Man vs. Nature: Chapter Four

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 Ducky's eyes lit up as Priya explained why 'Man versus Nature,' had to open on Halloween. They were still in the basement of the Hub pub, but the Digital Ninjas had finally given Priya the floor.

"I want to put it in the cemetery," said Priya.

"Like the perfect horror movie," said Ducky.

"How's that?" said Priya.

"You're choosing a familiar place, except after your show, when people go there, they'll expect beasts to leap out at them."

"Any Stephen King fan can tell you that," said one of the Ninjas.

"Yeah, but his stories aren't set in Canada," said Ducky. "I want to make horror local. If Priya's art can make this little town feel dangerous, that's a lot scarier than Hollywood."

"Don't knock Hollywood," said the Ninja. "Who's gonna pay for your movie?

"Hollywood can keep it's money. Horror is an extreme expression of identity," said Ducky.

"Who'll see it if you're not in theatres?" said the Ninja.

"Forget theatres," said Priya. "Can we get back to my installation?"

She started brainstorming ways to incorporate cameras and video screens into her piece. The other Ninjas knew their stuff, but when Ducky started tacking a storyboard onto the wall, Tonya was hooked. Somehow this crazy guy was going to turn horror movies into Art, and Priya's Art into video.

They argued camera angles, lighting and equipment, until Priya's stomach growled in a beastlike fashion. "Excuse me," she said.

 "We're all hungry," said Ducky. "We've been at it for hours."

Tonya hadn't felt the time pass.

"Who wants pizza?" asked Ducky.

There were cheers and the Ninjas waved money in the air as Ducky collected funds. "Get a pitcher of draft too," he told a fellow Ninja.

Tonya's stomach was burbling. The thought of pepperoni and melting cheese elicited stabs of hunger pain, as if she hadn't eaten all day. Had it really been so long since she and Priya grabbed fries, on the way back from collecting her boxes? She put a hand on the wall to steady herself. Her legs felt weak. "I have to go," she told Priya.

"Aren't you going to stay for dinner?"

"Sorry." Priya and the others couldn't understand her fear of the 'freshman fifteen.' What for them would be a few extra pounds from pizza and beer, would be doom for Tonya, who was finally approaching a healthy weight. She headed up the stairs, determined to leave before she lost her resolve.

"Wait!" said Priya.

"Sorry." Tonya didn't dare stop. Pizza was her worst trigger. Her stomach was roaring like a lion in the cage of her gut. If she saw pepperoni, she'd devour it.

Tonya emerged into the cold, pepperoni-free air outside the Hub, and not a moment too soon. She could smell caramelizing onions and crispy thin crust, in the wood fires of her imagination.

Of course, that was fantasy. Why get excited about pub pizza? It was probably made in a factory, frozen, and then baked until soggy. Not worth the fuss or calories.

Before a waft of fresh-baked scent could leak under the door and change her mind, Tonya started jogging home. She had diet bars and diet shakes in her room. That would fill her up. She just had to concentrate on the moment...

She jogged along the path strewn with wet autumn leaves, trying hard to think of nothing but the wind on her face, and the pounding of her feet. A couple of times she almost wiped out, the leaves were so slippery. Tonya slowed down. She had left Priya and the Digital Ninjas far behind now, but the idea of pizza was harder to shake. If she saw a pizzeria, Tonya feared she'd commit armed robbery.

She tried to 'stay Zen' and think about running, but her breath was getting more and more ragged. She had shin splints and a stitch in her side. Swimming hadn't prepared her for running, but she'd done okay. She got away, and that was what mattered.

#  #  #

Roberto parked behind the dorm and took the stairs to the third floor. He didn't run into anybody, despite it being a busy Thursday night. Canadians never walked when they could take the elevator up, especially not three flights. Back home plenty of five story buildings didn't have elevators, but in this country people expected things to be easy. He smiled. There was a good side to that. The so-called 'nice' girls here weren't nearly as skittish, including his latest fling.

Lynette was tall, thin, and blonde. Blondes weren't usually his type, but he liked to bask in her admiration. When he walked into the Hub with Lynette hanging off his arm, the guys regarded him with envy. Tonight he wanted to recreate that feeling off campus, somewhere decent. Maybe a restaurant outside of town.

At the dorm he knocked and waited. He saw light under the door but there was no answer.

"Let me in, it's Roberto."

"Go away!"

"What's wrong? Are you okay?" Something about her voice sounded wrong. Was she hurt?

"Now's a bad time."

"Don't you want to see me?" He tried the door. It was unlocked so he pushed it open, just to make sure she was okay.

"Hey! What's wrong?" he asked.

She was sitting in the middle of her bed, surrounded by empty boxes and Halloween candy wrappers. Mascara and tears ran down her cheeks. Her lips were lollipop red and her tongue, when she told him to 'go away,' was blue. He went to the bed and pulled her into his arms. She leaned into him and wept.

"Why are you upset?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"What you need is a distraction," said Roberto. "Let's go dancing."

"I can't go out, but I have a better idea. Will you help me?"

"Sure Querida," said Roberto. He tried to give her another hug but she pulled back.

"Lock the door," she said.

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