Blue Ash Crisis (2018/2019), Fiction, Novels

Blue Ash Crisis: Chapter 9

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Chapter 9

Long Nights In The Park

Apricot looked at the spray-painted crown and pitchfork on the sidewalk and thought, “Finally.”. The tail-end pointed toward a dirty, worn-out automobile shop. Over the rusty doorway, “Grease Monkey’s” was displayed in large letters made of dead halogen tubes. Apricot strolled through the streets, following signs and symbols as she traveled. The sun had set by now and it was getting dark. She repeatedly ventured into bars and other shady-looking places without success. She had been kicked out several times today, and she was certain the police had been contacted at least once by now.

Leaving the shop, Apricot walked out with a hanging head. Despite her inaudible sigh, she grumbled, “This is impossible.” Just as she was about to give up on the entire idea of finding an illegal gun, she heard a loud “Psst!” from across the street. As she looked up, she saw a middle-aged man wearing normal clothing waving at her. “Here, miss.” The man directed her with a hand toward an alleyway. “I got it, we don’t do business in the front.” An extreme amount of apprehension had gripped Apricot. This was not what she was expecting. Even so, she didn’t know what to expect, but she knew that it wasn’t this. In this part of town, walking into an alleyway with a stranger seemed dangerous. Although she was reluctant, she decided to go. The man put his hand on her back and guided her down the empty backstreet. “Yo, kid, you’re looking for the wrong thing.”

Within seconds, she knew she didn’t want to be with him. There were enough memories in her mind from movies to know this is where the girl got kidnapped. Several men with bats, clubs, and metal poles popped out of the backdoor of the building she stood behind, confirming her most dreadful fears. Trying not to be cornered by the man, Apricot tries to back away. An additional three men are waiting at the entrance she just walked through, blocking her escape. The man next to her sneered, “There is no way out.”

“I don’t want any trouble,” Apricot yelped, holding her hands up to her face. The thought of being brutalized and trafficked has her heart pounding.

While they circled her, the man spat on the ground. “Sure, kid. One of my boys said a funny girl was moving around town looking to buy a gun. Real pretty girl with brown hair. You would not be her, would you?”

Her mask of horror was covered with an enormous smile of joy as Apricot turned her head towards him. Like chocolate and onions, her horror of death and her excitement of her excursion felt so strange together. She trembled in stutters. “Y-yes, I am.”

“Sure kid, funny thing, you have no clue what you’re doing, yet you knew how to find your way around.” The man did not appear amused as he approached the brick wall. She was surrounded by a group of dangerous men, who were waiting to tear her apart, or worse, and no one knew where she was.

“First-time buyer.” She jokingly replied, trying to lighten the mood. A few chuckles and even a smirk escaped the man she now believed was the leader.

Nodding his head, the man continued. “Yes, first-time buyers.” He shook his head. “I can’t believe a first-time buyer just cracked our code. Who told you?”

“No one,” Apricot responded.

Taking a deep breath, the boss man closed his eyes. Then he said, “See, I have a hard time with this because you did what the cops do. We got those old pitchforks, but you didn’t ask properly. Your persistence was annoying. I feel like a cop told you this. Not a good cop. Even the cops are not as sloppy as you.” A lump formed in her throat as the man nodded. “Heh, well, I guess you don’t want to talk about it.”

“I am interested in purchasing a gun. I urgently need one.” She burst out hoping they would believe her if she insisted. “Please.”

The boss-man cocked his head. He glanced over to a young man holding a black plastic baton, wearing a red hoodie and a white shirt. “Yeah, you will need protection,” he said. The boss man nodded. Jumping up to Apricot, the young man let out a grunt. As he weaved in her direction, she backed up.

Her heart nearly leaped out of her throat when she bumped into something solid. Glancing up, she saw a huge bald man grinning down at her. His arms wrapped around her and lifted her up. Dangling in his grasp, she kicked her feet. In response, the group merely snickered. As the man was about to strike her, a voice from the crowd yelled, “Ji Li, man, this isn’t right! You don’t need to do it that way.”

“Oh yeah, I see. You willing to vouch for her?” Apricot’s eyes scan the group to find the guy who may save her, but the two men in front of her block her vision.

The man hesitated. As she listened to the silence, her mind raced to the possibilities. Whether they would just beat her up or kill her, Apricot didn’t know. “Look at her, she’s not no one. Neither has she done anything. Just let her go.”

Ji Li snorted. “You gotta vouch for her.”

In a gang of hardened criminals, who would stand up for her? A gangster with a golden heart, perhaps? That kind of drama is unlikely to occur in real life. Maybe a cop? What did it matter? The only thing she knew was that someone might just get her out of this alive. “Please!” Apricot pleaded. A thump burst into her stomach as she grunted. Everything stopped at that moment. She lost consciousness as her eyes fell blank. As she looked down, she saw the young man pressing the baton against her. The tea she drank earlier spews out of her mouth onto the man.

“Whatcha do that for?” Ji Li inquired of the young man. “Ah shit, she’s got it all over her. Get her something to wipe her face off.” Ji Li told the guy next to him. “Can’t you see we’re talking? Are your ears broken?”

The man trembled. “She was disrespectful,” he said.

“You’re disrespectful. Heh, Balbo, you let that girl down.” Ji Li gestured his hand. The big dude set her feet down as he lowered her. “You’re spitting up shit, kid, get the hell out of here. Walk her out, man. Ensure she is okay.” The other guys are heading in all directions as they begin to clear the area. 

Seeing that her situation had improved, Apricot took a deep breath. The men walked around her as they avoided eye contact. She looked up at another man with a half-smile, holding out a rolled-up towel. He said, “Here, wipe up with this.”. Apricot accepted the towel and covered her face with the white rag. After removing the towel from her face, she felt faint. When she buckled at the knees and stumbled to her feet, she said to herself, “Don’t faint.”. As the man stepped away from her, she saw his expression. “Shit, what you thinking?” She heard Ji Li grunt as he walked into the back of the building.

As a result, she was alone in the alley with the other man. His hair is neat and he is clearly of Uchellan descent. A little androgynous, he had short, spiky mint-green hair that was strange to her. Wearing a red shirt with a high collared neck and black pants, his clothes are more traditional in style. The sleeves of the shirt were too wide. Apricot had noticed the style becoming popular with some subcultures. She assumed this one was likely a member of a nationalist gang. “You okay?” Apricot asked as she walked straight toward him. Her legs were trembling. She was straining to breathe.

Regardless of these facts, she huffed, “I’m fine.” The man walked with her until they were several blocks from the shops. The secluded alleyway provided the perfect cover, Apricot thought. “I was interested in buying a pistol.”

She was told, “Kid, stop that.”

“You don’t get it. My life is at risk. Please help me. I need a gun. I cannot explain it.” Apricot insisted.

The man stood straight up. “You are lucky to be alive, kid.” he said. “Imagine if there hadn’t been anyone to speak up for you. You would have died. But I knew you didn’t work for the cops. They wouldn’t hire someone as obvious as you.”

Apricot smirked. “Yeah, because you’re a cop.” The man rolls his eyes at her joke with an uncomfortable glance. Her suspicions were confirmed by this reaction. Apricot repeated, “You’re a cop.”

The man snapped, “Don’t even joke. So what does a girl like you need a gun for?”

“I am fighting phantoms,” Apricot told the man with a straight face. As a cop, he would have heard about spooks. Perhaps he saw some himself.

His thin lips were curved into a grin. “Right, aren’t we all?”

“No,” she replied. “I mean phantoms. Monsters, things that appear and then disappear right back into thin air. The terrorist attacks, heh, foolishness.” Apricot said to the man. His eyes widened in discomfort. “You know what I mean because you are a cop.”

“Stop with the cop thing and anyone will look at someone funny talking like that. Now get the hell out of here.” He turned his back on Apricot, taking a few steps away from her.

Apricot assured herself, “He won’t walk away. He knows I am telling the truth.”

Just as she predicted, the man turned back and sized Apricot up again. He pursed his lips and blew a puff of air after examining her. “You are not wrong about those things, though,” he said. “Do you know what they are?”

“I have not a clue. I know I would be better off if I kept quiet. Ichigari Grocery is where I worked. Hence my need for a gun. One of them was at my house the other night. In my little brother’s room. I’m sure he wanted to eat him. A horrible wolf monster. I killed it with his baseball bat. I wish I could tell you more, but I have to stop them.” The man took a deep breath and reached into the pocket of his shirt. Apricot found the object she sought. A gun at last. As he approached her, he placed the gun in her hand. She wrapped her fingers around the handle, feeling a sense of power and security wash over her.

He squinted down at the gun and did not let go. “It’s a 45. That means the bullets it uses have points four, five on them. “Don’t get caught with it.” he warned, letting go of the pistol. “It carries the death penalty.” The man shook his head. “The number has been removed, and the tracking device has been removed. It should work in jammed areas. It’s the real deal. Even though I am not sure why I am doing this, I feel like it is the right thing to do. Whatever you do, I hope it works.”

Turning away from her, he headed back the way he came down the road. Putting the pistol in her purse, she zippered it. A smile spread across her face as she petted the side of the purse with her hand.

“Paranormal Experiences Of Eastway Park And The Eastway Monster ………………………………………………………………P. 04

Paranormal Experiences Of Eastway Park And The Eastway Monster

“If you have been out at Eastway Park at night and have found yourself lost, you are not alone. A startling number of reports from passers-by have said this small little park at night appears as an endless labyrinth. So many, in fact, that the city of Blue Ash has put a ban on entry after dark. So you won’t be able to check this one out for yourself. We would not suggest you try, anyway. If you thought those reports were strange, what lies inside police records might have you even more on edge.”

“People said inside that labyrinth, there were monsters. Strange creatures of various descriptions. Some reported seeing strange shadows along the walls. We have also received many letters pertaining to this matter. One letter detailing a monster reminded us much of a flying squid. The only thing we know for sure is something strange is going on in Eastway Park.”

Apricot jumped off the barricade and stared into the darkness of Eastway Park. She is determined to test these claims for herself. The rest of those stories may hold some merit if this one is successful. While walking home, she had a thought. What if all these “paranormal” things are actually the phantom’s effects? Since she already knew they could cause electrical disturbances and alter the temperature, it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch. There might be other things they can do. If that was the case, she would have to investigate these weird urban legends around town. Her peace of mind was heightened by the thump of the gun against her hip.

As she walks around the pavement loop, she passes a fountain located at the center of the park. It wasn’t long before she found herself back at the beginning again, unable to find the “labyrinth”. Rolling her eyes, she walks towards a small patch of trees, the overgrowth battling with the man-made order. While strolling through the park, she felt like an idiot for even trying this stupid charade.

Apricot decided it’s best to leave, all but done with this embarrassing fiasco. As she abandoned the park, her eye is drawn to something she hadn’t seen the first few times. There was a tunnel with strange markings. It had spirals, triangles, and circles painted on it. “If there was a labyrinth, then this must be it.” Apricot concluded.

Her nose was filled with a rancid smell, reminding her of the sour scent of rotten meat wafting from the labyrinth. Taking hold of the pistol’s grip, she slowly slid it from the waist of her blue jeans, leveling it into a stance she had seen on TV. Peering into the tunnel, she surveyed its interior. The walls were covered in faded and peeling paint, revealing blackish brick underneath. As she walked deeper into the room, she noticed red puddles on the floor. However, there were no bodies to be found. But it still looks like blood. Warm wetness hits her head as she continues into the dark tunnel. There were some very large veins visible in the ceiling as she glanced up. 

Her heart raced as they wiggled like they were pumping. The walls of the tunnel pulsed to a rhythmic beat as she listened closely. As fingers touched the side of her arm, she let out a shriek. A pale hand rests on her arm, catching her attention. Looking up, she is greeted by cold dead eyes staring at her face. Laughing, Apricot said, “You scared me.”. No words came out of the thin lady’s mouth, but her face moved closer to Apricot’s. When she felt the sudden sense of danger engulf her, she pulled back as if a dog was about to bite her.

“How long have you been here?” Apricot asked, noticing her clothes were from another era entirely. The woman opened her mouth, still stretching her face toward Apricot. Her tongue snaked out but then sank back inside. “Do you understand me?” she asked without replying. Her nerves were on edge. Such behavior cannot be human.

Her neck appeared to be stretched further as she strains it. As she leans forward, her arms are straight. Like dried paper, her face splits down the middle, revealing a skull with skin covering it. Apricot estimated that the woman stood to a height of at least ten feet as it stretched several feet from her body and its pulsing muscles became visible. Its chest bursts out, revealing its larger shell-like carapace and arms resembling a praying mantis’ scythe. Its shell was brown, and its legs curved oddly and her thorax wiggled from the rear.

Apricot leveled the barrel at the creature and screamed. Her hand flew into the air when she pulled the trigger, and pain flooded her wrist. And worst of all, it appears the bullet has little effect on the creature. Apricot ducked to hear the blade scraping across the wall as it slashed.

After turning and running toward the entrance, she was unable to see it from this distance. Instead, the tunnel seemed endless and dark. Her only source of light was the dull red glow of the veins above her. A strong vibration indicates the creature’s approach. It wasn’t far behind her. As it continues down the tunnel, it hisses at her. As she turns around, Apricot fires again at the creature. This time, she watches the bullet impact its chest. Sparks fly as the bullet hits and then disappears. “What!” Apricot screamed. This was it. Apricot was going to die. As she huddled into a ball, screaming, the creature dove.

“That’s not apt to help you.” remarked a male voice. The girl turned her head to see a young man holding a decorative rod in front of the creature’s scythes.

Apricot was stunned. “Who are you?”

As he pushed with his arm, he forced the creature back. “So you like picking on little girls?” he growled, walking towards the creature who was now screaming a high-pitched roar at him. “Yeah, yeah, you can complain all you like.” The creature lunged and swung its blade. The man parried the blow, knocking the claw aside. He repeated this several times until he used the back end of his rod to strike the creature in the face.

A large spark erupted from the creature in the blink of an eye. The skull underneath was exposed after the skin from the creature’s face fell off. It appeared that only a few pieces of the creature’s visage remained, dripping out like slime. Turning away, the creature fled into the distance. “What?” it asked. “Don’t like silver?” he sneered and threw the rod at the creature, knocking it to the ground as though it was being electrocuted. As it lay on the ground, its body convulsed. Once the monster had shrieked for a while, the flashing tunnel returned to darkness, and the monster became quiet.

Getting closer to the rod, he lifted it off the gunge. Looking back at Apricot, he gloated. “Hello, my name is Shiori Kinjo,” he said.

“Kinjo!” She felt a wave of shock wash over her. “He is royalty!”

She feels as if the man can read her mind, since he confirms her thoughts. “And yes, I am that Shiori, the heir to the Kinjo family nobility. Now tell me, dear, why are you carrying an illegal weapon in these tunnels?” Apricot was taken aback by his firm tone, thinking about her response.

Apricot murmurs, “I’m hunting phantoms.”

As Shiori rubbed his chin, he smirked. “How interesting.” he said. Maybe I can get along with you. “However, I have never seen anyone hunt a phantom while curled up in a ball like a coward.” Apricot had not realized, but she was still lying on the ground. She sprung up immediately.“For now, I will not take any notice of your pistol. If you plan on using it, you should learn how to use it.” Apricot is unsure what to say. Rather than speak, she nodded. “It appears. You don’t speak much. Star-struck? Hmm?” he beams.

Apricot said, “I almost died.”

Shiori said, “Get used to it, miss “phantom” hunter.” He continued walking past her toward the end of the tunnel, “Most things aren’t too friendly when you’re trying to kill them.”

“Hold on!” Shiori glanced at her back. “Do you know what these are?” she asked. “Why are you here? What is happening?!”

“I will answer just one question. You decide.” Shiori replied smugly. Apricot reviewed the questions. Which was the most significant? Where would the most information be found? “If you are going to waste my time, I have elsewhere to go. The night hasn’t ended yet.”

Apricot makes a snap decision. “Do you know what these things are?”

Shiori walked again and smiled as he said, “I do.”

“What! “Aren’t you going to tell me?” Apricot shouted.

“Not a chance, dear. As I promised, I answered one question.” Shiori laughed. “If you survive, I might reconsider.”

Apricot followed him. “You’re a jerk, you know?”

“A jerk that saved your life, my dear. Remember that,” he chuckled. “There is one thing I can give you. The Crisis. Start there.”

Grasping at her face, Apricot squinched up. “What do you mean by the Crisis?” This time, he didn’t respond. Instead, he accelerated. At the end of the tunnel, Apricot expected Shiori to at least say goodbye to her, but he doesn’t even pause to say goodbye. “You’re such an asshole,” Apricot said in a growling tone. “But at least I’m not the only one.”

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