Saturday, January 1, 2011

Black Ring Society: (The Underland Chronicles) Chapter 6 (edited)

Chapter Six: The Keeper

Ever since Leon could remember his older brother Kenny was his hero. While other kids idolized and emulated rappers and sports stars from afar, he got to learn from his idol up close. It did help that Kenny kept his nose clean most of the time, learning early that traveling down roads leading to death or jail at the end was no way to lead life. When Leon was about thirteen, Kenny began giving him books about various black leaders, some of them well-known most of little known and still other completely unknown to the general public. At first he read them because he thought it’d make Kenny proud of him and then one day he was handed the ‘Spook Who Sat By the Door’. The ideas in this book gripped him, however unfeasible or feasible they were. Afterward he went back and read the other books with a new set of eyes, and he began to understand. The day his brother met Marcus Ripley was a day that seemed to change everything.
Marcus was a teacher at his high school Windom, and he’d seen him around but had never talked to him. Marcus and Kenny crossed paths for the first time on the train. While Kenny was heading to work, Marcus was heading home; Kenny was reading a book written by Marcus Garvey. The conversation was brief mainly due to the fact that Kenny had to get off the train, but those that followed were storied and powerful. Kenny wanted to be a rapper all his life and had done a few things but after meeting Marcus his style changed. The lyrics and of course the content was altered on a level of frequency. It was as if the vibrations in the air would become charged with his intent upon delivery.

Leon sat on his bed reading The African Origins of Civilization when his older brother Kenny walked into his room.

“Hey Lee guess what?” Kenny's face was a glow and he wore a smile from ear to ear.

Looking up from his book, he laid back. “Whadup?”

“I'm going to On the Grind tonight.”

Leon frowned he'd read the newspaper and heard of the suicides that went on in the past couple of months. “Why, isn't it kinda dangerous there?”

“I'm not suicidal, and well, Jae Banks heard my mixtape and wants to talk to me about signing, with Black Ring Records.”

Leon's face exploded into a smile. “Word, for real.” He leapt up from his be and gave his brother the handshake to the hug. “That's dope.”

“Yeah, you wanna come?” Kenny cocked his fitted cap to the side.

“Yeah man, gimme a minute to put something on.” Leon went to his closet looking for something fitting to wear.

“You're not going anywhere, especially some dangerous ass nightclub and especially not on a school night.” Kenny and Leon's mother Ester came down the hall wearing a robe and a head wrap. She had been thin all her life and having two kids wasn't going to change that. 'I'd be damned, if I let you two ruin my figure.' she'd joke. Her walnut colored skin was in stark contrast to her bright yellow bathrobe. “ My boys aren't going to some club like a pair of hoodlums.”

“Mom, I'm 22 and this could be my chance, I'm not getting anywhere working at my current job.” Kenny worked as a mechanic at a local garage and though he could fix cars and enjoyed doing it, it was little more than a hobby.

“Well you ain't grown till you can move out an support yourself.” She retorted with her hands on her hips.

“This might give me the chance to do that.” He looked at her seriously his mind was made up.

“O-ok, if this is what you really wanna do then go ahead.” She glanced at Leon. “But my baby stays.”

Leon's face melted like candle wax, he wanted to see his brother's success, but when his mother put her foot down it came down hard. “But mom, if he becomes a superstar, I’ll never get to hang out with him again.”

“That's nonsense” She crossed her arms. “You're not going to some rap club, where girls are half naked shakin their asses and the men all carry guns with their pants below their ankles.

“Sorry Lee mom's right, it's not really the environment for you.” Kenny shrugged. “But maybe I’ll bring you to the studio, when I'm recording.”

Ester glared at Kenny. “Well not tonight because school's tomorrow.”

Leon put his book away and turned off the light. “Yeah, yeah.” Leon fumed; his mother never let him do anything. “It’s not like I do much of anything else, I read a lot, do my homework on time. My grades are probably the highest on the block.”

“That’s true baby and we want to keep it that way.” She looked maudlin. “Your father was an honest man a good man. Worked for the city did a good job, didn’t stop some punk who didn’t want to pay his fair from shooting him.”

Leon sighed every time he tried to make a case for his socializing at certain times or venues his mother would practically throw his fathers death at him. He was too young to remember and afterward Kenny assumed role as head male of the household. It was strange however that he never once heard his mother give the speech to Kenny maybe because he knew, he lived through it and it changed his life more than it did Leon’s. “Mom please can you please just this once trust that I’ll be ok. You all raised me right I know when to get out of dodge and plus Kenny’s gonna be there.”

Ester thought about it for a second. “ Well when you put it that way, it’d make sense to let you but your brother’s probably on the train already and it’s not safe to go out in this neighborhood at this time. This was another tactic of hers if the reminder of tragedy didn’t work then she would delay him until he was unable to get anywhere he needed to be. Leon let out a heavy sigh. “You always do this mom.”

“Good night Lee. Go. To. Bed.” She walked out of his room. He Sat angry and frustrated. He rested his head on his pillow breathing heavily as if trying to exhale his anger this of course didn’t work so he tried to sleep. After thirty minutes had passed he realized that he had to be out of the house. He got up, rifled through his closet and picked out jeans and a stylish button down to wear. Slipping on his sneakers and leather jacket he crept down the hall, the radio was on the jazz station his mother used to lull her to sleep and the sounds of snoring accompanied furious horns. He exited the house and before going down stairs he sent a text to Malik saying I’m about to have the dopest night ever. Leaving the building he looked down the street turned up his collar and shuffled toward the train station. His head low he heard the whirring of police klaxons a block away and frowned at the thought of brotha’s being killed by other brotha’s because neither one knows that they’re family. Things shouldn’t be like this. He recalled his brother’s reason for becoming an emcee. A lot of people tell their “life story” using rap most of which turn out to be more ‘story’ than life, but Kenny wanted to tell their story, the story of a people whose history started before slave ships and before the C.E.’s and the A.D.’s no one mainstream ever talked about that stuff. Leon chuckled to himself mainly because few people knew about it and those that did weren’t interested in giving it up. The sound of rustling behind him made Leon snap to attention but upon turning around he saw nothing. Chill out he thought to himself the neighborhood was getting better, well in some parts, in others the crime rates were steadily increasing thanks to the rescission and the rising prices of the cost of living. Funny this mostly went on in the poor sections of the area, meaning the black sections, as he got closer to his destination he couldn’t shake the feeling he was being followed, but whoever it was did a good job of concealing themselves because every time he look out the corner of his eye a strange shadow would move out of his line of sight. He walked into the station he passed a man selling Transit pass swipes.

“Yo, you need a swipe, two dollas.”

“Nah, I’m good man I got my own.” Leon continued to walk down the stairs. As he descended and reached into his pocket, he heard a shuffling coming from the top of the stairs, which was followed by a muffled sound. As he went to pay his fair at the turnstile he felt an impact hit his back. Stumbling onto the turnstile he turned around and looked into the blood shot eyes of the man who was selling transit pass swipes.

“I really need that two dollas man.” He lunged at Leon, with murderous speed.

“Hup.” Falling flat on his back Leon tossed him over into the Transit-pass machines. Thank goodness for karate classes at the rec-center he thought.

“Hey, I’m calling the cops.” The station attendant yelled behind his booth as he dialed the number for police.

I’ve got to get out of here, the roar of the approaching train filled Leon’s ears as the man shambled to his feet, his open mouth revealed a set of razor sharp teeth and crimson gums. Leon went through the turnstile as the train came to a halt and the doors opened. The man came at him leaping over the turnstile and was met by two boots to the chest from Leon who had pulled himself up by the turnstile arch to perform the attack. The transit-pass peddler hit the attendant both with a thud and Leon jumped back and ran into the train car as the doors closed. Dropping into a seat he noticed the car was empty. His breathing was rapid and heavy, leaning his head back he dozed off as the train car rolled forward. Lolling somewhere between sleep and waking he caught site of another train across the tracks, the lights flickered inside and when they came back the other trains cars were enveloped in a red light. Rubbing his eyes he caught sight of a woman running to one end of a car being chased by a man or at least what appeared to be a man and something else, an animal of some kind. It was too big to be a dog, or a normal sized one and it moved like a monkey with its knuckles on the ground. The lights flickered in the car again and just then it vanished. Leon sat up and peered out the other window and as he did the car was bathed in crimson and an intense roaring filled his ears, the lights went dim and the entire train began to tremble. The lights returned and the car started into the 125th street train station. Leon got out as the doors opened and raced up the stairs the night was getting too weird he needed to find his brother. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed Kenny’s number.

“Lee, what are you doing up?” Kenny’s concerned voice answered. “Mom’s gonna have your butt if she hears you.”

“I’m not at home.” Leon walked toward the entrance to the club.

“What, where are you?”

“I’m outside.” Leon stood before a large mound of flesh with a clean-cut fade that was watching the door intently.

“Outside where the house?” Kenny questioned

“Nah man, the club and this bouncer don’t look like he’s letting me in.” Leon turned his back to the man in question.

Kenny let out an annoyed sigh. “Aight man let me come and get you.”

“Thanks man.” Leon put his phone back in his pocket turned and smiled at the bouncer.

Leon casually walked toward the door as the large man took a step to bar his way. “You going somewhere sonny?” The bass in the bouncer’s voice reverberated in Leon’s ears.

“Yeah just waiting for him.” Leon looked passed the mountain of a man and pointed to his older brother who was walking out of the door.

“Yo, it’s ok D he’s with me.” Kenny slapped his hand down on Leon’s shoulder more in a disciplinary manner than anything else.

“Aight, but I think I should check with Jae I mean he looks kinda young and we serve liquor.” D took out his cell phone and made a call.

“It’s good D, he can join us.” The aforementioned Jae Banks stepped out of the club and put his arm on the bouncer’s shoulder. “This place is also a restaurant we can get the little homie something to eat.” He led both Leon and Kenny inside the club where in Leon’s eyes lit, it was wall-to-wall celebrity. Every famous person from the black community just about, in one corner eating fire grilled ribs sat famous activist and preacher Geoffrey October. Across the room the well-known former professor and current congressman Craver Abrams sat between two video vixens two weeks after his divorce. Leon looked at the ceiling and noticed a strange symbol with three number sevens etched in it just between the hanging chandlers.

“Yo, is that who I think it is and…” Leon looked on a bit wide-eyed

“They’re all who you think they are.” Kenny went to sit down at a table with Jae Banks and a large man named Bruce.

“Yeah they’re my peoples.” Jae called over a waiter. “And you are?”

“Peace, I’m Leon.” Leon reached over and gave Banks a pound.

“Cool, you want something to eat?”

“Is there a menu?” Leon raised his eyebrow.

The waiter walked over and handed Leon the menu, he scanned it and then looked up. “Lemme get some buffalo wings with the fries.”

The waiter took the menu, and walked away; Jae smiled at him and leaned back. “So, Leon do you spit too.”

“Yeah a little bit, I was on the fourth track on the mix tape, Revolutionary. War .Fear”

“Word that was you, I was feeling it, maybe we should have you come up to the studio, hook you up.”

“Word that would be hot.” Leon nearly leapt out of his seat.

Bruce cleared his throat, prompting everyone to look at him. Jae sat up and looked at Kenny. “Aight back to business, as we mentioned before we heard your mix tape, got the streets on fire.”

“Yeah, so you wanna sign me or…” Kenny tented his fingers

“Well what we’d like to do is put you on Black Rings up coming Young Jewels compilation.” Jae sipped a glass of champagne he had near by. “And yeah of course sign you.” He slid a portfolio across the table with a contract in it.

Kenny picked it up and began to read it, scanning it thoughtfully. “I’m gonna have to think about this.”

“Hey, we’re offering a once in a life time deal, very few would just throw it away.” Jae smiled.

“I’m not throwing it away, I’m being cautious, I’ve heard less than savory stories about the industry and I’m not looking to be one of them. He put the contract down on the table.

Jae looked at Bruce who gave him a grimace; he then turned back to Kenny. “Well how about you come to a little party I’m throwing tomorrow, you could bring Leon, let the homie get a feel for the industry as a young up and comer.”

The waiter returned with Leon’s food as the teenager looked at his older brother wide eyed. “We… I mean you should at least see what it’s about.”

Kenny looked at his brother with a scowl. “Eat your food.” He then turned back to Jae. “Listen I know this is how you WOW those other street dudes but…”

“Listen, Kenny I like your music, my whole camp does you add an extra flare for the underground market.” He sighed. “We don’t want to pressure you, as a matter of fact forget the contract for now, and just come as my guest to the party out here Saturday.” Jae mustered up all the sincerity he his face could display.

Kenny moved the contract to the middle of the table. “Ok, I’ll come.”

Leon jumped up beaming from ear to ear. “Yes.”

“But you’re staying home.”

“Why, I’m a rapper too.” Leon yelled.

“You know why.” Kenny exhaled deeply. Kenny didn’t want his brother to be a rapper, with a high demand on rappers have a credible reputation and Leon’s attitude he feared the young man might end up in dangerous situations in attempts to keep himself relevant and from appearing soft.

“Psht.” Leon waved at his brother and began to eat his food.

“Aight that’s cool, that’s cool, wear your best clothes gonna be a lot of video vixen’s there and a number of important people.” Jae smiled.

Leon finished his food and the two brothers exited the club and began to walk to the train station. Leon’s shoulders were slumped as he moved. “Why don’t you want me to rap?”

“You already know why.” Kenny sped up.

“Because you think I’ll get caught up in some bullshit.” Leon walked up to him. “You teach me well, I know not to deal with the knucklehead niggas.”

Kenny let out a long sigh. “I know it’s just that...”

At that moment the roaring above their heads caused them to look up. “Oh my God.” Leon stared in amazement as the cities urban legends the Geist and Mirage flew past them through the sky and into the train station. “Yo we gotta follow them.” Leon bolted down the block and into the train station.

“Damn it Lee.” Kenny raced after him down the steps. Upon arrival they were greeted by a pungent odor the smell of final breaths and frightened prayers. They both covered their noses. “What the hell is that?”

Leon turned, caught sight of the mangled body in the information booth and jumped back.” K-Kenny? Do you think we should be following those… people that came in here?”

Kenny gave Leon a quick slap on the back of his head. “You’re the one who ran in here, I was just…” At moment the temperature dropped drastically and a loud booming sound filled the station, at first they thought it was a train that was until the sound became vacuum sucking in all sound and a cascade of red light exploded from the train tracks. The brothers looked at each other and then leapt over the turnstiles to check out the scene. What they came upon was unprecedented, there stood a man and a woman both shrouded and robed. Crimson light shown in front of them illuminating their silhouettes. With the vacuum absorbing the sound around them they could only look on in wonderment as they realized that the light was coming from a hole in the darkness of the tunnel, in the fabric of space itself created by the man. Just then a distant light came closer to the station at rapid speed. The two brothers turned their attention toward the on coming train for a moment as it pulled into the station and then back to realize that the man and the woman were no longer there. The train came to a stop and as the doors opened up the two brothers turned to each other in disbelief as they boarded.

The matte black limousine cruised along the street with all the smoothness of paten leather. Two men sat in the back talking about the night’s events or rather one talked and the other listened.

“…See the only thing I asked you to do was sign him, we get his brother fine but him we can use.” Bruce sat back swirling a red glass of brandy, while a young woman worked face down in his lap. “mmmm…And you couldn’t even do that.”

“Well it’s not like I’ve gotten a grade a deal from you, what the fuck am I supposed to do with all these niggas and bitches killin’ themselves at my club man?” Jae Banks yelled.

Bruce narrowed his eyes and the young woman stopped her work, wiped her mouth and looked at Jae, Bruce gave her a glance and then smiled. “I’m going to assume you had a momentary lapse of sanity due to my companions striking beauty.” The young lady was obviously a video vixen who appeared to have had her breast, backside and lips done, that was if she was human. Her inhumanly long fingers nails dug into Jae’s leg, he stifled a grunt; she giggled and revealed strangely sharp canines. Bruce gave her another glare and she moved her hands to her lap. “Because if that wasn’t the case I’d have to think you forgot who saved you from that night club shoot out two years ago, or that lawsuit from the family of the artist who said you got him killed because he was trying to leave your label.
Jae rubbed his leg, and sucked his teeth. “But that last part wasn’t my fault, you...”

Bruce waved him away. “Details, details.” Bruce smiled “Listen, just get yourself together, come Saturday I want that kid to sign with us, with you.”

Jae looked at him sheepishly. “If you don’t mind me asking what’s so important about him anyway?”

Bruce began to stroke his chin and thought for a moment then pointed at him. “His music is positive his message sincere, however if he truly wants to be famous he’ll have to abandon all of that and do what we say.” The young woman laughed and Bruce grinned. “And there’s nothing sweeter than corruption of the righteous.” The two began to laugh as Jae sank into his chair wondering what made him make any deals with this man and was it all worth it in the end.

The car pulled up to the Black Diamond recording studio, the doors flipped open and Bruce’s female companion slid out followed by the man himself. Jason ‘Jae’ Banks trailed apprehensively looking at the duo with a shamefaced contempt. They entered the building, whisked passed the night watchman with brief nods and entered the elevator to the basement below. The ride seemed to go on forever as the female shot lascivious glances at Jason causing his stomach to turn. Her name was Tatiana, was being the operative word she used to be a video girl who signed to Jason’s label a few years back she had come from North Carolina to the city to model. She was a nice down south girl with a nice body and a pleasant enough personality. Jason was pleased to find that her southern hospitality extended to the bedroom as well, she remained pleasant even after other girls came through. Then Bruce caught sight of her demanding that she be left to him and him alone. It wasn’t much skin off Jason’s back she’d ran her course he thought; at first at least, until one day after two months of her not coming to video shoots she turned up on Bruce’s arm at the grand opening of ‘On the Grind’. She had changed she wasn’t any less polite; however it was almost if it were just a memory of how she once behaved, like a tick she couldn’t get rid of. He swore if he looked hard enough he could see where the parts of her soul were stripped away and replaced with something else, something not at all human. That very week she was on the cover of several magazines and even posing for various make up and clothing ads, her dream had come true but was it worth whatever it had obviously cost her, was she even aware of what was going on he wondered?

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