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The End Of Juice
I never wanted to be in this play anyway. Zane told me it’d be fun, not to mention a lot of time to chat, but so far…not. Fun. The play is supposed to be a reenactment of the movie The Hunger Games, because that movie is really popular right now, but Katniss doesn’t remember her lines and the “horses” for the chariot scene keep falling over. I’m supposed to be a colorful idiot called Effie something-or-other who doesn’t seem to care that the kids she’s talking to will probably be dead soon. Zane is the president dude, and he’s wearing an old Santa clause beard and wig.
Zane and I have a friendship that dates back to the years before iPhones. We shared brownies and backyards in the neighborhood I moved out of a year ago. That’s one of the reasons I joined the play, a place where I can see Zane on a weekly basis. He emailed me the info and I pretended to be surprised when he turned up too. Mom almost pulled me out after she saw that Zane was going to be in the play, and his dad glares at me when he drops Zane off.
“Look out!” Someone yells, and I duck under a large plastic tree. Today they’ve got a mini crane in here to help put up the set. “Juice, have you seen my script?” Zane says, coming up from behind a nearby futuristic statue thing. “By your bookbag,” I say, dodging out of the way of another tree. Zane approaches me again, this time holding his script. “Thanks, Juice,” He mumbles, flipping through the pages to check something.
My mom and dad think I’m a bad influence on Zane. So does his single dad. They got us separated after certain…accidents happened near and around our homes. I moved to whatever-town PA and he stayed in Philly. The theater where the play is is near enough to both of our houses, that our parents don’t mind the drive. I think Zane might be addicted to me or something. I only said I’d try the play because it’s the fourth scheme he’s sent me, and the only one that I can make possible.
“Places, everybody, places! Page fifteen!” yells the director, a man of around twenty five with waaay too much time on his hands. I stand to the side of the stage and wait my turn.
Later, after our scenes, Zane and I sit backstage and wait for the rehearsal to end. “Man, I’m thirsty. Those spotlights are just too hot!” Zane complains. I dig through my backpack and grab out a couple grape juices. “Have you always carried refreshing drinks in your backpack, or is this a new thing?” He says giving me a funny look. He reaches out to grab one, “Ah, and they’re cold.” He says, holding it carefully, as though he didn’t want to touch it too much. “You know why it’s cold, Zane!” I whisper, kind of angry at him for making a scene.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m sorry Juice, but I’m kind of bored of not knowing how to do that.” Zane whispers, gesturing towards me and my grape juice. “But… You do know how, you just can’t yet.” I say. “I know the basic information. I want you to teach me. Show me the ropes. Give me tips.” He leaned in close, “I’ll even let your bossy self show through.” He whispers. I elbow him, “Zaaane!” I whine, and he laughs. He pulls an ineffective puppy-dog face, and I frown. “Zane, it’s not possible. I moved. I’m having a hard time doing it myself, with new surroundings and everything, and mom and dad are keeping me on constant surveillance. They put a tracker in my backpack,” I pull it out.
“Wait, if you know it’s there, doesn’t that totally defeat the purpose? You could just leave it here and run away at the beginning of rehearsal. You’d at least get a head start. They wouldn’t even know you were gone until four.” Zane says. “They don’t know that I know it’s there. For a while I was losing sleep because I couldn’t figure out what was different about my backpack,” I laugh, “At one point, it almost hurt me, the not knowing. It’s a powerful force. Eventually I found that tucked in-between two sheets of fabric in the bottom lining of my bag.” I gesture to the tracker, which Zane’s now holding.
“Effie! You’re on!” hisses Katniss, glaring at me from her place on the stage. “Oops,” I say, mostly to Zane, and put my cotton-candy-pink wig back on just as I’m walking on stage. After the scene the Director calls it a day, and makes us clean up before we go home. Zane and I get the back room, as always. I think that people are just instinctively scared of me. Even Zane, although he must be somewhat used to it. The back room, though secluded, is often the dirtiest room in the theater. It’s where the extras all hang out and they have nothing to do most of the time. Bored teenagers + free sodas and snack machines = pigsty. That’s why we, the pair of weirdoes, get the privilege of cleaning it.
“Ugh.” Zane groans. “’Nuff said.” I reply. We are literally ankle deep in trash and…eew, I don’t even know. We fill three trash bags before we can see the floor, and, when finished, we fill a total of seven trash bags. We gather them into a corner for the underworked janitors to put into the dumpster, and walk to the drop off area. Neither of our cars is in the parking lot, and our parents aren’t here yet. I don’t make a big deal out of this, although it’s kind of weird. Zane’s dad is usually the first person here and hurries to get Zane away from me.
“You got any snacks?” Zane asks me as the last person other than us gets picked up. I shoot him a duh look, and he says, “What? How else was I supposed to ask you for food?” he puts on a funny face, “Hey Juice can you make some food appear in your backpack in ways that I don’t understand yet? Yeah thanks!” He says in an over exaggerated false-deep voice, then gives me a duh look. I laugh and celery sticks appear in his lap. “Aww, no cookies?” he laughs, and bites into one. “Not if you’re going to complain every time I make you something,” I tease. He thinks it’s magic what I do, but it’s really just science. Very, very complex science.
Suddenly a car squeals into the parking lot and I recognize it immediately. “Whoa, dude slow down!” Zane says, but I jump up. “Time to go!” I say shrilly, grabbing his arm. “What?” He says, but I run down a hallway, pulling him behind me. I hear the door behind us slam open and a very angry scream from a man in a swat-team-like suit. “Juice,” Zane says looking behind us as we run, “He’s got a gun!” We turn around the corner just as bullets tear along the wall at the end of the hallway. “Juice!” Zane yells, “JUICE, HE’S FOLLOWING US!!” I burst into an unused dressing room and look franticly around for an exit.
There are some stairs in the corner left from when they remodeled a Catholic church into the theater. They have a big book in the front room full of pictures of them remodeling. They took the old bell tower off the building and put it in the yard to the side of the building with a sign as a sort of memorial. It’s actually pretty cool, but right now all I care about is that they left the spiral stairs up. “Juice, that’s a dead end!” Zane yells as I hurry up the stairs. “No, Zane, it’s not.” I say, still climbing. “There’s a way out somewhere, I can tell. It might be covered though.”
Zane follows reluctantly, but soon we reach a dead end. “What?!” I scream, “What?!” I hear the man burst into the room below and knock over a desk and a few stacked chairs looking for us. “UUUGHH!” I scream, “UUUAAAAHHHHH!” “Juice,” Zane says, worried, “Juice calm down.” Still yelling, I turn and break through a wall headfirst into a small passageway. I fall limp and groan. “Juice, get up. Juice get up, we can go now. Juice,” Zane says, trying to lift me, “Juice! Juice, c’mon.” I see only a blur and try to comprehend the smeared world around me.
I had felt this way before and thought that I would be ready for it the next time it happened, but each time I “overspend” it’s like I’m dead. Maybe I am, at least halfway. I might end up that way because I can barely compute that the man is in the passageway when I hear him yell a ways below me. “Juice, c’mon, get up!” Zane says, almost sobbing. I, in my delirium, think that it would help Zane for me to be extremely heavy. I start to sink lower on the ground, the boards on the stairs under me groan holding my newfound weight.
“Juice?” Zane says, just before I crash through the floor of the stairs. “Ahh!” he yells, falling down with me. I continue to sink until the man chasing us comes into view. I snap back into reality, “Zane,” “Juice!” He says. “Zane, I need you to cover your ears,” I say. “What?” “Just do it!” He does, and I turn to the man. “Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!” I start to scream, “AaaaaAAAAAHHHHHHHH,” The man stops in his tracks, almost falling backwards down the stairs. “AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!” my voice climbs to a higher and higher pitch.
The man seems suspended, his back arched, his arms rigid as though in pain. He falls to his knees, and I hear Zane groan behind me, and know that at this point Zane’s hands over his ears don’t help much. “AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!” I scream, and the man crumples. I stop and hear Zane fall to the ground and sigh with relief. I also collapse, groaning. “Juice?” Zane gasps, out of breath. White blurs my eyes, and I feel my stomach cramp. I wasn’t used to such large uses of power. “Uuuurggg,” I say, my teeth clenched. “Juice?” Zane says, breathing heavily, “Juice, are…you……ok?”
“Zane,” I choke out. He leans over me, but I barely see him. “Zane…Keep……trying….to study…..what……I….told…you,” I struggle to keep consciousness. “You…need…to……be able…to protect…yourself,” I say. “Breathe, Juice,” Zane yells. I try to suck in air, but it hurts, oh it hurts. “Zane…he’s……not…dead…he…….will…come after…you” I curl up into a fetal position groaning. “He’s…not…alone,” I gasp. “But, but I have you.” Zane says. “No……Zane…you don’t.” I say, because everything has been steadily growing harder to see, like a white film is growing over my eyes.
My breathing slows, and Zane freaks out, tearing at his hair and crying. It’s actually kind of sweet. “Juice, I don’t want to lose you!” He yells, “Juice, don’t you dare, don’t you dare die on me!” I look at Zane and think about how around an hour ago he and I were laughing over a simple trick like creating celery sticks. “It’s going to be OK! Stay with me Juice!” He says, but it’s quite muffled. I smile at Zane, and slowly…feel…my heart……stop. “Juice!” he screams, hysterical.