Young Sophie Learns the Game Part 6

When I Come Home Cold and Tired

Sophie entered the woods, stopped, and looked back at Iam.
“What part of ‘get the fuck out of here’ are you struggling with, honey?” Iam said.
“Thank you,” Sophie said and smiled.
Iam looked over the horizon. He saw a hulking figure come into view. He turned back to Sophie, “Get, get, shoo, little girl.”
“No really, I couldn’t have done this without you.”
Iam gritted his teeth. His eyes darted between Sophie and the colossal form closing in fast, “You’re testing me, dear. I’m not sure this place has any rules against me wringing your skinny neck. Whatever punishment the cosmos can deal out for that can’t be any worse than spending any amount of time having to look at your cloying face.”
“Your sister was right. You are a handful,” Sophie smiled and made her way into the woods.
Iam closed his eyes and tightened his lips. He set off to meet the lumbering creature. The King of the Moon Apes galloped toward the woods on all fours. Iam trotted out between them.
“Hi, Koko,” Iam called, miming some nonsense sign language.
“I have no words for you, demon,” the king growled, “leave me to my quarry.”
“Jesus, who talks like that? Riiiight, a big douchebag.”
“Take care how you speak to me, wretch.”
“The girl is long gone. Go have a banana instead.”
“Stay your lying tongue or I’ll cut it out.”
“Yeah, I’d like to see that,” Iam muttered under his breath.
“What?” the king snorted in Iam’s face.
“Don’t give me that shit, you heard me.”
“I have no time for your games, fool.”
“If I were playing a game with you, you’d have already lost, Chim-chim. Let me ask you something. How many times have we done this?”
“More than I can stomach.”
“And have you ever caught one?”
“This time will be different.”
“Every time you say that it’s adorable,” Iam tousled the king’s hair.
The king grunted, looking between Iam and the fleeing Sophie. He balled his fists and shook it, breathing hard as he locked eyes with Iam. He made another glance over his shoulder into the woods. Iam gave him a grin and waved. The king barked and ran off into the woods. Iam watched as the king departed, his wave turned into a flipped bird and his grin withered into a scowl.
“Are you happy?” he screamed into the black, shard studded sky, “I helped your little princess and made myself vomit a little in the process.”
His voice echoed into the void. He dropped his head and wandered off, waving his arms in a silent rant.
As Sophie struggled through the growing underbrush, she heard the sound of branches snapping from behind her. She looked, but the trees had become too dense to see beyond a few feet. As the sounds drew near the crisp snapping of branches became the deep crackle of the thick trunks of the ancient forest trees being rent in two. She tried to quicken her pace but the underbrush was too heavy and it wrapped up her feet. She heard a roar and deep hollow thumping. The King of the Moon Apes towered above her, pounding his chest. She pulled her bow, drew a silver arrow and let it fly. The sliver of moonlight struck the king on his shimmering breastplate and shattered. He roared and lunged at her. He grabbed her by the waist and lifted her off the ground. She struck him on the head with her bow, but it just dinged against his helm. She held her hand to his head and closed her eyes.
“Searching for what I fear, little one?” his voice rumbled, “you’ll find I fear nothing.”
Sophie saw a small gap in the armor on his arm at the shoulder. She drew her bow and shot an arrow into it. He howled and dropped her. She fell to the ground and scrambled through the undergrowth. He charged behind her and slammed his fists down and she rolled away and scurried between his legs. He lumbered around looking for her as she ran around his feet. He started stomping his feet as she darted and dove. Sophie looked to the sky. It had returned to the one she was familiar with. She ran and hopped over the overbrush. The king grabbed her by the ankle. She drove her bow into the loam as he dragged her back into the woods. He tossed her. She rolled over and wiggled her fingers.
“It told you I fear nothing, little one,” the king said.
“It doesn’t have to be fear,” Sophie said, “but everybody a has weak spot.”
“I have no weakness,” he thumped himself in the chest.
“I found someone who disagrees,” she said and a pinpoint of violet light appeared between them, forming into a small gray gorilla. The king froze, his mouth agape.
“Boobie,” the small gorilla said in an aged voice, “why did you let me die like that?”
“I didn’t let you die, ma,” the king said, a tear rolling down his face, “I did everything I could.”
“I saw you lift a mountain, why couldn’t you save me.”
“Guilt works great, too,” Sophie said rising to her feet.
“How dare you?” the king bellowed at her.
Sophie leapt through two close trees and ran toward her home. The king leapt after her but found himself wedged between the trees. Sophie noticed she was back in the park near her home. The king stopped struggling, huffing with agitated panting.
“Are you pouting?” Sophie asked.
“I’m not pouting, you’re pouting,” the king grumbled.
“That doesn’t make sense.”
The king freed himself, turned around and charged back from where he came.
Sophie walked along the road to her house. She couldn’t tell how late it was, but the moon was low in the sky. The houses in the neighborhood were dark. After a few blocks, she arrived home. The lights were on.
“Oh, boy, here we go,” Sophie thought, “mom has got to be freaking.”
She ascended the steps of the front porch and heard a sound coming from the hedges across the street.
“Psst, Sophie,” a voice hissed.
She saw Cheryl crouched behind the hedges, signaling to her.
“What are you doing?” Sophie asked.
“Get back here,” Cheryl whispered.
“What’s going on?”
“Get down,” Cheryl yanked her by the shirt tail.
“Cher, what’s going on.”
“Some guys busted in and are threatening mom and dad. They came for me but I climbed out the window.”
“What do they want?”
“It’s some guy dad put away years ago and now he’s pissed. I think he’s going to kill them.”
“Oh, geez.”
“One of them is creeping around looking for us.”
“Yeah, dude’s out for blood and wants to make it hurt. Where were you all day? Mom threw a rod when you didn’t come home.”
“I think I was on a quest.”
“A quest? Fuck’s sake, Soph, you need to lay off the Warcraft for awhile.”
“I’ll tell you all about it later, we need to figure this out.”
“Who’s we? You stay here and keep out of sight. I have an idea.”
“Screw you.”
“Look at you, potty mouth.”
“I’m not just going hide in the bushes while my parents are being terrorized.”
“Was the quest for a new backbone?”
“Just tell me your plan.”
“I’m not telling you shit. Stay hidden and stay safe.”
A man in a balaclava was whacking at the hedges with his gun and approaching their position. Sophie readied her bow. Cheryl looked at her empty quiver.
“What are you going to do with no arrows?” she asked.
“Just keep your head down.”
“I have to keep my head down? What’s gotten in…”
“Hey, girls, found ya,” the man said.
Sophie stood up drew her bow and fired an arrow of moonlight at the man’s chest. He was thrown backwards, slid across the street on his back and laid there unconscious.
“That was cool,” Cheryl said, “took my advice?”
“At first. So what’s your plan?”
“I grabbed dad’s taser and modified it. I was just going to run in and start zapping people.”
“That’s a plan?”
“Got anything better?”
“Want to get weird?”
“You’ve met me before, right?”
Clare and Charles Ellers were in the kitchen, tied to chairs with their wrists and ankles bound. Clare was gagged and a black sack was slipped over her head. Three men, two in masks, held guns to their heads. The unmasked one paced back and forth in front of Charles.
“Remember me, pig?” the man asked.
“No I don’t remember you,” Charles replied, “who are you?”
“Roy Fletcher. You put me away ten years ago.”
“I put a lot of people away. Why should I remember one from ten years ago?”
“I remember you. I’m going to make sure you never forget me. Where’s Kurt?” he yelled to his sidekicks.
“Still looking for the daughters,” one replied.
“Go help him and hurry the hell up. I’m itching to get started,” he pulled Charles' head back, “as soon as your girls get here, you’re about to live out your worst nightmares.”
The lights in the house flickered and died. The room was pitch black. The television came on to a channel of static.
“What the hell’s going on?” Roy barked.
“I don’t know,” his friend replied.
“Go find out,” Roy shoved him.
The static on the television stopped and a masked face appeared on the screen.
“Good evening, Walter Starbuck,” Cheryl said through the mask.
“What is this?” Roy wondered aloud.
“My sister is coming and she is in rare form. Truth be told, she’s kind of scaring me.”
“Cheryl?” Charles said.
“We got this, dad.”
“Who’s we?” Roy asked.
“Me and my sister. Are you paying attention or will I have to repeat everything?”
“No, girls,” Charles said, “stand down. Run and get the authorities.”
“Go find them,” Roy yelled to his friends.
“No need, we’ll come to you,” Cheryl said.
“You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, kid.”
Cheryl held up her modified taser and flicked the trigger, “Zap, zap, Roy.”
The television went black.
“Go get them,” Roy shouted.
One of Roy’s friends crept down the hallway to the front door, the other went out the backdoor to the yard. As the one padded down the hall Sophie appeared out of the living room and shot an arrow into his chest, throwing back into kitchen sliding across the linoleum floor. Roy googgled at the smoking hole in his chest. Sophie ran in and raised her hand to Roy’s head. A spot of violet light grew into a small girl.
“Roy, you were my hero,” the little girl said, “I’m so disappointed in you.”
“Jenny,” Roy dropped to his knees and hugged her, crying.
“Get off me. You make me sick,” Jenny wriggled out of his arms.
“I had to. I had no choice. Dad pushed me to it.”
“You decide how you’re going to react, Roy,” Sophie said and clubbed him on the head with her bow. He slumped to the floor.
Sophie pulled the bag off Clare’s head and removed her gag.
“Mom, are you okay?” she hugged her.
“Sophie, where have you been?” Clare asked.
“We’ll talk about it later. There’s a lot we need to discuss.”
“Sophia, what are you doing?” Charles asked.
“Cher and I are rescuing you.”
“Are you nuts, get the authorities.”
“Gee, dad, you’re welcome.”
Cheryl entered through the back door dragging Roy’s friend by his ankle, the cattle prob swinging from her hip. She left him on the floor at her parents’ feet.
“I think there’s one more,” Cheryl said to Sophie.
“There’s one in the street, these three and…?”
“There were five,” Charles replied.
“Where’d that one go?”
“He was searching for the two of you.”
“We can just wait for him to come back,” Cheryl said.
Sophie heard footsteps coming up the wooden steps of the front porch. She drew her bow and fired a silver arrow through the screen door. The arrow struck Roy’s fifth friend between the eyes, through his head. He slammed the ground dead.
“Sorry about the screen door,” Sophie said.
Cheryl started untying her parents. The moment Clare was free she grabbed Sophie and hugged her, weeping.
“I was so worried about you,” she cried.
“Yeah, I’m fine too, mom,” Cheryl said.
Clare grabbed Cheryl and pulled her into the embrace, kissing her on the head. Charles rubbed his wrists as he gave a wary look to the strange little girl sitting on his kitchen floor, playing jacks.
“Uh, Sophia?” he said, “who’s your friend?”
“Oh,” Sophie replied, “she’ll disappear eventually.”
“You found it, didn’t you?” Clare asked Sophie.
“Yes. We need to talk.”
Clare nodded and wiped her wet face.
Sophie awoke the next morning and her parents were still in bed, sleeping off the hangover of a harrowing evening. After she got ready for school she went downstairs and found an envelope pinned to her book bag. Inside she found a twenty dollar bill and a note.

Inside is money for lunch and whatever else you want to use it for. Have a good day at school and remember I’m so proud of you. I love you!

“No baloney and ketchup on white bread for you today,” Cheryl said.
“Can’t say I’ll miss it much,” Sophie said.
“Yeah, it looked pretty disgusting.”
“You get used to it. It’s like a cold hotdog.”
“Welcome to being me. We can both be the ignored child now.”
“You were never ignored. They just knew you could take care of yourself.”
“A matter of perspective I suppose.”
Cheryl and Sophie set off for school together. On the way, they passed the park where Sophie began her odyssey the day before. She recounted the tale to Cheryl as they strolled along. Cheryl was quiet and nodded as she listened, only stopping to clarify one detail.
“So that creeper Iam knew who I was?” she asked.
“Yeah, he said we’ll meet him some time in the future,” Sophie replied.
“Dude...stranger danger,” she fell silent and listened to the rest of the story, “how did the talk with mom and dad go?”
“Pretty well, actually. They told me a little of what they knew about my mom. Dad told me if I wanted to know more I’d have to try to get in touch with Mr. Danvers, but they haven’t spoken to each other in years. He’s not even sure he’s still alive.”
“Well, I don’t know about you, but I think we make a pretty good team. After we’re done school we should go pro.”
“Doing what?”
“We’ll play it by ear, I guess, but we have something here.”
“What about college?”
“Lots of people have jobs in college.”
“Yeah, like McDonald’s.”
“Right, you can picture me in a Mickey Sleaze uniform?”
“You have a point…”
“Hey, Soapy,” a voice called from behind.
Cheryl and Sophie turned to find Bridget and her constant companions right behind them.
“Bridget and her lackies,” Cheryl said. “Shouldn’t you guys be in a trailer somewhere trading sex for smack?”
“Not talking to you, lezbo,” Bridget spat.
“Clever as always.”
“What do you want, Bridget?” Sophie sighed, “I don’t have time for you. Now or ever.”
“Look who’s wearing her big girl panties,” Bridget said and stuck her broken nose in Sophie’s face.
“At least she hasn’t worn hers for the last three days,” Cheryl said, “I’ll break your nose again if that’s what you’re looking for.”
“No, Cher, I got this,” Sophie said.
Cheryl smiled and stepped back, “All yours.”
“Oh, are you a tough girl now?” Bridget said to Sophie.
“I’ve learned there are way scarier things than you in the world.”
“Not for you, there isn’t,” Bridget grabbed Sophie by her shirt.
“Really, there is,” Sophie put her hand up.
The point of violet light formed and from it emerged a towering, elderly woman, wearing a patrician black dress, like something from a Dickens novel. She grabbed Bridget by the hair and yanked her back.
“Grandma?” Bridget shrank, hold her hands up in a feeble defence.
“Dirty, dirty hair,” the old woman said in a dry, cracking voice.
She produced an electric razor and began to shave Bridget’s head clean.
“Dirty girl, with dirty long hair, wearing makeup like a whore,” Grandma screamed.
Bridget’s friends ran screaming.
“Freak...weirdo,” they yelled as they fled.
“Damn, Soph,” Cheryl said grinning, “you’re pretty scary now. It’s awesome.”