Vignette:The First Stage

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The First Stage
University of Schangau Neu-Meissen Campus, Schangau, Confederate States of Northern Avalonia
January 29th, 2018

or the first time in a very long while, he’s scared.

His heart should not be racing at the thought of her. His breath should not be short at the thought of last night. His cheeks should not be flush at the thought of what happened. It was just a little accidental peck on the forehead, right? She bumped into him after some idiot pushed her. He doesn’t harbour any feelings for her whatsoever. He hates her with all of his mind, body, and soul. This has always been the case. This will always be the case.

“Are you still talking to yourself?” Carlos asks him.

“What’s going on with him?” Karl butts in with food in his mouth.

“Do you want the long story or the short one?”

“Pretend I have popcorn in my arms.”

“Gimme the soda first.”

Carlos sips from a bottle of diet soda as he readies himself for the best story he’s ever told. Karl’s eager to hear his tale; his hand's already into his bag of chips. Klemens isn’t quite so fond of his plight being spread around for all the world to hear, but he can barely hear the two over the sound of his internal monologue having a panic attack at this moment; besides, the most accurate description of him would be a complete emotional wreck. He slumps even deeper into his arms as if that helps to isolate him from the outside world, but his ears are open in case those two idiots spill too much.

“So the boys in Dance Club hosted a big show on the weekend. They pull out all the stops for this shit: there’s beer out the ass, there’s a pool, there’s a stage for them to pull their dance shit off. It’s like if someone made prom smaller and more casual.”

“One of them must be rich as fuck to own that place.”

“Here’s the funny bit: they rented it out just for that party. You should’ve seen the state they left the place in by morning.” On cue, he finagles his phone out of his pocket and shows the contents of his photo album to Karl. Unsurprisingly, he makes the sign of the cross before retreating away. He isn’t even religious.

The stone walls of his mental castle have long since been breached by memories of that god-awful place. He remembers the debilitating stench of freshly-made vomit gently wafting into his nose as he gracefully stumbled out of that hellscape with his clothes a little worse for wear and his body intact. Yet somehow, that wasn’t the worst part of the whole debacle. He remembers walking out the front door without his wits.

“I’m getting off track here. So it’s around midnight when people start dropping. Some people leave, some have already passed out, and most are just mingling in and around the place.”

“I don’t like what’s coming up next.”

“You’re going to love what happens next. It’s straight out of a b-rated romcom.” He can hear Carlos struggling to contain his own excitement at his demise, and it’s starting to get on his nerves. He’s starting to regret not covering his ears. Why did he have to be friends with the greatest orator of the 21st century?

The words start flowing out of Carlos’ mouth. Like a film reel to a projector, his denial-ridden head starts replaying the events of that night again, much to his dismay and the amusement of Karl and Carlos. He remembers the ice-cold beer in his hand and the constant bumping into other similarly inebriated partygoers. There was a heated game of beer pong in the kitchen behind him and a packed movie session in the living room. Someone smuggled an entire barbecue set into the garden without the club noticing; he can remember the crisp taste of the steak and the way his teeth sunk into it.

“…and then you-know-who shows up right in front of him.”


“Wait, you really don’t know?”

“Carlos, I can barely remember my own birthday. When you got me that sewing kit last month, I thought it was an early Christmas gift until you said happy birthday.”

He pauses for a bit. “You make a fair point. I’m talking about…” he looks around cautiously as if someone could be listening in. “…Jun Liang. The Black Duchess, or whatever they call her.”

“I think only her detractors call her that one.”

“If they hated her, they would have gone for a stupider nickname, not something that sounds cool.” He hated the fact that Carlos wasn’t wrong there.

Normally, hearing her name would send him into a fit of rage. Catching a glimpse of her gloomy complexion would set his profanity machine into overdrive. It was most definitely reciprocated back towards him in earnest; her eyes lit up with a fiery passion for murder every time they’d torture each other with words inside and outside of campus. Attending the party was his way of inconveniencing her; neither could really turn to more physical means lest they bring on the wrath of administration and the law, so being general annoyances to each other became the closest thing to outright violence they could do.

Now, her name sends him spiralling even deeper into his own mental self-exile.

“…everyone’s too drunk to notice she’s headed straight to murder him. Luckily for all of you, I’ve got a video of it.”

An unfamiliar voice chimes in. “Please get a bigger phone.”

So does another. “Send it over to my laptop or something.”

“Calm your tits, alright?” Carlos fends them off as he taps on his phone. “It’s a bit shaky, but you can tell I was drunk off my ass when I recorded this. Look, you can see the exact moment the big guy bumps her toward him, right into his-“ Something in his mind trips and alarm bells start to ring.

In a split second he shoots up from out of his seat, but someone else in the room has the same idea and beats him to it. The crowd huddled around Carlos and Karl now has their attention divided between himself and whoever’s behind him.

A voice laden with blood-curdling loathing zips through the air like a bullet. “I will weld your sewer grate of a mouth shut if you don’t stop playing that video.” It’s an ice-cold voice he’s very familiar with. He wishes he was back in the cold and numbing comfort of the pool, but the sound of her voice sends chills down his spine that far outmatches it.

For the first time in a very long while, he’s scared.

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