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18+ Language

Chapter Four: Trigger

by shima


Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.

I'm sorry for the things I can't undo

Where are we?

Forgive me and the world outside your room

We're falling

Still dreaming of waking up

And now you're crawling to become

The one you've been running (I'm not just like you)

From (I'm here to let you know)

That it's not just up to you

Stop counting the hours you just can't add up (up to you)

The hours

What's your problem?

I don't have a problem

Then, why are you here?



- Closet, Fleshwater, 2022





Waking up the next morning, Annie realized in shock that last night had happened.

That it was not a nightmare born out of her depressed, destroyed mind and a need for recognition from Stormfront.



The mixed taste of Jäger, Scotch and vomit in her mouth confirmed as much. That evening, lying in bed, she thought of Stormfront. Of Hughie. Then Stormfront again. Of her curves, her beautiful brunette hair, and how she raised goosebumps on Annie’s skin.

It was so wrong but so tempting.

The warmth that Stormfront gave her in that moment seemingly beat everything else, everyone else.



And it felt like Annie would do anything to feel the same way again.



Regardless of what she did, she couldn't get Stormfront out of her head.



Oh, Annie, what have you gotten yourself into?



The next day she received a message from Maria McKenzie, one of her best friends, and a fellow Supe from her days back in Iowa.

Ever since Annie moved to New York they only made contact through extensive calls.

At first, Annie wanted to go back someday to visit her mom but after they fell out she never did, making it more difficult for her and Maria to stay in contact.



Maria was a fellow Supe from her days in Bible camp and later co-hosted Vought Summer Teen Clubhouse together with…



Gecko.



Under the alias of Pure Mary.



Similarly, to him, she had regeneration powers, but those only worked on other people, not her.She retired from being a Supe soon after becoming 18, preferring to stay private with her affairs.



And Annie genuinely missed her. In this whole charade of double-crossing, terrorists, and psychotic Supes she would be a breath of fresh air, a callback to a simpler time in the past.

Smiling, Annie quickly wrote that she’d be free tomorrow evening to catch up and show her some sights of the town.



While walking through the hallways the next day, on the way to meeting her friend, she briefly passed A-Train. The blue-clad speedster rapidly walked by, looking seriously worried. Entering the elevator, she saw none other than Shockwave, standing there, grinning, beating out some melody on the elevator railing, his ears blocked by a pair of Airpods.



Ah.



He sped away the minute they reached the bottom floor, leaving flying papers and ringing glass in his wake. Annie watched him go, quite impressed. She honestly already forgot when was the last time she saw A-Train run at this speed.



Maria was standing outside, wearing a black puffy coat, a pair of jeans with dirt stains on the legs, and a white, slightly washed-out, blouse. In the middle of the New York crowd, she looked almost weird, out of place in the big city. She took a part of Iowa with her wherever she went, regardless of the setting.



And that was exactly what Annie needed right now.

“Maria!” Annie screamed out in delight, hugging the fellow Supe. “How have you been?”

“Well,” started out the girl as they were walking away from the Seven Tower, “something very special happened recently.”

Annie looked at her, surprised, and slightly puzzled. “Tell me, tell me, tell me!”The brunette deviously smiled before raising up one hand, showing off her diamond ring. “No fucking way.” Gasped Annie, squeaking in delight. “Strikeout?”

Maria nodded, putting her hand back in her pocket, Annie hugging her once again.

“Congratulations! I knew it would work out with you guys!” Mary lightly chuckled at her comment.



Strikeout was one of their fellow Supes, also a part of Capes for Christ. He and Marie started dating back in High-School, and the four of them (Annie, Drummer Boy, Strikeout, and Maria) went to prom together. Similar to Maria, he had retired in his 20s, after a very public falling out with Vought.



“What about you? Didn’t you say” and with these words she slightly bent down, closer to her ear, hushing her voice to a whisper “you found someone on the outside?” “Yeah, yeah, something like that.” Except that now, she wasn’t even sure anymore.

Maria’s face changed from amusement to concern.

“There is nothing bad going on here, right?”

Annie waved her remark away, her face betraying her true emotions.

“No, no. You know how it goes, just a small hitch.”

Maria sighed. Is it that obvious?



Sitting in a bar later, nursing her drink, Annie listened to her friend’s tales of whatever was happening in their Des Moines neighborhood and how much - and how little – had changed there, staring into her deep, brown eyes.



She thought about whether she should’ve taken that chance, and just stopped before it all got out of hand. Her mother would’ve understood, eventually. Maybe after a couple of fights.



One drink turned into two, into three, and before long, she told Maria the truth. About Hughie. About her doubts. About Vought. But not about Stormfront. And Maria just sat there, cheerful, and supportive as ever, always ready to help.



A true friend. An actual hero.



Waking up the next morning, she felt like her head could explode, her mouth filled with the aftertaste of cocktails and regret.

She barely could remember anything that had happened, except for the fact that they had visited at least four different bars and that their combined tab could only be covered by the salary of a member of the Seven.

Grabbing her phone from her nightstand she briefly browsed through the messages.

A couple of angry SMS’ from Ashley telling her that she is missing their regular PR meeting, combined with at least a dozen phone calls from her number.



Boring.



Swiping them away, she saw a notification from a number that made her feel something pleasant. Hughie’s.

Regardless of her outburst, or what happened with the Deep, it seemed that he was still on her side. For some reason.

Pressing it open she read that he wanted to meet her, something related to Liberty.

Dropping her phone to the ground, she rolled over, looking at the ceiling.



Wonder what he would say if she told him how she felt now.

She pushed that thought away. That night was a fleeting moment of weakness, nothing special. She was drunk, and tired, and in that state, a lot of strange things can happen. She hated herself for remembering the feeling of Stormfront's gloves against her neck.



She hated herself for liking it.



Seeing Hughie again was one of the few spots of bright light inside her predominantly gray life.

He explained to her that they would be following up on a lead given to them by Grace.

It was an address in Maine, on the border with Canada, and apparently, Butcher went missing, so the mission was given to MM.

Hughie insisted on taking Annie with them because he wanted to get her away from the Tower, especially with all that happened in the past two weeks.

When she tried to apologize he just waved it away, not of any concern to him.

They would be driving with MM, who, apparently protested at first, but then went along anyways – for Annie’s sake, or that was at least what he said.



Annie herself wasn’t sure. Vought will know. She almost unconsciously touched the back of her neck, where only a couple of days ago a drill had pierced the skin, reminding herself that there was no chip to tie her down anymore. Makes sense, that day it wasn’t even the most important thing that happened. Do it for him. Because Hughie wants this to happen.

Make him feel good about himself. It is the least you can do.



Sighing, she pulled the door open, the smell of fresh leather filling her nostrils.

Sitting down in the car she briefly glanced over to the MM, before pulling her eyes away.



She couldn’t bear looking at him. At any of them.



“Listen, Annie, I know what Butcher said. But you-”Annie shushed him. “Can we please not talk? My head hurts.”

Most of their ride was in silence, MM not even turning on the radio, at first.



When her headache passed, she did it herself.



That atrocious song she did for Translucent, “Never Truly Vanish”, started blaring through the speakers. Imagine having to sing a celebratory anthem for the man who raped you, weeks after you went public with it. But so far the people knew Translucent was a hero and a model citizen, dedicated to his faith.

Not a pervert who used positions of power to his advantage.



To some extent she was even sad, he was killed like that, never truly receiving punishment for his actions. Being splattered against the walls of a shitty, abandoned, diner by a man he barely knew and then unceremoniously dropped in the sea felt…too merciful. Even for him.



A Supe.

A Father.

A serial rapist.



The snake inside her slowly stretched out, for what appeared to be no discernible reason, at first. But then, it hit her.



She realized that the reason why she thought he deserved more was that she wanted to do it herself. Hold the button, and press the switch. Not Hughie, but her, feeling his warm guts splattering across her clothes, smiling triumphantly at watching this bastard getting ripped to shreds.



Shocked, she switched the channels, and a familiar tune started playing. Billy Joel.

His tapes were one of the few things that she still had from her father, and even during the time when she listened to nothing but edgy 90s rock, she found herself coming back to his songs sometimes.

They filled her with a special kind of warmth, giving her a reason to hold on, to not give up.

Turning around, she saw that Hughie was singing in tune, knowing the lyrics by heart. Smiling, she joined, beating the rhythm against the dashboard, before singing as well, laughing as she heard Hughie beat against the roof of the small car.



This was the point when MM turned it off, muttering “Hey, hey. This ain’t no little Vegas Roadtrip, okay?”, shaking his head as he did. “Y’all on no date either. Just…chill. I ain’t your goddamn chaperone.”, his eyes invisible beneath his orange sunglasses.Annie coyly smiled, turning her head away.

Spoilsport.



They had left quite late, so quickly after that, they had to stop and eat dinner. Due to MMs and Hughie’s shared desire to keep them and Annie out of the spotlight, they decided to pick a small-town diner, away from the roads or any even medium-sized settlements.



As mom-and-pop as you could get.



Annie watched carefully as MM poured and mixed his milk with robotic precision, doing everything perfectly timed and planned. Hughie got them both donuts, Annie staring at the black, glazed, treat before taking a bite and moaning in delight. The taste flashed her back to the past, a simpler, easier, time.

A time before.



Dunkin Donuts with her father. Then later, with Maria and Sam.



Sitting there after school, ranting about her day. Before he left her behind, alone, against the torrent of demands flowing out from her mother’s mouth. And then her older, laughing, pouring whiskey into the overpriced, sugary coffee before going out and only coming home late in the morning, barely paying attention at school, failing classes, her mother not caring as long as she made the pageants, standing on the stage with an empty, glassy, stare.



“You two need a room?”



Annie almost dropped her donut at hearing MM's voice, looking around, thinking that he maybe was referring to Hughie.



“You and the doughnut” clarified the burly black man, pointing at the snack. “Oh”. Annie chuckled, trying to defuse the awkwardness of the situation. “It is just…the doughnut. My mom would never let me have any of it” – even forcing your daughter to develop a physical illness in the process – “while my dad used to take me to Dunkin Donuts on the sly and get me a big, chocolate, cream-filled donut and ask me about my day.”

The black man nodded.

“And he’d actually listen.” Donna didn’t even try.



Pausing for a minute, MM replied. “Baskin-Robbins.”



He clearly tried remembering something long repressed, Annie seeing the sadness and the bitterness painted on his face mixed with a certain amusement.

“Every Sunday after church. My pops, he'd always ask for samples. Now, this place had 42 flavors, and that man would taste each and every flavor every time we'd go there.”

MM started actively gesticulating, telling Annie the story, with her smiling at the ridiculousness of the tale.

“There'd be a line all the way out the door. People would be mad as hell. Yelling. Cussing. "Yo, my man, get your fucking ice cream and bounce!" MM slightly changed his tone, Annie’s laughter echoing off the walls of the diner. “You think that stopped him? Hell, Nah. He would stand right there and order another sample. "Can I please try the Jamoca Almond Fudge, please?"



She could imagine it in front of her, somehow. A stoic, middle-aged, black man, wearing glasses, standing in a Baskin Robbins, asking for samples, with a frustrated teen next to him, fresh off the church service. It fit. With MM, with how she knew him.



“My ass was so embarrassed. I'd be sitting there, wishing the floor would just open up and just swallow me whole. Man.” Taking a napkin, MM wiped his eyes dry, tears having sprung up on them while he was laughing. “Course, now I'd give a year of my life just to be able to see that man going through spoon after spoon just one last time.”

The expression came back - MM’s anger at fighting an impossible war.

It only made sense for her to ask. “When did he...” MM interrupted her before she could finish the sentence. “16 years ago.” Looking him in the eyes, Annie raised a paper cup filled with cheap coffee. “To fathers and sugar.” with the two of them smiling, clinking the cups in remembrance of men long gone.



While standing outside the three of them witnessed an accident, the moment Hughie came out of the bathroom.

A truck hit a car straight on, making her swerve off the road, littering the pavement with shattered glass. Before she would’ve probably tried to help them, to cauterize their wounds, or maybe get someone out of the car, whatever the consequences. Even if Vought would know they were here.

But now she stood still, sitting down in the car without saying a word, calm and collected, her mind put at ease the moment she saw that the truck driver pulled out a phone. It didn’t matter. People die.



It happens.



The night was spent in a cheap motel, one of those next-to-a-gas-station pay-per-hour situations. The kind where the cockroaches fled when you put the lights on and someone probably died on the mattress.



They booked two rooms, one for MM and one for Hughie and her.



That night, they lay next to each other, after Annie managed to destroy the only source of light in their room. For someone who lived with his father until his mid-20s, Hughie was surprisingly good in bed. Despite her best efforts – and the unexpectedly comfortable mattress beneath her – she still couldn’t get any sleep.



She kept thinking back to Stormfront, Hughie, and then the young Iowa girl jumping up ecstatically when she received the call, hugging her mother as if everything was alright.

As if their relationship wasn’t built on mutual distrust and secrets.

Her head buzzed with a thousand different thoughts running at lightning speed through her synapses, trying to rationalize, and understand, why she felt how she felt.

Why the leather was so warm, and why the butterflies fluttered in her stomach when Stormfront called her “cutie”.



Because, to some extent, she knew it wasn’t the alcohol, that it was just an excuse. Her breathlessness and tiny hairs on her neck all standing up, no, it wasn’t the Jager or the Scotch.



But why then? Why her?



All her thoughts seemed to come up with one singular, horrifying, answer, one that Annie ignored, pushing her face into the pillow beneath her.

She didn’t want to think of it, not now, not never.



 

And yet. You did like it though, didn’t you?

Face to face

The passions breathe

I hate to stay but then I hate to leave



***

Do you remember your coming down?

Forced to take sides

Your taunted charm and your broken smile

Touched me unexpectedly

So long, so long you've waited in line

Desire is a gift in life

So long, so long you've left and arrived

It's time for you to stay a while



- IAMX, Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, 2009


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12 Reviews

Points: 2432
Reviews: 12

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Sat Mar 02, 2024 11:18 pm
Mint wrote a review...



Ok I’m going in chronological order so if I neglect to remove anything that is answered later in the chapter my apologies! First off I have to say the song at the beginning was giving me Taking Back Sunday vibes so I had to Google it lol.

As always take what is helpful and leave the rest! Reviews are to help you so if it’s not helpful forget it.

“Waking up the next morning, Annie realized in shock that last night had happened.

That it was not a nightmare born out of her depressed, destroyed mind and a need for recognition from Stormfront.”
In my opinion these two sentences are a bit confusing for the reader, they read in a way that leave the reader unsure if they read it correctly. The second sentence is not grammatically correct but I hate to pick on that because I write poetry and I feel like if it’s understandable it doesn’t need to be grammatically correct haha.

I think the sentences are a bit flat and could build interest with a connection to the actions Annie’s actually experiencing. “When her eyes opened she was still in shock from last night. It hadn’t been a nightmare born from her depressed destroyed mind or need for Stomfront’s recognition.” Or something like that.

Ok that’s way too many words for two sentences so I’ll try to pick up my pace with this review!

I would like to see some more attention paid to the passage of time. You say “that evening” she was lying in bed thinking of storm front, which makes me think she woke up in the morning and stayed in bed all day thinking about storefront, which might be so but it’s a lot of time for the reader to fill in for themself. Next paragraph you say the next day she talks to Maria. So that’s a lot of downtime for the reader to fill in. That’s not to say you have to fill that time with story or details, but it could be made clearer how time is moving for Annie.

“ The next day she received a message from Maria McKenzie, one of her best friends, and a fellow Supe from her days back in Iowa.

Maria was a fellow Supe from her days in Bible camp and later co-hosted Vought Summer Teen Clubhouse together with…”

I would combine these thoughts into one sentence.
“Maria was a fellow Supe from her days back in Iowa, when they had both attended Bible camp and later co-hosted Vought Summer Teen Clubhouse together.”

I don’t see how Maria’s outfit makes her stand out in New York. Hardly anyone stands out in New York. I think this would be a good opportunity to focus on things like how she’s standing, her expression. If she’s trying to fade into the background or standing somewhere/in a way that is abnormal for a local. Things in her behavior that make her stand out that Annie can notice and it reminds her of home.

It would also be nice to specify that Maria’s message was saying she would be in town because it’s kind of a jump from the narrator introducing her to Annie saying they can meet.

I honestly love the fact that there is a group called Capes for Christ because of course there would be in a world with superhero’s. I would honestly love to see this be done in a sort of cheeky way ala My Bestfriends Exorcism by Grady Hendrix, where the strong men for Jesus show up.

“Sitting in a bar later, nursing her drink, Annie listened to her friend’s tales of whatever was happening in their Des Moines neighborhood and how much - and how little – had changed there, staring into her deep, brown eyes.”

Since this sentence is already a bit long I think this would be a good opportunity to separate the ideas.
“Later in the bar Maria told her tales of their (little/big/adj) Des Moines neighborhood, how much and how little had changed. Annie listened, staring into her deep brown eyes.”
I think this not only reads a bit clearer but gives us some pacing for an intimate moment.

I’m curious if Annie’s alcoholism is addressed later because she seems to consistently over drink and make bad decisions.

I think switching out “made her feel something pleasant” for a focus on her actual sensations would be a good opportunity to bring the reader into the moment with her. Describe what it is in her body that feels pleasant. This would also show a bit of a deeper connection to what exactly it is she feels for Hughie.

“ She hated herself for remembering the feeling of Stormfront's gloves against her neck.

She hated herself for liking it.”

I really like this line. I think is conveys exactly what you want and is well written.

“It was an address in Maine, on the border with Canada”
This sounds like you’re giving a description of the state of Maine rather than the location they’re going. “It was an address in Maine near the US-Canada border,” might improve flow and readability here.

Again, I am confused at the progression of the story and moving of time. One moment she gets a message from Hughie and now they’re together going on a mission? She’s already had an opportunity to bring up the other night and we only get a summery of that? That’s the kind of interpersonal communication I want to see so I can get to know the characters, I always want to see how they get to where they are and what the steps for her being given a mission are. How did she get there and what’s the timeframe?

It feels like a lot of the story is happening in Annie’s head. Which actually reminds me of something you’re doing well, which is keeping the third person limited perspective actually limited. There are no points where I’m confused why were being told a thing or why were suddenly in someone else’s head so good job!
However!! That can cause the issue I’m seeing here where the story is more of less just following Annie’s thoughts and taking place in her head. She interacts with other people and is moving about the world doing things, so you have opportunities to bring us into the world with her, with dialogue and actions and showing us how time is moving with her.

“They would be driving with MM, who, apparently protested at first, but then went along anyways – for Annie’s sake, or that was at least what he said.“
I’d like to see this conversation happen, or at least a snippet of it. This could give me an idea of who these characters are and how they interact with each other. Why does MM care about Annie how will him driving help her?

I know I’m jumping in on chapter 4 so I’m trying not to blame you for me lacking information haha, just want to show opportunities where more character building could be.

“Do it for him. Because Hughie wants this to happen.

Make him feel good about himself. It is the least you can do.”
This is something happening in Annie’s mind that I like and appreciate because it’s showing her relationship with the world outside of herself. It’s showing us and effect from something that happened earlier.

“She couldn’t bear looking at him. At any of them.

“Listen, Annie, I know what Butcher said. But you-”Annie shushed him. “Can we please not talk? My head hurts.”

Most of their ride was in silence, MM not even turning on the radio, at first.


When her headache passed, she did it herself.


That atrocious song she did for Translucent, “Never Truly Vanish”, started blaring through the speakers. Imagine having to sing a celebratory anthem for the man who raped you, weeks after you went public with it. But so far the people knew Translucent was a hero and a model citizen, dedicated to his faith.

Not a pervert who used positions of power to his advantage.”

I really like this chunk and the text coming up. I think this car scene is a really good example of you putting us into the action with Annie, even when we’re limited by her perspective it does feel like we’re living in her mind, we’re in the scene with her. I think this definitely has to do with the interactions with other characters and her surroundings. She isn’t just having thoughts about them but affecting them.

“ She realized that the reason why she thought he deserved more was that she wanted to do it herself. Hold the button, and press the switch. Not Hughie, but her, feeling his warm guts splattering across her clothes, smiling triumphantly at watching this bastard getting ripped to shreds.”

This is good shit. Proceed.

If someone turned off my music while I was dancing I would be furious. Fuckin MM. see this is how you know you’re doing a good job because I am completely distracted from the technical work of the story and am commenting on the plot. Fuckin MM…

I appreciate the description of the donuts tying her to other people. This is the kind of description I like to see.

Bringing up that MM is black once in the scene because it feels out of place to bring up when they’re just eating donuts. Saying it twice so soon is weird.

It’s cute that they have similar stories about their fathers. This is the kind of character interaction I like to see. I would just love more of it especially when it’s relevant to the action of the larger plot.

The description of the car accident is an example of something that feels like it’s occurring inside of Annie’s head. I want to be there in the action with her. This could be a much bigger moment where she’s coming to terms with how she’s changed and her indifference to people. Instead it’s condensed into a paragraph.


There was a lot of good stuff here! I genuinely enjoyed the story and there are some specific aspects that directly interest me as an individual reader so keep it up! I think the biggest thing is trying to bring the story out of Annie’s head. There are moments where you do it really well and I wish I had more of that. Also since it’s a lot of scenes changing and things happening one after another I would really like some of the aspects of the story to be stretched out, show me the action show me the interpersonal relationships. They’re there but they often feel to short in my opinion. The things that are done well are done really well and it just makes me want More of it.




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Sat Oct 21, 2023 9:30 pm
yourlocalsatanist wrote a review...



This is so good the short saying at the beginning and then the start of chapter four really is a good thing. As a beginner writer, I could definitely learn a few new things and you are a good inspiration. I have read many of the chapters before four and loved them. This book is very interesting to me and I hope to continue to read more of it. Keep up the good work on your books and you are sure to go far. I hope that many others love the things you make! -Max





I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.
— Margaret Atwood