He was ever so slightly shorter than I was but a bit more muscular. However, it was clear he didn’t know what to do with his awesome little body. Tonight would be his ultimate test.
“So,” I said to make it seem like Luke and I went way back, “There was this one guy I had to tour around. He was so breathless the whole way through, I was getting frustrated. But he was really excited to see all of Paradise so I took the extra step to ask him was he alright, did he need anything extra…”
“You two tour guides?” One of the foreigners asked, his Mojave accent heavy!!! Luke and I paused.
“Yeah.” I said, getting a good look at them. There were about five guys, each one looking like boys from the northern Mojave. They were all glazed skinned, curly haired, fur and tight wearing douchey looking dudes desperate to get out of their home settlements. All were undeniably cute.
“We’ve been looking for guides all day!” The foreigner said, glad to see us, oblivious to the fact that there were no guides in the city. Easy… Pickings…
“Well the city isn’t really alive during the day. At night is when the markets turn into casinos, hotels into rings, and pool houses into bath houses… That’s the Paradise you want to see.” I smiled. The foreigner returned a smile, nodding. He looked back at his boys, all seeming to have a mutual thought.
“Come on…” I said walking backwards, “Luke and I will show you around.”
“Luke?” The foreigner asked, looking at the boy from head to toe. He then looked at me, “What’s your name?”
“I’m… Zeek.” I smiled.
We led the boys through the central ruins of Paradise.
“This…” I said pointing at a rusted gold lion statue, “Is called the Lion of Judah. I’m not sure where it is from but it’s been here for hundreds of years…”
“Whoa, was there an animal that looked like that?” One of the foreigners asked. I spun around, dumbfounded.
“Yes.” I smiled, “But they were not from here. They were from across the great ocean to the east.” I literally had read about lions probably a few days before this. Thank God, I did.
“So are they different from pumas?” Another asked. I thought hard on it.
“Yeah, I beleive lions are considerably larger than pumas.” I said.
“Are they as big as the statue?” He asked.
“No.” I laughed, really amused by how dumb they were. Uncle was right! Knowledge was power in these parts. I could lie to these fools and get anything I wanted out of them, “Come on!”
I led them towards a large red spiraling mass of metal.
“What’s this?” Someone asked.
“This,” Luke said, taking over, “Was a ride from long, long ago. They had got it working a few years back but they shut it down.”
“Ride? Who jumbled it all up? That thing literally goes upside down! Where would it take you?” The foreigner asked.
“It’s not a ride to take you places,” I began, “It’s a ride to make you shit your pants. I read someone that it is called a roller coaster?” I wasn’t too sure, “The only thing I know… is that they are fast…”
“Awe shit! I’d love to ride it!” A boy said, mesmerized by the bright red steel structure.
“Sorry,” Luke said, “It doesn’t work any more.”
“But, it’s not the only thrill to be had here…” I smiled. Luke and I looked at each other, knowing there was a deeper meaning to that statement, “Luke, let’s take them to the Casino District.”
“Casino District?” A guy asked.
“It is amazing guys… So many games, so many gambles, so much to win…”
“So much to lose…” I interrupted, “But, we’re here… We’ll be your… escorts through this region. We’ll make you love it….”
“We’ll love it huh?” A guy from the rear asked. I turned to him, giving him a smile.
After a brisk, five minute walk, we reached the Casino District. It was a vast indoor market where any and everything could and would happen. Shit, everything humanly possible probably has already happened here.
“This,” Luke said spinning, taking this entire place in, “Is. The. Casino. District. It’s where people go to gamble their troubles away, get drunk, find them a nice whore and wake up the next morning feeling refreshed as ever! But you must be warned…”
“Yes you must!” I said adding to this place, “It’s called A Fool’s Paradise for a reason. Boys like you are sought after far and wide here. You support this industry. Nasty people will lure you in to gamble but cheat you out of your money… It’s not a place for the inexperienced.”
“Yeah,” A foreigner said, “I found that out the hard way.”
“Awe,” I said, “Wish I could make it up to you. This place is really no joke…”
“Well, here it is guys… This is the go-to destination.” Luke smiled.
“Well the Abode District is the last place… We still have to show them that, or we’d not be doing our job…” I smiled, hinting to Luke.
“Of course!” He smiled, catching on swiftly.
“Come on guys!” I said, grabbing the nearest foreigner by the hand.
Luke and I led the boys through the Casino District over to the Abode District. They were virtually the same, only a few platforms and bridges apart. The Abode District was home to some of the most gorgeous courts one could spend the night in. I knew them in and out.
“This,” I smiled, “Is where everyone wants to spend their nights. These suites are the most lavished in the lands with luxuries unlike anything you’ve ever seen. They’re expensive but they are better than other suites in any other region.”
“Guys, ya’ll wanna book here for tonight?” A foreigner asked.
“Sure…” Another said.
“Why not?”
“Well, Luke,” I said giving him a double high-five, “Looks like we’re off the clock!” Luke nodded smiling, but he was definitely unsure. I grabbed his hand, walking away with him.
“Wait for it….” I whispered.
“You guys wanna chill with us?” A foreigner asked. Luke looked amazed. I smiled at him, nodding slowly and arrogantly.
“Well we do things a little differently after hours.” I smiled, “We come with a willingness...and a price…”  
“What kind of price.” The dude responded, arms folded.
“It depends,” I said, prowling around, “On how much you’re willing to pay… I can give you a quick thrill… Or the best night of your lives… You decide.”      
The boys laughed between each other, discussing something in a strange regional dialect. I looked to Luke who simply looked surprised.
“OK,” I began, “There are five guys. We gotta give it our all to make them pay top dollar… I mean we gotta milk them for every penny...multiple rounds, sucking the life out of each one of them… tricks! Anything…. What ever we collect, we split the proceeds fifty-fifty.”
“I um… I gotta pay my boss though. What if it’s….”
“Trust me!” I said, reassuring the boy, “They’re young and stupid. They’ll pay every single penny they have if we just lay it on’em right…”
“But what if they don’t?” Luke asked, full of worry.
“I’m not one they’d want to cross…” I said, “I’ll get the money… one way...or another!” A smile came across Luke’s face.
The plan was now in effect. The five Mojave boys booked the most lavish room in the entire land. We headed up the stairs, the boys joking around in the Mojave tongue. Luke was a bit concerned, but I wasn’t. They were just talking about all the ways they’d fuck us. Oh, if only they knew…
“So…” one of the Mojave boy’s asked, unlocking the door, “What do you have planned for us?” I smiled devilishly.
“Well,” I smiled, “I’d hate to spoil the surprise.”
This room was gorgeous! High pillars surrounded the suite being made of solid white marble. In the center were large comfortable couches made out of the tenderest lamb skin. Those tender seats were going to get stained! Next to them were end tables with gorgeous lamps on them. In the center of the in room lounge was an ebony coffee table with a few coasters and magazines on them. I’d hate to get those magazines wet…
There was a state of the art kitchenette, of course the Logatti name being on the appliances. Across the room was a group of satin sectionals near a balcony. I really wanted to test out their durability with some forceful pounding. Not to mention, there were several other sleeping quarters in the suite, including a masters and several guest rooms.
“This place is fucking nice.” A Mojave boy said, looking around.
“Well…” I said, sitting on a sofa. Luke sat next to me, unsure what came next.
I kicked off my slippers placing my legs on his thighs. He looked at me shocked. The question, ‘what are you doing?’ was written all over his face. With a nimble toe, I gently ran my foot up and down his crotch. His head seemed to become an unbearable weight as he let it rest on the pillows of the couch. There definitely were more tricks up my sleeve.
Eventually Luke looked at me. He grabbed me leg, reeling me in closer. I wonder did he get what I was trying to do. He climbed onto me, kissing me from my abdominals to pectorals, to my neck then a plant on my lips. He wedged himself between my legs as he dropped to my ear.
“What the fuck are you doing!” He whispered. I caressed his head, acting as though he was nibbling on me ear. I squirmed as though his very touch made me melt.
“I’m making them feel like they’re missing out.” I whispered back, biting my lip to make this look as convincing as possible.
“Oh.” He whispered back before he started kissing on my neck. It looked just as convincing as it felt. I dug my nails under his jacket and into his back. Moans began to seep out as Luke skillfully tested my melting points.
“Hey!” A mojave boy called out, “You’re supposed to be doing that to us!” Luke and I exchanged brief looks, Luke truly surprised by my ability to call these events. He looked at the boy standing there, full of lust. He pointed to a recliner.
“Sit…” He said. The boy did so, unsure what was about to happen. Luke’s jacket came off revealing a very buff body underneath. He laid his jacket on the sofa smiling at me.
“Watch this…” His lips mouthed as stretched his arms above his head. He leaned back swiftly into an arch. He brought his legs over his head one at a time before repeating. He gracefully tumbled his way over to where the boy was sitting at. He nimbly planted his feet on the wobbly recliner, his spine curling over. He was face to face with the boy despite his precarious position.
“Whoa.” The Mojave native said. Luke brought his head down even more, kissing the boy.
I watched from my end, Luke having surprises of his own. I felt a presence looming over me. A hand began to fiddle it’s way down my spine. I looked back and another Mojave native was there, obviously very horny.
“So,” He began, “What can you do?”
Luke wasn’t the only limber boy here. Again, before I was strung out on drugs, my body was everything. I worked out so much, on top of being double jointed making me one dextrous ass person. Even after months of absence from this scene, I still had it!
Nimbly, I contorted unfurling my legs, planting them on each arm of the chair. Now in a middle split, I leaned across the sofa’s attached cushions, pulling the Mojave boy in for a kiss. He melted in my hands as I continued to crawl forth. Something was telling me he had very little experience with men.
I climbed completely over the couch, continuing to kiss him. In a fluid movement, I spun us around, his back on on the base of the sofa. I gradually unbuttoned his shirt, kissing from his neck to his shoulders, to his chest to his chiseled abs. I laid eyes on that bulge beneath his tights. I slowly pulled them down, excited to see what he was working with.
His wiry bush was the first thing I saw. I inhaled, wanting to memorize his unique masculine signature. Continuing to pull down his tights, I could make out the base of a modest shaft. Eventually, it popped out from it’s containment, begging to be free from the first time he saw me. It was a nice size, about six and a half, seven inches long with a very girthy circumference. He was uncircumcised as well… my favorite to play with.
I wrapped a gentle hand around his shaft, looking up smiling. He didn’t know what was in store, not even aware of a thing called oral sex. These boys were as sheltered as they come! I remember those days too. This night would be a learning experience unlike anything he ever had before. I kissed the head of his cock before caressing the sensitive underside with a gentle tongue. His toes curled, fingers digging into the sofa.
Inch by slow inch, I engrossed his shaft with my mouth. He looked down nervously, this being the first sexual experience he had. The very idea of his penis in someone’s mouth was something very strange and taboo for him, but he couldn’t stop it. I wanted the very image to be embedded into his mind. My slow pace began to gradually speed up, the suction from the pressure within my jaws, the softness of my tongue combine with the hot and wetness of my mouth sent the boy into euphoria.
“Oh my god…” He said, eyes closed as he began to thrust deeper and deeper.
Again, I sped up now taking his entire length to the back of my throat. This truly was my calling. Where a normal person would be gagging and begging for breath, I was just getting reved up. The boy then grabbed my head, slamming his cock deep into the back of my throat with forceful thrusts. I ran gentle fingers over his balls, encouraging him to dump his load in my mouth. If it was one thing I loved, it was eating clean, untapped virgin spunk.
A warm rich moan sent a vibration reverberating down his shaft and through his body. He couldn’t take it, growling out as he unloaded in my mouth. Even then, I kept sucking and sucking, the boy going out of his mind. Slowly I withdrew from him, smiling, his cum all over my lips. I continued to stroke him, laughing.
“Whoa…” He said, breathing hard.
I looked over to Luke who was taking care of three of the Mojave boys. He was riding two cocks and sucking another, he being surprisingly well versed in these endeavors.
“Oh my god…” The boy who’s cum was all over my mouth said, not being able to believe what he was seeing. While he was distracted, I swallowed what was on my face, whipping it all off.
A silhouette in the corner of the suite caught my eye. A lone guy stood in the kitchenette watching, obviously being the most conservative.
“What’s the story with your friend?” I asked.
“Man, fuck him…” the Mojave boy said, “Just you and me!” His possessiveness was….expected.
“I can serve you both…” I offered, steadily smiling. He seemed to be deliberating long and hard.
“Garry…” He said, “Get your ass over here!”
He cautiously did so, not at all pleased with the behavior of his friends. I sat down on the arm of the couch as the he approached, he looking at me in disgust. Still though, those tights had a tent in them. I knew I could get inside his head if he was aroused. He was met with the warmest smile I could muster.
“How might I serve you?” I asked. He looked lost, to his friend for reassurance.
“Do that thing you did to me to him!” His friend said.
“Sure thing…” I smiled getting to my feet. I walked over to Garry, the cautious boy having to take a step back, “No need… You’re in good hands.”
Garry received the same treatment as his friend. He had a very, very lengthy cock but it didn’t have much girth. Still though, I had the boy eventually succumb to my powers. He blasted my throat in three minutes, tops! I swallowed his completely, still stroking it… He was so short of words.
“Was it so bad?” I asked him. He shook his head, his jaw still hanging. I grabbed his hand taking him over to a sectional. His friend watched, jealousy radiating out of his eyes. I held up my index finger, summoning him forth.
Garry lay on his back, his prick towering nearly nine inches as he stroked it, waiting for my move. I pulled off the tights, throwing them to the floor. I looked down at the boy with a devilish smile. His dick was still saturated with my spit. I slid it into my ass, the wet swishing sound catching the utmost of his attention. He watched as nine inches of cock slowly disappeared up my ass hole, the tightness spreading inch by inch. It was like he was seeing it as the sensation spread. His eyes was wide, his breath was heavy, hand clawing deep into the leather sofa.
I rode him smoothly and gently, not wanting to scar the boy with some crazy ass dick riding. Sure I had to do a lot extra to make this experience memorable but he was a sweet kid. His friend standing near me, grew impatient. Smiling, I summoned him closer, and closer...and closer. Again, I took his member to my tongue and began sucking him off. How I managed to handle two rhythms at a time, I do not know.
But still though, I could tell his friend wanted some ass to try. I withdrew from Garry, stepping off the couch to the floor. Extending my leg straight up, I placed a leg firmly on the couch, using the other hand to grab Garry’s friend’s prick which was nice and orally lubricated. I slid it into my ass, the boy seizing from the sensation. Feeling the tightness, the man inside him knew what to do. He grabbed my leg I suspended in the air for leverage and he vigorously pounded me with his thick member.
I resumed sucking on Garry’s prick, both boys grunting and moaning.
“Oh. My. God. It. Is. So. Tight…” Garry’s friend panted between each thrusts. There was a trick to this leg tilt position. It made the cheeks come together adding additional tightness to the penis penetrating it. It brought me joy to bring pleasure to these boys. It didn’t take long for them to cum again.
That night was a pretty sophisticated juggling act, Luke and I swapping sides midway through. I pleasured his three men and he took my two. It was so we could say we deserve even pay come the next morning. And indeed those boys shelled off every penny they had to us. Luke was so shocked this actually worked.
We left that morning with hundreds thousands of pesos in our pockets.
“I can’t believe this…” Luke said, “This is the most I ever made…”
“You see,” I smiled, “You always go after the young bright and rich looking tourists. Stay away from the old men who drive through here. They’ll hurt you rather than pay you…”
“Thank you!” Luke said, truly surprised by that information.
“I should get going now…” I smiled, heading back to the alley where I dropped my clothes.
“No!” Luke said, startling me, “I mean… We should work together some other times! We’re one bad ass team…” I smiled at him.
“You’re a member of the rival gang I once affiliated with. You seem like a good kid… I don’t want you getting in trouble!” I said. He grabbed my arm, horror written in his eyes.
“I don’t FUCKING want to do this like this! I’m indebted to my boss and it’d take all of what I earned to pay him off! After tonight! I’m done! I don’t want to get picked up again! I don’t want it this way!” He said through the grit of his teeth. I sighed.
“You better not be trying to set me up Luke… I’m not someone you wanna fuck with!” I threatened. Tears began to roll down his cheeks.
“You got out because you had help… Help me!” He demanded. It was truly a dilemma.
“Ok… pay your debts to your boss… When he lets you go, come east… through North Vegas to Dredge Valley.” I said.
“Dredge Valley?” He asked, concerned about that location.
“I’ll be waiting.” I said.
“No, wait why there?” He asked, very cautious of that place.
“It’s the safest place to live…” I sighed, “If you fear humans…”
“But the creatures.” He continued. I placed a hand on his shoulder.
“No creatures there…” I said, “Will hurt you. The dredger valley monsters live much further west than I am currently camped out. If you don’t want to come, that’s all on you. I’m trying to help. And I’m telling you, the last thing you wanna do is set me up. We’ll all be dead motherfuckers… I promise you.”
“Ezekiel, I will never! Not after what you did for me!” He said, planting a kiss on my cheek, “I got to go! Promise you’ll be there?”
“I’ll be in Whitney…” I offered, choosing an even closer location.
“Um… Star Nursery Ruins.” I said after thinking. He nodded, running off into the sunrise. I didn’t trust the kid at all but I could relate to him so well. He seemed about eighteen or nineteen, god knows how long he’s really been doing this, probably a runaway like I was when I first started. But if he’s anything like me, he’s willing to do anything to get his way. Afterall, I had fifty percent of all the money we earned that night and he was about to shell out all of his proceeds to his boss which… made little sense. Most bosses have incredibly high interest rates so that their workers can never get away. But we made some serious cash that night and if Luke truly had just started in this industry, then maybe he could get away.
My concerns were put on the backburner as more important matters came about. I needed a water tank, a gas can and something to store food in… as well as new clothes. This would eat up half the money I earned but… oh well. I would be making money again very soon. Upon purchasing everything I need, it had reached late in the afternoon.  I still had a very healthy chunk of change in my pocket.
I waited at Star Nursery for a long time. Luke didn’t show. It had grown dark and I grew worried. That entire night had me worried. The boy was nowhere to be seen. I feared the worst for him. The following day, he was all I could think about. I stood in a bookstore looking for something good to buy, this boy steadily on my mind.
Books weren’t cheap. Since they were increasingly more and more rare, some could run into the tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of pesos, and this store sold many a day! I checked out several books, one interesting one being ‘Machiavelli’. The name had a potent Italian ring to it which had me fixed. It was expensive as fuck though, twelve thousand dollars, translating roughly to one hundred eighty five thousand Mojave Pesos. Saddened, I put the book down another one catching my eye… ‘Borgia.’
It was a story about an European family's rise to claim power. Flipping the book over, the price was virtually the same as the Machiavelli book. Sighing, I put the book back.
“I’ll never be able to afford these…” I said.
“Why are you in my store dirt bag…” A raspy voice said. I spun around, a stout, peppering man said, scowling at me.
“I’m looking for any book I can afford.” I said, plainly.
“You can’t afford anything here. Get out.” He said, pointing to the door.
“Now is that anyway to treat a person who simply wants to learn? And this is quite a hold you have on the information that keeps the people here less than what they can be…” I said. He looked at me skeptically, arms folded.
“You can read?” He asked.
“I can…” I responded.
“The book you want,” He said, “Read me the first sentence out of it and I’ll let you have it.”
“I want two books!” I said.
“Now you’re being greedy.”
“Ok,” I sighed, picking up the ‘Machiavelli’ book, “Being a great ruler means striking the perfect balance of power. Your people shall love you and bow at your feet. They will marvel at you like you’re God while your rivals will fear and hate you. They won’t understand how you can be so loved by all but such a ruthless tyrant to those outside of the peripheral.”
“Ok, Ok…” The man said, snatching the book from me, checking for himself to see if I was reading correctly, “You picked the perfect book to get if you want to one day afford these types of luxuries.” He handed me the book.
“Thank you.” I said, leaving the store. I was definitely glad to have the book. I spent most of the day reading it out in the sun but Luke was still a looming thought in my mind. It would have been concerning in an different way if he showed up but he didn’t show up...at all. It made me wonder what happened to him.
Came time for the streets to come alive, I lurked around Paradise looking for the boy. Roamers were about in droves this night but I looked like a tourist, wearing skinny jeans, a  graphic tank-top, black beanie and flannel shirt tied around my waist. I fit in good with the night life as I made my way to the busy corner I first ran into Luke. He was there posted up, wearing more luxuries leather clothes. Something wasn’t right.
Looking around, the area was thick with roamers unlike how it was the night before. I didn’t even know if they had the same affiliation with the Rachi Boys. Still though, I needed to know what happened to him. I made my way to the busy intersection, waiting on the change light. He was oblivious to my presence.
“Luke…” I said. He looked around, before homing in on me.
“Dude…” He said, not trying to draw attention to himself, “You shouldn’t be here… Tonights not a good night!”
“What happened?” I asked.
“It didn’t work. He just took my money and said make me the same amount tonight… I’m never getting out, Zeek.” He said, every word being laced with gloom. It did something to me, made a side of me come out that had long been suppressed. It was that brotherly protection feeling that pulled out my old ruthlessness. I turned to him.
“No, Zeek don’t draw attention to us…” He said, fearing the worst.
“I’m a client tonight.” I smiled, grabbing his hand, “Come on…”
I led him back to the north out of Rachi territory. I carefully and inconspicuously looked around to make sure we weren’t followed.
“Zeek, what are you doing?” He asked.
“Shhh,” I said, “I’ll explain later…”
“You can’t just sneak me away! Eyes and ears are everywhere!” He said back.
“I know!” I said looking to cross the busy intersection, “That is not what I’m doing. Just wait…”
We walked in a wide arc for hours, eventually reaching Dredge Valley where my truck was parked in the dense thickets lining the lower banks of the river. Luke was so nervous, unsure what I was about to do.
“Get in the truck.” I said.
“Zeek.” He said, very nervous.
“Just do it!” I said, climbing into the driver’s seat. He got in the passenger side, carefully looking around.
“What is this about?” He asked, eyes locked on to me, watching my every move.
“Tell me about this Rachi gang…” I said.
“It’s growing… fast. It’s new though, a few years old. The Lord’s named Connor Rachi. He has hired clicks at his side and they make sure we do his bidding. He has quite a lot of workers indebted to him. Back in the Chihuahuan, he’d save a lot of us from doing the same thing there and then bring us here to go back on his word and say we owe him. Then he’d slap a high ass interest rate on us that constantly increased our debt, night after night no matter how much we paid. I got well over nine one forty-K pesos last night which quite frankly was my debt with interest and more. He just doesn’t want to let me go if I could rake in that type of profit…” Luke said.
“Damn….” I said, “This guy… What do you know about him?”
“Why?” Luke asked defensively.
“Like, is he in a family gang, who does he have ties with back in the Chihuahuan?” I asked.
“No one. He was an orphan like the rest of us! He always said he’d protect those he knew and this is what he did to us, exactly what he promised he wouldn’t…” Luke said, obviously having some really connected history with this ‘Connor’.  
“Perfect.” I said.
“What are you planning?” Luke asked.
“You wanna be free right?”
“Connor is still a kid, no older than you or I! I don’t want him hurt!” Luke said.
“But he has a hold on you and several other people. He manipulated you all into doing what he wants to milk money out of you. How many people have gotten hurt so far?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter… he takes care of those who cross him.” Luke sighed, still harboring information. I bet Luke was hurt by Connor’s climb to power.
“See,” I began, “The escort industry is old and delicate. New comers like your gang have no experience and have a whole industry to fight against. Jeurridam is a big place but not big enough for several gangs of banditos to coexist. Your little Lord needs to learn that his escorts are not mere ways to make money. They support him and without them, he has nothing. Let me ask you this. Does he think the more escorts he have, the more money he’ll make?”
“The idiot!” I sighed, “It’s not about the number of escorts its about the numbers your escorts can pull. He has no niche, no experience to be doing this! How many people he claimed to care for have gotten truly messed up because of him?”
“A lot, but he takes care of us!” Luke said in Connor’s defense.
“Don’t you want to take care of yourself?” I asked. Connor stared at me for a long while. It truly wasn’t a question he wasn’t expecting, “You know, to not depend on anyone for your well being… To be free?”
“I don’t know,” He responded, torn, “I don’t ever wanna be on my own again. I don’t ever want to have to struggle the way I struggled. I may hate what Connor does but it is miles better than the life I came from back in Juarez.”
“I get you. It’s that feeling of wanting guidance, to have a sense that you belong somewhere. That’s the story of my life, kid.” I sighed. He looked at me intently.
“You ever heard of the Da Lagon?”
“Yeah… they’re big! Their roamers were out there! That is what Connor wants to build…” Luke responded.
“I was in Da Lagon… technically still am. Years ago when I first discovered how fun Paradise is, I ran into some guys my age, one named Rion, the other Galveston. Galveston was from a rival gang to...um the Logatti called the Merchant Clan. Rion didn’t bother on mentioning it then but was apart of Da Lagon and was out on a mission. He was looking for young idiots like me to entrap. He’d show me out on the town, get in my pants and get me hooked on drugs. I mean I got hooked fast. I began looking for jobs to find ways to afford my fix but everything I worked for just didn’t do it for me… the money was thin. So Rion suggested to me I start working turn-ins and I did so. It was how he kept me wrapped around my fingers until just a few weeks ago when I disappeared. If Connor wants that for his people then….” I said shaking my head.
“You keep calling me kid…” Luke said with his arms folded, “How old are you?”
“Twenty two…” I sighed.
“You’re only four years older than me!” Luke said, not pleased I called him kid.
“So, what do you want to do? If you don’t want to be freed from Connor I can’t do anything to change your mind… But I can teach you everything I know to make sure you’re as safe as possible turning over these streets.” I suggested.
“So,” Luke began, “We’re gonna work together again?” A smile came across his face.
“Yeah.” I grinned.
It was on! Night after night, we raked in thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands in pesos, splitting the proceeds between each other. Luke was a fast learner, learning now who to target. We went after tourists that come from far lands with loaded pockets… male or female. It didn’t matter! The pay off did though and by the end of the week, we collected over fifty grand from unsuspecting foreigners. It was the perfect crime.
We stood in our usual spot, watching for any passers by.
“I can’t believe how crazy the other night was…” Luke smiled.
“You alright?” I asked, this being the first time seeing each other in two days.
“I had to clean up yesterday after the crazy night before. I was out for the count! Connor’s…. starting to grow suspicious of how I’m making this type of money. He’s been asking a lot of questions. I don’t want him to find out about us.” Luke responded.
“This is perfect leverage! You’re the only one raking in these types of profits right?” I asked.
“Yeah. I in one night, I bring in what everyone brings in together.” Connor said.
“Sounds like the perfect way to get inside his head. If you want him to back off, make him feel that he needs you! Make him feel that you’re more valuable than he previously thought. Get inside his head the same way you get inside the heads of your clients! It won’t be too hard considering he’s just a boy like us. It’ll throw him off your tail for bit.” I said.
“How do you know so much?” Connor asked, amazed.
“You learn fast in this industry. Everyone tries to get over on you but you have to know how to dance around them. Dancing around situations is all I know how to do.” I laughed.
“How long have you been doing this?” He asked.
“You don’t wanna know… Just know I’m a veteran at this point.” I said.
“Well, well, well…” A familiar voice said out. I turned, knowing exactly who it was.
“Rion…” I said.
“Long time no see!” Rion smiled, “How’ve you been?”
I looked to Luke, glaring at him.
“Run!” I mouthed. He picked up on it, this being something we rehearsed nights before. He stayed put for now, just remaining silent.
“I’ve been good…” I said, turning to face Rion. I placed my hand on the wall, putting myself between Luke and Rion as discretely as possible. Rion was met with a warm, ‘inquisitive’ smile.
“So what happened? You just vanished a month and a half ago…” Rion said, prodding hard. He knew he was why I left Paradise.
“It is complicated… Had some issues to address back at A99.” I laughed.
Luke paced around a distance away, standing on the sidewalk. He eventually crossed the street, dodging Rion’s note. I held in my sigh, knowing this wasn’t over with.
“So why are you back here?” Rion asked.
“I um,” I said trying to think fast, “I told you I’m on my own. I mean for good this time…” He looked at me intently, trying to figure me out, those warm portals for eyes making me sweat.
“Well come on down to East Paradise. Let’s chill…” He smiled.
“I’m good bro.” I grinned. His intense gaze went to a whole other level.
“What’s the matter? Come on!” He persisted.
“Ok…” I said giving in, thinking about Luke. Rion smiled, the sleazy grin on his face telling it all. He felt his claws were still deep in me but he was in for a surprise. He took my hand, leading me back east.
“So…” He said, “I take it that you’ve been escorting? Nice tights!”
“Yeah… I’ve been having to keep some food on my belly.” I said, maintaining the air. He looked at me from the corner of his eye, detailing every inch of me. He knew something had changed.
“You look nice. You’ve been making some good money?” He asked.
“I’ve been scrounging. In central Paradise it’s pretty cutthroat… escorts everywhere but I’m managing.” I said. He looked at me with those prodding eyes. He wasn’t satisfied at all with that answer but he hid it well.
“We’ve been running a little short the past few weeks.” He said, hinting at his intentions.
“Awe… well you know how this place has some good night and bad nights…” I smiled.
“Yeah…” He said, steadily eying me, taking off his jacket, “I know you’re cold…” He handed it to me. Not wanting to refuse him, I took it, putting it on.
Rion was a guy of about five foot ten. He had gorgeous honey skin with brown wavy hair. His eyes were the typical amber of the Sonoran-Mojave locals. He was well built, quite an attractive dude with one of those faces that melted panties. I think it was those lips and that brow. The lips were plump and feisty while the brow was stern and falconine.
I used to have such a big crush on him when we first met. It probably was how he got into my head so easily but we were not sixteen year olds any more. Those days of being easily manipulated were long gone! After all, he was my teacher and I knew his every move.
We arrived at the Da Lagon Casino in East Paradise. There were a lot familiar faces, some surprised to see me alive and kicking. The further we went into the packed building, the more my stomach churned. That meant it’d be hard to get out of here.
We eventually made it to the penthouse several storeys up. It was as lavish as any hotel, a penthouse I was very familiar with. Whores and drug lords were everywhere, the smell of burning cocaine and marijuana clogging my sinuses. I had been clean for a month now and I planned on staying that way. Rion grabbed my hand, leading me to a room in the rear, full of sectionals. It also was full of whores, their bosses, drugs and petty cash laying around. All I could do was shake my head.
Rion sat on a sectional overlooking Jeurridam. He popped open a box full of straight cubans, lighting one. Looking back, he was unsure why I was still standing.
“Sit…” He said. I did so, picking the tiniest corner of the section to rest my quarters. He looked on in disbelief, having to pause but saying nothing.
“I missed you man…” He said, “A month without your crazy ass just ain’t a month.” I said nothing, knowing he only missed me for the money I brought in, “Did you miss me?”
“Sure…” I sighed. He leaned across the sectional grabbing my face.
“Don’t say it like that!” He laughed. I smiled. It gave him the invite to inch his way closer to me. He planted his lips on mine giving me a less than moving kiss. It felt so wrong to be doing this but there was no backing out. He could feel the rift between us, withdrawing. He looked at me concerned.
“What’s wrong?” He asked.
“Nothing.” I smiled.
“I know, you Zeek! I know when something’s wrong.” He said, climbing off of me, “What happened when you went home last?”
“I stole something from a family member to get some drug money but it didn’t go over smoothly. I ended up getting cleaned up but things weren’t the same and I got put out about a week and a half ago, this time for good…” I said. He looked at me, extremely upset.
“You got cleaned up?” He asked. It took me a while to build the courage to respond.
“So you’ve been without it for damn near three months, now?” Rion asked, truly surprised.
“Well,” He said, getting to his feet, “Let’s get you a little fix for the torture!”
“NO!” I shouted. Everyone paused, looking at me.
“No?” Rion, responded, shocked by my refusal.
“I’ve been clean for this long… I don’t want to go back to being the way I was, not being able to do anything for myself. You don’t know what it’s like to be puddy to that need to hit. You don’t know what it’s like going through withdrawal… You don’t know the shit I had to go through, the shit I had to fuck up just to… get some. I don’t want to go back to that,” I said, “And I’m not…”
Rion stood there, deep in thought. He didn’t know what to do, me being the first of his whores to ‘break free’. He could see his control over my life, run through his fingers like sifting sand. There was no emotional connection between us, only the physical dependency that plagued me for so long. This just wouldn’t fly with him. The only thing holding him back from killing me right now was my name… I was a Logatti, the most powerful family in the Sonoran and one of the most powerful in the Mojave. He knew if a hair on my hair got split, despite my father banishing me, a war would ensue. A war with the Logatti is the last thing any clan wanted, especially Da Lagon.
The longer he stood, the angrier he became. It didn’t take long for him to come rushing back over to me.
“Look, you little bitch. You’re mine…” He said, interrupted by the cocking of my revolver.
“I have nothing to lose, Rion.” I said, not wanting to do this at all, “I have no family any more. I have nothing of my own. I just have my free will and I’ll be damned if you take that from me again. I’m not afraid to die… I know for a fact I can kill you, that fat ass over there reaching for his gun, and a few others before they gun me down. But are you afraid to die? Don’t you love how easy you have it here? You’re twenty three years old with a whole life ahead of you! Do you really wanna go like this because some crazy fool who was tired of being kept down bucked up? Do you really wanna die right now because I got a bullet for your brains…”
Everyone watched in terror, this being the first time this has happened in a long while.
“Ezekiel…” Rion said, beginning to plead.
“You all won’t take me alive! I’ll fight till I’m holed up with bullets! I’d want you all to kill me! I’d want word to get out so my dad can grieve! You know how he grieves?” I asked, “He crushes what ever makes him grieves… Da Lagon… It ain’t nothing to crush… Do me this favor… please! I’d love to watch you ALL burn from my cozy little cinder in hell…”
“Leave…” Rion said, “And if I or any of my goons catch you in Paradise again, I’ll kill you!”
“Kill me? You better expect to die in return…” I fired back.
I was gone, not looking back once as I fled the casino. It was over with, the escorting was done. This would be the last time Luke and I saw each other… I had to find him before I left. Running back to his usual spot, he wasn’t there. I searched our usual perches, still nowhere to be found. I eventually found him in Southern Paradise, escorting a group of foreign men who for sure had some fat pockets. By now, it was well past midnight. I caught up with him, falling in line with his pattern. He was glad to see me but kept on with the tour.
We took the men by the Lion of Judah where they marveled at the mass of gold. It was a brief moment alone with Luke.
“What happened?” He asked.
“I fucked up bad…” I said, “I can’t come back to Paradise, but…”
“No, why???” He asked, interrupting me.
“I’ve given you mostly everything you need to tough it out here…” I said, reaching inside the rear of my tights, “Except this,” I handed him the revolver, “I got it today at the Smith’s, especially for you! It’s small and discreet and will save your life one day.”
“No, Zeek,” He said as I tried to pull away, “Where are you gonna…”
“I’m gonna have to pick a new job sooner than I thought, I guess. I’ll be back and forth between Henderson, Boulder City and the A99. If you ever need me, I’ll be in one of the other, no promises. Just stay safe, Luke…” I said, trying to pull away.
He wouldn’t let me go, pulling me in closer and closer. He brought his lips forth, kissing me goodbye. It was a kiss I wasn’t expecting, one I felt deep down. He let me go, trying to hold back tears.
“Bye.” He said.
“Bye.” I said back, not even able to look at him. I felt my heart belonged to Zanir but Luke managed to wedge his way into my it faster than anyone else could. I guess it was because I saw myself in him. He was me at eighteen, timid but held back by those who wanted to use him. One day he’d learn just how powerful he really was. It’d hit him overnight, the way it did me.
Making my way back to Dredge Valley, I packed up my things and headed to Henderson. It was in the dead of the night, the ride feeling longer than ever. Upon arrival, vehicles were parked at the petrol station, many people camping it out there. Families from far and wide who came to buy much needed supplies sat out with tents and fires burning, laughing and having themselves a good time. I don’t remember when the last time my family just had a good time for the sake of having a good time. It brought back that void in my chest, that emptiness that longed to be filled. Not having any of it, I picked up the ‘Machiavelli’ book and began reading.
The book lasted me all night. As the morning came, it was time to do something remotely productive. I scoured the town, looking for anything to occupy myself. A part from dust-side games of dice and holograms, nothing stuck out. I entered store after store, buying books where I could find them. It seriously was becoming an addiction, now. But reading couldn’t hurt right?
Continuing to explore Henderson made me feel bad for anyone who lived here. Around every road was a family owned petrol station with grand lots for families to camp. The petrol stations had restaurants, clothing stores, novelty stores, anything to give one the leg up over the next station and to keep the travelers from having to go to Paradise…
The exploration eventually ended up south, where I came across a job bulletin. Out of curiosity I began reading. Most of the jobs were security jobs, some hired mercenary jobs for cartel runners and many other things I’ve tried in an effort to make cash. Then came the mission clerk jobs, market inventory jobs, and judicial advisor jobs, all requiring literate people. These jobs paid well more than any job that required physical labor and it’d be easy to work my way up the ladder to a more promising position. Just to think that a month ago, I couldn’t read. Now that I was literate, the sky was the limit. Opportunities that never reared their head began to do so.
“Look…” The youthful voice of a child said.
“Oh my god.” His mother said as the sound of air being warped caught my attention.
Turning, a large red mech came flying high over the Sloan quarantine zone.
“It’s coming towards us!” The mother said, rushing her child away. Everyone scattered, mechs being feared like no other machine. The man landed near a large metal door jutting from the ground. The machine waited, and waited it confusing everyone who stayed to watch. It looked familiar, like the giant mech that Zanir escaped A99 with but was much slimmer. That mech had no wings, and was far more heavily armored.
Suddenly, the large metal door began to open. Two analog buggies drove out. I recognized the design… They were Mojave blueprint buggies from The City of Rust. These were Merchant Clan members! Looking in the buggies, I was shocked… Not only was Zanir in one, but Beth and Heaven were too. They were with, of all people, Galveston… My stomach churned.
But now, I knew where Zanir was, where my sister and my brother was! A chilly feeling ran down my spine as the thoughts of what could be going on amongst them ran through my mind. Following the two buggies was an Orb, the one with the laser sights. The buggies, Orb and giant Mech disappeared west, heading back to The City of Rust…   


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