Undead Battlefield

I made a quick call to Julia before going back into the club. It didn’t ring once, went straight to voicemail. “This is Julia, sorry I missed your call…..” I hung up.

I went through the back and cracked open a beer on the way to stage. Bobby, the stage manager, stopped me. He clanked his bottle against mine and said, “Give me a great show!”

“I’ve got something special for you tonight,” I said.

“Gonna take me out back and fuck me?”

“Something better.”

“Can I fuck you wife?”

“How about you sit back and enjoy the show like you always do and keep the crowd under control, like you always do.”

“I’m flattered that you think I do my job even half the time,” he said. “How do you like the new guy?”

“I like him just fine.” I lied.

“You know I worked real hard to get him for you, real hard.”

“Yeah, I know Bobby.”

“I just want to make sure you know I do my best to make your job easier, to take care of you.”

He sounded so full of shit. “I appreciate it.”

The new guy was some pretty boy from California. He had a killer voice, which was all that mattered, but he gave me the creeps. We perform five days a week at the same joint and always get drinks after the set but he never stays. Antisocial I guess, and that makes me not trust him. He barely talks and smiles all the time but never laughs and he does this thing where he’ll tell a joke and right at the punchline take two steps towards you and get in your face and stare at you hard, real hard, searching for a flash of a smile somewhere on your face, the mouth, the eyes. And he’s got this big shiny forehead that makes him easy to spot from across the room and I honestly appreciate that part about him so I know when to head the other direction.

Just then I caught a glipmse of pretty boy’s big shiny forehead so I downed the rest of my beer and slammed it on Bobby’s table before hopping on stage to start tightening my drum heads. It was nearly time to rock.

 

 

We were on our sixth song and I was drenched in sweat and pretty drunk. The sound guy John had been slipping me shots between songs and I was feeling unstoppable. We started playing our most popular tune, Undead Battlefield. This was a huge crowd pleaser with the right amount of smooth guitar licks and intricate drum fills. Everyone was going nuts screaming, flinging the contents of their drinks on stage (Bobby hated that shit, I personally loved it, and Dwayne the guitarist loved it even though it fucked up two of his amps). During the guitar solo I reached back to grab another shot from John. He had two ready and I downed them both. Pretty boy winked at me and smiled, lit a cigarette and took a long drag. Dumbass. I closed my eyes and got back into the tune, slamming my sticks against cymbals, rolling off the snare and down the toms, kicking the double-bass pedals as hard as I could. My legs and arms were burning from playing so hard, I could feel sweat roll down my legs in fat drops. I played louder and faster and improvised a solo and I didn’t give a shit if I played over anyone else, it sounded great. My whole body ached as I strained to push myself to play the greatest solo I’ve ever played. It took everything I had and then some. I opened my eyes. I was on fire. Flames snaked around the drumset and pooled the stage around me. I couldn’t see anyone else, not even pretty boy’s shiny forehead. I tried to get up to run but I couldn’t move. I looked down and realized my legs were completely engulfed in flames, chunks of flesh falling off the bone like slow-cooked pork. My ass was melting into seat. I was so confused and upset I screamed. I could still feel my arms and tried hitting the drums and I heard the crash cymbal ring out loud and clear so I began playing the rest of my solo without any double-bass and the flames grew taller and just as I felt an overwhelming pain I fell into darkness.

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An Empty Glass

It had been two weeks since I heard from Rachel, so it’s safe to assume she got the money. I was nearly broke and could no longer afford her coke habit so I sent her downtown to ask for a loan from Ricky Palmer, told her he’s especially generous with broads and could work out something special for her. But I knew if I sent her to Ricky I wouldn’t see her again unless I went to Miami where Ricky sent all his girls.

I went for another swig of the 151 but only diluted cola and ice hit my lips which sent an unreasonable wave of anger through my chest like a flame dancing across a haystack. I sucked some spilled coke off my thumb and looked at my watch. It was broken, but it’s a natural thing people do it seems, and if there were as many eyes on me as I thought there were then I would look normal. I couldn’t get myself to meet the eyes of the other patrons in fear they would sense my bloodlust and confront me about it. I imagine they’d sit next to me and ask why I was so damn crazy and why I was always so sad and I would just stare up at them and ask who do they think they are to ask me such personal questions? They would laugh and shake their head and whisper to the other patrons about how crazy I was and how pathetic I was and I’d shrink back into my empty glass and ask the bartender to drown me in the good stuff.

But then another patron would approach me with a concerned expression asking why I wanted to harm them. I would smile to myself as thoughts raced faster than I could make sense of them at the sheer overwhelming thought of conveying the slightest justification for my irrational behavior. My tongue tied, I’d look at them and say, “It’s a funny, long story!” But this concerned patron wouldn’t back off. They kept pestering me, their expression desperate as they sacrificed themselves to my madness. I explained to them how my circumstances proved a fine environment for something to manifest itself inside my chest and take hold of my existence and drag me down as to stay close to the earth where it meant to plant its roots but I always had the desire to fight it. And why I fought it I couldn’t make clear at first other than calling it human nature, a survival instinct. Something that transcended conscious desire. And as my chest was busy weaving this mess of pain into something tangible my mind constructed walls in response to seeds of malice and hatred coming to fruition but in its haste left many vulnerabilities. The darkness was swift and unforgiving as it illuminated my mind and my eyes betrayed me at every turn and my lips lost their ability to translate the chaos. With a shaky hand I tried conveying the madness and for a time it worked until what I was experiencing became so tiring that it stilled my hands and I closed my eyes and waited for the sun to go down before I’d open them again.

Drugs became appealing and for a time they were good. Until the moment came when my existence no longer allowed the relationships I held with the people who had the drugs and I was back in my bed, eyes closed, thoughts racing while I watched from a distance. I started to have the desire to watch myself bleed and so found a razor and drew lines in my arms and legs and felt the wounds send a rush of delicious chemicals through my body that said it was good. Then one day I cut too deep and bled too much and my cover was blown. It was now apparent there was something wrong and it drew attention to myself and I quickly began plotting my response to this exposure. And then it became time to recede back into the shadows and watch the world from my safe place. And the longer I waited the crazier the world seemed. So I’d wander into the world and watched closely the interactions of others and wondered if they were me and how many of them were just doing things to appear normal, like checking their watches while waiting.

At this point I noticed nobody was listening, as the seats next to me were empty as was the entire bar. I called for another 151 despite the bartender being nowhere in site. I traced my initials into the counter and smiled at the thought of lighting someone on fire. I felt myself swell between the legs and knew it was time to go.

Evil Dame

Today Earth will banish an abomination. Queen Denna, the most sinister creature to walk the planet, will be sent to a prison beyond the cosmic horizon with the aid of ancient magic.

The queen emerged from the lake of fire to face her captors.

As soon as she stepped on shore, the Elder warlocks bowed. They all wore robes comprised of so many exotic colors they looked like spiral galaxies.

The queen scoffed. “You’re embarrassing yourselves. Whether it’s respect or tradition making you bow before me, you look like fools. You’re masters of magic, and you bow to me?

Before the Queen could say another word, a blow knocked her to her knees.

“Then you may bow before me, mortal,” a voice from behind her said.

“God of Jupiter, Lord of Magicians, Shamuk,” the warlocks said in unison before sinking into a deeper bow.

“You feel strong and heroic hitting a women with her back turned, Shamuk? the Queen said.

Shamuk hovered three feet above the sand wielding his staff above her head. “Silence, you wicked bitch, and look into my eyes.”

The Elder warlocks stood in a circle around the queen, frantically tracing symbols in the air in front of them while Shamuk recited the incantation to invoke the guidance of the Serpents, one of the first creatures to slither into the darkness before there was a shred of light. They were the only creatures who could pass through the furthest, darkest parts of space without being torn to pieces by endless chaos. The queen would be bound on the backs of these serpents enduring legendary suffering for thousands of years before reaching the deep cosmic prison.

An event like this is extremely rare, the serpents only existed in stories. The most well known story: the banishment of a tainted soul to the most foul depths of all existence, breaching barriers of time and space, riding on vessels of nightmares.

As the Queen looked into Shamuk’s eyes, she witnessed her fate. She could feel herself moving through the air, cold and hot. The Queen could see stars passing by faster than she could process them. Strange noises all around, thunder and screaming, explosions and high-pitched battle cries, laughter. Wars were raging all around her. Hordes of beasts with no faces appear from nothingness, running through space like a fucked up nightmare. They were running towards her. Those battle cries, they were screaming her name. Stars began to explode and light up the darkness, exposing the infinite number of beasts running at her.

The serpent rode faster and faster as the number of creatures grew so large they were ripping holes in space, exposing unfathomable evil waiting for her on the other side. “Queen,” they said, “minion” others said, “Denna, my bride.”

Shamuk closed his eyes.

Sucker Punched

The following short story is brand new as of today. I refrained from posting what I wrote yesterday because I think it was more of a brainstorming activity. 

Sucker Punched

It was December.

I stood there staring at the shed door. It was almost 5 Am. My legs began to tremble so violently I thought I might fall, but I didn’t. Instead, I held my breath to avoid sucking in the sharp winter air and prayed Emily didn’t wake up early. I’d have to drive her to school in two hours so I had to work fast.

I reached into my fur-lined bomber jacket and grabbed the key. It felt like ice. I took a step forward and played with the lock, working the cold metals together hoping to create enough friction to melt the sliver of ice packed inside. I had nearly rendered the key useless before it slid home. After freeing the lock, I opened the door to find my beauty exactly as I left him. He was sleeping now, maybe even dead. I wasn’t sure nor did I care. All I knew was his body would still be warm from the heat lamps.

I shucked off my pants and peeled off my shirt. My balls shrunk up into my belly, but my cock was already getting hard. I gave the boy a light smack, “wake up.”

He didn’t move. I brought my fist above my head and landed it on his cheekbone. He flinched back and grimaced.

“Hey! There’s my sweet boy. For a second I thought you expired.” I lifted his head up by his hair and brought my shaft against his lips. “Suck,” I said.

“Please,” the boy whispered.

“I can’t hear you? Speak up!”

“I can’t. I feel so sick.”

I laughed before knocking out another one of his teeth. “Watch those teeth. Now get to it, we don’t have much time.”

The boy just hung from his chains, face-to-face with my throbbing member. He was starting to fall back asleep.

“I swear to god,” I said, “If you keep me waiting one more second I’ll kill your entire family.”

The boy did was he was told. I closed my eyes and thought about the trouble I’d be in when I got to work. I was supposed to set up a meeting between the partners and our newest client. It was a big case and we had a chance of winning if the client was willing to spend lots of money, which she had.

After I finished, I put my clothes back on and turned up the heat lamps. The boy wasn’t blistering enough. However, his lips were chapped enough to add more pleasure.

“I’ll be back before you know it,” I said.

“Could I have some water?”

“I can’t hear you. What’d I tell you about speaking up?”

The boy swallowed. “Can I please…. have just one drink of water.”

“Of course!” I said.

I unzipped my pants once again and shot a stream of piss at his face.  The boy writhed and spit the urine all over the place. I said, “You should probably swallow some of that. It’s good for ya.”

When I finally stepped out and locked the shed, I noticed Emily’s bedroom light was one. Perfect timing. I walked around the side of the house to the mailbox to get the paper, until I saw red and blue lights. I froze. They weren’t turned on, but they didn’t have to be. Anyone in their right mind could tell it was a cop car.

It was Desmond, one of the local sheriffs.

“Mornin’,” he said.

I smiled. “It’s too damn cold if you ask me. I been living here 35 years and still can’t stand this weather.”

“Well why don’t you do us both a favor and move?” Desmond said.

I laughed. “But if I leave, who’ll fuck your wife?”

Desmond laughed even harder and said, “Watch yourself you sly bastard. I could beat the shit out of you with my night stick and still have my job in the morning!”

“Ain’t that the truth you fucking pig.” I grabbed the paper and began scanning the front page. “Any suspects yet for the Omaha kid?”

Desmond cocked an eyebrow. “Why else do you think I’m here?”

I could feel the slightest tremble travel from my toes to the tips of my fingers. My balls shrunk further into my belly. “What’re you saying, Des?”

Desmond unclipped the holster of his gun. “How long have I known you, Mitch?”

I blinked several times before I could answer. “We grew up together. ‘Bout 30 years I’d say.”

“You’re damn right.” Desmond took a few steps towards me and got so close I could smell the strawberry danish on his breath. “30 years I known you and in 30 years I got to know you pretty damn well.”

I couldn’t breathe. “You got something to tell me? Tell me now goddammit.”

Desmond unholstered his  .40 cal S&W and pressed the tip of the barrel under my chin. “I woke up this morning thinkin’ it was gonna be a pretty shitty day after I knew I had to roll up to your place and see your ugly mug.”

He turned the safety off. “Are you outta your god damn mind?” I said.

Desmond smiled, the bottoms of his teeth black from years of chewing tobacco. “That makes two of us, don’t it? Of course we don’t have a fuckin’ suspect,” he said putting his gun back in its holster. “If we did, I wouldn’t be here.”

“You’re just tryin’ to get your fuck on?” I asked.

“Like I said, I woke up thinkin’ it was gonna be a shitty day. Make it better for me. Where’s that little pretty boy? Still out back?”

“Yeah.”

Desmond made his way to the shed.

“Hang on a sec,” I said.

Desmond stopped and turned towards me. I tossed him the key. “The padlock’s tricky, gotta give it some muscle.” I gave him a wink.

I went into the house and started a pot of coffee. I went upstairs to find Emily brushing her teeth. “Good morning, sweetie,” I said kissing her head.

“Daddy, why do your friends keep going into our shed?”

I laughed and shook my head. “Baby girl, I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

The Bus Stop Boy

I hate my job. And it’s not a normal hate. You know those hates where you just turn around and say, “Fuck! I hate (insert hated entity).” And you grumble and groan all the way home. Perhaps you cry about it or you journal about it, or you blog about it. But, after a few days, the hate begins to dissipate into a manageable grievance. But listen to this; I hate my job as much as Hitler loved the Jews. I hate my job as much as Kim Jong-il loved his citizens. I hate my job so much that I will inflict personal injury so that I don’t have to show up. Ok, that part’s not true… don’t call the loony bin on me or anything.

I’ll cut right to the chase… So I get off a quarter past 6 and I need some food in a major way. I’m so hungry I feel like puking and crying. The downside is that I have to take a 15 minute bus ride then walk another 10 minutes to my apartments. I put in my headphones and listen to Pink.

I step into the shelter of the bus stop and sit next to the only other person waiting. Of course, it’s a cute boy. He’s cute as fuck. I’m such a sucker for the pretty boys. You know the ones with kinda long, soft looking hair with a nice chiseled chin and perfect lips with blue eyes like cut sapphires. Always the blue eyes. Sometimes green, but, ew. His dirty blonde hair hid half his face. Luckily, the exposed part was nearest to me which made me happy. Although, he seemed like one of those emo types. He was slouching and wearing that permanent expression of frowning eyes and pressed lips. He looked close to my age, or a couple years older like twenty maybe. I pulled one of my earbuds out, the sound of traffic and tires cutting through puddles of water on the rain-slicked streets now apparent to me.

I said, “hey.”

He slowly turned his head in my direction and suddenly I was snapped back to reality. Why the hell did I feel compelled to talk to him? Seriously, why, why, why?

“Hi,” he said before turning away.

I smiled. Well, I should probably just end it here to save myself from embarrassment. I sit up and begin lightly drumming my hands against my lap. I glance over at him several times to make sure he’s still as gorgeous as I remember. Dammit! I couldn’t shake this feeling that I had to talk to him. It was like destiny crept into my body and was pressing me forward, whispering in my ear telling me to make conversation here. But why? Maybe he’ll fuck me. The thought sent warmth through my stomach and between my legs. I quietly cleared my throat and said, “Where are you from?”

He gave me a puzzled look. “Why do you ask?”

“Um, I was just wondering if you’re from around here or whatever, I don’t know.”

“It doesn’t matter where I’m from.”

“Ok,” I said. What the fuck, man? This guy’s playing it rough. I’ll bet most girls give up and shy away at this point, but not me.

“Do you work or got to school?” I asked.

“Why the fuck are you talking to me?”

I just sat and stared.

“Seriously, why the fuck are you talking to me? I don’t even know you.”

“I’m just being nice,” I said.

“Fuck nice. It’s rude to bother strangers that mind their own business. What makes you think I give a shit about you or anything you say?”

Oh my god. This guy is fucking rude, and a little crazy. “Sorry,” I said before scooting a couple inches away. He scoffed at me before digging into his back pack.

“I’ve just been having a bad day, a bad week. Shit, a bad life,” he said.
I smiled again. “I understand. I work over at that convenient store on the corner and it’s terrible. I honestly think it might be one of the worst jobs in the world.”

“I was talking about how my mom was murdered by my dad a couple days ago and my sister’s a runaway meth addict and I have nothing left to love. Not even myself.”

Shit. He started to laugh.

“It’s funny though.. Once you lose everything you thought was important to you, it gives you a lot of time to think. You have all this time to reflect on what it was you loved and why you loved it,” he said. “It also empties you out, carves all sorts of holes in you that you can’t fill up ever again. I just feel like there are too many holes now. There’s nothing I can do to feel better.”

I said, “Now that’s not true. I bet there are-“

I paused and stared dumbly at the boy who now held a pistol in his hand and wore a small smile on his face. The entire situation was so hypnotizing. “What’s that?” I said.

“Medicine,” he said before shoving the barrel into his mouth and pulling the trigger.

The sudden explosion of blood and flesh painted the interior of the bus stop and splashed across my face. I felt a chunk get lodged in my mouth and savored the metallic icing on my lips. Half of his head was gone, leaving behind flaps of skin and hair dangling on all sides. His lifeless body slowly collapsed to the floor as if resting from a tiring day. And in a way, that’s what he was trying to do.

I suddenly lost my appetite.

Life on Another Planet

I watched the sun cook the corpse before me as I sat drooling all over myself. Another human, another delicious meal.

For whatever reason, these strange human creatures kept coming here in flying machines wearing white suits. They trotted all over my beautiful yard and sometimes even had the audacity to take some of my yard and put it in a little container to take with them. That’s what this one tried doing. I spotted him near the sand beds surrounding my favorite rock before I tore his white suit off and watched his eyeballs pop out and his bones turn to mush. The sweet mush which give the tendons a little spice to my meals on Mars.

And now here I sit watching my meal prepare itself for consumption. I wish he’d hurry up and cook already. I knew there were other hungry creatures around that wouldn’t hesitate to steal my meal.

And as if the Great Sky God read my thoughts, the human was ready for my tummy.

I was halfway through his bowels when I heard shouting nearby.

“Get off him!”

“What the hell are you doing?”

I looked over my shoulder at two other white suited blockheads bounding towards me.

“Fuck off!” I said.

“No!”

“Please?” I begged.

“No! Oh my god.. Oh my god… David, are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

“I think so,” the other one said.

I turned around to face them as they studied me closely. What’re they gunna do, put me in one of their test tubes? Better not. I’ll eat them. Hell, I’m going to eat them anyways.

“What’re you two staring at, huh? Never seen a martian before?” I said.

“You-You’re…”

I was losing my patience. “Spit it out!”

“You’re Carl Sagan!”

How did they know my name? Too much talking, time to pop their eyeballs out.

The two humans looked at each other then back at me. Just then, another white suit came barreling around the corner in some motorized scooter.

The scooter parked next to me and its rider looked me up and down.

“Carl?” it said in a strange tone. “It’s me, Stephen, Stephen Hawking. Class of ’49, remember?”

I tore his white suit off and ate his face. The other two humans ran but I caught up with them and ate their faces as well.

I remembered. But Stephen was such a dork, I had to eat him.

Life on Mars has been a lot more fun than I expected. Hope to get more visits from humans soon.

-From a torn page of Carl Sagan’s Journal circa 1972

Daily Prompt: Torturing Annabelle

Write a story or post with an open ending, and let your readers invent the conclusion.

I fingered the carving of the bullhead on the wooden stock of the carbine, listening to the wet smacks of fists against flesh. Kevin had been at this chick for the last hour. He never said a word, only letting his fists do the talking. That is, until he called my name.

“Ed, get your ass over here.”

I stood and made my way towards Kevin.

“Idiot!” he said. “Bring the fucking gun with you!”

I quickly snatched up the rifle and appeared next to Kevin, staring down at the helpless soul tied to a iron pipe that ran from the floor to the ceiling.

“Hit her,” Kevin said.

I brought the butt of the rifle down hard against her face.

“Again.”

This time it met with the bridge of her nose sending blood and chunky clots shooting down the front of her face and bare chest.

“Again. Harder.”

I held the rifle like a golf club and swung with all my strength. The stock of the gun smacked into her mouth, crushing teeth and bone. It sounded like snapping a CD in half.

The womans head had swung violently from the blow before settling her chin back on her chest, blood still coming down like water through the gutter. I said, “What should I do now?”

Kevin was smiling. “Shoot her in the fucking head.”

My eyes went wide. We weren’t supposed to kill her. That wasn’t part of the plan. All we had to do was send her into a coma and have her body back at the house before her kids got home from school.

I swallowed hard. “But our orders were-”

“Fuck the orders!”

I removed the rag from my back pocket and wiped her blood and skin off the rifle. A thousand thoughts ran through my head. You never disobey orders from the top. But Kevin was a psycho who acted without restraint and I can only guess what he’d do if I refused…

Tommy and the Trees of Madness

 

The screen door flew open as the young blond-haired boy burst out carrying a pile of toys nestled against his chest. He made his way to the edge of the property near the forest and dropped them on the ground, sending a toy ball rolling past the trees and into the woods. He didn’t think much of it for he was too busy placing his toy cars side-by-side to get them ready for the grand prix. He picked up a small twig and held it like a microphone.

“Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, welcome to the North American circuit, home of the finest racers and the fastest cars. Please, if you haven’t already, place your bets on the car you think will beat them all. Captain Hurley is the favored pick. Did ya see his performance last week, Jack? Oh I sure did, Tommy. Who could miss such a grand performance of speed and endurance? Right you are, Jack.”

Tommy pulled some grass out of the ground where the track would be. After a fair amount of tugging and pulling, he pressed his hands against the ground to smooth it out.

“The drivers have taken their places,” Tommy said. “Wait, Jack, where’s Crazy Charles? Your guess is as good as mine, Tommy.”

Tommy did a quick scan of the yard around him.

“He’s gotta be around here somewhere. Crazy Charles never bails right before a race!”

Tommy grabbed a toy car that was hidden under a small pile of grass.

“No worries, ladies and gentleman. Crazy Charles is pulling to the starting line right now. Drivers, start your engines!”

Making his best efforts at imitating the sounds of a growling engine, Tommy blew forth a shower of spit  from the wild vibration of his lips. He then started counting down from 10. Tommy set the faux microphone down and focused his hands on the shiny die-cast metal cars before him.

“10…9…8…7…”

More engine noises, more spit.

“6…5…4…3…”

When suddenly, the small toy ball he lost earlier rolled into his makeshift arena. Tommy fixed a confused look on the object, staring at it as if it were some foreign artifact. He then looked up and into the forest looking for whoever it was that rolled him the ball. There was no one that he could see, just the same old trees standing as still as statues.

That’s when he heard it. Someone was calling his name.

“Tommy,” it said. “Tommy, come here.”

Curious, Tommy slowly rose to his feet, gripping one of the toy cars in his left hand.

“Come here, Tommy I’m not going to hurt you,” it said.

Without saying a word, Tommy slowly walked to the forest’s edge. “Who is it?”

“A friend.”

The voice was neither male nor female. It was almost like a combination of both. Like an overlapped monotone voice of a man and woman.

“A friend?” Tommy asked.

“Yes.”

“Well, then come out. Let me see you.”

“I’m right here, Tommy. I’m right in front of you.”

Tommy took a single step back looking up and down, left and right. “Stop it, this isn’t funny.” His voice began to tremble. “Come out and show me who you are.”

“Foolish boy,” said the voice as one of the trees began to twist and turn like a towel being wrung dry.

In awe, Tommy watched as the tree in front of him became animated, stretching its branches out on all sides as if emerging from a deep slumber. The sounds of creaking lumber echoed through the forest, leaves sprinkled the ground while lush vegetation seemed to sprout along the trees exterior, starting near its roots and spiraling up to its apex. A few birds called out and flew from the forest annoyed by the sudden disturbance.

Tommy swallowed. “Are you… Are you my friend?”

“Yes, dear boy. That’s what I’ve been telling you all along, have I not?” The tree let out a final sigh that produced a sound beyond description. As if the tree were expelling its impurities while consuming the energy around it.

Tommy took a step closer, closely examining the patterns in the bark, captivated by its maze-like quality. After several seconds of admiring this grand tree, Tommy said, “Do you have a name?”

The tree laughed a long, echoed laugh that seemed distant yet genuine.

“Of course I have a name. Call me Crusoe.”

“Crusoe,” Tommy said. “Nice to meet you, Crusoe.”

The branches of the tree lowered, almost as if the tree were attempting some bizarre type of bow.

“And what about me?” came a sharp, high-pitched voice.

Tommy jumped. The voice had come from right next to him and he immediately noticed a second tree, equally as exquisite and enamored with the jewels of nature.

“What are you called, Mr. tree?” said Tommy.

“Mister tree? I am no mister!”

Tommy apologized. “You’re a lady?”

“Of course! Just look at my vibrant leaves, my delicate branches that reach far and wide, observe the curves in my trunk and the beautiful flowers that sprout from my bark.”

“I didn’t know there were girl trees,” Tommy said.

“That’s absurd!” the tree cried.

Tommy tucked his chin into his chest, slightly embarrassed. A small, thin branch stretched out to Tommy’s face, stroking it softly. “It’s alright, Tommy. I’m not mad at you,” she said. “Chin up, young man.”

Tommy looked up at the tree. “What are you called?”

“Lisanne. And don’t call me Liz for short.”

“I won’t, don’t worry,” Tommy said. He watched as the growth on the trees began to move like waves running towards the shore. The leaves became afflicted with bright shades of blue, red, purple, black, and gold in an endless illusory cycle.

Then came the androgynous, monotone voice, “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Crusoe said with an outstretched branch. Tommy hesitated before gripping the end of it when dozens of skinny branches wrapped around his hand like hundreds of cold worms.

“Hey!” Tommy said. “What’re you doing? Stop that!”

His requests were ignored as more and more braches snaked around his wrist and forearm growing tighter and tighter like a pumped up blood pressure cuff.

“Please,” Tommy said. “You’re hurting me, Crusoe.”

The serpent-like branches shrank back into the larger branches. “I’m sorry, Tommy. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Tommy flinched as he rubbed the tender spot. “It’s alright.”

“Good. Because I really am your friend and don’t mean to cause you pain,” Crusoe said.

“Of course you’re my friend. I’m just really confused,” Tommy said.

“Confused?” Lisanne said. “How so?”

Tommy, staring up at the fluorescent leaves, said, “I didn’t know trees could talk in real life.”

“They can’t” said Lisanne.

“But… you’re talking to me right now. And I know I’m not dreaming because I remember waking up and eating a big bowl of fruity crisps before I watched cartoons. Then I grabbed my toy cars and toy bouncy and came out here to play. And then I heard someone trying to talk to me and here I am now.” Tommy said.

“We know you aren’t dreaming,” Lisanne said.

Tommy scratched his head. “So, if trees can’t talk in real life and you’re talking to me right now and I’m not having a dream then how is this happening?”

“You have a very powerful imagination,” Crusoe said. “An incredibly powerful imagination.”

“Really?” Tommy said. “Does that mean you and Lisanne are my imaginary friends?”

“Yes. We are your imaginary bestfriends,” Crusoe said. “And there are hundreds and hundreds of us in the forest waiting to be your friend.”

“But there’s no way I could become friends with hundreds and hundreds of you!” Tommy said.

“Why not?” Lisanne asked.

“Because I’m just a kid and I don’t know how to be friends with trees.”

Crusoe and Lisanne let out their respective crude laughs.

“We can help you with that,” Lisanne said. “So far you’re doing just fine.”

“You would impress every tree in this forest,” Crusoe said. “We don’t ever get to talk to humans because they don’t know how to listen. We try all the time like I did with you earlier.”

A large smile grew across Tommy’s face, his blue eyes gleaming with excitement. “OK, I’ll be friends with all of you and I will meet every tree in this whole forest. Maybe I could even build a tree house with you!”

At that moment, the two trees let out a deep bellow, their leaves rapidly falling to the ground as the branches turned black and quickly retracted into the tree like measuring tape. The once luscious growth wilted and died, the bark appearing to grow thorns the size of large swords, all while a noxious black liquid oozed from every pore of the tree, polluting the ground beneath it.

This startled Tommy so much that he stumbled and fell on his back. Tears fell down his face yet his throat was unable to produce the slightest whimper. He could only watch as the trees went through their demonic transformation, silent tears streaking his rosy cheeks. “You guys… What’s going on? Stop it, please. You’re scaring me,”

Crusoe let out a long sigh that caused the air around him to spring forth in every direction, flapping through Tommy’s clothes and frilling his hair.

An even better idea is snatching up all your little human friends and chopping them up into little pieces. Then, we could stack them on your head, Tommy,” Crusoe snapped.

That wouldn’t be as fun as butchering his mom and dad and making a little fort for Tommy to play in.” Lisanne hissed. “But we both know humans start to smell after a while and they get real messy when you cut them up.”

“No!” Tommy said. The silent tears now sang notes of despair. “No, no, no, no. Please, Crusoe. Stop, Lisanne. I didn’t mean what I said. Please stop this. I take it all back, I take it all back!”

The trees laughed their wicked laughs once again. And as quickly as they made their transformation, they went back to the magnificence they displayed earlier. The branches emerged from the trees like a rolling red carpet, the leaves springing up just as rapidly and shining bright as ever. The flowers and growth crawled up the trees once again, the thorns disappeared and the mysterious black liquid melted into the ground.

“Very well then,” Crusoe said. “Human houses would be no fun anyways.”

Tommy was still on his back, hiding his face in his hands as he wept relentlessly, struggling to breathe through the gripping terror.

“Stop crying, Tommy,” Lisanne said.

Tommy continued to cry.

I said stop crying!”

“Lisanne,” Crusoe said. “We’ve obviously scared the boy. Tommy, we didn’t mean to scare you as much as we did. What you said made us angry, but we didn’t intend to terrify you. We were only trying to illustrate the sheer madness of your statement.”

Tommy slowly let down his hands, his eyes bloodshot and slightly swollen. “That was the scariest thing I have ever seen. That was scarier than all of my bad dreams put together.”

“Fear makes you stronger. Don’t be so afraid of the darkness, Tommy.” Lisanne said softly. “We want you to be our friend. Please, Tommy, come with us and be our friend forever.”

Tommy’s face softened and his muscles started to relax. “Forever?” he questioned. “How long is that exactly?”

“However long forever is,” Lisanne said.

Crusoe said, “One thing you’re going to learn about the forest is that time is measured in more ways than one. We don’t have clocks or watches here. The trees never speak about time nor do we pay much attention to it. We can only know when we first emerge from the earth and see our first sunrise to the time our branches become brittle, our colorless leaves shiver and fall, and our exhausted bark collapses to the ground. We get to experience this world only once and during that time we see so many beautiful things. You can’t begin to imagine the splendor that exists in this world.”

Tommy’s eyebrows shot up like switchblades. He wiped away his tears and said, “What kind of things are you talking about?”

“I can’t quite tell you,” Crusoe said.

“Oh but why not!”

“It’s not something that can be understood through language. These things of unfathomable beauty and mystery you can only experience.”

“I want to experience it, Crusoe! Lisanne, please, you two need to show me how!”

“I don’t know if you’re ready for it, Tommy,” Lisanne said.

“I’m ready!” Tommy shot to his feet. “I want it! I want it so bad!”

Crusoe said, “This is a big deal, Tommy. Once you decide you want this, there’s no turning back.”

“Oh, Crusoe,” Tommy said through tears. “I’m certain I want this. I know with all my heart I want to see all that you have seen.”

Tommy walked up to Crusoe and softly placed a hand on his bark. “I want to be your friend forever.” He looked over to Lisanne. “I want to be friends with you and every tree in this forest and every tree in the whole world! I’ll be with you for as long as I can.”

“Say that you want it with all of your heart,” Crusoe said.

“I want it with all of my heart,”

“Say you want it with all of your soul.”

“I want it with all of my soul,” Tommy almost whispered.

“Ok, Crusoe. He truly wants this, he’s ready,” Lisanne said.

Crusoe agreed. “Tommy, it’s time for you to meet the other trees of the forest. It’s time for you to become one of us.”

Tommy took a couple steps back.

“Are you ready?” Lisanne said.

“Yes,” Tommy said.

“Then close your eyes.”

Tommy’s slowly lowered his eyelids. His world was dark, but he could feel the air changing. He could taste it, the metallic flavor of the air. The earth started to shake violently. He fell on his side but kept his eyes squeezed shut.”

“Keep your eyes closed,” Lisanne said. At least it sounded like her voice except a little deeper and harder to understand.

“I am!” Tommy said.

But Tommy could only keep them closed for so long. After several seconds he stole a peek and instantly wished he didn’t. The trees were turning into the nefarious creatures that haunted him earlier. Except, this time, Crusoe was slowly descending into the earth. Lisanne shot up into the sky above the clouds and not a moment later did every tree in the forest follow her lead, shooting up into the sky like thousands of loosed arrows. Tommy watched as flames shot up from the spot Crusoe once resided. The brilliant flames licked the air, searching for something to burn. Tommy was terrified. The fear crept over him like it did when he would fall in a dream. That brief moment you experience an ethereal terror of horrible, unexplainable suffering that paralyzes every muscle, freezes every bone, and electrifies every last nerve in your body.

It was like being tied at each limb, watching the horsemen ride off in every direction as the coiled ropes grow smaller and smaller, moments before reckoning.

Tommy shrank into the fetal position and placed his thumb in his mouth. From all around him thick black branches sprang up high enough to cast a shadow that consumed him in complete darkness. The branches looked to have deep scars spread like wicked tattoos all over their exterior where red liquid flowed like hundreds of tiny rivers. The monstrous branches then began to twist and weave together like rope before falling onto Tommy, forming a heinous sight to behold. The black branches meshed together into a single organism; rhythmically pulsating, its surface boasting patches of random growth like a demonic atlas.

Those hungry flames pounced on this organic spawn of the earth, consuming it like a feast to a starved man. As soon as these flames engulfed its prey, the structure sank back into the depths of the earth, leaving behind nothing but a single violet lotus standing all on its lonesome like an erected flag on a battlefield.

Rebirth

“Tommy,” Lisanne said. “Tommy, can you hear me?”

Tommy felt like he was being pulled up from the ocean floor, escaping a great pressure.

“Tommy, look! Hurry!” Lisanne said.

Instantly, Tommy felt weightless; every part of him instantly aware of every sound, every smell, and every thought to ever be conceived. He felt great power emanating all around him. He witnessed a sunrise that seemed imaginary. It’s magnificence striking enough to induce deep feelings of anguish and sorrow at the beauty not ever to exist through the eyes of mortal men. His sympathy would soon diminish, for it was irrelevant to Tommy.

“What do you see, Tommy?” asked Lisanne.

“I… I don’t know. I don’t know yet, Lisanne. I’m just afraid forever might not be long enough.

Phantasmagoria

Author’s Note:

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 Introduction

 

You’re about to read a short story describing one girls trek from one state to the next in an attempt to chase her dreams and fully harness her creativity.

She grew up in the Pacific Northwest. More specifically, Washington State. Rainy, dreary, unpredictable Washington. After graduation, her life was beginning to plateau. For some reason, she just couldn’t break past these imaginary barriers that were set before her. What was she to do? In a panic, she gathered a few friends together and suggested they move. To where? They asked.

Portland.

It would be perfect.

However, preliminary plans were made and broken. It wouldn’t be until much later that they would pack their bags and spend a weekend down and stay with another friend who lived there.

And so they went.

Upon their return, realities were checked. They were checked so hard that their hearts were crushed; its smooth fragments melting into the cracks of their now fractured souls.

Coming home didn’t feel like coming home. It felt like returning to a house of horrors with an ominous darkness that seemed to have a face glaring back at her. She didn’t want to be here, but she had nowhere else to go. Portland was ready for her, but she wasn’t ready for Portland.

Some time later, after spending a great deal of time in this treacherous place, she adapted to her surroundings, becoming one with all that she once despised. How could this have possibly happened? Well, she wasn’t aware it was happening. She thought it was maturity easing her hate. But it wasn’t. It was her flaws and vulnerabilities in disguise holding her back.

However, there is no such evil that cannot be overcome by love. And love is often accompanied by passion. And that passion holds her purpose. And her purpose was bigger than she, thus prevailing over her reluctant mind.

And so our story begins.

M. Williams, Winter 2013

Departure

I boarded the 8am train to Portland and began searching for my seat. 12D. I spotted 9A and 10B on my right and to my left was 12D; a window seat. I packed my suitcase into the space above and settled the backpack in my lap.

I glanced out the frosted window through streaks of water left behind by the fresh rain, watching trees sway in the wind like a pendulum moving in slow motion.

I barely got any sleep lastnight and my head was throbbing, eyes aching. I closed them and used my thumb and index finger to gently massage them. It slightly dulled the pain causing temporary relief. I began thinking of the night before and how much I cried. I was such a whiny bitch. I couldn’t help it though. It’s so sad leaving my sister behind. She needs me. She’s still so young and naïve; she needs her older sister to help her through life. And she’s right in the middle of breaking up with her boyfriend which doesn’t make things any easier. I let out a soft sigh. I’d never seen her as happy as she was with him and now all that has temporarily gone to shit. I’m just glad her and I grew really close this past year. Something I had only dreamt of happening.

Mom dad both think it was incredibly stupid of me to move out. But they’re not me. And though what they say and do is with honest intentions, I’m a grown-ass woman who can make her own choices.

The train finally started to move. Slowly it crept forward, gaining more and more speed. I felt the steady vibrations from the wheels gliding across the tracks coarse through my body. It reminded me of being soaked in a nice, steamy hot tub.

I watched as the city grew smaller and smaller until my neck got tired and I stopped looking back. I smiled at the fact that I was finally saying goodbye to that place. My departure was way past due.

The land out here was hideous. Ridden with abandoned warehouses, dismantled fences, a few totaled cars, and no grass, just dirt with patches of water spread throughout. How did this place get so ugly? Surely, there was once a time when it was a bit easier on the eyes and didn’t appear to be the aftermath of a nuclear strike.

I felt a large lump in my throat. I’ve lived in this area all my life and I’ve ridden down these very same tracks when I’d go down to see Sydney and yet, this entire area was unfamiliar to me. It was completely new. The thought was disturbing.

I looked at one of the abandoned warehouses in the distance. The roof was caved in on one end. All the windows were busted out. And that’s when I spotted him. A man was standing behind one of the windows completely motionless. I just stared at him. Even at this distance, I could feel his eyes on me. He was watching me.

It must be a homeless man, I thought. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out homeless people sought refuge here. This is paradise compared to sleeping in gutters and being spit on by assholes walking by.

I looked back but the man was gone. A sudden icy wave went through my body down to my toes causing the hairs on my arm and neck to stand up, and my back grew stiff. I then felt compelled to scan the train car I was in.

Nobody was sitting next to me. An older man behind me was sitting alone. A young couple across the aisle. A little boy and girl sitting near a blonde woman who I assumed was their mother.

And that was it. Well, that was everyone I could see.

I sat back in my seat and tried to slow my breathing which became an exercise in futility. I didn’t like this feeling at all. Slowly, I was filling up with dread and I felt nauseous. Then my body started to shake and tremble before I was nearly thrown from my seat.

The train… the train was going off the tracks.

I couldn’t make sense of what was going on around me; it was all happening so fast. Bags flew across the aisle every which way. The little girl was thrown to the back of the car and I heard her smack into the glass sliding door. The sound was awful. It was like a sopping wet towel slapping the floor. I held onto the small headrest of the seat in front of me in a deathgrip and squeezed my eyes shut. I was going to die right here on this train. Oh fuck. Oh fuck.

I screamed.

The train shook violently more and more. I could hear cries and shrieks so loud I swore my eardrums were going to burst. I also heard loud pounding from behind me and when I looked back I saw the old man slamming his fists against the glass sliding door. Pointless, I thought.

And suddenly, it all stopped.

I stole a quick glance out the window and couldn’t believe what I saw. We were airborne. The train was fucking airborne. As we made our descent, I shut my eyes and screamed one last time.

 

Arrival

My head felt like it was going to explode. I couldn’t move. I slowly opened my eyes and felt the cool, light rain pepper my body as I stared up at the grey sky. I could hear someone groaning nearby, but I was too afraid to move. My bones felt frozen and my back glued to the mud.

“Help!” someone yelled. “Help me please!”

It was a man’s voice; raspy and baritone. In my head I told the man I could help. I told him everything was going to be ok and help was on its way. But still I lay in the mud helpless as ever. I started to hear what sounded like someone running towards me, their feet slapping the mud quickly and growing louder each second. Please help us, I thought to myself.

“Oh thank god,” the man said. “I’m so glad–wait, what the… What the fuck?! Get away from me!”

I heard a grunt and the man scream. A scream silenced soon after what sounded like popping and cracking. Now he was crying.

“Oh god please. Please help me. No, no!”

And then I could hear what sounded like slurping and crunching, the man crying and screaming. More crunches and chewing. Oh. My. God. Was he being..eaten? No. No fucking way.

His cries suddenly grew silent.

I felt tears stream down my face, but didn’t feel sad. I was scared to death. It began raining a little harder and it got a little colder so I closed my eyes. I couldn’t help but briefly wonder if the life I lived was enough. What was I leaving behind?

A few funny stories and pieces of art, some friends that thought they knew me but really didn’t, and maybe a few broken hearts and failed romances but nothing that lasted. I already felt dead. So maybe dying would be a little better.

I felt something hot against my neck. I opened my eyes and looked to my left and found myself staring into the dark blue eyes of some hideous creature. Its foul breath came at me in hot waves and made me gag. I turned away from it only to see another one of them standing over me, shaking and smiling.

It looked nearly human. It had a torso, arms, hair, and it stood on two bony legs. Its nose protruded from its face like an upside down coat hanger. But its eyes weren’t human, I knew that. They were large and round just like 50 cent pieces. And its mouth hung open revealing a set of sharp yellow canine teeth. The thing just looked down at me, shaking violently as it let out a low groan.

I then felt something on my back. One of them was lifting me off the ground with its bony arms. It was strong, too. Two more creatures appeared in front of me and I felt long, cold fingers drag down my back, cold fingers sliding underneath my shirt and tearing at my pants. I closed my eyes, weeping uncontrollably; screaming until I tasted blood. One of them grabbed my head in its hands and looked into my eyes, closely examining me before a long, thick, purple tongue rolled out of its mouth. I felt it slide across my face, down my neck and in my ear. I yelled at them to stop when the tongue slithered into my mouth. I tried to cry once I could feel hair and skin being pulled from my scalp.

As fingers clawed at my flesh, and teeth nibbled at my fingers and toes, tongues caressing every bit of my now exposed body, making their way into every orifice, I wondered why this had to happen to me.

What did I do to deserve this? What, in my entire lifetime, could I have possibly done to warrant such pain and torment? And that’s when I was absolutely certain there was no god. And if there is one, he’s twisted as fuck.

As I felt the last of the fingers on my right hand get chewed away, I threw up all over myself. This excited the creatures and they started panting and licking it off my body which made me vomit again, this time all over one of the creatures. It laughed hysterically and smeared it all over himself while another creature started to lick it off.

I became dead weight as pieces of my flesh were ripped and clawed and chewed off. My world went dark as flashes of red and blue and yellow danced in the darkness with me.

I felt enraptured.

The ice cold rain, the searing pain of my swollen, torn muscle tissue, the stimulation I received from my exposed nerve endings. I felt my back hit the mud once again. Did they drop me? Was I just a torso now? I kept bleeding and bleeding and the pool of blood crept over me and I felt the ground melt and become softer and softer as I began making my descent into the earth. I tried to open my eyes one last time, but I couldn’t. All I could see were the flashing lights dancing with me in the darkness.