A short story set in a dystopian future from the point of view of a young, (probably) orphaned girl. While an original story, it has been heavily influenced by My Chemical Romance . I’ve always been a fan of the band and not just for their music. Every album has a concept and Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys has a tremendous vision that flows through its artwork and music videos. You will see a lot of little tributes here to it like the “killjoys” and “scarecrows” and the title of course, however it is enjoyable whether you have listened to the album or not. Yet this remains a tribute to one of my favourite bands.
Part 2 will follow.
Unwashed. Dirt on her face. Plastic gun in hand. The girl soiled her princess dress as she crawled across the dirt, white tights marred from permanent dark circles on her knees. It used to be pink but now it was punished by her playtime, dusty, grubby and torn. She stabbed at the ground with a stick, trying to pierce its hard, cracked skin to get to the softer flesh underneath. The stick snapped quickly so she put her plastic blue gun on the floor and used her hands to push the dirt into a makeshift wall, not caring that her fingernails turned a darker brown. It didn’t occur to the little girl that princesses don’t usually carry guns. She was a different kind of princess.
Music drifted across the desert from a lonely structure perching in the sunlight. It’s foil walls reflected the sunlight off in blinding waves making the building shine like a small lonely star. They hid behind their blacked out windows and reinforced steel door thinking that their gleaming building made them safer. It just made them easier to find.
But the girl could stare at the building. She wasn’t scared of the sun. She was used to the heat and the temporary blindness and the sensation of skin crisping from too much exposure. The sun was growing hotter. She must find shade soon, she knew but the humidity of the car was much harder to bare and the girl loved playing in the dirt. Besides the gang should be done soon.
Dirt, twigs, crumbling bricks, newspapers and litter were piled high into a miniature castle. It was a good little fortress and would protect her well from invading armies and trolls and monsters and scarecrows but it certainly didn’t look like a home for a princess. She squinted at the building again and made out white little ribbons decorating the blacked out windows. She stood and walked slowly across the cracked earth, dust coating her skin and scorching hair.
A bright banner congratulating Mattheo and Eliza on their union hung limply above the door. Flowers wilted in the sun. The girl reached forward and took a ribbon from the door handle – they wouldn’t need it much longer. Laughter floated out from the bolted door to join the soft bubble of music.
The girl sighed and started to walk back to her fortress. The killjoys were taking so long.
Before the thought had fully formed, she heard a glass smash beyond the door. The girl dropped quickly to the floor in the sudden silence that followed. She loved the silence. You could feel the tension growing like a coiled jack-in-the-box desperate to jump out into the world. The killjoys loved twisting that handle too, not letting their audience know when chaos would explode from its box.
She waited. Time ticked by. Ribbons hung limply in the sticky air and shadows moved behind the door. A trickle of sweat escaped down the back of her neck. Her feet were clammy in her shoes and her tights stuck unpleasantly to her skin but still she waited, squatting in the dirt as the sun beat down at her savagely. She shifted her feet slightly and stared at the silent building. The girl always won staring contests.
Then it began. A short scream split the silence and sparked a crescendo of yelling, screeching and begging. Gunshots joined the symphony, spitting out a deep rhythm of bangs, booms and splats. In the girl’s mind she could see families scrambling over tables, pushing, hitting and pulling at each other in desperation. Glasses shattered and a wedding cake exploded in a cloud of sticky marzipan, covering the wedding party as one by one they all fell with their own little pops.
The killjoys were merciless and the shimmering building let no one out. The girl’s lips twitched into a grim smile.
Then it was over. Silence drifted back over the scene, a contented silence of a job well done. The girl stood.
The ribbon clasped gently in her hand, she turned away from the building, her interest in it lost. She was standing over her fortress when she heard a door slam open behind her. Bending down, she tied the ribbon to a twig sticking out from one of the walls. The bow hung optimistically, a little splash of white against the baron earth. It was definitely a fortress fit for a princess now. The girl gave a little smile and skipped towards the car. She wouldn’t have to wait much longer.
The girl was drawing. She sat in the garage surrounded by blunt crayons and home-made charcoal. It was a makeshift garage bolted together with walls of corrugated iron and scrap metal. She crouched in the dirt by the open wall but didn’t see the woman until she was standing next to her. A shadow covered her drawing and she squinted up at a young woman with bright pink hair and bubblegum blue lipstick. She wore large dark sunglasses which she took off and swivelled in her fingers. Her other hand spun a colourful paper umbrella across her shoulders, a protection for her her skin’s tissue paper whiteness from the sun’s unforgiving rays.
“Hi,” the woman grinned at her, “what’s your name?”
The girl looked over her shoulder even though she knew Zero was watching them carefully. She turned back and ran her eyes up the woman swaying before her in battered flip-flops.
“Girl? That’s not a name.” She laughed, “My name is Ivy. It’s a plant.”
She put the end of her glasses between her teeth and grinned. She wore silver Irises in her eyes, stamped all over with the brand name. This woman had to be rich but the girl didn’t like them. The metallic gaze made her uncomfortable.
“I like your dress. It’s very pretty. Like a princess.”
Today girl was a fairy. She scowled upwards but Ivy didn’t notice. Her eyes drifted across to Zero and she sucked on the arm of her glasses. She grinned again.
“Is that your Dad?” She asked without taking her eyes off him.
“I need to speak to him.”
The girl wondered why Ivy thought that she would care but she picked up her drawings anyway and followed the woman as she staggered over to Zero. The girl scrambled up onto the battered bonnet of the car and watched the adults. Zero always let her listen in. His eyes followed the woman while his hands continued sharpening his knives. Whenever the girl would think about Zero, it was at his workbench lovingly taking care of his livelihood. He was going to show her how to help him now she was big enough to reach the bench.
“Name’s Ivy. You’re Zero right?” She leaned against his immaculate worktop carelessly, running her glasses slowly over her perfect white teeth. Zero continued to trap her in his uncompromising gaze.
“What do you want?” he replied.
“A conversation.” She eventually shifted her gaze to glance at the girl who stared back boldly. “What’s with the kid?”
Zero picked up his penknife, caressing the blade with his thumb.
“She your sister or something?” she continued as she snapped her expensive eyes back to Zero.
The woman smiled around her sunglasses, “So what’s the deal?”
“I found her.”
“And named her right? You could of done better.” She giggled, her voice high pitched and distant. “And I guess that explains why she looks like she just fell out of a toy box too.”
“You got business here? We don’t like to be disturbed.” He blew along the blade lovingly and snapped it closed.
“I heard that this was the part of town where you could get some cheap X.” Her fake eyes danced around his face, unable to keep them under control.
“You heard right,” he replied, this time picking up a gun from the workbench and disassembling it. “’cept I don’t sell it.”
The woman give a shrill laugh and bent over the bench, “Come on though, seriously. I won’t tell, the ‘crows never come round here do they?”
“I don’t sell it,” he repeated, bored. Side by side, he lined up each part of the gun carefully making sure to blow the dust off. Like the car, the house, and the girl’s clothes, it was a piece of patchwork – lovingly made but looked as if it could never work. It did though, girl had seen it.
“Okay then. So where do you buy it round here?” She pressed.
“No way.” She gasped, her sunglasses finally falling away from her tongue in shock. “You can’t seriously use Kobra? You must’ve heard the stories – they’ve made them on the outskirts like zombies.”
“They’re not stories,” Zero replied, “And we don’t use any drugs.”
Ivy stared at Zero in disbelief and sucked her lip, thick blue smearing onto her teeth. She looked at the girl again and for a brief moment her vacant expression faltered like a mirage, almost drifting into something like concern.
“But the sun. The radiation. She won’t live passed thirty. You gotta be dying too.”
“Maybe.” He shrugged. “What’s it to you?”
“Nothing. I just figure the kid won’t last a day on the street when you drop.”
“She’ll be all right.” He replied offhandedly. The girl grinned happily at Zero’s faith in her.
“But you gotta miss the calm, the tingles?” She continued.
“What do you want city girl?” Zero snapped, “there are only certain types that come looking for me. And unless you got a job for me I’m done talking.”
He dived across the bench, pulling Ivy close with a knife to her throat. The girl bounced on her heels with excitement but Ivy didn’t seem alarmed. The sunglasses drifted back up to her face, her lips capturing the arm with a smile again.
“Some guy I know asked me to come see you. Told me to give you this since I were coming down to find a new dealer.” She ran her twitching hand slowly up his chest, dragging a data coin across his black t-shirt and up his neck. Zero didn’t speak as she pushed it towards his mouth but he captured it between his teeth. Her fingers fluttered across his face.
“See you around dead man. Kid.”
Zero kept his eyes on her as she brushed passed him and stumbled into the sunlight.