How to Kill Yourself in a Small Town

BOOK: How to Kill Yourself in a Small Town
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HOW
TO KILL YOURSELF IN A SMALL TOWN

 

 

By eden
Hudson

 

 

 

 

Cover Art by Byron Winton

www.byronwinton.com

 

 

How to Kill Yourself in a Small Town
is a
work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products
of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
events, locales, persons or non-persons, living or dead or undead, is entirely
coincidental, but would be really cool.

 

Copyright © 2014 by eden Hudson

All rights reserved.

 

Blah, blah, blah, something about ebooks not being
transferrable, something about stealing, and some legal stuff or other. Look,
guys, I don’t really care about piracy. If you know how to do it, good for you.
Steal this book, share it with your friends, print it off and paper your walls
with it—whatever—just give me the credit for writing it. And, hey, if you end
up liking this book, let me know by reviewing it somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“For we wrestle
not against flesh and blood…”

Ephesians 6:12

 

PART I: LIFE ON THE INSIDE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colt

 

“Sit,
Colt. Stay,” Mikal said.

My
body obeyed. I couldn’t do anything about that anymore. Right then it was all I
could handle to shut out the laughter going around the Dark Mansion’s parlor
and the burn of humiliation in my stomach. I couldn’t waste the energy worrying
about what was happening outside my head.

But
inside I told Mikal,
Fuck you.

That’s
my good little soldier. Never stop fighting,
she said. Or thought.
I don’t know. It was a sound inside my skull and the sound was her voice.

Fuck
you, bitch.
For responses, I was down to “fuck you.”
Anything else gave Mikal an opening, and around the same time that I stopped
being able to tell whether it was day or night or some weird in-between that
only mental hospitals and prisons have, I realized that openings are always
bad.

Outside,
Mikal slipped her fingers under the heavy leather band of the dog collar,
lifting it away from my neck. The cool air and her touch soothed the places
where the collar had rubbed my skin raw. It was such a relief. I tried to make
myself feel disgust or loathing—anything but good.

Is
this better?
Mikal asked. The version of her tar-covered
wings that was inside my head arced with electricity and wrapped around my
brain. My teeth clenched, but she wouldn’t let me scream.
You can have the
good or the bad, Colter. It’s your choice.

She
meant I could take my reward like a good dog and be grateful or we could go
back to the way it was when I first got there. But she was wrong. She couldn’t
take me all the way back. If she tried to, I would shut off completely.
Catatonia wouldn’t be any fun for her.

Mikal
laughed, but the pain stopped.

I
love how clever you think you are,
she said.
If you go
catatonic, I’ll cast you off and leave you all alone. Who’ll save you then?
Tough? He’s barely keeping his own head above water.

At
first I thought it was a hallucination brought on by her mentioning Tough—I saw
the Tracker leading him into the parlor by the log chain wrapped around his
chest and arms. The Tracker stopped Tough in front of Kathan, at the foot of
the dais.

Then
I realized that I could feel the cracks in the hardwood under my knees and I
could smell the rotting-meat stench of the Tracker. Mikal stood beside me,
running her fingers through my hair. Kathan said something to Tough and Tough got
that smartass look on his face like he was about to say something that would
probably get him killed.

My
heart started pounding so hard I could feel it hammering on the wall of my
chest. This was really happening. My little brother was still alive. Tough was
all right. For a second that was all that mattered.

Then
I saw the way Tough was looking at me.

I
was naked. It’d been so long since I had worn clothes that I’d forgotten. I
couldn’t remember the last shower I’d taken or the last time I’d been allowed
to act human.

No,
that wasn’t true.

My
ears rang and cramps plowed into my shoulders. The basement—the last time Mikal
had let me act human had been in the lunatic’s cell in the basement. The last
piece of clothing I’d worn had been a straightjacket.

My
ears were way past ringing now. The only thing I could hear was that hollow
laughing and screaming. I couldn’t go back there. I would do anything to keep
from going back.

Mikal
stroked my cheek and rested her fingers against my face.

You
see, Colt?
she said.
I don’t have to take you all the way back.
You’re a good dog. You remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tough

 

I
parked my pickup on the north side of the square, climbed down and slammed the
door. That aloe Harper had given me for the chain burns wasn’t helping much.
Every time I moved, the blisters jerked, and the mid-August heat made them feel
like they were still on fire. Friendly little reminders from Mayor Kathan.

I
took my John Deere hat off and wiped the sweat off my face with the bottom of
my shirt.

“Hey,
Tough,” Tiffani yelled across the square from under her bakery’s awning. “Mitzi
told me you were headed back to town. They take you to see the big boss man
last night?”

Tiffani
was Mitzi’s vampire-sister, so they could talk to each other telepathically. It
was like a bonus prize of living in Halo—cell phones didn’t work, but the
vamps’ connections kept the gossip lightning-fast. Tiffani had probably even
known ahead of time that Jason and Mitzi were going to screw me over. Maybe I
was the only guy in town who hadn’t seen that coming.

I
made the cross at Tiffani with my forearms and a tourist couple glared at me.
The guy grumbled something about punk kids not having any respect. I shot him
the finger—because fuck everybody today—then I headed for the Matchmaker’s
building. If it wasn’t daylight, Tiffani probably would’ve been across the
square and whooping my ass before I could finish thinking that I didn’t have to
respect someone who listened in when I had sex with her vamp-sister.

The
air conditioning in the Matchmaker’s office made me break out in goose bumps. I
let the door slam behind me.

“Tough?”
Addison Kelley, a girl from my high school class, was the Matchmaker’s
receptionist. “I figured you were gone for good this time! What’re you doing
back in town?”

I
didn’t worry about trying to answer. Addison’s a talker.

“Everybody
thinks that’s bull, what happened with Jason,” she said. “You didn’t get in too
much trouble, did you?” Her eyes dropped to the chain-link burns on the
outsides of my forearms and she shook her head. “Mm. Don’t go running off
again, Tough. A dick like Jason Gudehaus isn’t worth it.”

I
gave her a smile for an answer because she was right. Jason wasn’t worth it,
but kicking his ass until he gave me my voice back would’ve been.

“At
least you’re back in time for the Armistice Celebration,” Addison said. “It’s
really going to be a doozy this year.”

Yeah,
hooray, I got back just in time to celebrate the day Kathan cut Dad’s head off,
I
thought.

Addison
looked at her computer screen.

“Hey,
you’ve got an appointment! I should’ve known.” She fake-smacked her forehead.
“You can sit down if you want. I’ll let her know you’re here.”

I
nodded and sat in one of the armchairs by the window.

Across
the street, a tour group was taking pictures of each other in front of the Halo
Old Town Square Armistice marker. One dipshit unfolded this giant piece of
paper and started doing a rubbing of the plaque.

 

This is to commemorate the
laying down of arms and the first peaceful agreement between the races of
People and Non-People in the United States of America. Fallen angels, primals,
werecreatures, undead, demons, fae folk and humans alike… All are welcome in
Halo.

~Plaque commissioned by Mayor
Kathan Dark

 

The
blisters on my stomach and back and arms started freaking out again, almost as
hot as they’d been the night before when Kathan grabbed the chains and hauled
me up eye-to-eye with him.

He’d
said, “Your protectors fucked you over, so I’ll go easy on you this time, but
this is your last warning. Try to leave Halo a third time and I’ll let Mikal
have you. I’m getting damned tired of you Whitneys, but she’s not.”

Then
he had waited, because he knew I was going to look over at Colt—at what used to
be Colt—kneeling at Mikal’s feet and letting her pet him like some kind of
fucking dog.

“Tough?”
The Matchmaker’s voice made me jump. She held the door to her office open for
me. “The mayor told me you would stop by today. Come on in.”

Addison
smiled at me as I passed and I started to get one of those
everyone’s-out-to-get-me feelings. I shut it down before it got out of hand.
Living in Halo could really mess with your head. Especially when you let
yourself think that the girl you stood up at prom a few years back would’ve
been the one to call you in if you’d pulled a no-show at the meeting Kathan
ordered you to go to.

“Have
a seat,” the Matchmaker said, pointing to a chair in front of her desk.

This
kind of felt like a job interview, so I took off my hat. She sat down and put
on a pair of those thick-framed glasses some chicks wear to look smart.

“It’s
not an interview and they’re prescription,” she said, without even looking at
me. “I read minds, so try not to think anything overtly inappropriate or
offensive while we’re together.”

Got
it,
I
thought.
Don’t think about how your jugs are about to pop out of that
corporate casual shirt or how it looks like you picked that big, ugly-ass
necklace to hold them down.

“Real
cute,” she said. “If I tell Kathan that I don’t think you’re making a serious
effort to settle down in Halo for the long haul, you’re dead. You realize that,
right?”

I
just looked at her like she was stupid. There was a lot worse out there than
dying.

“I
know he was your big brother, Tough, but Colt murdered five people,” the
Matchmaker said. “Humans. Not NPs. For the safety of everyone in Halo, Kathan
had no choice but to—”

Can
we cut the shit?
I thought, rolling the bill of my hat in my
hands.
I’m here. I’m following the fucking rules. Can we just do this?

“Fine.”
The Matchmaker took out a pen and a pad of blue post-its. “Let’s talk about
your last placement. Were you satisfied under the Gudehaus’s protection?”

Technically.

The
Matchmaker scribbled something on her post-it. She must be really far out of
the loop if she didn’t get that joke.

“How
did the three of you reach your protection agreement?”

I
snorted.
You don’t get out much, do you?

“I
stay pretty busy,” she said.

Well,
Jason thought he was really hot shit because he could do enough magic to be
considered a mage,
I thought.
He married Mitzi because he
wanted a trophy wife who wouldn’t get old. The dumbass never thought what it’d
be like to have sex with a vampire.

“I
don’t think I—”

He’s
temperature sensitive. Can’t stand the cold, keep your dick out of the icebox,
right?

The
Matchmaker cleared her throat. “So, Jason approached you?”

I
wasn’t going door-to-door.
And if I had been, it wasn’t like the only
reject from the family of holy-soldier badasses would be super popular in this
town, anyway. Jason had just been there the first time I got dragged back to
Halo from Nashville. He needed someone who could keep an erection in a woman
who was room temperature at best and I needed a protector who couldn’t control
me.
At the time, Jason seemed like a good way for me to go.

The
Matchmaker smiled a little.

“You
look a lot like Ryder when you make that face,” she said.

It’s
the hair and the nose and the Whitney eyes.

The
Matchmaker shook her head.

“More
like the attitude,” she said. “He was in my class before the war.”

Too
bad for your class.
I hoped the memory lane thing would hit a dead
end there.

“Ryder
wasn’t that bad,” the Matchmaker said, “Just preoccupied. He didn’t handle it
all as well as Sissy did. She was always really nice to me. Even her thoughts
were really kind. I couldn’t believe it when I heard she tried to send Kathan
back to Hell. She seemed too sweet to—”

I
tried to think the loudest heavy metal, train-wreck, porn-explosion I possibly
could so I didn’t have to listen to this NP bitch talk about someone she barely
knew.

The
Matchmaker winced.

“Fine,”
she said. “Let’s stick to business. Age?”

Twenty-one.

“Employer?”

I
tugged my hat back on and sucked my teeth. I’d had a band and a house gig at
Rowdy’s until Jason screwed me over. I wasn’t good for much else besides music.

“Protectors
aren’t looking for a charity case, Tough. With your background and no job, the
best you can hope for is a siren.”

That
put it in perspective real fast. Sure, the sex would be good for a while, but
getting your soul sucked out in pieces…damn.

“That’s
the spirit,” the Matchmaker said. “So, obviously you’re going to want a
protector who can read thoughts. Other than that, what did you have in mind?”

Can
we skip the part where we pretend I get a choice?

“All
right, if you’re so smart,” the Matchmaker said, “Tell me who I’m supposed to
pair you with.”

Somebody
humiliating, probably. Not that it gets much more humiliating than being under
the protection of the same Jason Gudehaus who couldn’t grasp the concept of a
simple button hook play.

That
got her laughing. She must’ve gone to a few football games back in the day.

“The
mayor isn’t punishing you, Tough,” she said. “You know that the Armistice
Celebration is next weekend. With it being the tenth anniversary, a lot of the
world will be looking this way. Kathan just wants to make sure Halo maintains a
collective happy face—remaining Whitneys included.”

Shouldn’t
have any problem there with Mikal pulling Colt’s strings.
She
would paste a big ol’ smile on his face. If, for whatever reason, Kathan
thought I was actually going to be a problem, he could’ve just had Mikal kill
me last night. Tiffani had been the only one in town who knew I was on the way
back and she wouldn’t have wasted a whole lot of time crying if I’d never
showed up. Seemed like an awful lot of trouble to go to just to keep me from
screwing with a celebration I didn’t even care about.

“Look
at it this way,” the Matchmaker said. “Kathan’s worked hard to make Halo a
place of refuge. With Colt’s constant terrorist attacks—”

Protector.
I
thought it as loudly and slowly as possible.

The
Matchmaker sighed. “What sort of assets can you offer in return for your
protection?”

There
was something I could stand to think about. I’d been living in town with Harper
and Jax since I was sixteen, so I didn’t have any hunting land or cattle to
offer a werething. Faeries kind of freaked me out, banging a siren was a
definite no, and I wasn’t smart enough to be an info dump for the Witches’
Council like Jax.

My
friend Harper has a vamp protector. That seems like a decent setup.
She
let Logan leech off of her a couple times a week and spent the rest of her time
drinking orange juice and lifeguarding out at the lake. I could handle that.
Based on experience, I could lose a lot of blood before it slowed me down.

The
Matchmaker wrote something else on her post-it and underlined it, but when I
tried to read it, she folded her hands so that they blocked my view.

“You’re
not interested in using your…skills…from your last placement?” she asked.

I
shrugged. I liked sex as much as the next guy—assuming the next guy had also
spent the last month with nothing but his right hand for company—it just got a
little weird banging a woman who only breathed when she thought about
breathing.

The
Matchmaker nodded.

“Find
a job,” she said. “When you’ve got one, bring in your employer info. That’ll
really open up your list of potential protectors.”

I
stood up to go.

“Tough?
You know there’s a fee for my services?”

I
nodded. Nothing’s free in Halo. Not even mandatory shit.

*****

I
let the screen door slam shut and dropped onto the couch between Harper and
Jax. Partly because it made me uncomfortable when they made out with me right
beside them, and partly because—as weak as it sounds—the night before at the
Dark Mansion was still crawling around in my brain and I wanted them to talk
until they drowned out that image of Mikal petting Colt like her favorite
fucking dog.

Jax
paused his bootlegged game, set it up for two-player, and threw me a
controller. Zombie-killing.

“Still
free-range?” Jax asked.

“It
doesn’t work that fast,” Harper said. She looked at me. “Right, Tough? It takes
a little time with the Matchmaker?”

I
nodded.

BOOK: How to Kill Yourself in a Small Town
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