walk this empty street on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, when
the city sleeps and I'm the only one and I walk alone. -Billie
emaciated foot collided with the ground in the outskirts of Airosfield as fog settled
gently on the plains. He stalked his target, ever so carefully,
occasionally leaning on the staff in his right
The chilled night
air whipped against his bones and nearly blew his cloak away. His
breath was visible in a small, thin cloud in front of him. He
looked to the left, then to the right, and then he set his sights
on a sole house set upon a
winding hill. Inside was an elderly man on the eve of his 100th
elderly man grasped his cane, rose out of his chair, and inched
towards his bed. Just then, he was struck with a violent cough;
grasping his chest, he dropped his cane and fell to the floor.
The man's door crept open and a black mist slithered in. The mist
settled in front of the old man and took on a deathly shape. The
man turned around, coughing and wheezing, he regained his balance
and when he turned around, he faced his demise, the Grim
"The - The," he
I have come for thee," the voiced hissed. Ceasel's cough
intensified, but with the stroke of his scythe, there was
silence. The old man's head lay gruesomely on the ground, mouth
agape. The Reaper tipped the point of his scythe into the neck
hole. It radiated a fierce green ember as he carefully extracted
the old man's soul. Atton Brown had yet another
he muttered to himself. "Hmm, I've had a slow
Atton stole into
the shadows and found his way to Mid-Airosfield where the love of
his life, Nirvana, lived. It was a cozy looking one-story house;
hand built by Chris himself on 817 Depriest Downs. He looked into
the house and saw her, he also saw her husband Chris
"Don't worry your
time will come, Chris," he promised himself.
himself that same thing every day because Chris was sleeping with
the woman Atton loved. Nirvana stood up and walked silent as the
night to her closet. She pulled out Atton's old jacket, and,
oddly enough, she danced with it.
Nirvana did a
quiet waltz around her room and for a moment, Atton was there
with her. He pictured himself human, dancing with Nirvana. They
were together in a ballroom, just the two of them. When the dance
stopped, she buried her face in the jacket and
He passed the
children's rooms. A boy, AJ and Atton also noticed the twin girls
in the other beds, Willow and Winter.
After his visit,
he returned to the hill where he'd reaped the old man. Instead of
revisiting the house, he pressed his hands to the hill and phased
through to his lair. It could not compare to the size of the lair
in Limbo but Atton rather liked it, it was…
beheld his throne, two extra rooms, and all of his gremlins,
imps, and demons, including Marty.
Atton said walking to his throne.
"Ay boss," he
said having to run to keep up with Atton's steps. "So uh… 110
thou, ya having kind of a slow year," he
people just don't die like they used to Marty. Have you found her
yet?" Atton asked.
"Uh… well ya
see-," Marty stuttered.
The ''her'' he
had referred to was Vigor's ferocious pet banshee, Berzerk. She
was actually a half- breed, a cross between werewolf and a
banshee. She was the most ferocious and vicious half-breed ever,
seven and a half feet tall, white fur, and claws as sharp as The
Grim Reaper's scythe. Berzerk was born with a lust to kill. She
had narrowly escaped the grasp of Atton before and now they were
both hunting each other. If she ever found Atton, she would take
his scythe, revive Vigor, and then kill Atton; but if he found
her, he would kill her before she had the
Berserk was of
one of the few of Vigor's followers that operated outside of
Airosfield. She was drawn back when Vigor died, because when he
died, she felt it and she wanted revenge on his
"It's a yes or no
question, Marty," Atton looked down.
confessed. Atton let out an exasperated sigh, "but we still don't
know da extent uh her power," Marty spat out, "If Berzerk can
inhabit bodies, she could be anywhere's." Changing the subject,
"Ya know, tomorrow is da first day of
"Yeah Winter and
Willow are moving on to high school and AJ's starting 10th grade.
Man, I remember my first day. My freshman year sucked so I tried
to start a new trend; going to school
"You watch dat
family real close doncha?"
"Just the boy,"
Atton snapped, "there's something special about
"But sir," Marty
interrupted, "you know what's gonna happen, doncha?" Atton wasn't
paying attention. He was reminiscing about the times when he
could go to school, when he was normal. "Boss, ya
"What? Oh yes,
yes Marty, that crazy kid Leroy right?"
"Yeah, but how's
ya gonna get da body 'round all dem people?" Marty
"I'll find a way,
Marty," he mounted his throne, "I always
house was going crazy with everyone was preparing
for the first day of school. AJ was starting his sophomore year
and now had to watch out for his two little sisters, Winter and
Willow, who were starting their first year in high school. He'd
had a rough freshman year and wanting to start something new. He
came flying downstairs and tried to make it out the door
"And where do you
think you're going?" Nirvana stopped him.
"To school," AJ
forgetting your sisters and," she glanced at his feet, "and your
"Come on ma let
me try it, just for a day," AJ pleaded.
Shoes," she told him.
Christopher Jacobson; now," she ordered.
"Pull out the
government name," he groaned, "jeez."
trotted back up the stairs and swore under his
At the breakfast
table, Winter and Willow just finished a quick bowl of cereal.
Then Winter reminded her mom, "Don't forget, hair salon after
"Yes I know, but
do you really want blonde streaks?" Nirvana asked. Willow and
Winter's hair was a brunette color like their
"Yeah, I'm tired
of looking like Willow."
twins, you're supposed to look alike," Nirvana said trying to
hide her frustration.
"Hey mom, where's
dad?" Willow wondered.
"He uh… had to go
away early on a business trip," she lied. Chris was a mercenary
and had left at about 3 a.m. on a special
"What does he do
anyway?" Willow continued to question.
"He um…" Saving
her from another uneasy lie, AJ came back downstairs with shoes
and socks on.
"Are ya happy
now?" he said wearing his shoes.
"Yes," she said
kissing his forehead and she did so with the girls as
started out to the bus stop. As AJ left, his mother grabbed his
arm. "Watch out for your sister's," she
probably take half the people in that high school," AJ said
honestly. "I don't know where she learned to fight like
From me, Nirvana
thought. Willow had inherited Nirvana's intense fighting skills,
but Winter was the exact opposite of Nirvana. She was somewhat
ditzy. Winter was the type of the girl that cried when she broke
realized, "watch out for Winter."
grumbled to himself.
As he and his
sisters walked to the bus stop AJ noticed the bullies that
tormented him almost all his life, Buzz and
"Well look who it
is, and just who are these twin turds," Spike asked pushing
Not making eye
contact he told them, "This is Willow and Winter. They're my
"Three sisters in
one house," Buzz joked. AJ didn't respond.
supposed to be funny?" Willow dryly
girl, so laugh," Spike said pushing her.
chuckled, "you called me little girl. You should take that back,
"Aw you gonna get
big brother to beat me up," he continued to taunt. "I'd love to
see him try."
"No," she said
slowly. Spike went to push her again but she grabbed his hand and
twisted his wrist.
tried to hold it in, but ended up screaming in
Buzz began, but stopped.
AJ stood idle,
enjoying their slight torment but Winter decided to
pleaded, "stop it. Girls don't do that."
Willow rolled her
eyes and released the bully's wrist, just as the bus came. Spike
started to board the bus, but decided to let Willow go
AJ wasn't a
complete loser, he wasn't anti-social or without friends. In his
mind, he had enough friends; he had one best friend, Malik. He
plopped down next to Malik on the bus.
"Malik," he said,
"what's up, man?"
"Not much," he
responded. "My folks made me work this
continued. "They sent me down to the ranch where my grandparents
AJ shook his head. Last summer, AJ had wasted away into a vat of
"Yeah, believe it
or not AJ; not everyone detests hard work as much as
rolled his eyes. As he did, he started taking off his shoes and
socks. "So I've been thinking," he started.
"Hmm, that's a
first, what about?" Malik asked.
"This year we
need girlfriends," AJ told his friend.
"I've got one,"
his friend told him.
"What?" AJ was
taken back, "When?"
"This summer, one
of the ranch-hands that worked for my grandparents, she's sexy as
"Is she your
cousin?" AJ joked.
forced a smile, "I ain't that desperate, her name's Carrie. Looks
like you're out to dry but don't worry I'll help you
"Cool," AJ said,
Malik began, "put some shoes on."
Half of the
school day passed until AJ met up with Malik
"You ready?" he
"For what?" AJ
course," Malik told him. "Now to get a girl you'll need
"Wait, wait hold
up, stop," AJ interrupted. "I've had girlfriends before, I can
get girls. It's just in this school you never know who's with
who, or who's available."
realized, "you need the breakdown."
"Yep, listen up.
There're roughly one thousand girls in this school. Five hundred
are taken in a never-ending on again/off again relationship with
complete douches. Two hundred are saving
"For prom night,"
Malik told him. "Don't interrupt. Now if you eliminate all of the
whores, sluts, hookers, lesbians, transvestites and girls that
are just plain ugly… you are left with about twenty girls.
Seventeen of those girls are desperately, and I mean desperately,
out of your league. The remaining three are always free: Alison
Kwan, Elora Smith, and Sierra Reagan. Take your
dad a -," he paused. "Hey, what's going on over
Across from him
was another row of lockers and a sophomore named Leroy, who was
an even older victim of Buzz and Spike than AJ and he was sick of
Spike said slamming him against his locker.
"Did you like
your midday swirly?" Buzz asked. "You'll get one every time you
come in our bathroom."
said shaking, "can I just go to my locker in
slapped him and stepped away. Just as quickly as he did, Leroy
pulled a gun from his locker. It was his dad's
"Back up!" He
said holding the gun to Buzz and Spike. AJ eyes
do something," Malik realized.
"Why don't you?"
"I ain't gettin'
shot for them."
"N -now Leroy,
don't do anything crazy," Spike said
"Ha! You don't
want to slap me now, do you? Do you! All my life," he began with
his whole body shaking, "I've had to put up with you two. You
tortured and humiliated me. You made me wish I was dead." Leroy
cocked the gun.
"Leroy what are
you doing?" The principal appeared in the hallway. Leroy quickly
turned and his finger slipped. The students watched in horror as
the hot lead poured through his forehead and came out, only to
ricochet off a nearby locker.
AJ took out his
cell phone and called the police. When they got there, Leroy
confessed to it all.
"I didn't mean to
kill him," he said shaking intensely and crying. "I didn't mean
to kill him."
After this, the
halls cleared so the police could get statements from the
witnesses and the body just lay in the halls. Slowly out of a
corner, the Reaper emerged. Atton knew he couldn't slice the head
because that would cause new complications to arise, so he
extracted the soul from the bullet hole in his head. After
finishing his statement, AJ reentered the building to get the
rest of his things to go home. There, he stood face to face with
the Reaper. AJ stood as still as a statue in a hall as silent as
a grave. He couldn't believe it; but the moment he blinked Atton
disappeared into the shadows.
AJ said in
That day school
was released early for
obvious reasons. AJ called his mom to pick them up; she did, and
took Winter to the hair salon.
her daughter in and told the hairdresser what to do. While they
waited, Nirvana wanted to know what had
shot," AJ said putting it plain and simple.
"That's it, no
motive or anything?" Nirvana asked. "There's got to be more to
the story than that."
Willow chimed in
with the rest of the story, "This kid, Leroy, got real pissed at
Buzz and Spike. So he got a gun but he missed and hit the
said, surprised at what kids did these days. Nirvana would have
taken him on, no weapons. His sister left to use the bathroom and
Nirvana noticed AJ seemed more distant than usual. "AJ what's
At first, he
didn't answer; he was filing through his thoughts making sure
what he saw was real. "Today in school," AJ began. "I saw… what's
the use, you wouldn't believe me if I told
"Try me," Nirvana
prompted. "I've seen plenty of wild and crazy things in my
"I saw a man… but
he had no skin," AJ began slowly. He wore a black cloak and held
a… a blade. I think it's called a scythe. However crazy it sounds
I think I saw the Grim Reaper," AJ blurted out. "There I said
"Atton," she half-whispered to herself. She thought about it and
it made sense, every time someone died, he had to be there. Was
he there every time Chris killed someone?
thoughts wandered back to the months she spent with Atton. He
said it would last fifty years. He said Vigor wouldn't die, but
she'd seen him slice off his head. Was he still alive? Were these
events leading up to something greater than she could imagine?
Would AJ be safe?
"What, ma? I was
just seeing stuff right," AJ asked but she didn't reply. After
waiting awhile, Winter's hair was done, but Nirvana wasn't
expecting what she saw next.
"What did you do
to her hair?" Her hair was all white. "I said blonde streaks, you
"Oops. That's $50
please," the hairdresser said twisting her gum around her
"Yeah right, I'm
not paying for this you retarded bimbo!" Nirvana said taking her
family and leaving. In the car, Nirvana kept looking in the
rearview mirror at Winter's hair.
"It's not that
bad," Winter said stroking it. "At least people can tell me and
Willow apart now." AJ sat there laughing to
When they got
home Chris was there waiting. "Hey guys. You're home early, I
made you guys lunch." As the kids settled in for lunch, Nirvana
walked up to Chris. "Who'd you kill today?" she said kissing
important," he responded with a smile.
When Chris and
Nirvana went to bed, she was in a strange mood. All she could
think about was Atton. Chris kissed her on the
"I love you," he
whispered in her ear. He awaited her response. "Nirvana?" Chris
Nirvana did not
respond because she was lost in thought and unfocused on Chris.
Chris sat up in bed. He decided that it was his job to console
her, whatever the problem was.
asked again, "what's wrong?"
started, "I know you better than that."
"Ok, Chris, when
I married you," she began. Chris rolled his eyes because he knew
what she was going to say. They had had this conversation many
times before. They had never finished it though, tonight they
would. "I hoped you'd fill a void."
"And I did,
right?" Chris asked hopefully.
"No, and I kind
of knew you wouldn't, but I still needed something to replace
him," Nirvana continued.
"Oh, here we go,
Atton, right; your imaginary boyfriend. After all those years of
therapy you should know he was never real," Chris
"He was real,"
she angrily snapped. Actually, she was unsure of her own words.
Many years in therapy had changed her views on Atton. She was
almost convinced he was not real.
"I know he was,"
Nirvana whispered. "It's not even about him really. I thought
you'd at least be here for me, for us. I have to lie to the kids
every day!" "Nirvana, you know I can't tell them the truth,"
Chris reminded her.
"I just wanted
you to be there for me," she said sadly. She'd always had someone
there for her. First, she had her father, then CJ, then she met
Zak, then there was Atton, and now no one. She still talked to CJ
but it wasn't the same.
"Nirvana, I love
you," he repeated. "I -"
"You say that,"
Nirvana snapped. "You say you love me, you want me, you need me;
but you don't mean it."
"I do," Chris
"No you don't.
They're just…words, empty words and I'm sick of hearing them.
Cus, guess what, I don't want you or need you," Nirvana said
said, shocked, "I'm sorry I -"
"It's too late,"
she spat out, "to apologize. It is over. I don't love you," she
inhaled deeply and gritted his teeth, "I've got a… uh - special
contract in the morning, looks like I can leave early." He got
out of the bed and decided he would get dressed on the way there.
"When I come back we can-"
back," Nirvana interrupted.