Copyright 2013. S. Ngaima. All rights reserved.
Crushed Crown Stories
Chapter 5: Antietam
“This is real...you're really alive.”
I don't know how to react to her. My mother doesn't look like the woman that I once knew. She was once a sweet looking woman with very short curly black hair. She still had the Nubian features that I remember. Her skin is dark...the color of chestnut. Her lips are still full. She is still short...but now she's a little bit more stocky. There is a cut that extends from her upper lip to her left eye. Her skin looks rougher and a little bit more torn. She hasn't turned ugly but she's aged. The gray hair on the top of her hair intertwined with curly black doesn't help either.
My mother looks...defeated.
“I would hug you but...”
She doesn't finish her thought. I don't mind. I need a moment to take this in. I don't know how to react. Piece was right. My mother was alive. This whole time I was doubting him and I treated him like shit for a short while because of it. He was telling the truth.
“So you really did it?” I ask my mother, “You faked your death.”
“A part of me die that day. Tatum Reid did die and someone else was born. Antietam.”
It's the only word that comes to mind. It's the only thing I can say. I don't know how else to describe it. I always was kind to Aunt Gloria. I couldn't imagine calling a woman I looked up to a bitch. My mother wasn't Aunt Gloria though. What kind of woman fakes her death? What kind of woman neglects her responsibility to hide underground?
“Fair,” she states.
“Is that all you have to say?”
“The battle of Antietam in the Civil War was the bloodiest day in American history. Over 20 thousand Americans died that day. Lives were lost. Sacrifices were made for the better good. I named myself Antietam because I made a sacrifice in my own life.”
“I don't give a fuck about American history. How the fuck did you do it? How did you fool me? I saw your body.”
“You saw me take too much Ambrosia. To the untrained eye Ambrosia seems to kill someone. Your body function slows down. It stops. For all intensive purposes your dead. The catalyst restarts your body. The more Ambrosia you take, the longer you appear dead. But you also gain more power. The power of something called Psychokinesis. The ability to move things with your mind. It was power that I needed.”
“To wage your war huh?”
My mother is sitting there she is grunting a little bit, “I won't apologize for the decision I made.”
My mother. No. ANTIETAM had the nerve to be defensive at that moment. She left me. She left me almost ten years ago. Ten years
“Fuck you then. I'll leave.”
“Wait. I will explain it. Please... let me at least explain.”
I stop. It's not sympathy that makes me stop. It's curiosity. I am wondering how a woman could ever defend faking her death and staying out of her son's life for ten years.
I almost spit the words that come out of my mouth, “You have 1 minute...”
“I need less,” she responds, “After your father was unable to stop the Corporation, I needed to step in. I have a powerful receiver. I was the only one who could stand up against them. I started the Lineage. A group of people with receivers that may be able to stand a chance. You don't realize what the Small Queen is capable of.”
“And I don't give a fuck.”
I turn to walk away.
I can hear Antietam's voice trail behind me, “We need you, Jamison...”
“Then you shouldn't have abandoned me.”
I'm pissed. I go back into the tunnels. The others are there. They aren't alone. Piece is there. Normally my heart would race every time see him but right now is different. Now I'm preoccupied. My mind is strained. I just saw a woman I thought was dead.
“I need to go in,” Piece is screaming when I walk in the door.
“I'm sorry. I can't let you go in there,” Bombard is replying to Piece.
That's when he does something that sends me in a craze. He puts his hand on Piece. Not in a threatening way. It's in a gentle way. It's too gentle. Maybe it's jealousy that kicks in. Maybe I just don't like Bombard. Maybe it's the interaction with my mother that has me over the edge right now.
“Get your fucking hands on off him,” I demand.
“What?” Bombard asks confused.
There is a power behind my voice and there is intention. There is so much intention. I can feel the force whip from behind me. It almost knocks me off my feet. The force grabs a hold of Bombard. It flings him into the air. He falls almost 10 feet back and lands on his ass.
The others are looking at me. The old man stops playing his harmonica. The young boy bites his lips. Tonnet crosses her arms and Piece...smiles.
Bombard gets up. The look in his eyes is strange.
“Don't,” Tonnet says.
She tries to stop him from walking towards me but he lifts his hand. Tonnet's body is pushed out of the way almost like you would push a fly out of the way. Bombard is pissed. He wants to get even. I can see the look in his eyes. And he has just as much intention as I did. We are almost face to face. I don't back down. I'm not scared. I'm ready for him. A part of me wants to see what my abilities can do. A part of me wants to take out all my frustrations on him.
I puff up my chest. I welcome him.
But it's Piece that stops Bombard. He places his hand on Bombards chest. The cocky motherfucker is flexing his chest muscle. It's almost like he wants Piece to see how tough he is. Piece isn't really stopping him. If he wanted to he could fling Piece aside probably the same way that he did Tonnet. He doesn't though.
“Please don't...” Piece asks him.
I hate Piece touching him. The idea of Piece having his hand on this boy's chest pisses me off. I am breathing heavy. Bombard and I are exchanging looks.
“Another day then...” Bombard says.
“I look forward to it...”
I start to walk away...down the tunnel. I hear Tonnet scream after me.
“You're leaving?” Tonnet is saying, “You can't leave. We need you. The world needs you Jamison...”
I don't listen to her. I'm too pissed. I just keep walking.
And the strange thing is I feel Piece following...close behind.
Piece and I end up in a pizzeria. I don't ask but I wonder if he came down to the sewers to find me. What other reason would he have left right after he saw me?
Piece is eating a whole pizza by himself. He has such a small frame. The type you can just lift up and take advantage of. He eats a lot though. I wonder where all that food goes. And then I remember that big booty he's sitting on.
“You're muscles get real big when your angry,” Piece tells me.
He's right. I've been flexing. Ever since I spoke with my mother I've been tense. I can't help it. I can't release it.
“Did you know Ambrosia can make you seem dead?” I ask.
“That's what happened to all of us. You took it. You thought you hit your head. That wasn't the case. The Ambrosia...you know...restarts your system,” Piece says, “Or whatever. I don't follow that shit.”
“Was it my mother...I mean Antietam's first time taking it.”
“No. Ambrosia doesn't work like that,” Piece says, “It reacts to your mind. Makes your mind stronger. You can take as much as you want. But it's always a risk drinking Ambrosia. If you take more than your mind can handle... you might never wake up.”
I shake my head.
“The Corporation, what do they plan on doing with the Ambrosia?” I ask.
“Making it. Building an army of receivers to take over the world,” Piece says, “Something like that. They stopped inviting me to their world domination meetings because I kept playing tetris. Stuff like that doesn't interest me.”
“Do you care what happens?”
“With the world?”
Piece shrugs, “I dunno. I haven't decided. I mean... do you care?”
“Of course I do...”
“Really. I mean you walked away from Antietam. Doesn't she 'claim' she's trying to save the world from my step mother.”
He has a point. I'm taking this personal. If everything my mother told me was true then she was the good guy. She was helping to save the day. I should be supporting her in every way that I can. I don't feel that way though. I feel sick to my stomach. I hate the idea of helping my mother.
“Do you think...I should go back?” I ask, “Do you think I should help them?”
Piece sits there. He bites into his pizza.
“Listen,” Piece says, “Victoria Cass isn't the type of woman to be fucked with. Sorry to say it. Antietam doesn't stand a chance. Victoria will find the rebels. She'll kill them one at a time. She's already started.”
“So why did you help Antietam?”
“I helped Antietam?” Piece asks.
He really doesn't remember.
“You gave me the Ambrosia,” I tell him, “You said that Antietam asked you to do it.”
Piece nods, “Oh yeah yeah. That. Well think about it. If a building is burning you can either try to put out the flames or you can add wood to see how high the fire goes. I must say. This war that they have going on. I am...entertained! Aren't you?”
“You can't mean that. Victoria wants to kill those guys. She wants to kill humans. Hell she might even want to kill me!” I say.
Piece laughs, “You work at her company. If Victoria wanted to kill you she would have done a million times already. She's not worried about you. She's always known about you. Why do you think you got the offer to work at the Corporation.”
I shrug, “She planned that.”
“She plans everything. The small queen just wanted to keep an eye on you. She wanted to make sure you stayed neutral. You haven't chosen a side. You're just like me. You're someone floating somewhere in the middle. I recommend you stay like that. Let's just spectate. We'll get some popcorn. We'll eat a pizza. We'll see just how high the flames go...”
I sigh a little bit. Piece has this carefree thing about him. He doesn't give a damn. It must be so easy to think like that. It must be so simple.
It's not simple for me like that.
It's not a building that would burn down if Victoria Cass got her way.
It's the world.
The day passes by quickly. The only thing good thing that comes of me going into the tunnels was that by the end of the night Piece gave me his phone number. I don't know what to think of Piece. I don't know if he's good or bad. He just seems random as hell and the more I think about him the harder it is to figure him out. I do a lot of that though. I do a lot of thinking about Piece.
I'm staring at my phone two days later. He hasn't texted me. I wonder if I should hit him up. I want someone to talk to about this whole situation. I want someone to debate with. Piece knows more than he lets off. I know he does.
“You waiting on a text or something?” Cedric asks.
“Then why you keep staring at your phone?” Cedric asks.
“He gave me his number...”
“The rich boy?”
“Oh shit. Let me find out you grew some balls.”
I shake my head, “I didn't. Hell. I didn't ask for it. He gave it to me. I'm too scared to use it. I'm such a pussy when it comes to this dude.”
“He's a weirdo anyway...” Cedric said, “Maybe that's a sign. Maybe your mind is telling you not to do it...”
“He is a weirdo. I don't know what his intentions are,” I say, “But is it weird that I don't care. I just want to be around him. You know. Whether he's good or bad. I just want to dig into his mind a little bit more.”
“Be careful...maybe he wants to dig into yours too...”
Cedric has a point. He's distracted though before he gets to expand on it. Tonnet has found me. I've seen her a couple times. Today isn't the first since I left Antietam that I've spotted her. I've been avoiding her like the plague. I don't know if Antietam is making her stalk me or if she's doing it on her own. It's pretty annoying though.
She never comes inside the Corporation. Hell she never comes near it. She seems to follow me when I get off. Right now Cedric and I are playing basketball at the park.
I see the ball roll over towards her and I know almost immediately that she's doing it.
She waves at me.
Cedric rolls his eyes, “She can annoy me anyday. Introduce me to your friend.”
I push Cedric, “Stop being so damn thirsty...”
I find myself walking over to Tonnet. These people must not have jobs. They must not have anything to do. I figure they don't have many bills in that underground lair they have.
As I walk over to Tonnet a part of me can only tell she has something to do with my mother.
“Come back,” Tonnet says almost immediately, “Talk to her one more time.”
“Listen. Family is the worst. You've met my sister,” Tonnet explains, “I know the feeling of being betrayed by family. You wouldn't believe the things my sister has done to me throughout my life. But I also know when someone is on the right side of something. Antietam is on the right side.”
“Because she's on your side?” I ask.
Tonnet is looking out in the wind.
I can tell she's thinking. She seems heavy in thought.
“My sister and I weren't always enemies,” Tonnet explains, “Mal Tiffany and I used to be the closest. It was a man that got between us. We were walking one day when we met him. The most handsome man either of us laid eyes on. Except for you of course...”
“Wow...Um...thanks I didn't know that...”
“Don't get your head gassed. I'm just stating facts. Plus your gay...so it doesn't count,” Tonnet explains, “Either way we both fell in love with him. We tripped. We stumbled. And while Mal Tiffany caught herself...I landed right in his bed. He never did love me though. He wanted the one that was hard to get. He wanted Mal. And when he got her he kept her. But that wasn't enough for me. I couldn't just be happy for her. So I slept with him again. And again. And again...”
“Jesus...” I say.
I thought Mal Tiffany was the fucked up one.
I don't say it though. I let Tonnet Tiffany finish her story.
“She was going to have his baby you know. She was pregnant with his baby,” Tonnet explains, “I should have stopped then...but I didn't. And one day she smells my perfume on him. And she kills the baby.”
“Psychokinesis. See the guy we fell in love with. He worked at the Corporation back before the war. She strangled the baby while it was still in her stomach,” Tonnet responds, “Strangled...her own baby to get back at him.”
“Where is he now? The man?”
“Benedict Photoni,” Tonnet Tiffany stated, “She finally caught up to him and killed him the day that I met you.”
“He was in the sewer lineage?”
“My lover,” Tonnet explains, “You see he saw her true colors after she killed the baby. I won him. I got the reward. And Mal just became someone different. There is nothing she wouldn't do to hurt me now. She won't stop at killing him. She believes in destruction and disaster now. Victoria Cass uses that. She uses my sister as her weapon.”
“I thought my family issues were bad,” I respond, “Still...it's just different with me and my mother...”
“You can't look at her as your mother any longer. She's a soldier. She left to become a soldier. There is a war here and now. And we need you. You can help her.”
“Ten years later she all of a sudden needs me?”
I sit there and think about. I don't know.
“Antietam may be a lot of things. But she's not a monster. She's not just fighting for herself. She's fighting for you. She's fighting for the world you know. My sister killed Benedict. Victoria keeps company like my sister. Cruel people. Is that who you want to leave the fate of humanity to?”
Suddenly there is clapping.
I turn. It surprises me. It doesn't seem to surprise Tonnet though.
She doesn't even look at where the clapping comes from.
“The Pest. I should have known you were around.”
She is talking about Piece. He is standing not too far away. I didn't notice him. He is wearing his usual black suit. He is clapping and walking towards us. I have an idea he was eavesdropping. He's heard every word that Tonnet says to me.
“You people love to play the victim don't you,” Piece says.
I'm confused by it. He doesn't seem to happy. It's the first time I see Piece look a little angry actually. He actually looks pissed.
“Mind your business Piece,” Tonnet says, “I'm warning you.”
“No...I'm warning you. Tell him the truth,” Piece says.
I turn to Tonnet. I'm confused. She looks a little antsy. What is Piece talking about?
“What truth?” I ask.
Tonnet shakes her head, “I told you everything. I'm not playing a victim. I told you I wasn't innocent in Mal hating me. Didn't I? I was a different person back then.”
“Oh bitch,” Piece cuts her off, “You know that's not what I'm referring to.”
I'm so suspicious.
I look at Tonnet. She's hiding something. It's clear as day. Piece may be trouble but I believe what he's saying to me right now. I believe that Tonnet is hiding something.
“Mind your business Piece,” Tonnet states, “This boy is Antietam's son. You have no right to interfere in him choosing sides.”
“No,” Piece states, “He can stay neutral. See...I kind of like that boy right there. I don't want him to choose a side. And if he does at least give him all facts. Last chance.”
“I'm going to tell Antietam. She'll kill you for interfering,” Tonnet explains.
She's threatening Piece. I don't know what to do. I like Tonnet but I am so attracted to Piece. I don't know what to say or whose side to take. It's clear these two are arguing over information that Tonnet is leaving out. Piece just told Tonnet that he liked me? What part of the game was that? I don't know if I should feel excited or just odd.
“You sewer people have a tendency to hide,” Piece says, “Sure Victoria wants to kill off the humans. But at least she's up front with it. You sewer people love to hide. Hide underground. Hide intentions. Hide real names.”
“Antietam being Tatum Reid,” Piece gives an example, “How about Benedict Photoni...”
“Don't you dare...” Tonnet warns him, “Antietam doesn't want him to know...”
“Too late,” Piece states, “Benedict Photoni was your dear old Uncle Charles. You know. The man married to Aunt Gloria. Yeah. He took Ambrosia and faked his death too.”
My heart stops.
Tonnet wasn't going to tell me that.
“Uncle Charles left Aunt Gloria to chase some twins?” I ask.
I'm pissed. First my mother left me and now Uncle Charles left Aunt Gloria to be with Tonnet. He was underground this whole time. Everyday. EVERY FUCKING day Aunt Gloria struggled to make a living and he was underground this entire time. He abandoned her.
Tonnet shakes her head, “I didn't want to tell you. Love...it's a complicated thing.”
“HE LEFT my Aunt. I'm not helping you fucking people. Man. Fuck you people,” I reply.
I want nothing to do with them. They were a bunch of cowards hiding underground and changing their names.
“You've done it now Piece,” Tonnet said, “That welcome that you had with Antietam. The way you go where you want when you want. That's off. From now on you've chosen your side.”
Piece doesn't seem worried.
He's not the least bit bothered.
“Well not just yet. You see. I really don't like you Tonnet. And even though I don't choose sides...I really, really don't like liars...”
“What you want to do? Fight?” Tonnet said.
“I want a fight. Sure. Not me though,” Piece says, “I don't dirty my hands with stupid matters. You see, I don't need to. My stepmother Victoria Cass. She doesn't really trust me too much. And sometimes she sends guard dogs to spy on me. Make sure I'm not causing any more trouble. Ah...here they go...right there.”
I turn at that moment.
I'm scared for Tonnet when I see a truck pull up. The door opens. Piece knew he'd lead Mal Tiffany here. And it's Mal Tiffany who walks out of the car.
Shit was about to go the fuck down.
Piece looks at me. He walks over and grabs my hand. The sky is moving. I'm not imagining it. The sky is darkening.
Are they moving clouds?
Mal Tiffany is walking towards her sister and there is that intention again. Only this isn't something small. This is a clash of anger. A personal anger that goes deeper than I imagine.
Tonnet walks halfway meeting her sister.
Shit is DEFINITELY about to happen. And I'm a little scared.
Piece grabs a hold of my hand, “Remember those flames I was telling you about?”
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