/This story takes place in the backyard of Freida's house. The ST is Shou!/
It's raining in the suburbs; raining hard, raining fast, raining heavy. It's cold, and wet; and those the wind is chill and cuts down through skin to the bone, it is nothing like the cold slowly curving its cruel talons around the pieces of Freida Rodriguez's broken heart.
Blue died today. He was her age, bron a stone's throw away from the hospital she was born in; born a few nights from when she was born; adopted when she came home. He has been her life-long companion, her best friend, and her emotional mentor. Tonight, on this cold, pouring night, behind their life-long home in the yard they played together so many times, she returns the favor: as his undertaker.
Freida hates her classmates. Hates her teachers. Hates her neighbors. Hates her relatives. Holds a grudging respect for her mother only because the woman went through the trouble to raise her.
She loves Blue.
The weather echoes her emotions, and she actually appreciates the rain, as it masks the tears flowing down her cheeks. She slogs to the intended spot and shovels, clumsily but strongly, working out her hatred of the entire universe on the muddy soil as she digs.
The universe does not relent for Freida's pain. It does not recognize her anguish or stop its tidal downpour for her heartbreak. Each shovel achieves half of what it should; the rain makes dirt into mud, and mud drips back down into the ditch she's making.
Freida's mother isn't home yet. She works late tonight. She works late every night. Freida is alone with herself and her dog and her heartache.
And someone else, that she has yet to see.
Freida's tears of pain turn into tears of anger. "Stupid mud. Stupid rain. Stupid shovel," she mutters furiously. But she labors on, wiping her face clear with a sleeve, then digging back in. She will prevail if she has to dig all night. Blue /will/ have a resting place.
The ditch is dug. Two feet of slick mud and dirt and grime. Blue remains still, and a figure watches from the shadows; slim, with wide, bulbous eyes and a receeding hairline, his palid face marred with pox scars and his smile almost devoid of lips. Still he says nothing; he awaits the beast's burial.
Freida puts the shovel aside. Before she places her beloved pet into its grave, she says a few words, her voice choked. "Blue was a good dog. He was the best friend I ever had and ever will have." A pause, as she fights down a sob. "If there's a place for good dogs to go, he'd better go there, or damn the universe. Amen." And then she levers the corpse into the hole and begins the task of shoveling the slimy soil back in to cover it up.
"You call that a prayer, niña?" He steps out of the shadows with a slow, uneven gait. He is in his late forties, and he looks squalid; like he hasn't eaten in weeks. His slacks and shirt are impossibly wet from the downpour and stick to his skeletal figure like spandex, only adding to the vision of mortal horror that approaches Freida. "It sounded more like a sobbing wail to the Heavens." His accent is Hispanic, probably Mexican. "He is not listening, anyway." His smile is slow, it stretches over his dentures like the rest of his skin: too thin, too far. "But I am."
Freida spins around, almost falling over in the slick dirt. She holds the shovel in front of her like a weapon, her eyes wide with fear, but her lip curled at the sight of the man's too thin, ugly visage. "Who the hell are you? Why don't you get back to wherever you crawled from before somebody gets all Chris Hansen on you and makes you sit right over there, perv!"
His chuckle is rasped and grainy and interrupted by a cough. He puts his hand to his mouth, wipes away blood, and says, "I can bring him back." He looks at the dog, and then glances back at Freida, widening his stare. "Good as new. Better, even."
Freida's grip on the shovel is white knuckled. "Who the hell are you?" She repeats the question. "The Devil?" She tilts her head, and based on recent problems, adds, "An angel?" Another pause. "Death?"
Another slow, grating chuckle and a cough. He steps forward again, and raises a hand, placing it on the haft of the shovel. "So brave you are, like a lamb bleeting at the wolf come to feast. I am he who has offered your companion life again…" He lets go of the haft and turns, slowly. "But if you're not interested…"
"I didn't say I wasn't interested," Freida says, almost too quickly. She winces, then continues. "I just want to know what the cost is. I've watched all those old Twilight Zones, you know. Think you're getting one thing, and you end up getting another, and losing your soul in the process."
"I require only one thing." He looks past her, at her neighbor's house, and then back at her. "Do you want to know what that is?"
"If it's my soul, no dice," Freida spits out. Then she looks over at her neighbor's house as well, then back at the man. "What, you know the Reid family? Buncha assholes."
"/Know/ them? No." He shakes his head slowly; it's almost as if his bones grate together when he does. "But they have something that belongs to me. She /stole it/." His words spit blood that land on Blue's face.
Freida ducks the vile spittle. "Decaf might help," she mutters. "Fine. Tell me what was stolen. I'll grab it. Besides, going to juvie might be a vacation compared to that stupid school."
He starts walking. His gait is broken and jagged, and some steps are missing, as if he momentarily walked on another plane before immediately returning to before he left to take that step again, except it's not taken, simply done. He leads her across the yards, and points through the window. "See that knife? And that necklace?" It's an obsidian knife, softly gleaming in the dim light inside the house; the necklace has the face of a dog, fierce buy loyal. "Get them for me," the man says, thin neck showing collar bones and spine jutting almost out through his skin. "Get them for me," he repeats, "and I will return your beast to your side."
"Fine. And while you're waiting, grab yourself a sandwich or something, kay?" Freida drops the shovel and carefully heads towards the Reid house, hoping that the rain will cover up any noise she makes. She pulls out her swiss army knife as she flattens herself against the wall of the house.
He rolls his eyes, and stays still in the rain. The house is quiet. It may even be empty. The lights are certainly off.
Freida isn't pure as the driven snow. She's done a little B&E in her short life, mostly to get back at cousins. So she's going to try and use her knife to pry open the window, in order to get at the stolen items.
After some finangling, the window lock clicks open, and the window slides up slowly.
Freida tries not to show her relief as the window slides up. She puts the knife away, then slowly climbs into the house, trying to not step on anything. And now to get the goods. She tiptoes over to where she last saw the knife and necklace.
Darkness. Well. No darker than she would expect, but she does track mud on the carpet. The items are right there, in reach. This is a house, not a museum. There's no fancy alarm system.
Freida grabs the knife and necklace, stuffing them in a pocket in case she has to dash. And then she makes her muddy way back to the window to slip out.
The window falls closed loudly, and from the other side of the room a low growl is emitted. He comes slowly from the shadows, slaver dropping from his maw, eyes hungry, paws heavy. He's a bulldog and he's just found himself an /intruder/.
Freida mutters a few swear words under her breath, then turns to face down the dog. She backs slowly towards the window. "Hey, big guy, it's alright," she says softly. "I just came here to get something so this ugly guy can bring Blue back. You remember Blue doncha? You used to play with him until he got too old. Wouldn't it be nice to play with him again?" She knows dogs, and will try to keep him from jumping until she's got that window open again…she hopes.
Growlarok — yes, 'Growlarok' — snarls, edging his way closer and closer. He hitches his ears back, and bares his teeth at the intruder. As he nears, however, something seems to make him stop. He tips his head, and mrrs a little. As if saying 'say wha?'
Freida keeps talking softly to Growlarok as if his little headtilt was his response to her words. "Yeah, I know. So, you just let me get outta here, and you'll have your old friend to play with again, Grow boy." If she can get her back to the window, she'll ease it up slowly.
Growlarok's eyes open wider. His tail wags a little. He lols his tongue out and drools a little, as if saying, 'srsly srsly really okay bring him omg omg Bluuuuuue!'
It's especially strange, because that's a very distinct 'interpretation' she's 'feeling'.
And now it's Freida's turn to tilt her head with the 'say wha?' look. But she's not going to look a gift horse, er dog in the mouth, er muzzle. "Thanks, boy," she whispers, pulls up the window, and carefully climbs out. She makes sure to let the window down softly.
Growlarok says nothing, he just turns around and goes back to his place on the kitchen floor. Outside, the skeletal man is gone. But there is a shadow, moving slowly and thinly in Freida's own backyard.
Freida speeds her way back to her backyard. "Hey, anorexic guy," she whispers into the darkness. "I got the stuff. Where are you?"
"You should show me some respect, girl," the man says, glancing over his shoulder. He is standing over Blue's unfilled grave. "And please," he says, chuckling that coughing chuckle of his, "call me dad."
Freida searches her feelings. Knows this to be true.
"Bring Blue back. And then we'll talk about this 'call me dad' shit," she acidly spits out.
He gives her that grin again, the one that stretches too far and shows too many teeth. He looks down at the ditch, which he has been covering with dirt since she went into the house. Blue's corpse can hardly be seen anymore. "No. You will listen first, girl." He turns around, sneering at her. "I am Miclantecuhlti, la Santa Muerte, and I /am/ your Father." He steps closer to her, his sudden grip on her arm too strong, too tight. "This World is in turmoil," he speaks, and as he does, his eyes bulge a little further, his skin cracks and blotches over. "You, as my daughter, have inherited my blood. I don't have time to detail it all." He glances to the sky, the pouring raindrops b ouncing off his enormous eyes. "Suffice to say that you have a calling you must answer; a destiny you must fulfill. And all this crying and sobbing and sentimentality, while excellent material for a Lifetime Original Movie, makes me sick to my stomach."
Freida snarls, "We had a deal." But then she shudders as her father reveals his divinity in his grip and his morphing appearance. "Okay. You're a god, right? I'm your daughter. What am I supposed to do?"
"You will /fight/," Miclantecuhlti says with spittle that glimmers red between the raindrops. "You will fight the titanspawn, the creatures created from the flesh of the Atzlanti's greatest enemies! You will rise in power and prove to be my daughter, powerful and beautiful!" He raises gaunt arms to the sky above, screaming the words against the pouring rain. Then he drops his arms, raises a brow, and slumps. "Or you'll remain dull and uninteresting and a little rough around the edges, and I'll laugh at your misery and call you my disappointment."
Freida rolls her eyes. "Yeah, definetly Steve Buscemi," she mutters. Then she gets serious. "So, those angel things are tight spawn or whatever you just said? Cause I'm good for fighting those things. They're trying to kill a bunch of us at school. And do you still want this stuff?" She pulls the knife and necklace out of her pocket to hand to Santa Muerte.
"They are but one of your many ordeals to come, Freida," Miclantecuhlti says with an amused sneer. "What kind of name is Freida, anyway? Could've at least spelled it right. That mother of yours, I swear. Did you know you were conceived on a copy machine?" He clears his throat, coughs. "But I digress. These," he says, waving at the items, are your Birthrights. The necklace will give you power over animals, and allow you to understand them. It is limited by your knowledge and you desire to expand. The knife will give you powers of protection, and over death. Treasure these gifts closely, Freida." Beat. "I mean it. Don't lose them. It's not like I shit obsidian, you know."
"She didn't tell me it was the copy machine," Freida says dryly. "But she did say that massive amounts of alcohol were involved. You're a god, dad, but you're not GQ." She looks at her gifts, and puts the necklace around her neck. "That explains why Growlarok looked like he understood me." She holds up the knife. "Obsidian. Hey, I can get through airport security with this, sweet!" Lifting a brow. "Thanks, you're more Santa Claus than Santa Muerte right now."
"Ho ho ho, very funny." He reaches into his soaked shirt pocket and pulls out a card, handing it to her. It says: 'Mariana de la Vega', and has a cell number under it. "Call your sister, she will know you are coming. You need a serious makeover. You look like Ugly Betty."
Freida takes the card, surprise playing across her face. "A sister. Wow, Papi, you got laid twice." She snorts. "Like I want to look like a Barbie Doll for those assholes at school. Except…" She deepens her frown before she spills info about her growing and unrequited crush on Dion.
"Aw, does my widdle baby have a widdle crush on a widdle boooy?" It's very disturbing to watch him, with his horrendous, blotched appearance, trying to make a baby face. "Get over it. You'll call her anyway." He claps his hands, and it's more the bones clashing than the flesh that sound out. "Now. Birthrights. Vader Speech. Sister's Phone Number." He thinks, as if trying to remember if he's forgotten anything. "That's it. I'll see you again some day. Looking forward to it, and all that. Makes me proud to know I'll always be better than my kids. See you, princess." And with that, he disappears.
Freida sighs. "Of /course/ he gets the last word." She looks at the card, pockets it, then goes back to burying her dog. "Looks like I got my work cut out for me. Asshole."
In the rain, she buries Blue. In the rain, she pours dirt-turned-into-mud upon her lifelong companion. In the rain she hears… a low, gentle whine. It's coming from the ditch. It's coming from…
Blue leaps from the hole, covered in dirt and mud and grime. He tackles Freida to the mud and pins her down, barking in her face. BARK BARK BARK BARK… LICK. Lick. Slobber. Lick.
Freida is bowled over both literally and emotionally. "Blue? BLUE!" She hugs and skritches him, overcome with joy. "You came back, boy! Thank you, Papi." She's bitter, but she's polite enough to give thanks when appropriate.
A soft snicker in the ether. Don't thank him yet, girl. It's just begun.