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Chapter 6 Ladies and Gentlemen
Ladies and gentlemen good evening
You've seen that seeing is believing
Your ears and your eyes will be bleeding
Please check to see if you're still breathing


I awoke the next morning to Before I Forget blaring in my ear. I got up and got ready for school. After I showered, I removed the stitches in my arm. I burned the thread and cleaned up the little blood that had spilled from the closed wound.

I sometimes, like I was then, wonder why any of my friends actually like me. I have a short, gasoline-soaked fuse, a sharp tongue to match, I'm headstrong as all hell and I'm very cynical. I don't feel pity, remorse, or true fear and that has gotten me in a lot of trouble. My mostly reclusive nature has also alienated most of my human family, with a few exceptions.

Humanity as a whole set my teeth on edge.

My aunt Angie and my grandma Toddy know that people, in general, annoy me. And I don't usually tolerate annoyances for long. Case in point: Justin.

I noticed that he'd taken the last packet of Pop Tarts the day before. I growled, and ripped open the freezer. Grabbing a breakfast sandwich, I threw it in the microwave and started cooking it. I threw a few pieces of bread in the toaster, and got out the peanut butter and jelly. Just as my sandwich was ready, the toast popped up and I made a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

When I got to school, I leaned against a pillar, deep in thought (read here: brooding) as I waited for the others. Sara came up next to me, and aside from a tired, "Hi," she was as quiet as I was.

"Chimo-chan!" came a delighted voice. A girl around Sara's height came flying from out of frickin' nowhere and tackle hugged Sara. It was Ashley, one of Sara's friends. Being a panda as she was, she had more strength then you would expect. She had bright blonde hair with a neon blue streak through her bangs. Over her panda ears she wore a purple and blue striped hat. Her chocolate brown eyes were closed as she bear hugged Sara.

"The panda is bear-hugging the panther. Literally," I commented.

"Shut..... up..... Hou.....chin," Sara wheezed. "Ash..... I can't........ breathe.....!" Ashley finally let go and Sara was left nursing her ribs. "What are you doing here?"

"The middle school is taking a tour of the place," said Ashley. "Teachers said we had to get used to a new environment.... er somethin'."

I smiled crookedly. I didn't know Ashley very well, as I'd only met her a few times. But she seemed to be entertaining, and if nothing else, fun to hang around. "So are you going to any classes?"

"I guess. We were told to find someone we knew and go to their classes. So I decided to find Chimo-chan and go to her classes!"

"Oh, goody...." I said jokingly rolling my eyes. Sara slugged me in the shoulder.

"Be nice!" she told me.

"I exist not to," I retorted.

"Are you sure you two aren't related?" Ashley asked.

"Yes!" we both said at the same time. Sara and I looked at each other and sweat dropped. Ashley just stared at us with a giant question mark over head.

"Ooooookay......" said Zim as she came up to us. "Why are you two sweating...... and why is Ashley here with a huge punctuation mark hovering over her?"

"Don't ask," said Sara and I again in unison, as well as turning chibi as we argued. "Stop it! You stop! CUT IT OUT!"

As Sara and I argued using the exact same words with increasingly large vein pulse marks, Sam, Alyssa, Courtney, and Chris had walked over to us. Finally, Zim, having turned chibi herself. Put a hand (with some slight difficulty) over both our mouths. "This isn't going anywhere."

"'Rue," came Sara's muffled voice. Zim let us go and we changed back to normal. "That was the weirdest argument in my life."

"Same here," I said, slightly amused.

Everyone stared at us as Sara and I laughed briefly.

"What?" I asked as I noticed them looking at us.

"We were just wondering if you two had gone crazy," said Courtney.

Sara rolled her eyes. "We're both insane."

"Who is this news to?" I questioned. "Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music."

"Whoa... that's pretty deep...." said Sam. "You get that off a bumper sticker?"

"Nah. Out of a Bathroom Reader," I said, smirking. The others laughed.

"I got lost on the road of life today," said Sara.

"Only you, Sara," Alyssa commented.

"Hey! That's my line," I said, mock-offended.

"I was saying that before we even met you, Houchin," said Zim.

"Have you said it often since he started?" Chris asked.

"Well, no, but.... Hey, fuck you," Everyone laughed again.

"Am I the only one who realizes that it's the last day of school?" Sam asked.

My eyes widened and I looked at the calendar on the bulletin board in the library. "There's a first. Gluttony got somethin' right,"

"I WILL EAT YOUR FACE!" yelled Sam in one of his random outbursts.

"Please don't," I said calmly. "I rather like the way my face looks at the moment. Don't say anything," I added pointing at Sara. She just laughed.

"It was too easy, anyway."

My first class went by pretty quickly. I was pleased to see Aimee still retaining some of the scars from my claws. Admittedly, I was much the same, but I bare battle scars with pride. Rogenbuck was a very laid back teacher most of the time, especially in first hour. He spent the shortened class time making fun of the various kids who had caused him trouble throughout the year. I just sat back in my chair, listening with amusement.

Before I knew it, Sara and I were walking down the hall to second hour. We talked about mostly unimportant stuff as we came to the classroom. Mainly, we had to discuss what we were doing this summer.

"I'm gonna be home most of the summer," I said. "Everyone else is goin' on a trip this year. So, y'all can drop by whenever."

"'Cause I'm completely gonna walk all the way to your house," said Sara sarcastically.

"I feel loved," I grumbled. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised, Sloth."

"Energy is not something I do." I smirked at that. It was true.

When the day was finally over, we all walked outside. Zim felt the need to run and jump onto my shoulders. "NO MORE FUCKING SCHOOL!"

"I understand you enthusiasm, Zim," I said as I stood there with her screaming. "But can you get off my head?"

"Aw, you're no fun!" said Zim. She slid down my back and ran to attack Sam.

"AH!" he screamed. "Stay off the Sam!"

"Rape," I said.

"Yo, Houchin," called a voice I knew well. My pack mate Brandon Brodzinski was sitting in his truck near the bus entrance. I went over to him.

"What's up, man?" I said, slapping hands with him.

"Other than the fact we're goin' to Ravenwood for a gig, not much!"

"Nice!" Brandon had gotten a band together and they sounded pretty good.

"And we're takin' you with us," Brandon went on. "Come on. We gotta get your stuff."

"Alright, gimme a minute," I walked back over to the others. "Well, if anyone needs me, I'll be in Ravenwood."

Zim shuddered.

"What's up, Babes?" Liz asked.

"I just had a vision of Houchin on Rodeo Drive. Or, more accurately, what was left of it."

I chuckled. "I should be back in about a week. Don't go insane from grief at my temporary absence," I mocked.

"We'll try to refrain," Sara retorted. "And you try not to destroy Ravenwood."

"I'll resist the temptation," I said dryly. I jumped back in the truck. Brandon hit a button on the stereo and Riot from Three Days Grace blared over the speakers.

"So what's been new with you, man?" Brandon asked as we drove to my house. Brandon's hair was now down to his shoulders. Like Aimee, his claws held toxin, showing in the bright green tips of his claws. While they weren't venomous per se, as the poison didn't need to enter a wound to work, acting like an acid if enough was used, it was also necrotoxic. Necrotoxins eat away at the flesh of a victim, causing necrosis, or for flesh to die and rot rapidly. Very gruesome.

"Outside wanting to start a riot?" I asked, my voice dripping in sarcasm.

"Yeah, and besides planning the sheer destruction of the planet as we know it," Brandon shot back. "I notice you have a few new battle scars."

"Yeah. You hear about the auditorium being destroyed?"

"Sure."

"That was half my fault. Aimee was tryin' to take my land with the help of a reaper,"

"Damn..." he grimaced. "She really wanted your turf. That's some seriously black magic."

"Well, the Spartans had a saying. 'Carry your shield or be carried home on it.' Means to be ready for anything."

"Very true," said Sara, appearing in the back seat. I almost fell out of the car.

"When did you get here?!" I demanded after my heart rate returned to normal.

"I jumped in before you guys left the school," she said brightly. Apparently, she enjoyed freaking me out.

"So why do you need to go to Ardainia?" Brandon asked.

"I wanna go see Steel!" she giggled. I rolled my eyes at her.

When we got to my house, I looked into the back seat. "Sam and Zim aren't hiding back there too, are they?" I asked wryly. Sara stuck her tongue out at me.

I picked up a bunch of clothes and grabbed my CD case. I saw Brandon messing with the radio as I came out. Before I Forget blasted over the stereo. I smirked and shook my head.

"Your theme song!" he shouted over Slipknot. Apparently, this song describes me so much; he labeled it my theme music. Sara was in the back seat laughing as Brandon pretended to head-bang.

We headed off to the highway. Everyone else had already left so we were heading to the hotel we would be staying at. After a few hours of driving and small talk, we came up to a three star hotel and checked in.

The next day, we traveled for another four hours until we arrived in Ravenwood and immediately headed to a disused movie studio, mostly used before the 70's. After setting up, Brandon, Sara, and I went walking around. The actual gig was the night after next.

The stage was situated outside a cluster of movie studios, all still in use.

"Hey, there's Johnny Depp!" said Brandon, pointing to some random guy.

"I don't think that was Johnny Depp," I said coolly.

"Naw, that was him," Sara insisted.

"Well, Johnny Depp just picked up a broom and started sweeping."

"Must be researching a role," Sara said.

I rubbed my temples with my thumb and middle finger. After wondering around the studios for a few hours and spotting (or not spotting) several actors, Sara spotted Robert Pattinson, the guy who was going to play Edward Cullen in the Twilight movie. She flipped and tried to run screaming and hissing at him. "You're not hot enough to be Edward! Nobody likes you! Go jump off a cliff!" I held her by the tail, my other hand over my face in embarrassment. Brandon was laughing his ass off as Sara flailed around wildly, not even thinking to break my grip on her tail. After this.... interesting scene, we headed back to the studio to find catering had already brought lunch.

La'Ray, Drew and Jonathon were already stuffing their faces. "'Ey!" said La'Ray from around a cheeseburger. La'Ray is a bull demon and the whitest black guy I've ever met in my life. He sported a long black whip-like bull tail. He also had two short horns growing out the sides of his temples.

"Have you seen the food these people gave us?" said Drew. Drew is another tiger and more talented at the bass than I could ever be. "Look at this." He held up a sandwich about the size of a Slider. Drew had a solid white tail with black stripes growing out of the base of his spine and black claws on his hands and feet. "They're like mini Philly cheese-steak sandwiches. They're delicious!" he held it out to me.

I took it and sank my fangs into it. It was really good, and I've had some awesome Philly cheese steak in my time. "I'm takin' a tray of these home."

"Hey, I overheard something about this place. It's supposed to be haunted," said Sara. "Apparently some crew guy died here a few weeks ago."

"Oh, really?" said Mary, Brandon and Jonathon's mom. A little on the crazy side, but very cool. She was a half cat demon, and somehow managed to conceive Brandon on her human night so the only demonic thing he had inherited from her was the bright green eyes. "What happened?" her feline ears flicked in a curious manner.

"I didn't hear any details, but it's something worth looking into."

"Nice. We're playing in a haunted studio," commented Jonathon. Jonathon is Mary's first son, and a half grizzly half cat demon. While he was larger than me, everyone that knows him would say he's a giant teddy bear. He had frizzy brown hair and claws like Brandon's, minus the venom. "Taquito?" he added.

"My sin is Wrath, not Gluttony." I said.

"Oh... sorry," said Jonathon, going to eat.

"I didn't say no," I growled pleasantly, taking the toquito. "What's wrong with you?" Jonathon laughed.

"Apparently it was this set that's haunted not the movie." Sara went on.

"What, like Poltergeist?" I asked.

Sara shrugged. "Could be a poltergeist."

"No, no, no. The movie Poltergeist," I said. Brandon and Sara just stared at me. I scowled slightly. "You know nothing of your cultural heritage do you? It was rumored that the set of Poltergeist was cursed. That they used real human bones as props. Like, at least three of the actors died in it."

After everyone was set up and Sara had the camera ready, we were getting the band ready to do a sound check. Being the head of security, I was walking around the studio, making sure all the exits besides the one the fans were coming in were shut tight. The band started playing Fade to Black by Metallica for the sound check. I listened, leaning against a wall with my arms crossed, tapping my fingers against my bicep to the beat.

"Hey, Houchin," said John, a dog and Mary's husband, through the ear bud I wore. "I think we may have some recording issues. I can't tell if I broke somethin' or what."

I walked up to the recording booth. "Okay... what happened?" I asked.

"Here," John handed me a set of headphones. I took the earpiece out and put on the headset. As the song played, about a minute in, a scrambled signal came over the sound. I frowned and went over to the microphone. It had almost sounded like someone whispering, "Fuck... you..."

"Hey, Bran!" I said over the P.A. "Can you come up here for a minute?"

He took the flight of stairs up and came into the room with Sara right behind him. I handed him the headphones. His eyebrows went up at the point of the strange interference. "That's EVP." I nodded.

EVP stands for electronic voice phenomenon. It happens when the recorder picks up a voice human or demon ears can't. Namely, a voice from one of the dead.

I looked at the tape of the sound check. "Hey, freeze it!" I barked. John hit pause. Standing next to Drew on the tape was a blonde haired woman wearing 70's era punk clothes. The only thing was....

No one had seen her that day.

"Who's she?" Sara asked

"It's like Three Men and a Baby all over again..." I muttered. Brandon and Sara cocked an eyebrow at me. "Salleck, Denson and Guttenberg. And.... I don't know who played the baby...."

"What's your point?"  Brandon asked

"There's a scene in the movie where people say the camera caught a ghost on film. Apparently in the background of one of the scenes there was this boy that nobody remembers from set. Spirit photography."

"Wait...." said John tone was one of recognition. "I've seen her before."

"Guys?" said Drew coming up to the booth.

"What's up?" Brandon asked.

In answer, Drew held up the front of his shirt. At first I thought he was trying to flash us, but then I saw the bloody mark on his abdomen.
Chapter 6
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