(Consider this as some kind of early Chinese New Year related post. Well, related to Harwood’s scenes anyway, I guess)
(Should I even really put up warnings anymore? Just take caution whenever you see The Builder tagged from here on out. Because they’re nasty.)
Horse-Face’s companion stumbled back, falling over onto his rear end. The knife he’d somehow acquired on the way dropped out of his hand, clattering onto the floor.
Annette kept an eye on him as he slowly got back onto his feet. When he was halfway up, The Builder’s Twin appeared to help him up the rest of the way.
“He was…” The young man held up his hands, seeing them smeared with the black liquid that now oozed out from the corpse. “I thought you were going to…”
The Twin picked the knife back up, looking chagrined at what was now covering it. They looked at him, as if they wanted to say he knew better.
Knowing he was being stared at, Horse-Face’s companion scratched his head in embarrassment. “Sorry. I guess I just panicked. Maybe I should’ve asked first.”
Waving it off while rolling their eyes, The Twin only sheathed it back into a holster Annette hadn’t seen before.
Annette was about to thank them for their help, when she suddenly doubled over again in severe pain. The young man was about to ask her what happened, when he saw the shards of glass in her back.
“Oh…” He reached toward her, making to pinch one out. “Do you want us to help?”
Before she could tell them both what to do, Annette heard footsteps. She instead shooed them back to the hidden passageways as well as she could.
The Builder dropped all that they were doing when they heard glass shattering in their cellar.
“Oh, come on!” They interjected when they realized the state of the place. “Some of this shit was worth over a hundred grand!”
After stumbling down the stairs, they turned towards Annette and scowled. “What the hell did you do?!”
Annette was in too much pain to properly answer. She just focused her attention mainly on trying to get the glass out of her back.
When they got closer to the now decapitated zombie, The Builder grabbed his head by the hair. After surveying it for a few moments, they stuck their lip out in a decision.
“If I’d known you hated him that much…Eh, waste not want not.” To Annette’s supreme horror and disgust, they sunk their teeth into the skull, and bit through it like they were eating an apple.
Harwood tapped at the side of his guitar, as he waited for the other two to get comfy on either side of him.
“So, I’ve been meaning to ask, Marc,” he brought up in order to break the awkward silence, “What became of that woman who came looking for a commission? Did she ever return?”
“Huh?” Marc had to think about what Harwood was asking him, before remembering. “Oh…No, she didn’t. I guess she left town some time later. You know, just like any other drifter…”
The word ‘drifter’ caught Sinbad’s attention. When he took a seat, he interrupted Marc’s speech.
“Whoa whoa whoa. You said ‘drifter’, right?” Marc nodded. “This drifter chick, did she have blue skin and dark hair?”
Again, Marc nodded. “She sure did. Why, you meet her?”
Sinbad only scoffed. “You bet your ass I did. She stayed with us for a few days, and she pretty much fucked everything up for us. And she fucked my ex-fiance’s uncle. Pretty sure she killed that fat moron, too. ”
Now it was Harwood’s turn to look baffled and curious. A ‘blue’ woman, you say? Sounds like the two of you got into some rather intense peyote juice.”
Holding up his guitar again, Harwood studied the strings to see if any of them were defective. “Well, blue woman or not, it would’ve been nice to have some proper sculpting work again.
“Now then,” he added when he got into playing position, “both of you comfy? Because I intend for us to be out here for a while. Hopefully both of you went to the bathroom earlier.”
After Dudley said his goodbye for the afternoon, Dennis and Shark were en route to their house. Sagebear had gone on ahead, hoping to claim the couch for herself.
“Dad?” Shark quietly asked when they’d reached the front door. “Why didn’t you leave when you had the chance before?”
“Hm?” Dennis was stopped from opening the door when he heard the question asked. “Oh. Well, truth be told, I didn’t really ever have the chance until a few months ago.”
He looked over to see Sagebear rolling on the couch, presumably scratching her back as she did so. He sat down at the table as he tried to figure out the best way to explain it.
“My life’s always been nothing but things I ‘must’ do, not really things I ‘want to’ do,” he said as he slumped back. He watched Shark sit across from him. “It’s been like that for as long as I can remember.”
“How long has that been?” Shark took an occasional glimpse over at Sagebear, trying not to make any weird-feeling eye contact.
Dennis groaned at the answer. “Decades, boy. Probably long before I hit puberty myself.” He sat back up to crack his back in another position. “And it’s exactly what it sounds like.”
He proceeded to count off all the major events he could recall at that moment. “There was…’You are going to watch your mother shoot this man’. ‘You need to be the successor to the family business’. ‘You must be the one to bail your idiot brother Bill out of prison’. ‘You have to marry that woman whether you want to or not’.
“‘Have to’? You mean when you married Mom, she was…” Dennis nodded. Shark’s expression darkened even more than before. He huddled up into himself on the chair, and licked his suddenly dry lips.
“Wasn’t much older than you are now, son. And I literally had a shotgun pointed at my head, thanks to your grandmother,” Dennis calmly stated, as though that would soothe his son’s thoughts. “But…”
Shark appeared to have shut him out now. He covered his face, and began hiccuping from the emotions he was suddenly hit with. When he wiped his face on his sleeve, he looked directly at Dennis again.
“So it’s all my fault you had to marry Mom?” Dennis grimaced. He didn’t think of it in that terminology.
“I wouldn’t put it that way, boy,” he responded after a little while. “It’s…” He got up out of the chair. “Come with me. I think I got some pictures to show you.”
He gestured for Shark to stand and follow him again. When Shark complied, Sagebear jumped off the couch and walked in line behind the two of them.
Covered haphazardly in plenty of gauze bandages, Annette was still wincing as she entered Ox-Head’s room. To her amusement, he had managed to find a plastic bucket and put it on his head.
“Having fun, I take it?” When he heard her voice, Ox-Head pulled it off. He gasped in fright at seeing what covered a good amount of her skin. “Don’t worry, I’m fine. Just had an incident happen.”
Ox-Head didn’t seem convinced. He jumped off his bed and got a closer look at her, making random noises and shaking uncontrollably.
“No, really. I’ll be fine. I’m a pretty fast healer, so I’ll be good as new in no time.” Deciding to take her word for it, he nodded and stepped back.
“I don’t like seeing you hurt, Andromeda,” he finally said while jumping back on his bed, his face scrunching into some sort of uneasy pensiveness. “It looks painful. I don’t like pain. Pain means getting hit in the head with a baseball bat.”
Annette didn’t really want to know the story behind that. “Yes, so it does. Anyway, I actually came in here to ask you a favor.”
The last word got his face to light up in joy. He nodded vigorously. She continued.
“Well, the earlier event ended up with me in serious trouble. So I have to leave someplace for a while-” She noticed his face fell when she said this.
“Let me finish. I have to go someplace for a while. But so does The Builder, so…” Annette couldn’t believe the unusual luck that had transpired from what The Builder said earlier.
She certainly welcomed the chance to not be supervised by their horrendous presence. Instead, they were going to go off and perform more nasty deeds. Something about a ‘Geriatric Deathmatch’.
“The Builder has something I’d really like back. It’s a ring, a really pretty amethyst ring.” Annette could’ve sworn she was noticing a sparkle in Ox-Head’s blank eyes now. “While I’m gone, could you look for it for me? And if you do…”
Ox-Head nodded again, waiting for her to finish.
“Well…” Annette scratched her head, thinking of something that would be a good enough reward for his possible help. “I’ll tell you things about me I’ve never told anyone else. Sound good?”
“That is good! Yes!” He clapped his hands like a giddy child. “Of course I’ll help, Andromeda!”
Annette smiled. “Great. Well, I’d like to hug you, but you know…”
Knowing why she couldn’t, Ox-Head picked up the bucket from earlier, and handed it to her. Wrapping her arms around it, Annette held it as tight as she’d have done for him at that moment.
The sweet moment was ruined when the bucket was knocked out of her arms, and she was grabbed by the shoulder for the second time in a row.
“Quit bonding with the help, and go start working off the next debt!” She heard The Builder shout. “I got old people to possess!”
Ox-Head could only jump back in a renewed fear as a portal was opened, and she was thrown into it.
Annette’s descent back into Twinbrook was a rather informal one.
On top of feeling a fresh wave of pain rip through her, her mouth was now full of what she hoped was regular dirt. Spitting it out, she then grabbed onto a nearby pillar for support.
“I’d like a little more warning next time,” she muttered to herself. When she was able to see straight, Annette then recognized which house she was under. “Wait a minute…”
Though it was still in broad daylight, Annette found herself wandering under the house supports. A broad grin made its way across her face.
It broke out into absolute joy when she heard a familiar voice singing above her:
“Have you ever been a part of something,
That you thought would never end?
And then, of course it did…”
For a few moments, Annette was transported back to the innocent times of when the Harwood she knew was alive. To know he still was in this world brought a sense of jubilation to her.
Shaking herself back into reality, Annette then ran over to another pillar, the one she remembered to be the closest to his room. Bracing herself, she began climbing it up to reach the large window she remembered was there.
“Let’s see. Gotta be a way to get this thing open from this side.” After some shaking and jimmying, the window gave way enough for her to slip past it.
The entire time, Harwood never stopped singing or playing his guitar. After a while, she heard two more voices join in. All three began singing in an interesting harmony.
When Harwood finished the latest song, he sat quietly, taking a look over at both men flanking him.
“I just remembered something else. When were the fireworks I wanted for Lunar New Year going to come in?” Both Marc and Sinbad went pale at his question. They stood up and ran to Sinbad’s truck, as if what he’d just asked something their lives depended on.
He sat there alone for a little while, before uttering a bamboozled, “Eh?” He shook his head, and stood back to his feet to go back inside.
When Harwood stepped back into the living room, he immediately felt something was different. A quick search of his surroundings didn’t bring anything up.
“Either I’m losing my mind, or I’ve got someone in here with me. Maybe it’s both.” After looking everything over again, he entered his bedroom.
He thought he’d imagined it, but Harwood heard a soft voice. His eye then drifted to the window that now sat a bit ajar.
“Normally I have that locked tight. Marc probably monkeyed with it while I was away, and I didn’t notice until now.” He then turned to look upon his bed, or rather try to look under it. “Although…”
Then Harwood turned his attention to his guitar. “Eh, I didn’t like this model anyway…” Gripping it with both hands, Harwood swung it above his head, and brought it back down onto the floor.
A ghastly, horrific noise came from the now smashed guitar. However, he then heard a woman yelping in presumed surprise. He waited until she crawled out from under the bed to get away from any flying wood pieces.
Much to Harwood’s amazement, her skin was a pleasant shade of blue. She held her ears, and her face was set in a mixture of ‘happy’ and ‘pissed off’.
“The fabled ‘blue’ woman,” he said as he began reaching for his cane just to be safe. “So Marc and Sinbad were telling the truth.”
(First half of the chapter title, and where the lyrics Harwood was singing came from: )
(Second half of the chapter title, chosen because I was too lazy to find any proper songs for Chinese New Year: )