Thursday, February 4, 2016

There hasn't been a winter to speak of, yet.

Luke looked like he had two black eyes, but he didn't. He huddled in the doorway, smiled and beckoned at someone, a friend in the darkness, outside --between-- the streetlight cylinders full of sleet and orange glow.

His friend wore an orange hooded sweater and black Lycra pants and thick, heavy winter boots. Hands stuffed in the single pouch-pocket, head down through the wind tunnel, she let herself wander into one of the cylinders. She smiled with bruise colored lips. "Heya baby," she said without looking up.  She brushed by Luke and thumped into the door. "Ow," she said. "It's locked."

"What? No!" Luke turned,

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dream Interlude 01

John lay in bed, sleepless, wondering about Lisa. They'd talked on the phone, agreed to meet after school and start their -- he shuddered, the maggot in his leg shuddered, too-- hunt. "I dunno, man, I'm not sure having you there is gonna work. Why don't you come on out for a bit? Hide in my room?" He felt a swish, left right left and his stomach clenched. "That is weird man. Please stop doing that." The maggot was still.

Eventually, the circles of Lisa, maggot, hunt, and magic tired his brain and John slept. When he woke, John did not clearly, or immediately remember his dream, but this is what happened in it. He was standing on the roof of the abandoned building and it was raining, pouring down hard cold droplets that stung and made him grit his eyes. And then he woke.

The sun shone through the windows of his room, the ceiling fan whirred peacefully. A car passed.

John's phone rang.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Maggot filled dreams

He did not sleep well.

In his dream, he was walking down the ruined corridor. He could not stop walking, and he could not speed up, but as he walked the feeling of a presence coming up behind him grew and 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

sitting, writing at the dining room table while everyone else sleeps

watching the sky turn from a close, orange blanket to a high grey sheet through the window

frost on the fence

a sense of security slipping away

"The never ending night" in my ears

Crutches

It was a bright, Monday morning and John leaned over, gave his mom a kiss on the cheek while they were stopped at a red light waiting to turn left into the school parking lot. They smiled at each other. "You know you can stay home today if you want, I'll call in for you."

"Thanks mom, but I've got a science test this afternoon. I'll be fine," John said and smiled. "Those crutches are pretty helpful, honestly. I can move really fast with them!"

Janice laughed. "Okay then."

The light changed, the radio, set to NPR, was pleasant fluff and John was early to first hour. Mr. Porter gave him a long, side glance, but John ignored it. Mercedes was absent, and John promised to take her a copy of the review sheet for Wednesday's test. "Remember, tomorrow is more review. Bite by bite," Mr. Porter shouted after the fleeing students. John waited until everyone else was gone and then stood up, wrestled with his back pack and thanked Porter for handing him the crutches. "Everything okay?" Porter asked.

"Yes, thank you." John said. He smiled. "It's nice out today, you should keep the doors open."

"Huh." Mr. Porter smiled. He said, "Thank you, I will do that. Thanks."

"Sure thing. See you tomorrow."

Mr. Porter said, "You've ah, you've got a booger hanging. It just slipped out."

John touched his nose and felt something wiggle in his right nostril. He snap-pinched his nose, but the wriggle went deeper, was gone. Feeling sick, he wiped his hand on the bottom of his backpack. He swallowed and asked, "Is it gone?"

Mr. Porter peered and moved his head. "Yeah, don't see it. Have a good day."

"Yeah. You too," John said. With every step-swing he took to his next class, John swore. His black eyes burned and he swore his gums were writhing.

Second Hour. Second hour he felt something writhing in his cheeks for the first half of class, before it inch-wormed slowly down his throat and sat at the base of his spine.

Passing time. John stopped in the mid ground between the two buildings and punched himself repeatedly in the crotch. "Get out get out get out," He said with gritted teeth. The maggot stopped moving.

Third Hour. Third hour the maggot slithered down his leg and tickled the bottom of his bad foot until he shouted involuntarily and got up and hobble stomped all the way to the bathroom. John ground his heel into the ground as hard as he could. He sat in a stall and took his boot off and contemplated stabbing his foot with a pen. As he thought it, the maggot scamper-writhed up his leg.

Lunch. John sat in the same place he always sat: outside, behind the building one's cafeteria, on the low cement wall. His mom had packed him a fancy bento box with barbecued beef strips and tiny rice and seaweed sandwiches, carrot sticks, cucumber hearts. He poked at the food with his chopsticks. He felt full, sick. His heart raced uncontrollably. Occasionally the maggot would wiggle in opposition to his heart beat and John could not tell if he was having a heart attack or going crazy or both.

After an eternity of wiggling and jostling organs, the maggot started fast crawling in circles around his right arm. After a few minutes, it burned.  John whimpered. He whispered, "Please stop. I will do anything if you stop. Almost anything."

And the wiggling stopped.

"I won't . . .what do you want? Tell me what you want! Tell me!" He stood up, involuntarily. "If you leave me alone I'll leave you alone. Seriously. Get comfy and I won't try and hurt you or dig you out or send you back?" At John's last comment, the maggot twitched and wriggled into the crook of his right knee. John sighed and sat down. "Truce?" he asked.

"Who are you talking to?" Lisa asked.

John startled and knocked his crutches and bento box onto the cement. "Hey! Where's, uh, your friend?"

"Your lunch!" Lisa rushed over and scooped up the food.

"You go first," they said in unison. Then, again: "No, you. Go go." John clamped his mouth shut and stared at Lisa, who now also had a black eye and a split lip. He frowned, but said nothing.

Lisa said, "Here's your lunch," and handed it to John. "Matt? I told him I wanted to talk to you alone, he said he understood. We're just friends."  John remained silent, but nodded. "Look. I need your help, now. Sarah says if those worms are free too long the world will end. I don't think it's that serious, but she's seriously pissed at me. I don't know how many there were, but Sarah got two of them and. . . "  John couldn't concentrate. The maggot in his leg was twitching. John nodded and winced. More slowly, methodically, the maggot twitched thirteen times. "You didn't hear any of that, did you?"

"Huh?"

"Whatever. You aren't --"

"NO! Look, my leg has been acting up. Worse than usual. I just had an episode."

"What?"

John pointed at his bad leg. I didn't want to scream at you, so I stayed silent, but no, I didn't hear anything you said after, uh," The maggot twitched: Thirteen quick ticks. John winced. "I get it, I think. My leg,"

"You get what?"

"I get that I wasn't . . .that I caused. Friday. I messed up. Bad. And now there're smoke worms --"

"Maggots. Larvae, technically."

"Larvae?"

"Gross, huh?" Lisa laughed. "My mom always said I was the gross one." The five minute warning bell rang. "Look, no. I shouldn't have. I should have. It wasn't your fault. I wanted to impress you and man --man did I mess up."

John was quiet.

"So, can you help me?"

"I dunno. Can I?"

"I'd like you to."

John swallowed the sudden lump in his throat. "Well," he said, "Sure. Call me after school."

"You want a ride home?"

"Uh, got one, thanks. Call me though. No texting. We'll figure something out."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Really. Where's your next class? I'm in this building. Got a science test."

"I'm in building three actually. Gotta run."

John blushed. Lisa laughed. Twitched an eye brow at him and cocked her head. "Yeah man?"

"What!" he said.

"What what?"

"Uh huh. See you later Lisa." John stood up, sighed. His tummy gurgled. The maggot in his leg twitched, and he looked down, then he went to hug her, but Lisa was already fast walking toward the far building. He limped into his science class with half a many things. His teacher, a young woman with brown hair and a half moon face looked at him and frowned. She asked if he was alright, and he nodded. The test was easier than John had hoped for.

The maggot was still for the rest of the day, and his mother picked him up from behind the school. He stared out the window, quiet for the short ride back to their house. His mother made small talk about dinner, homework, the weather.

Lisa called while he was loading the dishwasher, and they talked about vague plans for tracking the maggots, and made solid plans to meet for lunch --she would skip the second half of her third hour class and eat lunch with him.

John took the review sheet to Mercedes' house. Her mother answered the door and apologized that Mercedes had troubled him so much. John laughed and stared at his shoes. "It's nothing. I'd like to help her study, if she needs it."

Mercedes' mother laughed, now. "She doesn't, John, but she might like someone to study with." She leaned in, "Friends, nice friends, are few and far between around her for her these days." It felt like the maggot in his leg was convulsing with laughter, at this. John grit his teeth and mumbled how that was too bad, but he would be happy to be a study partner. "I'll let her know, John." Mercedes' mom said with a smile. They said their goodbyes and John's mom drove him home. He did his homework and got ready for bed --brushed his teeth, went to the bathroom, changed into some cotton running shorts. He climbed in bed and realized the maggot hadn't moved since Mercedes' house. He wondered if it had died. "You alive?" He whispered. No response.

He went to sleep.




Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A little later (At the hospital)

John woke with the jolt of icy maggots burrowing into his right arm and he screamed, clawed one out, it came out with a gush of blood and someone was screaming, next to him pushing him down  and, "No no no, those are for your fluids! Those are I.V. tubes! What are you doing? What are you?"
John froze, the other maggot pinched between his thumb and forefinger just like Sarah had done, and looked left. his mother was back lit by a large window, mouth twisted, cheeks tear streaked. It was orange-dark outside. Blushing furiously, he let go of the I.V. His mother sat down. She pressed the emergency button on his bed and pinched the bloody I.V. shut.  "What happened to you?" She asked.

"Mom, I'm sorry."

"You're lucky you had your cellphone on you! They called 'Mom less than three'! Why am I less than three, Jay? Who's greater than three if not your mother?" John laughed despite himself, it started as a giggle, but spiraled loudly so that when the nurses rushed in, they found him in tears, laughing and his mom chuckling, too. I.V. in hand. The nurses stopped short and stared.

Everyone got quiet. The taller nurse, pale blue scrubs and bald said, "I'll go get another I.V. Thank you Ms. Osborne for holding that closed." Stiffly, he turned around and walked out of the room.

"Mom, turn the phone sideways. It's a heart, Mom. You're not less than three."

She turned the phone sideways. She frowned. "Ohhh," she said. She smiled and patted his leg. Then, a moment later she snatched up the phone and started pressing buttons.

"Mom?"

"Who else do you have hearts next to?" She dodged his desperate lunge for his phone and laughed, stood up and out of reach.

"MOM! I will stand up so help me,"

"I wouldn't recommend that." Someone said. The someone was a woman in a long white lab coat, with bright red hair, holding a manilla envelope. She had a stethoscope covering her name tag. "I think you're going to be in a wheel chair for at least a few days from the cuts you've got on the bottom of your feet. What were you doing? Walking barefoot on broken glass? Hello. I'm doctor Hartland. Ms. . ." she checked the manilla folder, "Arbol, Janice Arbol, is it?"

John's mom nodded.

"Well, Ms. Arbol, your son is lucky he was dropped off when he was. By taxi." Doctor Hartland raised an eyebrow. "Your son was bleeding from the, ah, posterior and feet, with minor, though extensive, cuts and bruises on his arms and chest. You fall out of a tree, tiger?"

"Rawr," John replied.

The Doctor continued, "You've got all new boosters for the usual, Tetanus, etc. We sent some of your blood to be processed at the central hospital, too. We'll mail you with the results unless we need you to come in. You're free to go once the next transfusion is finished. The hospital can loan you a wheel chair, but you can walk, on crutches by Monday."

"Is that normal?" Ms. Arbol asked.

John asked, "No missing school, huh?"

"Not for you," the doctor said, and smiled. "Sorry. Do you want the wheel chair or just the crutches?"

"Just the crutches, thank you," John said.

"Okay, I'll let the nurses know that you'll be leaving when you're ready, but some time today, if that's okay with you both?"

John and his mom nodded in agreement. The doctor nodded and turned to leave, as she was closing the door John called out: "Hey, did you guys, uh, do x-rays or anything?"

The doctor stopped. She looked at John, "Something feel broken?"

"No, but I was wondering if you found anything, or did anything that could have uncovered anything, I dunno, weird about me?"

The doctor frowned. "What would we find weird about you?"

"I dunno," John mumbled.

The doctor looked from John's mother to John and back again. She put on a smile and, startlingly chipper, said, "Well, the preliminary tests didn't find anything wrong with you and we will call you if anything is wrong with your blood work. Okay?"

"Yes, thank you. Thank You!" John said. His mother said it, too. They exchanged goodbyes and the doctor left. Quietly, his mom started straightening the room, folding sheets, moving the chair into the corner of the room. John tried to rest, but every time he started to doze off images from the abandoned building flooded his mind like a morbid flip book and he snapped up in bed like a broken bear trap. He'd look over and his mom would be watching him, tight lipped. After his third start she balled her fists and shouted, "What were you doing to get so beaten up?"

"Mom, I wasn't beaten up."

"Where'd the black eyes come from?"

"Black eyes?" His mom pulled out a makeup compact and showed him his face. John indeed had two black eyes, puffy purple bags sagging under each of his eyes. He made a huh sound. He poked at one, experimentally, and it moved, under his finger. Seemed to wiggle. He shouted and looked at his mom, "Did you see that?" He managed to whisper.

"See what?"

"You didn't see it move?"

"You mean the blood sac bruise? Yes, it moved. You poked at it. How did it happen? Who beat you up? Please tell me so; so I know."

"Mom. Honestly. No one beat me up." John stared at the sheets on the bed. He bunched the sheets into his hands and, fists balled, said, "I was exploring the asylum, way out in Northville. Ah. A friend took me out there and things, and I fell through some stairs that were more rotten than she, uh, shoot. The stairs were more rotten than we knew and I fell through and landed in some glass and more broken wood. I fell like a full flight, but I think the stairs broke my fall. That and the rust nail that punctured my leg."

"And your feet? What about all those cuts, John?"

"My uh. My shoe came off when I fell and I was trying to get it back, walking on the broken glass, before Li --before my friend found me and got my shoes for me."

"Really?"

"Really." He swallowed.

"Please never go back there."

He swallowed again, "I won't mom. I'm sorry."

Janice Arbol pursed her lips and nodded. She said, "I'm going to nap before the nurses come in with the crutches. Are you going to be okay? I mean, do you need anything?"

"Thanks mom. I'm good. I'll try and nap, too."

"Okay baby. Love you."

"Love you too, mom." And they both closed their eyes, Janice curled on the olive couch-chair, under a stiff blanket. John closed his eyes, gritted his teeth and relived watching as the maggots crawled into his leg while the blood transfusion swarmed and swam, cool and thick through him.



Monday, December 28, 2015

Early on

"Do you want to see something cool anyway, since I'm on my period?" Lisa asked John. They sat across from each other in a tarnished booth in a diner.

John fiddled with the spoon in his coffee cup. He said, "It's just past midnight and I have to work at nine. And, what does one have to do with the other?"

"Right. Yeah. Huh." Lisa said. They stared at the advertisements under the scuffed plastic table cover.

John looked up and knocked on the table. He pulled out some money and left it on the table. "We're good. Yeah, let's do it. Show me something cool," he said.

Lisa stood up, pushed up her glasses and adjusted her skirt. She smiled and held her hand out, "Let's go then." She added, "You're not scared of the dark are you? Or blood?"

John chuckled and shook his head no.

"Can I drive?" Lisa asked in the humid, orange-lit parking lot.

"Drive my car?"

"Yeah. I want it to be a surprise."

John considered, tilting his head back and forth. Finally he said, "Yeah, sure. Can you drive a stick?"

"Can I!" Lisa laughed. Then, "Oh, you mean the car."

John smirked.

"Teach me?"

"Some other time. It's looking like rain."

"Well, you have to promise to be surprised anyway."

"I'll do my best."

Wind wrestled with Lisa's skirt and they stared at each other for a while, over low black roof of John's car; her pale green eyes felt like they were swallowing him. Somewhere close by tires screeched. John clicked the unlock button on his keychain and without breaking eye contact, then slid into their seats.


The rain was steady as they pulled into the parking lot of the closed gas station. Staccato watery fingers. "You don't have an umbrella do you?" Lisa asked. She looked down.

John laughed. "I don't, but I do have a dry t-shirt you can wear."

"Awkward," she said.

"Scared of getting wet?" John asked

Lisa got up and out of the car and slammed the door, she walked into the car's headlights and smiled, hair already plastered. She cocked her head and waved to him. John stuffed his phone and wallet into the glovebox and got out, too.

The rain was warm and hard, steaming on the late September asphalt. He walked around to the front of the car and Lisa pounced on him, pinning his arms to his sides. She got up on tiptoe and breathed, "Hello. Come with me." She took his hand and started to run toward the road. John tried to keep up, twisted his ankle and sprawled palms first; skidded and stopped.

"Ouch!" Lisa shouted, then, "Shit! Are you okay?"

"Hah, Uh, yes. I'm not a runner."

"Well, we'll try and go slow."

"Sure." She walked back and helped him up. Their hands stayed clasped, as they walked to the side of the road. They waited for a car to pass then quick-walked across the five lane road.

"Give me a minute?" John asked, and bent, hands on knees.

"Oh, sure." Lisa stood and twirled in the down pour while John huffed.

He stood up, he said, "Thanks, sorry."

"What time is it?"

"Uh? Maybe twelve thirty? Why? We on a schedule?"

"Yeah, gotta do this before one a.m. or it won't work."

"What won't work?"

"You'll see!" Come on!"

"Sure, where are we --" John realized where they were. She'd given him round-about directions, but there it was: the abandoned asylum. "What are we doing here?"

"There's lots of energy we can channel, come on!" And off she strode. John walked after her as quickly as he could, but his bad leg was acting up and twinge-d with every step. As they approached the building, the rain pitter-ing hard against their soaked bodies, Lisa looked behind her just once, then pulled open a balsa wood door, and disappeared into the twelve story building. John gave a tug on the door and it opened wide enough to squeeze through. He laughed. "Did you do that?" He called into the darkness. No Response. "Huh." He said and slipped through the door into roaring silence and darkness. John closed his eyes and counted to thirty. Outside, the rain continued smashing down.  Inside he opened his eyes and looked around in the gloom. Papers were strewn all around, graffiti covered the walls and, a dozen or so doors down the hallway way a dark shape gestured at him, frantically. "Lisa?" John called out, and the figure disappeared a moment later.
John hurried, such as he could, down the hallway, counting the doorways he passed. Halfway down the hall was a closed door with three locked padlocks, one each at the top, middle, and bottom. John slowed, and a shiver ran up his spine. He checked the locks. They were freezing cold and their metal holders were screwed in, then, someone had half smashed nails all around the edges of the strips and bent them over. The nails were rusted, some were chipped, and there were at least a half dozen on each lock.

"Lisa?" John called out.

The papers in the hallway rustled and, back the way he'd come a dust devil whirled. John's flesh goose bumped.

A woman's voice called out, from further down the hallway, deeper into the building, "Come on slow poke, time's wasting." It echoed.

"Lisa?"

"Come on!"

John continued.

When he got to he door he had seen the figure disappear down a few moments ago, he balked. There was a blackened staircase, crumpled and fallen in, in many spots. "You're kidding," John said and spun --something had grabbed his arm from behind and he punched the grabber square in the nose.

"Ow!" Lisa swore, stumbling, clutching, "It's me," she swore again, holding a hand out, bent down and away from John, "What are you doing?"

John yelled at her: "What are you doing? Why would you do that?"

"I thought it'd be funny, I didn't think you'd punch me!"

"What else would I do?"

"Tackle me? Kiss me?" Lisa swore and looked at her hand, licked her palm. "Am I bleeding?"

"Uh, yeah?" John touched the top of her lip, gingerly. His finger came away sticky. "Yup. Oh god, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to. . . there's blood your face. Is it broken?"

"Never had a broken nose. Maybe?"

"Your dad is going to effing kill me!"

"Wait, I'm bleeding?"

"Yeah. I'm so sorry."

"No, it's cool! Follow me! That's awesome! Come one come one come on. One, three, two, Five, Jump all the way down."

"What?"

"Skip those those stairs. So, First one's safe, after that, skip two, land on the third, then, land on the one after the next, then jump four stairs and it'll creak, but won't break, then you gotta jump all the way down, okay? Watch. Hurry!"  Lisa pushed by him, and hopped and skipped down the stairs. She turned at the bottom. "Okay, come on,"

"One sec, okay?"

"Listen. Hurry up. I'll be in the third room on the right, down the right hallway, okay? Okay. Hurry!"

"What?" But Lisa was already gone, deeper into the blackness. "I can't see!" He called out.

"Use the first step to gauge the rest! Hurry!" Came the reply.

John stood at the top of the stairs, staring into the darkness. He looked behind him, down the hallway with the triple locked door. He looked down the stairs. He tried the railing, it seemed sturdy enough. He took his first step. It seemed sturdy enough. He repeated Lisa's instructions to himself. He took the first hop and landed okay. And again. On the  third jump the stairs collapsed under him and he shrieked and tumbled, protecting his face as he fell through the rotten floor and landed, twisted both ankles and crumpled onto something that pierced the thigh of his bad leg. "Help!" He shouted.

He heard scampering then running. Blue spots of pain swam across his otherwise pitch vision.

"Hold on, let me find the -- I'm coming!" Lisa called out, distantly. She swore. There was banging, and then, a shift in the pitch -- murkiness blossomed to his right. "Are you there?" Lisa asked, back lit.  He shouted acknowledgement and, carefully, carefully, she pulled him up, and hoisted an arm over her shoulder. They hobbled out of the pit together, and into a hallway. Lisa asked, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, just shaken," John lied. "I'm good, but this better be amazingly cool. I'm gonna need a tetanus shot. Seriously. Look at my arms!" He held them up, and was right. They were lacerated. His ankled burned.

"At least it wasn't your face," Lisa said, "Come on." She took his hand and, slowly, carefully, lead him through a series of three rooms, back to the corridor, down that a little way and into a room with three, lit, candles. "Freeze," she said. "Stand there. Don't move. Watch!"

John froze.

The room was full of piping, running across the ceiling. There was a thin window, dusty but unbroken on a far wall, though no light came through. The candles didn't flicker, calmly lighting a series of concentric white circles that filled the center of the room. "Chalk," Lisa said, carefully stepping across the lines and standing in the center of the weird spiral. "Excuse me. You don't have to watch this." She made a concentrating face and pushed her hands up under her dress, did something. Exhaled sharply. "My nose bleed stopped, more's the shame." Then she poured a thimble in between two circles and sat down in the center circle. She started --John didn't know-- singing? Shouting? Chanting? Gurgling? Making noises, and as she sang --he decided it was singing-- the pelting of the rain against the window loudened, then began to synchronize with her utterances. Lisa's singing picked up, and so did the tempo of the rain, its staccato beating faster, faster, until she clapped and there was silence. Then, a popping as if a champagne bottle had opened. John's ears popped too, and he felt queasy. One of the candles snuffed out and the smoke was black. It pooled, midair, like food coloring in water, then clouded, spread and twirled. The air in the room was deathly still, but the smoke still writhed. It flowed toward Lisa's nose then smashed against something invisible and spilled along the edges, enveloping her in a cylinder of impossible smoke.

John made a retching sound and the smoke slammed toward him, hit another invisible wall and again, started spreading, circling around the circumference, John noticed, of the outermost concentric circle on the floor. "What?" John managed to gasp. A tongue split the smoke, no, not a tongue, a dozen stretched, rot-yellow maggots, writhing in unison. John gagged. The maggots froze, then zoomed along the circle and smashed themselves into the barrier, right in front of his face, over and over, bloodying themselves --pinpricks of blood blooming on their tips, wetter, stark against their plaster bodies. They wiggled. John threw up.

He projectile vomited and his puke smashed into the maggots and splashed onto the circles. Instantly, the maggots spilled down, burrowed into the puke on the floor and were gone.

Not gone.

They smashed through the soles of John's shoes and into his feet, where he felt them burrowing. He puked again, all over himself.

Lisa was screaming, he couldn't understand her, but she was shrieking and screaming and flailing madly at him. A maggot punctured his bad leg and zoomed about the room, bloodied, streaking.

"John! Listen!" She whispered it, but he heard it anyway, above the blood pounding in his ears, he heard her say, "Come on, don't break the line, Come on come on come on!" He hobbled into the circle and fell down, clutching his legs.

"Careful careful careful!" Lisa shrieked at him, "Careful! Oh no. They're loose. They're all loose. We're gonna lose them. Loose. Careful of the line. Sara will know what to do."

"My legs," John said. Clutching his ruined feet, "It. They burn!"

"Let me see, quick!" Lisa tugged his shoe and sock off, and peered at his heel. "Punch me," she said.

"What?"

Lisa made a disgusted noise, fiddled under her skirt then made a dark, red spot on her palm. John felt things convulsing, and inch their way down the inside of his legs. Five of the maggots, impossibly longer punctured from the pinks of his heels and looked around like snakes, hunting.

"Here," Lisa whimpered, and the maggots shot for the palm of her hand. As they darted, she stuffed the thimble between their racing heads and her hand.  Four of them shot into the thimble and all the pipes in the room burst at once, covering them with dust and rust water. The fifth stabbed deep into the skin between her finger and thumb then, three more of the maggots shot out of the shadows, toward the thimble. They too disappeared into the cup and the walls shook. Frantically, Lisa looked around, scooting on her butt, found what she was looking for and slammed the thimble down onto a thick convergence of chalk lines. "Hold this here no matter what, okay? Don't let it up. No matter what."

"What is that?"

"A diva cup."

"A what?"

Lisa sighed. "Later. For now, just trust that if the cup moves even a millimeter we will die. I'll be back, okay?" She clutched at her hand,

"It went in you," John Said.

"I need your car keys. I've got to go get help."

"My car? Why don't I go to call the police?"

"With your feet? Your leg? No. Besides, we need someone who knows what's happening here. Please. I need your --"

"No need, dear. Hello."

Lisa and John turned and looked at the woman standing in the door. She stood, short, all in black, hands on hips and slowly looked the scene over. "What did you think --no. Lisa, we will talk about this later. Who are --oh dear. Look at you! All covered in," she trailed off. "What are you covered in?"

"Uh," John said. "Blood, puke. A bit of pee if we're being honest."

"And rust water, eh?"

"I think so ma'am."

"This is Sarah, she'll know what to do, now."

Another maggot launched itself toward Sarah, lightning fast, and was caught in its midsection between Sarah's left forefinger and thumb. She held it up close to her eyes and examined it. The thing strained toward her nose, the blood drop on its head stretching like a tongue, or a desperate finger. "Well then, how many of you were there?"

The thing twitched. Sarah asked a few more questions and each time the thing twitched or fluttered. John's arms burned from pushing down on the diva cup. Without taking her eyes off the maggot, Sarah stuck the thumb of her right hand in the corner of her mouth and bit down. There was a snap-squish sound. Sarah dropped a few drops of blood on the maggot's head and said something unintelligible.

The maggot writhed and the sound of screeching tires filled the room; as the volume increased the maggot turned to black smoke. There was a boom that left John's ears ringing and then the smoke-maggot was gone. The diva cup stopped pushing against his hand.

"Can I let go?" John asked.

Sarah turned to Lisa and motioned. Lisa walked over and looking at her feet held her punctured hand up. Sarah leaned in and squinted at the tiny hole. She took Lisa's hand in her hand and squeezed each finger.

Just before Sarah squeezed her little finger, Lisa cried out and gasped. She moaned, "I can feel it moving down my arm, oh goddess, its in me and it's moving down my arm. Please stop it. Please please Sarah, I can't --"

Sarah wrapped her hands around Lisa's right arm and made a wringing motion. "You're going to loose your arm for this," she said. and wrung her hands again around Lisa's arm. "You, boy, come here. I need you to good christ, look at your legs. Can you even stand?"

John looked at his legs and watched as his vision tunneled.

Sarah said, "Stand," and John stood. "Here, put your hands here," she nodded at her hands, wrapped as they were around Lisa's bicep. "Nestle your hands against mine and squeeze her arm as hard as you can. I need more blood."

John did as he was told and squeezed Lisa's arm as hard as he could. He squeezed his eyes shut and felt the maggot writhing under his fingers. His empty stomach spasmed. He ground his teeth together and squeezed harder. There was a prick, like a thick needle against the palm of his hand and he shouted in unison with Lisa, who kept screaming wordless noise.

"No, no, no no no no no no no  no no no no!" John shouted, louder and louder but the pain was too much and he let go. Hooked to his palm, tip buried in his hand, the maggot wiggled and John stumbled backward, tried to fast back away but fell instead and the worm whipped out with a wet spluck-sound, spiraling, digging slowly into his hand. Sarah grabbed the maggot, a full two feet long,  in the middle with both hands, "Got you!" She shouted, triumphant. She looked right at John and cocked an eyebrow.

Lisa collapsed, knocked over one of the two remaining candles, which rolled into some water and snuffed itself out.

Sarah dragged her thumb along the lower half of the worm. The worm disappeared with the same phantom car crash as the first.  "Well then young man, you just saved your friend's right arm. I'll make sure she gives you a hand."

"Hand?"

"Applause."

"Ah."

"You're not infected are you? Nothing moving around in there?"

"I don't think so. I mean, I was, but a bunch of them, uh, Lisa drew a bunch of them out."

"How many? All of them? More?"

"I oh god," John bent over and wretched bile into the wet, rusted mess on the floor. "I don't know ma'am. I think they're all gone, but I really. I need a tetanus shot. And probably antibiotics. And clean clothes and oh man is my mom gonna kill me."

Sarah narrowed her eyes. She said, slowly, "I'll take you to the hospital, but we can't stay. Lisa and I have some things to discuss. Thank you for saving her arm. She got lucky. That gusano must have been the weakest of the brood, or else it'd be your arm we're amputating. Well, maybe just your hand." Sarah trailed off.

"Look, I'm gonna need my leg amputated if we don't get a move on."

"Yes, right. Sleep," Sarah said.

"Sleep?" But then, he did.