I pull into the parking lot, driving my truck into an empty space. I throw the gear shifter into park and sit for a minute. The cigarette in my hand that I lit a minute ago still has a few drags on it. I rest my arm on the open window and finish it. It didn’t do anything for or too me, nothing much did anymore. Still I smoked them, perhaps a reminder of a time before… well, just before all of this. It also helped fit in sometimes, you’d be surprised what you can find out in a group of smokers; especially at a place like this.
I finished the last drag of the smoke and tossed it out the window. I hit the cranked the handle that rolled the window up and stepped out, locking the door as I did so. I looked up at the sign, Lucky’s Gentlemen Club. I’d started getting the dreams a few days ago, like usual. There was something preying on the downtrodden of this town and I was apparently the one to put a stop to it.
It was frustrating how often that happened.
So after a couple days of being unable to get a good night’s sleep I packed a bag, threw it in my truck, and headed here; to this small military town.
There’s something you’ve got to understand about military posts. Army bases in particular I guess. I really only had the experience with the Army towns. In a past life I’d had experience with Army bases and their outlying towns. I wouldn’t know for sure about the others but I’d guess it’d probably hold true for the Marines as well. There are a lot of similarities between a Marine and a Soldier, but you’d get a busted jaw for ever suggesting such a thing.
But I digress; I was talking about Army towns. Each base has one. It’s a collection of small shops and business that cater to Soldiers. Soldiers have a high amount of disposable income and a predilection towards the seedier things in life. Drive off an Army base in any direction and the three things you’re sure to hit are strip clubs, car lots, and payday loan places.
I said Soldier’s had a lot of disposable income, I never said they were smart; quite the opposite most times. They like to spend their cash and they like to spend it hard. These kids are usually between the ages of 18-22 and they’ve usually never had much in the way of work experience before. Suddenly they’ve cash and they’re looking to spend it. And they love their strippers.
I sigh as I push open the door, already pretty sure of what I’m going to find when I walk inside. And sure enough, I’m not disappointed. You’ve got your girl up on stage, trying to look interesting but failing more often than not. You’ve got the girls walking around the club floor, talking to the guys.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for strippers. You ever want to see a customer service expert at work, watch a talented stripper. They’ll either walk up to a customer or be approached by one, and they’ll hold their attention like a pro. Smiles that only sometimes don’t seem to reach their eyes, nodding at the right time, touching at the right time; they know how to sell their product. You can see it sometimes though. When the guy looks away and the smile slips for just a second. Sometimes you can see it.
Behind the bar you have a collection of Korean ladies, the middle aged one most likely being Mama, the one that takes care of the girls. A lot of guys come into strip clubs and spend a lot of time trying to get on the good side of the girls, impress them and whatnot. That’s a rookie mistake, it isn’t the girls you need to impress, it’s Mama. And the fastest way to impress Mama is make sure she knows your spending money. Not on the girls necessarily either, she expects that. No, you spend money on the bartenders, giving them tips, more than you really need to.
If a strip club’s Mama likes you, then you’re golden.
Yeah, I was a Soldier, I know my strip clubs.
Then you got your customers. In a strip club in an Army town you got two types of customers and it’s usually pretty easy to spot the difference. You got your locals and you got your Soldiers. The locals have been here forever, and they’ve probably been coming to the club for forever as well. They fit it like a used glove. And they carry themselves differently than Soldiers.
Soldiers are temporary, never going to be a permanent fixture at any place. One day the orders are going to come and they’re going to either deploy, change duty station, or get out of the Army. Any of those three things lead to them not being there anymore. So Soldiers are temporary, and they know it. They flash money, they talk loud, and they talk big.
That’s the other thing about Soldiers; most of them think they’ve got something to prove. Ninety percent of Soldiers don’t come from much. Most of them joined to get away from wherever it was they were and couldn’t see a better way to do it than signing up. They grew up watching their war movies, seeing their GI Joes, and have a preconceived notion of what it means to be a Soldier. You stick a rifle in their hands and make them work out all the time, and that just reinforces that notion. A lot of Soldier’s feel they’ve got to prove they’re the biggest and the baddest and they set about doing it any means necessary.
Locals don’t necessarily like this, which is understandable. What this sometimes leads to is a powder keg waiting to explode. And my senses went into high alert as soon as I entered the club. I handed the guy taking money at the door my two dollars and waited for him to strap the wrist band on my wrist. As soon as that was done with I shifted my body and started producing fear pheromones. Not strong enough to clear the building, but strong enough to keep people well away from me. Should have realized how that was a mistake, but I didn’t, not until later.
I made my way to a corner of the bar and stuck my five on the table. The Korean bartender took it and I ordered a coke, waving the change away. She had a conflicted look on her face, the pheromones I was producing were telling her she didn’t like me, but the money in her hand was telling her that she did. She brought me my coke and left me alone.
I turned and gazed around the club, trying to find what it was that brought me here. My dreams don’t take me places where I’m not needed. My senses don’t lie to me. It just doesn’t happen, much like I don’t get pleasure from nicotine or drunk from alcohol.
My gaze passed over one of the Soldiers and he caught it. His face look conflicted, something was wrong with me and he didn’t know what, just that it scared him. I continued past him, trying to find whatever it was that was feeding off these people. They’re there; you just have to know how to find them, or really, be able to find them. Most people don’t and can’t.
Fortunately for them, I’m not most people.
Unfortunately for me, I forgot one simple thing. Soldiers are trained to push past their fears. Soldiers are trained to confront their fears. Soldiers have something to prove.
Suddenly the guy who caught my gaze is standing in front of me, an angry look on his face.
“You got a problem mister?” he asked.
I shake my head and kick the pheromones up a notch, hoping to drive him away. Instead it has the opposite effect. Probably without even fully understanding why, he takes a swing at me.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been hit and it likely won’t be the last. I remember what it used to be like, being hit. It feels painful, it feels electric, and if you’re someone like I used to be it makes you feel alive. That rush you get when you realize you aren’t invincible.
Unfortunately for the Soldier punching me, that wasn’t necessarily true for me anymore; at least not that I was aware of.
My skin hardened without me even willing it, instinctual now. Keeping the color and texture it became as hard as diamond, the mass of my body increasing so that it wouldn’t even cause my head to move. I heard his hand break as it struck my face, without doing anything to me. The Soldier screamed and dropped to his knee.
There’s another fact about Soldiers at strip clubs, they rarely come alone, and they usually bring their battle buddies. So was the case here, three other Soldiers rose from their table and made their way over to me. I sighed, this wasn’t going well. I stood from my chair and cracked me neck and knuckles. Then I pointed and one of them, my hand making a fake gun, and shot him.
My body displaced the air, creating a sonic shockwave that knocked the Soldier on his ass. The other two stared at him in awe, then back at me. I heard a hiss from the stage. One of the stripper’s heels and all jumped off the stage and took off out an employee exit.
I cursed. Of course it was going to be one of the strippers. Who else would it be. I shifted my body again, reflecting the light in a way that it passed through me, causing a displacement like the Predator but otherwise leaving me mostly invisible and took after her. I busted through the back doors, the girls that were changing yelling in surprise and confusion.
The creature, a succubus likely, was heading out the back. I followed. Pumping muscle, energy, and strength into my legs I picked up to speeds far faster than a human can normally achieve. Unfortunately my quarry wasn’t human either. Still, I got myself going faster and eventually caught up to her. I tackled her from behind.
She hissed at me as I turned her over. Her fangs bit down on my arm and shattered. She screamed in pain. I shook my head and placed my hand on her forehead. Then I shifted it, my hand becoming a flaming spear of Hellfire. It consumed the creature, leaving a charred skeleton in its wake. I sighed and stood up off of the body.
I quickly made my way back to my truck and pulled out, quickly making my way out of town. A couple miles out I ditched it. I didn’t like having to do that, but it was what was needed. They’d be looking for me in it. I shifted my appearance, altering the bone structure of my face, my hair and eye color, my height, and suddenly I wasn’t the same man anymore.
I never was. Not for long at least.
Dammit, I really liked that truck.