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World of Darkness: Attrition - Promises Made

z-August Turner

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Ten years ago, Los Angeles

The three highschoolers pushed through the crowd of fellow students, ignoring any calls or mockery that came their way. They were long used to it, and adopted the attitude that it didn’t touch them. It did, of course – they were teens and would have loved to be part of the inner social society. But they all desperately pretended it didn’t.

The taller of the two girls took a shoulder-check from one of the football players. Her pale skin lit up with a livid flush, but she set her jaw and pushed on. Her smaller friend was less accommodating; the girl with the dyed green hair spun and extended her middle finger at the jock. He didn’t see it, none of the jocks in that group did, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that she’d done it. “Fuckers,” she muttered as she spun back around and glanced at her friend. “You ok, Tilt?”

“Yeah,” Tilly muttered, subtly rotating her shoulder against the ache in the muscle.

“She’s a tough bitch,” the boy said, flipping long bangs out of his eyes. His eggplant fingernail polish flashed in the florescent lights as he walked. “Not like you Deedee – you’re all soft and shit.”

“Whatever, Byron,” the girl said, but she was grinning up at him. She stuck her tongue out at him and wagged her eyebrows.

Tilly shrugged. “Whatever,” she muttered in a perfect sneer that was designed to make authority figures steam at the collar. “They’re lame anyway.” She tugged the oversized flannel shirt back into place on her bony frame. Her last growth spurt hadn’t caught up with her, and she was built more like a boy than a girl, at least in her critical mind.

The group walked on in silence for a moment; then Byron said, “So bitches, are we doing this tonight?”

“Fuck yeah!” Deedee chirped, but Tilly was more reluctant. “I guess,” she said.

“Hey, baby, if you don’t wanna do this, just say,” Deedee said, even as she rolled her eyes at Byron where Tilly couldn’t see. “I mean, you’re the ringleader – the show can’t go on without you.”

“I know, and that’s the only reason I’m still thinking about it.” She sighed, and the other two held their breaths, waiting for her to make up her mind. “Alright, we can do it,” she said, looking sorry the moment she said it.

“Yeah!” Deedee whooped, exchanging high-fives with Byron. “This is going to fucking rock!”

“It will not rock if you’re stuck in detention,” one of the math teachers said behind them. The three spun and stared at him guilty and defiantly, trying to look tough and only managing to look sullen. “You have thirty seconds to get to class before I nail all of you for the F-bomb.”

“But we didn’t say it,” Tilly protested.

The teacher smirked. “Who are they going to believe, the Garage Band version of the Rat Pack, or me?”

Scowling, the three took off. When they were out of sight, Deedee said, “We have a target. Who was that?”

“He teaches math, that’s all I know,” Tilly said, hoping that Deedee would just let it go. But she knew she wouldn’t. Dee could fixate like no one’s business.

“Don’t worry compadres,” Byron said, grinning wickedly. “I’ll find out what we need. Laterz.”

“You’re the best, stud!” Dee shouted as their buddy jogged off to find what they needed for tonight. She grabbed Tilly’s arm and bounced up and down. “Oh, Tilt, I’m so excited!”

“Hey, yeah,” Tilly said half-heartedly. “Me, too.”

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“His name is Greg Holcomb,” Byron reported, “and I totally kick ass.” He held up a jock strap.

“Oh, gross! Is that what I think that is?” Dee asked, recoiling.

“Yeah, but it’s Faggo-Teacher’s,” Bryon said, grinning and making the jock strap bounce. “I swiped it from the locker room while he was showering.”

“You couldn’t have gotten a sock or something?” Deedee asked.

“I wanted to be sure it was a personal item,” Bryon laughed, tossing it at Tilly.

The fourteen year old jumped away from the vile projectile and glared at the laughing Byron. “Gross.”

“Come on, sack up, Tilt,” Dee sneered and grabbed the jock strap. “It’s just some cloth.” She dropped the jock strap in the center of the pentagram they’d draw with ground up chalk. “Come on already!”

Tilly glanced at her watch and saw it was almost midnight. “’kay,” she said. Moving to the pentagram, she sat down cross-legged in front of it. She reached into her back pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper; she opened the photocopied news article and laid it before her. Tilly didn’t need to read it. She’d read about the triple murder over and over again, until she had memorized the dreadful deeds listed inside. She touched the paper and focused, then called out, “Annabelle Comstock, I call you. I call you to come before me, and I call you to do my bidding.”

Tilly paused, waiting. Then she called again, “Annabelle Comstock, come to me.” She continued to call, until the night air made her hoarse, and Dee and Byron were fidgeting. “I don’t think it’s going to work,” she said to her friends, trying not to show her relief.

Deedee opened her mouth to say something when Tilly felt the temperature drop. She shivered as her eyes fell open wide, startled and scared. As Dee said something about waiting a bit longer, Tilly turned and looked at the summoning circle. A misty form was taking shape within it. As the teen stared, the ghost of the murderess formed, white eyes falling on her.

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“Tilt? Hey, Tilly!”

Tilly was breathing too fast. She’d never expect that it would work. It had all been Dee’s idea, and she was shocked it had worked. And now she was scared, too; they should have started with another ghost. A safer ghost; not a multiple homicide ghost. “It’s here,” she whispered, pointing. “It’s staring at me.”

Deedee had turned to look at the circle, and she grumbled, “I don’t see anything!”

“No, of course not!” Byron said, excited. “Only she can see them!” He knelt next to Tilly. “Do it. Give her the order,” he whispered in her ear. His breath was hot on her skin as he hissed, “Show that fuck what for.”

“No, this is a bad idea!” Tilly said.

Bryon grabbed the back of her neck suddenly; after a second, his hands shifted to her shoulders. “Come on, Tilt. Come on, sweetie. Just… do it like you said. Greg Holcomb. Just tell her his name, ask her to scare him a bit.”

Tilly stared up at her dead eyes, and knew what she should do. She should tell the ghost to go away, to return from where she came. But her only friends in the world were telling her otherwise, and Tilly wasn’t sure if she could bear to lose them, even if that meant doing the right thing. But if she sent Annabelle Comstock to him, the ghost might do more than scare him. She might kill him; she’d killed when alive, after all.

That made up her mind. Tilly wouldn’t be responsible for the death of another person, no matter what. Tears rose in her eyes as she said, “Leave us, Annabelle Comstock.”

The ghost faded. Byron pushed her with an angry grunt, knocking her to the ground. As Tilly registered the pain from scrapes on her hands, Deedee shouted, “No! God damnit! What the fuck!”

“I didn’t want her to hurt him!” Tilly shouted, rolling onto her back.

“He deserved it!” Deedee shouted, looming over her. Tilly instinctively cowered from her enraged friend. “He is a fucking prick!” Tilly didn’t reply, afraid to say anything, and Deedee made an angry grunting noise. “Come on, Byron, let’s get out of here. Leave the fuckin’ sissy all alone.”

Tilly slumped back on the ground, ignoring that she was half-sprawled over the summoning circle. The tears came quickly, drawn by the realization that she was now alone and friendless. Bitterly, she considered that she should have agreed, and taken the risk that the ghost would hurt the stupid teacher. She wept for a short time, then rose slowly, gathered her things, and trudged home.

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  • 3 months later...

“Tilly? Honey? You need to wake up.”

Her aunt’s voice cut through Tilly’s slumber, and the teen groggily rolled over. “Mmgh. Wha timesit?”

“Seven, come on, get up.” Aunt Molly said, her voice worried. “Hurry up, get dressed, come on, Tilly.”

“Wha? Wha’s gon’ on?” Tilly said sleepily, kicking her feet off the bed and sitting up.

“The police are here, honey, they want to talk to you,” Molly said, her jowls and arms shaking as she grabbed clothing and thrust them at the young woman.

“The police!” Tilly hissed, coming fully awake. “I didn’t do anything!” she quickly lied. She and Byron and Deedee had done lots of things.

“They said they want to talk,” Aunt Molly said, grabbing a brush and starting in on her hair. Normally, Tilly would despise that, but the arrival of the police had thrown her off her usual reactions. Nervous, she dressed and let her aunt finish her hair before she exited into the living room.

The man on the couch didn’t look much like a police officer to her. His hair was a little too long, and he wore a buttoned shirt, but no tie. A tattoo peeked out of the open collar of his shirt, never showing enough for her to determine what it actually was. Nervously, she too, a seat on the love couch; her aunt crowded in next to her, making Tilly move over. Normally, she would have protested; today, she didn’t have the energy.

“Tilly Turner?” the officer asked, not even smirking at her stupid name.

“Yes?” she said, hating the way her voice quavered.

“Do you know a Deidre Mayweather and a Herman Castille?” the man asked.

“Deidre… Deedee,” she said, “but, wait, don’t you mean Byron Castille?”

“His full name is Herman Byron Castille,” the policeman said, taking some notes. “Do you know them?”

Tilly was surprised; Byron had insisted that was his real name. “We’re friends, or we were,” she said, feeling her throat tighten. “But we had a fight last night and….” She let her voice trail off.

“And?” he pressured. “Was it a bad fight?”

“What’s this about?” Aunt Molly asked, her eyes narrowing. “My niece isn’t answering any more questions until you tell me what’s going on.” Her aunt’s meaty hands closed around her shoulders protectively, and Tilly was grateful for her, for once.

“Herman Castille was found dead last night,” the officer said, his voice bland. It had as much sympathy as a sociopath reciting a grocery list, and Tilly found her eyes filling with tears just from horror at his apathy.

“How?” Tilly asked, her voice choking.

“That’s under investigation-” The predictable response was cut off by Tilly.

“Deedee… she was with him last night… is she ok?” the girl asked, as her aunt have her shoulders another gentle squeeze.

“We haven’t found her yet,” the officer replied. “Do you know where she is?”

“You just heard her,” Aunt Molly said stiffly. “She doesn’t know where she is.”

“She could be hiding her,” the officer said, his pale eyes boring into Tilly’s as if he sought answers in them.

“Officer Tilde, I think you should go now,” Aunt Molly said. “We won’t be answering anymore questions without a lawyer present.”

“Very well,” the officer said, standing. “If it comes to that, we’ll be happy to haul her in, officially.”

Tilly shivered and glanced at Aunt Molly, but the older woman held firm. “Thank you for coming by,” she said politely, but her chin was held aggressively high and she wasn’t smiling.

After he’d gone, Tilly had gotten interrogated by her aunt, but managed to stop her when Byron’s death finally sank through the shock. She was allowed to hide in her room finally; she’d just managed to ban Officer Tilde from her mind when she heard the knock at the door. One of her windows overlooked the front door, and she crept to the curtain and peered out. Two officers, this time in uniforms, waited.

Fighting back more tears, Tilly started to pull her clothes back on. But to her surprise, the officers left not long after. When Aunt Molly came upstairs, Tilly rose from her bed, a questioning look on her face. “What happened?”

“They just had another couple of questions, nothing to worry yourself over,” Aunt Molly assured her. “How are you feeling? Would you like pancakes?”

That was her aunt’s way of chasing away the ills of the world. “No, thanks. Not hungry. I thought they were going to arrest me.”

“No, no… nothing like that,” Molly said, putting an arm around her and kissing her forehead. Tilly allowed it, this time. She was shaken up enough to want the support. “I’m going to make some pancakes. Don’t you worry, honey, there’s nothing to worry about.”

But Tilly knew that something was worrying her aunt.

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