Chapter 5:"Memories Of A Mythlore"
Peyton Hughes was a young hotshot journalist, who had risen from the dark obscure abyss of witty advice columns for amateur newspaper outlets to the covering of some of the biggest events in New Devon's social circuit, including the anticipated filming of the new spaghetti western blockbuster, "Bensalem," an historic masterpiece based on true events that was initiating principal photography in the area. The story jumped her up the journalism ladder several notches and before she knew it, she was getting invites from the local news network, a popular gonzo journalist magazine, and even one from CNN about an internship opportunity. But instead of taking advantage of her choices, Peyton declined them, stating that she wasn't planning to make any large career decisions until she completed what she considered to be her magnum opus. This was going to be her very own "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test;" it would be the book that she was sure had the potential to usher in a new age of journalism. Her book was titled "Memories of a Mythlore: The Personal Accounts of an Integrated Middle Class Neighborhood." Her work of literary journalism detailed the racial tension in a neighborhood shared by humans and mythlores, complete with acts of violence on either side, frequent theft, gross accusations, heated interviews, and much more. There was so much potential in the story, but what she knew would catch people the most was her writing and delivery, her knack for language. She'd spent months after her investigation touching up the small stuff, proofreading, rewording and paraphrasing, just to get it as perfect as she possibly could. If anything, she was most excited for the impending movie deal that could come out of it. It would be the next "Dog Day Afternoon" or "Saturday Night Fever," both films originating from journalist articles. Once Random House, Inc agreed to publish it and make it available for the entire world to read, it was only a matter of time before things took off.
....In the wrong direction. The book, without a doubt, gained a lot of attention in the coming months after its release. Unfortunately, it was all specifically negative. "Memories of a Mythlore" was heavily panned by critics and readers for one specific reason: ignorantly biased writing. It was highly apparent that Peyton had written the book from the point of view of a human, depicting the humans of the neighborhood as the victims and the underdogs, while the mythlores were characterized as villains. She had even been accused of distorting many events, particularly by those involved, and also threatened with legal action by some for defamation of character. The biggest problem most had with the writing was that it showed how severely misinformed Peyton had been. It indicated that she had never been in contact with a mythlore in her life. And this was pretty much true. She had grown up in an average all-human small town, attended a local journalism school void of mythlore students, and lived a life mostly separate from that part of society all together. It wasn't that she was in any way prejudice against mythlores, at least she thought she wasn't. However, many people who read "Memories of a Mythlore" came to the conclusion that she was just....well, stupid. The passages of the book were rife with mentions of stereotypes that were so long outdated, it was as if Peyton had lived in the days before the Great Mythlore Unveiling over a hundred years ago. It detailed her shock of discovering that vampires could walk during the day and that the "werewolves" didn't change form during a full moon one night at a neighborhood block party. The stereotypes went on and on.
It went without saying that many of the doors she'd opened up for herself in the past were closed right in her face following the release of her book. Her lack of true research into the culture and lifestyles of the mythlore population, whether for the benefit of the book or for general knowledge, warranted many to write her off as an amateur rather than the professional journalist she had originally been percieved as. Peyton attempted to regain a little of her dignity by publicly disowning the book, but it was at a lost cause. It was a shame that at the tender age of 22, when her life and career were just beginning to blossom, she had now been blacklisted out of any future endeavor she dreamed of pursuing. She thought that this book would jumpstart her career with a bang, but instead, she'd shot herself in the foot with it.
Rock bottom finally hit when she was invited to become part of the writing staff of Human News of Today,on the HEAT Network, smack in the middle of the controversy surrounding the network's funding by a secret mythlore-hate group. When it was leaked that she had been recruited to join the network, it was used as further evidence against them that they had attempted to "hire a young bigoted reporter and take advantage of her notoriety by using her tiny misinformed brain to further spread their message of hate," as provocative mythlore talk show host, Crystal Odom, put it. In the wake of the accusations against her and the network of which she hadn't even been affiliated with yet, she became the target of an assassination attempt during an outing at a peace rally that she had been attempting to cover, as a (rather poor) means of redeeming herself. Shots were fired in her direction, scattering the crowd. A bullet made its way into her calve and she had been forced to limp away from the scene. Because it was a rally populated solely by mythlores and human sympathizers who knew her face, no one made any effort to see that she seek immediate medical attention. By the time she walked several miles to the closest hospital in the middle of the pouring rain, her leg had become so mangled and rife with bacteria from the dirt and acid rain water (she'd fallen several times on her way there and the water of the puddles soaked into the ripped t-shirt she'd wrapped around the wound), that she was informed it would have to be amputated.
A year had passed since Peyton had become infamous, and now she was living with a prostetic right leg and struggling to make ends meet with her only outlet being insurance checks and the only local newspaper that would take her, "The Allsborough Tribune," who only agreed if she created a pen name/alias and submitted all of her articles anonymously. Her book had only recently been out of print, but despite the drama circulating it, it had failed commercially and put Random House in a rather large rut during the year that it was published. The money that she did make from it had already been drained out by apartment rent. It was truly amazing and sad how far short she'd fallen of her initial expectations. Had she known that her "magnum opus" was going to single handledly ruin her career and life, it was obvious that she would have taken the opportunities set for her and abandoned the book completely. Now she was facing the consequences of her actions.
It was that afternoon that she'd made the first bold decision in her life since the incident: she'd decided to go out in public. Up until recently, she'd payed a friend to run errands for her and became a total recluse, holding herself in her apartment, conducting her research solely through book and article scavenging and phone calls, introducing herself under her alias, Elvira Moore. Now, after being fed up with not being able to show her face, she had decided to step out of her apartment for the first time in months and walk the streets of North Allsborough by herself. It wasn't easy; as she took the bus, she could see that she was still being recognized by many of the passengers, who turned and whispered among one another as they stared. She ignored them. Stay strong, Peyton, she kept saying to herself. Don't show them that you're weak.
Peyton had just finished her latest piece on a new New Devon History Museum opening up on Roman Chapel Street in the coming weeks and was told to mail it in to the offices of the Allsborough Tribune whenever she finished it. This was standard procedure for all of articles she submitted ot them. Instead of following the same pattern as always, she was now traveling to the office to hand it in personally this time. She knew she would receive a lot of flack for it, but at this point, she couldn't care less what they would think. This was a personal choice she was making and she had already talked herself out of it many times before, so she wasn't planning to let others do what she couldn't even do herself.
When the bus let her off at the stop across the street from the Tribune's office, she walked inside and prepared to meet the gazes of each employee she passed. When she entered, the woman at the front desk gave Peyton such a terrified look that she might as well have been carrying a twelve-gauge shotgun in plain view with her.
"I'm looking for Grady Finley," Peyton said harshly, when she approached the desk.
"Uh, he's in his office upstairs," the receptionist stuttered as Peyton walked past her and into the offices in the back. The receptionist almost looked as if she were about to say something to stop Peyton from going in, but her hesitation prevented her from speaking. When Peyton entered the offices, she could see out of the corner of her eye that many of them were looking up from their work to give her the curious looks she had anticipated. She made her way up the stairs and to the back room where the Paper's Head Editor, Grady Finley, currently resided. She held on to the folder containing her piece tightly to her chest as she walked by, ignoring the watchful eyes and silently daring one of them to stop her. When she reached Mr. Finley's office, she didn't even bother knocking, but instead, opened the door and stormed in, much to Mr. Finley's surprise.
"What the hell is this?" exclaimed the elderly man in his late 60's, grey hair and wrinkles greeting his appearance like an annoying old friend.
"I've got your piece on the museum," Peyton said simply, holding up the folder and tossing it down on Mr. Finley's mohagany desk. "I decided to drop it by in person."
"I thought we had an agreement."
"And how exactly does walking into your office and dropping something off reduce the integrity of your paper, Finley? It doesn't immediately say that you're affiliated with me and I didn't see any paparazzi following me on my way here, so it's fine."
"You don't get it, do you?" Mr. Finley said sternly. "We don't have to publish any of your articles in our paper at all, do you understand? We're the only one willing to give you work. We're taking a risk by letting you write for us as it is. You should be grateful for the opportunity and not taking any chances at soiling our good name."
"With all due respect, Mr. Finley, this was a personal choice of mine."
"So you admit that you did not put the Tribune's best interest first or in thought at all?"-
"I did put the Tribune's best interest first. Its been a year since I released my book and I don't care how much people hate me, I still need to live my life. I still need to continue living and making money to survive, so I need work. I would imagine the public understands that, even if they don't care. So do you think people are really going to stop buying your paper just because I'm writing one column for it."
"Yes, I do think that. In fact, I know that. People are going to question our code of conduct in our decision to let you write for us. You just said it yourself, they don't care. They don't care about anything but credibility and honesty, and the simple fact that you're writing for us under a pen name for the sake of secrecy destroys both for us. It shows them that we knew you were trash and we still took you in."
"So that's really what you think of me?" Peyton said raising an eyebrow with offense. "I'm trash, huh?"
"I'm speaking through the point of view of the public, Peyton. I'm telling you why you need to be more careful."
"I've been 'careful' for the last three months. To be perfectly honest, I figured it would be okay to show my face. I thought the world might be more forgiving than this, but I guess not. I mean, how long will I have to go through this?"
"For the rest of your life, I'm afraid," Mr. Finley admitted. "I'm sorry to say this, Peyton, but you've got a record now. You should know better than anyone that the world doesn't just forgive and forget and it never has. Its more likely that they might, depending on who you are and what you've done. Unfortunately, you chose the one career where mistakes like the one you made are almost 100% unforgiveable. With that said, you're young and you came fresh out of the box making a huge blunder, so people who didn't even get the chance to formulate a perception of you automatically wrote you off as nothing. I wish I could say there was a chance that you might wipe the slate clean but....unless you move to some far away country where no one knows who you are and start doing journalism there, I don't think you have a chance at redeeming yourself. Now I'll help you out the best I can, because I'm a nice guy, but as it stands now, I won't be putting you on another story for the next few months."
"What?!" Peyton exclaimed, laying her hands on Finley's desk, leaning forward, and staring at him angrily. "You don't understand. I need a new story every few weeks to pay for food and rent. You can't just stop me"-
"I actually can. You can't be affiliated with us for some time, lest someone catch on to you now that you've decided to show up here. If they discover that 'Elvira Moore' is actually you, it will ruin us."
"I don't think you heard me just now. I NEED the money"-
"That sounds like a personal problem. Why don't you try getting another job or something?"
"Finley, think for a minute. I'm still Peyton Hughes. I will always be Peyton Hughes, no matter where I go. This thing will always come back to me. Nobody anywhere is going to hire me, no matter what the job. Journalism is my life, its the only thing I know how to do, and this Paper is my last outlet."
"Its the last outlet for all of us if you show your face in here again. Now please leave before I have security escort you out."
In a fit of anger, Peyton shoved a stack of books off of Finley's desk and stormed out. "Fuck you, Finley. I hope you get what you wanted, because I won't be back." Peyton slammed the door to the office and Finley took a sigh of relief. Suddenly, the door opened again and Peyton leaned back into the room. "By the way, I want my check for that article."
"Whatever," Finley said, waving her off as Peyton once again slammed the door behind her. Before long, the door opened once again.
"You know what?" Peyton said strolling slowly towards the desk. "I'm going to give you one more chance to take me back. If you refuse, I don't think I will be able to hold my tongue any longer and I will probably end up telling someone about my employement with you. You can either take the risk and give me more work or let it all go downhill from here."
"Or I can just say you wanted a job here and we declined and had you thrown out on your ass by security, then you proceeded to make ridiculous claims against our paper out of spite."
"What happens when I tell them that Elvira Moore isn't real?"
"I suggested the name, remember? Because I know an Elvira Moore with whom I went to school with. I did that so that if I needed to, I could just call her up and credit her for your articles."
"How do you know I don't have a watermark on the pages in that article tracing it back to me?"
"Because you just thought of this idea to turn your employement against me approximately fifteen seconds ago."
"Think again," Peyton said slyly, a smirk slowly forming on her face.
Finley looked off for a moment and looked back at Peyton. "I thought again....and I still call bullshit. Even if you were serious, we don't necessarily NEED your article anyway, I have a back-up one to take its place. Its probably decidedly better."
Peyton glared at Finley, who smiled innocently in response. It seemed as if she had once again made poor judgment in her decision to show her face. Maybe it actually was too soon. Despite realizing her mistake, she wasn't about to show it as she turned and began to head out of the room for the last time.
"Don't expect me to come back."
As Peyton headed out of the offices, she took a turn from the exit and slipped into one of the bathrooms instead. She wasn't quite ready to leave yet. Why? She couldn't place it if she tried, but she wasn't quite ready just yet to admit defeat. As stubborn as she was and as stubborn as she knew she was, she couldn't just give up. If anything, she needed to make peace with the situation and accept it on her own terms, so she wouldn't be leaving until that was accomplished. At least then she would be able to walk out with some dignity.
As she headed in, she walked to the sink and turned on the faucet, splashing water on her face lightly. When she was done, she wiped her face with her shirt and looked at herself in the mirror, but at that exact moment, something dark flashed out of the corner of her eye by the window. She turned to it, but suddenly it disappeared. All that was out there was a single tree branch that scraped across the window from the blowing wind outside. Must have been a bird or something, she thought to herself. She turned back to the mirror and stared into her own large green eyes with contempt. She tried to smile but found it difficult to even lift her cheek bones and finally stopped when she found it pointless to resist. She ran her fingers through her silk red hair and took a deep breath before stepping out of the bathroom. This is only a phase in my life, she contemplated. Just a small step to the rest of it. I've hit rock bottom, so it can only go up from here.
Peyton left the building and headed down the sidewalk, making her trek across the block back to the bus station to wait for the bus that would take her back to her apartment. As she turned the corner, she made her way down the empty road by the Tribune's offices that was void of passing cars and surrounded by tall pine trees on either side. The sidewalk ended here and started back around the corner just down this road. As she continued onward, a figure walked out from the woods to her right and stepped in the middle of her path, causing her to draw back and gasp in surprise.
"I'm sorry," the man apologized, almost purposely trying to look shady. He was African American, wearing a pair of sunglasses and a thin fitting purple and black striped hoody with a tanktop under it but was also wearing a pair of dress khakis, like the kind of pants that would go with a two-piece suit. Under all of this, he was sporting a pair of work boots. His hood was up and he spoke smoothly with a clear deep voice. "Didn't mean to startle you."
"Its fine," Peyton said, looking him up and down and swallowing hard. She didn't want to seem racist or anything, but he was cornering her on a street where there were no witnesses with the most untrustworthy demeanor she could ever encounter. There was no denying the bad feeling she got from him. "Can I help you?"
"Yes," he said, smiling a smile that would otherwise appear charming, had he not been speaking in a near whisper and checking his surroundings suspiciously. He spoke with an articulation that was defined and sharp, putting emphasis on every phrase of the words he spoke but without having a particular accent in his speech. "My name is Claude. I was wondering if I could borrow some money for the bus. It seems my only transfer has expired and I have no other way of getting back home. I only need 75 cents."
"I only have enough for myself," Peyton muttered quickly, shifting herself foward slightly to subtlely let it be known that she was in a hurry. "I'm sorry I can't help."
As she started to move past Claude, he stepped in front of her again. "Surely such a fruitful young woman like yourself would be able to spare a small amount. Just to help a poor fellow out. I'll be content with just a quarter."
Peyton chuckled nervously. "I don't know what I must look like to you but trust me, I am not fruitful. I'm actually struggling at the moment and I've got somewhere to be right now, so excuse me."
Claude moved his hand in front of her as she tried once again to pass him and pushed her back roughly, his eyes meeting hers as his stare transformed into a glare. "You shouldn't be in such a hurry." Claude lifted his hand and yanked the pair of sunglasses off of his face, tossing them into the road to reveal a set of bright yellow eyes. Werewolf, she thought to herself. Werewolf assassin. He wants to kill me because of the book. The corners of Claude's mouth lifted themselves like they were being risen by hooks as he displayed a sinister grin, the canines of his teeth dropping quickly and the hair under his hoody poking out around his neck. Without warning, he launched forward and grabbed for Peyton's shoulders, stretching his neck out to bite down on hers. His clawed fingernails dug into her arms, nearly immobilizing her, but she was quick enough to yank her silver ring from her finger and press it against his eye. Smoke rose on contact and the wolfman drew back, howling in pain. With her attacker incapacitated, Peyton rushed into the woods, screaming at the top of her lungs for help with virtually no one around to hear. Claude pressed his hand against his eye and wiped away the burnt skin over his eyelid before looking up into the forest where Peyton was now fleeing.
He grinned once again and the surface of his goatee molded into the form of a snout. "I love it when they give me a chase," he snarled before bolting after her on all fours.