Incubus

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Photo Credit: N G

Chapter 1
Evensong

First, we nail boards to the windows. Every slam of the hammer shook our little trailer; on a better day, from the vigorous trembling, you’d think I was getting laid. But, no, this was not a good day, nor did I figure we would have one for a long time.

As I offered him the planks, Jared smashed and stuck them against the windows. In all, the trailer had only four windows, each nearly too small for even a toddler to squeeze through, but we could not take any chances. Sweat glistened on the nape of his neck, diamond droplets trickling down his spine. The muscles in his back swelled and tensed as he helped me fortify our home, and suddenly I was thankful for the long nights he spent pumping away at Hartloch’s community gym.

He drove the final nail in, the head of it slightly bent from the force. “What next, Aubs?”

Jared knew what was next; I knew it too, but that didn’t make it any easier. “The sinks, with the carpet.” My eyes dropped to the stringy shag carpeting daddy installed for me the first week after he was diagnosed with cancer. It was the final project he ever completed, and it killed me what had to be done with it. Sunlight beamed between the furniture pressed against the front door, revealing all the swirling dust in our quaint trailer house. “Then after that…” My voice quivered.

“Don’t even,” Jared barked, falling to his knees. “How much d’we need?”

“Just start cutting, and I’ll let you know when.” An image of the creatures crawling up the pipes made my stomach churn.

But before he could drive the knife into the carpet, Jared stopped. “Look at us, Aubrey.”

“What?”

“What the fuck we doin’?” His voice was raspy with authentic country roots. “Say we get the placed locked up, how long we gonna survive after that? We ain’t got food to last us maybe a week, not to mention the Reverend and his tricks.” His eyes flashed like frenzied lightning under the flickering ceiling fan bulb. Despair bleached Jared’s typical enthusiastic tone. “We can’t do this alone.”

I snapped. “Who the hell can we call, Jared?” Pacing the living room, hands clenched in my hair, I repeated: “Who the hell can we call?” My mind pulled images of everyone I ever loved from my mental scrapbook. “There’s no one left but us.”

We sat in silence for a moment, me glaring daggers into Jared’s forehead. He knew it as well as I did: we were screwed. “Now get to stripping that carpet; we’ve got to fill these motherfucking sinks if we’re going to last until morning.”

#####

With our home finally fortified — every possible entry plugged up tight — Jared and I sat in the naked living room. The place where the entertainment center was that once held the television and Jared’s huge collection of games had become the place where we kept the shit bucket. Picture frames against the walls only existed as faint dust outlines against dirty wood panelling. Everything we used to have was either distorted and used to keep us safe, or rotting in a fire pit back at the refuge. I imagine that was also where the passionate, electric love Jared and I had for one another was buried.

The ceiling fan was the only one humming with excitement as Jared and I sat cross-legged on the cold, bare floor. Bright summer heat and light dimmed to a pale twilight as night was cast upon the land. Aside from a pack of dogs in the distance and the blaring emergency sirens, everything was quiet.

Something had also turned the volume down on my heart. I felt empty. I was empty. “Jared,” his name felt unfamiliar on my tongue, “I’m sorry for flipping out on you earlier.” Silence. “Babe, please don’t be this –”

Shh,” he huffed, pointing to the door. “Do you hear that?”

It started as a drip-drip-drip, like water from a faucet, but it quickly got faster and louder. The single light we had on in the trailer let out a final, bright burst of light before turning to lifeless gray. Illuminated by only the dusklight peeping through the cracks in the wood, my heart bounced to my throat. “They’re here,” I whispered.

The weight of the air I breathed splintered my lungs, the sheer pressure of it squeezing my brain. Tears streamed Jared’s face as the realization that we had been chosen had struck him. “I love you,” I mouthed, my fingers pressed to my burning temple.

Dust filled my body as I continued gasping for the very thing that was torturing me. Checkered shadows danced on the walls. Blood dripped from our ears. Our tears turned to crimson. In the back of my mind, I heard a haunting melody, drawing me to the door. But I knew I had to stay put.

I looked at Jared, who was still bent over in agony. We wanted so badly to scream, to say literally anything, but sound no longer existed, the very waves dissolved in the potent air.

Suddenly my body twitched, and I rose from the floor. All of my hair was standing on edge in the electrified atmosphere that had consumed the trailer. Time slowed to a trickle as every particle sluggishly ascended. My face was stricken, my mouth gaping, trying to breathe any ounce of oxygen.

Just as I was on the brink of death, everything stopped. The air returned, the pain subsided. Everything was in its perfect place — the entertainment center was back in the corner of living room, the television broadcasting an old cartoon, and Jared’s game collection was placed neatly on the side shelves. The picture frames of momma, my brother, and me were immaculately hung on the walls. Daddy’s shag carpeting tickled my toes. Soft moonlight shone through bare, crystal windows.

But one thing was not in its place; Jared was gone. In his place: a bloodstained stone tulip. My passion for Jared returned the moment he had gone. Before I could start to cry, there was a faint knock at the door. Two small taps shattered my soul.

The Reverend was outside, myself in my own twisted nightmare. But it wasn’t until the stone tulip crumbled to ash that the terror truly began.

 

Catalyst

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Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

We live in a society in which others’ opinion dictates love.
A man can pour his liquefied heart into a ceramic coffee mug, but have it poured it down the drain because it was offered to another man.
There is no remorse for the women who melted in each other’s arms as their house burned around them, because they were in love.

We live in a society that promotes personal satisfaction above all else.
Damned be the girl who fights against the man who insisted she wear a short skirt and a low-cut blouse for her interview.
Coupled with a blow job, she just might get the promotion she was promised.
But before that, he says she’s got to lose a few pounds.
Damned be the boy who confesses his youth instructor raped him.
What kind of a man allows himself to be raped?
He should be so ashamed.

We live in a society in which tradition trumps progression.
To hell with science.
To hell with minorities.
To hell with queers.
To hell with progress.
Fuck love, give me money; you can get a whore instead.
Five-dollars have never gotten you more.

But above all else
We can change society.
It may not be tomorrow or next year
Or without spilled blood and tears.

To hell with their opinions
To hell with their threatened personal satisfaction
To hell with tradition

Love will prevail.
And it all starts with you.

White Rabbit

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Photo Credit

One by one they march

Their swords drooled blood of the enemy

They won’t stop

It was time to claim the divine reward.

 

Even the seas of magnetic dynamite they pass in stride

A cynic’s illusion, He should have done better

The purest magic wilts against stolid steel, they assure each other

Their eyes glued to the glacier palace, they keep marching.

 

Though the crystalline keep was anything but.

With every inch closer, the tower transforms.

Dreamy beryl walls to tarnished silver

Glimmering treasures to bleached ash

 

The Ivory Prince rises from the levitating tomb

His gaze reverts the silver suits to searing ingot

The soldiers’ knees buckle, but still they march.

He won’t let them stop.

 

Roaring razor storms consume the East

Corrosive lizards creep from the crevasse in the West

The forked tongue of darkness flicks at their heels.

All that remains is the Prince and His keep.

 

One by one they march

Crippled under concrete crowns of thorns.

They’ll be royalty, too

Dreaming of crystalline treasures in the furnace.

Behold the Begrudger

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Photo credit: Tim Abbott

I envy the dark souls who beg for time,

The ones who spend them stoned out of their goddamned minds

Too beaten and bloody to face the next round of rapid purgatory.

 

I envy the saints who have no regrets.

They wave beautiful gifts of glory with eyes and mouths sewn blissfully shut,

Disoriented by the very light from which they claim liberation.

 

I envy the hopefuls who always stride forward,

Finding ambition amidst hordes of cynical fiends.

They’ll never descend.

 

I envy the boy who once had all the time in the world

A ghost of the past,

His light violently extinguished by the hand of the ones he loved.

 

I envy the miscreants who ask for forgiveness,

Scarring their knees on icy daggers as remorse consumes them.

The slain monster lays broken in its teardrop prison.

 

Though I envy not their revelation or rescue, their happiness or faith

But their willingness to live

Despite the spirit they lost mercilessly clawing for a way out.

 

I envy volition,

The gilded steps to tranquility,

For desire I have none.

Ostriches

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Photo Credit: Esra Erben

The king wears a crown like no other;

Gaudy ornaments conceal a cranium of illusion and treachery.

 

He points to the left, executing the peaceful lamb.

Signalling to the right, he leads his people into war.

 

But they see and hear nothing,

For their heads are buried in the sand

With the lifeless others who dared defy the chosen one.

 

A life without purpose, without freedom and dreams,

Welcome to the land of nightmares.

Code Blue

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Photo credit: Jacirema Ferreira

Gone are the days of courteous suits and well-mannered sprouts.

The last drop of decency rests at the bottom of a bottle,

A shallow globe of love-drunk nobodies.

 

As the surviving guardians disappear

In comatose clouds of abandonment,

We hide beneath damp cloths.

 

Chivalry is dead.

Mother’s Day

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Photo credit: Patrick Dobeson
Mama Six loved that turquoise quilt, the one with the black horses and winding river. It reminded her of the time she was a little girl at the ranch, the first time she saw the wild pony grazing near the water’s edge. The thick blanket restored within her a sense of hope and youth, which is why we wrapped her in it after Cecil killed her.

“Isn’t it a little ironic?” Cecil huffed as he tore the rotten paddle through the algae-infested water. A brown leaf clung to his wet chin.

“Huh?”

Cecil stopped rowing for a moment. “It’s Mother’s Day, and…” His brown eyes darted from the turquoise quilt burrito at the center of the boat and back at me. He pulled his lips to the side, the same smirk that started it all. Who knew a sneer warranted an impaled shoulder? It gave another meaning to knife in the back.

The three of us skidded across the water in the boat, like a puck on ice hurling towards the net. Could he have been right? Had it really been Mother’s Day? Suddenly the ball of fire in my gut expanded. “Just keep rowing,” I spat, feeling his hot glare drill a hole between my eyes. “We need to make a story, a different one than last time.”

“What’s wrong with the one we used the first time? You can’t think they’d notice, or even care – just the thought of possible abuse knocks them sideways.”

We row in silence for the next twenty minutes, both of us simultaneously scanning for a good dumping spot and devising a convincing excuse. He could have definitely chosen a better day to murder Mama Six – that was for sure. I swear I could hear our skin scorching and bubbling under the hot, Texan sun. The water that splashed off our oars did little to cool us off, and only formed an annoying puddle at our feet. Mama Six’s blood leaking everywhere didn’t help matters, either.

Then suddenly I saw it. “There!” I pointed towards the darkest pit in the lake. “That’s where we’ll drop her.” Cecil begins unwrapping Mama Six, and I prepare the boulders. “One on each limb ought to do it,” I think out loud.

“I wonder what she would think of us.”

If Cecil kept it up, he’d be the one sleeping with the fishes. “What now?” I couldn’t tell if the exhaustion in my voice was from rowing God-knows-how-far with a boat full of stones, or from my brother’s sad attempts for small talk.

“Mom.” He smiled sheepishly.

I wait to reply after I got the last stone attached. “Who the hell cares, Cecil? She left us, despised us for being different. So why waste any thought on that bitch?” There’s no way I could tell him that I had wondered the same thing after all the other times. As each Mama stopped breathing, I can’t help but to think about a life where the accidents weren’t necessary. “We got each other. That’s all that matters, right?”

Cecil blinked tears away and gripped Mama Six’s ankles. “You’re right, Blaise. Now let’s drop this wench.”

On three, we heave the plump lady off the side of the boat, and she sinks like an anchor, the only evidence of her existence dancing bubbles disappearing on the green water’s surface.

“Now what?” Cecil asked. We both stared into the abyss, numb, hearts pulsing in our throats.

I took a breath before sitting back down and grasping the wet paddle once more. “Now we go back. I figured we’d use Mama Three’s story.”

Cecil giggled. “Seriously? That one again? I was thinking about Two’s, personally. I don’t know if I can fake that again. At least not as convincingly.”

We snickered together, tears staining our cheeks, but mostly from sheer anxiety and fatigue than from hilarity. My fingernails dug into my paddle, sending splinters in my nail beds. Blood dripped from my fingertips as I wept and laughed with hysteria. “Happy Mother’s Day, Cecil.”

Cecil barely held a straight face, forcing back frenzied shouts. “You too, bro. Maybe Seven’ll be the end?”

“Fat chance,” I chimed, winking. “There are still a few Mother’s Days in our future yet.”