The ants are invading. I can feel them now, slipping in through the cracks of this old house. The cold is beating them. The air is sharp and crisp and it drives them to me. They think that I won’t notice them; a ravaged Cheerio here, a feeler poking out from behind the cookbooks there. They seem to say “you can live with us,” but this is MY place, my home, and I am under siege. This is war. I hide the ant trap inside a paper bag marked “candy” to entice them. They rub their feelers in anticipation. Oh! How terrible the sound! I spray their lines with pure poison mist. Comrades falling over, the others struggle on, only to fall into silent death. I am victorious, standing in my kitchen, daring them to reform their ranks. Feelers moving slowly, slower still, their black clicking stops. The silence is cold as death.
Monthly Archives: April 2011
There once was a family that was happy, for the most part. There was the mother, the father, the sister, the brother. And then, as is customary of tales such as this, tragedy. The mother was gone ripping apart the family into sadness.
There was a replacement, but fie! She was not who she seemed. A doppelganger, a sprite, who distorted her true nature, she hounded them, hounded them every day. Her mind was vacant and her heart was frozen, except when heroin, that shining drug, was pumped into her veins. At last she would be silent, glazed eyes glimmering at imaginary friends.
The father cut lawns, cut trees, cut flowers. He cut and cut everything, including his wrists. But he did not die. His scars only made him more frightening to the people who employed him, staring through the windows and shooing away the children. And so to placate his heart, he filled it with garbage, watching the endless buzzing television, trying to forget. The sky turned crimson as the sun dipped low behind the mountains. Han was bent over in contemplation, his slender torso arcing gracefully. He watched the sunset with sadness and a familiar longing for the start of a new day. As it was, he would have to go home, back to the family that he loathed. As a red finger of light slowly drifted out of the picture, the wind began to blow, fierce and cutting with the absence of the sun. He sighed, hooking his fingers into the belt loops of his corduroy pants and began to rise, cold biting through his blond spiky hair and into his skull. His eyes welled up with the sharp pain like an ice-cream headache as it split through his skull, before wincing and pulling the black beanie over his head and tucking it down over his ears.
His sister, Greta, met him at the corner.
“Where were you?” she wanted to know, clutching her arms to her slight frame.
She was younger than he was by about a year and a half. Their mother, when she had been alive, had been quick to turn out children, and quick to die. Their house held stillness like a toothache in the back of his mouth. It throbbed and flared, arching occasional pangs down the circuitry of his nerves and into his chest. Pangs that reminded him of that night, of the clock ringing in the New Year, each stroke wringing the life from her limbs.
Greta looked as her mother did, serious eyes, large in her pale face. They were like laughing stones, lilting and heavy. Her body was tall, and slender, but that was mostly because she swam long laps each day in the community pool. She also refused to eat anything that was red or tasted like “blue raspberry.” Her hands were long and soft, and each night, she would help her brother with chores, folding each napkin and shirt so delicately, that it looked as though her fingers folded in with each crease. She would massage his tired shoulders and tell him stories of her all-girl school, about the frog fiasco in the teacher’s lounge and the delicate lingerie worn by the girls in the locker rooms.
But now, her hands were holding one another like she would fall over if she let go of herself. Han’s eyes were tired, dull blue, sullen. As he looked at his sister halfway, a few loose strands shook over his temples, peeking out of the black knit beanie and shining in the lamplight. Her heart leapt and she knew it was wrong, but still she felt the pull. Her brother, pale and fiery, was the one person to understand her, the one person to look at her as though she was not full of shit and give her a chance to feel. His lean body curved artistically like an ice sculpture; cold and graceful. He could feel her gaze covering him, full of hunger and caution. He felt a chill in that look, as though he could catch the feeling and wasn’t sure if he liked it, or wanted to shield himself.
There was no time to react, however, because the moment was shattered by the voice of their stepmother braying and cursing down the street at them.
“Han! Greta! What the FUCK do you think you’re doing?! Out late at night! Your grades are going to slip and you’re going to be just as useless as your father! Come in and do your nightly chores!”
Her face was strained, like a dog lolling its tongue out the window on the freeway. Her eyes slit backwards, suspicious and bloodshot. Tracks wound up and around her arms like pimples and red worms; the places where she had mainlined, the places where she had cut and bled. She wore an iridescent white top with see through sleeves, but no amount of innocent gauze could truly mask her distaste for her step-children, her lot in life. Her Habit sat on her shoulders like a giant black beast with glowing eyes. Even now, as the flowers of pleasure were budding in her veins, she could still feel that edge in the back of her throat; that cutting metallic taste that demanded that she feed her addiction.
Han shrugged, letting the cap slide over his eyes so he could not see the terrifying face, and Greta waited for him, following him like a shadow with shaking hands. As they walked in, Greta glanced up at the Beast, watched it lick her stepmother’s face with a black rotted tongue. It grinned with amusement at her quivering fingers, her delicate hands, as they fidgeted and sewed, apart, together, apart, together.
“What’re you lookin’ at?!” The stepmother glared.
“Nothin’” Greta mumbled, sinking into step with her brother.
That night, there was a fight. As Han was about to drift off to sleep, Greta sleeping on the top bunk, and shifting her weight around, the door slammed and he went rigid in his bed.
“You good for nothing!” her stepmother screamed, and the house screamed with her. The doors rattled, the hinges groaned, and the floorboards played a cacophonous tune.
They could hear a dark grumbling, a small moan of pain, and then a roaring cacophony as the television switched on.
“You couldn’t even keep ONE job?! How will I feed?!” the stepmother roared over the laugh track from some nameless comedy show, and then lowered her voice, mumbling with a steady rise and fall of tone, like someone debating.
Han had opened the door a crack, to hear what she was mumbling about, for when she spoke below a scream, both siblings knew that she was planning something diabolical. He heard a creak, the house warning him to pretend to sleep, and he could hear the stepmother pacing down the hallway, talking maniacally to herself, to the Beast on her shoulder.
“Yes…yes…” she said stroking the putrid darkness absently, “I will sell the children in the city this weekend, and get a fair price for their indentured servitude in the inner city gangs.”
Her feet shuffled and the house groaned over her immense, gluttonous weight. Han lay there, paralyzed in the visage of sleep, as she stuck in her nose, sniffing around for signs that someone might have heard. She came in, then, patting each of them and smoothing the blankets. But it was less of a caring gesture than the caress of a greedy heart.
That weekend, the stepmother piled Greta and Han into her rusting Cadillac, promising them a day of shopping at the Gigant-O-Mall. Han, black beanie pulled tight over his earphones, looked out the window with sour boredom on his face. Greta read a fantasy novel, stopping only to roll the window down from time to time so that she could breathe in the rushing air of the freeway and cleanse her carsick stomach.
When they arrived, the stepmother ushered them out with a smile plastered onto her face. The Habit Beast grinned in turn, it’s teeth bloody, it’s breath hissing out through the holes of decay in its canines. Greta winced at the sight of it, and the stepmother’s smile flinched a little, like a hologram being disrupted. She shook herself, and the Beast salivated, opening ravenous jaws.
“I…uh, need to go use the bathroom,” the stepmother grinned shakily, and handed them some money. She needed her fix, and the negotiator for the gang was not coming until around 4:30 PM, “Meet me back here at about four o’clock.”
Han clenched the money between his fingers, turning a bit red as the stepmother turned on her heels. He quickly explained to Greta what the diabolical woman meant to do.
“Fuck that,” Greta said, eyes looking at him, searching for approval, “I’m not going home again. She’ll just try it again, that sneaky witch.”
“Yeah, fuck that,” Han said, crumpling the money in his hand.
They walked out of the mall, hand in hand. Greta blushed, feeling her brother’s hand resting warmly in hers. They were like the most beautiful couple, she thought in a secret place in her mind. He was like ice, and she was like stone. Together, they raged down the avenues, absorbing themselves into a faceless crowd, losing themselves.
By the time the sun began to set, the two of them were completely lost. Greta was the first to snap out of her faceless daze, and her pulse began to quicken with fear. Han, feeling the tug of her hand, shook himself and his eyes finally cleared. They knew that the sun was not about to stay up for much longer, and neither had a definite plan of where to go.
Suddenly, Han’s eyes locked on a shining building that stood at the end of the street. The rays of the setting sun reflected off of the glass windows, blinding them. And suddenly, he could see, and the name of the business seemed to sear itself into his mind. “Candi’s Modeling Agency” it said, and Han pulled his sister towards the building.
After crossing the street, the two stood outside the revolving doors, looking up at the shining glass tower.
“Well,” said Han, “We might as well go inside and see if they have any openings for us.”
“What do you mean?” Greta said, “Like us? Models?”
“Why the hell not?” Han retorted, “We might have a bit of cash, but we’re going to need more if we want to make it on our own. You’re beautiful, you should know that this kind of work would be right for you!”
Greta blushed and nodded. They entered the building together, and talked to a woman at the kiosk about getting a preliminary modeling appointment.
She looked suspicious, “How old are you two?”
Han cleared his throat, “Don’t you know that we’re twins? We’re both 21! How rude of you to speak with us in that tone!”
The secretary looked at him over her glasses and began to argue with him, when suddenly, a velvety female voice silenced her.
“Regina, that’s quite enough, thank you.”
Han felt chills run up his arms. He turned to look at the owner of the voice, and his eyes locked on the full figure of a woman with red curling hair, full lips, and a burgundy dress suit. Her eyes were dark green, almost black, and they seemed to hypnotize Han even more than that voice. Greta, however, after getting over that initial thrill, began to grow red with a jealous blush. She saw how her brother looked at this woman, with heat, hunger, and lust. She wanted Han to look at her like that, not some bewitching new older woman.
Greta could see that the newcomer was about thirty years old, her body curved almost impossibly: from her ample cleavage, to the demure waist and the motherly, tender hips. Her legs were long and bronze from the pantyhose she wore, but they were not spindly legs. They were strong and well toned. She walked across the floor in her stiletto heels like she owned it.
“Hi, you two, my name is Candi. I own this company,” she said, winking at them, “And you two are just what I’m looking for! Let me show you to my room.”
They went inside her large office, and the door clicked shut, ringing metallic behind them.
“Sit down! Make yourself comfortable” Candi was grinning like an anticipatory predator, Greta though. She did not like this witch-woman at all.
Han was oblivious. He sat down without once breaking his gaze on the buxom woman who was now seated comfortably behind her desk.
“So, now, tell me all about yourselves,” she said, focusing on Han.
Han explained their plight, never missing a beat, or lying at all. Greta watched him, fuming. He would never be this open or truthful with even her. Greta seethed, and knitted her hands at a furious pace.
When Han was finished with his story, Candi leaned back in her chair and eyed them both. She rolled her curling hair between her fingers, and looked up at Han with a “come hither” kind of look.
“What would you two say to a contract with me?” Her voice was sticky like honey.
“Yes!” Han said, just as Greta said, “NO!”
“Greta, what’s wrong?” Han was angry, “We just got a great opportunity! We’ll show that heroin-crazed bitch who’s worthless!”
“Well, because Greta is younger than 18,” Candi said, “I can’t have her in as one of my models yet. But, I will be willing to have her do behind-the-scenes work, and pay her well for it.”
Greta sulked, knowing that the witch woman wanted to get her Han alone, and that Han wanted that too. She could feel the urgency between the two, like a tightly pulled wire and she yearned to pluck it. But as Han turned his pleading face to her, her heart tightened with sadness and regret. She wanted the best for her older brother. He was trying to help her…and she was being a total bitch. Finally, she nodded.
“Great!” Candi clapped her hands, “This is going to be so great! Now why don’t I go get that paperwork?”
Soon, the papers were signed, and Han was ushered away from Greta to get “fitted” for his new clothing line. Greta was taken to a small, janitorial closet, where she was given duties that included fixing Han’s clothes when they ripped. She also cleaned up after the shows. When she wasn’t working, however, she often would sneak peeks at Han up on stage, practicing his new walk and strutting in finery of all types. He was a natural. Greta would choke on her own lust, but knew that it would never be. Her heart ached with longing, but it was the kind of longing that would never be filled.
At night, Greta would lie awake in her little room, trying to read her latest fantasy novel (she got entire bookcases of them as a holiday bonus), and listen to the moaning coming from the master bedroom of Candi’s house. Because (supposedly) they wanted to save on money, Candi was giving them a place to stay at her large estate, yet another one of Greta’s big grievances. But she couldn’t really complain because they had especially accommodated her by finding her a nice small room that she could feel comfortable in. The only problem was that she could hear a lot of what Candi was doing with Han…her Han. Greta gritted her teeth as she heard the muffled sound of flesh on flesh, and the gasps and moans of her brother as he entered and left Candi’s body over and over again. She tried not to think of the look of orgiastic pleasure on his face or that cat-swallowing-the-canary look that Candi always gave her when she led Han into her bedchamber.
But Greta was happy because she was now making more money than her father ever had. She was saving, month by month, as much as she could, saving for a day when she could have her own place, that cusp of womanhood when she turned 18.
Han, on the other hand, was subject to intense fame and fortune. His icy blue eyes and tender yet tough body got him into clothing magazines, commercials, and runway show after runway show. And each night, there was Candi: Candi of the curling red hair, so fiery that it almost burned his heart to touch it; Candi with her full-lipped smile and voluptuous body. She truly savored each time she fucked him, and she did so with such delight; crying out and squirming around him. He was delirious with how quickly things were moving: his head spun, and a week, month, year had passed. Days were a blur, and there always seemed to be reporters in his face; people flashing cameras in his direction.
He would see Greta from time to time, her nose buried in a book, with a bagel in one hand, but she was so far away; no one paid attention to her. But each time he saw her, she had changed; one year, and she was developing, that boyish figure that she used to have was a memory of the past. By 18, she was finally what one could call a “real” woman. Her hair was straight like a satin curtain, and she wore flawless makeup that accentuated all of her good points and covered up any bad ones (one learns a lot when working with models for years upon years).
She was grown up, there was no question about it, but from time to time, Han ached for those chats, and those days of folding laundry side by side. He would turn over, look at Candi’s sleeping face, and know that she was the one woman for him, but know that he also needed a sister to love as well.
That next morning, Han knocked softly on the little door to Greta’s room.
“Come in,” said the soft, tired voice.
He entered the room and found that Greta was lying in bed, having just woken up. She had a look of confusion and surprise that was so marked on her face that he had to chuckle.
“Long time, no see,” he joked, and gave her a hug, feeling those firm, supple breasts against him.
For a second, he forgot who he was thinking of and felt himself get warm inside, a precursor to the fire of lust. He quickly composed himself, though, and set out to make peace with his sister.
“Greta, I know-” he began.
“Don’t even worry, bro,” she said, nonchalantly, “I have had a good time here, and I was actually going to see if I could talk to you today. You see, I’m pretty sure that this Candi woman is some kind of witch. I mean, I’ve been studying her for the past two years. You know all that coffee she gives you? I see her grind something into it, and it’s not nutmeg, I can tell you that. I think she’s manipulating you.”
Han was confused. He hadn’t expected this. His sister was mad, that had to be it. He excused himself and went to Candi. She patted him on the head, comforted him, and let him know that it was ok, mental illness runs in the family, and it’s not your fault…shhh…
The next morning, they sent Greta away to a nice, expensive insane asylum. And as she screamed, “WITCH! WITCH!” out the back of the van, no one really minded. After all, everyone knows that there are no such things as witches. After all, there were many more things to think about. After all, Candi and Han were going to get married and there were so many preparations to be made.
“Han, dear,” Candi said, holding her abdomen as they were putting together the wedding invitations, “I believe we’re going to have a baby too.”
Han looked at her curiously.
“Shh, it’s ok, Han. Why don’t I get you some coffee?” Candi said with a big grin, “I’m sure that once you’re done, you’ll feel all better.”
“Charlie! You’re bleeding!”
The voice wakes me up from my boredom-induced daze and I look down. The brown paper bag is smeared with blood, and I slowly raise my left hand to my face. The side of my finger has a small red gash across it, scarlet fluid leaks slowly out of my body and onto the customer’s egg carton. I stare at it dumbly, fascinated.
“Charlie!” Martina, the checker at my station, is giving me the “move it!” look, so I mumble that I’m going to go clean up and rush to the bathroom.
I stare at my finger under the harsh white lights. The bleeding has mostly stopped, but I can feel a dull pain moving down my finger and into my arm. I turn on the faucet and run my wound under the frigid metallic water. Of course, there’s no soap. There’s never any soap in the men’s bathroom. I have to run over to the women’s bathroom and pump out a handful of syrupy yellow goo. The soap stings a bit as it fills the cut, but I smile. The pain seems to be the only real thing I’ve felt today. It is almost comforting, as though I am letting some pressure out of my overworked body by opening this hole in my skin.
It’s my third year as Head Bagger at the Quick-O-Market and my life revolves around a little black treadmill at Station 12. I have nothing to look forward to except days filled with paper bags. Bags filled with frozen food, bags filled with produce, bags filled with milk, meat, and coffee. The little whirring treadmill will continue to spit out various food products. The stupid flickering bulb over the register will continue to flicker, flicker, flicker, causing my eyes to constantly readjust and blur.
I rub my eyes and look at my distorted reflection in the metal mirror in front of me. I can barely make out a red scrawled obscenity on the scratched surface, much less my face. Parts of the “c” and “k” are erased, but I still get the meaning. There is an acrid smell of musk and urine mixing with the air and biting my nose. But even the stench is background noise, buzzing in the back of my mind. I finally get the wound respectably clean, and put it under the “sanitary drier” machine. It is supposed to be better than using paper, but I don’t believe it. It just pushes the water into droplets on my hands and I get splashes of moisture all over my shoes. I wipe my hands on my hair before leaving the bathroom, slicking it back and behind my ears.
‘If only I could find a meaning,’ I think, ‘A meaning for my life.’
As my shift ends, the sky has gone charcoal gray. The sun has set just enough so that I cannot see it, but the night hasn’t yet won its space in the sky. The chill wind causes me to shove my hands deeply into my pockets, but it doesn’t do much to fight the goosebumps on my arms; the sweatshirt is thin and worn after years of laundry cycles.
A few newspapers are being tossed in a mockery of a merry-go-round by the wind, the only movement on the street as I walk. Beside myself, only the blowing leaves of print are real: everything else is painted background, inky black shadow paints slung over suburban houses and strip malls. One of the papers catches my shoes, and I pause to look at the heading on the page.
Trepanning? The odd word sounds like gibberish to my brain. I pick up the twitching paper, and it goes still in my hand like a dead thing. Trepanning, hmm, it says that it’s a common practice by many cultures, where one drills a hole in-I pause, shocked and dumbfounded and reread it aloud- “where one drills a hole in one’s head.” I scan the rest of the article, soaking everything in, fascinated. The hole is drilled in order to let there be open communication between the individual and the spiritual world. Many supporters of trepanning report that this hole releases the pressure in their lives.
Pressure…My eyes catch the word and stick there. And suddenly, it doesn’t seem as crazy of a concept. The cut on my finger-I stare at it, and remember the release that came with the pain. I look at the bottom of the article. There is a toll free information number at the bottom.
I fold up the crinkled paper and nestle it in my pocket. My fingers play over the creases and battered edges. Should I call? Should I not? I feel like a pimply teen mustering up the nerve to ask the cheerleader on a date.
“It’s not like I’m going to live forever,” I say aloud to the deserted pavement.
My voice hits the pavement and rebounds, a harsh and throaty echo. The word “forever” continues to rebound in my skull, bouncing off of memories of days where I would be slick with sweat, pulling apart a reluctant bag and shoving sticky food into its yawning maw. The air conditioning is always broken in the summer. By the time someone comes to fix it, it is almost winter. The air conditioning blasts over me every day, even though the leaves are orange and red and falling and the air is sweet with the smell of rot and bitter with the scent of frost.
I reach home and throw my sweatshirt up against the coat rack. Pathetic, that’s me! Still living with the parents. At least I have a job, though; I get home too late for them to give me those looks of disgust.
But instead of heading to my room and collapsing onto my bed like I normally do, I head into the garage. Down the stairs, and ducking under the unused tool belt with the hammer sticking out the side, I finally reach the garage and my father’s “workshop corner.” Even though I’m the only son that my parents have, I’ve never been one for the hard manual labor involved in working on cars and plumbing and circuitry in the house.
“Let Dad fix it,” I would always say, and slump back into my computer chair so I could continue shooting at pixilated monsters with my joystick.
But now, as I look at those silvery pliers and drill bits glinting in the half-light from the kitchen, they seem to glow with a new significance. I need supplies to make this thing work. Got to have careful planning, do everything just so. Can’t risk drilling a hole in only enough to scramble the brains and drain my IQ down to vegetable level. Dying isn’t the fear, here, I know. It’s staying alive and shitting in your pants and smiling about it as they wheel you away. I shudder as I clumsily paw through all of the drawers. Drill takes awhile to find; Dad’s got it buried under some papers and fishing reels. He’ll never miss it. It’s the electric type, which is good. I won’t need any electrical plugs to do it. Hell, I could even sell tickets. There’ve got to be some sick fucks out there in suburbia that would be willing to pay to see it.
The drill bits are a bit more confusing. What size should I get? How deep do I need to go into my head? The questions mount as I grab more and more supplies. I pocket some rubber gloves (“always be cleanly to avoid contamination” pops into my head from my 10th grade biology labs) and the big staple gun (stainless steel staples, just like the kind they use in the hospital.) As an afterthought, I shove a roll of duct tape into my back pocket. Hell, it’s supposed to fix everything. I can always use it if I make a mistake. On the way past the bathroom, I stop to get the bottle of rubbing alcohol that Mom uses to disinfect her jewelry. Cotton swabs sit next to the bottle in a little pink box, and I grab a handful of them too, fluffy balls sticking out through my knuckles.
Finally, in the sanctuary of my room, I assemble all the materials on my bed. I only know some preliminary details about this, but it seems safe to assume that a drill will be involved. The drill sits between the duct tape and the alcohol, and I turn it on to test the batteries. Whirr. Whirr. The drill head spins around and around and my eyes try to keep up with it.
Just then, though, I hear the padded footsteps of someone coming down the hall. Quickly, I throw my comforter over everything, and pretend to be asleep. It’s Mom, her pink fluffy slippers lightly brushing against the bottom of my door as she cracks it open to check on me. Her hair is frizzy, like she’s been sleeping, and her eyes are shadowed in the near dark of my room.
“Charlie?” She whispers, as though she’s talking to some other Charlie in the room and is trying not to wake me.
I groan like I’m being disturbed in my sleep, and snort, rolling over to my side as though asleep. I’ve had years to perfect this particular fake sleeping and she falls for it, pulling the door closed and getting her slipper stuck under the doorjamb. I laugh quietly as she curses softly in the hallway, and there’s a soft scraping sound as the slipper breaks free. The steps fade, and I listen for her door to close before I resume my inventory.
I pull out the paper and look at it again. The number (“toll free!” it says) is 1 (800) DRI-LLME. Drill me? What a stupid acronym. I snicker at the stupidity of the ad, and think, why call? I’m sure that they’re not going to give me any advice that I don’t already know. Drilling a hole in your head is easy. Don’t need to take a class to know that. All I need is a drill and a head. And I got my head, so all I really need to do is get the right drill bit and I’m in business.
I scan the paper for some information. There’s a website too, hidden on top of the success stories and testimonies. I type in the URL. Not found. 404. I curse. Of course the number isn’t found. It’s never found on the fucking net. But I’m not to be discouraged. I use a search engine, type in the website, and I’m redirected, neurons flashing in my computer as it sends me information from that huge brain: the Net. I get over five thousand hits for “Trepanning” and “Trepanation.” Some of them are repeat sites, but it’s all at my fingertips, and I absorb page after page. One of the most helpful is “Trepan-Nation” which has color photos of an actual trepanation. My eyes soak in each picture, each detail. My mind is more alive than it’s been for months. Those neurons fire in my brain faster and faster, like they’re charging back up after centuries of sluggish sleep.
I find a great recipe for some “X-tra strength pain reliever!!1!!!111!!1!” Someone had put so many exclamation points on the end that they had left some of them as ones. But I write down the recipe. It’s free, and most of the ingredients are household products that I’ll be able to get, no problem. I guess it’s a given that it’ll hurt like hell, but the release is like a balloon flying out of your head, or so they say. There are testimonies after testimonies talking about the blood flow benefits and how it helps you to be so much more enlightened, but all I care about is getting rid of this feeling of yawning stagnation. Drilling a hole straight through my brains would be more productive.
But I need to sleep, to think it over, so I take off my pants and throw the covers over myself. I don’t even have time to jack off; I’m so tired. But my brain is humming in a knowledge afterglow better than any orgasm.
I dream that I’m in a chair that’s attached to this conveyer belt like at the Quick O Mart. Everyone is standing around the sides of the belt, with huge smiles on their faces. The smiles are like balloons, and their teeth inflate, large and white. They are pumped full with good intentions. My head is open, with one of those hinges in the back that keeps the top of my head attached like in the cartoons. My brains stick out the top, and I know they’re all cartoonie and pink, even though real brains are whitish yellow on account of the brain mostly consisting of fat. Everyone is sticking things into my brain. I don’t know how they do it, but they’re in an endless line. My parents are there, with a gigantic college diploma, shoving away. My Aunt Geraldine is there, shoving in petunias and carrot cake. Even the car salesman from those stupid Sunday afternoon commercials is there, with a chartreuse station wagon, trying to fit the back tires and tailpipe in against my yielding flesh.
Every face I can remember and ones that I can vaguely place are sitting there, grinning monstrously, and pushing things into the bubblegum flesh of my mind. I scream as the fit gets tighter, but they smile wider, their teeth engulfing their faces. I can’t even see their pupils. Just white, white all around, boring into my skull and flashing in my eyes so they can’t properly adjust. It’s that halogen light. Stupid fucking thing. I flail my arms up at it wildly. But the light gets bigger and bigger and farther away, focusing on me. And suddenly, there’s this huge whirring sound and the sound of glass shattering. The light dies, but not without a fight. It flickers wildly, buzzing and crackling, and I feel the electricity searing into my brain like a hot poker. The dark is a cool relief.
And then I hear it from far away. A whirring that comes closer and closer. It must be a racecar, I think, but it’s not a racecar. Maybe a blender? No. The electric drill comes rolling up to me, its head shining like it’s been blessed. I hand it a drill bit- how long have I been holding it? -and it clicks into place, whirring with the drill head. The drill comes down, down towards me, and I hold out my hands like a child who tries to grab his birthday candles because they look pretty, not hot. The drill pierces my head, and I can feel this huge thing coming out of me, like the drill is starting my brain hatching. Out of the hole comes this huge bulbous slug, lumbering amorphously over my shoulder and onto the floor. It is the color of mucous and I can see things sloshing around inside of it. They are flashing memories, distorted by the yellow green slime. And just as I touch the slug’s side, it finishes pulling out of my head, and I feel a wet sliding sound as it breaks free.
Things are coming into my head, but it doesn’t hurt. It is like a giant plug has been pulled, and I ride the wave of knowledge in ecstasy. The world knows my name, and I can call out the first name of the Earth. In unwritten languages I call out to gods that have sounds for names. I am falling towards a dark light, a warm light, and it is saying something profound if only I’ll listen and I try to listen but—
“Charlie?! What are you still doing here?” It is my mother, pulling aside the curtains.
I groan, and realize I’m late for work. Oh well. I just want to sleep. But I drag myself out of bed, pull on my shirt again, and trudge back to work. I barely look at the faces and bag food mechanically. My mind is in stasis, cryogenically frozen. I’ve encased it in stone, in ice, and I’m chipping away at it again, just slowly enough so that it lasts the whole workday. Churning food, circular food, the treadmill spits it out over and over, into my waiting hands and out the door.
“You need a girlfriend,” Martina says on her smoke break.
I don’t smoke, but I use this time to rest, to keep my brain from dissolving into treadmill-induced hysteria.
“I need a girlfriend like I need a hole in the head,” I say, laughing.
Martina stares at me like I’m crazy. She doesn’t understand that it’s not sexual tension I need to release. It’s intellectual. 100% gray matter. Ah, but it doesn’t matter to her.
“Really,” I say, “I’m crazy. I go crazier every day. Those halogen bulbs are going to give me seizures, just like on those stupid Japanese shows then have on late night TV.”
“Charlie, don’t get too down on yourself,” she’s sympathetic, patting my arm with an ashy hand, “I’m sure you’ll find someone who really understands you. Who knows? She might be right under your nose.”
She coughs as she inhales the smoke again, and the cloud puffs out around us both, cloaking us in poison.
“It’s ok,” I say, although it really isn’t.
“Yeah, back to work then,” she says as she rubs out the smoldering part of the cigarette and drops it unceremoniously in the ashtray.
That night, I get everything together, including a squirt bottle filled with “X-tra strength pain reliever!!1!!!111!!1!” I’ve tried some on my finger, and it’s like I’ve chopped it off. There’s not even a ghost pang or a sandy, gritty finger like it’s asleep.
I take off my shirt again. Wouldn’t do to get blood on it. I have to do this in the mirror, so it’s tricky. I have the drill mounted on my father’s workbench. Luckily for me, I found the mount under the desk. The directions showed me how to hook it up to the vice, so I got myself a pretty good little set up. At least I’m not like that crazy European guy who trepanned himself by holding the drill in his feet.
I find the place where I would like to drill, and put on the gloves, marking the area with a few squirts of the pain stuff. In seconds, my head feels like someone’s cut off a slice but without the pain. It just doesn’t feel like it’s there. I wonder if the blood flow is completely gone. I check the door. It’s closed, and I’ve used the little latch lock to close it from the inside. Dad always used to joke that it was for when he was not to be disturbed, and I didn’t want to be disturbed so it seemed only fitting.
I turn on the drill, and it whines in the quiet air. Do it! Do it! It plaintively calls out to me. I take one last look at myself in the mirror, and I slowly bring my head down so it’s level to the spinning head. The drill bit isn’t too wide, but it’s long, so I have to be careful. The initial impact surprises me; I can feel skin and flesh tearing under the spinning bit, but there is no pain. Under that, the nerves burst, and there is blood, but not as much as most would have thought. The brain is one of the least bloody organs in an adult. It’s mostly fat, you know?
Still onward, I can feel it starting to bore into bare bone, ripping and tearing away at it. The bit gets warm and warmer still, heat traveling down the bit and into the drill, as I hold it with steady hands. I can feel a dull ache around the painless area, and there are small sparks jumping off of the drill and onto my skin. The skull is hard, and difficult to penetrate, but I am patient. I put more pressure into it, and feel the bone yielding under metal. The drill moves through quicker, now that it’s past the initial layer, and digs deeper and deeper towards my brain, my cable of nerves, snaking in a sullen sleep and waiting eagerly to wake.
I’m nearly there. I can feel the vibrations of the drill inside of my skull. It tickles my brain, if such a thing can happen. It tickles me and I giggle, pulling it closer. It doesn’t matter that the blood is flowing freely over my eyes, or that I can feel the drill bit biting and churning into something soft and yielding.
I can feel that slug of everyday life; of car commercials and fast food, crawling out of me. I am the shell of this grotesque creature, this cruel mockery of a butterfly hatched from my head, and I don’t care. I am laughing and laughing, even as everything around me begins to flicker like that damned halogen light. It can’t break up my mood now. It doesn’t know that I’m free of it. Free of the light, the churning monotony of name brands and price checks. The world is opening its dark arms to me, and I fall into them gladly, finally away from the halogen madness of humanity.
There is no unseen hand of fate
To guide us on our way,
The secret lies behind your eyes,
Following the day.
Like a twisted poison thorn,
Deeper, deeper in,
Turning round the bending bend
That never seems to end.
To never truly know the truth
I am led only to lies,
I may not yet be close to hate
But am on the doorstep of despise,
And perhaps there is no way to know
Or find a soul unspoiled,
But now I know that I
Can never trust a human mortal.
We see the path laid down ahead,
The maze-like, twisted spires,
So many fools, all running scared,
As they follow dark desires.
Perhaps no one ever can
Live a life devoid of sin
I suppose that I must accept,
There is no one way to win.
In a world of vice
And carnal wrongs,
And losses, deep and dark.
I find that I alone can live,
When betrayal hits its mark.
There’s a time and place for a silly face,
There’s a solemn spot to frown,
Sit awhile with a smile,
For sadness, hang upside down.
Grin to win, but snooze and lose,
Still, don’t forget to smirk,
The trick is to lick your cares away,
The technique is half the work.
I never thought I’d return to this place alive. But perhaps that’s the way of all things coming full circle. As I am the last survivor, so I should come to die where I once left unscathed. I can still see the foundations of the buildings and the rusted hulks of construction equipment sticking up out of the black mud. I can still remember the screams and garbled voices from the television as the reporters kept trying to tell us that it was just an earthquake and to just duck and cower in our hallways and door frames. Of course, who could have guessed what sort of heinous creature we had awoken with our greed and desire for expansion?
The children disappeared first. At first, people thought that it was due to irresponsible parents leaving their young to run amok in the aftermath of the destruction, but soon, there wasn’t anyone under the age of 15 left in the city. Even though we hid in shelters and only came out at night, it still found us. It took our young, our old, and our guardians, and left us alone together. If that seems like a misnomer, you might begin to understand better if you only knew the darkness that so easily takes root in the heart of Man.
I grasp the sword and shield in my hands. I only wish that I had a rifle or a handgun, but even if I did, I probably couldn’t use them very well at all. My breasts are bruised and tired, especially with this hard metal armor attached to the front and back of me. I took it off the body of Mark, my childhood friend who has always had my back, as he lay bleeding out from a gash in his femoral artery. It was his last wish that I take his armor and use it up against the last opponent. As I am the last adversary, so is this one my last fight.
The so-called “Component” doesn’t seem all that magical in the light of day. In reality, it seems all too small as I start to remember what awaits me inside. An impossible being bellowing with the sound of dying stars and eternity was a faded memory in my subconscious, but I shivered with the memory of flailing alien arms and tentacles the size of houses and the unearthly noise that made the world seem to go gray with pain. In light of what I face, how can this small pebble sized item help at all? It felt far too much like Dumbo’s feather and me being the fool who believed that it would count up against the Unspeakable Thing.
I remember the cryptic words from the Sage of New Utah as he rolled his 10 sided dice and spoke of visions of the future in his glass eyes, and know that it is all too possible that I’ve been tricked or fooled by someone who has probably gone mad from the sheer destruction of all that we knew to be in our modern world. But still, I press on. All of our hard work would mean nothing if I stopped now, and bitterly in my heart of hearts, I’m ruing the fact that the others have died while I still live on. I look down at my hands and remember how they looked when I was forced to strangle Marie to death when she tried to tie me up and sell me to slavers in exchange for a jug of clean water, something that has been so rare since the Awakening.
I pushed against the debris in the area I had mapped out with instructions from the Sage on a small greasy Post-it. The rocks gave way and started rolling in, revealing a perfectly circular entrance. As I touched the inside, it felt cool and solid like marble, and as I looked closer, I realized that the entire area was made of melted bone. The top half of a skull stared at me with sightless eyes. The bones were small, and I knew what had happened to the children. Something, and I knew just what something it was, had gobbled them up like a nightmare beast from a fairytale and used their bones to redecorate.
I walked along, feeling my shoes tapping along disturbingly as I made my way deeper inside. And suddenly, a faint echo came from the yawning beyond, and I could hear the vibration drawing towards me like a giant wave of sound. Stupidly, I tripped on an outstretched skeletal hand, landing hard on my side and feeling pain shoot from my brain to my toes. My flashlight fell to the floor, the batteries spinning out of it and cloaking everything in an inky darkness that seemed beyond black. I groped along the floor trying to find it, and felt myself starting to slip, sliding in the darkness at breakneck speeds. I was thankful for the plate mail, as it worked a bit like a sled and I figured I’d be somewhat all right if I kept my head up and my feet down. Suddenly, something hit my leg, sending me spinning round, and at that point, I must have hit my head because when I came to, I was lying still in the dark with a shooting pain in the side of my head. The atmosphere had changed, though, and I felt that the walls were breathing. A musky heat that I had never smelled before filled the air and I heaved with the alien feeling, retching evilly onto the floor. As I wiped my face, I suddenly noticed a faint glow around me. I felt inside of my pocket and the glow lit up the inside of my plate mail like a Chinese Lantern. It was the Component. I held it out and it lit up the corridor, dancing off of the walls. As it glowed, I could feel it pulling against me like a living thing. I looked around me and noticed that the walls had turned to dirt, only the dirt was warm, firmly packed as though a thing of great size and temperature had bored through the Earth itself. I shuddered, drawing onward.
As I moved along, the light began to flicker a little, and I noticed that the evil stench was growing more repugnant at every turn. I wrapped my long hair around my mouth and nose, holding back the gag that was starting in my throat. I could see something ahead, a coil of dark tree roots…no…. they were legs. Legs and…impossibly, more legs stretching and curling with a slow torpor of a well-fed abomination.
I crept forward, holding the Component tightly between my fingers, dampening the light.
But the light would not be stilled. It started to sing. And the unearthly roar that followed couldn’t keep it from shining out above it all, in a brilliant crystal voice. The tentacled arms started to move ferociously, wildly swinging in anger…or was it…pain?
One of the smaller tentacles touched the light, and as I saw them clearer, I realized that there were thousands of eyes, horrible eyes filled with intelligence, baleful hate, and an infinity that stretched across universes. I could feel it inside my mind and I realized that my ears had started to bleed, the drops of blood hitting the ground in staccato. It bellowed again, reaching slowly towards me, and I realized that it had taken on a strange color. Where it had been dark and vile brown before, its body was slowly turning pale, washed out and freezing in solid winter white as the Component showered it with brilliant light and sound.
It pulled back as it felt itself being changed from horrible skin and meat and bone into pure white stone. The ripping of flesh and sinew and bone was so loud as it tried to pull away from the light and flee. But it had already been infected and the song grew louder as the Component moved out of my hands and floated after the fleeing creature. I stepped around frozen tentacles in menacing half-flail, and continued on, sword raised.
I passed larger and larger stone tentacles, with blood and flesh steaming with heat, ripped off at the ends. The creature was losing limbs and fast, but still the Component traveled onward. Within a few minutes, the winding tunnels opened up to a giant cavernous pit, the likes of which could only be imagined within the nightmares of the damned. The body of the monstrosity filled the cavern to the point where it almost could be considered cramped, and as the Component flew upwards to illuminate the walls, I could see thousands of tunneled holes leading in, mine being one near the floor of the expanse. The tentacles pulled in and moved together like one limb, attempting to crush or cover the Component’s glow, but still it glowed brighter, the light creating a winged flare emanating from four points out of the center. The wings became larger and cast long shadows over the hideous expanse of the beast, the likes of which could only be described in the most unspeakable language from the pits of Hell itself. The tentacles moved aside to reveal a giant spined expanse shaped like a battering ram that opened impossibly long into a gaping mouth with at least five rows of razor sharp twisted fangs. A huge and unblinking eye sat in the middle of the mouth, buffered on all sides with teeth that glinted evilly in the light, and I could finally understand the screams that had only echoed before:
“Gan-‘nash-vlad, gafu-ndis garaksao S’knar’d!” The creature tried in vain to speak out against the light.
The singing in my head felt like words, softly caressing me with a question…
Who speaks against the unspeakable? Who will drive in the light to the darkest evil’s night?
And at that moment, I knew what had to be done.
I raised my sword, calling to the Component,
“It is I, who speaks to conquer the unconquerable, and I do it now!”
The light answered my challenge and bathed my sword with incandescent white-hot fire. Markings of some sort wrote themselves up the tip of the blade through the hilt in hot magical scrawl. Many-segmented feathered wings of light grew out of the sides of the sword, covered in inscriptions as ancient as the creature I faced.
Screaming with all of my strength, I dove into the creature’s mouth, knowing that it would only take seconds for the teeth to close on my body, and I didn’t care. I only existed to shove the blinding heat of my sword into the creature’s eye and through its brain. I could feel my death coming, smelled my body ready for the pain it would bring me, and I pressed onward, pushing my body until I could feel the blood flowing freely from my eyes, ears, and nose. I could feel the creature screaming as I burrowed the sword into its eye and through its skull and knew that I had finally sealed its fate for good.
As I felt the teeth digging into my flesh, I could only smile and know it would all soon be over.
“Hey, wake up!”
The first thing I noticed was the absence of pain. And the second thing I noticed was the light. I was floating high above the world and I could see the stars twinkling with a brightness that I had never seen before. I blinked, shielding my eyes and saw the hands of my companions beckoning me to join them.
“Don’t worry about it. You did it and you did it right,” Mark ruffled my hair the way he always did, and kissed my cheek softly to let me know it’d be all ok.
“I’ve got a few people I’d like to introduce you to,” he said.
“But what…what about the creature?” I asked.
“You were able to seal Yoghshogl away, and that’s what matters. The world will now be safe for this eternity.”
I smiled, “I knew you wouldn’t leave me behind.”
He grinned in return, “After all, what are friends for?”
You’ve probably heard about me.
Well, probably not me per-se, but some of the things that I have accomplished.
Yeah, I know. The news pinned it all on Captain Heroic or whatnot. Well, who knows why? The most important part is that it was actually me all along.
This is the story of me, one Naomi Winterbloom, and how I became Fabulous.
I wasn’t always fabulous, you know.
Sure, you know my last name. It’s only attached to WinterCorp, one of the biggest names in medical and technological research and advances. But you wouldn’t know it to look at me. My mother and father are basically useless trust fund babies, living fat off the hog that is my grandfather’s pride and joy. Sure, I live in a big house-one that the people around these parts call “The Estate” (and yes, it is just as foreboding and dark inside as it looks on the outside) but it’s dark and empty in there. I remember when I was only 7 years old and I drew a picture of a giant shadowy building with one square yellow window.
“That’s where I am,” I told the teacher.
That’s pretty much what it’s like at home. My parents pay for the bare minimum to keep me in (very expensive) private school because it is What Is Expected Of The Rich. But they are rarely ever home. And to look at my room, you might mistake it for a maid’s quarters from the lack of pretty much anything beyond the basics. Yes, I am clean, have some basic clothing, and I get my own laptop too. But I still am expected to walk to school, and I only get to have 5 uniforms (one for each day of the week) and two “weekend outfits”. I am taken care of, and I am presentable. I am the face of the average, of the “good enough” life, and I know I should not complain about the roof over my head and the bed I sleep in and the people who come and silently keep the house in pristine condition and magically deposit my clean clothes and meals at my door.
But there is only one big, aching, heart-wrenching problem with my life.
My parents prefer to spend their money and their time on themselves.
know you probably don’t want to hear about it, but I have a stupid ridiculous fantasy. There’s this flyer I found on the ground while I was walking to school when I was in 6th grade. It shows a happy family at a nearby amusement park smiling and eating ice cream while the mom is about to wipe a dribble off the kid’s cheek and the dad is grabbing at the camera so he can take a picture. Everyone is so happy in that photo, so much so that I could practically feel it like a heat that I have never experienced in my life. I know it’s silly to want something that cliché, but the truth of the matter is that I would pretty much settle for my mother to give me a hug, or my father to look at me the way he looks at his Ferrari collection; someone to enjoy time with-someone who is wanted and not simply tolerated or obligated to.
For all the starving children in the world, I would give up my food for the soul sustenance of love.
I have a map on my wall. It’s a map of the world that I got out of a National Geographic magazine I picked up at the thrift store. I have two little flags that I made out of push-pins-one for Mom, and one for Dad. Whenever they tell me where they are going, I always put the push-pin in the place on the map so I always know where they are. It somehow keeps them close in a way that they never are in person. Even when they’re right next to me, they’re still a million miles away.
They never send postcards.
But let’s not stay fixated on sad things.
My grandmother was the only light in my life. When she came to live with me, the world surged full with color and sunshine. It’s like remembering a cartoon world when I think back on those years as a young child. Somehow everything distorts and the color is unreal, bright.
She had an interesting accent, one that I always said made it sound like her language was wandering. Sometimes, she sounded kind of Slavic, but there was a hint of French and Italian in the way that the words moved in her mouth as she built sentences and they erupted from her lips almost song-like.
She was the only one who knew me. My grandmother was special. She knew that I was too. My parents dismissed me as an obligation and a nuisance, but from the moment that my grandmother first held me, she knew that I was the one she had been waiting for.
You see, I can speak in a very different sort of way. With my mind, that is.
It’s not something that you immediately get good at. My grandmother grilled me every day, teaching me how to get into someone’s thoughts, how to read other people, how to project myself. Obviously, she was much more skilled than I was, but then again, she was very impressed with how quick of a learner I was. I could read people very well, feel their emotions as they felt them and manipulate them at will. No one knows that I am actually quite socially awkward, because I simply nudge them in the right direction.
It’s not like I can plant thoughts or make people do things they don’t really want to do. In all accounts, I probably have as much control over others as the average stage magician-I only help people do what they already want to do in their hearts without inhibitions. People taste differently in their minds. It’s much easier to understand someone once you’ve caught the flavor of a person’s psyche.
Of course, that was before the accident.
That’s when the color died again.
I remember the house, dark like a shadow-looming over me. I was only 6 years old, but I walked home myself that day because Grandmother was not there to meet me at the schoolyard gate.
I went from door to door-it seemed endless, calling out for her with my small voice. I used my mind to push as far as I could outward, searching for the cinnamon and apple scent that I knew so well.
There was nothing.
I cried and cried, my voice swallowed by the sheer enormity of the darkness. It wasn’t until late that night, I heard a soft knock on my door. It was Grandfather. He never visited. He lived with his work. My heart felt full of water and blood. I knew what he was going to say before he said it-the bitterness and pain washed over me like a wave of vinegar.
“There has been an accident.” he told me, gravely and without emotion, “Your grandmother is not going to be able to see you anymore.”
He turned away.
My heart stopped beating for just a second, as I held my breath, hoping the moment was not real.
He turned back.
“She would want you to have this.”
He drew his claw-like fingers, gnarled with arthritis, into his coat and pulled out something shining on a silvery chain.
It was a pendant with a jet black stone, covered in a silver cage of thorns. In the middle of the stone, I could make out a white shape, but it seemed to continue changing in the dim light of my bedroom lamp.
He held out his arm as though he wanted to keep his distance from me. I grabbed the dangling pendant, clutching it to my chest, the tears already coming back to my eyes.
“We will bring servants to help with your school and home needs. You do not need to worry.” His voice was toneless, and in the memory, his face is in shadow-I can’t see his eyes.
I stared at the stone, tasting a hint of the cinnamon and apple taste on my tongue, the sorrow pouring out of me in waves. My grandfather struggled to keep his composure. I know it was my fault and did not care.
There were reports of the entire city block having spent an entire night in tears for no apparent reason.
But I know that reason was me.
Skip forward a bit to my 16th year of life.
I spend a lot of time by myself. I’m so used to it by now, but I’m never really lonely. At least, that’s what I told myself each day like a mantra.
I never take off my grandmother’s pendant. It’s the only thing that makes me feel like I’m still alive inside. The cool weight of it next to my skin helps me to feel some kind of connection, even if that connection is old and far away in the ether somewhere. I don’t kid myself about the afterlife. As far as I know, there isn’t one, but in some way, that’s good. I don’t want to worry about going to the Other Place, you know, the one where you burn forever.
So, it’s the summer, a week before school starts, and I am off doing some nature hiking in the hills above the city. There are all these old lime kilns and other abandoned buildings hiding between the trees, mostly eaten by nature, but I often find various things to photograph such as various wildlife or the striking beauty of nature slowly devouring the manmade.
I remember stepping down into this one deep lime kiln, because I saw a flash of something that looked like it was glittering in the dark. It looked like the earth had bunched up, turning the kiln on its side, so it was more like a cave than anything. As I went further in, I realized that someone had knocked in the bottom of the kiln and dug a fairly well-supported tunnel through it. The shine turned out to be an old oil lamp hung up on a hook near the far left of the entrance. I carry a flashlight when I photograph for lighting purposes, so I followed the corridor quietly, knowing full well that I could be walking into danger. But then again, danger is really the only thing that makes me feel truly alive-the heat of blood pumping quickly through my veins and the rising beat of my heart always makes me smile through the fear.
But that’s when I heard it. A wet sucking sound, like someone walking in wet galoshes. Something was coming towards me, but I couldn’t see a thing. The darkness overtook everything in the tunnel, and I realized that the walls were moving like midnight jelly.
I could feel waves of fear that weren’t coming from me. Run! Something told me. Hide!
An inky tendril extended from the ceiling. It sees us. A white circle extended from the tendril.
Oh god. It was looking at me.
I turned, trying to run, but the goo encircled my feet like thick mud. It snaked up my ankles and over my thighs, pulling me down into it, suffocating me. Long tendrils were encircling my stomach, my breasts, my arms, licking at me stickily. And then I felt the tendrils going up my nose and down my throat and I couldn’t see anything anymore.
STOP! I screamed with everything my mind had in it. You must let me….let me live…..
I felt the puzzlement of the creature, whatever it was, just before I blacked out.
When I came to, it was dark and cold. I was laying on the ground, feeling the dirt crumbled around me I felt around for my flashlight, and when I turned it on, the tunnel was as it had been before-earthen with support beams placed strategically around by whomever had made the tunnel so that it wouldn’t cave in.
“What the hell.” I said to myself, wondering if I had just been hallucinating or if there was possibly a gas leak somewhere. But then I noticed that my clothes were ripped to the point that I was practically naked. “Oh shit.”
I panicked, wildly waving the flashlight everywhere, but there was nothing to be seen.
“Crap, now I need new clothes to replace these old torn ones.”
And suddenly, I was wearing a black skirt and red blouse, just like one I had been eying in a store window the day before.
And at that moment, I knew where the creature was.
It was in me.
But that wasn’t quite right. I held out my arm thoughtfully and then threw my flashlight as hard as I could with the other. A tendril shot out, grabbing it and yo-yoed it back to me.
I realized-I did that.
I’ll be damned if the goo creature hadn’t bonded with me. Our thoughts were like one-but it seemed a touch more id-y than anything else. Feelings like hunger, anger, fear, flooded into me, heightened by my own mood.
I made my way back out of the lime kiln and into the sunlight. The sun was much lower in the sky than it had been before. I had been unconscious for at least 6 hours, and all I knew was that I was hungry as hell.
I headed back into town, following my rumbling stomach.
But I didn’t care.
I wasn’t alone anymore.
I have named my creature Ecthel. Why? Because that’s kind of how it feels in my head, and it’s the easiest, closest translation to human language. Plus, I like calling it Ecky.
I never had a pet, especially not one with a pet name, and ESPECAIALLY not one that is basically now an extension of my body. What Ecky feels, I feel. What I eat, nourishes Ecky too.
And when I cover my face and fight evil, Ecky fights with me, as part of me.
I am never alone.
And I am stronger for it.