Gray Metal Faces – January 22

A moment later they felt a shift under their feet, the gentle crush of tall grass giving way to the sop of cold mud. They entered a grove of stone — flat slabs, statues, raised mausoleums. The sky was gray, as it had been before, but The Bird knew immediately that this was evening dusk, not the pre-dawn darkness they had just left.

Is she to be buried in Christian burial? They walked in the direction of the voice, until they saw a head appearing above the ground. Hearing voices behind them, they withdrew behind a tombstone as Hamlet approached the hole where two gravediggers were working.

Rune pulled at The Bird. “We should get out of here.”

The Bird frowned at him, let his grasp break. “My mother, she’s coming into this scene in a bit.”

“Huh.” Rune stepped back behind the tombstone with her. “So, you think she’s the one who can get us back?”

“Hey.” The sudden sound of the voice behind them caused Rune and The Bird to jump. The burly figure of Double-J, his black moustache bristling over his grim smile, seemed to part the mist as he approached.

“Sorry to steal the scene — ” Double-J did not sound in the least apologetic as he walked past — “but I need to take care of business.”

The actors (no, The Bird reminded herself, they weren’t actors, the moment she and her friends had entered the play they had become characters) looked stunned at Double-J’s appearance, uncertain of how to react. Double-J point down into the grave, commanded the gravediggers to get out, and Hamlet to get in; robotically, the characters complied.

“Fan – tastic!” Double-J then looked up, to his right, across the grave opening. “He’s all yours, sweetheart.”

Before anyone could react, a figure raced to the rectangular hole, leapt down with no apparent care for her safety. The Bird gasped — “ANNIE!”

The teen glared at Hamlet with a fury that seemed ready to boil her eyes. “Son of a BITCH!” The mace of the teen’s right fist, delivered with a precision and force honed from years of taekwondo training, smashed into Hamlet’s chin.

Rune at her side, The Bird ran to the edge of the grave, leaned down — “You’re six-teen!” But the athletic teen continued raining swift punches into her stunned opponent, who finally raised his arms defensively.

What is the reason that you use me thus —

“RAPIST!” Annie’s eyes were wild with ferocity, her lips pulled back in a venomous snarl, spittle spewing from her mouth as she hurled fists, elbows, knees, the weapons of her body hammering into the body that began crumpling before her, then fell into darkness.

Double-J lowered an arm down to Annie, who accepted it eagerly, anxious to leave the scene of her wrath. She sniffed loudly, did not look down as she was pulled up. With Annie clear of the hole, Double-J leaned over, looked down, smiled evilly — “Good night, sweet prince.”

The Bird felt Rune pulling her away; suddenly weary, she followed without resistance. “This scene’s pretty busted up.” The Bird nodded in agreement. “Think our best bet, is to get back to the castle. Any idea which way the castle is?”

The Bird fell to her knees, her mind taxed beyond its intellectual and emotional capacity. “It doesn’t matter.” She closed her eyes.

Rune made a feeble attempt to pull her up. “No — don’t shut down on me — ”

“I’m not shutting down.” Eyes still closed, she sighed, and smiled weakly. “I’m — just tired. Need — a quick cat nap — ”

She felt Rune kneel down next to her, pulled her close; she sighed softly as her body relaxed into his soft shoulder. “Thank — thank you.”

Rune put his arms around her. “No problem.”

She imagined what the sight must be like, her being cradled by this erratic but very caring boy. She wasn’t used to being held like this, not by a man anyway. She slumped entirely into his arms, consciousness leaving her like curtains blowing through a window, then coming still.

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