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This section takes place in Chapter 3 of Landing after Maya and Tarren have finished sparring in the backyard. In this scene, we get a small glimpse of domestic life in the Fox household. Maya’s journey through the house helps further establish her relationship with each of her brothers and introduces the addiction-laced nature of her hunger. At the end of the scene, Maya participates in shooting practice with her brothers, an important indication that she is preparing to join them in their mission.

I like the thought of showing Maya doing something completely ordinary like laundry, but ultimately this scene didn’t move the story forward so it got axed.

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The training lasts about two hours, because then Tarren and Gabe have to drive out to Pueblo for their CrossFit workout. I wave them goodbye and then turn back to the shabby house. I guess it’s kind of cozy too. Not like the spotless behemoth I grew up in. Karen put Precious Moments figurines on every shelf. The window blinds were dusted with the type of zeal I can only call manic. Everything that could possibly be organized in some fashion was.

Not this house though. The blue couch in the living room is frayed, because Gabe and I are both nervous pickers. His DVDs and video games are splattered around the television like fallout from a small explosion. On the top shelf of his desk in the dining room, there is exactly one Precious Moments figurine. It has an eye patch black-markered onto its ceramic face and a plastic sword buckled over its pale blue overalls. He is one of many soldiers engaged in a terrible battle for supremacy of the top shelf. Around him, Ninja Turtles fight against X-men figurines. Chewbacca throttles Batman. Superman has lost his leg, but he’s still up, leaning against the back wall and plowing his fist toward a Jonas brother action figure. This plastic war is an ever-ongoing production, orchestrated with relish by Gabe.

I’m not really in the mood to watch TV, surf the Internet or try to write something that isn’t totally dour and depressing, so I bring my clothes downstairs to the washer and dryer and load up on the stain remover for my jacket and pants from last night. Surprisingly, blood does come out rather easily. When I have my first load spinning, I go up to Gabe’s room and collect whatever clothes are lying on his floor.

If I were Cinderella I would hum delightfully to myself, but I’m not, so I groan and bitch about it instead, though Gabe never even asked me to do this. I say things like, “what the hell?” cause he’s got mustard on his socks. His jeans are always torn up, and I have to check his pockets, because he usually leaves extra cell phones or change or random napkins filled with code in them. Today I find a small bag of pot, which I just put in his sock drawer. Tarren must know about this, but we never talk about it.

Sir Hopsalot is lounging on Gabe’s rumbled bed. He turns his face toward me and twitches his nose. 

“Greetings noble rabbit,” I say.

As usual, he’s managed to wiggle out of his “no kill” bandanna, but I know the rule. Sir Hopsalot is family. Gabe has even trained him to do his business in a litter box filled with hay.

I actually don’t mind the rabbit so much. Most animals freak out when I get near, but Sir Hopsalot seems somehow aware of his special immunity. Either that or he’s a special needs rabbit or something.  

After the laundry, I try the door to Tarren’s lab, just because I always do this when the boys are gone. He’s never left it unlocked. Not once. I’d love to get a look at all those notes he’s scribbling about me during our delightful question and answer sessions or during the physical trials he never gets tired of thinking up. I wonder if Tarren knows how much I lie, how much I leave out.

There’s this deep dark part of me that doesn’t want Tarren to know how strong I really am. I’ve been keeping the secret about the two needles too long by now. I can’t go back and tell my brothers the truth. Also, I’m still not 100% sure that Tarren wouldn’t kill me if he ever found out.

The door to the Fox Cave, as it’s known only by Gabe, is closed. A handwritten note on the door reads:

Restricted Area – Alpha 5 Clearance required. All unauthorized personnel attempting to access this facility will be roundhouse kicked to death upon capture.

The door is locked. I lean up against it and listen to the silence within. I think I could pick the lock – it’s nothing special – or kick down the damn thing, but I decide to play it cool. If I can’t weasel an answer out of Gabe tonight, I can always pick the lock later.

The rat cage is on a workbench in the garage. As soon as I approach, the five rats scamper to the far corner of their prison and huddle in a pack of shivering, multi-colored bodies. Their yellowish energy leaps in fearful waves. The separate glows blend together so it almost looks like they are all connected inside a single bubble of light.

I stare at the rats, listening as the hunger revs up in sweet melodies throughout my body. The monster knows that she is getting fed. She crawls up from my brainstem and leans over the shelf of my frontal cortex, waiting, licking her chops. Speaking of my brain – it’s totally fucked. There is no monster. No song. It’s just the hunger and what it does to me.

I pull off my left glove – for no reason this is my preferred killing hand – and snatch a rat from the pile. It squeals and writhes in my hand while its furry brethren watch on. I release the tension of control, just a little. The skin peels back from my palm, the bulb comes up all hot and engorged. It latches onto the rat’s energy field and – silence – moments of nothingness. No song. All of me is quiet, and then the madness kicks in.

The animal’s energy rushes through me, pushing the flames of hunger higher, dosing the monster with steroids as she tries to kick down the door to the control room. I drop the limp body, tug my glove back on, press both palms flat on the workbench and wait out the storm of addiction. This too is a known adversary, though it never gets easier. The hunger is an irrevocable part of the angel package, and it doesn’t help that I keep myself on the edge of starvation in order to retain control. Precious control. I honestly don’t know how much longer I can stand this.  

When the boys get back, we shoot. Our firing range is the woods extending behind the house. Our enemies are empty cans of chicken noodle soup, spaghetti and meatballs and beef ravioli that have been hung from tree branches, balanced on logs or hidden high up in the trees behind thick sprays of pine needles.

It’s Gabe’s turn with the sniper rifle. He scrambles onto the roof, and cans spin and tumble a hundred yards away. I palm the 9mm Glock that Tarren has set me up with. The gun is big in my palm, but I can handle it now that I’ve gotten use to the jerk of recoil and the terrible explosion of noise every time I pull the trigger.

“Don’t anticipate the kick,” Tarren yells over our ear plugs, because I mustn’t have heard him the previous thousand times he’s made this same remark.

“Yeah, yeah.” I get it. I do. I’ve been practicing for two months, and I’m already a great shot, getting even better every day. Each glistening can might as well be sitting right in front of me, the size of the Kiera Knightly poster in Gabe’s bedroom. With my hawk’s eyes and robotic aim, I can’t miss, unless my head decides to crash the party.

We shoot. Cans go a’flying. Somewhere in the world, Chef Boyardee weeps. I try to envision the cans as angels, but as soon as they take on humanoid shapes in my mind, I start pulling the shots wide, low, left, right, anywhere but in the center.

Perfect body. Faulty brain.

 

***

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Deidre


Age: 24
Occupation: Housekeeper to Nathaniel Hayward
Hobbies: Playing the cello

About: Deidre may not be a particularly good housekeeper, have a lot of natural talents or ever be able to tame her frizzy red hair, but what she lacks in life skills she makes up for in perseverance.  She needs a lot of it as she dodges the practical jokes of the haunted mansion's two resident poltergeists, makes sure The Thing In The Basement has fresh cow heads to munch on, and puts up with her cranky boss Nathaniel who is libel to drain whoever knocks on his door (usually Mormons) if she doesn't watch him.

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Nathaniel


Age: 266
Occupation: Vampire of leisure
Hobbies: Cleaning musket, reading biographies, watching I Dream of Jeannie, campaigning for Dwight D. Eisenhower

About: Nathaniel doesn't understand why everyone gets so uppity about newfangled fads like the telephone and horseless carriage. He also doesn't approve of the loose today's loose social morals, what with women walking around wearing pants and making it to age 20 without at least one child on their hip. This isn't what Nathaniel fought in the Revolutionary War for (only at night). The worst of the lot is his housekeeper, Deidre, a bitter old maid who insists he stop sucking the life blood from the Mormons who knock on his door and can't even get prune juice stains out of his kerchiefs.

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Dex


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Conveyor of Extreme Emotions
Hobbies: Guiding unwilling individuals to the conclusion that true fear resides in the devastation we bring to our planet and to our society.

About: Dex is dedicated to transcending the poltergeist stereotype by delving deeper into the nature of fear and showing his unwilling victims that our own reality is what truly deserves our fear and notice. He accomplishes this by through artistic haunting - murals, dioramas and even living projects (which tend to scurry away and end up jumping out at Deidre from the kitchen cabinets). Dex is a ghost with a cause, and he won't rest in peace until you've heard it.

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Sloppy Joe


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Scary-ass Poltergeist
Hobbies: Making Girl Scouts piss their skirts

About: Sloppy Joe grew up on the mean streets of Zanesville, Ohio  where he was pursuing a career as the world's latest and greatest skinny white rapper when he met his untimely death. Nathaniel's mansion is his first official haunted residence. He's still getting used to his powers, but that doesn't stop him from trying to make Deidre's life hell and demonstrate that death doesn't keep down a brother from Zanesville.

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Silas


Age: 79
Occupation: Retire factory worker/part-time vampire hunter
Hobbies: Collecting lawn gnomes, killing vampires

About: Silas was all set to marry his high-school sweetheart in the 1950s until she came home one day a couple of shades paler and with some dental enhancements. After staking his fiancé, Silas vowed to  kill the vampire who had turned her. This led to a 50-year stint as a part-time vampire hunter  and eventually brought Silas to Nathaniel's door. With his fanny pack filled with stakes, Silas is ready to avenge his long lost love.

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Silvia


Age: Claims to be 45
Occupation: Between jobs
Hobbies: Bingo, shopping on QVC, flirting

About: Silvia is proof that some gold diggers never stop digging. When she sets her sights on Nathaniel, she's not worried about his fangs as long as his bank account is just as sharp. Not one to put all her eggs in one basket, Silvia also treats Henrick the werefrog to a little of her wrinkly good stuff. Sure, the extra long tongue is a bit of a turnoff, but she just saw the cutest pair of heels on QVC. No time for scruples when there's sexy footwear on the line.

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Henrick


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Insect control
Hobbies: Taking a snack break at the dumpsters behind the nearest buffet (he only comes for the flies)

About: Henrick is an obese werefrog who was quite the monster back in his day. Now, confined to an electronic scooter, his terrorizing the human populace days are well behind him...unless something really gets him riled up.

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Drew


Age: 25
Occupation: Assistant shift manager at Arbys
Hobbies: Rooting for the Browns, playing Xbox

About: Drew just wants to be your everyday slacker jock. He's got the good looks, nowhere job and deep thought avoidance radar that would make him the perfect addition to any state college frat keggar. Unfortunately, a small genetic inheritance keeps getting in his way, as Deidre learns first hand. Even the knowledge of Drew's dark secret can't douse the flames of Deidre's crush though she knows that the handsome jock never falls for the chubby nerd...or does he?

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The Thing in the Basement


Age: Unknown
Occupation: Vortex of destruction
Hobbies: Anything that involves mayhem

About: The Thing In The Basement shall not be spoken of.

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