The Trouble With Actual Organs Chapter 2: “The Web”

Earth loomed brightly in the night sky, making the streetlights along Gunther Road almost superfluous. The sky was clear, though the air was just short of muggy; summer was almost in full swing, and this year it promised to be exceptionally hot. The water park in, a Japanese city to the south, would be getting plenty of business later in the season, if it wasn't already. Elle hoped to go there herself, if she and Robbie could save up enough for them to go together. They almost always took their vacation time together, though usually they didn't
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go to tourist attractions that cost more than twice their monthly rent. Euphonia.usa was big enough to keep them entertained usually—but there was no water park, and if there was anything Ellysia wanted to do on her next vacation, it was go down a giant water slide at Nishida Water Rides. The Web was two blocks from Elle's apartment building. In her imagination she was just being jetted from the slide into the pool when she came to the club's entrance. It was a tall, long industrial drop gate, made of wire mesh and corrugated steel. A black burlap screen shielded the goings-on inside from passersby on the sidewalk. Barely visible at the center of the drop gate was a wicket door—a smaller door embedded in the gate, which upon closer inspection was no more than a hologram emitting from the threshold of the real door. The owner of the Web had found out when she opened the club that secrecy would make her establishment more popular— it was the prize at the end of a treasure hunt. Business boomed at the Web when it seemed to be forbidden fruit; mystery brought inquiring barhoppers and the sense of exclusivity made them regulars. Egos fed off the air of privateness that secrecy afforded, though the Web was never intended as a private club. Robbie had shown Ellysia the place for her eighteenth birthday; he interviewed Dahlia Balswick when she started hiding her club with the holographic gate, and had been going there himself years before Elle was old enough to drink. That had been almost five years ago, and Ellysia had been coming to the Web ever since. Elle slipped into the Web, barely opening the door and quickly shutting it behind her. This was the custom, so as not to ruin the quest for people who'd come from as far away as the other side of the moon to find the elusive ginmill. The lights were flashing so that the club changed colors every five or ten seconds, and the music was turned up as loud as it ever was. For the crowd at the Web that Wednesday night, the smell wasn't unbearable—the stench of stale beer didn't flood into Elle's nostrils the way it sometimes did even on slower nights. She shouldered her way toward the bar and took up a stool, setting her purse on the counter next to a digital blackjack machine. Elle waved her hand until she got the attention of the bartender, who was unabashedly watching a woman in Daisy Dukes make her way onto the dancefloor, his eyes trailing up from her firm thighs and butt up to the jiggle of her breasts as she walked. “Oi, Hezekiah, can I get a Disaronno on the rocks before you start drooling?” Hez snapped out of his reverie, and didn't look the least bit happy about it. “Coming up, sweetheart.” he said, almost bitterly. Ellysia wasn't the type a man would drool over, and she was well aware. She was a bit on the short side, shapely but always more modestly dressed than it seemed any man appreciated; her pretty face and bright green eyes really got Elle nowhere with men. It had taken her six years to accept this, but that didn't make responses like Hezekiah's any easier to swallow. “Actually,” she called after him, “just bring me a glass of ice and I'll buy the whole damn bottle!” Elle poured her first glass of the amaretto. She took a swig of it, swiping her debit card through the blackjack machine. The machine dinged and welcomed her to the table in a nasal
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robotic voice as she put the card back into her mustard-colored purse. For the first deal she bet only a dollar, and lost it with a queen after hitting on a king and a five. On the second she won her buck back, and she began to calm down and sip her drink. She savored the taste of the Disaronno, that though she was told it was almond-flavored tasted suspiciously like vanilla bean ice cream. She bet the machine $5 and was dealt blackjack. “Bangin'!” Elle hit the CASH IN button. The blackjack machine made a ching noise for each of the $12 she had won, then told her to have a nice night. The machine's screen went back to the start-up page, where it would stay until someone swiped their card to start it up again. Ellysia finished her first glass of amaretto and was pouring herself another when a man sat down beside her, at a stool where there was no blackjack machine. “Hi,” he yelled over the music. Elle could detect a faint accent in his voice—probably Russian. The man was leaning on the bartop in Elle's direction, so she could only assume he was trying to catch her attention. “The name's Ira. What should I call you?” Ira had just come in, and was dismayed to see that no one had noticed him. Not a single woman had looked at him, and none of them had caught his eye until he saw Ellysia at the bar. He looked at her expectantly. Ellysia swiveled in her stool and met his eyes. They were a blueish gray, and strangely familiar to her. She couldn't place where she'd seen them before, but she knew that she had. “I'm Ellysia. Never seen you here before.” she replied, perhaps more curtly than she'd intended. Elle took another sip of her newly refilled glass. The man smiled shyly. Now that he'd seen her face he thought he recognized her, too. “I just found the Web last night,” he told her. “It's a bitch, huh?” Elle chuckled lightly. “Yeah.... I actually never had to find the place. My friend took me here to break my bar virginity. It was pretty crazy to see about the door, though. I totally would have tried to lift the damn thing.” “So where've I seen you before?” Ira asked outright. Ellysia shrugged. “I don't know. I work at home through my Ario, and you've never been here before, so that kind of narrows it down—to the grocery store, the mall, the sidewalk, the cemetery...” she said, trailing off. It was a pretty long list. Ira smiled again, displaying two rows of even, off-white teeth. He saw that she was smiling back, and hope welled up inside him. He felt himself already past her initial defenses and innate distrust, and it was a huge weight off his shoulders. Maybe he had finally found the right woman for him. “Can I walk you home, Ellysia?” he asked. She looked at her wristwatch. It was almost 2:00 AM. The Web would close in another hour, and Elle knew that if she stayed too much longer she'd be drunk out of her mind and would have to ring Robbie to walk her home anyway. Robbie had been exhausted after the show just hours ago, though, and wouldn't appreciate being awoken so soon; it was a lose-lose situation. Ira doesn't seem so bad, anyway, I guess, she thought. I could let him walk me to the complex. “Sure.” Ellysia grabbed her purse and pulled its clasps apart. She secured the square cap
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on the quarter-empty bottle of Disaronno and dropped it into the bag. The bottle seemed to disappear in the mess of old receipts and gum wrappers that made up the contents of her purse's belly. “Let's go,” she said. Ira held the door for Ellysia as they left the Web. “Where do you live?” he asked. He sincerely only wanted to walk her home—or, at least, he sincerely thought that was all he wanted. He thought she might invite him up to her room, but did his best to ignore the idea, as much as he enjoyed it. Ira wanted to take it slow; he wanted her to trust him wholeheartedly. But he hadn't actually gained much of Ellysia's trust at all, and, despite being a little offbalance from drinking, she wasn't buying into his innocent act. “This way,” she pointed up the sidewalk to the left. Despite his congeniality, something about Ira—whatever it was that made him familiar to her—was unsettling, and Ellysia couldn't put her finger on it. She figured she'd let him walk her to the end of the block and send him on his way when they reached the doors of the complex lobby. Elle took the lead in the direction of her apartment building, and Ira followed suit. He easily fell in step next to her, and kept a respectable distance between them. The sidewalk was empty, Gunther Road basically abandoned in these late hours. Ellysia was at peace, though whether it was the tranquility of the lonely street or the liqueur in her system that caused it she couldn't tell. Ira examined her as they walked; he admired the curls in her hair and the size of her bust, his eyes trailing down her body until they came to her hands. In the light of a dim streetlamp, the ring glittered on Ellysia's wedding finger. When Ira saw it, he missed a step and fell behind. His mind raced through all that had passed between them since he had set eyes on her—from the way she'd turned to face him when he said hello, to the way she'd stood from her stool, to the way she walked beside him. Every movement of her body told him that she had been deceiving him this whole time. She wanted to use him—she had never loved him at all. She'd hidden her wedding ring so he'd go home with her, the bitch! “You're married?” he demanded. There was hurt in his voice—but mostly anger. He stopped walking and turned to face her. Ellysia stopped, too, and stared at him, dumbstruck. “What—? Oh, this,” she said, looking down at her hands. She had forgotten about it altogether, and, despite herself, she was stricken with guilt at the sight of the ring on her finger. “No, actually, my mom bought it for me. It's my birthstone. Sorry, I completely forgot I was wearing it there.” Ira's nostrils flared. “Lying bitch!” he snarled. He had been so sure she was a good one— he'd wanted them to work so badly. Why did she have to go and ruin it? They always ruin what they have, even if it's so good—even if it's as good as being with him! His thoughts became more frantic with each passing second, and each thought infuriated Ira more than the one before it. Hatred for this women with whom he had been smitten only moments ago now smoldered in his chest. “When were you going to tell me, huh? After we slept together?” Elle was lost for words. She hadn't expected this kind of a reaction, especially from a man she may have known for only a few minutes now. It occurred to her that maybe she had forgotten
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him, and considered that maybe he had been testing her when he asked her where they knew each other from. But she couldn't imagine that someone with so much anger would be forgotten so easily. She could see Ira's rage building like a storm in his eyes, but it inspired indignation in her more than fear. “Who are you to call me a liar? And what the fuck makes you think I was going to sleep with you? Who the fuck are you really?” she yelled. Ira moved in closer, his wrath a hot wind emanating from his entire body. Panic finally settled in for Ellysia. It became plain to her that this man had already convinced himself that she had committed some crime against him, and that yelling at him had done more harm than good. Among her scrambled thoughts she picked out the only one that made any sense: RUN FOR THE DOOR! She tried to grab the handle of one of the apartment lobby's doors, just barely out of reach—but Ira caught her by the arm and slammed Ellysia into the wall of the building. The man saw himself reflected in Elle's eyes, wide with terror, as he pinned her against the wall with his big hands wrapped around her throat. “You were supposed to be the one!” he screamed at her. Ira leaned in closer until his face was within kissing distance of hers. He constricted his fingers around Ellysia's throat. “Why do you have to be such a bitch?” Ellysia tried to scream, but Ira tightened his grip so much so quickly that she couldn't get a sound out. There was no one around to save her—no cars passed on the road, and no pedestrians came across them. The darkness up and down Gunther Road seemed endless. Elle clawed at Ira's arms and face, but each knick and scratch only added to his fury; she kicked him, but this only made him squeeze harder. Things began to swim before Ellysia's eyes; soon the world was a blur of black sky and ugly yellow light. The blackness began to grow, and what was left of Elle's world grew smaller and smaller, until all that was left was a pinhole through which she could see was the face of the bastard who was killing her. Her energy was fleeting, and she had lost her will to fight when her head had begun to swim. She averted her eyes to look past Ira and gazed off into the night sky, the last night sky she'd ever see. She could feel herself slipping away, her body and soul splitting away from one another. This was a pleasant feeling; she no longer sensed the hands wrapped round her throat or the man who was strangling her. Her terror and sadness was distant, detached from her now. She unclenched her fists, heard her purse hit the concrete somewhere far, far away... and let this new feeling overcome her. The last thing Ellysia saw was a giant hazy sphere of white, green, and blue.

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