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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
    Westley D.
  • Author
  • 3,204 Words

Tuct Side - 8. Chapter 6

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

A Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

West, newly sixteen, almost couldn’t believe he was holding it in his hands, a birthday gift from Papa himself. Although, he knew he should never doubt his father’s methods. Being a rich and famous basketball celebrity included the perk of purchasing products that cost an arm and a leg without a sweat. And he had the camera he’s been thinking about since his recent dive into photography.

The family had returned home to Tuct Side after a two-week departure to the United Kingdom. However, West had yet to use the prized camera until just now, sometime a few hours into the afternoon after they got back. It only felt right to make the first click in his hometown. Though, he was starting to slightly regret that sentiment as his siblings jostled him around on his bed.

“Stop,” West demanded, trying to suppress his laughter as he turned the camera on and began tinkering.

Isaak, who had Ophelia swaying in his lap, went cheek to cheek with his little brother, his own blond hair tickling the other’s skin. “How do you even work this thing?”

Vanessa, on West’s left, went in for a closer look as well. “Lord, this looks complicated. Just stick to your phone.”

“Come on, Wezzie!” Ophelia reached over and pulled on West’s arm. “Take my picture!”

He couldn’t help but let out a couple of huffs of amusement. “Hold up, you crazies! I’m testing the lens out.”

“It’s exactly the same as your last camera!” his older brother complained.

“This one’s better.”

The blond wished Kaspar was present, but the redhead had retired to a fortnight-long slumber, a mix of the rush of being out of the country and the boring familiarity of Tuct Side settling him into a state of lethargy. It was the same for his little brother, Leonhard.

West loved his siblings, but moments like these shouldn’t be made with haste. Even if they were going to be immortalized into photographs.

“Calm down, Isaak,” Vanessa spoke, bunching up her darker golden locks into a ponytail. “It’s just like you and parties. They’re all the same, but you insist the next one is better than the last.”

Isaak narrowed his blue-green eyes at her. “That’s a terrible comparison. Parties are a little thing called fun. Something you wouldn’t know anything about, Mrs. Bookworm.”

“Books are fun, college reject,” she retorted. “Also, Mrs.?”

“Yeah. Your nose is buried so far into the curves of the pages, it looks like your swapping spit with ‘em. That and you’re never seen without one. And you’re going into college this year.”

“I could say the same thing about you and alcohol, Drinker.”

Drinker. Isaak’s given nickname not just for the amount of beer he would consume at parties, but for having the greatest number of swishes during his career on the court in high school.

“I don’t-”

“Can we take the picture now!?”

Ophelia’s demand snapped them out of their soap opera. It was hilarious being present for one of Isaak and Vanessa’s legendary arguments. They were closer in age, only being a year and a half apart, so they had much to spew out at each other.

“Alright, alright, alright!” West breathed out through chuckles. “Chill out! I’ll do more fiddling later.”

Vanessa screwed up in disgust. “You did not just say ‘fiddling.’

“So, that’s why you like cameras?” Isaak smirked and elbow-nudged his little brother. “I knew you had a freaky fetish, little bro.”

“Where’s the stash, Florida?” his older sister giggled.

West shrugged them off. “Shut up, weirdos.”

He got up and aimed the lens at the rest of his room.

“Wezzie!” Ophelia bounced irritably on Isaak’s thigh. “You’re supposed to take a picture of us!”

West smiled at her to ease her down. “I know, Fifi! I know! Let me just take a quick video.”

So impatient.

He finally pointed the camera at them. “Okay, then. Let’s get started. Isaak? Vanessa? Start arguing again.”

I’m sorry I’m time-skipping so much.

I’m just trying to get in the important things that happened that summer without adding in too much unnecessary fluff. For now, you’ll be getting some personal accounts and interviews alongside the depicted story, but I have a whole lot more to show you. That is if you don’t know what went down all those years ago.

It’s just a bit too much to throw in right now, but stay tuned because we can only go deeper from here.

And I don’t think we’ve even begun to dig yet.

Saturday, July 16th, 2012

Football wasn’t much of a thing as basketball in Tuct Side, but that didn’t mean the sport was enjoyed any less. Patriot High football practice began mid-summer, and the football team was currently on a charter bus to St. Declán Catholic School for their field, seeing as how their own turf was being “clean-sweeped” at the moment.

West and Justin, wide receiver and linebacker respectively, sat next to each other near the back, the latter bopping and mumbling to some rap song through his earphones while the former watched in amusement.

West shook his head as he stared on. “Do you ever run outta energy, dude?”

The brunette had been dancing in place for fifteen minutes straight.

Justin took out his right earphone and glanced at his friend. “Wuzzat?”

“You’ve been dancing like that since we got onto the bus. I’m bouncing in my seat and we haven’t run over that many speed bumps.”

“Bro, it’s football practice in the early summer morning,” the taller boy laughed. “Vacation ends today for us. So, why not just get myself into a good mood before the torture starts?”

That… actually didn’t sound like a bad idea.

“Well, when you put it like that…” West snatched the right earphone from Justin and placed it in his ear. He closed his eyes and nodded along to the beat, occasionally reaching up to push the earpiece back in due to his buddy’s rollicking.

Five minutes later, West heard someone call his name. He opened his eyes and leaned forward to catch the gray eyes of Scott Gavin, the team’s running back. “Yo, Flo! When are you finishing your match with Wildwood, man?”

Henry Kessler, a brawny junior who shared the position of a linebacker with Justin, pitched in with an excited grin. “Yeah! It was fuckin’ intense!”

West shrugged as he answered. “I mean, other than time, I haven’t really seen the Wildwood guys around. It’s been weeks.”

“They’re not too hard to find,” Scott scoffed dismissively. “They're always hanging around their insane asylum for a school, I think.”

“You heard why that place was shutting down, right?”

Senior star quarterback Nathan Cassell piped up from the seat behind West. Next to him sat his twin brother, Vinny, the quiet type in contrast to his brother’s garrulous nature.

West looked over at him. “No. Why?”

“They’ve been getting threats. Like, actual death threats, man.”

That was it?

“And that’s enough to get the school shut down? Death threats from some idiot kid?”

It’s happened before at Patriot High. Some dumbass freshman who thought they were being funny. Of course, they were expelled, and it gave the rest of the student body an extra day on fall break.

“But it wasn’t a kid, dude. That’s the tricky part,” Nathan wagged his finger. “It would’ve probably made news for a bit, then, that would be it, but since then, nothing happened at all. Why isn’t half of the world talking about this?”

Justin shrugged, answering, “It’s high school, my guy.”

Vinny chose this time to speak up, facing up from his phone to state, “A lot of shit is happening under the covers, man,” he scratched at his dirty blond hair. “I dunno.”

“What do you mean?” West asked.

“Well,” Nathan took over, “we’ve heard rumors that… we’re all being watched.”

A beat of shocked silence went by before Scott broke it.

“W-Woah. Really?”

“And what sci-fi channel did you get this from?” Justin lifted an eyebrow at the quarterback, seemingly skeptical.

“I’m serious, man! Not like aliens or some dumb crap like that. I mean, like, hidden cameras or… or audio recordings.”

“So, they could be listening in right now?” Scott’s head swiveled around as if searching for evidence of recording devices.

“Probably,” Vinny replied, his twin nodding along with him.

“Don’t know all the details, but my mom’s a cop. They gossip, too.”

West ruminated on the conversation. He had forgotten to ask his mother if she talked with Auntie Kar or her school board friend, but it appears he’s learned enough this morning. A school shooting threat took down a school like Wildwood, an outside – or inside – force is watching the citizens of Tuct Side, and the police know some of what’s going on.

The basketball captain felt his fingers twitch, wishing he had his camera with him. The prospect of a mystery within his small town sent thrills down his spine, and he needed to document as much as he could so he could piece the puzzle together.

“So, Cynthia’s getting married.”

He was snapped out of his reverie by Justin’s statement. The familiar name in the same sentence as “married” had his green eyes widening in astonishment.

“Shit. Seriously? Don’t tell me she was…”

“No. My parents didn’t force this one, but they’re ecstatic all the same. It hasn’t even been a month since she started seeing the chap. White, blond… well, basically, you, but Christian.”

Cynthia Shoemaker – Justin’s adult cousin on his father’s side. His close friends have only had a couple of run-ins with her, but she was a cool, easygoing chick and yards apart from the overbearing religious zealots that were Robert and Jenna Shoemaker.

Though, to hear she was getting married at the age of twenty-two? One would think she was pressured into the act by her own parents, which seemed highly unlikely.

“Bro!” Henry exclaimed. “My older twin sisters are getting married, too! Twins, just like them.”

“My aunt is, also,” Scott’s brows furrowed. “Weird, right? The first date, she said they were already talking kids.”

A few other boys chipped in as well, from their grandmother to their slightly younger sister soon to be united in wedlock.

West blinked in surprise. “And they all live in Tuct Side, right?”

All nodded.

Glaringly strange.

“Does Vanessa have a honey?” Justin asked him.

“Hell no. Her standards are higher. Or so she says.”

“She is a bookworm.”

West rolled his eyes, but smirked, nonetheless. “Hush up, party animal.”

They arrived at St. Declán not long after. The Catholic school wasn’t a big building and had a lesser number of students enrolled, which could be chalked up to the ginormous tuition. From back to front and with a tiny chapel on the side, it was a pretty edifice to look at, but West has seen better in his opinion. Most specifically Patriot High.

As the football team dug for their equipment in the bus’s storage, the blond remembered a discussion he and his parents had the moment he got his license. In their mind, he was becoming an adult, and since Isaak nearly screwed up his life, they were going to go tough on Vanessa and West so his mistakes wouldn’t be repeated.

“You have any jobs in mind?”

Justin gave him an inquisitive glance. “Jobs? As in… wasting eight more hours of my life expending precious energy just for seven dollars and a quarter?”

“Not a nine-to-five. Lazy. Just a weekend job. A few hours at the most.”

The brunette froze for a second to think, then shrugged. “Try work-study. Finn does it.”

“Can’t,” West shook his head. “I’m not the right type of student.”

Justin pondered for another minute before finally responding. “I’ve heard my mom mention the Tuct-In children group home had a few vacancies when she went to visit. Being a small-town basketball star could get you the inning you need. The kids will have stars in their eyes.”

The idea was appealing. And West was good with kids. He had Ophelia to thank for that. He spoiled her silly.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll think on that,” the blond fist-bumped Justin’s shoulder. “Thanks, J-Dog.”

The taller boy gave him cutesy smile in return. “Anything for my little Flower Boy.”

West laughed. “Lucky for me, I’m starting to like that name.”

“Mein Gott, du bist heute unruhig. Was football not enough for you?”

As Kaspar drove his father’s old convertible, West sat in the passenger’s seat with his new camera out, aiming at the lines of houses on the western side of town. They had been driving aimlessly for over thirty minutes, talking about the mundane and the interesting even while West snapped pictures and recorded footage. It was at this moment Kaspar chose to bring up West’s new habit.

“That was physical energy,” the blond scoffed. “Photography is primarily mental.”

“Mental? You just gotta take a quick picture.”

“Yeah, but it depends on the timing, place, lighting, subject matter, etcetera. Plus, I’m videoing, too. So, that’s another challenge in of itself.”

It sounded like he was joking, but the serious intonation in his voice suggested otherwise. Still, Kaspar shook his head, his lip curling in amusement.

“You and your exaggerations. What’s your dad gonna say? He seems pretty confident you’ll turn out to be a major basketball legend.”

The redhead expected his cousin to go quiet in thought, but to his surprise, West just shrugged.

“It’s nothing to worry about. In all likelihood, basketball will always come first. So, I’ll stick with that. Though, just in case things don’t work out, I got my handy camera to pave the way to success. Or at least earn some kind of living. For now, I’ll let the court lead me.”

A mixture of envy and pride in his best friend and cousin manifested itself in Kaspar’s eyes and smile. West already had his own life figured out while Kaspar hadn’t even found a starting point.

“I like the way you think, cuz. And I’m not knocking on your hobbies or anything. At the very least, you won’t be trapped in this town. I’m starting to realize that happens often.”

“Speaking of which, have you heard-”

Above the engine of the convertible, the two boys heard the strumming of a guitar further down the left of a three-way street. Both looked out Kaspar’s side to find a crowd gathering around the garage at the fourth bungalow down. Alongside the guitar and the bits of voices conversing was the tapping of drums, however, the one responsible for the percussions was too far back in the garage to be seen. Although, upfront and center stage, jamming away on an acoustic guitar behind a microphone, was Neil Morterero.


Kaspar shook his head and grumbled, “This town really is too small.”

Even from where they were, West could tell that Neil was exceptional on the string instrument. It made him wonder what type of music the lightning-eyed boy liked. As far as the blond knew, he was usually irate. Metal, maybe? The microphone indicated Neil was going to start singing.

Hold on. Can Neil sing?

“Pull over,” West muttered the demand.


“Drive up slow, at least?”

Kaspar huffed in exasperation. “Christus, Westford! I just said I liked the way you think! Now, you got me retracting that statement in record time!”

“Excuse me…” the team captain mumbled before stumbling out of the car.

“West-” the cheering of the crowd cut him off as the two instruments kicked up a notch in volume. “Ugh!” he slapped the steering wheel before turning the car off. “Westford Kuttner!”

“Chill out, Mom, this’ll be quick,” West assured him with a simple smile, to which his cousin snorted, but stayed silent and put.

West jogged over to the assembly, making sure to remain hidden behind the others. He reckoned his presence would throw Neil off his game. Even though, the noirette seemed immersed in his playing. The crowd was made up of young and old, most likely neighbors and local kids, similar to the audience that witnessed the intense match between them. And now that he was up close, he was able to see the drummer. West recognized the lanky, tall form and wavy, blond-dyed hair.

The one named Shaun, most likely.

The garage they were in also appeared to be a personal gym, weights, machines, and a couple of exercise balls stuffed toward the back of the room.

West lifted his camera and started recording the live performance. He wasn’t too out of place. Others have already begun savoring a piece for themselves with their phones. Neil and Shaun were nothing short of amazing for a couple of teenagers. Despite their only being two instruments in use, it sounded like actual music. The crowd seemed to agree with that sentiment judging by their hoots and heaps of appraisal.

But that was nothing compared to when Neil finally started singing.

“In my shadow!”

West’s jaw dropped, nearly dropping his camera.

“My shadow! Change is coming through my shadow!”

The blond knew the song very well. It was one of his favorites. However, it was Neil’s voice that had him gawking in awe.

“My shadow’s… shedding skin! I’ve been pickin’… my scabs again!”

Gruff. Husky. Low and grave despite being sung in a higher pitch. All of a sudden, West’s heart beat faster, each pump sending a wave of the unnamed sensation throughout his mind and body. The stirring got stronger when Neil took the time to place the guitar down and peel off his gray shirt. He wore an A-shirt underneath, revealing scarred, muscular arms that were connected to broad shoulders and well-built traps. His torso was hidden, but his pectorals strained against the white fabric of his shirt. The bruise under his collarbone was gone, showing off more of the paleness of his skin.

Neil Morterero was a Hunk.

West felt his own skin heat up regardless of the maroon short sleeve he was wearing. His tongue suddenly becoming too big for his mouth. It was a similar feeling to the night of the party when he and Kaspar were with those girls.

However, this was something more. Something deeper. His heart had never beat this fast before.

West didn’t know how long he stood there in a trance, but he soon shook himself out of it, stopped recording, and slinked back down the street, speed-walking away to Neil’s husky voice.

“I've been crawling on my belly, clearing out what could've been.”

He reached the convertible safely and sat back in silently.

“Got enough video for your spank bank?” Kaspar taunted.

West’s mind was still in another world. “Uh, yeah.”


“What? What did you say?”

It was quiet for a second before the redhead dismissed his joke with a head shake.

“You probably don’t want to hear this, but I’m worried about you, West.”

The blond forced out a light laugh. “At least we both know one of us is okay.”

Kaspar chuckled, successfully lightening the mood. Even when West’s head was in a fog.

Copyright © 2021 Westley D.; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Wow a death threat serious enough to close down a school? And their school is under the same threat? My first reaction is does it have something to do with the people in the car with the really dark tinted windows in a earlier chapter.

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I’m curious about all the behind-the-scenes rumors, myself. If the town is being observed Big Brother style and events have been orchestrated to some extent, it makes me think of experimentation in social engineering and the like. Tuct Side is so obviously split between the “haves” and the “have nots,” someone pulling the strings wouldn’t surprise me. Why though?

Death threats are one thing, but these were apparently serious enough to permanently shutter a school. It doesn’t make sense. Unless it’s part of a larger plan to ... I don’t know ... make an already volatile situation worse by forcing a collision between the two student bodies. Rivals from Wildwood and Patriot suddenly crowded under the same roof?

And all the marriages!

Whatever is going on, it’s Machiavellian ...

At least West’s attraction to Neil is pretty straightforward. A bad boy with music in his soul and a voice you want to hear growling naughty things in your ear. That I understand. Fingers crossed it’s mutual and it remains uncomplicated as they’re given a chance to explore it. 

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The more I read this story, the more I think about the series Riverdale. All the mystery and conspiracy... Ugh! 

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