Chapter two, Indecorum

“Arty, wake up!”

He jolts up from his seat, hitting his head on the damaged rotting headliner of his car he is now all too familiar with. “I’m hungry arty”, artious looks over to the tired young boy next to him, he doesn’t have much colour in his skin, he is a lot skinnier then before, not to mention the eye bags; “me too” he says under his breath. The windows were foggy from their breathing over night, the air was damp and cold, miserable.

It had been about a month and a half since the ACF raided and pillaged the manor back in Indiana, how they found them so off the grid was still a mystery to him, though that wasn’t of much importance now. There had been several amber alerts and missing person’s reports going around where they resided before, thus they now were laying low in Milwaukee, homeless.

“Please, my belly is hurting real bad” the young boy mumbled, art looked at him sympathetically, going from a groggy depressed expression to an imitation of a reassuring smile, “il be right back, okay?”

Clunk, the steel door closes and art faces the morning air, crows and passing cars are the only thing he can hear, he crosses the street to a small parking lot surrounded by assorted businesses, one of them is a grungy diner, he had a rather stupid idea.

Opening the door, a bell above rings, to his surprise its rather busy inside, mostly older people. A waitress comes to meet him with an apathetic greeting, she is a woman that looks to be in her 50’s, longish grey hair; “you here all by yourself sweetie?” art looks up at her, “do you do takeout” he says cutting to the chase, “um… yes we do, here is the menu, I know it isn’t my place but… are you okay? You’re covered in old bandages.” She looked concerned, art had been using the same bandages he already had on him, he needed something to cover his nervous scratches, his current situation being what it was, its safe to say his scratching wasn’t getting better. “You’re exactly right, it isn’t your place, forget the menu il just get two burgers or something” he was sounding quite rude now. “Alright, two house burgers… cash or card?” his eyes widened, he had no money at all, he didn’t think this through much. “Um actually il have them here,” he said nervously, the woman looked at him dead in the eyes, “you were planning to dash as soon as I gave you the food right?” a single word entered arts mind with a guttural panic, fuck.

He turned to leave quickly when the woman said something he didn’t expect. “It’s on the house”. Despite this the boy ran out the door, the woman was saddened by that, he was obviously hungry and she just wanted to help. She goes back to the counter to grab a few plates to serve, when the bell above the door rings again, this time art is standing there, holding the hand of sally next to him.

They were sitting in a back room on boxes, scarfing down the food they were given like animals. “Where are you boys from?” sally was quick to answer, “The woods”, both art and the woman looked over at him, art was quick to speak up, “were from Indiana”, the woman looked a little shocked, “Indiana? What you two doing out here?” neither of them answered. “ your folks are worried sick I imagine, il get you the phone” the woman said this softly, she turned around and left the room momentarily, coming back with a new looking white telephone, about the only new thing in this place.

Art took the phone into his hands, his head tilted up to meet the gaze of the woman, he starred at her deeply, conveying more emotion then necessary for her to understand, that something was very wrong. Sal started to cry a bit, he hugged artious lightly. The woman stood up straight, “Jim, there is a family emergency I got to go”, before this Jim guy had a chance to respond, she grabbed their arms and took the two of them out the back door, their hands still greasy from the burgers.

She placed a cigarette between her lips and pulled out a lighter from her pocket, “you two are in some sort of trouble aren’t you, do you live anywhere?” sally nodded, still crying. “Where?” she said with intent. The young boy pointed over to the rusted beaten up car across the street. Artious was looking at her during this, a sadness so deep was plastered across her face once she realised, these two kids had something bad going on, at such a young age. “Thanks for the burgers” art took sally’s hand and began to walk away, avoiding eye contact by looking at the ground. A hand rested on arts shoulder, he flinched a little, she spoke “follow me you two”, they turned around and hesitantly followed her.

They climbed up creaking stairs on the outside of the building until they reached a door, it was where she lived, pink floral wallpaper and shaggy carpet, a five star hotel compared to how they had been living “make your selves at home” she said with a smile, sally looked over to art for his opinion, the woman’s aura was a soft comfortable yellow, her intent was pure, art nodded to sally.

“Here is my guest bedroom, you two can have it, well figure out the details of this situation later, I just want you two to feel safe and comfortable for now. By the way, I never introduced myself, I’m Cathy.”

“I’m artious, a-and this is sally.” He said, “Well its nice to meet you ar-“, artious cut her off with a rather emotional and quiet “thank you”. She smiled, “of course”

Click, the door to the guest bedroom closed behind them, sally jumped up onto the bed and got comfortable right away, artious joined him, they laid side by side, staring at the yellowing popcorn ceiling. “She is nice!” sally said to art in a mild uplifted tone, art turned his head over to look at him, “yes she is” they were simple words, not very descriptive, but they meant so much to him in that moment, she was nice, and they were safe.

There was a small tv in the corner of the room, is was musty looking. Art sat up and turned it on, it made a high pitch sound when he did. It had been a long time since either of them had access to a tv, they were exited.

As art flipped through the channels the in and out of distorted voices could be heard, until he landed on a deeper voice, the news. “(Static) another week passes without the finding of the five missing children from southbend Indiana, seven of them have already been prosecuted and contained under federal jurisdiction.” Five images came up on the screen, Artious, Sally, Rei, David, and Maryam. “If you recognize any of these children then please contact 911, do not approach these terrorists as they are dangerous and a threat to our nation.” Art and sally sat there in disbelief, not knowing what to say or do, meanwhile the camera panned to a woman that went on about another story, art turned off the tv, defining silence followed.

The door opened, and Cathy walked in with a shocked worried look on her face, she tossed the morning newspaper onto arts lap, they were on the front page along with the others, the title read, “national threat”.

Art looked up at Cathy, her eyes were wide, “who are you two?”

Time passes through conventional means, forever marching.

It was hard to tell where my skin ended and the air began, I felt light, weightless, like a feather.

Before me stood this young boy ive sworn to protect, he was crying, his feathers were dirty and dark.

Am I the devil to you?

I guess only you can answer that, brother.

This white void… mocking me with its pure nature.

Why am I alive.

The sheets felt rough and uncomfortable like always, the musty smell of the room entered my noes, it gave me comfort now, unlike before. Rays of light crept through the blinds and hit my eyes uncomfortably, I guess I slept in again… wait why didn’t Cathy wake me up? What am I saying, I need to be responsible for myself.

I stood up and put on a white shirt from the floor, along with sweat pants I slept in, Sal’s side of the bed is empty, he’s probably already up.

It had been somewhere around three months since Cathy took us in, none of us really expected for me and Sal to end up living here with her, we just kind of… never talked about it, she assumed a mother role and who were we to decline, what else did we have?

I went into the bathroom and stood before the mirror, just looking at myself, I looked so different. I had dyed my hair brown and started wearing fords old glasses, in some attempt to hide my identity I guess. I kind of looked like him now that I think about it.

The boy turned around and continued to get dressed, leaving the bedroom revealed sally sitting on the floor watching the main tv, kind of mesmerized. Art left the house onto the wooden stairs, facing the morning air. A small box is pulled from the pocket of his brown leather jacket, he had taken up smoking somehow in only a short amount of time, only fuelled by their new mother figure.

He walked down the stairs to the pavement by the dumpster, he takes a long drag while looking at the car shaped heap next to it, covered in tarp and looking as depressing as ever.

The back door to the kitchen opens and art walks through, taking off his jacket and preparing himself for the day with some cold black coffee, pitiful and disgusting. He had taken up a job in the small dinner along with Cathy, he wasn’t doing anything all day, so may as well make some money, he looked very different from his warrant picture so he saw it as a safe move.

“Your late Scarface!” a old mans voice boomed from the office next to him, he called him “Scarface” because of the mass amount of marks all over his body from scratching himself his whole life, including his face, safe to say, he took offence to it. “I won’t take no shit from slackers like you, get to those fucking dishes before I fire your dumbass.”

That was Jim, a nasty old man that art needed to kiss up too, his aura was gross, genuinely one of the scummiest people art had ever met. “So sorry sir, won’t happen again…” Art looked to the ground while saying this, avoiding eye contact. He put on an apron and entered the kitchen, near the sink, washing dishes that had piled up in his absence.

When he did dishes his mind would wander quite often, ever since the ACF raided the manor, he had been plagued by thoughts of death, they weren’t violent thoughts, he didn’t want to hurt anyone, however the very concept of death was always on his mind, having these ideas of how people around him will die, they consumed his mind all the time, it was exhausting.

There was a knock on the back door, he didn’t pay it any mind, usually Jim handled stuff like that, but this time he didn’t seem to, so art walked over and opened the door, it was sally. Artious crouched down to his eye level and motioned art to come closer, the small boy whispered “I’m hungry”, art gave a puzzled look, “why cant you just get something from the fridge back upstairs? I got a bunch of shit yesterday.” In response to this, sally gave him… the look, “ugh, fine, just give me a sec” art turned around and walked back into the kitchen.

While art was gathering up miscellaneous untouched leftovers, he heard the front door open, immediately a familiar energy wafted past him, a sweet song almost, it was so… recognisable, yet he couldn’t seem to remember who it was. Like a flash, he remembers, just before he can softly say the name in his head, his eyes lock with theirs from across the kitchen, Rei.