Flashfiction (sorta): “I Waited For You”

This is weird for me.  This is my normal flashfiction…and it ain’t. This is a spur-of-moment creation based on a line from a song…and it ain’t.  This is a story about Oz and Connor…and it ain’t.

Oh, I tried to do this like any other flashfiction piece, but I failed.  I failed even before I started.  I mean, c’mon, this if freaking Oz!  This is, in the millions of words and dozens of stories I’ve written, my favorite character…

As it turns out, I took the exact opposite approach for this than I do for my other flashfiction pieces.  I took a thought and an inspiration and I…thought about it.  I had to think about it, by the way, because it is a scene that matters to me.  It matters to me a lot.

In the end, it took me better than a freaking week to write this “flashfiction” piece, rather than the usual hour.  I would love to say the extra time was invested in editing and perfecting the words, but that would be complete bullshit.  The extra time was invested in…working up my courage to write the fucking thing.

This was harder to write than you might think, by the way.  There aren’t many scenes — topics, thoughts, concepts — that I shy away from writing, but there are some.  This particular piece scared the living shit out of me.  It still does, even now, after I’ve written it.

Although this scene has no “official” existence in Somewhere Peaceful to Die, it nonetheless exists in the space between Oz’s request — his cry, really — to meet with Connor when everything was going to shit, and his eventual betrayal of the only person he loved.

This little bit of writing hit me at least as hard as did the process of writing Oz’s death, to be honest.  There are three scenes (well, three now) that are inextricably linked in the story.  They are linked not just in the characters involved, or in the story, but also in the amount of me involved in each.  Of the three, Oz’s death was actually the “easiest” to write.  His suicide note, on the other hand…

As someone who has lost three close friends to suicide — two of them Oz’s age — writing Oz’s suicide note quite literally broke me for several days.  And, yes, that does indeed mean I drank myself down to the bottom of the bottle after I wrote that bit…then took those several days to come back up.  This scene was…

Well…

This seen was almost as hard.  A big part of that, by the way, is that I did not have my “normal” safe, comfortable space in which I could write without others staring at me.  When I wrote in Grimm Brothers’ taproom, no one bothered me.  Everyone knew the guy writing in the corner was good-people.  Everyone forgave the tears in my eyes as I wrote because they knew me…they also knew my characters and my stories.  But today?  Today, I write in strange places, with people who have no idea just what the hell I’m doing.  Today people just think I’m a freaking lunatic…*

*Err…I’m a writer.  “Writer” is, of course, just pretentious-speak for “lunatic.”

I Waited for You

“Please, Spog…” Oz stuttered as the hammering of his heart threatened to tear his body apart.

He could fix it…Oz knew he could.  He could fix it, if only he could talk — really talk — to Connor.  Not over a screen, and not with others around.  No, face-to-face.  They needed to talk face-to-face.

The shake of Connor’s head on the tiny screen once would have told Oz everything he needed to know.  Once, before…

Before he had given up everything.  Before his world had shrunk to a brother he wanted to be so much more.  Before he fell in love with his best friend.

He knew the words that would come from Connor next.  He knew Connor better than Connor knew himself, in fact, and if the words were inevitable, Oz still had to hear them.  They wouldn’t be real until he heard them.  His universe would still be whole until he heard them.

“I’m sorry, Oz, but I can’t.  Later, when things settle down, but not now.  I have to concentrate on getting Nat out of here.  I got her into this, and I gotta get her out.”

More words, then, with his friend.  Words to bring that horrific call to an end.  Banal words.  Meaningless words.  Words of presence and acting, to cover the shaking that threatened to tear Oz apart.

Oz didn’t know where to go, didn’t know what to do.  While there was a small, vicious part deep inside that wanted its revenge, the rest of him knew…the rest of him knew that Connor would need help.  Would need a friend.  Would need a brother.

He would wait, he decided, for Connor to come.  He would be there to offer what help he could when his friend — his beloved — needed it.  There was, of course, only one place Connor would come to seek help.  Only one place that truly was safe for them.  Only one place that was home.

“Wanna try something new?” Marie asked as Oz settled into his usual seat at the bar.  “Just got it from a new in-system brewery on Redux.”

Oz could act.  Oz had, of brutal necessity, built his life around being exactly what others needed him to be.  He fully expected, then, the smile he offered to Marie to put her at her ease.  To forestall any questions, and to allow him to wait for Connor in peace.

“What’s wrong, Oz?” she asked, her soft eyes penetrating easily whatever veil it was Oz used to be able to draw over himself.

“Nothing’s wrong.  I just need to wait for Connor for a bit.  He’ll be here soon.”

Of words there were none, but when Marie placed an opened bottle in front of Oz, her sad eyes told just how deeply she understood.

Oz stared at the bottle to give himself to do.  A glowing moon dominated the label, gave rise to all of the emotions humans had evolved within themselves to greet the rising of a full moon.  But just as strongly as the moon, it was a shadow that drew Oz’s eyes.  A tiny form, perched on a rock.  A wolf howling his loneliness into the night.

The first night his body had been taken, Oz hadn’t cried.  When his mother had died, Oz hadn’t cried.  Staring at that moon — something Oz had never seen, except on a screen — and at that wolf, calling out into the night?  Oz finally felt tears threaten.  He gulped that bottle down, then, as much to have Marie take away the label that both drew and repelled him, as to get the alcohol into his system.

He would wait.  As many bottles as it took, Oz would wait.  He would wait for Connor.

There were tears in Marie’s eyes when she replaced yet another empty bottle with a new one.

“He’ll come…he has to.  I’ll wait,” was all Oz could say to her.  To anyone.

 “I have to get home to Vin,” she answered, the tears in her voice now, “but you stay as long as you need.”

Another bottle in front of him, the last Marie had placed, and Oz continued to stare at that label.

Oz always had wanted to see the moon.

But the moon…the moon was never to be, not for him.  At seven he had lived in terror and dread.  At eleven he had discovered meaning and worth in the form of his tall, confused blond friend.  At seventeen he had…nothing left.  Not Connor.  Not the moon.  Not a thing.

Most of him wanted to go to the Fort, to that fate he had always known was waiting for him.  Most, but not all.  A bit of him — the bit that remembered all too clearly those years of pain and loneliness before he met Connor — wanted nothing more than to lash out; to hurt someone as badly as he had been hurt.

It was just a small bit, but as the rest of him wallowed in the paralysis of loss, and in the devastation of his heart, that small bit finally took control.

A touch to his screen, then, and a face appeared.  A face of strength and cunning hidden under layers of fat.  “You win, you bastard,” Oz said, “I’ll give you what you want.”

A few moments to make arrangements, that was all it took.  While the rest of him cried helplessly, that small bit sold the tiny scrap of soul that was all he had left.  He terminated the call with the swipe of a finger, then stared at the bottle in front of him, surprised to find it empty.

He stared at the moon on that bottle, and at the howling, lonely wolf.

“I waited for you, Connor.  I waited as long as I could,” Oz whispered to no one.

{Musical Note — What, you’re curious about today’s song?  Fine, here’s the explanation: Each of my characters has a couple of “theme songs” I keep in  mind when I think and write about them.  Oz’s primary theme is a tune called Benediction, but his secondary one…  Yeah, look, there IS a reason why Oz’s songs focus on someone else…and that’s all I’m gonna say.  If you want to understand — both the character, and the writer — just listen to the damned song(s)!}

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