Just a disclaimer, this story may or may not contain sensitive material. Depends on how sensitive you are.
Also, I don't claim to be Christian or adhere to any similar beliefs. I'm using imagery from that tradition, but putting a slightly different spin on it. Enjoy!
Btw, I also am using two of this weeks' prompts- "Two paths briefly crossing" and "two opposites that find themselves attracted".
On the way to somewhere that you’re not.
“Rory. Rory Roxelle Romanaz.” She held out a tattooed hand with spider webs lacing her white clawed fingernails. The chain rings jingled when she offered her hand.
“Morty Nixon.” The man with the infamous last name accepted her charge and bowed his head slightly. His hand under her pale-skinned, decorated one was calloused, aged too early with fingernails bitten short.
“Morty? Oh my.” She put that same offered hand to her black-lipped, pierced mouth to stifle a laugh. “I’m so sorry. I’m trying not to laugh. My birth name is Allison, but I changed it after….” she looked down at her outfit choices. From the army surplus store boots to her off-kilter cut black and white skirt, to the maroon silk blouse with earrings scattered on it. “Looks and charm.” She smiled broadly at the poor man sitting next to her on the bench. They paid no attention to the various background noises. The shouts, the cries of joy or pain, the mumblings of bored fact-filled conversation. “I’m sorry, sir. I’m being pretentious. My last few boyfriends have told me that. Well, a little late to fix that problem of mine, huh?” She pulled out a stick of gum. Black with specks of sugar, the wrapper bearing skulls on it. She held it up, seeing that Morty took an interest in it. “Found it at a shop in New Orleans. It’s got all kinds of herbs in it to ward off evil spirits, or so the cute guy behind the counter said. I just got hooked on them because it tastes like licorice.” She pulled the stick out and munched with her mouth open, snapping the gum. “Okay, I’m done being narcissistic and pretentious for a few minutes. What happened?”
Morty took a deep breath under his bland brown coveralls and leaned forward. He looked down, shame on his face that Rory could see even from the side. Sadness and regret could be heard in his exhale.
They sat together on the creaking, weather-worn wood of the bench overlooking the cloudy reflection in the pond before them. Only Morty seemed oblivious to the patterns the mirror image clouds were making on the surface. Before she introduced herself, “RRR” found dragons, humans and cats leaping for joy, mounds of marshmallow over a bowl of chocolate ice cream in the natural rain storage devices. Morty saw some that were all white, some that had traces of gray.
“What brought us here, you think?”
“Where? This planet? The space in the perfect cosmic order at this time in the continuum?” She smiled, snapping her gum, pleased at her knowledge of sci-fi made up tech.
“Well….that….and here on this bench and now. What brought us together?”
“Good question. Good one.” She crossed her legs, leaning forward, black and white striped fingernail tapping her chin. “Last thing that I remember, I saw my sisters across the street and I went to go hang with them. Next thing that I know, I’m here. Thought we were gonna go summon an evil spirit again or something fun like that.” Her giggle was usually infectious, but it had no effect on the solemn, but sad man next to her for now. “If that bothers you, just chill, okay? I don’t mean anything mean.”
“No, it doesn’t bother me. That’s just it. Nothing has ever bothered me. I can leave you alone if you like, I’m no fun, I know.” Morty started to get up when “RRR” touched his arm.
“No. Stay. Tell me more. What’s going on? Can I help you?”
“I……I’ve done some bad things. Really bad.” His head drooped as he sat back down, his hands on his lap, leaning back on the back of the bench, hearing and feeling it creak.
“Oh.” She leaned back as well, crossing her legs, fingers interlocked in her lap. She looked around at the people milling around, looking at the greens, grays, reds and just generally out in the open air, but there seemed to be no conversation between anyone. How boring. “I won’t ask what you did. I’ve done some things myself.”
“Beat up kittens and stole a little old lady’s social security checks.” She paused her thumb war and looked sideways at Morty, allowing a grin to her face. “I’m kidding of course. I stole some fake jewelry from a second hand clothing store and modified it for my tastes.” She held up one of her arms, showing leather bands with different trinkets on it. Cheap plastic and painted baubles, but it looked good the way she made it.
“Hmm.” He hummed, not getting the joke or choosing not to react to it. “I've stolen, killed and….had my way….with some people.”
“RRR”s eyes popped wide. “Uhh….are you yanking me, too?”
“No. I’m not.” He said straightforward, no emoting, quietly but able to be heard through Rory’s pierced ears. “I’m a criminal. Plain and simple. I deserved my time in prison.”
His honesty and plain-speaking took her by surprise, but she waited for more.
“You’re not running away. If you’re looking for reasons to run from me, I’ll give you the gory details of everything that I’ve done.”
Wide-eyed, she stared him down. All of him. The plain face, the even distribution of stubble, the plain brown eyes and evenly cut brown hair with no trace of blonde or red. The average shoulders under the slightly dirty coveralls. “No.
“No, you don’t want to hear about all of the horrible things that I did to people….”
“No, you didn’t do anything like that. You wouldn’t.”
“You don’t have to deny that you’re scared of me, I won’t hurt….”
“I don’t have to deny anything. I’m not scared of anyone. People are scared of *me*” She fidgeted, putting her hands over her knee as she crossed her legs, the patterns on her nails showing. “I can tell you’re making it up. Trust me. I like manipulating people.”
“Rory isn’t your name either. Neither are your other names.”
“Okay. True. You’ve got me there. But I know that I’m lying about that and I told you about that from the beginning. You, on the other hand, are trying to convince yourself that you’re a criminal and should be locked up until the state or feds try to come up with a way to make you suffer through your death penalty. Maybe more.”
“Alright…..Alison. You got me. But were you really excited about summoning a ghost or demon or whatever with your friends? Maybe making a blood sacrifice to it? I’m a bad guy, I can hook you up with some. Freshly drained.”
“Wait. Wait. Did you just make a joke? You? The brooding wanna-be criminal dressing so plainly that the police can’t find you?” She laughed and tugged on the heavy reddish brown denim work coveralls. “Oh no. I made you smile. The gods of morbidity are laughing at you!”
Morty couldn’t help but grin and fidget as well, swinging his legs over the edge of the park bench, hearing the creaks.
“Once again, your dark magics have discovered me.” He turned his head to face her powdered face, complete with black lipstick and eyeliner as that grim dark mouth pierced upward. “Sarcasm helps me look more interesting than I really am. Sort of like my own style.”
“Sorry, plain-clothes. You don’t have any style.” She chuckled and he looked like he tried to, but hid it well. Not well enough that she didn’t notice.
“Plain clothes. That’s cute. I just don’t like making a statement, or showing any impact in the world. Criminals like me have to hide, remember?”
“Oh, you’re right. You should look shabby then to add to the effect. Make you look like a homeless man shuffling around.” She slipped her sharp fingers into his already shabby hair and shook it around, making him unkept-looking. He laughed but didn’t stop her. She opened a compact and had him look in the mirror.
“Nice! Good idea. I would do something to help you, but….as you pointed out…I’m plain.”
“True that. But you’re charming. And cute.
“Almost as cute as you?”
“Now, let’s not get carried away.”
“Why not? What are you afraid of?”
“Ohhhhh. I heard a challenge there.”
“No. Just an observation. You’ve never fallen for somebody, have you?”
Rory flicked her expensively decorated nails and looked around the grass in front of them and thought.
“No. No, I just…didn’t think about it. I was just having fun.”
“I didn’t think I knew what fun was.”
“You didn’t finish that.”
“That thought you were just trying to get out. Fun was…. I saw that pause on your face.”
Morty blushed. He didn’t know that she was watching him that close. “I’m having fun now, Rory.” His head turned up to face her.
The deepening creases on the corners of their mouths told each other more than their struggle for words. The awkwardness that followed wasn’t so bad. It gave them the mutual knowledge that they were falling for each other. Big time. Not rom-com material, not dime-a-dozen romance novel filler, not gossip around the white-picket-fence neighborhood. Just a goth and a plain, ordinary man falling for each other. But that still leaves questions….
“So what brings you here? I told you the last thing that I remember.”
“I was watching a movie on the net and I heard some commotion in the hall outside my apartment and I stopped it to investigate. I opened the door and…..that’s it. Next thing I know, I’m here with you.”
For the first time in their brief meeting, Rory/Allison had nothing to say. She uncrossed her legs, sat back, her hands on her lap. Even the gothic shade of pale on her face couldn’t hide the shock.
“Morty…..do you think that we’re…..dead? I don’t mean like how people think that me and my friends want to be, but I mean….really, literally….terminal?”
The shock of their situation set in together. One thing that they had in common now. Something they could tell their families about when they were introduced at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. Or before the wedding. They may be dead.
“Oh come on. No. No. Please. No. How…..what the hell is…”
“Morty, what happened to us? Where are we?!?!” Rory/Allison stood up, started walking around. Even shouting brought no attention from the background characters or even startled the geese. The air was still, no water in the pond moved, the grass felt just…plain. Not cold or warm. Just there. A carpet. “Please, you’re more grounded, down to earth….plain. Tell me what on earth is going on!”
“I thought that you liked scary things, shocking images and concepts. I thought you’d be happy with this.”
“It’s all an image, Morty! I’m not really Halloween and death incarnate! I’m afraid to die the same as everybody else! What’s going on here?!” She found a perfectly round stone near the bench, picked it up and threw it at one of the geese. It went through the bird as it kept munching on something no one could see. An invisible person feeding it bread crumbs instead of rocks perhaps.
Morty’s hands reached the back of her shoulders and held her, even when she flinched. “I wished that I could tell you. I’m as afraid as you are.” She turned and hugged him. Two lost souls. Literally. “Is this heaven or hell? Purgatory? I’m not catholic, so I wouldn’t know how to judge this.”
“Morty. Could you just hold me, please? Don’t judge me. Don’t ask me why I try to look scary. Don’t…..just hold me, okay?”
He answered with a returned embrace. Tears started to come from her dark-lined eyes, but stopped with his presence. The feel of his dirty heavy brown denim coverall was like….home. Her harsh, but soft fabric of her checkered blouse gave the same feeling to him as well. Here, all alone in….wherever this was.
The loud bell rang out and the images of the people, the geese, even the sky and the water and trees around them turned into a mist and dissipated. They stood together in the middle of a white space. No ground or air. Just here and now space.
Rory/Allison broke their embrace with a shocked look on her face. “Morty, I know what’s going on. Don’t ask me how. I…….we’re both dead. The bus….hit me…on impact. Oh my God. I woke up and found myself on that….” The bench had disappeared as well.
“Rory….Allison….I know this too. Wow. Crazy! I can see the guy that busted my door down as I tried to open it. Black mask, gun to my head….boom. Done and I’m here. This is like heaven or something, I guess?”
They each started to say more, but more knowledge filled their minds, instructions, directions as well. Images of two doors opened. They looked alike. Solid mahogany with brass hinges, trim and knob. Intricate inlay and designs in it. It looked ancient, but in mint condition.
“I have to go in that door.” They said together, but pointed at different doors. Their free hands clasped. They stared at each other for a time, but no tears, no sobbing, no crushing embrace, begging whatever god or gods or spirits to give them more time, to reincarnate themselves back to earth so they could live out their lives naturally to the end. Just….slowly accepting.
“I want to not forget you.” Again, they said this together. With a kiss, they parted.
Rory’s door opened to a scene of a goth club, favorite music blaring, other people there dancing, whooping it up and so on. She regained the smile on her blackened lips and joined in. The big door closed behind her.
Morty’s door opened to a scene of darkness. A figure about his height stood next to it with a clipboard in hand, severe glasses matching his looks. “What’s this?”
“She didn’t believe you, but you were telling the truth.” He glanced down, running his gloved fingers down the sheet or whatever it was on the clipboard. “Oh, dear. Oh, dear.” Shaking his head, the solid black suit complete with black dress shirt and tie unfettered by the movement. “You weren’t lying to her.” Papers or something ruffled in his thin fingers. “So many children, animals…..people. Robberies, manipulating family, so-called friends. Oh my. This is something that just won’t….. It’s time for you to pay, Mister Nixon. Come in here. Now.”
No “please”, no other questions. Just a stern arm and hand pointing the way into the deep, thick-feeling darkness with yellow and orange eyes peering at him. The darkness felt warm….then grew into intense heat the further he descended into it. He was not aware he moved into it. It was then the tears flowed. Tasting salt on his lips, he mumbled “Rory” before all physical senses burned in and around him. “Have fun for me. You deserve it.”