Orientation. The quiet abandon of summer university life is, for two days, ends. It dies quitly and at peace and is reborn as a screaming divine beast, a phoenix made of stress, noise, sexual desire, and raw nervous energy. Normal students have to go through orientation before being let into the school. Technically so is Link, everyone else spending their first semester during the summer is supposed to. They take tours, do ice breaker games, talk about adjusting to school life, and do everything that Link doesn’t want to do. Link managed to get out of it by paying a visit to an office and making a pencil pusher sign something that says he didn’t have to. It is amazing what can be accomplished when someone desperately wants you to go away. Despite achieving a crushing victory over the forces of bureaucracy he still flits at the corrners of every oreintation just in case. Looking for, for Sara mostly. However, there are other people who seem to be made to cause trouble and each of them are marked, and catalouged for future reffrence.
That’s how it started. Now Link just enjoys hanging around them. There is something about the tidle wave of fresh hope that these students assault the campus with. Everything is fresh, new, the whole world becomes an adventure and they charge about with a sort of unrelenting joy. There there are thouse kids. They break off from the herd and form tiny protective groups. They huddle together as if for warmth against the cold wind of arbitrary socilization that flies about them. Even the loners ban together. That takes doing,.
Some people look at him curiously, and a few of the amazingly brave ask him questions about the campus, directions, or other things. After awhile Link inevitably starts answering questions and he almost finds some sense of peace making useless small talk with people. Small talk is the product of people who are confident that there will be a tomorrow. They don’t really seem to mind talking about silly usless things that matter so utterly little. He’s never really done it until now and the dull numbing sensation rolling around his brain as he answers inane questions is strangly relaxing. Summer is winding down, and Sara has yet to emerge. This is the last orientation of the season. Then it is all finals, preperations for fall. If she isn’t here then she isn’t coming and he can’t feel her anywhere. For the first since the Link and Hippy split he really starts to feel good about the future. Sara. The world needs to be inoculated against people like her.
Wishing to allow the hippy girl to avoid him Link has returned to the cafeteria as his favorite haunting spot. Okay favorite is a little bit to generous, least worst of. The place is positively swimming with new people and the quiet buzz of the world around him creates a pleasant static. Sitting dead center in the cafeteria he comes an island of solitidute as he mooches off of the free foood which is supposed to be for the orientation kids.
Then, something. Nothing definite. He thought he smelled her. Quickly he stands up and looks around. Quickly locating the outcast table he doesn’t see her. The smokers, abandoning his table, rushing outside he walks around the building twice, then checks back at the smoker table. “Well isn’t this just grand?” He thinks, “Now I am driving myself ridiculously insane, though at least I am only hallucinating oders”. Half tempted he starts to head twords the buissness building to see if she is there. Howeverm he knows deep down that it is just an excuse to check in on the hippy. The hippy all this for a girl whoes name he never knew. How sad.
Sitting back down he tries to relax again but the mood has gone sour and the feeling that he’s being watched refuses to go away. Now her feels her, near and inevitable like the on set of mono which she once gave to him on purpose in an attempt to slow him down. It didn’t work. Then it happens. Time seems to slow, and the smell becomes more intense, like lilacs and corpses. Looking around he sees, it, or rather it sees him. A lone butterfly has made its way into the building and is coming twords him. Its wings bear a strange purple and black colouring that anyone who knew about such things would know that there is no butterfly that looks like that. Scilently, the harbringer flutters between groups of people, dancing between their words, spreading a quiet sort of wonder amonst people until it flies to close to Link. Then with all the instincts of a great jungle cat he springs out from his chair and snatches it from the air crushing it in an unessisarly strong iron grip. A few people give him a dirty look but then they take a better look at him and decide to go back to their meals.
Now she knows he’s here. She couldn’t of brought a posse, there is no way any of those people actually made I to school. So she is alone, and at the moment, she is breaking the truce. Now she is standing out side, smoking, watching him.
Locking eyes with her Link strides acosst the cafeteria. Not so much walking around people as instead making it absolutely clear that he will tolerate no interuption of his path. Twice people nearly got in his way until they looked and saw just how bad of an idea it would be. The last of his self control is used to open the door without ripping it from the hinges and all the sudden there they are. Together. It is hot outside, but near them it feels ten degrees hotter, and like there is a new ice age going on all at the same time. Bugs that fly to near to them end up dropping dead, plants start to shed their leaves, one women will have a still birth in three months as a direct result, and another develops leukemia. Everyone else scurries away from them, not in any sort of direct specific manner, but in the same way animals run from earth quakes. People are pretty dumb, but they know enough to dash away from the unknonw.
Smiling impishly, he once blonde hair, dyed black, with a bright purple streak down the left side, glistened in the relentless sunlight. Like him she’s dresses head to foot in black, being sure to cover hands, lips, and soul. Looking disinterested she stands alone holding a cigarette in an extender, several feet away people hoping to become her devotees sit several feet away either already rejected or failures who haven’t managed to work up the courage to talk to her yet. He can feel their rejection, fear, and jealously bleeding off of them, it is making her stronger. Not that it matters at this point. Using her gloved hand she reaches up to adjust his hair, everything in Link’s body wants to flintch, to knock her hand away, to head butt her, to run, to fly into a rage, to bite her, to do anything, anything at all, anything other than to just stand there. Standing there isn’t an option. Things are different now. He’s chosen life, he is no longer under her control, he is free to do and say as he pleases, so he should do it, just smack her as he’s smacked so many…
As his thoughts race, body tensed for action, mind primed for verbal demolition, she gets up on her tip toes and successfully adjusts his hair, as he stands there doing nothing. Her smile positively beams as she returns to her normal height, and she lets out a nervous little laugh, “Funny I didn’t think you’d let me do that”. Motioning for him to sit down she smiles even wider as he acquiesces to her request.
“I wasn’t really planning on it, it just sort of worked out like that”. He can feel himself sweating, not visably on his face but between his legs. A dead think coiled near one of his legs slowly starts coming to life, clouding judgement. Her smell is intoxicating, and while all he wants to do is to just twist her head from her shoulders he finds himself only able to sit there mute.
Happily she lets their awkward scilence go on for a bit longer, “So I must say I am more than a little surprised to see you still alive Mr. Link. Mornings been treating you well I see?”
Slowly. Almost painfully, Link nods, “I’ve given up the gun. Things are different up here Sara, something about the air. I don’ have the same needs that I once had before”.
Waving her hand dismissively, “Link, please. You need your morning ritual in ways you can’t even begin to understand. You don’t even know how to be without it. You entire existence is based around you living your life like a string of long luxurious pearls. You’ll go back to it”.
“And if I don’t”. Confidence gone. This is not going as well as he would of liked it to. Desperatly he starts looking around for a way out. Anything to distract him, something that will give him an excuse to run off, a squirrle to throw something at him, the creepy christian girl, the lady in white, hell even the gold lady, anyone who could give him a reason to pull away from her. Anything to let him run off. Yet every time he tries to look away he is drawn directly back to her eyes. Her strange blue green eyes the posses a depth to them that you could loose yourself in. They were a long cold drink that lasts forever in while the rest of you burns away in the firery depths of hell. They are the sort of eyes that makes promises of eternal love even as she is kicking you in the nuts for walking on her while she is cheating on you with both your best friend and your dad. The sort of eyes that mixes innocents and experience in such a way that they explode when they come into contact with water. Eyes that would be better off plucked out and eaten.
Slowly, sensually she curles her long hair around her finger, biting her lower lip, “Fine by me, so life eh? Isn’t that interesting of course I bet it is easy to do when there is no one around all summer. You did what, talk to a whole 4 people? Come on now”
Eyes narrowing, “Its been more than four people” He can feel the lack of conviction in his words. Ordinarly strong they emerge from him as sad hopeless little things which fail to convince anyone. Like the muderer claiming innocence while he is sawing off his wife’s head. “It has been more than four people, hasn’t it”? Even still he’s not going to talk to her of all people about it.
She sits there impassivly, legs crossed, smiling ever so slightly, she looks almost normal in this light, almost like she could be an ex-girlfriend or some other normal thing, “Well I am sure you’ve had quite the time and we’ll be able to talk all about it in the fall.”
Defeated Link looks around, not wanting to meet her gaze but not wanting to walk away either, “Sara why are you doing this to me? Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
“Right Link it is all about you. I came up here to torture you, to make your life miserable, and all these other things. Fuck Link I needed to get away from there too. Why can’t I have my fresh start? Why can’t I just be free to live my life without you. I didn’t come after you, I didn’t seek you out, I left you alone the entire fucking summer and believe me I didn’t have to, so fuck off. I’m not breaking any truces by being here, you are by coming after me”
“That is bullshit and you know it! What possible reason could you have for coming up here? Huh? To get away from your little cult army that you built yourself”
“”Fuck you Link, you never got it and you never will. Now begone! I have had more than enough of you”. Yet he remains. She’s over played her hand and she knows it. He knows her to well, been away from her to long, sealing his weaknesees, preparing for this moment. Perhaps she’s under estimated him. Smiling sardonically, “well it looks like you’re the one that wants to be here now, I just told you to go away”
“What do I want?” He asks himself quickly. It’s something he never even considered possible. They could live separate from each other. There is no need to be in separate cities, and she is right after all. She doesn’t need to be around to cause him problems. She could of easily just send her little minions after him, wave after wave of them it doesn’t really matter where she is, but more rather what it is she plans on doing. “Fine. You are more than capable of picking at me where ever you are. There is no need for us to be at each other’s throats. This is a new place, we can let it be a new age. There can be peace between us. I can, I can only hope that it lasts and we can only find our own happiness away from each other”
She claps gently, “Well put.” Then uncrossing her legs in such a way so that he skirt rides up just enough to flash her panties at him she stands up, “Shake on it then?”
Hesitently, Link takes her out streached hand and quickly she draws herself towards him, “Of course I hope you don’t mind that I’ve been using the pale rider to dismantle all of your friends one by one. While you are away I will indeed play”
“Bitch” He thinks both to himself and out loud.
“Heh heh, with you gone there is no one to stop him from going on his little rampages, no one who can even come close to slowing him down, no one left to save them except me. You are a selfish fuck Link and you never thought to include them in the terms of the truce, now did you?”
Link, even if he could respond doesn’t bother. Instead he snarls with an inhuman viciousness. In a motion, fluid, precise, and violent, Link grabs her arm pulls her to him, picks her up and bodily throws her into the bushes. She never once takes her gaze off of him and the whole time she is laughing maniacly.
He turns quickly to go back inside when he notices two things. One is that the crowd outside along with most of the people in the cafeteria have all vanished. The other is that his path is being blocked by a cowboy. Not just any cow boy either. He’s tall, a little taller than Link. His eyes are blue as the sky and two days of facial hair growth give him an almost specifically rugged look that almost screams, “I spend hours in front of the mirror every day trying to look like this”. Despite the heat he is wearing a long sleeve shirt, jeans, a white cowboy hat, and of course the boots. Complete with spurrs. Link cocks his head inquisitively, “Did you ride here on a horse”
The cowboy moves his piece of straw from one corrner of his mouth to the other then back to the first one. Quietly he keeps chewing it impassivly. Behind them Link could here Sara cursing trying to extricate herself from the bush she’s found herself in. Finatlly he speaks, “Sorry there partner. But I just can’t have you treating a lady like that. Not on my watch at any rate”. His words come out slow. This is a man who is never really in a hurry to get anywhere, that much is sure. He lets his drawl drag his sentence away to some distance place, and he almost starts to feel like he is something that shouldn’t be there to begin with. Something strange that has come as a result of some mixture of anachonism and simulacrum, a ghost of something that has never lived, or the physical manifestation of the wrong idea.
Link puts his hands up, “You know what? Fuck it. You are absolutely right. Why don’t we go get her out of the bushes, I’ll apoligise and we can all go our separate ways”. it’s a desperate hope. This has happened one to many times before. Sara plays the innocent to Link’s agression then all the sudden some big lumbering meat head is there with a grin on his face, testosterone in his heart, and a hard on in need of stroking runs to her side. This guy though? This guy is different. He is someone who shouldn’t even be real from the looks at him. Every time Link tries to get a fix on him, the cowboy seems to slide away, as if her is some sort of concept that refuses to become something that anyone else can relate to. A true bastion of sovgeirnity.
Slowly the cowboy takes his hands from his pockets, “Sorry there friend. But you need to be taught a lession for next time. There are just certain ways you don’t treat a lady”
Link dodges his left hook, blocks his right jab, then side steps his follow up. This cowboy knows how to fight. He doesn’t waste motion, telegraph his moves, or rely on brute strength. He is calculating, almost methodical in his motions. He knows he can end it quickly but part of him feels bad for the cowboy. Him like many others before him, is getting sucked in to Sara’s world. This is what she wants. To men getting sweaty and bloody over her. He can almost smell her wetness from here. This guy didn’t know any better, hell this guy didn’t even know that he looks out of place. Yet there he is, swinging punches like he is in some suger good guy, white hat, black hat, John Wayne movie. This is almost to much, and there is only so much you can dodge before you need to stop giving ground. Then the cowboy does it, one solid body shot that sends ripples of pain throughout his body. The guy is strong Link has to give him that and now his pacients is up. One more punch sails past Link before he rushes forwards grabbing the Cowboy’s lapels. He’s heavy but fortunately Link is two different things, strong and mad. Letting out a snarl he spins the cowboy around and throws him.
Much to Link’s delight he sails past a set of once quiet windchims causes them to fill the air with a pleasant melodic sound, marred by the sound of a cowboy thudding painfully with the ground. He gets back up again and rushes Link who throws him back again. Quickly, before the cowboy gets back up again Link starts looking around for Sara, where the hell has she gotten off to. It isn’t like her to miss out on a fight. He gets a punch in the jaw for his distraction. The fury in Link’s eyes causes the cowboy to pause for the first time. Usually a punch to the jaw like that sends people reeling, putting them down for the count. The cowboy isn’t used to being thrown, and a punch like that should be more than enough level just about anyone. Yet there Link stood, one inch shorter covered in scars and sadness, and for the is first time the cowboy knew doubt. This moment of consiouseness is short lived as Link focuses his fury into one singular punch that puts the cowboy down. As he starts to fall Link rushes forwards and grabs him. Poor guy didn’t know any better and he’s done now. No sense letting him hit his head on the way down. He scrawls on a piece of paper, “Sorry man get some water when you wake up” and sticks it in his hand, along with a couple of dollars. He has been a worthy foe.
Feeling guiltless Link runs off in search of Sara. Sara, the woman is a becon of attension. It used to be whenever she was in a 5 mile radius he would be able to find her. Now it seems she’s gone to ground. The thing that once connected the two of them is severed, at least on his end. For all he knows she can sense him coming and is miles away by now. Maybe she’ll gain access to a certain bar in the middle of nowhere. No good can come from her being up here. There is to many things for her to sink her claws into. Yet despite all his searching, despite how epicly she stands out, he can’t find her. He see’s cowboy latter on, no worse for ware. He strolls across campus ignoring stares, spurrs clicking as he goes along without a care in the world. The afternoon fades into evening, then into night proper and somehow she manages not to reemerge from where ever the hell it is she is hiding. For the first time Link wishes he could call on his old friends. People who could track anyone, explain what is going on, and talk down the cowboy so he doesn’t have to get his ass beat. He can’t do that though. Even is what Sara said about the Pale Rider isn’t true he left them. There is no returning.
The night drifts on. The hippy girl is gone, his only friend, the only person he could talk to is driven away. Sara is back. She is out there in the night, watching, waiting, scheming. Like an invasive speciaies she starts off slowly working her way in, planting ideas and desires within people. Then like wildfire she spreads outwards snapping up control, manipulating people to the point where they become her non thinking contantly dancing robots which obey her every command. The cowboy is a perfect canidate for something like that and right now she is probably with him, sinking her claws deep into her soul until she manages to obtain his unwavering loyalty out of him. The guy is so into who he is she probably won’t even have to sleep with him to get him to be part of the program. All ready he can feel things spiraling out of control. The good he’s done hasn’t been good enough, or big enough. All the progress he’s made the tenuous foot holds twords becoming a better stronger saner person wipped out in one day.
Furiously he starts to exercise. Sweat pouring out of his body he doesn’t ever bother counting his reps, or how long he holds each position. He just works, burying himself in a mass of burning muscles, pain, and focus. There is a way around all of this. All he needs to do is to breathe and think it out. He can beat Sara. After all she doesn’t have the pale rider with her. He’s the only person Link’s ever really been afraid of, and considering Link’s looked down the barrle of a gun and taunts death every day of the year that is saying something. That is probably why she is hiding. She doesn’t feel as confident without him. All he needs to do is to, do what? He can’t just kill her. Sara’s done some fucked up shit in her life but she doesn’t deserve to die. What can he do.
He stops in mid situp and thinks. He thinks some more. Then he realizes he has the answer. He’s had it all along. Slowly, painfully he gets up and heads twords the gun’s hiding place. One bullet. One and 6 of biting it. She can’t control what isn’t alive. Its all been leading back to this. As the spin of the cylider echos throughout the near empty room he slams it shut, he putting the barrle in his mouth he idley runs his tounge over the gun. It’s like kissing an old lover who you’ve been separated from for far to long. Outside the birds are chirping and it’s a wonderful day and Link pulls the trigger.