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.













Saturday, December 26, 2015

Monstrous Fathers

Slunk up through the murk, pushed aside the crushed goldfish crackers, the dust and detritus. Slithered from the depths out from under a child's bed and ate his father from the inside. Smashed inside Daddy through his tear ducts, stretching them, and gnawed its way down to his toes like a  swarm of kohl worms, traveling the earth.

The swarm had researched, though. It spoke English, could work the limbs and bellows and bilges that made Daddy move.

Onto the Boat

Dad dressed his children in their Sunday best and didn't much care about what they packed.

ZZZ asked, "Why don't we have to pack any other clothes?" and Dad laughed, a good natured laugh. He told ZZZ that there wasn't a need for clothes, and they all stared at him. He shrugged and smiled through his fat lip and black eyes and told them to pack what they wanted.


Tip of the roller coaster.

My brother-in-law Tom sat down on the porch steps next to me and smacked my shoulder. I handed him my lighter.

"What do you think?" He asked.

"Eh. Read an article that said we've got about forty years before society collapses."

"That it?"

I laughed, "That was about fifteen years ago. And here we are. If Ivanka is elected, that's that."

"At least her dad didn't win, eh?"

"Sure, but --and yes, thank God, praise Allah, slurp the spaghetti-- but that'll be it." I finished and snubbed my cigarette. I sighed. I asked, "Are you ready? What do you have?"

"A safe full of ammunition, twenty gallons of water, rice and noodles and dried veggies and canned veggies. So much. We're gonna be sick of green beans by the time things calm down, that's for sure."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

I don't know what this

I turned around and closed my eyes.

He turned around and closed his eyes (The whole story is that trick, the one Doctorow borrowed. My turn, now.) and took three deep breathes, then two more. Unconsciously, his hands balled. "Okay, I've got this," he said. Six feet, five inches tall. One hundred and eighty-seven pounds (thirteen stone). Thick, grey-white hair. Thirty-three years old. White.

He walked into the house. Dinner smells --Garlic, tomato sauce, cheap red meat -- greeted him. "Hello," he said.

"Hi honey, you're home," his wife looked tired. She turned and smiled at the children running ram-shot through the living room.


Consistency is the most important thing. If you're going to be a monster, you need to be a consistent one. If you're nice one day and a monster the next, that is worse for a child's upbringing than a monster all the time. At least with a 100% monster they know what's coming and can prepare accordingly. With a 100% monster children won't be caught off guard.

People won't be caught off guard, but I suppose this is the lesson in the scorpion and the turtle.

(Everyone should find a way out. We were happy. I know I was the sky, should've found a way out. . .  --- Issac Brock.)

Locked in this room, Danielle wailed and threw his body against the door. It rattled in the frame and he screamed, a high pitched, animal-is-tic shriek. Downstairs, seven people, four adults and three more children pretended, badly, not to hear the wailing. Some of the adults made excuses into their soup bowls. Things like, "He needs to learn his lesson." or, "I don't want to listen to that any more today."


The dining room. The dining room is bare walls with glue stuck on it --an unfinished project from over a year ago, when the wallpaper ("Garish," they said) was steamed off. The bulbs were iridescent, uncovered. The shadows under battered the table were sharp.

The shrieking stopped. The small talk continued.

. . . my life is fucked up.  This is too close. I'm watching children get damaged by the adults they live with and I'm not stopping it enough and sometimes I contribute.

I am a monster, but I've got rules and guidelines and I can use the way I feel a lot of the time to point me in the right direction. It is the opposite of the way I feel, a lot of the time. Examples:
Engage
Talk
Smile
Hug
Kiss on the cheek
Tell people: I'm really well, thank you.

These are the opposite of the direction my moral, emotional, reactive compasses point me toward.

So many of my responses are autonomic. I hear myself talking about things I know I've learned at some point, but have internalized so deeply they come out subconsciously. Polite firmness. Friendly assertiveness. Helping others.

I wasn't always a monster.

I'm certainly self aware, maybe more self aware than other monsters I'm living with.

A charnel house of broken children and the ghoulish grownups feeding on misery so much they're autocannibalizing even as they suckle on the souls of their children.

Like I said, my life is fucked up. (We are water.)

MURK.

Depths.

Just diving right in here, aren't we? (we are.)

A Pyrrhic victory for a monster could be a solid win for the heroes, (re: good guys --the children) if they had the right attitude.

I'm too close to this.

There are two couches in the living room, pointed at the television, not the fireplace with the crooked, cracked masonry.

The floors are wood, badly finished and wearing down. Scratched, scuffed. Blood red.

I'm so tired I can't even


. . .is how that works.

Once, in

Unrelated, that is.

The stairs all creak.

The adults murdered a family of mice living in the basement last winter, but it sent a message. In the basement there was a fridge. The dead mice were left there for almost a week. The basement stank and the smell sunk into the clothes hanging, drying. But there are no more mice in the house.

Just

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A moment of magic

Sitting, John trembled in the dark, night blind. He whispered, "I can't do this," and squeezed his eyes shut and hugged his knees.

Lisa bent over and put her cheek on his shoulder. She rested a hand on his knee and the other on his far shoulder. "You can, and you will. It'll be easier this time. Don't try for something so grandiose." She nuzzled him.

"Your septum ring is freezing," John said.

"It does that when --Yeah. It does that. Come on," she picked up and handed the copper knife back to him. "You got this. Just a tiny bit, okay?"

"Okay, got it. Phones off?" John asked. He felt her nod, in the dark. He took a deep breath and nodded. He gripped the blade of the knife in his right hand and inhaled and sawed down into the pad of his thumb.

The blood came fast, a surge like a dropped ziplock bag. A moment later, Lisa grabbed his hand and held it over the incantation on the floor. She shook his hand and he gasped a little and her eyes went wide. She bit his shoulder, hard.

John shut his eyes and readied the words. He mouthed them. He sang them and then there was light. Light and a chill as if the basement were bathed in a wan winter dawn. The broken pipes and the hung tarps cast a spidery web of shadows, but none crossed the incantation circle.

The floor in the center of the incantation circle farted -- a tiny, miniature sphincter twitch and then, curled fetal in the center of the circle lay a ten legged goat, covered in a blood membrane. It neighed and whinnied rolled it's head. The legs uncurled, it shivered. It's eyes opened, it vomited, a thick stream of earthy effluvia that splattered back and did not pass the line of the incantation circle. It whinnied again and goat legs rubbed at the side of its mouth. Three de-socketed eyeballs hung from its jaw and swiveled and jittered in snotty sacs.

Tentatively, the beast tried to stand up.

John convulsed and Lisa pointed him away from the incantation circle before he puked on it. She chuckled. She said,

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The bathroom smelled like pennies and sulfur. John had painted sigils and other signs and names on the walls, the mirror, the ceiling. He had, as best he could, put to circles of protection around the bathtub. He filled it with ice and, still dressed, climbed in. He called 9-1-1 on the pay-as-you go phone and said, calmly, "There is a boy who is bleeding out in a bathtub full of ice, I think it was another cult killing." He told them the address of the house he had broken into, then he shouted: "Oh my god! There's three of them! They're all, they're all so blonde!" and dropped the phone in the tub. He took the ornate, pearl handled, antique shaving razor from his breast pocket and slit both his wrists. He splashed his blood onto the ceiling and onto the mirror, into both the circles of protection. He felt woozy. He closed his eyes. John thought through the incantation, then said it all out loud, syllable by syllable.

Nothing happened.

John's wrists pulsed and he pushed them together, but the pain medication had worked and his cuts were deep, tendrils of blood races between the chunks of ice and slowly diffused.

John laughed, a little hahah, and splashed at the source of the blood. "Huh." he said.

The tendril zipped between his hands and leapt out of the water and onto the ceiling.

"Oh!" John said and sat up abruptly; some ice bumped into his wrists and pulled the gash on his right forearm slightly more open --more blood jumped straight from his wrist out and onto the ceiling. It pooled, diffused, spread like a time lapse shadow of a person, stretched and stretched, then reached down, pinkish tendrils pushed at John's face.

"Out, off. There's a war duh. Ward," John said. He pointed at the floor and more blood splashed onto the two circles of protection. "Uh," he said.

The blood swirled and vaporized, then reappeared, smashed in the this space between the two circles.

"I have a deal to make. Half my soul and all this blood, for." John trailed off.

In the bloody swirl, mouths formed.

The demon towering over John looked down and smiled with all thirteen mouths. "This gonna be quick turn around, human boy who summed ______ ____ _____." it said with a voice like rolling thunder and the clap of horse's hooves. Each mouth said exactly one word. It continued, "What me give in exchange for half the boy's soul, all this  blood?"

John squeezed his eyes shut and shuddered. He gasped in the cold bathtub. "I need uh, protection from the other witches."

"Protect, how?"

"I can't let them kill me, or maim me."

"Maim?"

"Seriously?" John spasm-ed and the ice in the tub with him rattled. The water was quickly turning from pink to deep red. He clenched his jaw until the chattering stopped. "They can't cut me up, or stop me from being fully mobile. Not for long."

"How long?"

"More than five seconds?"

"No dying, no damage? No stillness? In exchange for blood and half soul?"

"Sounds good."

"Can I I I I I I I I I I I I?"

"The deal is sealed with this blood?"

"Deal between ______ ____ _____,  boy is sealed with that blood, half soul." The demon's thirteen mouths opened then stretched and stretched and with thirteen progressively wetter tearing sounds opened and dropped all the way to the floor. "The deal is sealed. The deal is sealed. The deal is sealed, now," it said.

"Watch my skin, p-p-please," John mumbled and slumped.

The demon with thirteen mouths nodded and oozed around and into the bathtub, filling it, almost smothering John. The blood in the water disappeared as if sucked out through thirteen different straws.

"Holy mother of god!" One of the paramedics shouted then shrieked and dropped to the floor, clutching at his eyes.

"Bill


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

John looked at his phone, it's glare burned his eyes in the dark of his room. The text message read:
Hey, this is Mercedes. I got your number from the school files. I hope you don't mind. I'd like to meet.

He texted back: No thanks. I'm good. Then, moments later he added: Sorry, but I don't want to know you.

His phone rang, a few minutes later. The text message read: Whatever

John deleted the message, set his phone to silent and went back to sleep. He woke up the next day, a Thursday, and made himself breakfast. First hour started at 7:15. He owned a bike, the weather was warm so he woke up at five forty-ish and showered and dressed and made himself breakfast.

Getting dressed was easy, he choose a clean pair of pants, one of the ten that were essentially the same black, professional cut jeans then he put on one of his ten medium grey shirts; socks and underwear were all black, calf high socks; boxers.

Breakfast consisted of an orange, coffee with coconut oil stirred in and a large bowl of oatmeal. He wore a dark grey hooded sweater under a black, cloth, bomber jacket.

Before leaving he brushed his teeth and double checked that his tablets were in his backpack, along with his charging pack. One tablet for the ebooks, one for taking notes, and a military grade half brick of a charger.

At lunch he watched the same duo walk back and forth along the corridor between the temporary class room trailers and the three story second building. A boy and a girl. The girl had short hair in variously faded shades of blue and aqua-green. Her friend wore a black leather duster and a black leather, wide brimmed hat. The boy made John think of villianous cowboys. The girl's jacket matched John's, but on her petite frame it covered her butt and the sleeves scrunched funny at her elbows. Hers had patches on it and the back was taken up with a paint markered on, inverted triangle, the bottom tip flattened. He saw them every lunch, when he wasn't in the library poking around on the school servers.

They usually just nodded at each other but this time the girl walked up to him, her friend hanging back. "Like your style," she said. She nodded.

"Thanks. Your hair's pretty cool."

"Thanks."

"I'm John."

"I know. You're in my friend Diana's second hour?"

"Sorry, who? I'm bad with names."

"She's blonde? Really tall? Plays volleyball?"

"Oh! Her! Yeah, I'm in her --right. Close Up."

"Yup."


The stale laundry smell of expensive cigarettes is still cigarettes.

Samantha Mills is pissed and drunk and pissed drunk. She's standing on the corner of State Street and Liberty getting soaked by a sudden down pour in early August. Her marijuana cigarette is wet to the point of unsmokability, but she's letting it hang off her lip anyway. For a few seconds she went cross eyed, watching raindrops bead and roll down the saturated paper.

"Fuck it," she said and inhaled and started walking down to main street.
I browsed porn late at night, in a bed borrowed from a close friend. Couldn't sleep, so browsed endless, naked, masked people in groups, compromised, powerful. Taken advantage of and taking the advantage. I searched for things like:
  • eye contact
  • brunettes with blue eyes
  • pale eyes
  • long legs
  • arched backs
I used all the usual pornography sites: pornhub, xhamster, redtube, youporn. Sometimes I found what I was looking for, but that was rare. Usually I settled and masturbated and fell asleep and dreamed. I dreamed of water, a river from when I was young, too young to know that masturbating in someone's shower wasn't appropriate. I still masturbate as much at thirty as I did at fifteen. Other people tell me they've slowed down, or don't talk about self pleasure, or talk in terms of sex and not gratification.

I haven't had sex in months and that was with a prostitute. No, a stripper. No, a girl I had dinner with. All these people, they're all the same person. Her name is Sonja. No, I call her Sonja. Her name is May Elizabeth Fedor, but that is none of my business and I respect her too much to call her that.

I knew a woman, a dancer who called herself alternately Shadow and Grace, depending on the crowd. Shadow for older crowds, Grace on college nights.

I sat and stared at passing Lycra and smile.

Being tense is hard for me, but with enough lack of exercise I've gotten pretty good at it. I shamble instead of walk. My hands tremble when I reach for my wallet. My left eye twitches and I sit and watch people walk. I can't afford coffee, so I sit outside.

The other day while I sat outside, it rained. A black girl, high schooler maybe, sat down beside me and sheltered me with her umbrella. She was fucked up: burn scars all over her face and a giant eye patch in white with an off center red cross on it. She didn't say anything and I didn't say anything and eventually the rain stopped. She didn't say anything while she closed her umbrella. She didn't say anything as she walked away, either.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"You're barking up the wrong tree," i said

My room, when I woke, smelled like him. 

I sighed. I looked at my phone. It was early-early Sunday and someone was at the front door of my house, banging on the door.

I knew this because in the lower right of my phone was a video feed of a camera, looking down at the door. Someone in a grey hooded sweater, average average average.

My phone vibrated and a second feed came up --someone was trying to shunt the lock on the sliding door. another grey hooded sweater. This camera, being inside the house, captured the face of the person trying to break in.

I sighed. In the darkness, swear to god, I said to myself, "Shit. It's them." I watched in satisfaction as the lock gave way, Patricia Liu quietly started to slide the door open and then cursed as it hit the metal bar on the bottom of the door. I chuckled.

I pressed her number on my phone and waited. I didn't hear anything, and Patricia didn't react. No phones, or not their regular phones, at least.

I waited until just before she figured out that the bar was locked in place on the far wall before I put on my jacket, pocketed my phone and raced through the basement, up the stairs and through the kitchen. I was at sliding door and had it flung open so quickly Patricia fell back on her butt, into the snow on the wooden deck. I laughed --probably weird given I'd grabbed a kitchen knife on my way through the kitchen. "Hello Patricia," I said, "Can I help you with something?"

Patricia thew something at me, and I swatted it away; immediately regretted my decision. With a POP I was covered in powder that burned my eyes and stung my skin. Through gritted eyes, I saw her scrambling off the deck and so help me I did it.

I froze time and everything turned red and, eyes half open, half closed I walked over to her frozen body and touched her foot. Hah. Grabbed her foot with both hands. Immediately she was wriggling and scrambling.

The red started to fade almost immediately, but all the snow on my house melted with a wet woosh of steam. Patricia screamed until I closed the sliding glass door and shut the blinds.

"It's sound proof," I said.

"Figured. Monster." Patricia spat at me.

"What are you talking about?"

"You. You're something to be cleaned up, like the Jons were."

"No! I didn't kill innocent peop --"

Her laughter cut me off and she didn't stop. While she laughed and laughed I walked into the kitchen and washed my hands, arms, and face. "So who's the guy was banging on my front door?" I shouted, head in the sink. I howled sank to the floor, She'd smashed something heavy over the back of my head and neck and the stars were closing in all around my vision.

I flattened myself with the next blow, let is smash me to the floor and waited. I heard the kitchen drawers open and when she was above me I smashed her knee as hard as I could. "Sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry," I kept saying while I punched her in the jaw, behind the ear. Four punches and she was out cold: breathing, unconscious.

I called 9-1-1 from my mobile and told them I had a subdued assailant in my house.

The emergency respondent was brusque, and when I told her my address she laughed at me. "Sure thing Mr. Metzger. We'll send someone over. Right. Away. Uh huh," she said and hung up.

"Well that's rude," I said. I sighed and slumped my shoulders. I shrugged. I went to my room and brought out some emergency rope. I apologized the entire time I was tying up Paticia Liu, reverse hog tied: restrained but not dangerously uncomfortable.

When she regained consciousness a few minutes later, she groaned. She looked at me and, no joke, growled. She said, "This place would be better off without you."

I stopped and sat. I said, "I haven't killed anyone since winter break, and I didn't want to do that and I didn't know what I was doing the other times."

"That makes it worse."

I laughed. "What part of that makes it worse?"

"That you didn't know what you were doing," she said.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Next thing I remember is someone laughing as I fell down a sharp flight of stairs. The fall went on and on and on and I couldn't understand how.

At some point I got my shoulders under me and tucked in, but not before something popped painfully and I skidded into a crowd of people at the bottom of the stairs. I tried to stand up and made it to my feet before my knees failed me and I crumpled. My knees sang so loud I threw up and then I don't know but after that someone was about to slam my face into the hand dryer. This was at least the second time that happened, I'm guessing, since I could feel my blood pumping out my face, hot and white.

"Please," I gasped. I must have slurred to hard, though and then I woke up on the roof of a parking structure in Detroit.

"That's fucked up." Said the man entirely in white. He was about my height, but walked with a limp and was missing two fingers from his right hand. "Why would you have gone there?"

"Why not?"

"If we're lucky -- No. We're not lucky, are we?" He lit a cigarette and didn't bother to finish his thought.

I looked around. The clouds were orange and all the lights were burned out. We were sat on the hood of a burned out old car. A husk. The wind howled. I wasn't cold. I wasn't warm though, either. My stomach hurt. I closed my eyes. I asked, "What happened?"

"You froze time again, Will. In a packed club on gay night you froze time for twenty minutes and." He inhaled for what seemed like forever from his cigarette. "And that's longer than the Halloween party, kiddo."

"Kiddo? My dad calls me kiddo."

"I am not your dad."

"Then.  .  .?"

"Doesn't matter. Listen." He pressed a button on his phone and a radio broadcast came on. We listened in silence as the DJ talked deadpan, serious. The same wise cracking DJ from the drive in was talking about, about what? About the time he and a colleague went somewhere and did something funny, I assumed. It was funny. I chuckled. The wind laughed, too, and then the DJ said, "May God take your soul, Gina. See you on the other side. We'll keep you updated as the tragedy unfolds."

I kept my eyes closed, but they managed to start leaking anyway. I said, "Okay. I get it now."

"Do you?"

"I do. I shouldn't go out. Ever again. This could happen anywhere. Any time. And now more people are dead and I'm going to jail."

"There's no footage. You burned it all. It melted. You could turn yourself in."

"No."

"No?"

"No."

"Why not?"

I sighed. I sat and thought for a long time. Finally, I said something I don't remember that made him laugh. We stared at each other. We talked about what I thought I should do. We agreed I should never drink again. I decided I was going to



I hadn't had one of those dreams since I found the girl's car.

That was . . . I have no idea. This winter is messing with my sense of time.

It doesn't help that Mom hasn't come home yet.

The house is

Let's be honest. I keep the house at sixty-three degrees.

It's cold and dark earlier and earlier and I come home and do yoga. I cook dinner for myself and for lunch the next day and that's getting old too, but I want to save money, so I grocery shop and

And whatever.

The COLOR ZZZZZ granite top wipes down easily enough. There's a

I'm talking to myself.

I was talking to myself a lot, back then.

So, okay, listen. I was tired and depressed and I looked an easy twenty-two, twenty-three and it was a Friday and this is how these things go, when you're not a drinker.

I went to a gay club. I shaved my head and my face and my neck and I wore my bomber jacket and some jeans and a white t-shirt and boots that would make Mercedes proud. Before I left, I went into Mom's bedroom and found her eyeliner --liquid eyeliner, and I slid two thin lines: one under each eye.

I looked like an idiot, but. "Good," I said.

And I listened to the R&B station with the obnoxious DJ all the way there, and some of the music wasn't too bad. That's what I told myself.

I got in by flirting with the smaller bouncer, who also had a shaved head. We laughed and I touched his shoulder and lingered there. Just like he used to do.

The club had two distinct areas and I don't know how many flights of stairs. Down stairs, down a hallway down more stairs and some of these moments were black lit. Then, pissing, and later: throwing up. Puking. Lots of puking.

Before that, though, I looked around. The music was loud and bass heavy and right in the center of the crowd was someone wobbling about like Pig Pen, from the comic? In a sea of conservative color, this person wore white, tight pants, and a white, hooded sweater. White gloves, a white surgical mask. Twirling slowly, pistoning up and down. In sharpie marker on the back of the sweater was the word, "Anachronism"

"Well, that's obvious," I commented.

A guy next to me snorted and swigged from a bottle of bud light. "I wonder what he's like," he said.

"I don't," I said, and walked away, looking for the bar. The short (haha) bald guy at the door gave me a wristband and waved me with a wink. So when I walked up to the sparse bar and put my hands down the waitress


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Five witches and a fight

Science and English were both in building three for John, and he had last lunch, which meant he ate between third and fourth hour.

Lunch was quiet. He sat by himself and after he finished his lunch, home made sandwiches and a baggie full of chips washed down with apple juice, John worked on his homework and studiously avoided looking up from his book.

Five girls sat down, surrounding John. Three across from him and one on each side. John's neck prickled, too, and he shuddered.

"Cold?" The girl directly across from him coughed and smiled, covering her mouth with straight fingers. "Bless me!" She said.

"Goes in tight," John said, automatically. Then, realizing, he frowned, scrabbled for the German phrase.

"What?"

"Gesundheit," John said, quickly, "it's German for, uh, for bless you."

"You blessed me?"

"Sort of?"

The girl, chipper, chewing gum, big blue eyes and sharp shoulders was dressed in a blue and white letter jacket and a thin blue t-shirt. Her mouth twitched. "Sort of? I sneezed."

John frowned deeper. "Look, the moment's gone. Sorry. Hi! I' --"

The chipper girl cut him off, "You're John Osborne, right? I've heard about you. I heard you were friends with Mercedes and that's not good."

"Friends?" John made a Pfft sound. "Not exactly. She went nuts and beat up some poor jock in the hallway this morning."

"She does that."

"Did she tell you about her disappeared crazy gay killer boyfriend?"

"The hell?" John said, "That was a lot of adjectives. is Mercedes's friend crazy-gay, like really-really gay, or crazy loco, and gay? Is he killer sexy boyfriend and you're jealous? Or, does he, like, actually kill people and somehow was also dating a girl?"

"Seriously? Mercedes didn't--"

"What's that?" Mercedes climbed onto the table and sat down cross-legged. John's empty thermos clattered to the ground. "Sorry about that, I'll get it in a minute. Emma and I were just about to go have a chat, weren't we Emma?"

"Emma?" John asked.

"That's me," The chipper girl was no longer chipper. She took out her gum and stuck it on the lid of John's sandwich box. He started to protest but all six girls looked at him with thunder in their throats and his protest wheedled away.

"That's gross. You're gross. John here is my friend. Please leave him alone," Mercedes said. "I'm not wearing my big girl boots today," and John snort-laughed, interrupting her.

"Again with the looks? How are those not her big girl boots? They're huge!" He waved his hands, somewhat frantically, at Mercedes' boots. "Look at them, eff eff es! How are they not big?"

Mercedes exhaled and made a show of relaxing herself before she answered, "Because I've got bigger. Emma knows what I'm talking about, anyway. Don't you, Emmy?"

Emma nodded grimly.

Mercedes chuckled. "Look," she said and put a hand on John's shoulder. "These girls are not good news, and I guarantee they're not after anything you want them to be after."

"What are you talking about?" John said. "Seriously? What is with you?"

"Look." Mercedes stopped.

The ten minute bell rang and the tables around them surged.

"John, you're new to this, aren't you?"

"Duh? I'm a freshman? I need to go. Emma, it was nice meeting you. And, uh, your friends." John stood up and, with a unhappy smirk on his face put his sandwich box into a bag, then stooped to pick up his thermos. He stood and swore and ducked. Someone behind him shrieked and stumbled, there was a scuffle behind him and when he looked back Emma, three of her friends, and Mercedes had disappeared into the crowd.

He turned around again, and looked down. A girl, red hair, heavy eye liner and another blue and white letter jacket was clutching her face, tears streaming.

"Oh my god!" John said, but before he could help her she shooed him away, stood and stumbled away into the crowd, one hand pushing and wedging at people's shoulders, the other pushed against her bloody nose.

"This is ridiculous," John said. Immediately he was flung to the floor, smashing his jaw against a chair as he fell. He started to stand up and was lifted off the ground by a kick to the stomach. "Come on!" He gasped, curled into a ball. "What is this?" He peeked an eye open. No one but the last few students filing through the doors to their class.

John sat up and sighed. He rubbed his jaw. His ribs hurt. The one minute bell rang and immediately thereafter someone behind him laughed.

Phoenix said, "You're actually getting a detention this time."

"Whatever, you already gave me a detention," John stood up. "Besides, you must've seen me get jumped by, uh, whoever just jumped on me. How can I get a detention when I've just been assaulted?"

"I just got here. You could be drunk and asleep on the floor for all I know."

"You're, like, literally insane, aren't you? I'm going to the principal," John said, and started walking toward the doors.

"Freeze or I'll say you were running away."

John laughed at that. He stopped and turned around. "I may be a freshman but I'm not an idiot, I know my limitations and no one with half a brain is gonna think a gimp tried to run away from a security guard."

"Maybe a drunk one."

John turned around and walked out of the cafeteria. "The principal's office!" He shouted as he passed through the doors.

Phoenix watched him leave, hands balled into white knuckled fists.

John looked up and down the gigantic, beige main hall of school three. To his right were the stairs to the front door. To his left were a flight of stairs to the second floor atrium and the administrative offices. In front of him, cases upon cases showcased the past: medals, trophies, state records set by long gone students. Crumbling newspaper articles.

"I said I would," John thought to himself and started toward the stairs. A hand grabbed his shoulder and roughly pushed him forward, John started to totter, but the hand held him up.

"Let's go then, drunkie."

"Seriously? I was going there anyway. Please let go of me."

"No. Walk," and Phoenix pushed him forward again. "You're getting suspended for this."

"For what?" They walked up the stairs, in a slow, jittery, gait. "What is wrong with you?" John asked, but no answer came.

The floor to ceiling windows surrounding the door to the principal's office were clean, but cracked, their safety wire bent. The door was fresh paint royal blue, but the dents in the middle were still obvious. Inside the light was the dim yellow of a salt rock.

Phoenix shoved John bodily through the door, grabbed and redirected him into a chair with a, "Sit."

John sat.

To the secretary, Phoenix said, "This one's trouble."

The secretary, a gray haired, woman with spectacles and thick lipstick eyed John suspiciously. She narrowed her eyes and said, "I'll watch him carefully."

Phoenix slammed the door shut and was gone. The secretary laughed, shook her head and turned back to her computer. The waiting room was a cozy square with the secretary's desk on the far wall, next to a hallway with one door on either side. It was lit by a duo of salt lamps on either side of the secretary's desk.

After a few minutes of sitting in silence John stood up. The secretary eyed him. He sat down. She chuckled. after another minute she said, without looking up from her screen, "Tell the truth but don't embellish the truth. Just state the facts and you'll come out okay in the end."

"Thanks."

"Sure thing kid."

More minutes tick-tocked by. Just as John was about to stand up, Mercedes barreled down the hall, pulling on a thick coat that looked for all the world like a sci-fi movie prop. The coat hissed and tightened as she passed John. She yanked the door open and stopped. She looked over her shoulder. "John," she said, "You are gonna do just fine here," and she cackled and careened all the way down the corridor, and jumped, kicked off around the corner, was gone.

"Osborne, John," A man's voice, wiry, airy, authoritative wafted down the hall. "Come in."

"Yes sir," John stood and stretched and walked down the hallway. His palmed were damp and his ears burned a little as he opened the door and blinked. The Principal's office was sparse, white, bright from lamps in three of the corners and large windows that took up most of the far wall. The Principal's desk was made of thin brass and steel rods, had a laptop and three healthy bamboo shoots on it. In front of the desk, stood two large chairs like gigantic half carved eggs with sticks shoved through them. The wall to John's left was floor to ceiling bookshelf, with the colorful copies of what John assumed were every year book ever produced at the school.

"Huh," John said.

"Please sit Mr. Osborne," The Principal said and gestured at the two comfortable, half egg chairs in front of his desk.

John sat.

"From birth?" The principal asked.

John blinked.

"From birth, or more like Ms. ZZZZZZZZ[Mercede's last name] ah, figure?"

"Huh," John said. He put his hands on his knees.

They stared at each other for what felt like an hour before the principal blinked and said, "Well, that was a poor conversation starter. My name is YYYYY. Phoenix brought you in, eh?"

"Yup."

"No more sir?"

"Thought we were past formality, what with you pointing out my limp and all."

"Touché. Do you know how many kids attend this school? About five thousand. That is larger than many community colleges, but it is a high school. We do the best we can, but the fact that you're here is a sign of something, John. I talk to maybe four hundred kids a year, usually only once, with, hah, exceptions."

"Mercedes is an exception?"

"She is. She is an exceptional exception."

"Is that a good thing?"

"It's just a thing."

"Who is she?"

"She's a senior, or maybe a junior, this year. Do -- did you hear about the Halloween disaster?"

"With the kids and the fire in the house? Yeah."

"She lived through it."

"Huh. I heard there weren't any survivors."

"Reports were . . . confused on the details."

"No kidding." John stopped, his eyebrows rising without his consent. "Why are you telling me this?"

"She mentioned meeting you today."

"Should I be worried?"

"Why are you here, precisely?"

"I think the security guard Phoenix? I think he --"

"We don't bother with gender with Phoenix."

"Like I said, I think, uh, Phoenix has it in for me. I was late to class, to first hour, and then someone jumped me --"

"Who? Grey sweater? When?" YYYYY leaned forward. "When did this happen?"

"Just before I came to your office, actually."

"And Phoenix brought you here?"

"I was going to come anyway, because of the way, uh, I was treated, but yeah. Phoenix brought me."

"How many suspensions did Phoenix give you?"

"None, but two detentions."

"I have to let those stand, but I'm glad you didn't get suspended on your first day of school."

"Me too, sir."

"Sir again?"

"Habit."

"Well. Keep it up, Mr. Osborne. I am sorry about the detentions. I don't think it's particularly fair, but I won't ignore my security officer's choice. Do try to make it to class on time tomorrow, and the rest of the semester."

"Sir."

"Also, it's a good thing today is the first day of classes. I remember being a teacher and not much happens the first day of class. A syllabus gets passed out, names and ice breaking activities happen. You'll be fine. And," he laughed, "You'll have detention to dedicate yourself to homework."

"Very funny."

"Get to fifth hour, son."

The bell marking the end of fourth hour rang.

"Yes sir. Thank you sir. For not suspending me, sir."

"You're welcome. Go. Don't dawdle."

John didn't.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Mercedes and John

Senior year and I'm friendless and someone is trying to kill me.


I've lost my train


Too far out.


* * *
Mercedes looked at John and smiled. Her face looked old, wrinkled, loose skin splashed across high cheek bones, but her one good eye sparkled beautiful, vibrant green. The other, John assumed, was bad, under the white eyepatch with a red star emblazoned on it. Mercedes had no hair, but her teeth and eye were snow white, with that emerald splash.

"Hello John," she said.

"Hello."

"I'm not stupid, so you must be smart. To be here, you must be smart," She said. "Let's be study partners, hey?"

"Sure."

They started to trade contact information, but Mr. Porter cut them short. He talked math, and explained who Einstein was, then who Turing was, then who Euler was, before finally explaining who Musa al-Khwarizmi was. After the tour de mathematicians, he started into basic algebra, which John knew. Instead of paying complete attention, he stared at Mercedes: her perfect posture, her missing fingers, her quickly raised hand, when questions were asked. Despite the discrete scouring he gave Mercedes, John was quick enough to talk through a complex algebra question when Mr. Porter called on him.

"Thank you, John. Good eyes," Mr. Porter said. He wrote their homework on the board then recited it and, as the bell rang, asked if anyone had any questions. No one did.

"Where's your next class?" Mercedes asked. 

"Umn, Third building, fourth floor." 

"Science class, huh?"

"Yup. How do you --"

Mercedes snorted. "That's the science floor for building three. I'm heading there too. Walk with me?"

"Sure!" John beamed. 

Mercedes kept pace with John, the two moving like lazy sharks through the bustle between buildings. They talked about the weather and math and traded mobile numbers and email addresses they used on social media and then, half way through a discussion of the latest premium television show Mercedes said, "You know, for a while I had to walk with a cane."

They kept walking in silence. 

As they neared the closest set of doors into building three (A gigantic red brick monstrosity without windows or charm; it's doors faded yellow slabs of metal she said, "My friend William tried to kill me. I don't think -- he didn't try to kill me. He almost killed me. then he saved me. But he saved me from himself, and then he went nuts. Not, like, noticeably nuts, but definitely --and it's not like he didn't have a right to go a bit nuts. Someone was trying to, there were two people who were." She stopped mid-sentence. 

John said, "Huh."

"The elevator is this way, then left," she pointed, and almost poked a blond girl in the eye, "through the cafeteria. I know the code to get to the roof," and Mercedes turned and winked at John, and ran straight into someone wearing a grey hooded sweater.  She turned and saw the guy, a solid, broad shouldered guy with short brown hair and a wide, flat nose.

It might've been pointy, John was paying that much attention, and then it was a wide flat nose and Mercedes was grabbing his backpack straps and throwing him --who was easily  on hundred more pounds than her-- bloody face first onto the ground.  Somehow, she pushed  his backpack off and fell prone on him, got her arms around his neck and John stepped in with a "woa, woah! Woah!" He tapped Mercedes' arm and said, "Killer moves and all, but you bumped into him!"

"Listen, freshman," Mercedes slammed her forehead into the back of the guy's head, smacking his pulverized nose into the floor, "that's cute. Ignorance is cute. Not cute? Grey hooded sweaters and running into me." She stood up and railed her boot toe into his ribs. "This freshman saved your life, asshole."

The guy, bloodied, curled up, moaned and spat blood.

"Let's go," Mercedes said.

John stood for a moment. He looked between the guy on the floor and the girl with the red star eye patch. He said, "I'll take the stairs."

"Whatev," Mercedes said, and disappeared into the crowd.

John turned to help the guy Mercedes had wrecked, but he had disappeared. The two minute warning bell rang.

For the first time in over a year, John swore.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

John and Mercedes Meet

"Really? Don't have time to sell one more coffee?" John shouted. No response from the kitchen. "Shoot," John said. He walked as quickly as he could, gal-lopping through the empty cafeteria.

"Hey, what's wrong with you?" A gruff woman's voice called out behind him.

"What's wrong with you?" John shot back immediately. He turned around and blushed. The woman was a security officer. At least, he was pretty sure it was a woman: short hair, thick shoulders, clean shaved, but effeminate.

The security guard said, "My name is Phoenix McHaine and you are in trouble now."

"What? You asked what's wrong with me! You yelled at me! Because I've got a limp! Don't pull that I'm in trouble crap. Sir. Ma'am."

"Security," Phoenix said, with narrowed eyes. "Where's your class?"

"Just outside. Math."

"I've got my eyes on you," Phoenix said, "Hah hah." mirthlessly.

John sighed.

"Get to class."

"Can you write me a note?"

"No."

"But you've kept me longer than I would have been otherwise. Otherwise I would've been just a little late, but now I'm, like, really late." John smiled and hobbled dramatically toward the security guard. "Please?"

The security guard, Phoenix, looked around and huffed even more dramatically, then, from the inner pocket of the jacket, Phoenix pulled a pad of light yellow paper and scribbled something on it. "There. Go."

"Cool. Thank you."

"Watch your mouth."

"Yes, security."

"Thank you."

John slowly, carefully walked through the now completely empty cafeteria. The two different echoes from his feet followed him.

Walking across the threshold of the portable classroom, which smelled of disinfectant and overly dry air, John tripped and sprawled on the rough carpet, grazing his palms bloody. "Shoot," he murmured.

The teacher, a skinny, young man in a well loved, thrift store suit with a shaved head and lively olive eyes asked, "Are you Mercedes Baker or John Osborne?"

"John. I have a late pass," John held up the yellow slip of paper and the teacher laughed.

"Are you --." The Teacher paused while John stood up.

The name Mr. Porter was written on the board with a flourished P.

"Sir?"

"You must've met our delightful security guard Phoenix," said Mr. Porter.

"Yes sir," John paused, "I was given this late pass."

Mr, Porter laughed. He said, "Sure. Make sure you read that late pass after class. Take a seat. I'll let you off easy since you're not the --"

A girl with a shaved head, an eye patch and gigantic, knee high black boots trip-skipped over John's backpack, still on the floor. She landed quietly and said, "Yo."

"Mercedes Baker?"

"Sir."

"You and John can next to each other in these front rows," Mr. Porter said. He added, trade numbers, you two are study partners now. Welcome to calculus II."



Sunday, November 1, 2015

John Sam Osborne

John Sam Osborne was supposed to be early to his first class. His adopted mother, Theresa Jones, dropped him off in the subdivision behind the high school, two blocks from the back gates, just as he requested. She hugged him and kissed his check and said, "It'll be okay honey. Remember, we love you," and she squeezed him twice more before letting him out of the car. Slightly confused, John smiled and frowned at the same time. He said, "Are you okay, mom?"

"Yeah, honey. I'm good. Love you! Go!"

"I'm, like, an hour early!"

"But I don't want you to be late for you, either, baby! Go go go!"

John smiled with he mouth and eye brows. He said, "Thanks, mom. Love you."

The back gates let onto the school property by the football field and the gigantic set of bleachers. The school track surrounded the football field and in the early September cool thin fog dampened ankles and frizzed hair.

It was cloudy.

John zipped his hooded sweater all the way up and pulled on the hood. It was a light blue hooded sweater. He also wore black jeans and a dark grey t-shirt. He wore well taken care of black work boots, freshly polished and shined. His right boot had a two inch lift on the sole. John kept his hair short, not particularly liking the frizzy curls that sprung out and wafted around like sea anemones when it grew longer than a few inches. His dark skin and dark eyes were soft and full of love even if his cheeks were full of acne. He had an easy, full smile and all of his top teeth and most of his bottom teeth were straight.

He walked slowly and purposefully, and knew that as long as he kept his pace steady, his limp wouldn't be too obvious.

"It's cool. I'll see Mercedes in third hour, and that means we can eat lunch together. It'll be cool," he said to himself.

He tucked his ear buds into his pocket and pulled out the paper map of the school buildings. His first hour class was math, in the portable classroom closest to the football field. The classroom was a modified prefabricated house, marked on his map with :#1

John double checked the room number and decided to get a breakfast snack. According to the map, one of the lunch rooms was to his right, through a courtyard with recessed seating that sometimes served as an amphitheater for drama classes.

Indeed, the cafeteria had huge, floor to ceiling windows and through the cloudy, morning gloom John saw clumps and clusters, duos and trios of students milling about or hunched or sprawled on the lunch room tables.

"Cool," he said, and stopped. There were butterflies in his stomach. John stared through the glass wall into the bright cafeteria. "It'll be fine," he said, out loud. "I got this." He smiled to himself and, slowly and purposefully walked into the cafeteria.

"Excuse me," he said to the first group of students he came to, "I'm new here. I'm a freshman."

"UH huh." said a white girl with short, blonde hair and dark brown eyes that matched her lipstick. "So?"

"Can I get coffee here?" John asked.

"Oh, sure. That way. Go in there." She pointed vaguely behind her.

John said, "Cool. Thanks." and, slowly and purposefully walked into the cafeteria. The cafeteria was very, very wide and had three tiers, with gentle ramps on either side. from the top down to where he had been previously.

The tile was mottled, faux marble and the walls dividing the tiers were made of small, red bricks. It smelled of good grease and citrus cleaning agents.

As John walked slowly and purposefully toward where he now noticed an ENTRANCE sign. He noticed too that conversations dipped as he passed and rose once he passed. He looked around, and everywhere he did, he caught people looking away. "I just want some coffee," he mumbled, but didn't slouch or slow or speed up. "It's coffee," he said.

The line was long and languid. "I want coffee," John affirmed to himself. There were three people in front of him when the five minute warning bell ran. John's shoulders fell, just a little.

The girl next in line started to argue with the cashier. John shuffled back and forth between feet. He looked around; he was the last person in line.

The girl in front of him ordered.

The late bell rang.

The cashier handed the girl her drink and, pointedly avoiding John's gaze, turned off the cash register and walked away through a set of rodeo doors marked: Kitchen: Staff Only.

"Excuse me?" John called out.


Birth

Samantha wiped the sweat from her brow, then the brow of her best friend. Samantha said, "Sarah, we have to go to the E.R. We have to go now."

"No We can do thi --" Sarah's face wracked itself and wrinkled and she dry heaved. Her sharp nails dug into Samantha's arm, squeezed, punctured the skin.

Samantha yelped, tried and failed to pry Sarah's nails from her arm. "We're going now. Period," she said. Sarah puked on herself.

They stared at each other, both heaving. Sarah nodded, once.

The May night was warm and wet and the streets shimmered. "I'll drive," Sarah said, and they both laughed.

Stopped at a red light while a burst of cars passed in front of them Sarah screamed and screamed and Samantha lay on the horn.

The light turned green.

Sarah shouted, "SHIT I SHAT. I SHAT. THIS BETTER BE WORTH IT."

"You what?"

"I FUCKING SHAT, I shit you not. I shit."

"Damnit!" Samantha looked both ways and sped through the red light. Careened around the round about and almost smashed through the emergency room doors. "Out. Now. Go," she shouted as she slammed her door and hopped the hood of the car. "I'll help you," Samantha said, "You!" She shouted, "Nurse!" Then, "Where the fu-ul moon are all the nurses?"

"It's sunday," an elderly man in the waiting room said, unruffled by the car blocking the sliding-doors.

The elevator dinged open and there, for half a second, stood two male nurses: both black, both holding coffee cups, both tall and muscular. One of them had short, bleached blonde hair, the other dreadlocks pulled into a high, back bun. "Well," the blonde one said.

"She shit herself," Samantha blurted.

"Thank you!" Sarah shouted.

Dreadlocks nurse appeared with a wheel chair and, over and through Sarah's objections, sat her in it.
"Right into room seven?" He asked his colleague, who nodded.

"Any idea how dilated?" He asked.

Samantha said, "ten-ish."

"How do you know?'

"We wanted a home birth, but this doesn't seem right, " Samantha said. Sarah started to say something but her words fell apart, knocked about by a scream.

"Parents?"

"On a business trip," Samantha lied. "They're unreachable."

"Okay, we'll take it from here."

"I'm with her."

"You're not family young lady. Wait here."

"No."

"Please! We've paged the emergency doctor."

"No! I'm her family. Please man, come on. Please." Samantha sniffed. "Please," she whispered. The nurse let her into the room, where Sarah was screaming and wrenching, a bloody baby's leg wiggled and writhed, sticking out from between her thighs.

"Fuck," said everyone.

Sarah did not stop repeating the word.

The doctor, a gray haired black man in light blue scrubs and a lighter blue doctor's smock stepped into the room and assessed the situation. "Fuck, eh?" He said and raised an eyebrow at Samantha. Calmly, he said: "Room three is prepped. Get her there. Now." He turned to Samantha and said, "This is an emergency Cesarian section. You cannot be in there. You can wait out side." He put a hand on Samantha's shoulder and said, "I'm sorry, but she'll be fine." Gently, firmly, quickly he moved Samantha out of the way and the nurse with the dreadlocks hustled Sarah's bed through the
door and right down the hallway.

Samantha sat outside the surgery room and stared at the blank, egg shell wall and felt the tear race unending down her cheeks. She laced and relaced her fingers and then, suddenly, Sarah's screaming stopped. In the sudden silence, Samantha repeated prayers and promises under her breath over and over. The smell of cooking pork danced across her nose. Then the screaming started again and there was a crash and a clatter of thin metal hitting the floor over and over. Muffled swearing. More clattering. The nurse with the dreadlocks smashed through the operating room door, clutching his right eye socket, a scalpel protruding from his sliced eye. He said nothing as he careened down the hallway, swaying from wall to wall; shouldering his way into things, then through a pair of double doors and out of sight.

Beyond the double doors, a klaxon spun, hypnotically fast and calm.

Samantha, mouth open, turned back to the door. Sarah was screaming, "Kill it! Kill it! Kill it!" over and over.

The doctor was the next through the door, out of the operating room. His arms slashed bloody, he cradled something, his face pale, his mouth hairline thin. He ducked and ran in the opposite direction of the stabbed nurse.

Sarah was still shrieking, "Kill it" when two burly nurses barged through the bloodied door, one black guy, one white guy equal in stature and breadth. They wore white scrubs, light blue latex gloves and matching surgical masks. One of them wore thick black glasses and eyed Samantha, who was standing now, as they went into surgery room three.

Samantha immediately heard one of them throwing up. She said, "Fuck," and took off, running down the corridor, chasing after the doctor.

Samantha smashed through double doors after double doors, taking turns at random. Eventually she slammed into a set that didn't budge. She noticed the klaxons, still spinning and spinning. She punched the middle of the doors. They didn't move. "Come on!" She shouted. She punched the doors again and shouted, more loudly. Nothing happened.

Samantha sank to her knees. "Come on" she said, hands on her head, fingers in her hair. "Come on, come on."

 There was a hiss, and a beep and a tinny voice addressed her: "Lay down on the floor and put your hands on your back."

"What?" Samantha said.

"Lay down on the floor and put your hands on your back. We do not want any more trouble. Please lay down on the floor and put your hands on your back," repeated the voice, over and over.

Samantha did as she was told. She lay down and put her hands on her back.

The floor smelled like bleach and mints. A moment later the double doors hissed open. Someone zip tied Samantha's hands together and hauled her to her feet.

"Bend your elbows. We're going to sit you down in a wheel chair."

Samantha bent her elbows and sat when commanded to. "What happened?" she asked, as they wheeled her down similar, blank, hallways over and over and then, more interminable hallways. "Where's Sarah? Where's my friend?"

No answer. Samantha clenched her hands and repeated her questions. She asked about the baby; asked about the nurse, the doctor, the baby and her friend, over and over.





Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pro-prologue

Sarah Mary Osborne, named after two of the most famous witches of all time, adjusted the straps on her miracle bra and laughed.

"That's --those're ridiculous," said her friend Samantha, from the edge of Sarah's cluttered, four post, king size bed. "You could split those with me and we'd still both have back problems in a few years."

"Ah yes, but tonight! Tonight I'm hoping to have a different kind of back problem." Sarah said, and made a pouty-kissy face in her dresser mirror. "We won our home coming game, I aced my Spanish test, and Carl's parents are out of town at a conference for a weekend."

"What about his sister?"

"She's out with her girlfriend, he said."

"You are going to get laid then, eh?"

"Yup, it's perfect, too! Full moon and a full lunar eclipse."

Samantha nodded. She was quiet for a while, as Sarah rouged her lips and blackened her eyes, whitened her cheeks. After two false starts, quietly,  Samantha stood up, stood behind Sarah and placed her hands on Sarah's hips. Samantha said, "Maybe you are the chosen one, like my momma said. Maybe it was you."

"What? No."

"You touched the cup too, though. Maybe those tea leaves were yours."

"What? No, come on, Samantha," said Sarah, but there was a quiver of hope in her voice. She said, "Look, you're going on a date tonight, too. It was your cup your mom read from. I was just there."

Samantha said, "Uh huh" squeezed Sarah's hips, nipped at her neck and flopped back onto the bed, "Ouch!" She shouted, then. "Damn it!" And threw a iPod at the small of Sarah's back.

"Ouch! You!" Sarah flung herself around, mock angry "I oughta. . ." She pounced on Samantha and snared her hands in her hair.


The problem with teenagers such as Sarah and Samantha is that they are so rarely .  . . "Teenage appropriate." This isn't a sexy sex scene, it's two girls, close friends, making out before they go and try to get pregnant with unsuspecting young men. They're not 13, they're 15 and 16 respectively and they live with their mothers, who have also been friends since they were toddlers, as were their mothers. 
Their mothers are now 32 and 33, respectively. Sarah's grandmother is only forty-eight years old. Sarah's great grandmother, who lives in Spain, is sixty-three. Sarah's great-great grandmother is dead. Samantha doesn't have any grand parents and neither of them have fathers active in their lives, but they have each other, and their mothers, and each other's mothers.  
So much for show don't tell. I'll work on this in the actual draft. We're just plonking keys at the moment, aren't we? We are. 
Me and the ghosts, on devil's night --all saint's eve. Yesterday it was a full moon.


In the mirror, Sarah stared at the fresh hickey on her neck, her short, blonde hair and grey eyes weren't going to hide the teeth marks. Sarah pursed her chicken lips and wiggled around inside her inferiority complex (about the size of her boobs.)

Samantha left Sarah's house with a gash down her left thigh and a gigantic grin.

"Carl isn't going to --oh whatever, I'll tell him the truth." She sighed. "Guys like that sort of thing."
She nodded to herself and finished touching herself up and drove the half an hour into town, into the heart of the shambling sub division behind her high school. All the way to Carl's house. She didn't bother with the radio.

Hello's were cut short and full of sudden reproach. Dinner was sushi and snuck whiskey in his hot green tea. Then,


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"No, I'm sorry," he said. He glanced at the floor then raised his eyes and his voice. "Look, I get it, but if you don't leave now --"

The witch Abbie laughed, "You'll what? make me mildly itchy? I know how your magic works little boy. You're nothing without your knife."

John bit the corner of his lip. He kept biting down. He kept biting down, sawing his jaw back and forth. The witch, old, tight skinned, laughed, then frowned.

The pain was unbelievable but suddenly there was a crack in his mouth and a gush of blood. John sawed at the sides and, tears streaming down his face spat blood on Abbie. "Acid," he said at her, and she began to scream and clutch at her face and eyes, where John's blood sizzled and hissed, burning and blistering her skin.

He drooled some onto the rope wrapped around his arms and chest. "Acid," he said, wincing preemptively. His acid blood burned through the ropes and he unwrapped his legs and stood up.

He stepped over the body of the witch Abbie, shrieking writhing on the ground.
"I'm sorry," he said and