Signs [True Detective]

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  • Published: 4 Jun 2014
  • Updated: 2 Jun 2014
  • Status: Complete
Vignettes about Rust, who keeps noticing repeating patterns during his life. A character study of sorts.

Warning - contains mention of drugs and death.
(It would be hard to write fic about this otherwise).

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Author's note: English is not my first language, so I'm sorry if you find any mistakes. I just wanted to get this thing out of my head and put it somewhere else.

 

****** 

February 1985, the sky is grey like asphalt. In one hand, Rust holds the groceries and in the other, he holds his wife's hand. Claire is wearing Rust's jacket, and she hums softly as they walk. They take their time, watching the scenery and the storefront displays. Then Claire pauses in front of a window with a glowing neon sign, the kind of building Rust doesn't look at twice. There are eyes and hands and small buddhas on the posters.

"AURA READINGS, NUMEROLOGY, PALM READINGS. FIND ANSWERS FOR EVERY QUESTION."

The pink letters blink.

"Do you think people really can tell the future?" she asks, looking at Rust over her shoulder.

"No," Rust answers. "Nobody can."

She looks down at the sky-coloured asphalt, then she lets go of Rust. "I'm curious. Do you want to...?"

Rust sighs. "It's bullshit. But if you want to, I can't stop you."

He shifts the plastic bags from hand to hand and follows her.

Inside the shop fake candles illuminate the crystals on the shelves alongside the tables and chairs all covered in purple cloth. There are oils and herbs and the low buzzing of a pair of speakers that haven't been turned off even though there's no music to be played. The whole place is cluttered, and Rust almost knocks a statue over. His wife has already found the shop's owner, a woman in her 40's. Her hair is greying, but her voice is strong and confident.

"Can I do anything for you?" she asks.  She has an accent. Rust notices how she exaggerates it, rolling the r's and drawing out the a's.

"A reading. I mean, I'd like a reading," Claise says. 

"Ah. Just you or both halves of the happy couple?

"My husband doesn't believe in it."

The woman turns towards Rust, who stands completely still. "You really shouldn't write it off like that," she begings. "You sure you don't want me to take a look at yiy? You have a peculiar energy about you... I will give you your first reading for free, how about that?"

"I wanna know," Claire says, placing one hand on her hip.

"It doesn't matter what I think, does it?" Rust tries to make it sound joking, but he's pretty sure Claire picks up on how annoyed he is. Just to get it over with, he sits down at the table.. "It's bullshit," he mutters again. Claire sighs, but the woman who now sits in front of Rust dosen't notice.

She closes her eyes and sighs theatrically. Her sharp fingernails trace over Rust's palm, following the lines. When she speaks, she draws out the words even longer than before.

"Hmm...You have quite the short lifeline..." She opens her eyes, staring straight at Rust. "But I see a healthy heart-line there, lots of happiness in love. And good luck, too, fate likes you." She inhales sharply as her nails dig into Rust's skin; "Whats that? Oh, dear... You need to be careful with family relationships. This line's all crooked, I'm afraid. There's a shadow upon you."

She lets go of him, and Rust withdraws his hand quickly.

"I can help, though," she offers. The woman leaves the table and returns a moment later with a box of amethysts and opals. They are shaped like hearts or polished into round stones. All gleam in the fake candlelight.

"A person with your destiny could use some of these energies," she explains, "Only 8.99. Even less for your girl."

Then Rust stands up. The chair screeches against the floor.

"I can give you a discount on oils, too. How's 3 dollars and -" Rust dosen't let her finish. He grabs Claire's hand and leads her outside without looking back.

"Satisfied?" he asks.

"Sure," Clarie says, and there's more than just a hint of annoyance in her voice.

"She was just trying to sell us stuff we don't need." Rust turns to look at the storefront again. "FIND ANSWERS", the sign says. The words blink and fade.

 

**********

 

The strobe lights inside the club are making Rust dizzy. All the better to make him stagger around and look more convincing as the drunk drug abuser he's supposed to be, of course, but he's still relieved when he gets past the stern guards and into the back room. Here, the lights are subdued, glowing green and blue on the ceiling. Here, he's Crash, not Rustin. He sits down on a sleek black sofa that smells like smoke and sweat, and seconds later, a man sits down beside him. He is thin and has hands with long fingers that move around constantly, creeping like spiders. There are a couple other people in the room: trusted dealers, a muscled enforcer, a blonde stripper and the leader, who stands surrounded by the others. Rust knows that he has to get closer to that man and his group. He has to be in the midst of things. So far, they trust him enough.

Before long, they are all gathered around the sofa.

"Let's talk business," the leader begins. He stretches his fingers.

He talks about shipments and state-borders and gangs. Areas, street-names, where it's safe to sell and what they're selling. Guns, too, are mentioned, warfare to come in the streets, but Rust doesn't want to ask too many questions. He wants to look capable. Instead, he memorizes everything that might be of importance - keeps things in mind long enough so that he can write them down when he comes home. He thinks of the hungry black ledger in his apartment.

Then, suddenly, the leader's voice dies out, and he sits straight up. He's done. One of the men chimes in instead, asking for a taste, payment, a break. 

Rust knows better than to refuse the drugs they pass around - it's a peace-offering, a gift of acceptance - and he watches the thin man make thin lines of white powder on the dirty table. Later, he regrets not asking what it is exactly, because the first thing that happens is that his vision gets fucked up and that has ever been a good sign.

He leans back in his seat as the walls sway around him, bulging ind and out like sails in the wind.

"That's the stuff," one of the men mutter, exhaling cigarette smoke into the air. Rust sees it coiling up and up and up. If he was dizzy before, he is absolutely nauseous and shaking now. He distracts himself from the way the room moves and the way the people around him twist and contort by looking down at the blessedly still floor.

He feels the drug affecting his brain (releasing increased amounts of dopamine and blocking monoamine oxidase enzymes from removing them from the synaptic gap -) and there's a strange emotion swelling inside him. This is the scary part, he thinks. From now, it either goes up or down. He looks at his hands -  the lines on his palms go round and round, wiggling in and out and through and under. The veins seem sickly blue and green in the club's light. His lifeline stretches from the first joint of his thumb to between his fingers.

For a moment, his mind wanders - as it is often does under these circumstances, like when he's drinking, - and it drifts towards the idea that maybe destiny is real and written in your hands. Maybe the woman with the accent was right. In that case he isn't staring at his life. His life has already been far too long, drawn-out, like his best days are behind him. He hasn't been lucky in love, his family's gone to shit - so maybe, he thinks, maybe it's a cruel joke. Maybe God placed his daughter's life in his hand so that every time he looks down he'll see the bitter end where the life- and heart-lines run parallel only to collide in a car crash.

There are no answers there.

Rust feels ill. He knows it's partly the drugs and partly the memory of the little girl on her tricycle. He stands up and goes to find the bathroom, deaf to the laughter from the men. He staggers. Then, leaning on the sink, he stares at his washed-out face in the mirror. And now it comes, fear washing over him in waves: the lights in the bathroom flicker and he sees something in the mirror, sees it move and then it's gone again. He feels as if someone – or that something – is right behind him, but he knows that it is useless to turn around.

He sees the yellow light out there in the distance outside the window and all the way back behind his reflection in the mirror. The light out in there in the mire and it is coming for him.

He wants to leave the bar.

 

*****

 

It's 2010 and Rust is ordering a drink while he waits. He dosen't want to get drunk, not yet, but he finds it helpful in those siturations. He's brought along his pens and notes and places them on the rough bar desk so it looks slightly more like a proffessional interview. Not that he gives a shit, it's more out of consideration for the interviewee. It doesn't take long before the person he's been waiting for shows up - an old man. He sits down next to Rust.

He gets a coffee and Rust gives him his hand and greets him. The man used to work for Tuttle, in one of his schools, and he still bears signs of it: shaking hands, eyes that dart back and forth. He has day-old stubble and smells of damp soil.

"What did you see?" Rust asks.

The man's voice is barely audible under the music and chatter at the bar, but its enough for the detective who has interviewed many suspects and witnesses under far worse circumstances. 

The man talks about hallways and classrooms and little boys with bright smiles. Girls, too, in light dresses or long skirts. He speaks of a teacher or two seen talking to the little girls, of a noise heard long after everyone should have left, of animal masks - and when he reaches that point, his voice trails off. Stops in the middle of a word. Then the man finds a ball-point pen from the pocket of his navy blue shirt.

"She might know more. Haven't spoken to her in years, though," he says, writing a number on Rust's hand. Rust looks at the writing while the man leaves - shaky letters, but readable.

He goes outside and up to his car to dial the number, ledger in hand. Numbers are important; that's why his ledger is full of them. His head, too. (Phone numbers, adresses, dates, it's all there even if it's getting harder to remember. Some people believe your date of birth describes you; Rust likes to look at the date of death).

The person who picks up is a girl, in her twenties by the sound of her voice, and she's very confused. The woman he's supposed to call has been dead for three years.

He crosses the name off of a list named "L" for leads and heads down the hill with his ledger.

He goes inside again, and this time he orders whatever they have that's strong. He rubs his eyes as a whiskey glass filled with with yellow liquid is set before him. It tastes sharp and bitter, and Rust drinks quickly - too quickly - and it spills over his hand. Not much, but just enough to make the ink swirl and run into a large, dark blue spot. When he moves his hand around, he can make it flow into a spiral before it dries.

 

*****

 

Nobody knows if it's the drugs of his youth, the alcohol or something entirely different that causes it. All that anybody knows is that Rust's body crumbles inwards on itself. He knows that his liver is fucked, his heart is fucked, his lungs can't go on for much longer and there is nothing he can do about it. He's dying, so he leaves town one morning, packed bags in the back of his truck and headed towards a little place that has once been a house where he used to live for a short while during the years of lonely investigation.

Martin visits him there, once.

Rust seems relieved, mostly. Already, he has lived longer than he expected. 

There are still notes on green monsters and black stars on the walls, but Rust doesn't look that way. A Louisiana river snakes slowly by, so he sits on the front porch in a lawn chair and watches and thinks an awful lot. He spends two weeks there, and he confides that he wants to die sober, to feel every step of the way with as much clarity as he can. The only thing he can't wear himself off is the painkillers, which also become the only reason he has to go into town. It's the girl at the counter in the drugstore who notices it first when he stops coming. She makes the police check on him, and they find him sitting in the lawn chair. He's dead, and if Marty was there, he'd have noticed the look of trembling fear in Rust's wide open eyes. There's a piece of paper crumbled up in his hand, and Martin would have noticed that, too.

But Martin only sees Rust again when his friend's eyes are closed and he is getting dressed for the funeral. The man who does this is small and friendly and hasn't even read the crumbled paper because it is a letter addressed to Marty. Marty knows this because if the man had opened the letter, he would have burned it or torn it to pieces or simply throw it away in disgust.

Marty reads it and manages to hold on to it.

There is one insight to be found there, one knowledge so profound and harsh, even for Rust, that it frightens Marty. Hundreds of conversations in dimly lit bars and shadowy places, hundreds of whispered sentences heard in the woods, hundreds of truths distilled into statements penned by Rust's calm hand. Rust writes about dreams he had where he saw places beyond stars and highways stretching into unknown darkness, a darkness that was yellow and gold. Marty is the only one who'd ever trust him since he's the only other person to have seen the hellish twisted ruins of almost-Carcosa. Marty is pretty sure that if Rust is anywhere now, it's there, but he prays that his friend's mind finds the nothingness he wanted.

When Martin drives home that night, the trees around the road seem to form a tunnel, and the next street light is always miles away, glowing yellow in the dark.

 

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