Darryl was in such a hurry that morning that he nearly put on his wicking shirt backwards. He brushed his teeth vigorously, but didn’t stop to comb and coif. He was just going to get dirty again, he thought grimly. Darryl normally didn’t plan on sweating this early in the morning, but ever since his Subaru had broken down last week, he’d had to rely on his bicycle. He hadn’t gotten used to the humid, musky smell, though, or the damp drag of sweaty clothes on skin. He’d always hated sweating: he made for the showers at a trot whenever he finished a bike ride or a CrossFit session.
Today, more than ever, he was thankful that his office had a changing room and showers. He had to look his absolute best, had to show he was professional enough to move in the big leagues. No more startup slobbery: if they impressed the investors today, Darryl would be across the river in a Pearl District penthouse by Christmas.
On his way to the kitchen, he paused to look himself over one more time anyways. He was ready: hair and beard trimmed to a stylish and hygienic couple of inches, trimly muscled body rocking purple biking gear. He frowned as he considered his glasses. The black plastic frames were a little Bush-era-hipster. He’d seen more and more wire-rims around lately. Maybe it was worth looking into a new pair.
He jogged on to the kitchen. As he ground his beans, Darryl checked the time again and again. His apartment block on Division was twenty minutes away from work by bike. He had over an hour before the investors were set to arrive. He’d arrive early, shower and change, have some time to groom, rehearse the presentation. Then it was only the speech itself, a short tour, and lunch. Maybe even a cocktail or two, if all went well. Darryl pressed his coffee confidently.
He hustled down to the storeroom with an hour still to spare, jazzed on that Kenyan and taking the steps two at a time. But after opening the door, he paused. The panier slipped from between his fingers.
The building was supposed to provide storage space for two bicycles per apartment. It was right there in the brochures, listed alongside the weekend yoga classes and pop-up mimosa bar. Sure, the management reserved the right to cancel amenities at any time. But they did not reserve the right to let all of those bikes get jacked. The storeroom’s walls were entirely bare, and sliced fragments of Kryptonite locks littered its floor like cigarette butts in a strip-club parking lot. Darryl stared fixedly at his designated wall rack, as if expecting to see the specter of his Schwinn.
Roberta, the Urban Airship analyst from the second floor, was standing by the street exit, staring at her phone and tapping her nails irritably against the seafoam stucco. “Somebody left the door unlocked,” she said, not looking up as she checked the status of her Uber. “Honestly, what are we even paying them for?”
Darryl squinted around the room in the hopes that a bike would materialize.
“Before you ask, yes, I already told management,” Roberta said. “They’ve got security camera footage and they’ll give it to the cops. Probably some methheads. Probably going to the chop shop. I don’t imagine we’ll get anything back unless they’re real dipshits and put them up on Craigslist. Anyway. Gotta go. My ride’s here.”
“What time is it?” Darryl croaked, but she was already gone. He scrabbled in the panier for his phone, checked the time, checked the TriMet schedule. The next bus wasn’t for half an hour. Robotically, he tore off his wicking top and bike shorts and pulled on his jeans.
It was twenty minutes by bike but an hour on foot, and Darryl had already squandered precious moments gaping in the storeroom. It was a scorcher, too. Portland’s interminable winter rains were still a week or two away, and the September day felt like July. His armpits were damp after a few blocks, and the glass-and-concrete canyon of Division magnified and channeled the heat. Stumbling into the street to avoid the tourists standing in line at Salt & Straw, he began reciting his pitch in order to calm himself down.
“Entrtain,” he said in between breaths, “gives the fans a voice in the media.” He jogged past the clamor of the food carts. His flaring nostrils caught a whiff. He realized that he was suddenly, gnawingly, hungry, and that his coffee wasn’t sitting well in an empty and anxious stomach.
“Our revolutionary algorithm – ” he drew a deep breath, and his powerful chest opened – “will trawl social media – to generate a consensus – on every moment of a television show, video game, or movie.” He turned at 20th and sliced through Ladd’s Addition, kicking up clouds of fallen leaves. “Our data visualization experts – will turn – that information – into a detailed – report.”
He dashed through the intersection at 12th and Hawthorne and plunged into the industrial district. There was a hydraulic shout as a bus stalled behind him.
“Our clients – will receive – detailed summaries – of consumer preference,” he casino şirketleri muttered, his muscles thrumming, “about each – development – plot point – twist – and turn.”
A delivery truck stopped just short of hitting him as it pulled out of a loading dock.
“Entrtain – allows content – creators –”
He stumbled on the uneven sidewalk and nearly fell.
“To provide – the consumer –”
“Darryl? Is that you?”
“With exactly – what they want – “
“Full – content – democracy – “
“Sterile Darryl! Slow the fuck down!”
The pain was so abrupt and shocking that he vomited up his coffee. The taster’s notes had all turned to acid, and it hurt. Lying on the sidewalk, torn palms pulsing like sandpapered stigmata, nose and throat burning, vision going in and out as his pulse pumped a deep house beat, Darryl spat and dribbled.
“Quit being such a pussy,” someone said. “You were the one going too fast. Why were you in such a rush on a Saturday anyway? Too busy to say hi to an old friend?”
There was a jingling and snuffling in his ear. Something wet was slapping and flapping at him, licking and lapping all around his head.
“Aw, man, G. G.,” someone else said. “If you’re gonna eat that puke you better not, like, puke it back up again later, you hear me?”
The dog’s tongue touched a scrape. Darryl rolled over, whimpering. He pushed away the curious snout as it returned, and very gingerly opened his eyes and sat up. Both pant legs were torn open and his knees skinned. His stylish shirt was covered in bile and sidewalk grime. His hands were the worst off. There was still blood flowing out of his palms. Casting about for his panier, he realized that it was still on his back, but its contents had been launched out when he fell. His phone had landed a whole three yards away. Couldn’t have improved the crack in the screen any. At least his glasses were intact.
Next to him, the dog – a hairy black-and-white mutt strapped into some kind of harness – had returned to licking furiously at the splatter of coffee vomit. Darryl’s nausea swelled again just seeing it, and he looked away, towards the two figures watching him.
“You gonna get up, Sterile Darryl? You don’t seem like you’re in such a hurry now.”
“Do I know you?” he said, stupidly. He felt a cold breeze on his forehead and realized he must be bleeding there too. Half-heartedly, he wiped it with a sleeve. The shirt was already ruined.
“Oh, good, you’re still an asshole,” the woman said. Darryl’s new friends were slouched comfortably against the chain-link fence that blocked off a tight, bushy alleyway between two warehouses. Wrapped in layers of rags, they were nearly indistinguishable at first glance – Tusken Raiders, he thought hazily – apart from the fact that one had a beard, and the other still had her leg stretched out across the sidewalk where she’d tripped him.
Darryl hadn’t been in a fight since the kindergarten sandbox and had gone to a liberal arts college too long to call anyone a bitch. Bereft of a strategic planning model for the first time in years, he spluttered fountainously and stamped his foot on the pavement a few times. “Why the fuck?” he finally asked. “Why would you do that?”
“You seriously don’t recognize me, dog? I don’t have nearly as many face tats as this idiot here. Put your glasses back on and look closely.” She shoved her threadbare camo cap back, grabbed a fistful of brown dreads, and stuck her chin out towards him.
Even though he was slowly realizing that he would be in some trouble if he didn’t place this lady’s face, he just didn’t see it. She was some gutter punk kid. These were some gutter punk kids and their gutter punk dog. Where would he know her from? He wracked his brains. There were crusties all over Portland, this wasn’t going to help. Maybe she’d been one of the ones who called him and Sierra “taut-bodied terrorists” and “gluten-free Gestapo” as they were leaving Bread & Ink a few weeks ago. How was he supposed to know? Darryl only really thought about the homeless when he picked up the Mercury instead of the Willie Week by accident.
“Four-eyes here can’t see for shit,” the other crustie hyucked, lighting a Newport.
Maybe the bush-league, grade-school insult brought it back. Maybe it was just time. But Darryl’s eyes bugged out and his pukey jaw dropped. “Em–”
“I don’t use that name anymore. You can call me Taz. But yeah, you got it, finally. You ever wonder what happened to me after I dropped out?”
He hadn’t thought about high school in a very, very long time, and was astonished to find himself saying “I mean, after you blocked me on Facebook, I kind of…”
Her face hadn’t changed, apart from the little tattooed dots under her eyes and on her forehead and the ochre sunburn? dirt? that covered everything below the brim of her cap. She was still unconventionally but distinctly pretty. Same plump cheeks and strong jaw, same round nose. Her scowling green casino firmaları eyes were harder now. And those sticky, knotted dreads were new.
With a start, he realized that he could smell her, even a few feet away. She reeked; a thick wet stench of old sweat and damp earth.
“You kind of what?” she asked. “Forgot about me? I get it. I guess I must not have been very important. Can’t have been personal, then, when you sent all those photos of my pussy to the guys on your rowing team.”
Darryl started to get up. “That was eight years ago, E–” He remembered not to use the name. “That was eight years ago.”
She was not impressed.
“I’ve grown up. I’m sorry about what I did in high school, but I need to go, I have a really important meeting, I’m sorry.”
“You’re not sorry. And you’re not going anywhere.” The dog’s growl was so low as to be barely perceptible. It sounded as though it had been building for a long while and had only now entered the frequencies of human hearing. Its lips pulled back in a tiny, casual sneer as it took a few steps closer to him. Beneath the shaggy fur and harness, it did in fact look like a very powerful animal. Powerful and fast.
Darryl sat back down. How was he going to explain this to the investors?
“You’re not going anywhere,” Taz continued, “until you’ve learned some respect. G. G., Skeeter, keep an eye on him.” The dog and the bug-eyed beardy nodded in unison. Skeeter put a hand into the pocket of his shredded overalls and rested it on something.
There clearly wasn’t going to be a safe way out of this. Darryl just had to hope that Levi and Javier could present the project without him. They were geniuses, sure, but they were just engineers; Darryl was the face of Entrtain, the visionary. (The Jobs to their Woz, as he occasionally thought when in a particularly cocky mood.)
He sat at attention. His captor pulled two tall cans of Hurricane from somewhere in her layers of clothing, handed one to her companion, cracked one for herself, and began.
“So. Sterile Darryl. It’s a good thing I ran into you so coincidentally, because lately, I’d been thinking about people from my old life who I never really got to say a proper goodbye to.”
He was rewinding his memories. She dropped out of high school halfway through senior year, right? Just after he’d sent that stupid picture around. He’d been a little embarrassed, but he’d figured she’d come back, once they’d all graduated and she wasn’t being talked about in locker rooms anymore.
“In fact, I don’t think I said anything to you after I overheard Will Marquardt comparing my vag to his Irish grandmother’s corned beef. I just realized you were as much of a piece of shit as I’d thought. You did always have a gift for sweet-talking; I assume you’re doing real well for yourself right now.”
Once he’d gone to college and learned about misogyny and power structures and whatnot, he’d thought about the whole episode and felt a little bad, but there wasn’t anything he could do by that point, so he’d just forgotten about it.
“What do you do now, Sterile Darryl?”
“Tech startup,” he mumbled, suddenly ashamed. She rolled her eyes.
He cleared his throat. “Listen. I owe you an apology. I didn’t know at the time how much something like that could hurt. I didn’t know that even a small expression of the patriarchy could ruin someone’s life the way I ruined yours. Seeing you now – wow. I’m really sorry that you ended up in this situation…”
He trailed off, guessing from her expression that this wasn’t the answer she wanted.
“You think you’re the reason I’m riding the rails? You think you’re that fucking important? Seriously?”
“I mean, I didn’t mean to assume,” he said. “I mean.”
“You’re so vain…” Skeeter whisper-sang into his Hurricane.
“I just flagged you down ’cause I wanted to give you some shit. You didn’t ruin my life; my life was already ruined by the time we hooked up. I was already getting fuckin drunk and skipping school, and that has a whole lot more to do with my family and my mental health than it has to do with you and your bros, you conceited prince.”
He was lost for words.
“Clearly, this calls for drastic measures, don’t you think so, Skeeter? Give me the knife.”
Darryl didn’t shift his seat, but his toes curled in fear as she pointed the short blade at him.
“Follow my directions, you little shit,” Taz said, standing up. “Lift up the fence and crawl to the other side. Sit at the back.”
Three sets of eyes and the piercing glare of the knife followed him as he gingerly pulled up a loose corner of rusty chainlink and crawled into the bushes. Looking down at himself, he allowed self-pity to overcome fear for a moment. His best work clothes were covered in vomit and roadside soot, and the dust and trash below the bushes weren’t improving them.
There were two rough piles of bedding below the brambles, each surrounded by a corona of Hurricane cans güvenilir casino and cigarette butts. Older piles of garbage and ratty tarps were visible further back in the thicket. Either Taz and Skeeter had been here for some time, or this was a popular spot.
“Sit down,” she ordered, and he found the driest patch of dirt. She crawled in and sat just in front of him, and in these close quarters her smell became even more potent.
The tip of the knife stayed steady, barely dipping and jiggling as she undid her pants one-handed. She had a drafthorse’s legs, powerful and hairy. Striated scabs were painted along them like racing stripes. The smell got worse, thickening into a barnyard fug. Hard eyes never moving from Darryl’s, she tugged down her plaid boxers. They moved stiffly as though crusted with sea spray, stretching slightly as the slid down her huge thighs and shapely calves. Instead of casting them aside after she took them off, she flicked them into Darryl’s lap.
He gagged and raised his hand to cover his nose and mouth against the overwhelming stench, but she just said “No,” in the firm tone with which one orders a dog. He breathed shallowly and looked down at the underwear.
The plaid boxers were still molded to the contours of Taz’s body, stiff with weeks of dirt and sweat. Inside, the folds were coated with dried layers of pale filth, blood, and vaginal slime, spread out in a long crescent from the front to the back. At the crescent moon’s center, right in the crotch, was a soft, liquid lump of off-white discharge. Roughly round and surrounded by crust, it looked, he thought, kind of like a fried egg. The unwelcome thought made his gorge rise until it was stinging the very top of his throat.
“Eat it, bitch,” she said. The knife was utterly motionless.
It was like warm oyster, a dab of rich aquatic salts. Darryl’s toes gradually, finally, uncurled as it went down. His nausea faded. The pulsing in his brain stopped. Then it began to move south.
As Darryl looked up and saw her delighted yellow grin, he felt things moving inside him. The pain in his head and stomach gave way to a throbbing and surging, changing course, inflaming new regions.
He was blushing furiously, and he had an erection.
Taz lowered the knife in astonishment. “You dirty slut,” she said, slowly, looking at his red cheeks and at the white string of goo still hanging from his lower lip. “You liked that, didn’t you?”
There was no good response to that, even if he’d been able to produce one. He was vibrating and churning like a washing machine: he was aroused by his humiliation, confused by his arousal, humiliated by his confusion.
“Well, fuck, I guess I need to try harder to punish you. Lie down.”
Darryl looked around dizzily for a clean place to lie down, but she shoved him to the ground before he could find one. His machine-toned body was no match for her street strength. Or maybe he was still in shock.
He scarcely knew what was happening as her ass – big, white, muscular, with dense hair running up the crack – sank onto his face and cut off his breath. His mouth was full of crusty wool and his nose with the rich stink of unwashed skin and old shit.
Almost automatically, his tongue slid out of his mouth and began lapping, sucking, the coarse hair and dry skin turning soft and wet and yielding as she began to move back and forth. She was riding him, sliding up and down as he licked and sucked her ass clean.
She was saying something about this being fun in a different way than she’d anticipated; at least that’s what it sounded like when she got up to turn around. Suddenly he could see again, for a moment, and the sight of her pussy above his face took his breath away once more. Will Marquardt hadn’t known what the fuck he was talking about.
Her swollen pink labia were beautiful, and the overwhelming stench of the ivory slime that coated them and glazed her overgrown bush made Darryl’s mouth water. Written just above her thickly forested mound, in the cramped and crooked letters of a stick-and-poke tattoo, was the message HEAVENS GATE.
Then her thick thighs clamped around his head like a vise and HEAVENS GATE lowered down on him with a suffocating slap. He buried his face in her, tonguing and gulping more ravenously than a dog, mouth and nose filled with her essence.
The rest of the world faded away. He could think of nothing but the taste of her and the soft strength of her plush pussy, which seemed to hug his face as though drawing him inside. He could feel the blood throbbing in his head. Or was it her heartbeat? He could see purple sparks and swirls.
And then the weight slipped away, and the light returned, and he could breathe again. The world seemed cold, fresh, odorless. He became slowly aware that he’d come in his pants.
Through the buzzing in his head, he could faintly hear Taz talking to him:
“Just so you understand. You’re putting all three of us up at least for the next week. Keeping us in brews, cigs, and dog food. No questions asked, no cops called, and you buy us Greyhound tickets when we decide to go. I might let you do this again. I might even let you fuck me. But I’m not going anywhere near your shower.”