Jeff was looking at a tiny cockroach in his living room. The cockroach was looking back at Jeff with its Parisian blue eyes.
Androids Can Be Bored
Your tongue is freezing from licking my skin; you complain I feel dead, more dead than any other android you’ve ever been with.
Don’t Look Back By Erin Cole
“I wanted to be big.”
“And breathe fire on people I didn’t like.”
“Alright…,” his eyes went astray, never a good sign—this I knew.
I smoothed the folds of my blue skirt with sweaty hands, needing a good recovery. “I wanted to fly, like I can in my dreams.”
“You fly in your dreams? That’s great.”
Scuffing at the door again, I think are the tree limbs rocking in the dishwater sky outside. “Yeah…sometimes I start out running, then I leap and drift off the ground—just a little, but when I jump, I can soar through the air like a freed balloon. The wind is like a cold hug, sweeping my hair back like mother would, and the land below looks like the miniature towns I built in Mrs. Scholtz’s third grade class.”
Dr. Langford is quiet—he knows there is more.
“But I always struggle to steer through the sky and I find myself searching for the next spot to land before I bound again.”
“Ahh, the next spot to land. You seek the sky but take comfort on the ground.”
Maybe, although…“it seems I’m running from something. Flying feels miraculous, but there is something dark shrouding me, like I don’t want to look back.”
“You want to escape…from what you cannot control?”
Or fear of what will happen.
“Vicky, I find that the meaning of life is essentially about control. We want control of our immediate needs—food, shelter, protection—which transpires into relationships. We want to be loved.”
“Those puppies didn’t want love. They never wagged their tails, never played…just followed me—everywhere! Limping, whining, dragging their le..”
I shook at the memory of those goddamn puppies. No…not puppies. One had the face of my fath…
“We can’t escape our nightmares—they are apart of us. The real nightmare is when the dream comes true.”
…..I remember now….those fucking puppies said the same thing. I looked at Dr. Langford. His teeth seemed awfully large. He went to the door, opened it, and let the blackness hobble towards me again, soft, small, broken.
“Face your nightmare Vicky. Kill your fear.”
He hands me a hatchet.
Face my fear, face my fear, face my fear…
I shut Dr. Langford’s door, afraid to look back. His eyes went astray—forever. It wouldn’t be a good sign so the newspaper would read in the morning. I started to run and leapt again, a freed balloon. The puppy licks at my arm.
© 2010 Erin Cole
Having obtained her B.S. in Psychology, Erin Cole is the mother of three, wife to one, and pet owner to three more—one who happens to be a German Shepherd puppy, which she adores. Still, she always wanted to be a dragon. She blogs mystery and horror at: http://erincolelive.blogspot.com/
Different Sacrifices (Part One) By Frank Duffy
He’d watched his mother construct this oddity of miscellany while the other people on the beach had pretended not to see. He was used to such behavior, as he was used to his mother dragging him into the study to explain yet one more ritual.
His mother was no longer toeing the line of the water, but was now knee-deep, the legs of her jeans rolled up against her shins. His mother turned back and waved and muttered. Whatever she’d said, Henry was too far away to hear.
It was always this way.
Most people said his mother was strange, but Henry didn’t think this was entirely fair. His mother was different in ways they obviously failed to grasp. How many of them would have been able to decipher the strange exotic writings of the books she brought home?
His mother was now up to her waist in the ocean, but Henry didn’t worry. She’d come back, she always did.
Henry dug down beneath the blanket he was sitting on, making a hole for his left hand. He filled it in with his right hand, liking the sensation of the sand against his buried wrist. He tried to imagine what it would feel like if the tide came in and cemented the submerged hand, turning the sand into glue.
When he next looked up, his mother was nowhere in sight.
Henry stood up, or tried to, the sand dragging at his left hand, holding him in place. He scanned the waterline, but couldn’t see his mother anywhere. He recalled his mother hunting out rocks and pebbles from their walk down to the beach, pocketing them as they neared the shoreline.
Henry stopped straining, the end of his arm buried in the sand. He knew where his mother was just as he knew where his left hand was.
He started to cry and didn’t stop till somebody finally noticed him.
2010, August, South Wales.
Henry was the first to arrive at Sand Hill hostel. He’d come a full two hours before the arranged checking-in, wanting to chat to Mrs. Thompson before the others came.
“When you going to stop with the formalities, Henry?” Mrs. Thompson had more color in the tidy black bun atop her head, silver strands round the back of her pink fleshy ears, yet she looked hardly any different than when Henry had first stayed at Sand Hill.
“I’ll never manage with Margaret,” he joked. They were in the dining room, laying cloths over the tables, the ocean murmuring beyond the spacious bay windows.
“I’d prefer it when you’re friends come, or you’ll have everyone shouting out Mrs. this, Mrs. that. Make me feel older than I am.”
“I doubt that.”
Mrs. Thompson flattened the cloth on the table nearest the windows, her soft pudgy hands smoothing the fabric with calm admonishments, and laughed: “Tom always said you were the politest guest we’d ever had.”
There was a momentary silence, the woman stood framed against the window undoubtedly thinking about her late husband.
“My mother loved Mr. Thompson,” he said. He thought that maybe his mother had liked Mr. Thompson more then she would have believed.
“Let’s not dwell, love. They’re long gone and we’re not, and I’m sure your mum would want you concentrating on getting ready for when your friends turn up.”
Henry helped her lay the table-cloth, and said: “They’re not my friends, just my colleagues.” He smiled when he said this, but the expression faltered.
Mrs. Thompson patted his hands and removed them from the cloth. “Go and get your things unpacked. I’ve got the girls to help me with this.”
“Where are they? Out with the dogs?”
Mrs. Thompson looked out the window towards the cliffs as if expecting them to come walking into sight, their two Labradors chasing each other through the russet colored bracken.
“They’ll be checking the rooms,” she said.
The girls had been children when his mother had walked out into the middle of the sea weighted down with rocks. They probably remembered very little of his mother’s oddness, yet this hadn’t stopped it from filtering down to him.
“Well, if you’re sure?”
She paused, looking at a pile of unmade napkins. “No, you go on, Henry. She shooed him away as she picked up the napkins, her mouth closed against whatever it was she had almost said.
He walked through the lobby, past reception and up the stairs to the first floor. Somewhere above he could hear the girls shouting as they moved from one room to the next. Where they having an argument?
He dumped his bag in the single room which he always took. It was simple, but pleasant. It even had its own bathroom and shower, unlike most of the other rooms. Of course his colleagues would comment on this, especially Brice and Jones, but since his promotion such predictable sniping had become commonplace, even expected.
Henry’s room also had a balcony which overlooked the cliff-tops above the beach. He opened the doors and stepped outside, the wind instantly whipping at his clothes. Faint shadows skipped past the hostel, while below on the beach, a solitary figure walked the shoreline, every now and then stooping to the waters which lashed the rocks.
He watched the figure stray further towards the water, one leg teasing the waves as if testing their strength. He turned and went back into his room, closing the doors after him.
When his colleagues from Ashton & Hall Property Associates arrived at the hostel, it was already getting dark. They arrived in cars or taxis, nonplussed at their surroundings, trudging through the car-park and into reception with barely any acknowledgement of Henry or Mrs. Thompson. The girls showed them to their rooms, from which they soon drifted back to reception in search of dinner.
“Happy bunch, aren’t they,” said Mrs. Thompson into Henry’s ear, her thick hands encircling a ballpoint as if she meant to use it as a weapon.
He didn’t feel like eating, not because of the sandwiches Mrs. Thompson had prepared for him which he’d had just over an hour ago, but because he’d no desire as yet to sit with the others. While it was unavoidable that he would have to give his speech sometime this evening, and that it’d been his decision to bring the entire team to Sand Hill, he decided nobody would miss him for half-an-hour. Perhaps they wouldn’t even notice he’d gone?
Henry went out the main entrance, crossing the car-park which looked strange to him now that it was almost full. Ahead he could see the faint outline of the only path leading along the ridge of the cliff-top, and beyond it the ocean.
“Henry?” Whoever was calling his name he chose to ignore, though he wasn’t quite sure it’d come from the hostel. He hurried in case somebody tried to stop him, the gravel of the car-park already giving way to the wooden planks of the footpath, the echo of his footfall racing him to the cliff’s edge.
He looked back at the hostel, but couldn’t see who had shouted his name. The dimness of Sand Hill made him stop, its roof blotted by the dark clouds rolling down the lumped crowns of the Pembrokeshire hills behind it. Slabs of growing blackness in the windows of the building made it look like a block of impenetrable stone. Shadows thickened its doorways, and climbed the mossy stonework as if to seal everyone inside. It was as if there was much more to fear in the brightly lit dining room than outside. Maybe there was, he thought, as he reached the safety rail which fenced off the edge of the cliff-top. Brice and Jones, for starters. They’d surprised him by being one of the first to arrive, and on time. Now he was doubly nervous at what to expect from them.
The path twisted down the cliff-face with frightening steepness, plunging past innumerable granite shelves, over the blunt summits of sand dunes, and finally to the glittering heads of shells which pockmarked the narrow strip of the beach. Even when he lifted one leg to remove his shoe and sock, then doing the same with the other foot, feeling the soft wet sand between his toes, he didn’t really think he was imitating his mother, until he was standing at the edge of the shoreline, the water pooling round his ankles, his eyes focused on the darkness of the ocean.
Mrs. Thompson had asked him the year after his mother’s suicide, the year after they’d failed to find her body, whether or not Henry should have returned to Sand Hill.
“It’s not that we aren’t happy to have you back,” she’d said to him. Who ‘we’ might have meant had never been all that clear. From the expression on Mr. Thompson’s face when Henry had walked through the door with his great aunt Helen, whom he’d convinced to bring him back, it was clear she wasn’t referring to her late husband.
“I know it must seem morbid to you, Mrs. Thompson, but I felt I had to,” he remembered saying. Was that really what he’d meant? Maybe he’d wanted to see how they’d react to him showing up exactly one year to the day.
Henry knew that for all of Mrs. Thompson’s kind words she probably thought him to be not unlike his mother. She’d never have said so, not even implied it, but the regularity of the silences which punctuated their conversations with increasing uneasiness, or the strained tone she employed when he mentioned his mother, made him realize she was at least wary of him. What was even worse was that whenever he happened to be around she would send the girls into the nearby town on mysterious errands, or would order them ‘upstairs’ to tend to housework which otherwise could have been left for some other time. And hadn’t he once overheard her on the phone in reception describing him to one of her friends as ‘lingering’, or had that been one of the other guests?
A gull turned wild angles above the cliff-tops, its cry drawing him out of his thoughts. The water glinted in the fading light, rippling silently. It was time for him to go back. If he was late for his own speech, God knows what Brice and Jones would say.
After the meal Henry walked to the front of the dining room. “Has everyone got a drink?” he asked. The team he headed, sixteen of them in all, sipped quietly from their glasses, muttering among themselves as if they had no idea who he was. Brice and Jones were seated close to the bar, a tactical move knowing their fondness for alcohol. Emily Loft was also at their table, a longtime confidant of theirs, whose inspiration for gossip and insinuation would have made Machiavelli blush.
Henry grabbed the microphone from the stacked equipment of the stereo and the PA system he’d hired from the local town, flipped a switch and let the static drain out before he raised it to his mouth. Just as he was about to speak, a face flashed into the darkness at his shoulder, eyes seeking him out.
“You need anything else, Henry?” asked Mrs. Thompson, her kind face peering out from the serving hatch which joined with the kitchen.
“Fine for now, Mrs. Thompson,” he replied. He gripped the microphone tighter, frightened he’d drop it he was so nervous.
“Just give me a shout if you want some more bottles bringing up from the cellars.” The hatch closed, leaving Henry to face his audience alone.
Apart from the three by the bar, the Ashton & Hall sales team sat in cliques whose allegiances had been forged long before now`. Their furtiveness as they whispered to one another over their tables, suggested they were either bored, or getting close to it.
“You choose this place, Henry?” asked Corrine Taylor from the table nearest the front. A plump, unattractive woman, she squinted at him over a bottle of wine, the candle on her table highlighting the ample shadow of her chin.
“I did, Corrine.” He offered her a brief smile, fidgeting with the microphone. The drumming of his fingers amplified through the two speakers on the floor beside him, turned one or two heads, but his impatience failed to translate until he said: “For the love of God!”
Anybody else and they might have laughed it off, but coming from Henry they knew it to be an emotional tour de force. The change in the people sitting in the dining room was instantaneous.
Although he was trying to concentrate on the rest of the room’s inhabitants, Corrine Taylor had distracted him. From the look on her face, and that she had accidentally sent a bottle of red wine wobbling across the table in the wake of Henry’s uncharacteristic outburst, meant he had trouble keeping her out of his field of vision. In the seat next to her was Andrea Booth, who threw out a hand to catch the bottle before it toppled and spilled its contents, her typical stoic expression transformed into one of amusement.
Everybody else sat there with their mouths open, their eyes fixed on him for once.
“Thank you,” said Henry. He thought he heard Brice snort back laughter, but was too nervous to look, while Emily Loft’s voice gave out a low whooping noise which might have meant anything, but which she probably intended as disbelief.
“Tomorrow as you know we’ll be having the meeting at ten o’clock in the recreation lounge. Now I know the mere mention of ‘team building’ is a term we hate to use these days since it seems to prompt mass derision…”
“Eh, Henry? You been at the Telegraph again?” That was Adrian Powell, the obligatory loudmouth of the office.
Henry tensed, but the reaction was subdued, barely noticeable. “Sorry, Adrian, I know you’re lost without a translator.”
This time there was a reaction, and one that Henry had instigated. Laughter broke out from more or one of the tables. He’d actually made a joke which hadn’t left him red-faced with embarrassment. A joke that people had actually found funny.
He blinked, but they were still sitting there, some with smiles on their faces.
Henry continued, his voice augmented by the microphone, lending him confidence. “Anyhow, I don’t want you all to think that we’re here to build imaginary bridges into one another’s lives, but I do hope that we get something done, something we can take back to the bosses.”
He paused as he let the words sink in, a figure stood beyond the dining room windows facing the car-park. He recognized the cusp of the chin and the smooth arch of one eyebrow, the face beneath the straggling auburn hair dripping water.
“How long will the meeting last? Henry?”
He raised the microphone again and searched for the person who’d asked the question, but the shadow which slid across the windows stalled him. Any minute now and the door to reception would open.
“Henry?” This time he identified Maureen Hays sitting behind Corrine Taylor’s table.
“Yes, yes…the meeting will be from ten to one. After that you’re free to spend the day visiting Langley town, or perhaps if the weather cheers up, you can take a stroll along the cliff-tops or down to the beach. Entirely up to you. In the evening we have a live band on, and you’ll be glad to hear, management have paid for a free bar.”
A cheer went up at the mention of ‘free bar’.
“But just one more thing. I’ll be chairing the meeting, but the planning and strategies are up to you. I’ve compiled the topics up for discussion, but would be grateful if you all contributed something.” Heads nodded their consent, and Henry decided to end while he was in everyone’s good books.
“Now I know you’re desperate for me to finish up and let you get on with the night, so you’ll be pleased to know that Gary has brought his notorious Xmas mix for an impromptu disco, so enjoy the night and don’t get too drunk.”
A small round of applause drifted through the dining room. Henry judged that to be enough, especially considering his initial fears about his reception.
From the corner of his eye he allowed himself to look towards the bar where Brice and Jones were talking to Emily Loft in animated whispers, probably colluding as to how to deflect this sudden show of cooperation from the rest of their colleagues. Never mind them, he thought, they can postulate as to why and how the promotion came about as much as they want. It wasn’t as if they had any say in things anymore.
He switched off the microphone and walked across the room and into reception. The door was wide open, but reception was deserted. He closed the door, and turned to see a set of wet footprints trailed across the floor to the bottom of the stairs.
He could follow those footprints to their logical conclusion, he thought, but it was perhaps best not to, at least for tonight.
When he returned to the dining room, making his way to the bar, several people noticed that Henry was smiling, almost grinning.
Some of his colleagues clapped him on his back as he passed, making it clear he was one of them now. Some of them even returned smiles of their own, though they might not have been so willing to do so if they’d known the real reason why Henry looked so jubilant.
To be Cont.d
Frank Duffy’s work can be found here: http://coaction.wordpress.com
Aluminium By Melanie Browne
He had been trying to get close enough to smell her hair. He was embarrassed and kept his distance after that but it was too late and she told her friends who began to watch him and some of them rolled their eyes when he walked past them in the hallways.
Spenser walked quicker but began to panic and he hadn’t planned for that. He patted the knife in his pocket and walked right into the ghostly bumper of a 59 DeSoto. It was covered in dead branches and rust. He peered in the back window and then walked around to the side for a better look. Three of its four windows were missing and he reached inside and brushed a few smallish pieces of glass from the beige bench seats. He got in and and examined the push-button transmission. ‘What in the hell are you doing out here’ he mumbled, figuring the car was once a prized possession. He got out of the car and looked at it silently for a few minutes.
Dorothy’s father got a job overseas. Spenser found out about it during gym class one day when some of the boys were talking. He felt like throwing up and after school that day he picked a fight with his mother and he didn’t tell her about any of it. He didn’t tell her about Dorothy and her father’s new job or the feeling in his stomach. That night he couldn’t sleep at all. He wrote a letter to Dorothy and then he tore it up.
Spenser turned around and faced the direction he had come from before running into the DeSoto’s fender. He felt calmer now. He started walking quickly in the direction he had come from. He tried to hurry but his legs were sore. He didn’t want to admit he was lost. He felt something tickle his nose and then he tasted blood. His nose was bleeding. He set his pack on the ground and reached into it and dug for a towel. He pulled out a sour smelling white towel and held it to his nose applying a forceful pressure. He felt dizzy and lay on the ground for a few minutes that way, holding the towel to his bleeding nose and staring at the trees and the sky above. He felt as though he had been drinking alcohol. I’m on the edge of the frontier, he laughed to himself, although it wasn’t really funny. I’m bleeding and lost on the edge of the frontier. It wasn’t a frontier though, really, just a national Forest. It could be worse he thought, my leg could be trapped and I might need to gnaw it off or cut it off with my knife and my knife is a bit puny for such unpleasant tasks. He wondered how they did it. How did they make the first cut like that?
He sat up and wasn’t as dizzy so he got on his feet again and walked as fast as he could and his nose wasn’t bleeding now. He felt too bad too be nervous and he thought about the DeSoto and how he would show everyone the car when he got back. He could find it and maybe he would make it into the newspaper or something. The headline might say the kid who found the mysterious car in Sam Houston National Forest. He would be standing next to the car in the photo and smiling. Maybe he wouldn’t smile, maybe he would look more serious to let people know what a dangerous thing it had all been, to be out in the middle of nowhere, the frontier, lost and bleeding and alone.
Consensual Death By Charlie Coleman
“This is Detective Mark Black. I’m investigating a homicide that occurred at approximately nine o’clock this morning.”
“Do you know one Donna Jackes?”
“Know her, I live with her.”
“Well, I’m sorry to tell you that we think that she’s been the victim of a homicide. I realize that this may be difficult, but I will need you to identify the body. Can you meet me at the morgue in approximately one hour?”
“Give me the address.”
The morgue of the City of New York reflects the depressed mood of most of its inhabitants, both ambulatory and stiff. Death’s den is doused in sterility, physical, mental and emotional. It was all very matter of fact. Detective Black and the morgue staff extended the expected courtesy. One thing to be said for death is that it gestates politeness. It didn’t take long to identify her, only about twenty minutes or so, quicker than I anticipated.
“She was quite an attractive girl.”
“Excuse me for saying so, but you don’t seem too upset by this.”
“You’re right again.”
“OK, then since we’re square on that, please answer the obvious question.”
“Her train had left the station and I wasn’t on it. Actually, to be more specific, I was on it, but about to get off at the next stop. Toward the end she had developed her own world that didn’t necessarily include me. So, to answer the next round of Q & A, when she left today to go to work I presumed that eventually she would return to me, at least in body, nothing more, nothing less. I guess she did that in a manner of speaking. Did I miss anything aside from where I was at nine o’clock?”
“Keep going, you’re doing fine. Maybe you could write all of this down as you say it and save me the trouble.”
“At nine o’clock I was home. I took a day off. Unfortunately the only individual who can attest to that is our, well I guess mine now, cat, Ed Norton. I could also use him as a character witness if need be.”
“Well, at this point you’re not a concrete suspect. We are aware of the approximate time of death and that whoever did it had some time to kill. If you make the first team, we’ll let you know.”
The next day upon returning home I found a message lurking in my answering machine from Detective Black. Not wanting to keep the detective waiting and prevent him from investigating more interesting, stimulating corpses I returned his call immediately.
“Detective Black, it’s your number one suspect in the Jackes case by virtue of insensitivity. At least in that respect you have a slam dunk verdict.”
“The law requires more than casual callousness although it does garner some merit.”
“It sounds as if the guilty finger needs some Viagra to point in my direction.”
“Maybe it’s just not that aroused yet. It likes to play the field before targeting a conquest. I don’t want to disappoint you. You’re still in the running, but the pack just might be slipping away from you. Indifference can only get you so far. Can I stop by tomorrow? Who knows, I may want to interview Ed Norton. How about six o’clock?”
The next day at six Detective Black arrived.
“The suspense is killing me. Who’s ahead of me?”
“We have one leading candidate.”
“I’m not surprised. What’s his name?”
“What do you mean?”
“Your pronoun is off.”
“It’s a she.”
“Not just a she, but apparently an ass kicking she. Ever been into S & M?”
“Does Sister Mary Ellen from the third grade count?”
“Well Donna was. Here’s the story. She worked one night a week, Wednesdays, at one of New York City’s finer emporiums of sensory enrichment. Where was she on those nights? Weren’t you curious or were you also on the loose? This may have proved convenient for you and Ed to pursue alternative ventures considering the deterioration of your relationship with Ms. Jackes.”
“Bingo night at St. Catherine’s?”
“Although I’ve never experienced the excitement of a full throttle bingo night at St. Cat’s I was holding you in more esteem than that.”
“On Wednesdays she supposedly was taking a course at the New School. Something about creating sumptuous, scintillating desserts from scratch. Rich creams, pies, whipped toppings, etc., that sort of thing.”
“Well you have the whipping part correct.”
“How did she die?”
“Extensive loss of blood.”
“In other words she bled to death?”
“In other words, she, for her purposes, was dying a perfect death so to speak. The medical, practical answer to your question is yes. Apparently her demise was affected rather slowly. I wonder when she realized that things were going too far or if she was ever aware that that was the case in the first place. From what we have developed in terms of their relationship, it appears that Donna was willing to let her mistress go full tilt if it made the mistress happy. The mistress’s pleasure was all that mattered. It was what gave Donna pleasure. It didn’t look as if she resisted what was going on.”
“Who is her girlfriend?”
“Samantha Robertson. Does that name ring any bells.”
“Not even a doorbell.”
“She knows who you are.”
“Does she? Is that through Donna or from some other source?”
“From you as a matter of fact.”
“Yes you, directly.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Let me explain.”
“You don’t know her as Sam Robertson. You know her as Nicki Towers.”
“That’s right, Nicki Towers. Nicki Towers should ring your doorbell especially since it’s the same Nicki Towers who used to share your doorbell, as she’s your ex-wife. You know, the one that you dumped after two years of milking her bank accounts and settling the divorce for half of the real estate. I would opine that this scenario is somewhat coincidental to the one before that involving Janice Ragliardi and the one before that, Amy Weinstein. Do we see the picture?”
“You’ve been doing your homework Detective. But all that proves is that I’m an opportunistic individual who realizes the long term investment potential in relationships. I have an excellent financial advisor, namely me. Despite what you might think, it still isn’t murder.”
“No, not in the usual sense.”
“Why do you think that there is more to the story than what you know now?”
“We know that you do a credit check on your potential fiancées before you embark on a romantic pursuit. We’ve returned to the days of yesteryear before Ms. Weinstein. The credit bureaus consider you one of their better customers. Considering that, we wouldn’t be surprised if you knew about Donna’s private activities. From one angle or another, it seems that you should be in the know.”
“What if I knew about her propensities? That isn’t a crime.”
“That’s right. You may be a shit heel, but that doesn’t make you a murderer. What if we call a truce on the arresting business and you can tell me what you know.”
“Will it be worth my while?”
“It won’t alleviate my disgust but might alleviate my suspicions.”
“Deal. I know that Nicki Towers was into S & M.”
“Tell me what I don’t know.”
“OK, I got the feeling that Donna was a candidate for S & M based on some comments she made when we would have a go at each other. She seemed to be asking to be dominated. The only time that she got off was when I took her, so to speak. She went nuts when that happened. Straight I love you and you love me sex was rather boring and unsatisfactory for her. I found that out pretty quickly. The more I dominated her, the better she liked it. I suspected that she was willing to take it to the next step.”
“Keep going. I’m getting interested. I might spring for the screenplay rights.”
“I also knew that prior to me she had had a girlfriend in the Biblical sense. The good nuns of St. Cat’s postulated that one and one equal two. Working from that premise, I surmised that if I introduced her to Nicki, since I knew about Nicki’s propensities from our experience together, that something would happen.”
“That was a little like introducing a mouse to a cat.”
“Glad to see you’re keeping up. Something was going to happen pretty quickly. The ingredients were all there and I had the perfect recipe. The chef’s surprise was in the denouement. I was only hoping for some ripe incriminating evidence enabling me to divest myself of Donna and invest myself of her worldly possessions. I hadn’t any notion that Nicki would prove as effective as she did. I was willing to settle for some skid marks across her back. Instead I get fatal lash marks there and a total crash. In the end, as far as the world is concerned, I’m still the aggrieved party.”
“That’s pretty informative, more so then you think. What you missed, because you don’t know, is that Nicki has been out of town in San Francisco for the past week. We checked her alibi. It’s airtight. She doesn’t have to rely on a feline sewer worker. I never told you about the lash marks, you told me. Thanks. The truce is over. As the expression goes, we’re going downtown”
Charlie Coleman is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.
FACES By Frank Duffy
But that was the earlier model. This was the new one. Too much time to think, combined with repeated pleadings from her father to leave Martin, had paradoxically hardened and softened her.
She accepted Caitlin’s offer, peering into what she hoped was the not so distant future with dreamy eyes. Maybe this would prepare her for what she knew she had to do. But first she had to retrace every step she had made which had led her to Martin. She was confident Caitlin would help her do this.
The body lay across the sheets spread-eagled in crimson; one leg hung at the knee over the quilt, as one foot dangled, blood welling against the big toe, a thick tear of deepest red ready for dropping onto the hardwood floor.
Their second date was in a club that Jess could never have dreamt existed. A punk club called the Dirty Machine. It wasn’t dirty, but the music screamed at her for significance, full of rage and rejection.
“Can’t believe we went from a restaurant to this,” she said. She was joking, and it comforted her to see that Caitlin understood without any further explanation.
The Dirty Machine panned out over three floors. The ground floor was what the younger inhabitants would have called the old-timers bar. It was a bar, and it’s clientele did look like old-timers compared to the bum-fluff and discomfited affectation of the larger crowds. The second floor was a hub of eighties music, Joy Division colliding with Public Image in a grandiosity which reminded Jess of times before Martin had lurched unceremoniously into her life. But the last floor, with its calamitous grinding of instruments, whose bands had names so elongated she forgot them seconds after Caitlin had identified them for her, was the centre of the club. Here the crowds pushed against the sweat drenched ceiling and walls as if determined to break free and escape.
“You look like you’ve forgotten something important,” said Caitlin.
They were sitting in semi-circular booth with PVC clad seats, and pictures of Johnny Rotten and The Ramones on the wall above their heads. Caitlin had one hand on the table, while the other picked at a beer-mat. She was as close to Jess as she could get. In their booth three teenage Goths, it was difficult to approximate their gender, were drinking gin (a disparity of style if ever there had been one), their affected indifference a cover for their growing interest in the two women sat alongside them.
“I hope so,” shouted Jess above the calamity of whatever it was that was now playing. One of the Goths leaped to her feet and dove into the crowd on the dance-floor; she was swallowed in an instant.
Even with the thump of the music beneath her feet, Jess felt her heart slamming obscenely against her chest. It was a different beat, an altogether more enjoyable one. She watched as Caitlin’s fingers discarded the beer mat, pink fingered insects wrestling a cigarette from the pack on the table.
“You want to dance?”
Jess didn’t bother replying. She stood proudly, taking Caitlin’s hand and led her out into the melee.
As they danced Jess struggled to contain what she’d discovered, that Caitlin was not the way out from her marriage she might have fantasized about years before, regardless what some people might suspect given the opportunity. And neither had she become spell-bound by her lover, by her sex, or by her daring. What Caitlin had done, inadvertently or not, was to show Jess who she really was, and where she really belonged. This might have seemed obvious given her husband’s need to send her bloody and scraping against the floor of every room whenever his temper demanded, but it had only now occurred to her. Had this prompted the beatings, the monthly violence? Had he sniffed away at the very essence she had exuded without being fully aware, except to him, that she was doing so? If so, it no longer mattered.
They left the club a little after midnight and took a taxi to West Derby. They hadn’t discussed it. They didn’t need to. They understood it would happen just as they’d known the outcome of their first conversation in Saint John’s market.
If Caitlin felt surprised at the elegant detached house in the suburbs, she said nothing to Jess as she wandered round. Jess told her that Martin probably justified his actions as a fair trade for the things he provided. It was this kind of thinking which frightened her the most. This she didn’t say to Caitlin. She didn’t need to.
They settled on the sofa and drank wine. Or at least they pretended to. Their talk was more prominent, as was the moment they reached for each other.
In the morning Caitlin shocked her. That was how Jess would remember it later, but the truth was she had hardly flinched at the proposition.
“We should kill him.”
They were drinking coffee, and Jess thought she should drop her cup and watch it shatter as people frequently did in movies.
“We should make him suffer, too.”
Caitlin went on to explain how they could accomplish this without being caught. She told Jess she had book, a very old book her grandmother had given her just before she died. She described the contents of this book. Maybe it was magic she talked about, or witchcraft? Or perhaps it had an older name, this book, a title whose language was as forgotten as the people who had once practiced their pre-history ceremonies in the dark swept valleys of ancient Britain.
“Our faces will be different.”
“But what if they do more than look?” asked Jess, now that her lover had explained her plan to her.
Caitlin placed her mug of coffee on the sideboard, and put an arm about Jess’ shoulder, rubbing her hand against her upper arm.”
“They won’t, don’t worry.”
Jess wanted to lay her head against Caitlin’s chest, hear the miracle of the organ which powered this woman. Had she conjured her out of her darkest hopes, or had she materialized out of numerous fleeting whimsies dreamt up in times of honest self-appreciation? Both she guessed.
Caitlin led Jess back through the living room and up to the room in which Martin had married his wife to the idea of bloody fate. Her husband was a man who did not hide the violence of his nature. This was clear from the strangely titled books on the shelf on the landing; Gods of Meat, Corpse Rain, Acts and Presentations of Materializations In Murder.
Jess shuddered as she always shuddered at that last one. The others seemed merely absurd given their titles, but this last one stirred something inside her she wanted her lover to kiss away.
They undressed and climbed into bed, neither woman thinking about the books on the shelf on the landing.
She was standing in a pool of his blood and laughing. She was almost like him in that respect. The blood should have revolted her, but it only furthered the comedy of what they’d done to him.
The night before Martin was due home they spent preparing. Jess didn’t follow much of what Caitlin showed her, but she never once doubted it would work. She had too much trust in her lover to think otherwise.
The ingredients they fixed from various household goods, though they had needed a few extras from the local supermarket. She might have found deep amusement in this, only under the glare of the lights in the sterile aisles of TESCO’s she felt an altogether different emotion.
“Thank you,” she said.
Caitlin swung the shopping basket and said nothing.
Once Caitlin had fixed their drinks, they made love. Whether or not it was needed for the closing of the ceremony they enacted on the carpet in front of the artificial log-fire never entered Jess’ head. It felt good to be herself at all moments, serious or not.
After they’d drunk their concoctions, they slept and woke with different faces. Underneath the skin they peered out at each other with startled expressions. Still, they were not so alien to each other that they did not know who they were…to each other and to themselves.
Then they waited for the monster that was Martin to come home one final time.
Their new faces would disguise them. That was the idea. They would take his body and make certain that a CCTV camera would catch them somewhere. Then their faces would be of no further use.
At sometime around 7pm Martin arrived home. Caitlin told Jess to wait upstairs in the bedroom. She hadn’t been frightened, only excited at the prospect that the improbable was about to manifest into the probable.
She stood behind the bedroom door, the sharpest knife from the kitchen in her hand. She heard Martin’s voice, but no rallying call from Caitlin. Her lover intended to drive him from the kitchen and up the stairs to let Jess finish the job. It was important that Martin saw this before he died. He had to know it was her more than anyone who wanted him dead.
There was footsteps on the stairs. Jess readied herself, but would wait until she saw the back of his head, wait for him to turn around before she stuck the knife into him.
The bedroom door swung back, but not fast, slowly. There he was, his bald pate exposed to the blade. The head turned on the thick set neck, the veins in his neck popping with an exertion she had seen on the faces of men lifting heavy weights. Martin saw her and raised a hand to protect himself; behind the hand eyes flashed confusion.
Jess wondered where Caitlin was and then used the knife on her husband the way she had always dreamed.
It was a frenzy she would only remember when she slept. The worst time for remembering. But now, the quilt on the bed turning a fiery angry red, Jess let the last of her humor drain away, as the blood drained away from the corpse that was her husband.
She sat down on the edge of the bed. It made its familiar creak, but preceding this was a wet slopping sound. One hairy arm flopped against the headboard, and bounced back against a plain white pillow, the hand that lay there slim and delicate. She stared at it and saw Martin’s wedding ring was missing.
Caitlin came into the room and stood in the doorway. She didn’t say anything, and Jess was too tired to raise her head and look.
“What a mess you’ve made.” It was not Caitlin’s voice. The figure in the doorway walked across the room and sat on the opposite side of the bed. His side of the bed. “Jessica?”
She looked at the knife sticking out of the floor, beckoning her. She didn’t dare move. He could smell her instincts, would squash them as he had everything else.
When she managed to raise her eyes and look, Martin’s face was still, silent and expressionless. It was one of those rare moments when he looked calm and reasonable. He tossed a book onto the bed which landed, pages open, against the mutilation of the corpse’s chest. Acts and Presentations of Materializations In Murder.
“She should have tried a more reliable source of information. Something which might have counteracted.”
She expected him to smile, laugh or say something more. He didn’t, and she knew why. When she flung the book across the room and stared at the face of the corpse she saw Caitlin’s face looking back at her from the remains of the savagery.
“And you think I’m a monster,” said Martin.
Frank Duffy’s work can be found here: http://coaction.wordpress.com
A Gun Called Comeuppance (Part Two) By Danny Hogan
I have never known him to walk around with such a small contingent of muscle to protect his overstuffed, used up couch of a backside. This is too perfect but then again it isn’t. Sometimes I hate the way things turn out. This could be the best opportunity for me to get revenge that I will ever have, if it wasn’t for these damned weak little kids cowering behind me. They make far too good a target for that evil dick Gilberto to pass up on, knowing full well that a dying, squealing kid’ll distract the Hell out of me. But it is a stupid, stupid move to ponder all this for too long. With my attention on Gilberto, I don’t notice that one of his boys must have levelled a gun at me until I hear a bullet crack though the air.OK, so my coat’s bullet proof, but it don’t do nothing to stop the impact. I feel at least two of my ribs get pulverised. And I do mean pulverised and not broken. I double over and try to bawl at the kids to take cover, but I can’t get no breathe and what comes out is a strangled rasp. I feverishly point at the crags. Either by instinct or because of me the kids finally flee and take cover among the rocks. I drop, crawl on my hands and knees and hunker down with them, just escaping a couple of shots that would have finished me.‘Jezebel, /Jezebel/. You just ain’t got the class or brains of your predecessor. You know the one that bought it with his shrivelled old cock in your mouth, you skanky, corpse fucking bitch.’ I hear Gilberto shouting.I look at the kids. The kids look at me, all wide eyed and open mouthed like I’m about to fucking explain it or something.Breathing is the most unnatural thing at the moment, and I feel like I’m dying.
‘Jezzy Bell, I’ll distract’em and you can shoot at’em from another place to trick’em,’ says Sarah, all of a sudden jumping up like she knows shit. She’s gone and grown some balls at exactly the wrong fucking moment. Am I role model now? Am I fuck.I shout and try to grab her but the little nightmare is too fast. She’s standing there in plain view doing a stupid little dance. I feel sick to my stomach.It’s a gift to those fucking scum and there is no way in Hell they could stop themselves. The shot rings out and the little’un is stronger than I thought. She doesn’t budge or even make a sound as the bullet passes right through her.
OK, so it isn’t the squealing that distracts me in the end because there is none. But it works none the less. Even better I’d say. I slump back and can’t even look at her. The colour goes out of everything and the world doesn’t even stink anymore. There is just a kind of nothingness. I can’t hear, I can’t taste the bile in my mouth. Nothing. It may seem strange but I feel really tired, like super lazy even. I just can’t be fucked no more.
Now the two boys are whimpering like dying dogs and I can hear those, cruel, wicked bastards down the knoll laughing at what they’ve done. My eyes are starting to burn and well-up and I realise that I, that we, are done for. The last time I cried it was over my dead man with one of those rat bastards’ cocks up my arse.
I summon the courage to at least look at the girl. She coughs and splutters, she’s still alive. That’s kind of worse in a way ‘cos she needs medical attention or it’s gonna be a slow and painful passing for her.
I clutch the repeater and looked at the skies, but you can be sure there’s no answer there. I rest my forehead on the barrel. This cannot be it. Fuck.
I’m all about ready to throw it in and give up but something weird is starting to happen. My head is beginning to throb and my arms are shaking and I feel real hot. Then, my God, do I start to feel pissed off. Hatred, hellfire burning, white hot hatred, along with the undying need for a vengeance pushed out of Nemesis’s own cunt are the best healers a woman can have, as I said before.
I can’t control myself now.
‘You bastards, you fucking bastards think you can go around and fuck with people like this and just nothing happens? Think you can shoot kids that ain’t even had a chance to fuck up for themselves yet?’ I’m shouting.
‘Shut the fuck up, bitch,’ One of Gilberto’s goons shouts back at me.
Oh yeah, it’s on now.
Right, time to take hold and get things into perspective. Fact, this is fucked up. Fact, we have one down and she’s just a kid. Fact, there are more of them than me. Fact, these bastards have no hope ‘cos I love killing.
I get up and put myself in plain view. They can take as many shots at me as they like ‘cos you can bet all you got that I’ll be shooting back. I’m not as clear headed as I thought and I’m facing the wrong godamned way. I spin around guns at the ready.
Sometimes, just sometimes, luck works in my favour. Not only have I found myself perfectly balanced but the repeater seems to swing so that the sites are lined up just right to take a shot at the first fuck that’s got his weapon aimed at me. I am Jezebel Misery St. Etienne.
The fuck raped me, so I blow his nuts through his arsehole. I pump the handle to chamber the next round as a bullet gives me a haircut, and get the next man well acquainted with an antique as I rip his heart out with a .44 rimfire. The third gets a good old gut shot. He’ll have plenty of time to realise he fucked up as he dies slowly and painfully, poisoned by his own shit.
That leaves that dirty fat fuck Gilberto, who’s peeling shots off at me like there’s no tomorrow. I drop the repeater and run like a crazed bitch diagonal of his position. Most of the shots whiz past but, smack, and I feel like someone’s hit my shoulder with a sledgehammer. There’s fucking blood everywhere. I’m stumbling and can’t help falling onto my hands and knees. I don’t know what he’s firing but it’s gone right through. I use every bit of strength I got to push myself up and carry on but the next one is gonna finish me off. I’m wrong, oh shit, right in my butt cheek, fuck.
I’m spinning around now in fucking agony, but I’m close enough and it’s all or nothing. I get my bearings, aim Comeuppance, and take Gilberto’s knees out.
Ha, I knew it, he’s a pansy. He drops his weapon and collapses to the ground, squawking pathetically.
I’ll do it just like my old man wanted me to. No prettying it up. No big last speeches, just do it.
I hobble up to him (my shoulder and arse are killing me, and breathing is a real drag). Hmm, something occurs to me. I press the business end of the barrel to his forehead and I wonder if, perhaps now, I can get the answer I’ve been looking and I pull the trigger.
Nope, his head doesn’t come clean off. I guess the .44 magnum just can’t do that after all. There’s a neat whole plum in the middle of his forehead where the round went in and the rest of his head is a red mucky smear on the ground behind him. Ha, good enough.
A shot rings out. Oh Christ, I’ve been hit. I hear another shot but I can’t feel anything. I don’t know, what the hell’s happened? I’m face down in the dirt and I can hear small foot steps making their way towards me double time. Ahead of me I can see someone, not a kid, running towards me, oh shit, damn and fuck.
I wake up and I’m in a bed with some damned bright light shining right above me. Well, I realise pretty quick that I’m in the safe haven. Pottering around me I can see the usual folks you get peopling these places, you know, the shit don’t stink types with their stupid haircuts and identikit outfits.
My clothes are gone and I’m wearing some kind of flimsy gown that ain’t doing what it aught to. I’m also bandaged up to fuck.
‘You saved those young ones, child,’ says some grinning idiot woman in scrubs.
‘Yeah, the girl?’ Goddamit, my throat feels as dry as fuck. I need some rum or something. She’s putting her hand on me, oh so gently as she says, ‘Sarah’s fine, they’re all fine thanks to you.’ She carries on in that pussy, butter wouldn’t melt tone. ‘You’ve been here two weeks. We were just worried you wouldn’t wake up’.
I look her dead in the eye. ‘Great, so I can go. Suppose you’ll be willing to take care of the kids, because I sure as fuck ain’t.’ That takes the smile off her face.
‘Our resources are very limited…’
I glare. She looks worried.
‘…but I am sure we can find something.’
I ain’t going to be recuperating in this place, no fucking way. I am as weak as fuck but I grab my things, ignoring smiley, get changed and make my way to see the kids. I want to make sure they’re really OK. I find’em, all smiling and jumping around, like nothing ever happened. Except, that is, for the dopey Adam. He seems a bit withdrawn. I ask him if he’s OK. The James pipes up instead.
It’s then I find out what happened out there. The guy who I’d gut shot, managed to lift his gun and he shot me in the goddamned back before he collapsed. That’ll learn me. James says he ran to get help from these safe haven halfwits. Bastards were glad to come out, once they knew the coast was clear. Turns out they had been watching the whole scene from the safety of their compound. They probably had the popcorn out and everything, cunts. Anyways, while he was running, James says the youngest boy, Adam, picked up a gun and, very efficiently, eliminated the threat of Mr. Gut Shot. Shit. Ain’t no disease more infectious than violence.
The kids are OK. Maybe the young one’ll forget this ever happened after a few years of being locked up safe in here. Time for me to go get some decent booze and do a bit of that brawling, bragging and booty chasing I was so looking forward to.
I am Jezebel Misery St. Etienne, junky, psycho and tart; though I’m sure you’ve noticed I do have some flaws. You may be with me now, you may not. Either way I don’t give a fuck.
Danny can be contacted here:
Two Bears, Goldeelox, and Audrey Hairdown By Jason Henry McCormick
Back in the day, there were two dirty girls named Goldeelox and Audrey Hairdown. They went for a stroll in the hood. In almost no time, the two of them noticed a couple of bears named Frank and Tank at the end of lonely street on a quiet night. But they weren‘t lonely for long. And pretty soon it wasn‘t very quiet either. Frank hollered and Goldeelox waved, and Tank grabbed his crotch and Audrey Hairdown pretended like she was brushing her teeth. They went back to Frank’s and Tank’s crib.On the couch in the living room, there was a ball of yarn and a bouncy ball, and a bowl of porridge on the coffee table. Tank had set it down the week before, after he‘d come home drunk with the munchies, and then he forgot about it, then forgot about it again, and then again and eventually just accepted it as a part of the decor, so he left it there and didn‘t even care about cleaning it up anymore. Audrey Hairdown was hungry. She grubbed the porridge like Oliver Twist.“This porridge is delicious!” she stated.“I bet it is!” Tank replied.Then she handed the bowl to Goldeelox.
“This porridge is terrible!” Goldeelox said, and passed the bowl to Frank.
“Ah fuck the porridge, let’s get down!” Frank yelled, and placed the porridge back on the coffee table.
“Ahhh,” Frank said, as he pelvic-thrusted. “Damn Goldeelox, your ass is just right,” he told her with delight, and Goldeelox ate it all up.
Audrey Hairdown was still hungry. So, she polished off the porridge. Then she began feeling tired, and headed toward the couch. However, before she’d made it to the sofa, Tank had snuck up behind her and gave her a bear hug, and, although Audrey Hairdown was getting sleepy, she giggled flirtatiously. He picked her up, then backed-up, and when his behind reached the wall he slid down to the carpet with Audrey Hairdown in his arms.
Meanwhile Frank and Goldeelox were all over the place, breaking chairs and pleasuring each other.
“This one’s too big!” Goldeelox exclaimed.
So they went for the second chair.
“This one’s too small!” she screamed.
So they headed for the third and final chair.
“Ahhh,” she groaned. “You did it Frank! This one’s just right!” But just before they stood up, the chair exploded.
By then, Audrey Hairdown was extremely sleepy, so she and Tank headed upstairs to the bedroom. They laid down in the first bed to continue getting down, but it was way too hard, and they weren’t able to get comfy. Then they laid in the second bed and tried to keep it up, but it was way too soft, and they still weren’t comfy. Then they laid down in the third and final bed, which was just right. Audrey Hairdown fell asleep and Tank stoked her long brunette hair.
While Audrey Hairdown was sleeping and Tank petted her, three policemen arrived.
“This place smells like stale porridge,” growled the first copper.
“This place smells like sex,” said the second copper.
“This place smells like porridge and sex, and bears and booze!” cried the third copper.
After the three coppers had knocked, waited for a few seconds, and broken down the front door, Goldeelox and Frank had already relocated upstairs. They were up against the wall, knitting, and having a five-minute break.
“Someone’s ate porridge from this smelly bowl,” growled the first copper.
“Someone’s been having sex,” said the second copper.
“This chair‘s exploded!” cried the third copper.
They decided to snoop around some more, and once the three coppers got upstairs, the first copper growled, “This one‘s too hard!”
“This one‘s too soft!” said the second copper.
“There’s a bear and a blonde in this bed over here, and they‘re wrestling or something!” exclaimed the third copper.
At that moment, Goldeelox moaned, and saw the three coppers. She moaned again, “Oh! Yes! Stay here!” And she sprang up, and ran into the other room where Audrey Hairdown and Tank were spooning. Goldeelox told the two of them about the coppers, which was great news, and not long after all seven of them were having a tag team wrestling match. And it was the last night that Goldeelox and Audrey Hairdown went for a late night stroll in search of a booty call, and they never returned to the home of the Frank and Tank again.
Jason Henry McCormick is an astronaut. He likes people, fiction, adventures, Shark Week, baseball, writing in the third person, golf, philosophy and listening to the poetry of Tupac Shakur. Jason reads and writes and is homeless in San Diego, California. His blog can be found at jasonhenrymccormick.wordpress.com.
An Excerpt from The Reinventionists. By Evan Fleischer
Blindspot By John Donald Carlucci
something had gone terribly wrong. His head screamed in pain and his
eyes were so blurry that he couldn’t see a thing. Blackness washed
over the wounded him as he passed out again.Minutes later, his eyes fluttered open as he focused on the bullet-damaged fedora lying in a pool of blood.
position. He regretted it immediately when he vomited a mixture of his
last meal and blood on the floor.
Feeling his head, he found he still possessed both of his ears, so the
one he had cast aside belonged to someone less fortunate than himself.
His eyes were half-crusted shut with more blood and he could feel a
lot of damage to his face and head, but pain was preferable to the
The heat was insufferable and he felt like he’d been wrapped in a hot
wet blanket. Breathing was a chore, even without the nausea and
The room was thirty feet to a side and one story. There were four open
windows and it would be generous to describe it as a “shack.” Stacks
of crates dominated the interior of the room, but there was a
In the center of the floor was a blood covered wooded chair with ropes
spread out around it.
“Jesus Christ,” He shivered as he looked at his blood-encrusted hands
“What happened to me?” He could see fresh rope burns on his right
wrist, but only the right wrist. “I…can’t remember.”
Swaying from dizziness, he unsteadily got to his feet. Looking out of
the nearby window, he saw nothing but dense brush and a palm tree
trunk. A crate had been overturned during some struggle and scattered
glass and debris about the blood-soaked floor. He could see a wallet
mixed in with the blood near the chair.
Finding his own pockets empty, he opened the wallet and began to
riffle the contents. The papers stuck to his blood-sticky hands, but
he found what he hoped he’d find; a name.
“Jacob Thompson,” He said as he read the driver’s license. His
memories were fuzzy at best and this name was as good as any. He
pulled another card, a business card with the same name. “A doctor,
I’m a doctor. My mum would be proud.”
Another wave of nausea threatened Thompson again, but he managed not
to heave this time. Doctor Thompson felt familiar, but the corridors
of his mind were empty of content. Many things felt familiar and some
felt downright important, but they were just out of reach.
Thompson turned to the only door to the room, saw it was open, and
walked toward it. A bullet ripped a chunk out of the frame inches from
“Fuck me!” Thompson threw himself to the floor inside and set off a
new bomb of light and pain in his head.
“I’ll kill you if you come near me,” Cried a feeble voice from the brush.
Again, Thompson fought to get control of his body. Something was very
wrong, but he couldn’t get his head together enough to figure it out.
“Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” Thompson laughed before
throwing up. The pressure in his head was becoming unbearable.
Several minutes later, Thompson managed to focus his eyes enough to
see out the open door. Lying halfway down the steps was the body of a
man. His suit and shirt were soaked with sweat and his fedora had
blown into weeds a few feet away. He wore a surprised look on his dead
face, probably due to the bullet that had punched out his right eye.
Thompson rolled over on his back and stared at the ceiling.
“I was kidnapped,” Thompson said it with dead certainty.
He had no clue why, but he was positive. He couldn’t remember the
kidnapping, but he knew that was what happened. All of the evidence
pointed to his breaking free at some point, fighting, shooting his
captors, and being wounded in the process.
There must have been two kidnappers. He’d killed one, but another was
wounded in the brush. He was probably the one missing the ear as the
other fellow on the steps still had both.
“I don’t want any trouble! I just want to go home.” There was no
response, but Thompson could hear a slight shuffling in the brush.
“Listen, I’m coming out. We’re both hurt pretty bad. I’m a doctor and
maybe I can help.” Thompson heard nothing this time, but staying put
and waiting things out would do neither of them any good. “Here I
Thompson dreaded waiting for that fateful bullet to tear through his
head and finish what the kidnappers had started. Unsteadily he made
his way down the short wooden steps to the muddy ground of the yard.
He stumbled as he realized his body was going numb and his head hurt
even worse than before.
Thompson could see scuffed and muddy leather shoes peeking out beneath
a nearby bush. He slowly pushed aside the branches and looked into the
face of his remaining kidnapper who feebly clutching the torn remains
of his belly.
He was missing his left ear and pointing his revolver directly into
“Listen, don’t hurt me. I just want to help, I’m a doctor.” Thompson
was surprised not to get the eager response to his offer as he’d
expected, but the weak laugh to a joke he was unaware of telling.
“How rich,” The dying man laughed again, but only managed to spit more
blood onto his chin and chest. The man looked closer at Thompson and
smiled. “I must have grazed your head when I shoot at you. You seem to
have a subdermal hematoma. Judging by your slurred speech and
confusion, I would say it’s a critical amount of damage. There is
short term memory loss and at least some of your long term memory as
Thompson was growing more confused and he felt the mixture of pain,
nausea, and disorientation fanning a tremendous sense of rage at this
man. “How do you know all of this?”
“I’m the doctor you idiot! You and that dead fool kidnapped me.”
Doctor Jacob Thompson coughed up yet another dark clot of blood. “Your
partner went for food and left you to guard me. I knocked you
unconscious when you untied my hands to use the bathroom. Your partner
came back just as I was tying you up. He shot me in the stomach as
soon as he opened the door. I shot at him twice before hitting him in
that ugly face of his. That was when you broke free, grabbed my ear
and tore it free. I stumbled out the door and fired wildly back at
“You shot me?”
“I thought I’d killed you. I guess I must have cracked your skull to
cause such extensive memory loss. You’d probably live if we were near
a hospital and not in the middle of the Everglades.” Thompson coughed
again, but the gun never wavered. “Too bad I’m going to shoot you
before you can try and make it.”
The man watched the gun as Thompson slowly squeezed the trigger. Both
men were surprised when the hammer clicked on a spent round.
“Shit.” Thompson said as he stared into the eyes of his enraged
kidnapper. The man snatched the dead weapon from the doctor’s hand and
began beating Thompson’s face in with the butt. The beating continued
quite a while until the man passed out again.
Waking up some time later, the man looked at the bloody mess next to
him and couldn’t remember what had happened or why he was surrounded
by dead men. All he knew was something had gone terribly wrong.
Astonishing Adventures magazine. JDC is a writer desperately trying to
outlive his rejection letters.
Big And Small Of It by John Grochalski
“You know how much they cost.”
“Yes, but I want you to tell me.”
“$9.50,” Tara said. Then she lit up.
Bill nodded. “And the generics?”
“$8.75. Honestly there’s no real difference.”
“There’s a seventy-five cent difference.”
Tara took hard drag on her smoke. “And that would’ve given us what?”
“An extra seventy-five cents,” Bill said.
“Don’t be smart.”
He stood there and looked at her a moment then went over to the counter where the dishes were. “It counts.”
“I don’t know.” Bill picked up a pot where the residue of boxed macaroni and cheese had coagulated to the sides. “Maybe it would’ve gotten us a second box of this.”
“Are you still hungry?” Tara asked. She said it in a way that Bill knew she didn’t care if he was hungry or not.
“No,” he lied. “You?”
“No. But you’re hungry a lot lately, so I thought I’d ask.”
“True. But of course you’re not hungry. You have your $10 pack of ciggies to quell your hunger.”
“Have one.” Tara pushed her pack toward the end of the table.
Suddenly Bill got red in the face. He put the pot down, drank the rest of his wine, and stormed over to where Tara was. When he got close she tightened and curled into herself, as if waiting for a blow. But all Bill did was roll up his sleeve and shove his shoulder into her face. “What’s this look like?””
“The patch,” Tara answered, turning her head away.
“That’s right,” Bill said. “And what can’t I do while I’m on the patch?”
“Again, you’re correct. So why would you offer me something as dumb as a cigarette?”
“I don’t know.” Tara wormed her way from the table and got up. She went over to the counter and poured herself another glass of wine. She refilled Bill’s out of instinct. “I forgot.”
“Ah, the joy of a woman’s memory.”
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” she said. Tara came back over to the table with both glasses of wine. “Have some of this.”
“Is there poison in that as well?” Bill asked.
“Yes, but it usually takes years for it to work. So I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.”
Bill laughed. He took his glass of wine and had a good pull on it. It went down fine at first. But then, as soon as the sweet booze reached his belly, it began to burn. Bill turned red-faced instantly. He set the wine glass down on the table, spilling some, and then clutched his stomach. “Jesus Christ, what is that?”
Tara smirked. “What do you mean? It’s wine. Carlo Rossi. The same shit we buy every three days.”
“Something’s not right,” Bill said. He held onto his stomach with one hand, and leaned on a chair with the other. “I don’t feel right.”
“What do you mean?” Tara started. But then right before her eyes Bill began shrinking. “Oh God!”
“Tell me!” Bill shouted. His face was red and covered in sweat. He let go of his stomach and the chair, and tried to stand upright. That’s when Tara noticed the sleeves on his shirt go over his hands. She screamed. “Oh Christ, what?”
“Come off it,” Bill said. But then he felt another guttural burn in his belly, and felt his pants drop an inch lower. Out of fear he grabbed his belt.
“Bill!” Tara screamed. She backed away from him and headed toward the counter. She dumped the rest of her wine down the sink then took another long drag on her smoke. Tara looked at Bill. It seemed he’d shrunk another few inches. His pants had completely gone over his shoes now, and Bill’s shirt hung so long on him it slumped over his shoulders. He looked like a child playing dress-up with his father’s clothes.
“I don’t know what to do?” Tara stubbed her smoke out and straightened herself. She made to go over to Bill, but then she felt a strong burn in her stomach. It doubled her over and she fell to the ground. When Tara looked up, she saw that her husband’s eyes were filled with terror. “What is it?”
“You…. you’re growing!”
Tara moaned. She felt an intense pain in her joints, bones, and muscles. It felt as if someone were pulling her about a thousand different ways. She fell on her back and raised her neck. The jeans she was wearing were almost at her knees. Bill’s old crew neck shirt, one he’d warned her not to wear; the sleeves were up to the elbows. “What’s happening?”
“I don’t know,” Bill said, right before his pants and underwear fell completely off of him. Tara looked at him. He was maybe three feet now. Then he was two. And then…
“Bill!” She screamed. Tara tried to get up on her knees but she’d gotten so big that her ass hit the counter, and knocked over the wine bottle, magazine, and pot of macaroni and cheese residue. They all fell on her back. The wine bottle rolled off and smashed on the floor. Glass and blood-red liquid went everywhere. Wine ran down the kitchen toward where Bill was standing. He was maybe six inches tall now, Tara thought, listening as her jeans and shirt ripped. He was completely naked, standing maybe an inch away from his clothing. She reached for him, but she smacked the side of the table hard. She’d grown so much that it turned over on its side. “Bill!”
He had a look of horror on his face, as a stream of red wine raced toward him. Bill moaned. He felt the burn again, and then a horrible new pain all throughout his body. Three more inches were gone. Quickly, he ran toward his mound of clothes. He began climbing the fabric of his brown pants, getting to safety just as the wash of red river encircled him. “Tara!”
“I can’t,” was all that she could say before the pains came again. Tara screamed. The remnants of her shirt and jeans fell off of her, as did her shredded bra and underwear. When the pains stopped, Tara turned and sat, her head tilted against the cold, rough ceiling, one arm, which broke the screen, hung out the kitchen window, and the other pressed against the mixture of wall and cracked table. She was stuck.
“Tara, are you okay!” Bill shouted. But his wife couldn’t hear him. She just sat there, naked and frightened, staring down at him on his island of clothing, at the patch as it went floating by.
It was then that Bill heard a noise coming from the living room. It was a thump and then the patter of feet. From his height, the sound was deafening. The vibrations made him nauseous. Oh, no, Bill thought, bracing himself down in his mound of clothes, the goddamned cat. Sure enough Reggie came around the corner and surveyed the scene without any kind of fear. Fat, round, blue-eyed, Siamese mutt, shaped-like-a-football Reggie, who could never get enough in his damned belly, who always cried during every meal; the ten-year-old nuisance of a cat that Bill couldn’t wait to see die. They were face to face. Reggie was staring Bill right in the eye, and the cold, determined glare of the cat was beyond frightening, aside from being beyond all logic and comprehension. Bill felt his heart race. How long had it been since he tossed the cat across the living room? Five minutes? Ten? Surely, cats couldn’t remember that long.
“Reggie!” Tara screamed, looking down at the cat and her husband. “Reggie! Get!”
But the cat didn’t register her voice. He took his time and walked around the scene. He sniffed at Bill’s clothes, and then came around toward where the spilt wine rested. Reggie sniffed and then turned away. He walked over to where Tara was, found the pot of macaroni and cheese and began licking.
“Thank God,” Bill said from his mound. He looked up at the mountain of flesh that was his wife. “Tara!” But he was sure that he heard nothing.
“Bill!” Tara screamed, as loud as she could. She tilted her head slightly. She looked down at her husband and he was clutching his ears. Shit, she thought. It must be the sound of my voice. Oh God, what’s happened? But then. “Reggie!”
Only it was too late. Reggie had come across the kitchen and pounced on the mound of Bill’s clothes. Tara watched in horror as her husband backed away. But it was only a matter of time. Reggie was patient. He’s been a farm cat, and Bill and Tara had gotten him when he was already a year old and living and learning with his mother and the rest of the liter. Bill made one last attempt. He punched at the cat, full on, right in the middle of Reggie’s nose. The old Siamese mix didn’t even flinch. Then Tara shut her eyes. Tears welled in them. When she opened them, Reggie was laying the middle of Bill’s pile of clothes. He was licking his paws.
“Oh God!” Tara said, looking down at the half-soaked mound that used to be her husband. Reggie looked up at her and meowed. Tara watched a tear fall and splatter on the kitchen floor, and felt a burning in her stomach again. It came long and felt like she’d eaten fire. She tried to clutch her stomach but couldn’t. Then her head wedged away from the ceiling, and she could begin to feel herself shrink.
John Grochalski is a published writer whose fiction has appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Retort, Bartley Snopes, The Big Stupid Review, The Legendary, The Moose & Pussy, The Battered Suitcase, Fictionville, Pequin, and forthcoming in the anthology Living Room Handjob. His column The Lost Yinzer appears quarterly in The New Yinzer (www.newyinzer.com). His book of poems The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out is out via Six Gallery Press, and his chapbook Meditations On Misery With Women is due via Tainted Coffee Press in the summer of 2010.
An opening door scraped, bringing him back to reality. It was a cook from the restaurant. The chef looked at him with contempt.
“Get the fuck out of here before anyone else sees you.”
He could hear the cook’s thoughts. The food wasn’t worth an argument. He rode for a few blocks. Royal stretched in front of him, intersected at right angles by streets leading north and south. Herds of tourists and a junky on the corner of St. Philip were like figurines to him. Insignificant details in a crumbling architectural model.
Lattice-work of interlinked shapes blurred in the concrete. After taking a left down an alley, he found another restaurant. His hands slipped on the bars. He stopped next to some trash cans that had been recently filled. Thoughts of his previous self – about the things he noticed – contrasted his current awareness. Before, he wouldn’t have been able to differentiate between the acrid thickness of the day-old meals and the rich smell of a fresh fish dinner. Windows of telepathy and geometric patterns written in the roads had become normal. Heightened awareness of sensory detail was subtle, and still felt new. He found a red snapper with a few pieces cut from it.
He was about to get caught again, he sensed it. He put the fish in his bag and rode away. The fish smell slowly overpowered the stale odour seeping from the concrete in the quarter. His unease lessened slightly with the thought of eating. His work occupied him so wholly, he sometimes forgot about food.
Immense rectangular prisms protruded from the ground. Dissonant noise of garbled thoughts faded in the looming quiet of downtown. He had gotten better about the focus of his receiving. But in densely crowded areas, people’s thoughts coagulated into walls of noise. The air felt thick in his lungs. He was not fully used to the humidity. Riding with hands on his thighs, he sat up straight. He wiped sweat collected in his beard, smoothed his blonde hair, which was slicked back with grease.
An abstract line connecting the patterns and equations hovered above him. A vivid sunflower appeared in his mind. Seeds wove together in irrational arcs. The design created the tightest possible concentration of points. Hidden in the arcs was a message he couldn’t decipher.
Threatening eyes were on him. He looked around, only saw concrete columns supporting the highway. He needed to get back. He had to make sure his documents were safe.
Torn houses were scattered on both sides of St. Charles. To his right, an empty lot surrounded piles of rubble. Metal framework jutted out of concrete chunks. Splintered window and door frames constructed tangents, sines, and co-sines. Shattered glass intermeshed with the dirt and glinted in the light. He passed a few people that looked lost to him.
He wove between streets, turning at angles connected by a relationship too complex for anyone else to understand. He stopped two blocks away. There was a man in front of the house — a lifeless hulk muttering toothless stories. The bum was harmless, but he had to be careful. He left three houses because of carelessness. He didn’t want to find a fifth.
He watched from behind a dumpster while the bum stumbled down Magazine with loaded grocery bags. A new strain came to him. The numbers exhibited an increasing intricacy. He made sure no one was watching. After moving the loose plywood covering the backdoor, he went inside.
It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust. He breathed heavy dirt into his nostrils. Kaleidoscopic shapes in the rotting floorboards grew in definition. When he could clearly see cyclic, layered nets of squares, triangles, and hexagons, he navigated through his alarm system of fishing line. The line was tied to nails in the hallway, arranged according to a seemingly sporadic, yet calculated design.
The room’s familiar musk comforted him. Rays of light from cracks in the plywood covered windows cut into the dark. His belongings – a sleeping bag, cup, work jacket and pants for cold weather – were tucked neatly in the far left corner. He uncovered the hole in the closet wall where he kept his doctrines. Suddenly overwhelmed with the certainty of an unwelcome presence, he checked the room. A cockroach crawled over torn and curled edges in the decrepit floral-patterned wall paper. He peered through slits in the plywood, looking through each of three windows.
His body nearly collapsed as he lifted the documents from their place. A sea of sunflowers filled his vision. He saw himself preaching, screaming, reciting golden equations, chanting decimal streams. Thousands of people crowded around him. They listened to his words with fervour, ready to make the sacred journey at his command. Each person was a piece in the puzzle. Their lifeless bodies formed a spectacular rectangle.
The contrast between the perfect image and the room nearly made him vomit. Clarity of his purpose, the divine task he had been searching for, created an urgency for him to leave. He remembered the fish, forced himself to eat.
He adjusted his loaded pack while hesitating next to the curb. Faded and cracking pink paint made angular designs on the house’s gray wood grain. There was graffiti on the particle board covering the windows. Drooping branches from trees on either side connected to the patched roof in parabolic arcs.
The abandoned house was the perfect opposite to the blindingly white house – once the center of his dreams. The mind that inhabited that white space with her seemed foreign. He knew leaving would fray the stretched connections to his past. Enormity of his task tumbled over him in waves.
He made himself pedal. Smothering sentiment, he thought about the importance of his cause. The numerical language overshadowed his bodily existence. Eyes following him down St. Charles weren’t as threatening. The weight of his documents in his bag, hundreds of pages bounded chaotically together, comforted him.
A woman and two children looked at him as he rode by. They were gaunt, with empty eyes. They stood in front of a destroyed house, its roof collapsed, gaping holes in the walls. He saw wandering beings; they were trapped in a gray corridor, oblivious of the higher realm. He pitied their pointless existence. But the enlightened ones would find him.
Streets and buildings sprawled, connected by fractions, angles, and equations all relatable to phi. At a park downtown, he stared at an enormous live-oak. The sinking sun bathed the tree. A thick horizontal segment intersected its trunk. The proportion of the horizontal segment to the ground, over the segment to the top, equalled the proportion of the trunk’s entire vertical length, over the segment to the grass. Pointing to the sky, heavy perpendicular branches rose on both sides of the intersecting segment. Smaller branches swirled above in a globular labyrinth, spinning in mathematical dance.
He rode north-east. He heard screaming while he waited for the traffic on Franklin to clear. The voice sounded far off at first. Tight fixation on earth’s geometric interconnection drifted as harsh and unintelligible words from a crack-head filled his consciousness. Looking at the addict, he thought about telling him how to sacrifice his body for entry into the golden realm. He knew the crack-head wouldn’t understand though. Vacant eyes and gaps between his chemical eroded teeth revealed an inner void that consumed him. The addict, like most others, would never see.
Houses with missing siding drifted into warehouses on Marais. Looking at the train tracks, he knew he was supposed to be there at that precise moment. Weeds sprouted from the littered dirt. Their roots trickled beneath the surface, eventually connecting with other roots, continuing on until earth’s outer core. Instructions for eternal life had always been present in the natural and unnatural world. The message only needed to be interpreted.
He laid down in the weeds and watched the sky deepen. An industrial moan from the train shook the ground.Rust clung to his calves. The train gained speed. His bike slid, pedals scraping across layers of dirt and iron oxide. He focused his attention away from the train’s droning sounds. Disjunct memories played in his head.He felt like a disease was consuming his brain. He thought his sight was an illness rather than a gift. For two years he fought an impossible daily battle. Waking up everyday, convinced that he could overcome his turmoil with will power. Possibility of attaining his old dream – a life with her – faded with realization of the permanence of his new mental processes.
“I don’t see why you’re doing this. You just need help. Don’t do this. I’ll help you.”Her voice was hysterical. Burgundy strands of hair stuck to her face.
He tried to explain the path cut by the ratio. It was light in the darkness, but the message was unclear. He had to devote his life to solving the equations. She didn’t understand. He longed to be with her, but it wasn’t like before. Knowing he would never see her again, he surrendered to the numbers.
The memories distorted into a gray mass. They were so distant. He felt like he was viewing the scenes on a screen in someone else’s head. A weight on his viscera convinced him of the past’s reality.
Through a crack in the door, he watched night swallow the city. He pressed against the corrugated steel square of the car end. Rectangular definition of the car edges faded into darkness on the opposite side. There was a presence in the shadows. It wanted to erase him. He knew there was nothing; still, he couldn’t move.
He forced his thoughts on the field. Ultimate unity drew closer with each second. Masses of people moved to him. He guided them with messages sent along telepathic highways. They were different from the lost faces roaming the decaying wastelands. An energy – a beautiful light – emanated from them. Greens and yellows undulated. He and his followers were ready to do the extraordinary, to sacrifice their lives; the gateway was opening.
The stench of shit and piss mixed with thick dirt and rust. He felt his bag, made sure his documents were still there. Dark figures of trees passed by the tracks. He could almost smell the flowers.
Roadies by Walter Conley
A Gun Called Comeuppance (Part 1) by Danny Hogan
‘You can shut up, too. Ain’t you done this before? These shits are gonna need more than that if you want ’em to work for you,’ replies the delightful Jane.
There are two others with Choctaw and Jane but they don’t say nothing. They just stand there looking menacing. Who they are, I don’t know and I don’t give a fuck. I suppose they’re there to make sure I ain’t gonna pull a fast one. Yeah. They’re boys so they’re just gawping at me like Choctaw. I’m small but my chest didn’t seem to take any notice of that when it was growing.
‘Got my pay?’ Choctaw asks my tits.
‘Yeah, I got your pay all right,’ I say reaching into my trench coat.
People tend to laugh when they see me wield my .44. True it looks way too big for me. I suppose they imagine that the recoil will blast me back quicker than the slug going in the opposite direction. To some people the whole scene in front of them may seem strange. A 19 year-old, 5’3” (well 5’10” if you count the twin Mohawks that run parallel on my head) pointing a Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum with a 7-and-a half inch barrel at ’em. It always begins the same way, they laugh. It always ends the same way too. I pull the trigger, they ain’t laughing no more.
All this and, the way I’m dressed, none of these bastards pull their pieces, not even that bitch Jane. They’re stunned for a second or so. The kids stop weeping. Then Choctaw begins the smirking. What do you know? The others follow suite and then the full on laughing starts.
‘What the hell’s that, penis envy?’ says Jane.
‘You ain’t got the guts, kid,’ says Choctaw wiping tears from his piggy eyes. ‘I can see you shaking from here. Besides,’ he struggles to get a grip, ‘you won’t hit us with that cannon unless you’re point blank,’ and to illustrate his point he stands with his hands wide apart, offering up an open target.
True I was shaking. But not with fear. I’m still learning to compensate for the adrenalin.
He, like the others is still laughing. I pull the trigger. Boom. Choctaw’s head comes apart like a Christmas bauble full of hot sauce. Beautiful. See, I learnt to compensate for recoil a while ago.
Now they’re stunned again, dumb bastards. Which gives me time. This god damned gun I love so much is only single action, see. The kids are squealing and its putting me off.
Jane draws first, which pisses me off because I wanted to save her until last. She’s the one they use to lure these kids, see, plus she’s a cunt. Oh well, can’t always have what you want. She’s there, weapon half drawn, glaring and threatening all kinds of shit. You know how legend says that a .44 can take someone’s head clean off? And then some ballistic experts say, well, no it can’t? What I’ve found is, if you aim for the throat, just under the chin, you can make a person’s head flip right back like it’s on a hinge or something. The boom, smack and crack sound it makes is cool as fuck. OK, so it’s not clean off, but it sure as Hell shut Jane up.
I was expecting this to be an uphill struggle but the two, so-called muscle only go and down-tools.
They whimper shit about not being anything to do with this, about how they were just told to turn up for a job. How, when they discovered what it was all about, they were /going/ to pull out, yada yada.
I could go into all sorts of crap about how they are as guilty as Choctaw and Jane, so on and so forth. But I really can’t be fucked. I decide to let Comeuppance, my .44, do the talking. She tells them to fuck off, permanently.
Yeah, I’d like to say Vengeance is my middle name, but it ain’t. It’s Misery. Jezebel Misery St. Etienne, that’s me, and I’m here to level some shit up.
You’re probably expecting me to save these damn kids now ain’t you? What do I look like, a nanny? Leave them there too fend for themselves, it didn’t do me no harm.
I look around and behold the image of sorrow in these three urchins, snivelling and generally making a god-awful noise. Oh Hell.
I know a safe haven on the other side of town. That, by the way, is a sure path to damnation. Thugs, thieves, mercs, fascists, bounty hunters and raiders are all waiting for me down that road. Speaking of roads, most of them are impassable, too. This was a city once. And, with three kids too small to fight in tow, it’s going to be a long old trip through Hell. Bring it on.
‘Come on, I’ll take you somewhere safe,’ I mutter.
I begin to walk but the kids just stand there. I turn around to see what the fuck is going on and two of the kids are just trying to stop their snivelling while the bigger one of the boys glares at me purposefully.
‘Miss, you’re mean. We know you was trying to buy us, maybe you never had no money and you was trying to get us for free? Why the Hell should we go with you?’
‘Fine,’ I say, ‘stay here and become entertainment for whichever lowlife comes wondering by. If you’re lucky, you’ll starve to death before then.’ I take a hit of rum from my flask and begin walking. I decide to head to the other side of town anyway. I’m still up for a fight and in the mood for some sex and violence.
I wish there’d been someone around to place a wager with. I’ll be damned if I don’t hear the patter of small footsteps behind me. I admit it OK, I’m glad. I ain’t a complete cunt.
It’s not that I hate kids, I don’t. They just can’t drink or fight worth shit or anything else that interests me. They also don’t shut-up. Even when they’re not yapping away they make noises.
I’ve been told, the journey across town used to take around 40 minutes. Now it takes the best part of a day and, when I say day, I mean 24-hours. Well, I’m encumbered and these kids look hungry. Hungry kids make more noise, it turns out, be damned. Mercifully my city safe house is on the way. This’ll serve three functions. Feed myself and the brats, get ’em some rest because they’re gonna need it and pick up equipment.
My abode’s a dank utility basement at the bottom of an abandoned building that has been left half demolished. The room itself is lovely. It has fixtures that I scavenged from a hotel that was left to rot. I even got some plastic plants, fairy lights and all sorts of fancy bric-a-brac I picked up along the way. My single bed is in one corner and opposite the main door is my desk. Next to the desk is my rack of guns.
I take a slug of whiskey, some cheap shit I pilfered, and get to the task of cleaning my .44. I look over at the brats, who commandeered my god damned bed straightaway, and are now fast asleep. I hate feeling stuff.
Yeah, I’ve been in love, once. He was famous, too. A legend to peaceful folks. A scourge and no-good to the shit, filth, scum and traffickers.
I used to be a raider myself, see. Going around as high as fuck, robbing stealing, murdering, you name it. Then one day I was out with my crew and he came along. We knew who he was. He’d been around for decades, before most of us were born even, bringing justice to this justice-less world. I tell ya, I was even more full of myself then than I am now but, on seeing him, my heart started beating so hard I thought it was going to break free of my chest and make a run for it. It wasn’t fear this time either. Four quick shots from his repeater and my crew belonged to yesterday. I had never seen such shooting.
Oh man, when I think of that moment. Him standing there in his duster and wide awake, pointing that thing at me with the new day’s sun coming up behind him. His looks were so rugged. A real, true man, not like the others. The admiration and lust I felt then, well, I ain’t never felt anything like that before or since.
They say being out there reverts you back to your animal side. Well, I guess it does because he must have smelled me or something as he lowered his weapon. He had probably put paid to hundreds of girls like me in the past. Out there in wastes we were ten-a-penny. But, lucky for me, the attraction was mutual. Well, we did it there and then in the dirt and dust.
He taught me about the importance of compassion and understanding. That normal folks, who were just trying to cut a life out for themselves from nothing, needed protection. About how damned wrong things were.
He talked a lot about this guy Gilberto, his nemesis or something.
About a year ago, he was cleaning his guns at this very table with me kneeling under it sucking him off. Just at the moment the floodgates opened some of Gilberto’s boys burst in and blew his head to pieces, leaving me on my knees with a mouthful of dead man’s cum. Dunno how they found us but it was news to them that we were an item. One of the bastards reckoned he had a sense of humour and put a gun to my head and forced me to swallow. Yeah, then they raped me to hell, beat the shit out of me and left me for dead. I still get the ringing in my ears and them awful gut cramps. They should have shot me there and then. All I know is, one day I’ll get that dirty bastard Gilberto and his boys.
I kick the kids awake and feed them some of my precious rations, goddamnit. Then I equip. OK, I’m gonna need my man’s old repeater, for range work; four grenades for laughs and of course Comeuppance for the hurt. You may think that there’s no way the repeater, one of them old Henry rifles, would have survived and be serviceable after all these years, and you’d be right. It’s a real Washington’s hatchet effort with all of the parts having been duplicated and replaced over the centuries. I don’t give a fuck. It shoots strait and brings the pain.
We set off at a good pace but it doesn’t take long for this, escorting kids to safety routine, to get old. Stupid little varmints’ legs are too short for most of the terrain, clambering over ruins is all part of the game, see. Add their constant grumbling and you’ve got some idea of what level of hell I’m in.
After many uneventful, prattleful hours the safe haven is in sight now, but this here is no man’s land. Anything could happen between here and there. We are making our way through some craggy rocks, heading down this ridge on a hill towards a monstrous concrete affair surrounded by corrugated iron fences that is the safe house, when I discover how right I am not to let my guard down.
I hear the laughing first; I recognise it from a year ago. It makes my skin crawl and the adrenaline pump. Appearing from behind some burnt out vehicles are the three bastards who killed my man and raped me. With them is that fat, evil bastard Gilberto.
Those fucks must have tracked us.
To be contd …
Danny can be contacted here:
Theater by Kimo Temperance (AKA Bruce Brown)
It looks like a newsreel. The people are moving at stuttered speeds–baseball players accelerating around bases, actions spliced one atop the other in jerks of editing. The only sound is that low mechanical purr of projector. The newsreel cuts to descending numbers and then to what looks like a home video.
It’s a steady shot of an aquarium tank that randomly blurs and sharpens. Threading the tank is a hairless rabbit. It’s pale and graceful, swimming in sudden darts and motionless floats; the spider web of veins under its skin constricting with it movements. The rabbit’s eyes are like shark’s eyes, dead black with a membrane licking over them when the rabbit nears the glass of the tank.
It’s the kind of hideous beauty I can only take in brief increments, so I begin to look around the theater. That’s when I start seeing colors. The other people are turning into flowers. The hair of the woman next to me spreads into violet petals. The man in the seat in front of me is bald. There’s a small black pinhole is the back of his head. Small fissures start radiating out from the hole. Equidistant lines, geometrically perfect section his head like a halved grapefruit. The back of his head pulses and then blooms. The pistil is his brain, a glistening pink, and the petals are a deep red. The curling arteries branching each petal.
I’m moving now, stumbling over people rooting into chairs. I look at my hands and the whorls of my fingerprints are moving like the flow of rivers sculpting through a canyon. The center of each whorl begins to distend and split. The screen has bleached to a dull glow, exposing the color. It’s kaleidoscope of pastels and primaries filling the theater. The sound of projector has sped to the clicking and creaks of insects.
I slip on the slick of new grass growing from the floor. I know it’s possibly too late now. The geometry of the room is fading away into open space. I can feel my fingers distending arthritic, growing, bending to root into the earth.
Then I find the pressbar of the lobby and I fall against it. The door to the lobby opens but instead of the lobby I find gutted empty office space. The space smells of feces. Light filters through pried plywood doors.
I leave as quickly as possible because I want to see my hands. I feel their shape, normal and solid but I need to see them whole. I study my fingers and the pattern of my fingerprints, looking for anything unusual and hoping I’ll recognize it. I find it on center of my thumb, slowly rising from the whorl, the tip of a thorn working to split the skin.
” I’m not much for bios, because, who cares? It’s the work that matters. I had a piece in disenthralled. I’ll take any chance to push Walter Conley’s work. Walter’s a righteous fucker. Otherwise I’m working out somewhere in America punching bears. ”