Categories > Books > Outsiders > Epiphany

Tough, Like Me

by EmilineHarris 0 Reviews

Category: Outsiders - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Sci-fi - Characters:  - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2008/06/22 - Updated: 2008/06/22 - 2374 words - Complete

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Disclaimer: As you probably know by now, I do not own The Outsiders. I can, however, take credit for the disembodied voice that is currently pissing Dallas off, but that's about it.

“Enough with the spinning!” Dally shouted. “That’s it! I’ve had enough! I’m ready to go back!”

“But you still haven’t seen everything,” the voice replied calmly.

Drawing a shaky breath into his lungs, Dallas ran his shaky fingers through his hair and then held his head in his hands. As far as he was concerned, he had seen everything that he had wanted to see—and then some.

He had seen Steve, and Two-Bit, and Darry, Ponyboy, and Sodapop as they would have been without him … And he didn’t like it. It made their real lives seem like pieces of cake—and things had never been easy for any of them. He couldn’t quite figure out if there was truth to everything the voice had shown him and if the glimpses that he was having were really alternate scenarios—or maybe the voice had made it all up to confuse him in his final moments.

It was hard for him to wrap his mind around it.

The one thing Dally did know, however, was that he hadn’t seen Johnny yet—and after all that he had been through so far, he intended on keeping it that way. Having seen Johnny die before his run-in with the cops, and then having the mysterious voice intervene at the vacant lot, was more than he could stand … He couldn’t imagine seeing anything worse play before his eyes like some bad movie of the week. He just couldn’t take it. He didn’t want to.

“I want to go back,” Dally repeated, his voice beginning to sound more controlled than irate.

“Would it make a difference if I told you that Sodapop was okay after his fall?” The voice baited. “That he was only knocked unconscious for a moment and ended up with a concussion?”

Soda’s fate weighed in on Dally’s mind and he could feel the rage building up again. Only knocked unconscious? How dare this unseen asshole lessen Soda’s injuries to only this or only that.

“No! It wouldn’t make a damned bit of difference!” Dally yelled angrily as he jumped to his feet and stared up at the stars that were blazing brightly in the night sky. “I told you … I’m finished here. Bring me back to the lot! Bring me back to the streetlight!”

There was an audible sigh of compliance from above as the world started spinning again, although not as violently as before. Content that things were finally coming to a close, and that he could get on with the last seconds of his miserable life, Dally smiled and reached into his pocket for a cigarette.

By the time he pulled one out, he was under the streetlight again, but something was definitely amiss. There wasn’t a cop car in sight and the sky was bright, yet gray and overcast, ready to pour down buckets of rain at any moment. There were darker storm clouds brewing in the west and pieces of garbage and debris from the abandoned lot were starting to kick up, forming miniature cyclones in the growing breeze.

“What the …” Dallas began dumbly as he turned around to take in his surroundings, his anger quickly replaced with confusion. He was in the right place, just not the right time …

“One more glimpse to go, Dallas,” the voice said smugly, breaking the silence of the cool Tulsa afternoon. “You didn’t think I’d let you off the hook that easily, did you? You still haven’t learned the full extent of your impact in Tulsa.”

Dally sighed, irritated, and put the cigarette to his lips. He narrowed his eyes and surveyed the area once more, this time more closely, as he dug in his pocket for a match. If he was going to withstand another strange reality, then he was going to do it his way—whatever the voice had in store this time, was going to have to come to him.

Dally fumbled with the lighted match, guarding it closely with his left hand as he brought it to the end of the cigarette. Puffing to get the fire going, Dally made himself comfortable and leaned against the tall lamp post, figuring it would be a while before anything of interest happened.

His light eyes focused on the impending storm, watching the dark clouds roll swiftly over the row of beaten down houses. He flipped the collar of his jacket up, shielding his face slightly from the breeze that was steadily growing into a gusty wind and hunched his shoulders in an effort to protect his still smoldering cigarette. When the fiery end barely touched his fingertips, Dallas dropped what was left of the butt and crushed it with the toe of his boot. His eyes followed the movement of his foot, and he noticed the first of the raindrops hitting the dusty patch of dirt below him. Soon, others followed and the dry, muted ground became darker in color as it sucked up each precious drop of water.

Looking up again, Dallas shivered as blond hair blew in his face, and moistened from the rain, stuck across his forehead and partially in his eyes. Brushing it away, and without a second thought, Dally made his way out of the lot and toward one of the houses across the street. The porch there would provide good shelter from the coming storm, and he would in no way be helping the voice with its mission if he stood on it for a while.

Focused on his destination, Dally quickened his gait and trotted toward the house. Had he been in the real world, he would have collided with another boy, also running to find shelter from the rain that was dropping more forcefully now.

Startled, Dallas stopped in his tracks and eyed the stranger as he passed.

Johnny?

It couldn’t be …

But it was.

Unable to help himself, and despite his better judgment, Dally followed. Deep down he knew that he was playing right into the voice’s hands, like some helpless puppet, but he didn’t care. He felt as if he had been without his friend for forever, even if it had only been hours—or was it less?—since he had been with him in the hospital room. Even so, Dally wasn’t sure how he felt about seeing Johnny again, alive and well. This strange Tulsa hadn’t treated his other friends kindly, and he hoped with what little faith he had left, that things would actually be better for Johnny in this reality. Johnny certainly would have been alive if he hadn’t gone to that stupid church in Windrixville …

Realizing that he had been breathing strangely—the way he breathed when he got all worked up before a rumble—Dally held the air in his lungs for a moment. Finally exhaling, once he felt like he had control again, he studied Johnny more closely. In terms of appearance, he seemed the same as he did back home—he wore the same beaten jean jacket and faded tee-shirt, and had the same long, greasy black hair with shaggy bangs that blocked out his dark eyes. But there was still something unusual about him. Instead of looking sad and defeated, this Johnny walked with purpose. He didn’t look scared of anything and his eyes reflected something much different than fear.

Dally couldn’t quite place it …

Both boys ran through the rain, their clothes thoroughly soaked by the time they reached a familiar house. Dally knew it well, it was his other home—the place he crashed if he didn’t feel like dealing with the Curtises or the rest of the gang—Shepard’s place. He climbed the stairs to the front door and followed Johnny inside.

“Tim!” Johnny called out from the middle of the living room, his voice even and confident—the complete opposite of his usual mousy demeanor.

After a couple minutes, Tim appeared from the hallway that led from the home’s two downstairs bedrooms. “Johnny?” He asked groggily. It looked like he had been roused from a deep sleep, or was recovering from a hangover—maybe both—one could never tell. “I didn’t expect to see you so soon.”

Johnny coolly leaned against the wall and put a cigarette to his lips. He smiled a strange, crooked smile that Dally hadn’t seen before, and hitched a thumb in his belt loop. “Yeah? Well, let’s just say that boys at the station recommended my release. Even they realized that the guy I knifed had it coming …”

Dallas could feel his heart slowly sinking in his chest. It was the same feeling he had as he ran toward Sodapop at the rodeo, but it was a million times worse. No, Johnny. Not jail. He had told Johnny all about jail, and how it wasn’t a place that he should ever arrange to visit …

“Well, I’m happy to have you back, man,” Tim replied, extending a hand, which Johnny took and shook firmly. “I’ve been having some problems with some of the new guys lately…”

Johnny shook his head, snickering to himself. “Stupid kids,” he muttered under his breath.

Tim continued. “They’ve got no respect for me or my gang, man. They think it’s a game or something … This rivalry with the Socs. They keep starting fights at school, getting them all riled up, and now they’re on our turf every night causing all sorts of shit. You know I like a good fight as much as the next guy, but I’m getting sick of fixing slashed tires and broken windows all the time. I ain’t made of money! It’s a pain in the ass.”

Johnny just sighed. He looked irritated—or maybe disappointed—Dally couldn’t tell which it was. “Then you need to do something about it,” Johnny replied, his voice low and somewhat menacing. “You’re the boss around here, Timmy ‘ole boy. Don’t let them forget it … Your men or those Socs.”

Tim shrugged. “But it ain’t easy without you around,” he protested. “Your reputation is the best way to scare my guys into shape … And scare those Socs. clear away.”

Johnny smirked and blew out a long puff of smoke. “I’m glad someone appreciates all the work I’ve put into my rep. My folks sure don’t …”

“What parents do?” Tim asked. “It ain’t easy being a hood …”

Johnny thought for a second and then snickered again. “Hell, Tim. Sure it is! Ripping off corner stores, stealing cars, picking up broads, jumping old ladies … There ain’t nothing easier than that!”

The edge in Johnny’s voice made Dally uneasy and he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Johnny was a nice kid, a good kid, and he certainly wouldn’t be the type to help Shepard run the old neighborhood.

Tim smiled. “There’ll be time for all of that too, man. But first things first, we’ve got some boys that need a schooling.”

Johnny smiled too, his cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth and his eyes twinkling strangely, as he nonchalantly cracked the knuckles on both hands. “It’d be my pleasure. Three months without action is three months too long … Let’s get started.”

“Let me get some shoes,” Tim replied, rushing out of the room.

Johnny plucked the cigarette from his mouth and ground the lit edge into the arm of a nearby couch. When Tim appeared, Johnny swung the front door open, letting Tim pass through, and they both headed out of the house.

Dally followed, the sound of Tim Shepard’s front door slamming shut being drowned out by the loud noises within the storm. He watched Johnny head down the porch stairs and studied every single movement. Instead of slow lope, Johnny now sauntered—strutted—his way down the street like some feral cat. He looked completely comfortable walking alongside Tim Shepard—he almost seemed like his equal, not like some broken little kid that got abused by his parents. His eyes were stern and cold, focused on some unknown point in the distance as he walked through the pouring rain.

But there was something else in his eyes too. Something so familiar and yet foreign at the same time …

Dally thought as he gazed at his friend. Then it dawned on him.

Coiling back in horror, adrenaline pumping steadily through his veins, Dally placed it. How could he have missed it before? The thing in Johnny’s eyes, the emotion that he couldn’t quite figure out earlier, was finally evident to him. It was hatred—pure, unadulterated hatred for the world and all those living in it. Johnny’s compassionate, caring eyes had been replaced with dark, black pits of hatred—pits not dissimilar to those that Dally had.

It was like looking in a mirror.

“No! Not Johnny!” Dally yelled out, frozen in place and feeling dizzy despite his best efforts. It was almost more than he could take. The memory of seeing Johnny die before his eyes was surely better than this.

Needing something to calm himself down, Dally pulled the pack of Kools from his pocket and tapped the side of it. None fell out. Damn, no more cigarettes! He held the small box in his hand and squeezed tightly, crushing it with all his might and tossing it aside.

“God, damn it all!” He shouted at the top of his voice, watching as Johnny and Tim strolled their way towards whatever trouble they were planning. “It’s not supposed to be like this! Not Johnnycake … Not him too …”

Dallas sighed, collapsing to the cold, wet ground. And as he felt the tears welling up behind his eyelids, a bright streak of lightening flashed across the sky and he was left alone in unfriendly darkness.
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