Diamond’s Tuition

https://cellcode.us/quotes/sketches-aesthetic-drawing-dope-tumblr.html

The photographs looked nothing like her.

Snap!

The creeper photographer began snapping from lower angles.

She fixed her hair in one of several smudged mirrors surrounding the half-empty loft.

The photos looked nothing like her. Which was a good thing. She never gives photographers or agents her real name. To them, she’s Diamond. In case she ever ran for political office. In case she married a megachurch pastor. Everyone everywhere had a doppleganger somewhere in the world. Her’s was Diamond.

She straightened her back. “This good?”

The photographer lowered his camera towards her thighs.

“What now?” She asked.

“Nothing.” He Glared at her over the camera lens.

“Yes?” She snapped. “I’m getting tired.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, be faster please.”

The money he offered was going to pay off her tuition for the semester. And, though he was inches shorter than she was in flats, he was three times her size in girth. She needed to watch her tone.

The photographer approached her.

She forced a smile. “Done?”

“Yeah….” The photographer nodded. “Almost finished.”

The photographer’s wore an aromatic musk was something she expected from a tall, coco flavored Wall street hottie with muscles and a full head of hair. His aroma created conflict between her eyes and nose. A stout, balding man with a stretched out wife beater should smell the opposite.

The photographer reached for her vest.

She immediately pulled away. “Excuse me!”

“It’s classy…”

“You mean pornographic?”

“Nothing like that.”

Creep…

“These will all be tasteful shots.”

She left her stool. “Yeah… right.”

Slimeball.

“I didn’t mean to alarm you.” The photographer put his camera aside.

She scooped her clothes from the photographer’s unfolded futon and marched towards the door.

I’m an idiot.

She didn’t deserve a doctorate. Nobody in their right mind would agree to enter a strange man’s warehouse apartment to take semi-nude photographs for a blog she’d never heard of.

“Five thousand extra.” The photographer offered.

She turned to see two columns of dollar bills on his kitchenette counter

“Towards your college debt, Ms. Thompson.” The Photographer smiled.

The stack was tall. Thick. Greener than green.

“How many shots?” She asked.

“A dozen,” He replied.

“Too many.”

For too little…

“Only need three to publish.”

“The other nine?”

“I’ll delete.”

She returned to her stool.

“Panties remain.”  She opened her vest. “Hurry up.”

“Okay…” Photographer waved his hand. “Just need you to move your-”

She moved her arms to expose her breasts.

He snapped several photos. “That’s great.”

Doesn’t feel great. 

He lowered his camera.

She covered her chest. “What now?”

“One sec.” The photographer took off towards his room.

He could be back there gathering rope and electrical tape.

“I don’t have a sec,” She called.

The photographer returned. “Batteries died”

“Five minutes, I’m gone… I’m serious.”

“Got it.” He set his camera. “You ready?”

She exposed her breasts. “Yes, sir.”

“You’re doing wonderful.” Photographer inched closer.

She side-eyed the camera.

Wait… He called me Ms. Thompson… I never told him my name… 

The end

Rockstar’s Rent I

77408001-guitar-sketch-

Goddam apartment. Can’t stand it. 

Putrescence in the atmosphere. Emanating from the mold crusted vents and the endless cracks in his one bedroom death-trap. Stagnant, like the rotting sphincter of a weeks old rat corpse but worse.

Damn.

He taped his guitar neck.

He may have cracked the guitar across the spine of a moron who interrupted his music set. Idiot. Damaged his instrument more than he damaged the disruptive moron.

Strings popped. Pegs missing. Freaking guitar neck was one hard strum away from swinging like a wooden guillotine.

Mental gaps flooding… Recalling the night.

Head pulsating.

He caught a glimpse of himself in his cracked mirror. His sickly- pale frame and sunken eyes.

Tape. He needed tape.

He searched.

Not a single piece of tape below the sea of empty bottles and ripped pages.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

“Open up!’ Landlord roared through the keyhole.

Rent day? Crap. Losing whole days now. 

“Hold on!” He abandoned his tape search to find booze.

Thoom! Thoom! Landlord pounded with something heavy.

He found a half empty marble flask. This’ll do. 

He opened his door. “What?!”

A gelatinous, cane-carrying gimp with a kickable face, piss-colored eyes and teeth like rotting toenails was at his door.

“We want you out,” Landlord said. “Tonight.”

He smirked.  “I’m all paid up, bitch.”

Landlord narrowed his eyes.

“Gold watch I handed you was collateral,” He said.

“What gold watch?”

He laughed. “Don’t play stupid.”

The watch worth more than your shitty existence. 

“I’ll pawn the watch. Get you cash,” He said.

“Bullshit.” Landlord popped two cupcake sized pills. “Pay what you owe then hit the sidewalk, deadbeat.”

I shrugged. “And my watch?”

“Ain’t no watch, shithead,” Landlord jabbed him with his cane. “Get out or get your kneecaps split.”

He balled his fists. “A threat?”

“A vow. ” Landlord poked.

Each syllable of Landlord’s threats and lies echoed in his mind.

Pak!

He smacked Landlord’s cane from his hand. Backhanded Landlord across the face.

Landlord staggered. Rubbed his jaw. Wiped tears. Rushed him swinging like a blind swordsman on steroids.

He snatched the cane out of the air.

Cane was heavy. Denser than it looked. Nearly broke his hand when he caught it.

“Wait!” Landlord pleaded.

He beat landlord bloody with the cane. Kicked him and his cane down the jagged stairwell.

Landlord screamed. “Has-been prick… You’re finished!”

He slammed the door.

Tried to be peaceful. Fuckin landlord wanted this. 

He walked to the window. Stared longingly at Rose City’s skyline.

Fucking city… Just die already.

He took a swig from his marble flask.

Forget the watch… not worth it.

Boom! A blast through the door caused a hole as big as his torso. Dust cleared and two piss yellow eyes were peering through the hole. Landlord pumped his cane. Aimed.

A pump action cane… interesting.

He grabbed his guitar. Escaped through window and onto the fire escape. Flashed Landlord his middle finger.

Fire escape gave way. He and the rickety structure crashed four stories onto the sidewalk.

The Order: Monster Mash

knight_and_squire_by_showe-d39pq3u
“Their existence is a declaration of war.”

The centennial Monster Mash.

A once a century, secret Congress of the most powerful and influential monsters of all nationalities, species, and realms. A parlay among humanity’s predators. He was tasked with surveilling the meeting by the foolish and misguided Humanic Order. He had greater plans. The Order will thank him whence the smoke clears.

Red Vampire, the host, was in his cross-hairs. Succubus brides trailing behind him, arranging and rearranging furniture. Preparing for their big feast.

“Doesn’t feel right,” Squire whispered. “Ambushing them.”

“It’s war.”

“I know… Still doesn’t feel right to me.”

They bared the mark. His was the mark of a Knight of the Humanic Order. Far more prestigious than that of Squire. He was born superior. A living weapon. A machine sculpted by the Gods. 

“Is a preemptive strike the right move?” Squire asked.

Squires were servants. Living tools and nothing more.

Their existence is a declaration of war. 

Squire sighed. “I think we shoul-“

He twisted squires ear until it bled. Are you Knight or Squire?”

“Sq… Squire, sir.”

“Then be a squ-“

Squire’s pupils turned white.

Its time.

Phwoosh! Inter-dimensional tears formed near the mansion walkway.

He released Squire. “Clean yourself.”

Squire’s blood could attract Red and his wives.

Dragons, basilisk drawn carriages, private jets, stretch hearses and cloaked helicopters emerged from the inter-dimensional tears. Filth. Creating portals with accuracy. Strong magic. 

“Camera,” He commanded.

“Should we contact-“

“No.”

The  Order would stop him. Or try.

Squire handed him the full-spectrum camera. “Red organized all this.”

“Irrelevant.”

Monsters swiftly gathered in the mansion dining room to feast on the raw carcasses on display.

Squire’s eyes widened. “Temporal-“

Knight yanked Squire to the ground.

Whoosh… Whoosh…

Dragon wings materialized among the stars.

Teleporting dragons. Blind, with other Godlike senses encircled them for several minutes. Vanished as fast as they arrived.

Idiot squire left blood-specks on his shoulder plate. Attracting the beasts.

Must act before squire ruins..  

“Amazing,” Squire said.

Knight loaded his cannon.”No more waiting.”

Enough watching.

“Claim your weapon,” He commanded. “Time to cleanse this world.”

Explosion will eliminate most. Then he and Squire will head down and finish all who survive the blast.

Squire knelt to reclaim his scythe but pulled back.

Coward.

He drew a pistol and trained it on Squire. “Claim. Your. Weapon.”

Squire claimed his scythe.

Monster unification is a threat to mankind. Can’t allow it.

“Cleanse the world…” Squire said.

“Yes…

“Okay.” Squire sliced Knight’s neck open with his scythe.

Knight desperately held this throat together with his hand. Collapsed.

Blood gushing. Shadows appearing around him. Reapers? No… worse. Red Vampire and his succubus wives.

Traitor.

“All yours.” Squire handed a succubus bride the bloody scythe.

“I can feel its power,” Red sampled Knight’s blood.

Succubus danced around Squire.

“Stay for dinner?” Vampire sampled Knight’s blood with his fingernail.

“I’d be honored,” Squire answered. “To discuss peace-“

“Yes…Yes…  peace.” Red Vampire licked his fang-tips. “Prepare a meal for our human ally.”

“No, I-“

“We insist,” Vampire whispered in Squire’s ear.

Assassins Curse III:”… slippery edge.”

Biting lips

Part I Here

Part II Here

She licked the venomous gloss from her lips. Swallowed hard.

It’s done. Now it was her turn. To die. To set herself free.

The negligee she wore was literally to die for. Red and glossy all over with a candy coated sheen.  She was a heartshaped box of chocolate wrapped in a silk ribbon. To die for. 

She smirked.

The perfect outfit for the perfect night.

She admired the full Red Moon– shades lighter than her silk negligee. She admired the shining constellations. Tracing them with her fingertips. Admired the post-midnight darkness spreading illusions of clean, shimmering Rose City harbors. She knew better.

“Proud now, mother?” She laughed as she dried tears.

One kiss. One taste of her poison. Widows orgasm. Slow agonizing death in a lipstick dispenser.

She’d taken vials of his blood. A sweet chaser for her champagne and deadly venom she concocted for him.

She longed for the power to resurrect the dead. So she can disarm him again with her pleasure. So she can reintroduce him to the worst agony. Over and over again. For several goddam eternities.

She finished her aged champagne. Tossed the bottle over the railing.

“Fuck!” She screamed into the watery abyss below.

His face. Etched into her nightmares. Her wrists.

She took years preparing body and mind for him. Advanced degree. Martial arts. Gun ranges were her sanctuary. The men she fucked. Women. The countless people she killed. Mobsters. Assassins. Law enforcement. Friends. Her innocence. Her humanity. Parts of her capable of feeling love. She murdered them all. For him. And all it took was a simple kiss. She wanted more. Needed more from him. There had to be more.

She climbed over the bridge railing. Tightroped along the slippery edge.

Murdering him was supposed to release her. Free them from purgatory. But slaying the demon only blackened her void.

Turbulent waves below. Sharp concrete slabs from broken platforms blanketed by waters.

She’d condemned herself to hell. Their faces were fading. He’s rotting but still robbing her of everything. She’ll jump. She’ll shatter on impact. She’ll drown and see their faces clearly once again.

The memory of his body turning cold made her lip quiver. Warmed her pelvis.

She gripped the railing. Clasped her eyes.

The sound of the crashing waters a hundred feet below piqued memories of the spa where she ended his life. Of her breasts pressed against his slender, muscular frame.

She trembled.

I… hate.. you… 

She parted her robe. Parted her lower lips with her fingertips. Slow, deep circular motions to spread the wetness running down her thighs.

Her one-handed grip on the rail was slackening.

She bit down hard on her bottom lip as her body erupted.

“You… took… Everything… from… me.” She moaned.

Fwoop! A sharp pinch on her neck.

Warmth vanished. Replaced with arctic cold. Rage. Dizziness.

She faced her assailant.

“My love.” He withdrew the needle from her neck.

“You!” She jerked away from him and lost her grip on the railing.

Scale Lord’s Victory

Scale lord

She stomped on the demon’s chest. Used the leverage to dislodge the divine spear of E’lees from its belly.

The Demon’s breaths were shallow. Its crushed rib cage slowly rising and sinking beneath her heels. Its long, shattered wings flapping wildly as if trying to escape its broken body.

The Demon spat in her face. “Finish me, insect!”

She plunged the consecrated spear through the Demon’s left eye. Twisted. Drilled it into the back of its skull. No regeneration this time. 

Swooooosh! Escaped souls fired from the Demon’s socket. Ricocheted through the room like vexed lightning.

One more. 

She raised the glowing spear to deliver the finishing thrust.

“Prophecy always prevails,” The Demon whispered.

Not this time. 

She spent her childhood training to combat her so-called prophecy. Awaiting battle against the fate, clerics and superstitious townspeople claimed was inescapable. One strike to its remaining eye and none of it comes to pass. One more strike and she’s free.

The Demon cackled. “See ya.”

She plunged the spear into the Demon’s remaining eye.

Shrieking souls exploded from its skull. Destroyed her remaining dark magic artifacts and sigils in the room. Shattered the towering stain-glass windows.

She withdrew the spear. Wiped demon’s bile from her eyes. Lowered from its corpse before collapsing to a knee upon landing.

Victory. 

“E’lees,” She praised.

She couldn’t free every abducted soul.  The souls used for sustenance and to power the Demon’s machines… Gone forever.

“E’lees, forgive me.”

Movement!

She trained the spear on the quivering Demon.

Hiss… The Demon’s form disintegrated to ash. The ash quickly dissolved in the breeze.

She exhaled.

Relief. Exhaustion.

Its done. The goddess E’lees granted her strength. The will. The arsenal. All she needed to defeat the Demon. To defeat prophecy. To prove mortals weren’t slaves to destiny.

Iku… I’m coming home. 

She shuffled to a shattered window to bathe in the the sunlight. To inhale the sweet scent of grass on the breeze. To take in the sound of caroling birds.

Hell’s ice was thawing. Life was returning to the region. She was going home where there were endless hills, waterfalls and flowers.

To see Iku… To disembowl every thing you love. 

She gasped.

I didn-

Murderous thoughts increasing. Defeaning. Consciousness being crushed. Replaced by another.

Kill them all. Destroy everything… you… I care about.

“I defeated you!” She took an attack position. “You’re-”

Forearm burning…

“Ach!” She rolled up her sleeve.

Black scales formed on her arms and across her collar bone. Organs rapidly shifting. Expanding. Growing.

“Iku, I-”

She’s dying. But she’d never felt stronger. More alive.

“I’m sorry.” She released the spear.

She jerked forward. Landed on all fours.

They tore through her flesh. Her shoulder blades. Her prickly black wings whooshed angrily.

She cried. Tears of pain. Tears of sadness. Tears of laughter.

Prophecy prevailed as it should. She gleefully embraced what she’s meant to become… The Scale Lord. World devourer. Her true self. Fate.

She smirked. “I’m coming for you, Iku.”

She took flight.

Jack and Cake

Jack and cake

He remembered my birthday. Nobody remembers my birthday except my mother and Facebook.

I scarfed a piece of my shortcake and washed it down with my nightly medicine.

Straight jack out the bottle. No ice, no chaser. Dark. Strong. Painful going in especially when I take it to the head. Heavenly for my body, short term. Probably damaging my spirit– if I believed in that sort of thing, but oh so good for my mind. I’ll take the headaches. Next-day regrets. Just bring me ecstasy. Pleasure. That hard sleep I haven’t had since I was a child.

I ate another slice.

Sweet, soft, and rich like the nice brother down the hall who brought it for me. Such a solid dude. Always doing nice things for me. And I do nothing for him in return. Nice guy.

I slipped on my favorite lace panties. A skirt short enough to be a blouse.

Something comfortable that I could easily pull up or pull to the side if I was feeling adventurous.

Its. My. Birthday. 

“God damn.” I grabbed my belly roll then looked over my shoulder.

My ass was definitely fatter too. Shit.

My mood darkened. I’m thirty five. Metabolisms slow at that age. Mom was skinny up to about my age as well. She was also married to Dad. Had two kids and was a decade into her nursing career. I was still hitting clubs and putting on expensive lingerie and my best perfume to fuck guys who never remembered my birthday or where they met me.

I lowered the music.

“The fuck?” I whispered to myself.

I felt weak. Emotional. Lost.

Nice brother down the hall tells me I had a pretty face. Even with the smile lines. Guys I messed with compliment my shape and how good I feel. But never how my eyes squint when I laugh. Interesting that the one guy that says the most beautiful things about me was the last man I’d think about fucking.

I ate another piece. Smaller than the last. Turned up the music. Started to whine like I was playin mas in Trinidad.

“I love soca!” I screamed.

Fuck the neighbors. It’s my birthday.

My phone rang.

Shit… nice brother from down the hall calling.

Forgot he had my number.

“Hmmm…” I watched the phone.

Nice brother was sweet… but can sweet collapse my walls and have me sore and shuffling like The Walking Dead into work the next day? Can sweet grab me by the hair and have me screaming bloody murder into my pillow case? Would sweet give me panic attacks and have me shaking, tossing, and turning at night in anticipation of getting split into oozing, bruised up pieces? Sorry… Sweet can’t.

I pushed ignore. “Maybe next time.”

I tossed the cake in the trash. Deepthroated the Jack bottle as I cranked up the music.

It’s my birthday. I wanted strong not sweet. I’d text nice brother gratitude tomorrow. Now, I’m enjoying what youth I have left.

Assassins Curse II: “She’s everything…”

Read Part I here.

His insides were bleeding.

Deteriorating organs. Malfunctioning brain. Heart. Lungs. Fading.

Half paralyzed.

Never felt this way before. Weak… Falling to pieces… In love. So in love.

He’d escaped from the trunk of an old car. Gutted two watchmen patrolling the area. Kept one alive for questioning.

Head cloudy.

She used something potent.  A deadly agent. He died twice. Returned once. For another taste of her succulent lips. Her poison kiss. An aphrodisiac. The things she did to him. She’s the closest to heaven he’d ever be.

“Where’s this?” He struck the guard.

“Scrapyard.” Guard trembled.

He narrowed his eyes. Scanned area for landmarks.

Grandmother’s tune flooding my thoughts…

“Not yet.” He whispered an answer to his grandmother’s calls.

“What?” Guard looked frightened and perplexed.

Eyes blurring. Glowing, mountainous silhouettes of city skylines. The ports. Shipping containers across rivers.

Definitely the East Side. Cross town. Way across town. She meant for me to disappear. Cars get crushed in the morning.

“Who dropped me?” He asked.

He snapped the Guard’s pinky finger.

“Fuck man!”

“A woman?” He gently gripped another finger.

“Yes!”

“How long?”

“Six… Six hours. No seven.”

“Six or seven?”

“Seven! Right after second shift.”

No weapons. No matter. He’s efficient with bare hands. Precise. Guard better not try anything.

He thought of her hands as he dragged Guard by the hair into the security room.

Thoughts of her caressing his chest. Writing love letters in cursive with her fingernails down his stomach.

He ordered Guard into a corner.

“I’m sorry,” Guard pleaded.

“I know,” he replied.

He recalled footage. Hours ago.

There…

His heart fluttered…

An angelic woman. Graceful. Pure sorcery in blood red silk as she dragged his body to the trunk before disappearing off camera. Our first dance.

The bridge. Certain that’s where she’s heading.

They were connected. Intertwined. She’s everything to him. Everything he never knew he needed.

“Your phone,” He demanded.

Guard slowly offered his phone. “You were dead, man.”

“I believe you,” He calmly replied.

Guard had pictures in his phone. Loving wife. Kids.

Love didn’t exist to him until six… no, seven hours ago. Before his killer wrapped her lips around him.

He dialed.

Screen glaring. Characters blurring. Head throbbing.

He pushed call.

“Hello?” A woman answered.

“Hello, sister.” He replied.

“Starvation. Pestilence. War. Death,” Sister said.

“I pray for healing.” He answered.

“God hears all prayers.”

“Thank you, Sister.”

Call ended.

Vrrrrr. Vrrrrr. Cell phone vibrating. Unknown Caller.

He answered. “ I’m… poisoned.”

“Specifics?” Sister asked.

“Unknown… Fast acting.” He cleared sweat from his forehead.

“How long?”

“Seven hours.”

“Who did it?”

“The mark.”

“Delivery system?”

“Lipstick.”

“She alive?”

“Yeah.”

“Poisoned too?”

“Maybe.”

“I’ll track her.” Sister suggested.

“Not necessary.”

He knew her location.

“Client won’t be happy.”

He coughed. Spat blood.

“Cancel the contract… return the money.”

Sister was silent. Frustrated breaths. Sister was contemplating something. Next steps. Betraying him.

“Someone will arrive soon.”

“Thanks…” He had a thought. “Wait.”

“Yes.”

“Send… Roses.”  He said. “And champagne. Top-shelf.”

Part 3 soon.

Assassins Curse I: “…her frozen heart.”

Urban.jpg

Assassins were bewitched by her smile. Her thickness. Her full, succulent lips. Her sharp glances, piercing him deep.

His hand trembled as he aimed.

His red dot. Between her bosoms. Inches left of her frozen heart. All he had to do was squeeze. Empty his clip and end it.

“Someone hired you?” She asked.

“Yes,” He replied.

“Who?”

“Someone who don’t like you much.”

“Shame.”

She stepped closer.

“What’s stopping you?”

“Nothing.” He didn’t know what else to reply.

Disoriented. Weak. Blind with desire. Consumed.

She disarmed him with a smirk.

That’s all it took. A smirk.

His grandmother forewarned him about her.

Son… Karma will come for you…  His grandmother would say.  And poison you with her smile…

He never took his grandmother seriously. An old southern woman with superstitions and stories of evil spirits and spells. And curses. She wasn’t one to take seriously.

She undressed him. Button by button.  Backed him slowly towards the pool.

He couldn’t help himself. Frozen. Immobile.

She circled him as she disrobed. Lassoed his neck with her nightwear. Lead him towards the bubbling Jacuzzi. Stripped him of everything he had.

Gun. Knife. Keys. His free will.

“Want to know something?” She asked.

“What?”

“I knew you’d come.” She pressed her warm body against his. “You have a possession of mine.”

“Your heart?” He answered.

“No,” she replied.

“Your love?”

“Getting colder.”

“Your body?”

“Keep guessing.”

She was calm. Unlike her heart. Her heart raced.

She pulled close. Fulfilled one desire. Fulfilled desires he was unaware of.

“You owe me something,” She said.

“I do?”  

She nodded.

“Want to know what?” She asked.

“Yes.”

She tiptoed to reach his ear.

“Life. You owe me a life.” She whispered. 

He staggered  back. Wiped his nose.

Leaking nostrils. Red covering his fingertips.

She kissed him on the cheek. “For all the lives you ruined.”

He heard his grandmother’s voice… Calling.

Come on home, son… face judgment. 

No… Not yet… Please. Not now.

He collapsed. Struggled to move. Breathe.

“Sleep well, my love.” She smiled. “Send the devil my deepest regards.”

Shit… 

Read Part II here.

“The Principles”

Sketch Wing Chun

The impact of my thunderous kicks to his shins crumpled him. Nearly brought him to his knees.

He shifted his stance. Switched his lead leg. Shocked his horse.

Didn’t matter.

Still on the offensive, I sank lower and pushed forward– in my horse.

Crack! The sound of my foot connecting with his fresh shin echoed through the Kwoon. I swore the impact shook the weapons and photos on the wall.

I’m flexible but I’d never go for a taller opponents head. I’m short so I prefer low kicks. More efficient. Chop a bigger opponent down to size. 

He thought of reaching for his aching leg. I saw it in his eyes. But he retreated into Full Gan Sau instead.

I smiled. “Good… get away.”

He Lurched his shoulders.

I could tell he was frustrated. I saw it in his posture. Training this art would do that to you.

“Simultaneous offense and defense,” I said as I stalked him around the sparring mat. “Both hands.”

He lunged.

I zigged zagged, covering myself at every angle. Batted (pak sau) his hand out of the air. Palm striked him in the jaw. To stun. Not to knock out.

He took a knee.

“Constant forward pressure.” I said. “Coverage. Horse.”

I kept changing angles to keep him busy.

He’s bigger. Wouldn’t dare facing him head on. That’s suicide. 

“Always on guard,” I said.

He went for the shoot, but I managed to sink into front horse and spread my legs wide so he couldn’t take my hips, all while dropping elbow and all of my body weight into the back of his neck.

He stumbled.

I struck him on his way down to ensure he wouldn’t recover quickly. He’s overly aggressive.

Was he getting angry? He needed to calm himself. Breathe… The impatience of youth. 

“Flow with the power,” I said as I backed off of him. “Maintain center-”

He interrupted with a swing to my head.

I weaved back, allowing his punch to fly over me while simultaneously covering and catching him with a low kick he never saw coming.

He groaned.

I’d stabbed him below the belly button with the point of my toes. Pressure point. Couldn’t have felt good.

I wasn’t done. Only the first half of the move.

“We are smaller.” I sprung forward and caught him with a savage Arrow Punch.

My fist and his face collided.

It was ugly. I felt terrible. He should’ve covered.

The impact sent him somersaulting backwards. The impact sent a painful shock up my wrist and into my shoulder.

“Less skilled.” I relaxed my guard and offered him a hand.  “Am I missing anything?”

He smiled. Took my hand and allowed me to help him to his feet.

“You okay?” I asked.

He bowed several times. I could tell he was grateful for the lesson. Its why I chose him as a private student. As the one who will continue the legacy.

“Lets go for tea,” I suggested. “Its on me.”

He nodded.

The Penalty for honesty… at work.

What’s the penalty for honesty at work? I wondered as I pretended to work.

I stared out the window for a moment.

My heart skipped a beat when my boss entered the room. I froze.

Gotta look busy. Look valuable. 

She quietly entered her office and shut the door.

What’s the penalty for my honesty? I pondered at I scrolled desperately through my social media feed for good news, a motivational post, or photographs of the nieces, nephews, and godchildren I never get to see.

There’s a seemingly immovable forty hour a week boulder in the middle of my existence. Unshakable. Immovable. Virtually unbreakable. Boulder.

I yawned. I stretched. I checked my text messages as I stretched.

I wondered. If I revealed to them… I’m overwhelmed. Can’t seem to get a foothold on the work. Can’t seem to get it together. Can’t tell whether its boredom or incompetence on my part. 

My stomach hurt. Terrible gas.

I skipped breakfast. Late for work again. So much to think about. So much to do. So little time. Vacation was nothing more than the space between misery. Like work release or yard time. I was being melodramatic.

What if I revealed to them that they need not smile in my direction. I know you don’t like me. I know you think I’m incompetent– when I make a mistake– and beneath you. I know you think I was hired to work under you and serve you– which I probably was. 

I stood. Stretch my legs.

What if I was honest with them about myself? What if I admitted to myself and to them that I was equally as fake? I don’t like you either. But I return your illusion with one of my own. Because I understand my role is to make them comfortable. And how crucial it is to the job, and my livelihood, 

I sat. Powered the scanner.

Error.

I restarted the machine.

Same results.

I softly pounded my fist on the desk.

I’m the only tool in the office not allowed to malfunction. And, the easiest to replace.

I slumped in my chair.

Can they tell I dig my nails into my forearms when they dress me down in front of my peers? Can they read in my eyes how much sleep I lose thinking about all the stuff I have to do the next day? Or the people I have to deal with. Or, how I can’t handle the amount of work they are tossing my way Probably not.

“Good Morning,” One of my smiley supervisors greeted.

“Good Morning,” I replied with a smile bright enough to overload a solar powered city.

“How’s everything going?” Smiley Supervisor asked.

“Excellent!” I replied as my face started to get sore from smiling. “Working on this and then I’ll head back and work on your stuff.”

“Okay, great!” Smiley Supervisor said, returning to her office.

Couldn’t afford to be honest. No matter how hard I crunched the numbers, I just couldn’t afford it.