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The Artist's Rant: Crazy Things Happen!

The Artist's Rant: Crazy Things Happen!

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The Artist's Rant: Crazy Things Happen!

Length:
447 pages
6 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 30, 2014
ISBN:
9781311863805
Format:
Book

Description

Debut author and artist Vince Volpert's first collection of short stories, The Artist's Rant: Crazy Things Happen!, entails eleven stories, including the story about the narrator, V.V., and the paintings linked to the stories. Published for the enthusiastic, sci-fi, horror, noir, mystery, and fantasy readers alike, these short stories have: love, hate, darkness, happiness, lust, fear, danger, sorrow, anger, deceit, honesty, life, and death. In "Chew, Chew, Chew," experience a man confronted by a storyteller with a fantastic tale about surviving a town full of zombies; in "Heave and Hell, I Do," listen to a woman's tale about how heaven and hell raged war, and how the world ended; in "A Sexy Death," witness two women's "girl's night out," being more than what they bargained for; and in "Reaper's Death," experience a man taking over the grimmest job that has ever existed. These stories, along with the others, will make you question morality, rules, and life itself. The Artist's Rant: Crazy Things Happen! will make you glad that your reality is nothing like the stories you will read.

Publisher:
Released:
Sep 30, 2014
ISBN:
9781311863805
Format:
Book

About the author

Vince Volpert (signed as V.V.) is an independent artist. He has had several art classes throughout his academic career from the Chicago-land area. The artist’s work is influenced based on still life scenery (using acrylic and watercolor paints.) His paintings, from his short story book series (soon to be revealed and announced) is influenced by Rod Serling’s television series The Night Gallery (as well as The Twilight Zone), in which the artists, Jaroslav “Jerry” Gebr, and Tom Wright, painted abstracts or literal representations of the story being presented on the television series. V.V. uses multiple mediums for his work, which includes: fine tip pen work, acrylic paint, watercolor paint, water color pencils, colored pencils, and chalk. He will soon explore the use and techniques of oil painting/paints in future artwork(s). Stay tuned, more to come! Vince Volpert is an independent writer. He writes for entertainment. His novel series, The Artist’s Rant (TM) (Copyright 2012-2014), has been in development for several years. He continues to create new stories for the series. In addition, he has several other novels on the way, independent to The Artist’s Rant (TM) series (Copyright 2012-2013 Vince Volpert) series. Stay tuned!


Book Preview

The Artist's Rant - Vince Volpert

Departure

Prologue: The Meeting

He stood on his tip-toes, reaching the top of the canvas with his large flat-head brush. He was making fast strokes of red. That’s it! he thought. He sighed, relieved that he painted exactly what he wanted from his mind. He took several steps back from the large canvas, almost knocking into his work station. A spray paint can hit the concrete floor, causing it to spray red in his face. Fortunately, he wore a painter’s jump suit, and a complete painter’s mask. He bent down, and quickly stopped the can from spraying. Placing it back on the table, he was relieved that he had on his protective gear.

He looked back at the painting, and marveled at his work. Beautiful. Just beautiful, he thought. The painting was of multiple colors that looked like fire; the tips looked wavy as the sea, and the colors bright and outstanding. Within the colors was a woman’s face, with her mouth slightly open. Her eyes peered down, she gave the illusion that she was watching him.

Moving back to his work station, he picked up a medium sized flat-head paint brush. With the flat end, he just slightly dipped the brush in black acrylic paint. He walked towards his painting, and put his signature on the bottom right corner: V.V. Done. He took a few steps back, and looked over the painting again, when he heard banging coming from the front industrial sliding door to his studio. He put down the brush, and walked over. I didn’t expect visitors today.

He reached for the key chain hanging by the door, bent all the way down to the ground, unlocked the industrial door, and slid it open. A rush of sunlight beamed through, almost blinding him for an instant. In front of him, stood two men, wearing nearly identical solid colored dress suits, wearing what looked like pilot’s sunglasses.

Can I help you? the artist said. His voice muffled through his mask.

Yeah, said the man closest to the artist, I’m FBI Agent Fidge, and this is my partner, Agent Orcowiski.

Oh? Well, how can I help you? the artist said.

Can we come inside? It’s hot out here.

The artist moved inside and waved his arm to come in. The man who talked, an African American man, named Agent Fidge, took out a white handkerchief from his coat pocket, and said, Thank you. He held in his other hand a small black leather briefcase.

"It’s brutal out there! I didn’t think Chicago could be this hot!" said Agent Orcowiski. He was a Caucasian man, with short spiked black hair.

Yeah, it’s a good thing that this place has AC! said the artist.

Both FBI agents took off their sunglasses. It feels cool in here. What’s the temperature? asked Agent Fidge.

68 degrees, said the artist.

Why? said Agent Orcowiski.

To protect my collection, of course, said the artist. He lifted his hands, and slowly turned around. My art work. The majority of art pieces were covered up in white muslin. Things protruded outward in various directions. The warehouse seemed to be endless, with artwork tucked in everywhere, almost hidden from view. Some were piled in various places, much taller than the men, like a mountain full of covered art pieces. The dark warehouse added mystery to the whole scenery. Most of the glass windows were either covered up by boards, or spray painted from the outside.

The agents looked around. Wow, Agent Fidge said.

"Oh, great," Agent Orcowiski said.

What’s the matter, Agent Orcowiski? the artist said.

"You’re one of those people, aren’t you?"

The artist asked, One of what? He was behind the agents, closing and locking the door.

Those artsy-fartsy types.

Orcowiski, that’s enough, Agent Fidge said. He looked at him, and gave him a look to just shut up. He looked back at the artist, and said, I’m sorry about that. I guess he’s not into art.

I can tell. Silence passed for a moment, when the artist said, Well, what can I do for you? Care to buy a piece? He started to walk away. I make all sorts of art work. I paint, carve, sculpt, knit, crochet, sketch, pen-ink, take pictures, you name it, I do it!

I bet, mumbled Agent Orcowiski.

Agent Fidge looked at him, and mouthed Shut the hell up! He turned to look at the artist. "Sorry, you really do all of that?"

Yes, and more. They walked for another minute, when they reached the painting that the artist finished moments ago. A bare light bulb on a thin wire hung several feet away from the painting.

Beautiful! Agent Fidge exclaimed.

Thank you! It is for a client.

Agent Orcowiski crossed his arms, and grunted.

The artist asked, Care to share your thoughts, Agent Orcowiski?

Not really. Looks like every other art junk you see in a museum.

I guess I can take that as a compliment. The artist sighed. So, you never answered my question. What can I do for you?

Right. Agent Fidge looked directly at the artist. We’re here to ask you about some people you may know.

People? I know a lot of people. What does it have to do with me?

Well, it has to do with some matters that are sensitive.

How sensitive?

Very sensitive.

Is someone in trouble? Do I know the person?

Well, it’s—

Agent Orcowiski blurted, "It’s you. We’re here because of you. You are our prime suspect in at least 11 murders. There are no connections to all of these murders except for one—you."

Orco!

Agent Orcowiski looked at Agent Fidge, and said, What?! You were taking too long!

Well, the artist paced around, and crossed his arms, this is quite a shock. I’ve never had to deal with this kind of thing before.

Agent Orcowiksi said, Well, you know what they say? ‘There’s a first time for everything.’ Even for you, artist!

Excuse my partner’s rude behavior, but it is true. After careful examination of all the evidence—

You mean lack of? Agent Orcowiski interrupted.

Agent Fidge looked at him, and said, Yes. He looked back at the artist. After the lack of real evidence to the contrary, the only thing that connects all of the cases together, is you. Now, we’re not here to accuse you of any crimes—

Yet, Agent Orcowiski blurted. The artist turned his head in Agent Orcowiski’s direction. "Why don’t you take off that stupid mask of yours, so we can see your face? Or do you have something to hide, just like your so called ‘art work’?"

Agent Orcowiski, that’s enough! Agent Fidge said.

Again, I’m sorry. Anyway, we came to ask you questions. We hope you are willing to cooperate with us. Agent Fidge glanced at Agent Orcowiski. "Peacefully."

Agent Orcowiski shook his head and smirked.

Agent Fidge looked back at the artist, and said, What do you think?

The artist shrugged, and said, Sure. What do I have to lose?

Agent Orcowiski replied, Your freedom. The artist chuckled. Did I say something funny, artist?

Oh, you’re going to be the fun one, aren’t you?

What the hell does that supposed to mean?! Agent Orcowiski yelled.

Nothing. He waved his hand at Agent Orcowiski. Just forget it.

So, you’re willing to cooperate with us? Agent Fidge asked.

"Of course. I have nothing to hide. I’m innocent. The artist turned to Agent Orcowiski, And yes, I’m sure you were about to say something like, ‘that’s what they all say,’ right? Agent Orcowiski shook his head, and chuckled. See, I’m starting to understand your kind."

The artist turned around, and started walking towards the back. Follow me, gentlemen. I have a place where we can talk.

What’s wrong with out here? Agent Fidge asked.

Some of the art pieces give out toxic fumes. I don’t want you to experience dizziness, or even faint. I wouldn’t want that on my clean record.

Is that why you’re wearing the creepy get up? Like some weird looking space man? Agent Orcowiski asked.

It’s protective gear. It protects me against the toxic fumes. It also protects my clothes, and my skin. Some paint pigments, such as the color black for oil paints, are made out of animal bone. It’s not good to ingest it, let alone to have on your skin. You can get sick from that.

Very smart, Agent Fidge said.

Thank you.

Sounds like a lot of work for nothing, Agent Orcowiski said.

Someone like you wouldn’t understand.

Agent Orcowiski growled.

"And the reason my art pieces are hiding, as you put it, is because I am protecting them from dust. And also from the sunlight, which still peers through tiny holes in the warehouse walls. As you can see, not all the windows are properly covered either. I like to protect my art pieces as much as possible, for as long as possible, too. They, too, have nothing to hide from anything or anyone."

Are we in any danger now? Agent Fidge asked.

No, because your exposure is not as much or as long as mine. And, on top of that, this place, despite its appearance, is well ventilated. So, you shouldn’t have to worry.

After several long minutes of rummaging through the piles of art pieces, they reached a thin metal wavy wall with a brown rusty door. Let’s talk in here. We’ll be safe from any excessive toxic fumes. And it has AC, too.

Is that where you keep your bodies at? Agent Orcowiski asked.

Aren’t you funny? the artist said.

So they say.

Enough! Agent Fidge grabbed his partner’s arm. "Stop mocking the prime suspect! What the hell is the matter with you?!"

"C’mon, you know he’s guilty! Look at him!"

The artist quickly unlocked the door, and said, Give me a minute. He walked into a pitch black room.

Agent Fidge said, You don’t know that yet! Remember, innocent until proven guilty?!

Well, my gut feeling tells me that he’s the killer. Agent Orcowiski yanked his partner’s arm. And I’m sticking to it until proven otherwise!

This way, gentlemen, the artist said as the light behind him turned on. On a thin wire hung a single light bulb, slightly swinging.

Thank you, Agent Fidge said. Agent Orcowiski followed behind.

Keep the door open, Agent Orcowiski demanded.

That’s fine, the artist said.

The room, nearly bare, with the same thin metal wavy walls, had a long rectangular wooden table in the center of the room. The table looked very old. The red color was fading into a light orange, and chips could be spotted throughout. There were three folding metal chairs next to the table. Please, Agent Fidge and Agent Orcowiski, take a seat.

Thank you. Agent Fidge took a seat at one end of the table.

No thanks, I prefer standing while I ask questions.

Suit yourself, Agent Orcowiski, the artist said. He took one of the chairs, and sat at the other end of the table across from his guests.

Agent Fidge looked at the artist. Since we’re going to be here for a bit, would you mind taking off your protective gear, please?

Oh, of course! How rude of me!

Agent Orcowiski grunted. He leaned against the metal wall next to the entrance-way, and crossed his arms.

Give me a minute. This in itself, is quite a chore! The artist took his hands, and waved them around on his back until he could grab the zipper. There it is! He carefully unzipped the back, and slowly bent down to slide his upper body out of the suit first, followed by his legs. Finally, he popped his head out, and said, Almost there! He took off the mask, and sighed. There we go!

The artist, a young looking Caucasian man, had long brown hair, wore a short-sleeved black shirt, blue jeans, and paint stained gym shoes, said, Is that better? Oh wait! I forgot something! He smiled, as he reached into his side pocket. Don’t worry, it’s not a gun! He pulled out a pair of eye-glasses, and put them on. At least I don’t have to clean these much. Ah, now I can see much better!

How can you paint without your glasses? Agent Fidge asked.

"I use prescription lenses on my protective masks. It makes my work a lot easier!"

The artist sat down, his long hair flowing behind him.

So, you’re a hippie? What a shocker, Agent Orcowiski said.

No, I’m not a hippie. Just an artist.

Where’s your stash?

What stash?

That’s enough, Orco! Agent Fidge yelled.

"C’mon man! Your stash! You know!"

The artist stared at him.

"Your drugs! Where are they?!"

I’m sorry, Agent Orcowiski, I don’t take any drugs, nor do I drink.

Good for you, Agent Fidge said. He smiled.

Thank you.

Agent Orcowiski shook his head, and grunted.

Disappointed, Agent Orcowiski?

No, I just don’t believe you.

Good thing I don’t care what you believe.

You better start to soon, hippie.

The artist looked him. You’re a riot. A real riot.

Then believe me, Agent Fidge said, "when I say that I will try to believe you."

Thank you, the artist said, not taking his eyes off of Agent Orcowiski. "At least somebody respects me. He looked at Agent Fidge, and smiled. So, what questions do you have for me?"

Agent Fidge lifted the briefcase onto the table. I have files here, all dealing with bizarre deaths, murders, or whatever you want to call it. We’re not quite sure what is going on with these cases.

The artist listened in silence.

Agent Fidge continued. The only connection we have, all leads back to you. We’re wondering why? What do you have to do with these cases? What are your connections with these victims?

The artist said, I don’t know what to say.

I do. Agent Orcowiski pushed himself off the wall, and quickly walked to the artist. Agent Orcowiski leaned into his face. "You killed all of those victims! You got a kick out of it! You said that you did all sorts of art crap. Why not add murder to your type of art work?! I can believe that, after seeing that crazy shit you call art!"

Agent Orcowiski! Agent Fidge rose from his chair, and slammed his hands on top of the table. That is enough! Agent Orcowiski turned around, and looked at his partner. If you can’t control yourself, I will ask you—no, I will force you to wait outside! Do I make myself clear?! Agent Orcowiski looked back at the artist. Do I make myself clear?!

Turning around, Agent Orcowiski said, Of course, Agent Fidge! My superior! He raised his hands, and slowly walked back to the metal wall next to the entrance-way. Agent Fidge watched him.

"To answer your question, Agent Orcowiski, murder, in my opinion, is not an art form. It’s certainly not my art form. He looked at Agent Orcowiski. Taking another life is wrong."

Good, Agent Fidge said. He slowly sat back down. Now, shall we continue?

By all means! the artist said.

Agent Fidge unzipped the briefcase, and pulled out several thick manila folders, with papers sticking out. Here, in my hands, are the unsolved cases. He plopped them down on the table.

I see, the artist said.

Agent Fidge pulled out another folder. A thin folder, with only a few sheets of paper inside. "Here, is your file."

Oh, I see.

It appears that you have a clean record. Actually, you’re almost non-existent, besides the basic demographic information. According to our records, you go by the name of ‘V.V., is that correct?"

Yes.

But your real name is—

"I’m sorry, Agent Fidge. I normally don’t go by my other name. ‘V.V.’ is my name."

But I have here—

"Do you have to say it?" V.V. said. He raised his eye brows.

Chuckling, and shrugging his shoulders, Agent Fidge said, No, I guess not.

Agent Orcowiski shook his head, and said, I thought you had nothing to hide?

V.V. turned to look at Agent Orcowiski. I don’t. I just prefer to be called what I like, that’s all.

Really?

My real name is only used when I’m in trouble. And right now, I’m not in trouble. So, until then, you call me ‘V.V.’ Understand?

Perfectly.

Agent Fidge closed V.V.’s file. Anyway, that’s not important. What is important, are these cases. Tell me, V.V., do you have plans for today?

V.V. looked at Agent Fidge. Well, I do have an appointment with a new client after 6PM. Why? Is this going to take long?

It depends on how cooperative you are.

V.V. sighed. Well, I can’t miss my appointment. It’s how I make a living!

I understand, but I’m afraid that you may have to call and cancel your appointment with that new client of yours.

We’ll see.

You don’t want to call your client now?

It’s not necessary now, Agent Fidge. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

You actually make a living at this crap? Agent Orcowiski asked.

Most of the time, sure. How do you think I can afford everything I have? V.V. smiled. Hey, maybe after all of this, you might want to buy a painting of mine. Even tell your buddies back at the FBI about the good artist you met?

I doubt it.

I don’t believe you.

Suit yourself.

Exactly! V.V. smiled. Agent Fidge sighed. He looked at some of the files in front of him. Curious, V.V. asked, Is something the matter, Agent Fidge?

Agent Fidge shook his head, and said, Look, I just don’t know where to begin. Orco, what do you think?

Agent Orcowiski walked towards Agent Fidge. You’re the leader, not me! He stuck his hands up in surrender. You lead, I follow! You made that quite clear!

Agent Fidge yelled, Look, this is no time to play stupid fuc—

Let me see the files. V.V. stuck out his hand.

Agent Orcowiski laughed. "What makes you think we would give the files to a prime suspect? Do you think we’re stupid?!"

"I’m sorry, V.V., but my partner is right. We normally cannot share files under any circumstances, let alone to prime suspects."

Well, I don’t see why you couldn’t? It looks like you don’t know where to begin. The agents stared at him. "It’s not like I have anything to hide. And besides, if you do find me guilty, I promise not to tell anyone what you two did. If I’m found guilty, I deserve what I get, isn’t that right? The agents looked at each other. And then you can use my full name. Isn’t that right, Agent Orcowiski?"

Agent Orcowiski crossed his arms, and smirked.

Agent Fidge sighed. I don’t know. He shook his head.

V.V. stood, and walked around the table. Let me see. He took several files from the table.

Hey! I told you that it wasn’t possible!

Oh. Hmm. V.V. quickly looked at the names of the victims. I see. He grabbed the remaining files. "Right. Ah, I can see why your investigation led you to me. I am connected."

"Really? You’re outright admitting relation to all of these cases? Boy, you must be stupid!"

"Agent Orcowiski, I can always count on your complimentary and kinds words!"

Agent Fidge looked at V.V. Are you sure you want to admit to that?

V.V. looked up at the agents. Isn’t it too late? I already said it. And besides, I can tell you why. The agents watched him in silence. Well, isn’t it obvious? It’s because they were all clients of mine! I did a painting for each one, at one point in time!

Oh, right, Agent Fidge said.

Go figure.

Oh, don’t be disappointed, Agent Orcowiski. V.V. looked down at the files once again, and said, I will need your help in a moment.

Me? Why?

V.V. walked at the other end of the table. "Because, gentlemen, I believe I have a way to answer all of your questions, through my artwork."

Excuse me? Agent Orcowiski laughed. "You’re telling us that your artwork will give us all the answers to these cases?"

Unfortunately, yes. V.V. looked across to Agent Fidge. "While I don’t have any involvement with the incidents themselves, I can explain to you, through my paintings, the story behind each case. Or in my case, my former clients. Maybe it will shed some light on your cases, to get to the real truth, with evidence."

This is bullshit!

Of course you would say that, Agent Orcowiski.

Wait, let him finish. Go ahead, V.V.

As I was saying, each art piece has a story behind it. Maybe the stories can answer your questions. What do I have to lose? Time? Freedom?

Agent Orcowiski shook his head.

"You might think it’s a waste of time, Agent Orcowiski. Sure, you may waste a few hours of your time. But I may end up in jail, wasting the rest of my time." V.V. sighed.

Are you sure this will help with the cases? Agent Fidge asked.

No, but I’m hoping. Look, as of right now, I’m only here to tell you the stories related to these cases. You two just need to ask yourself the following two questions: ‘Will I listen?’ and ‘Will I believe?’ Beyond that, it’s up to you.

Agent Orcowiski tisked.

V.V. said, Ah, a skeptic. I respect that. I was, at one time or another, one myself.

I find that hard to believe, Agent Orcowiski said.

Anyway, may I go get the paintings?

Agent Fidge looked at his partner, and shrugged. Agent Orcowiski looked at him like he was crazy for allowing this. Agent Fidge looked back at V.V., and said, If it helps you explain why you’re connected, and it helps with our investigation, why not? What’s the harm?

Exactly! V.V. clapped his hands. Oh! Agent Orcowiski, you’re going to like this! Can you please assist me with my paintings?

Why? Aren’t you afraid that I might wreck your precious work?

No. Most of the pieces I have to retrieve are acrylic. So, they’re generally protected. Will you help me, or not?

Agent Orcowiski looked at his partner. His partner nodded. Sighing, Agent Orcowiski said, Fine.

Do you mind if you wait here, Agent Fidge? We’re only going to be right outside this room.

No, that’s fine. My partner can take care of himself. Agent Fidge smiled. V.V. laughed.

V.V. laughed. Of course he can.

Agent Fidge looked inside his briefcase, and said, No, I’ll get my notepad and pen ready. I may have a tape recorder here somewhere.

You do whatever you need to prepare, as I will do the same. V.V. smiled, and waved at Agent Orcowiski. Come along, Agent Orcowiski! I want to finish before 6PM!

There are no guarantees, Agent Orcowiski said.

We’ll see, Agent Orcowiksi. We’ll see.

Case 1: Answer Me This…

Less than 10 minutes later, V.V., along with Agent Orcowiski, brought back 11 canvases of various sizes. V.V. placed 9 of them on the table, while Agent Orcowiski leaned two long canvases on the wall behind V.V. All of them were covered with white muslin. V.V. pulled out several small water bottles from his pockets, and put them on the table Do you want anything to drink?

No, thank you, Agent Fidge said.

May I? Agent Orcowiski asked, holding out his hand.

V.V. shrugged, and said, Go ahead.

Agent Orcowiski grabbed the bottle, twisted the top open, and sniffed. Good. He handed it back to V.V.

Trust me yet, Agent Orcowiski?

No. He walked back to the wall next to the entrance-way.

V.V. sighed. "Really? You would love it if I resisted arrest, wouldn’t you? Agent Orcowiski smiled. Look, I know I’m just an artist, but I’m far from stupid! You are two agents trained to kill. If I tried to run, I’m sure one of you would tackle me, and break my back! Or worse, shoot me, and I’m dead! So, relax, Agent Orcowiski. I’m a law abiding citizen." V.V. smiled.

"I know," Agent Fidge said.

Good. Now, can we get started? V.V. asked.

"Sure. I can’t wait to hear this!" Agent Orcowiski said.

We’ll see, Agent Orcowiski, V.V. said. He peered down at the other end of the table, where the files were scattered. Agent Fidge, would you be so kind to hand me a file, please?

Sure. Agent Fidge looked through the pile. "This one is bothering me the most. Here." He tossed it towards V.V.’s direction.

V.V. walked over, and grabbed the file. Thank you. He opened the file, and stared at the group of photographs. He started flipping through the photos.

Something wrong? Agent Fidge asked.

"I don’t recognize any of these people yet. He looked up. All of these people belong to one case?"

Agent Fidge nodded.

Seesh! V.V. exclaimed.

Welcome to the real world, artist, Agent Orcowiski taunted.

V.V. continued to flip through the photographs, when he stopped. He held it in his hand, and continued to look through the pile. His eyes widened. He found another. And another. And another.

Anything yet, V.V.? Agent Fidge asked.

V.V. put down the group of photos, and said, Unfortunately, yes.

May I see the people you picked out? Agent Fidge asked.

Of course.

He stood, and walked over by V.V. "Oh, this group."

Agent Orcowiski said, Let me see. Behind his partner, he asked, "You knew these people? Out of the whole pile, you knew them?"

In some form, yes.

What the hell does that mean, ‘in some form?!’ Agent Orcowiski waved his arm. We don’t have time for this shit, Fidge! I say we take him in on suspicion for multiple homicides, and call it a day!

No! We need to find out what happened!

The agents bickered, while V.V. walked back to his end, and went through the pile of paintings on the table. He lifted up a rectangular canvas. I think this is it, gentlemen.

The agents stopped their bickering. V.V. popped open a table easel, and placed the painting on it. Take a look.

The agents viewed the painting.

"What the hell is that?! This painting has nothing to do with the people you picked out!"

"Art doesn’t have to be literal, Agent Orcowiski. Though, after I tell you the story behind the painting, and the people, you may reconsider."

The agents looked at each other.

Shall I begin?

The agents were silent.

I call this piece…

Chew, Chew, Chew

At 11:45, on a beautiful quiet night, a traveler approached a nearly deserted bus stop. This bus stop, under a lamp post, was once a booming area, crowded with people. Traveling by bus was once an excellent way to get from place to place. However, now traveling on a bus seemed a bit odd. But once in a while, this bus stop would get a traveler.

A 22 year old brunette woman sat in the small ticket booth. She was flipping through a gossip magazine while she had her mp3 player blasting heavy metal music in her ears. She bobbed her head to a guitar riff playing at an unnatural speed. Nothing interfered with the music, until the traveler appeared in front of the booth. At first, she didn’t even notice him.

The traveler, a young man, looked at his long, gray coat, to see if there was anything sticking to it. He brushed himself off, adjusted his gray hat, and looked at the woman. He stood there, trying to think of a way to get her attention. Finally, she looked up at the window and was startled by his sudden appearance.

She found the man to be attractive, and asked, Can I help you?

Yes, I was wondering when the next bus will arrive?

She snickered at the man’s question. You’ll have to wait a while. The next bus isn’t until morning. It should arrive at 5AM.

Where does the bus go to or stop at, how much is a one way ticket, and where can I rest until the bus arrives?

The woman cocked her head as her left ear bud fell out. She sighed in disgust. I have to look at the charts first. Once she returned with the information, she said, The bus stops two hours later in a large town, called Utopianville. The ticket will be $25 one way. Oh, and see that bench by the lamp post? You can sit there until the bus arrives.

You want me to stay on the bench by the lamp post, all night? Isn’t there another spot I can stay until the bus arrives?

No, hon. It’s either on the bench or you can lie on the ground.

Are there any other bus routes to other towns?

Nope.

Are you sure?

Look hon, I’m sure that is the only route for tomorrow. Do you want the ticket or not?

Begrudgingly, he accepted the ticket to Utopianville. He thanked the woman, paid the $25, and walked towards the bench. He traveled light, only one suitcase with a few shirts, pants, and some soap in it.

The man sat on the bench by the lamp post. The bench was unusually long. He put his suit case in front of him, crossed his legs, and looked out into the desert—the lonely desert.

He wondered if anyone tried traveling on foot. He looked up in the sky. He was used to a sky without stars. He glanced at his watch—11:52PM. He noticed the stars, and he was struck by the scene, almost in awe. He leaned his head back, and closed his eyes. For a moment, he rested, and let out a great and tired sigh.

He heard a yawn. He was startled by the sound. The lamp post could not cast the light on the entire bench. It created a shadowed area that almost blended with the night sky. The man couldn’t see who was sitting on the bench.

Hello? Who’s there?

No one replied.

I said hello, who’s there? I heard you.

Nothing.

The man leaned towards the shadowed area. He squinted to see if he could get an outline of the person. Then he heard, I’m sorry, sir, if my yawn startled you. I’ve had a horrific night.

The man looked relieved, Oh, it’s quite all right. I walked a few miles to get to this bus stop. I’m leaving at 5AM, anyway. I think it’s nice to have company.

What town are you heading to?

Utopianville. Ever been there?

There was a moment of silence. The hidden individual said, Yes…I used to live there. I advise you, do not enter that town, if you know what is good for you.

Why not?

It is nearly midnight, so I guess I have enough time to tell you about the town. Before I tell you, I think it’s best to introduce myself. My name is Charles. And you, sir, what is your name?

He stuck out his hand in greeting. Peter, Peter O’Claire. Pleasure to meet—

Charles, still hidden within the shadows, replied, "Uh, you see, I have a cold. I would rather not shake your hand, for I fear that I might give it to you. But

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