Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Cupid War: Fallon's First Couple

“This is as good a place to find love as any,” Caleb said as he and Ricky Fallon approached the pub and performance house known as the Desert Spring, “but are you sure you wouldn’t rather choose an easier venue?”
“And have you miss out on another night of bad poetry?” Fallon replied. They stepped up to the Desert Spring’s front door and phased through it as if it wasn’t there.
“They weren’t all bad,” Caleb said. “Some, I thought, had quite a bit of talent.”
“Some,” Fallon admitted. “But not all, or even most. Put them on X-Factor, and that British guy would demolish them.”
Fallon and Caleb walked through the pub like ghosts, which wasn’t far off from what they were. No one saw them as they headed for the back, even though both wore bright pink body stockings with red hearts emblazoned on their chests. No one complained or even noticed as they phased through tables, chairs, the drinks, even the people.
Caleb stopped in the middle of a table near the back. A man and a woman sat on either side of him, talking animatedly while enjoying some pub fare. Caleb reached out both hands and slid them into the couple’s chests. There was a flash of pink light from the area around Caleb’s hands, and the two diners paused in their conversation to stare lovingly into each other’s eyes.
“That’s just showing off,” Fallon said when Caleb rejoined him.
“They were already in love,” Caleb replied. “I set them together the last time we were here. All I did was give them a little boost.”
“Well, I also noticed a potential duo last time,” Fallon said, “and today I’m going to make them my first couple.”
“Then do so,” Caleb said. “I shall be listening to the poetry.”
They walked through the door in the far wall and into the back room. It was half as large as the restaurant, packed with small tables and chairs, with a stage at the far end. The stage was well-lit but the rest of the room was dark. A throng of people crowded the area, enjoying drinks and watching the show. A young woman stood on stage, a microphone in her hand, performing a poem.
On the right side beside the door, an attractive twenty-something woman stood behind a small counter. She was Emma Brownridge, one of the performers Fallon was hoping to match up.
Someone came through the back door and approached the counter. Emma asked him for the cover charge, and he paid up. Fallon touched the guy’s heart, just to check; he had no romantic interest in her.
Just as well, Fallon thought. He had another guy in mind for Emma. Provided, of course, he could find him. It occurred to Fallon that his man might not even be here tonight. That would suck, and be somewhat embarrassing.
Fallon turned and made his way through the crowd, looking for the other half of his couple.
On stage, a poet lamented on the state of the world. Fallon ignored him, and so did most of the audience.
“Derrick’s doing another political rant,” said a large twenty-something man in dreadlocks and a beard. “I’m very nearly surprised.”
“Third one tonight, too,” a young woman with flaming orange hair replied. “I’m not sure who I’m supposed to be angry at, anymore.”
“That’s... it!” said the other young guy at the table. He pulled a notebook from the back pocket of his jeans and a pen from brim of his black Fedora, and began to write furiously.
Fallon walked over and stared into the young man’s face. It was Colin Triller, the second half of Fallon’s couple-to-be.
“Gotcha,” he said, even though he’d done no such thing. He still had to match Colin to Emma, an action that would require patience, finesse, and not a little bit of luck.
First, he needed Colin and Emma to look at each other. Then, when one of them was looking at the other, he’d fire Love into their heart.
That was where the patience came in. He could only do one of them at a time, but he had to do both of them to form a couple.
Colin looked up from his notebook, a devious look in his eyes.
“Brody, Raquel,” he said, holding up his notebook, “you are gonna love this!”
Fallon touched Colin’s heart, the way he had the last time he and Caleb had been here. As Colin looked at his two friends, Fallon sensed he was a little interested in Raquel but not at all interested in Brody. If only Raquel had been interested in him, Fallon thought; he could match them up now and be done with it. Even if she were, Caleb had already joined Raquel to Brody several months ago, and Fallon wasn’t about to mess with that.
Besides, where was the fun in doing something easy? He had his couple picked out. Now he just had to get them to look at each other.
“Derrik Mont, everyone!” announced the host, a thin young woman with dark purple hair. “And next on the open mic list, a returning favourite from the distant land of Thornhill, Emma Brownridge!”
Fallon’s eyes widened, and he turned to see Emma get up from the till counter and make her way to the stage. He’d counted on at least one of them going up on stage tonight. Now he could zap Colin while he watched Emma perform. And he could do Emma when Colin took the stage. It couldn’t be simpler.
Provided Emma didn’t leave before then...
Emma took the stage and launched into a poem. Fallon put his hand back into Colin’s heart and prepared to fire.
Colin didn’t look up. Instead he kept writing in his notebook with an expression of manic naughtiness on his face.
“Look up,” Fallon said. With his hand in contact with Colin’s heart, he knew he could plant a suggestion into Colin’s mind. It didn’t always work, however, especially if the person’s mind was busy. Colin kept writing, oblivious to all else.
“C’mon, man!” Fallon said, bending over to talk directly into Colin’s ear. “Look up and see the hot chick!”
Colin did not. And, up on stage, Emma finished her poem.
“Aysha, do I have time for one more?” Emma asked the host as the audience applause died down.
“If it’s a short one,” Aysha replied from the side of the stage.
At the same time, Colin stopped writing and put his pen down. Fallon took note, and he leaned in close again.
“LOOK AT HER!” he shouted, and Colin actually jumped. His head snapped up and he saw Emma up on stage. Fallon registered the interest in his heart, and with a burst of pink light he filled Colin’s heart with Love.
Colin gazed at Emma, his eyes wide open and his ears taking in every nuance of her poem. Gotcha, Fallon thought. One down, one to go.
Emma finished her poem and left the stage. Fallon went to her, and tried to direct her over to Colin’s table.
“Turn right, go to the guy with the dorky hat,” he said, his hand in her heart, ready to fire. Emma did turn, but as she did so Brody stood up and obscured her view of Colin.
“No, not that guy!” Fallon said.
Emma frowned, then she resumed walking to the back of the room. Brody took his and Raquel’s empty glasses and headed for the bar. Colin watched Emma as she walked; now you look, Fallon thought.
Another poet began his set. He was very angry, though at what Fallon couldn’t say. He ignored him and headed back to Emma’s side.
“Going well, I hope?”
Fallon looked around and saw Caleb sitting on top of the table closest to the till. Two young men watched the show through Caleb’s back, completely unaware of his presence.
“I got him to like her,” Fallon told his mentor. “Now I just need to get her to like him.”
“Be patient,” Caleb said. “An opportunity will come.”
“I know,” Fallon said. “I have a plan.”
And he did. All he had to do was wait until Colin went up on stage; Emma was sure to look at him then.
“Hey, Em,” said a stout blonde in a short skirt and fishnet stockings. “Wanna go for a smoke?”
“Sure, Marion,” Emma replied. “This guy bugs me, anyway.”
“Wait! Don’t go,” Fallon shouted as Emma and her friend went out the door. Of course they didn’t hear him, but Caleb did.
“What’s so funny?” Fallon snapped at him, but his mentor only chuckled.
Up on stage, the angry poet finished to a smattering of applause. Aysha hopped back onto the stage, and Fallon feared she would announce Colin Triller as the next act.
“And now,” the host said, “put your hands together for Danger Girl!”
A short girl in a goth dress slunk up onto the stage.
“I’m not Danger Girl anymore,” the goth girl said. “Now I’m called Lady Deadly. Get it right.” She then proceeded to read a really terrible poem in a voice barely above a mumble. In response, the audience resumed talking amongst themselves.
Fallon hurried over to Colin’s table and planted his hand back inside Colin’s heart.
“If you want her,” Fallon told him, “you’d better get up and go after her.”
Colin looked at the door for a moment, then he seemed to come to a decision. He stood up and headed for the back door, but when he arrived Aysha intercepted him.
“Two of my readers didn’t show,” the host said. “You’re up next.”
“I... oh. Okay,” Colin replied. The door opened and Brody stepped through with two drinks in his hands. Colin looked out at the restaurant, and could just see Emma and Marion sitting at the bar.
“Do I have time to get a drink?” he asked.
Aysha looked up at the goth girl on stage, then shook her head.
“Probably not, if we’re very lucky.”
Colin couldn’t help but smile at that.
“Okay,” he said.
“No, not okay!” Fallon said. “You’ve got to go talk to Emma!”
Colin hesitated, clearly torn, and Fallon thought he had him.
“Kay, that’s all of my poems, bye,” said the goth chick, and she slunk herself offstage.
“Okay, you’re up,” Aysha told Colin, then she rushed to the stage. Colin hurried back to his table and snatched up his notebook, leaving Fallon standing alone by the till.
“Come on!” he cried. Then he turned and glared at Caleb, who remained sitting on top of the nearby table. “You don’t have to keep laughing, you know.”
“I do apologize, my friend,” Caleb replied. “You are reminding me of my first couple. My troubles were not that dissimilar to yours.”
Up on stage, the host announced Colin Triller as the next act. Colin headed up amid a moderate amount of applause.
“Don’t suppose you have some relevant experience to share, do you?” Fallon asked as he walked through the table to Caleb’s side.
“Just this,” Caleb replied. “I had to ask myself why my two lovers were open to each other in the first place.”
Fallon thought back to the first time he and Caleb had come to the show, when he had discovered that Emma was open to Colin. Emma had been watching from the cash desk while Colin performed on stage. She’d laughed and laughed at Colin’s performance. What was it he’d been reading?
No, not reading...
Fallon hurried over to the stage. It was a small stage, and only a foot off the floor. Fallon had yet to learn how to interface with different levels, however, and his feet vanished into the wood. Luckily, he was still able to reach up and touch Colin’s heart.
Colin was in the middle of the bit he’d been writing only minutes before - a spoof of Derrick Mant’s latest rant. When he reached the end and received his applause, Fallon shouted as loud as he could, “Do the pen song!”
Colin leafed through his notebook. Fallon watched him, and hoped his message had been received.
“You know,” Colin said, “I have something that helps me with my life. It’s long, hard, filled with fluid, and I’ve got it right here in my pants. It’s...” he reached into his trousers and pulled out... “my pen!”
Yes! Fallon thought. He’d gotten through to him!
“I’d like to sing a little song,” Colin went on, “about how wonderful I think my pen is.”
Fallon ran across the cheering audience and through the door to the pub while Colin began the Pen Song.
“Oh, when poetry takes seed, what’s the one thing that I need? My pen is!”
Emma and Marion remained at the bar, chatting. Fallon slid his hand through Emma’s back and into her heart, then whispered in her ear:
“Colin’s doing the pen song.”
Emma’s eyes widened. Then she giggled.
“Gotta go!” she told Marion. “He’s doing that song again!”
“That song... oh, grow up!” Marion called after her.
Fallon was right behind Emma as she quietly re-entered the back room. The song was in full swing, and some in the audience were singing along.
“What makes me feel grand, when it’s lying in my hand? My pen is!”
Emma looked up, saw Colin...
...and Fallon fired Love into her heart. People come together for all kinds of reasons, he thought. Why not over a song filled with thinly-veiled innuendos?
“Well done,” Caleb said when Fallon joined him at his table.
“Thanks for the advice,” Fallon said.
“Thanks for taking it,” Caleb replied.

As the show wound down, Colin and Emma went to the bar for a drink. Then they left together to go get some coffee. Fallon sensed this, even though he and Caleb were long gone.
“I can still feel them, like you said,” Fallon told his mentor as they ambled on down the streets of the club district. “Is it always this, I don’t know... psychic?”
“You’ll get used to it,” Caleb told him, “and then it will be more of a subconscious thing. You will sense automatically when they will need another Love boost.
“And speaking of boosts,” Caleb turned to face a sports bar, “I have a few couples in need of a topping up. And would you look at that?” he pointed through the window at a flat screen TV hanging on the far wall. “It would seem the Argos are playing tonight.”
“How about that, eh?” Fallon said. In life, he’d been an Argos fan.
“To your first couple,” Caleb said, raising a pretend glass in a toast. “May there be many, many more.”
“Oh, there will be,” Fallon said as they walked into the bar. “I’m just getting started.”

Continued in The Cupid War, available from and Flux.

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