Copyright By Ajani Shakur, 2017
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The angular end of it jutted out of the abyssal plain of the Baltic Sea.
“The back end alone must be at least twenty stories high,” said Lauren Drekker, looking through the thick sphere shaped glass of the Triton 36000 submarine. Lauren was a third generation explorer and fortune hunter. Her parents and grandparents were responsible for some of the most awe-inspiring underwater discoveries in modern history and Lauren followed in their footsteps, once finding an ancient gold coin fetching nearly 15 million dollars on the auction market.
“Allen, navigate a little closer to this thing.” Lauren leaned in a bit more towards the glass as the submarine accelerated forward. The object had a silvery contoured tint, hugging every jagged angle.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Allen. “Look at the starfish, the zooplanktons, the sea pens, everything, they’re drawn to it. Dancing around it.” Allen stopped the submarine before it got closer. It buoyed and hummed, looking like a toy next to the object. “It’s almost ritualistic.”
Lauren sat back in her chair and propped her boot on the control panel.
“It’s like a shrine. What you’re witnessing is worship, and the greatest find in the history of mankind,” she said. “Now, at a million plus a day for this sub,” she nodded her head in the direction of the object. Allen exhaled, flipped a switch and the submarine continued on.
Allen held his hand to his heart. It lifted off of his chest with each beat. He held fifteen years of exhilarating discoveries and heartbreaking disappointment in his pocket. If this was “the greatest” find in the history of mankind, this time he was going to get his due.
“We’re approaching fifty feet to the object,” Allen said, tinkering with a variety of buttons and switches. “I’m noticing increased pressure as we get closer to this thing,” Allen rubbed his goatee, “I think we should head back up.”
“Just a little pressure,” Lauren said, “this is made for pressure. Why do you think we’re so far down?” Lauren shifted in her seat.
“I know you’re “Lauren Drekker” and all but c’mon you have to be feeling uncomfortable right about now,” said Allen. “You and I both know what this is and we’re not equipped to handle this.”
“That’s right I am Lauren Drekker,” she said, her voice now taut. “I have a legacy. A lineage. A heritage.” Lauren tapped on the glass towards the object. “That is our discovery.”
Lauren grabbed Allen’s collar and turned him to face her. “I brought you on with me because I thought you had something to prove. You bitched and moaned about your last find. Left out. No recognition.” Lauren released Allen’s collar and rocked in her seat.
The submarine parted thousands of life forms surrounding the object. They were now within ten feet of the silvery tint on the contour of the object. Allen again slowed the submarine.
Mesmerized by the view, he said, “They’re like goldfish swimming around a decoration in a fishbowl.” His eyes followed the dance of the creatures.
“A billion dollar decoration,” Lauren said.
“You don’t understand,” Allen turned Lauren’s head to face a dead whale that had sunk down to the plain. “They’re not eating it.”
“These life-forms this deep, eat whatever they can from above, when they can. That’s why they have slow metabolisms. They would’ve jumped on that carcass by now. Something’s not right. I’m taking us up.”
Allen began the ascent up. Lauren grabbed his wrist, yanking him towards her, smashing her forehead into his nose like a club hammer. Blood gushed on her face and onto the glass and control panel. Allen screamed holding his broken nose, trying to remain conscious. He fell limp into the seat. His arms dangled to the sides. Blood streamed down his face.
Lauren wiped the blood from her face and the glass with her hand. “Soft bitch,” she said.
She commandeered the submarine and accelerated full-throttle towards the object.
The submarine barreled ahead. Lauren eyes fixated on the prize. As the submarine cracked the silvery contoured tint, the object emitted an earsplitting shrill. Lauren’s head snapped back. She covered her ears and gasped for air. The submarine slowed down and swung around several times before it jolted to a stop. Lauren busted her head on the glass. Lauren stood up and tried to catch her balance and breath. The thick sphere shaped glass of the submarine continued to crack. Lauren reached out and pressed her palm against the glass.
“Looks like a cobweb,” she said, “Charlotte’s Web.” Lauren grinned. She watched the starfish; the zooplanktons, sea pens, and everything else do their worshipping, ritual dance.
She returned to her seat and looked at Allen’s bloodied unconscious body. “Like a fishbowl,” she said. The glass continued to crack.
“One day I’ll have to confess that I’m too old for this. I’m an aging supermodel living a vertiginous supermodel life. Too old for this constant struggle to prolong my relevancy in an industry I’ve dominated for eighteen years.”
It’s L.A. Fashion Week and everywhere I look there’s an infestation of more models than I’ve seen in years, or should I say younger models. Tall, perky breasted, toned and tight-assed wannabes zipping around the overcrowded dressing area. Backstage dressers throwing off clothing baring young flawless flesh, only to conceal it in less than fifteen minutes outfitted in the latest seasonal designer trend and pushed back onto the runway to a sea of gawking strangers, flashing cameras and bright lights. For sixty seconds you are the star.
“Julie Hampton. Wardrobe.” My assigned dresser waved me over to his area holding a long ensemble in a protective plastic covering with a white label. I didn’t recognize his face, and I certainly would have, that chiseled jaw-line and arousing green eyes befitting of his own modeling contract. I maneuvered my way through the frenzied, hectic floor of the dressing area careful not to bump into a makeup artist or hairstylist or dresser in the middle of doing their job. I read the label stickered to the plastic covering.
“Ms. Hampton, I have to get you get you changed in ten minutes,” my dresser said, his voice trailing behind me just as the venomous fumes I was emitting, as I stormed my way to the show director.
Miguel eyed me coming from across the room. Within seconds I was leaning in his face.
“What is this shit?” I demanded. Waving the label in his reddening face. “What is this? I bookend shows. I open or I close. Period. This is mid-show crap.”
Miguel rubbed his eyebrows glancing around the room as if he was looking to be rescued.
“Julie, listen to me. This is not a slight or any disrespect against you in any way. We’ve worked together and what I would like to believe, have been friends for years. I had to make a call. The designers are so heavily youth oriented now and rightfully so. The market is getting younger. The designers are getting younger-
“And I’m not. Is that it? Did you even want me in this show Miguel? Or was this a pity job? Or a because we’ve been friends for years job?”
“Julie, you’re an official icon in this industry-
“An official relic,” I interrupted, yanking Miguel closer to me. “Look at my face Miguel. Do you see my laugh lines, my crow’s feet, or how about the slight wrinkles forming atop my lip?” I protruded my lips so Miguel can get a close up. “That’s from me busting my tail for this industry. The relentless taking of directions: to smile, to laugh, and to look sad, to look angry. Pout your lips they told me. Stick your breast out. Stick your ass out. Show us more legs. This industry that I’ve dedicated and sacrificed for, for eighteen years of my life.” I shook and lowered my head. “Maybe I am too old for this.”
Miguel hugged me tight. I didn’t resist. Letting go, he held tight to my hands and looked me in my eyes.
“I love you Julie,” Miguel whispered. “You’ll always be Julie Hampton. You’ll never be invisible. You held this industry down for nearly twenty years. Most girls don’t last two. That’s if they make it in the first place. Don’t go out angry and bitter. Because it’ll stays with you.”
I smiled, but not for a camera, or a crowd, but I smiled for my life. I smiled for myself. My dresser found me and cut short my personal moment.
“Excuse me Ms. Hampton. You missed your spot and you were replaced,” he said.
Miguel turned to me and shrugged his shoulders.
“Thanks for throwing the order off. Guess you’ll have to close the show.”
I smiled again. This time it swelled from within. Yeah. I’m too old for this, but I’m okay. I looked at my handsome dresser.
“Come on. Undress me and dress me. It’s time for the walk of my life.”
Shane pulled up along the curb at exactly two a.m. Exactly at 10th and Gerrod Avenue.
His headlights shined bright, illuminating the entire block of boarded abandoned houses and scurrying rats. This side of town had a timorous milieu to it. The air stayed thick with foreboding; the pavement bared the weight of the neurotic; the volatile; the restless; and the weak.
Shane was hesitant to kill his headlights or his engine. The engine was purring as quiet as the alley cats stalking a scavenging rat, and the streets were dead enough that the headlights wouldn’t draw any unwanted attention. The ones out at this hour, on this side of town had bullshit on their mind, and Shane was too familiar with that bullshit.
Shane impatiently clapped the tips of his fingers together and flung open his glove box. He removed his 9mm Glock pistol and released the full clip. He turned the gun from side to side, inspecting every angle, every groove. He peered down the barrel and licked the muzzle. He shook and a shivered with borderline lust. “Ah you are my lady,” he said, through a gratifying breath. Satisfied with his inspection, he checked his side and rearview mirrors, jammed the clip back into the pistol, and tossed it back in the glove box. Finally, he turned the key in the ignition off and killed the headlights. “It’s too damn quiet,” he said, and opened his door to hear the warning beep that the key is still in the ignition.
Without warning his passenger door flung open. A slender ratty dressed, sunken-faced man jumped into the passenger seat. He flashed a crusty lipped Cheshire cat smile with a mouth full of beyond yellow and decaying teeth.
“Ah shit,” said Shane, his voice wavering. “C’mon man. Just don’t go jumping in somebody’s car like that.”
“You should keep your doors locked,” the man said, as he settled into the seat.
“You’re lucky I didn’t have my nine cocked,” Shane replied.
“You would’ve never gotten to it my man,” he said, pulling out a champagne colored switchblade. The two looked at each other and let out a hearty laugh.
“Everything set U?” Shane asked. U was short for Universal. U could do it all, and he knew all. Anything you needed or anything that was going down, U was the man to see, the omnipresent overseer on this side of town.
“It’s done,” he replied, pulling out a greasy food bag.
“No, get that greasy ass bag out of my car. Just had this baby restored,” said Shane. He reached across U to roll down his window.
“I gotta eat man,” U said.
“You gotta eat? For awhile I thought you were a giraffe, cause your jaws are always chewing.”
“Anyway, I found a dumpster, it’s real clean,” said U, his hands fidgety and his eyes shifted around the interior of the car.
“What the hell is a clean dumpster?” Shane replied, “there’s no such thing as a clean dumpster. Would you dump your greasy ass food out of that bag on that dumpster floor and eat it?”
“Nah man,” U replied.
“Then don’t talk to me about a clean dumpster. Make sense when you talk to me,” Shane said, poking the side of U’s head.
“All right man. Well it’s just been dumped, so when the time comes, we don’t have to dumpster dive through a bunch of nasty shit,” U said.
“Are you sure you want to go through with this?” You have a hell of a lot to lose if this doesn’t go as planned. Me? I dip in and out of the shadow world. I disappear and reappear as necessary.”
Shane rubbed his hands across his face.
“You know this sonofabitch is turning me into an alcoholic. Last night I had two rum and cokes. I mean in one of those huge mason jars with the handles. I either have to kill this bastard or start drinking something nastier, because that coconut rum and coke is just too sweet,” Shane laughed, squeezing U’s shoulder, rocking him side to side. “I don’t have the money anymore man, he’s draining me. I’ve done my dirt I know, but this ends tonight.”
“Okay officer, let’s get this done,” said U opening his door.
The sudden flash of red and blue lights created a kaleidoscope in the night sky, sirens were deafening. Screeching tires pierced the tenseness in the air. Shane slowly turned to face U. The voice on the loudspeaker penetrated his brain. He lunged for the glove box, U caught hold of his wrist, and twisted his hand up and around. The sharp blade of his champagne colored switchblade glistened against the windshield.
“You’ll never get to it,” said U, as the officers surrounded the car.
Shane stared U down with a betrayed looked on his face.
“This is years man. Years,” said Shane.
“I gotta eat,” said U. “Am I making enough sense now when I talk to you?”
I hope you enjoyed the quick tales I put together for you, and I look forward to keeping you tensed and on edge throughout my first full-length novel, The Risers, coming soon to retailers everywhere.
See ya soon,
Ajani Shakur is a novelist and short story writer, who primarily write mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. He released his first collection of short stories: Stories I Wrote While Battling My Confidence, while earning his Bachelor of Creative Writing For Entertainment at Full Sail University. Ajani Shakur is a true crime enthusiast and keeps himself up all night, giving ear to every creak and squeak he thinks he hears in his home, which is usually just his cat Smoky.
In “Fishbowl”, we follow the tale of Lauren Drekker, an egotistical fortune hunter who may have stumbled upon the greatest discovery in the history of mankind, 20,000 feet beneath the ocean. But will her desire for fame, wealth, and family legacy lead her to something even she’s not prepared for? What would you do if you felt irrelevant in the only place you’ve ever felt you belonged? In “The Walk Of My Life”, Julie Hampton, a proud and aging supermodel, must come to terms with the fact that the life she’s always known, is passing her by. Lastly, “Any Way Out”, tells the story of Shane, a shady cop at the end of his rope. Will his decision to deal with an extortionist lead him on the wrong side of the law?