The Krysolux

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Even the sandwich artists who built hoagies for a living knew the importance of balance. They had a carefully selected cut of sliced ham – but only four paper thin meat curls are placed on the bun. Next the cheese, the vegetables, and finally condiments. Deborah might have enjoyed mustard, but that doesn’t mean she wanted the whole sandwich sloshed with tart yellow sauce. And that meat lover, Brandon? Give him too many slices of turkey and he’d be gassing up the whole damned restaurant. It’s all about how much is enough. When was it ever time to stop and move on?

As I walked into a miniature brick building illuminated with a neon yellow submarine sandwich, I was quickly lost in a cloud of fresh bread steam. Save for the sizzling bread and a bash-your-head-in drip of stale water from the faucet, the place was quiet. It surely was not the place kids went to on a Friday night – especially not in the west side of town.

“Welcome Marty’s,” an uninterested worker bee hummed my direction. Whether she was on the verge of collapsing from heat exhaustion from the ovens, or if she just needed another hit, I was not sure. “Weewhiteherbinschass?” The poor woman – a smiley sticker covered most of her name tag except for Fe – appeared to have retreated into a cheap version of autopilot; she couldn’t speak in coherent sentences but I deduced that she inquired my preferred bread type. She tried again, “Witwheaherbsicheez.” Her hazy eyes twinkled under a set of LED bulbs that could have fully illuminated the ocean. She breathed, annoyed, and finally she just asked, “Bread?”

How could I tell her I hadn’t come for a sandwich after all? I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, not after the effort it took to muster the first question of the grand sandwich formation. I was an artist, but I definitely wasn’t the starving one between Fe and I.

I grinned, blinked twice and scratched the erect pimple on my neck. The dripping faucet seemed to get louder and faster. I gave in. “Herbs and cheese.”

“Foorsexin.”

My face muscles began to hurt from the forced smile I was wearing, right eye slightly twitching. I surely hadn’t planned on wasting so much time selecting a sandwich. “Six inch, please.”

Right as she opened her mouth to shoot another garbled request, Fe slouched forward. Her grisly bleached hair blanketed the shredded cheese and turkey breast. With one hand supporting her weight on the counter and the other buried in pepperoni slices, the woman’s knees buckled and she fell to the floor. For a split second, I wasn’t sure if I should just let her sleep, or call the police. Sensibly, I chose the former.

I hopped over the counter, my boot catching the napkin dispenser. The metal box of napkins slid over the counter and clanged on the floor, nearly clipping the slumbering sandwich artist’s angel wing bicep tattoo.

“Sorry,” I mouthed, returning the fallen napkin tin to its position. I caught her hand twitch slightly as I leapfrogged her and walked to the back, near the register.

“I didn’t take you for an herb’s and cheese kind of guy, Vince.” A man approached from the cooler. His collar and hands were dripping red.

Every inch of the cooler was littered with wet floor signs – most of them collapsed rather than erect. A red hand print topped every filthy, plastic warning. There had to be at least fifty in the refrigerator; a pile deep enough to lose somebody.

I just blinked at the sight. My lips pursed and hands knotted in pockets. “Dave.”

My associate straightened and started stammering. “Vince, it’s not – if you hear me out.

I didn’t really want to hear it; I would have rather taken him back home and call it a night, but at that point I wasn’t sure if that was an option considering the mess he created. “Go on.”

I followed Dave into the cooler where he uncovered a second unfortunate worker who had fallen ill – this one wasn’t as lucky as Fe. The skin of his face was completely torn off, replaced with another rotting one. His arms and legs had been dislocated, and his wrists slit, but there was no blood. Rather, the wet floor signs were bathed in red paint.

Before I could roll my eyes the fuck out of the establishment, Dave closed the door, leaving him and I pinned inside the cold, metal room with an exsanguinated sap and a red lake. The whites of Dave’s eyes glimmered. “This is it,” he piped. His voice grew darker. “We found it.”

“Well, you’ve certainly lost it, Dave. I don’t think you’ve found anything.” I tried moving him aside, but he wouldn’t budge. “I don’t even know why I entertain these activities of yours anymore. If it weren’t for dad, I’d have you locked in an institution.”

“Yeah-yeah-yeah, who cares about that? Old news, Vince. What I’m saying is: We got it.”

“Got what, you moron?”

“Just think…”

My mind traveled to various tangents my brother had pursued since he’d completely lost his sanity. None of the possibilities added up, so I took a shot anyway. “Oh, I don’t know… The gate to Hell?” A few months prior, he woke me up and demanded that I pledge my soul to the devil and walk with him through this massive black gate that was supposedly inside of his bedroom. Instead of a black gate, I found three black men nailed around his bathroom door.

Suddenly, Dave slapped me in the face, sending my glasses into the murky red waste. “Fucker!” I yelled, swiping the paint from my eyes, instantly going down to fish for my spectacles.

“The motherfuckin’ Krysolux. I got it.” The light flickered above as Dave spoke. “We’re going to be rich.”

I sighed, giving up the search for my glasses after I had heard a loud crunch. “And what does that have to do with all of this?” I asked, gesturing to the horrific scene before us. My head started to burn.

This? Oh, nothing at all actually. Not really…”

I sat in complete silence with my brother for a minute, just trying to digest everything that I had seen and heard in the hour I had since arrived at Marty’s. I wasn’t sure if it was the insanity of it all that was causing me to get light-headed, or if it was all the paint fumes I had ingested.

“So, just help me get this clear, Dave.”

“Sure, boss.”

“You found the Krysolux.” Squinting, I glared at the fuzzy blob of color that was my brother.

“Kind of.”

“And after that, you came here to Marty’s.”

“That’s right, V.”

“You mutilated that man – let me guess – outside by the trashcan? And just so happened to have one of the spare faces from your collection with you.”

Dave chuckled. “It’s like you’re an oracle, bro.”

“And then you stuck Fe with some concoction you mixed up at home.”

“Si.”

I sucked my teeth. “Then something called upon you to cover the cooler with paint.”

“It’s actually paint with some water,” Dave corrected. “I needed the paint to be thinner.

Right.” I waited another few seconds to recollect my thoughts. “And you called me here to tell me you found an imaginary thing. That’s all?”

“I wouldn’t call it imaginary, but you’re basically correct.” He grinned. “You mad?”

“Hand me this Krysolux,” I demanded, to which Dave complied. He fished a small globe from his pants. I wanted to kick myself for indulging in Dave’s fantasy. Expecting some disgusting thing, I took a look at the item.

At first glance, the orb was all gold, emitting a white cast, but as I more closely examined the item, the more I can see that it wasn’t solid gold at all – something within it was moving. The inside of the Krysolux was a deep yellow liquid, molten sunlight, and it flowed with the rhythm of my breath. The paint on my face and in my hair dried after peering into the orb. The item hummed in my grasp and radiated heat inside my palm. Flecks of red and silver floated within the golden syrup.

“See, brother? That’s not imaginary.”

My face and lips grew chapped; my eyes reddened. “Where did you find this?”

Dave snatched it from me. “Watch this, watch this!” It took everything I had not to slam his head against the wall and steal back the enchanting item. He took it in both hands and raised it to his mouth, whispering into the ball. The room began to change, or rather, revert.

The wash of red paint receded from the cooler, fizzling into nonexistence along with the worker’s corpse. I spotted my glasses on the floor, untouched and perfect. I had never been a man of faith, but at that moment I reconsidered everything.

Now I stammered. “How… H—”

Dave was ecstatic, jumping up and down. “They finally allowed me to let you in on our secret!” His loud echoes pierced my skull. “You don’t know how long I’ve been wanting to tell you!”

Fifty-thousand questions filled the haze in my mind. My chest grew heavy and I leaned against a crate. The room started to spin. “What did you do?”

Dave shook his head. “There’s a time for questions later, big bro. Follow me; we have’ta get out of here before Felinna finds us.”

“Felinna?” Oh, Fe.

“Come on!” Dave whispered, pulling me out the back. Outside, I spotted the faceless worker, now perfectly fine, tossing out the trash. I needed answers.

When Dave and I got a safe distance from Marty’s, my head cleared and equilibrium was restored. “Tell me what the fuck just happened.”

Dave shrugged, flashing a cutesy smirk. “They said you’re not ready yet, Vince. And there’s usually no changing their mind. Trust me, I’ve tried. Be glad they even allowed me to tell you about it.”

“Come back to Earth, you little shit. Where did you find that orb? What did you call it?”

“Krysolux.”

“Yes, that.”

My brother put his index finger against his lips, and whispered, “We’re not supposed to talk about it anymore, I mean it. Not in the open. Not ever.” He dropped his gaze. “She’s looking for it.”

“Who?” I whispered.

“They call her Abigail.”

A Secret of Many Flavors

The hunger never ceases; just one more turns into two, then ten, and before long I’m lying spent and delirious on the cold basement floor.

In between ecstasy tides crashing down my gullet, I am a registered nurse at St. George’s Memorial Hospital. On weekends, I spend hours at the field watching my nephew play soccer. Other days I’m curling up with a good book next to my tabby Ronald, or I’m out gardening. The truth is, I’m really just like everyone else – we all have dirty secrets. Mine just happens to involve a peculiar addiction and a dank basement.

Today, I’m babysitting my hyperactive nephew whose winter break has just begun. Sure, my sister is paying me a few bucks to watch the boy, but it’s not about the money. It’s nice having him distract Ronald while I spend a few hours alone downstairs.

The instant my tongue touches the damp concrete wall, my senses flare and my heart beats out of my chest. The tang of mothballs and old dust shoots hot coals down my throat, causing my muscles to tighten and retract from the beautiful pain. The concrete wall like icy beef tongue scrapes my lips raw, the kiss of candy coated barbed wire. After the wall warms from my lustful exhalations, I move to another part of the basement and the lapping continues.

Ronald says I have a problem and should seek professional help, but who is he to talk when his only sense of hygiene is licking his ass? Thankfully my nephew can’t understand the cat like I do, or there would really be a problem; there is no way in hell that I am sharing my wall with a nose-picking six-year-old.

The Fruit

 

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Photo credit

Josh stood in the room dazed, long black hair in mats over his torn Metallica t-shirt. His fingers trembled against the fragile chain of a paper medallion in his pocket. It felt as if he had been standing there for eternity.

“It’s been 40 years, Josh.” Rebecka ran a hand through her greasy mocha curls. “Forty fucking years.

“We have to keep going.”

“Forty years.

“Have to –”

Rebecka squeezed Josh’s head between sweaty palms. Blood dripped down her nose and neck, following the curvature of her chest until disappearing in a spirit-soaked cherry blossom blouse. “Forty years,” she breathed. The blue in her eyes retreated behind a hysterical scarlet.

As Rebecka’s pulsing grasp tightened around Josh, the night gripped him further. With every breath, he felt himself fall deeper. “Please, stop,” he pleaded. His mouth was parched, fists trembling, stuck in cemented pockets. “Beck.” The echoes silenced him, forcing his eyes closed, unintelligible gargle lost among Rebecka’s maniacal chants.

Suddenly, Rebecka fell to the floor, consumed with laughter. Her fists clung to her throbbing gut. “Forty years. Forty years,” she exclaimed amid waves of frothing saliva and crimson bile. Josh lost the dilated pupils of Rebecka’s eyes in the gaping holes in the checkerboard wall, eyeing the sparkling faces that sneered beyond the bright room.

“This isn’t real!” Josh wept, brushing away slick, black tears. “Please stop.” He felt grimy fingers cover his body, razor tongues tracing the arch of his back. It would not let up.

Phantoms rose from the pyretic nightscape, empty faces stapled to crystalline medallions around the ghouls’ necks. They laced their orchid strings around Josh’s arms and legs, pulling him into the checkerboard abyss. As the boy screamed and desperately scratched the floor, gripping anything that he believed could help end his torment, the demons dragged harder, more violently, until at last he was plunged into the night — falling deeper inside Rebecka’s blighted pupils.

Blurry images flew past him and shot above into nothingness, pieces of happy memories reduced to emotionless pixels. Seconds of descent turned to a month, another year, another decade. Fragments of beautiful, winged dancers twirled around him, seeming to giggle before fading with every bit of Josh’s love, his life, his humanity.

Finally, Josh melted in the shadow, opening his eyes to face another pair of soulless pupils once again. His hands grazed a warm paper string in his front pocket.

Thirty years,” Rebecka grumbled. “It’s been 30 fucking years, Josh.”

Josh swore it had been longer.

 

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.

Every Day Is Christmas

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Photo credit: Andreas Sautner

Gray boxes are unwrapped amid

A hapless audience of frozen machines.

As we’re lost in avalanches of veiled dysphoria,

Powder snow stains steely sidewalks red.

 

The paparazzi flash their black flowers,

So we sport a grin and sit up straight.

It’s what we’re bred for – all we know.

But behind pink, plastic walls rests a frenzied terror.

 

You’ll read about it tomorrow, I’m sure.

Best Friend

Their bodies danced different melodies. As Snowflake pulled away, Harry moved forward. She wanted to throw herself in a lane of oncoming traffic, while he wanted her down on the floor.

“You said you wanted to play, didn’t you?” Harry asked through ecstatic gasps. The hold he had on her tightened. “Well, now you get exactly what you asked for, girl.”

Snowflake’s doleful pleas filled the aquarium, evoking annoyed and disgusted sighs from the passersby. “God, man; can’t you take that someplace else? There are kids here,” mumbled a man clad in formal attire – nothing similar to what one would expect to see in a public aquarium.

Harry dismissed the offended gentleman, and continued thrusting himself onto the brunette beauty. He usually was not one for public displays of affection, but he felt there was a point to be made: if Snowflake was serious about her requests, she should do as she was told. It was the least she could do; after all, he was the one who fed her and gave her a place to sleep.

At one point, they caught the eye of an unsuspecting young kid who had just come from the bathroom. “What?” Harry yelled. “You ain’t ever seen a guy enforcing his dominance on his bitch?” The little guy stood there utterly confused until his mother called him back to the posse.

With a final lunge, Harry stopped and looked down at the defeated female. The flash of excitement that shone in her dark eyes had been exterminated by the one she trusted the most. She dropped her chin to the tiled floor and whimpered.

“Glad to see you finally understand my frustration, Snowflake,” he said, zipping his trousers. “Now let’s go get that ball you wanted to fetch so badly that you lost it in the otter exhibit.”

The young collie’s copper fur sparkled under the lights of the seahorse display; her happiness had returned along with a swiftly-wagging tail. She would finally get to play fetch with her master.

Second Sequence

It’s been two days since the launch of the operation and already I’ve received transmissions of implying doubt of a success of any kind; our main problem lies with morale. Before the Cleansing, we were covered by such a great cloud of optimism and confidence, but all that remains is a pathetic fog of uncertainty and despair. Perhaps things would be better if the Broodmaster had given us more information on our mission – I sure would have appreciated so much as a mere rumor of the strange practices this otherworldly species engaged in.

Seriously, how could they live like this? I’ve been carefully studying the leader of the familial unit – the creature’s family call it “John,” so that is to which I will refer in the remainder of this assessment – for which I have been assigned and the preliminary results are astounding to say the least. At precisely 040:510 – I’ve concluded that at that hour, their singular cosmic heating unit rises, marking the start of the “day” – John awakens from its plush resting cushion and proceeds by entering the central washing station to cleanse its figure of the filth acquired from the previous day’s excursions. During this odd ritual a strange caterwauling emits from John’s feeding hole, which is oddly in tune with a transmission from the communication cube. Unfortunately, John and the transmission’s unsightly duo-wailing created a disruption in my Enerboard, and I had to evacuate the washing station to reestablish my camouflage core.

Upon completing a rather lengthy washing cycle, the leader John inserted a long, blue probe covered with a blue paste into its feeding hole perpendicular to its information-processing unit. Until 040:758, John repeatedly prodded its feeding hole with the object, after which it discharged white foam and he progressed to wash its opening with a warm, transparent fluid.

At 040:759, John donned a colored cloth protective sack. Why this species believes an extra layer of protection is required over their already durable exotech is beyond me. They have the strongest exotech I’ve ever studied – its unfazed by fluid or pressure! I have yet to test the effects of mild and extreme temperatures on this advanced technology, however (that will come in further installments).

Careful not to disrupt its reproductive companion, Lynn, John advanced expeditiously into the largest unit in the nest and grasped a white container of hot, black liquid before rushing out of the nest.

Thus concludes my initial study into this alien species. Secondary reports detailing the other members of the familial unit as well as the leader John’s other daily rituals have begun, and I am confident they will arrive to the Broodmaster’s carrier within the next three Earth days.

Until then, stay poised soldiers.