Beautiful Life

He grew his hair out so you’d forget the ugly shape of his face
Sucked in his gut to hide the Bacardi pints from lonely nights past
A life drowning in vodka sweats and bad intentions, he swore he’d swim

Once your lover, the man stood before you a blue collar stranger
He rubbed his naked finger where once there was a ring
Daydreamed about the life that almost was

He smiled when he greeted you because you said you’d never forget his dimples
Sucked in his gut further so you’d see how much he had changed
But hopefulness turned to humiliation when he noticed your finger was bare no longer

Once your best friend, the man wept quietly in his room
Tears streaking the old ultrasound photo he had hidden in his wallet
Fractured, he turned to his past demons and welcomed them back with open arms

He drowned in the liquor so he’d forget your beautiful face
Slit his wrists to forget the baby girl you both had lost
As his blood slipped down the bathtub drain, so too did the pain and regret

Once your enemy, the man drifted away a lost soul
Forever dreaming about the life that almost was

Mother’s Day

4418183254_dacbb32440_z
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.”

 

Slash and Burn

30314723860_936c9b7fe6_z
Photo credit: Kahlil Gibran

Another year, another harvest. Plow, sow, reap, repeat. It is this endless cycle of fragile expectation that keeps me at my post, always watching. Dale brought me in the day of his son, George’s second birthday; now, Dale’s long gone, and George has taken his father’s place at the farm. Every day is slave’s labor in the fresh oven of Hell, but it’s a living.

George looked at me, sweat dripping from his brow and neck, his shirt drenched and covered with soot. “I see you’re doing a swell job as always, Jem.” He sticks his pick in the parched earth and heads to the hose. “If only you can make it goddamn rain,” he spits.

The truth is that the old Whittaker farm’s seeing its last years; corn’s at an all-time low and the cows just ain’t producing like they used to. Much of the silo’s gone empty, thanks to a rough winter and an unplanned vacation to the Bahamas – George’s interest in the land has gone flat. I can see it in his periwinkle eyes; it’s in the way he walks – it’s hopeless.

“Take me with you,” I mutter, but the hot wind takes it away, just like it does everything else.

Suddenly, a glistening raven lands on my shoulder. Its beady eyes sported a moisture with which I am unfamiliar, like looking into a bubbling oil pit. Its very presence hushed the wind. “You know what happens to bags like you once the land is sterile?” it asks, tauntingly. “They burn ‘em. Burn ‘em all.”

“You’re lying!” I hiss, biting through my stitched jaw. “George will never let that happen.” Would he? But the raven was already gone, a single feather stuck tangled in my shoulder. It wasn’t the first time I encountered the black pest, this I knew, but the details of our past conversation are lost to me.

Hours pass, and nothing changes. George’s pick still rests where he placed it last, and his once full bag of seeds is reduced to a bag of bird feed and a wilted canvas. The bird’s words resonate in my empty head, and suddenly twilight arrives with a refreshing, cool dew; shiny crickets butt against my dilapidated post. The night grows thick quick, and before long I am left alone in the unwelcoming darkness. There is no light shining from George’s house; it’s the one that allows me to rest secure each night, one that shone consistently for the past 47 years. Extinguished and deserted, the wind steals my frantic pleas: “Please, maker, let it rain. Let it rain.” I don’t want to burn.

#

Another day, another second closer to oblivion. George has not shown, for days, and I am forced to endure the silence and shadows of the season without my best friend.

“What did I tell you?” The raven flutters above, before landing this time on my head, crunching my straw hat – it was Dale’s. “I have to say I’m surprised, though; you held up for nearly five decades and largely unscathed. You’re not like the others, Jem.”

Don’t call me that,” I warn, forcing the avian nuisance off of me. “They’ll show. He wouldn’t abandon his father’s land like that.”

No amount of thrusts can keep the bird from flying back on me. Its scaly feet ripped holes in my fabric. “Gone, gone, gone,” it sang, tearing stuffing from my interior, laughing. “So weeps the lonely scarecrow!”

Its cackles keep me awake for weeks.

#

Any sign of George and his family are obscured under a blanket of scorching sand. Sometimes I can make out the handle of the pick still stuck in the earth, and aside from the rickety, old house, it’s like they never existed. They took the truck late one night, along with the rest of their belongings. Looters got everything else. There was no goodbye, nothing at all, for me. All the time I kept the land secure amounted to nothing in the eyes of the deceitful human. Every modicum of hope I held in my flimsy body was eradicated with each thump of a hammer against a white For Sale sign near the house’s front porch.

The raven’s the only real friend I’ve ever had, I realize. While the traitors retreated into the unknown, the bird stayed at my perch, whispering its warnings and tales.

“Tell me about our first encounter,” I demand, my gaiety gone with the deserters. Visions of a different place, somewhere far away, fade in and out of my vision. “I recall a brown house and a little girl. What do you know about that?”

The raven is reluctant to speak, but eventually it gives in. “As I’m sure you’re realizing, this isn’t the first time you’ve been abandoned by the bipedal demons.” Rage boils within my sloppily stitched torso. “As a matter of fact, this is about the third time I’ve told you my stories,” the raven’s tone lifts. “I appreciate your attentiveness, given the circumstance.”

My eyes scan the empty, blue horizon, and suddenly it comes to me. “How many times would you like to tell those stories?”

The raven’s at a loss for words, ruffling its feathers.

Let me down. Let me ruin their world just as they’ve regularly ruined mine.” Passion surges from my head down to my arms and legs. In an effort to make me seem more familiar to George, Dale gave me a pair of gloves and some old boots – it’s a shame he had such a spoiled son.

It doesn’t take the raven long to clip my binds, and I fall to the ground. Memories of my past lives, of all my brethren’s lives, populate my mind, and I scream – my voice obliterating the thick wind. With renewed animation, I grasp the traitor’s old pick, the wooden handle cool against my glove.

Another life, another harvest. A cycle shattered. I get to work.

For the Silence

 

14082714493_9f43bcf59b_z
Photo credit: Flickr

The way you look at me,

Hide yourself from me.

These euphoric dreams

Are all I need.

 

It’s not impossible

To cure this madness.

It courses through my veins,

But never lasts.

 

Now they’re calling me,

These hollow demons.

Please let them take me.

I’ll be their last.

 

The walls are closing in,

Going dark again.

It’s reaching for my hand;

Nightmare begin.

 

Shallow

15499636738_16802c6878_z
Photo credit: Javier

Time trickles away,

Moments merely whispers.

Weeks turn to months and suddenly I forget

What it’s like to be human.

 

I no longer recall the taste of her flesh.

The look on her face

When I told her she wasn’t the one

Is as familiar to me as a stopwatch is to a sequoia.

 

But not a second goes by

In this wretched existence

That I don’t remember

The sound of her shovel packing my grave.

Bayou

8135847770_14efc00b60_z
Photo credit: Angela N.
I was fifteen years old when the first one drowned. “Don’t worry about it,” Lana said quietly, as if we were in an audience’s presence. “It happens to all of us after a while.” We sat poking holes in the spongy marsh for what seemed like hours as the limp puppy finally sank out of sight into the blue abyss. Weak air pockets popped against the surface of the water, resembling ants flowing out of their nest; at first there was a surge of bubbles, until the final two or three slowly surfaced minutes later.

My girlfriend nudged my arm. “Hey, Joe.” She pecked my cheek. “It’ll be alright, okay?” I believed her. After all, I wasn’t such a terrible person. So my sister’s new puppy died – so what? It’s the circle of life; things die every day. All I did was speed up the process.

That night, we took the long way home like usual. Lana insisted we stop at Keppy’s for a smoothie. Despite my telling her I was feeling just fine, she didn’t buy any of it. “You can never stay sad with a cup of ice cream, Joe,” she chirped. “Things will pick up for us,” she promised.

Four months later, we were back at the bayou.

“I don’t know what happened!” I collapsed in her arms. Shutting my eyes hard enough wasn’t enough to wash away the sight of the strangled tomcat at the water’s edge. My hands burned from where I held the kitten, a cold reminder of my rampant fury. “You believe me, don’t you?”

“Of course, Joe.” She rubbed my back and stroked my hair. “Just another accident. Whose was it?”

“Kerry’s from across the street.”

This one was different than the first. For some reason, Lana didn’t seem so sympathetic. The night was still, making her rapid heartbeat that much more audible. She was an over-analytical human being, always over-thinking and anxious. “Do you still love me?”

“Forever and always,” was the last thing she said. As she looked in my eyes, I saw the demon. It possessed her small body, the orchestrator of these little evils. It was her fault I did those awful things. We took the short route back home, never saying goodbye when we reached her house.

The next day, Lana didn’t show up at school. She screened all my calls, wouldn’t answer any of my texts. So after school I found her crocheting in her room and we went to the swamp together.

A burning chain around her neck, I pressed her deceitful face into the soggy sludge. Lana tried breaking free, but that only made me tighten the chain. “I just love you so much, Lana; I’m doing this to save you.” Her cries were muffled under my muddy palm. I sat on her writhing body in the slush until the dark clouds passed, and I could see the reflection in her pale eyes. The obsidian demon stared back at me smirking, its eyes two colliding hurricanes.

“You won’t do it,” it hissed. “You’re too weak.”

“I’m doing this to save you, Lana,” I whispered, lacing my fingers around her neck. My thumbs press into her windpipe, the blood draining from her beautiful face. With each squeeze, the demon roared. Ravens gathered around us, taunting me. They were shouting their obscenities, but I kept strong. I had to save her — had to save us all.

At last she fell limp in my grasp, her cries frozen forever on her tongue. But the demon remained. It followed me to the water, displayed in my reflection. The devil in her eyes was me.

I was seventeen when the rest of them drowned, a king reborn.

Mystic Keys and Expectations

174718774_4e13ff6926_z-1

“Dear, beautiful spectator,” said the magician, his knuckles dove-white from his clasp on an amethyst, shimmering top hat. The audience was wide eyed as the young man reached inside his polka-dotted blazer. “I ask you to look inside yourself, unlock the chest of your lonesome soul,” his eyes glinted, “tell me what you find.”

He waited a few seconds before continuing. “You will find, binding your very being, two padlocks. If you look closer at the first, you’ll find yourself with a third-degree burn on your nose and a spirit full of harmony and grace. It’ll feel you with such jubilation that you’ll never want to look away, but you risk blindness the longer you peer at the blazing bolt.” Pulling a gilded key strung on a strip of speckled lace, he added: “With haste, this first lock of lust can be overcome.”

“Now you’re left with one obstacle, to unlock the soul – you’re full potential. If you focus hard enough, you’ll make out a black padlock; its cloak of darkness shrouds the brightest light.” He pulled a twisted obsidian key from his blazer. It shone under the spotlight like a thousand black candles. His mouth was pulled back in a sneer, his heart racing. “This one is infinitely more difficult to handle than the first. Every second you peer into this bolt is an eon of torment.” Several spectators coughed in their red, cushioned seats, disturbed. “You must face your demons, peering into the boiled face of the devil, before the lock drops and the restraints are lifted. In this battle, the deepest force of the universe is concentrated on you. Bleak vultures will try and tear at your shoulders; shadowed serpents will sink their fangs into your heel.” A viewer bellied over and vomited on the black tarp.

The magician grimaced as he dropped the key, reaching within the ornate top hat. “Let the dancing fumes wash away your glowing, painted wings. As the toxin slithers into your conscience,” the magician pulled a skeletal, writhing creature from the hat, “I will exonerate you.”

Suddenly, the viewers fall to the floor, scratching at their chests and throats. Children’s eyes turn vermillion, their skin splintered like blistered glass, as their parents stumbled to their side. Whispers muted the indignant bellows. Cloaked specters carried the babies to the ceiling, sending their fragile bodies back to the ground, smashed and mutilated. Every breath was an inhalation of bladed powder and cyanide. Boiling slime expanded across the tarped floor, an ocean rife with starving, scaly beasts.

The magician groaned, snapping the patchy, wiry neck of a vicious rodent – its squeal a nightmare siren. Virulent typhoons of shadow and disgrace protected him from the evil consuming the theatre. Flickering emerald flame followed his footsteps, as he approached the door.  With every step closer, blurry phantoms shouted: “You’re not invited!” One flung an infant’s decapitated corpse at him. “NOT INVITED!” The banshees’ shrieks nearly brought him to his knees, but he forced himself to reach the locked door.

Trained on the shimmering, golden deadbolt keeping him contained in this infernal trial, the magician pushed in the key and turned. The padlock opened with a pop and dropped to the floor. In a flash, the charred tarp turned into soft prairie grass; the intestine-adorned walls faded to reveal a sunlit forest and a diamond-specked pond, disgusted incantations a chorus of mockingbirds.

For the first time in an eternity, the magician smiled and laughed, rolling around on the damp grass. “Free at last!” he shouted.

The magician’s expression changed, however, when he cut himself on the teeth of a charred, barbed statue resembling the Bringer, the evil entity from his dreams. Elation melted to malice. Ravens obscured the beaming sun, and the forest collapsed to a frozen graveyard.

The Bringer’s silhouette was etched on the horizon. “For years you relied on slight-of-hand to deceive unwitting spirits. Now you shall wear their souls and walk through the inferno you so dexterously illustrated.” Sharp winds ripped the clothes off of the magician, the great entertainer reduced to a bumbling, naked boy in a bed of sweltering snow. “You will forever chase the jester of your former being, always falling short of vindication.”

“Please,” the magician begged, “make me forget all of this. Give me a fresh canvas to start anew.” His tears evaporated against the hot snow. “I’m so sorry, for everything.” He wept. “I know I shouldn’t have touched those kids. I’ve learned my lesson! Please!”

The Bringer roared, cracking the frozen earth. “Something tells me you enjoyed that first trial too much to ever be forgiven.” It cackled. “Granted you survive the night, you’ll find your black key somewhere in the winding river of tar up north; the padlock is deep within the Salahrin Mountains, but I’ve got a feeling the army of vengeful infants and tortured toddlers will pick you off far before you reach the border.”

The Case of the Ashen Crow, Ch.1

7987423683_783f5e51d4_z

“Those eyes shined with innocence, more so than all of the others,” said Raymond Shire, his cuffed hands scratching his crotch. He exhaled, overcome with the memories of his girls and boys. “Little Kaya is different than all the rest.”

Detective Robert Greer shifted uncomfortably in the flimsy plastic chair. No matter how many times he tried to prepare himself for this particular case, the look in Shire’s face as he discussed the children, the creep’s conquests, in present tense always disturbed him; an outsider would believe that the children were all still alive despite the bodies that had been found, due to Raymond’s flawed choice of words. This was Greer’s fourth case since graduating from the academy with honors, and the cases were only getting more and more fucked up. “How so?” he inquired, scribbling in a coffee-stained notepad.

The convicted felon offered a half-cocked smile. “Oh, Doc, if I told you, you’d never believe me anyways.” Spitting a chunk of tobacco in a Dixie cup, he added: “Kaya was special.” Shire’s eyes peered into the one-way mirror displayed opposite him, sending a wave of awkwardness over the speculators.

“Did you rape her, too?” Greer was beside himself for being so frank, but for all he and the others knew, Shire had other children out there somewhere. “Like you did to the rest?” He assumed so.

Raymond rolled his eyes. “You will never understand, Doc.” Then to the mirror: “Bring me in someone of some merit, wouldja?” He belched. “Doc here gets lucky on a few cases and suddenly he’s a rising star. You think I’m just a pal who just fucks girlies, but, oh, we are so much more.” His roaring laughter reverberates into the passing hallway, enough to silence the building. “Tell whatever dildo-banging, cock sucking twat whose ass you’re shaving to get me a more competent pal.”

Greer was the third investigator assigned to the case; he knew the risks of dealing with Raymond. The man was known to directly target the detectives who were getting close to hauling him in. He killed the first’s youngest niece, Thari, and set out to murder the second detective’s wife – she was the only captive to ever escape Raymond’s cold grasp.

While they had yet to discover the bodies of at least twenty children, boys and girls, under nine, one leading fact of the case was that Raymond tended to conduct his misdeeds near the childrens’ home; however, when he showed up at the station one day naked and dazed, everything changed. Every psychological report the agency had on Shire, due to in-house tests, turned out to be completely wrong. Suddenly they were not dealing with a masochistic, active pedophile.

“I’m sorry to say, you’re stuck with me.” Robert took a sip of water. “Now, tell me about the others. How many are still out there? Tell me about Andrew Menakee and Sarah Binx.”

“Never heard of them.”

“No?”

Raymond shook his head, no, before losing himself in thunderous laughter. “Nah, Doc. But I have heard of Nelson and Ella.”

Chaos erupted in the observation room, squads of eyes scrambled through various forms and papers. But there was nothing on those two names. “Give me last names, Raymond. Who were they? Where can we find them? Help us out.”

“Kaya said you would never understand. I thought surely you would crack the case, Doc, but she was right. She always is.” He slapped his face against the table and lunged himself against Greer. The two fell to the floor. Greer tried to push him off, but Raymond was too forceful.

“Let me see if you’ve got as big of balls as you like to act!” He rubbed himself against Greer’s groin, oozing strips of warm drool down Greer’s neck and chest. He started to force his hands down Greer’s slacks, but just as he passed the waistband, the detective broke his hand free and decked Raymond in the chin. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Robert straddled him and delivered three more blows to his face, cracking Raymond’s nose and bloodying his eye. With each hit, Raymond’s chortles turned to manic screeches.

In moments, Raymond was pinned against the wall, hysteric and frothing. “He doesn’t! He doesn’t!” He yelped at the mirror, slinging slimy spit and blood on the wall and floor. “Tell me, Doc, how can you please your boss with a cock like that?  That cutie, Nelson, had a bigger prick than you, and he was five!”

Greer shrugged off the guards and rushed out of the room, furious and humiliated. Just as he had about reached the bathroom to cool off and fix his torn pants, Raymond burst through the interrogation room and was racing back to him.

His face was that of panic. Slobber and bile trailed him, as he darted at the detective. “Doc, Doc, Doc! You left before I can tell you!”

Greer’s hand went straight to his pistol. “Stop now! Or I will shoot!” He took aim.

The frenzied pedophile came to a halt, lost in no time within a swarm of officers. He was thrown to the ground. “Doc!” he yelled. “You wanted to know more about Kaya!” They began to take him away. “I told you I never killed Kaya, because she was already dead when she found me. She found me, Doc! And she’s going to rip the cock off all you fuckers!” Raymond’s cackles haunted the hall.

Detective Greer entered the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face. “Why couldn’t you just stay in school and become a doctor like you had planned, Rob?” he asked his pitiful reflection. “I swear, one of these days, I’m going to go bat-shit crazy over one of these psychotic fucks.” He forced himself to stop peering down at his crotch, trying to squeeze Shire’s accusations from his mind.

“Or maybe I’m already there.”

Legacy

They said a cure was imminent. That was ten years ago.

Rotting bodies cover the road to work. A stream of yellow pus and bloody discharge from the contaminated corpses divides the street; it won’t be long until the drainage system is completely filled. Those superb draining vents, responsible for putting our metropolis on the map, will be reduced to nothing more than a bath of defecation and infection soon.

Only a couple thousand of us are left in the town, which doesn’t sound half-bad as long as the original population of 200 thousand isn’t considered. During year one of the plague, the typical conversation switched from “What size frizzolatte should I order?” to “Where the hell are all these bodies going to go?” Initially the deceased were buried, and when the cemeteries filled up, they were burned. Mass bonfires of forty to fifty bodies dotted every backyard and park for miles – the columns of smoke resembled gnarled fingers of Satan reaching from the bowels of Hell to crush the living. It wasn’t until half of the city was buried under a massive mound of ash that other means were considered.

“Penny.” A thick hand swallows my shoulder. “Lost in thought, I reckon?”

Oh, Roger, if you knew half of the stuff that frequented my thoughts, you wouldn’t want anything to do with me. “How else am I supposed to entertain myself?” Then, motioning toward the busted flat-screen television screen: “You ruined our one source of amusement in last week’s quarrel.”

The side of his upper lip curls inward and he huffs, “Once again, babe: not my fault. It was either going to be us or Charlie who got the last round of antibiotics, and with the little one on the way anything can happen.” He rubs my inflated stomach and smiles. “I’ll do anything for you.” His grin brightens the room, and for a second one would think that we’re both happy and that the land isn’t in turmoil.

“First you made me that elevated pair of rubber loafers, then I got that precious baby-doll gown that makes me look somewhat civilized, plus countless other things – and now you’re looking after my health. You’re making it increasingly difficult for me to find something for you.”

Roger plops down beside me on the flimsy couch he scavenged from a house a few doors down. “Babe, you’re giving me what can never be one-upped. This baby will change everything.”

He was right: our baby’s very existence will prove that even in an infected world, hope is alive – it only has to be sought. This next generation will be the one responsible for exterminating whatever has befallen most of the population, thus putting the human race back on top. I don’t know how, but health will be restored somehow, one day.

I reach in to kiss my husband, and I notice a peculiar node under his ear. “Roger, how long have you had that?”

“Had what, babe?”

That’s how it usually started, the infection. A hard bulge forms on a patch of exposed skin, appearing benign during the first couple days, but following the week after contact effects only become more severe. In a week, clusters of bulbous blisters form around the lump, flulike symptoms develop and the infected individual grows weary and exhausted. Within a few days, the colony of blisters continues to spread, but this time the heads of each swell up and turn white. Vomiting and dysphasia as well as hallucinations follow – the bile being infectious to anybody in contact. Within the third week, the white sacs atop the blisters turn yellow and burst from the slightest touch – from observation, most pop open due to the infected individual’s own movements. The pus only leads to more blisters and then comes discomfort in the eyes. By the fourth week, the virus has already won, with the host stuck in a seizure-like state. It only takes a few more hours for the seizures to stop and breathing to cease.

Before the realization struck that this virus was eventually going to lead to the dismantling of society, I worked as a nurse at the regional hospital. I never came in contact with patient zero – don’t know if there even was a patient zero – but I dealt with dozens of these cases, and they ended the same, tragic way. But this can’t happen to the love of my life. Not now.

I’m already bursting with tears, my emotion intensified by my hormonal imbalance. “Give me the medicine bag.”

Roger is dumbfounded. “Whoa, whoa! What’s going on?”

“With what you’ve been telling me, there should be enough in there to possible slow the rate of infection. Maybe it’ll buy us enough time to reach the city center – the more qualified doctors with experience with it might be able to help us.” I’m hysterical, my words rushed and mumbled. “Hell, if we can’t find a way to combat the virus after fifteen years, for God’s sake, what good is any of this? And fuck, I’m bringing a baby into this pathetic existence! I’m the monster!”

“Virus? Penny, you have to slow down. Take a breath, honey.”

Amidst a storm of conflicting emotions, I say, “It’s your neck; you’re infected.” I know I should be staying strong during Roger’s time of need, but I’m defeated. Without Roger, there’s no way my baby can make it. He’s always so brave, facing the odds on his scavenges for food and other necessities. Last night he went on a baby run and brought back loads of diapers and different colors of infant clothes. He has everything planned so immaculately, and now…

His hand discovers the node. “Shit. You said something about the center being able to help?”

“I don’t know, I just don’t know.”

A fire ignites in Roger’s eyes that I have never seen before. I know he’s about to do something completely reckless and selfless before the idea rolls off his tongue: “Then I’ll go, but you stay here. I’ll get Charlie to look after you. I know he’s still pissed at me, but he’ll do it.”

“Roger, let me –”

Before I finish, Roger kisses me, and time stops. He knows it’ll be a lost cause; his sister died of the damned virus before the world turned to shit. Although he wasn’t around to see the initial symptoms, he saw the last stages, and it forever changed him. And that’s not to mention the countless others he’s witnessed fall victim. There was no cure, or we would’ve heard about it by now.

On my lips, he mutters, “Stay strong, babe. I love you more than you will ever know.” Then he slips out the door and runs toward Charlie’s trailer.

I am slightly taken aback with his sudden urge to just disappear, but I know he’s only thinking about the baby. But that doesn’t make things any easier.

So I’m left all alone on the filthy couch, incapacitated because of the baby on board, hoping an enraged Charlie would happen to make an appearance. But I knew I had a greater chance of curing the damned plague myself than to ever be able to count on that man.

Looks like I better get to work.

Kingdom Come

img_3820

“It’s time,” announced the pendulum,

Tightening a tattered life vest.

Its twisted fingers tasted silken entrails.

 

From the void in the sky, an infernal howl

Resounded within the hallowed gut.

Caustic waves flowed from the chasm in erratic belches.

Oil replaced deep oceans,

Great mountains reduced to black chalk.

Conflagrations devoured tranquility.

 

The skeptic’s nightmare.

Devils Dance, Ch.3

devilsdancepng

Read the previous chapters here, and here.
New chapters posted every Thursday!

“Don’t touch anything.”

“I know the drill.”

Despite being on the third week of dismissal from the station, ex-detective Robert Greer was not one for neglecting protocol. The last thing he wanted was for his superiors back in Dallas to find he was still investigating the case.

Robert waved his flashlight across the room, illuminating the gruesome scene: a shattered flat-screen T.V. was in shards on the floor, strange red depictions featuring strange symbols and images stretched along the walls, and then there was the blood and the body. “Shit, fucking bitch,” officer Stephenie Moran exclaimed, surprised at her colorful choice of words. “Is that the one?”

“Nope. He’s too young. All the others have been over eighteen; that kid looks to be fourteen or so.”

Suddenly, Moran felt something brush against her leg. “Mrrp.” A little tabby rubbed its little cheeks on her boot. The etched name on its collar read Mumu. The small cat seemed totally careless of the scene that had just played in front of its chestnut eyes.

“Get it away.” Greer growled. “I don’t have time to run back and get my inhaler, so keep the kitty away please.” She shooed the cat away, who ran into the kitchen, obviously on the hunt for some chow.

Moran trained under Greer at the academy; he taught her all she knew. So when she discovered his plan to continue the case without formal support, she felt obligated to follow along. Greer was the only one to ever stick up for her – standing at a plump 5’4” with a face for radio, she was always the victim of her peers’ jokes. So her support in the case he was so passionately involved in was the very least she could offer.

“You coming along, Moran?” Greer had that look on his face, the one he got right when shit was about to go down, as if he somehow knew what he was going to find upstairs.

Stephenie nodded, her nose in her palm. “Yeah, boss.” Adding: “How much longer do you think we have before the squad shows?” She dusted the cat fur from her boot.

“Ten minutes.” He traced his light along the winding staircase, noting a singular set of bloody footprints ascending the steps. “Be careful there,” he advised, gesturing at the blood. “We can’t leave any footprints.”

Moran shook her head and sighed. When was he ever going to stop looking at her as a rookie and consider her his partner? “You got it,” she chirped.

The bloody caricatures and footprints stopped at the farthest door in the hall. It was the master suite. A  few days ago, the room would have looked expertly designed and beautifully kept. Eggshell drapes covered the room’s two large windows, wonderfully complementing cashew walls and glossy mahogany trim. What elegance the room displayed had been completely washed away under a layer of blood and brains.

“That’s the one.” Greer pointed, his lips parted in a painful sneer.

“Does he have the…?”

Robert nodded. “Yes. Right there. See?”

Sure enough, there was the mark. Moran could not believe her eyes. Seven murders scattered across the nation alone – possibly more once they get the files back from Interpol – all connected by a miniscule detail often disregarded in investigations. At first glance, any expert would deem the scene a murder-suicide, and leave it at that; however, each of their perps have a small four-spiked star printed just behind their left earlobe. The star is only visible for a few hours after the act is committed, eventually vanishing completely.

While Robert was a renowned detective, he could analyze copious amounts of information at record speed as well as recognize complicated patterns in bundles of random information. He attributed his many past successes to his attention to detail. Granted, his obsession with patterns got him kicked off the squad, he was in too deep with his case to simply turn in his gun and badge and leave it at that.

“Well I’ll be damned. Rob, we’ve got to say something to the commissioner. Looks like we’ve got a serial killer.”

Robert missed the suggestion, as he was too occupied with what he was observing out the window. Three officers were speaking with the neighbors, the ones who reported the attack. Moran and Greer had seconds to get out of the house before they would be booked. “We’ve got to go now! Check one of the other rooms for a window with access to the roof. If we can get out the back, we still have time.” His breathing was heavy and thick. He wished he wasted the few minutes to retrieve his inhaler – he was going to need it.

The two found an open window in the young boy’s room at the back of the house, forgetting about paying careful attention of smudging the floors. “We didn’t get pictures of the symbols, Rob!” Greer helped Stephenie onto the roof.

“We’ll get some at the next one,” he muttered, dropping off the roof, with an empty flowerbed breaking his fall and roll. “Now you. Hurry. We’re on foot now.”

Moran leapt from the house, and they ran, jumping hedges and scaling the rustic privacy fence. As they were sprinting for the woods, Stephenie peered back at the scene – she counted four cars and an ambulance, all arriving within seconds of each other. Two officers were turning Greer’s black Mercedes inside-out.

“How are we going to find the next one?” Moran inquired between exhausted huffs.

The two had reached the woods and kept going. Robert almost missed a short string of bare barbed wire, nearly getting a face of snow and leaves. “It’ll find us. It always does.” Images from Greer’s past flooded his mind, bringing him back to that frightful night in Chicago where he first encountered the thing. His difficulty in describing the sight to his superiors was what consequently led him to his dismissal and round with alcoholism.

But Robert Greer finally had a name for what he had encountered in Illinois. Moran was correct in her speculation that they were dealing with several crimes committed by one entity, but calling it a killer was assuming it was human; the thing that murdered his girls was anything but.

We All Float On, Ch.3 (finale)

wafopromo

Read chapters 1 and 2 here!
(Also sorry for the change of POV! I totally forgot the first two were in 1st, and don’t have time to go back and adjust.)

Jess’s eyes painfully flutter open to a wet stage. Elephant tears slowly drop from a dark ceiling, the mucous liquid smelling more like piss and sweat than anything else. Icy chains and brutish spikes shine from the glint of moonlight beaming from a shackled window. Curious mice pinch at her aching feet.

“Get the fuck,” she groans, “out of here.” The words slid off her tongue like sticky rice down a dry metal slab. Her tongue the size of an egg, she tries to scream.

She must have been out, what, a couple hours? The moon was still dominating, with no glimpse of morning light peering over the horizon. Jess smacks the stone floor and cackles. Her forced laughter brought life to the dark cell. She found humor in the fact that, if she saw her father again, at least he would stop suggesting she take part in beauty pageants. With a broken leg and at least five other cracked bones, she could count on living life entirely different, a life without Karl, Sheila, and… “Oh, god. Stephen.” The distressed giggles went silent, and then Jess felt her eyes well up. “Stay focused, Jessica,” she squeezed her eyes shut. “Everything will be okay; everything is okay.” Willful thinking was not her strong suit.

The cuffs carve warm, pulsing bracelets into her wrists. Her heart thuds an enchanting beat in her ears. Suddenly she could see how people who spend too much time in the dark end up in the ward. Gritting her teeth, she forces herself up against the wall. Condensation clung to her chest. Then she remembered the safe word. “Spaceship!” she yelled, her cracked lips bleeding from the commotion. “Spaceship, spaceship, spaceship!”

A dull hum brings forth bright light and hooded specters. “So how was that, boys?” Jess asks, squinting.

Nathan Kensington flashes a wide grin, his teeth as bright as the moon, and stops the night vision recorder. “You tell me, Jess. How do you think you did?” He kicks a clump of bloody mud from his shoes. “And why did you stop? We had planned another half hour or so.”

“Because I’m thirsty and tired, Nathan.” She sighs, snapping for a refreshment.

The other man and woman walk up to Jess, offering her a towel and a drink of water. They remove the chains and bring her a chair. “If you ask me, you could have pulled a more convincing struggle,” the Amazonian woman advises. “But it’s hard not to believe those tears, I have to admit.”

“Stephen, what did you think?” Jess latches herself onto the masculine man standing beside the amazon. She missed being snuggled in his hairy chest.

Stephen gives her a peck on the cheek, his hot tongue washing Jess’s clean. Jess runs her fingers through his stiff hair as he grips her ass. She winces, reminded of her broken leg. “Everyone is going to eat this up. You’re going to be a fucking star, baby.”

“The victim of the century,” Jess pipes, clasping her sexy dead man. “Gimme five and we’ll shoot the sequel, kay?”