Tag Archives: short story

Impossible Year: Petrichor

It had been hours since Ryan Ross began staring down the mustard-yellow walls of his living room, and since then he hadn’t stirred from his position but once to take a sip from his mug—only to realise in quiet disdain that his chai tea had already gone cold.

It was drizzling lightly and he was lazily lounging on the couch, wearing an embarrassingly fluffy blue jumper and sweatpants, having a nice warm (well, not so nice and warm now) drink, and hearing nothing but the comforting sounds of rain falling from the gloomy sky and gently kissing the rooftop and windows.

It was the perfect sweater weather, the one Ryan adored and wrote about more than any other season, more than he ever even cared to admit…but now, it just didn’t feel right. He didn’t really know why, exactly, but something felt anxiously off somehow.

Just what is it about today?

On most times like these, he would already be full-on dramatic poet mode, with his intent musings flowing past his relaxed mind and onto his chewed-up pen like…filthy drainpipe water flowing onto the open sewers? Seriously, out of all the beautiful ways to have possibly worded it, that’s the best metaphor he could come up with? Disgusting.

Ryan sighed, running a hand through his messy auburn hair in frustration. The situation was getting more dire by the minute, and nothing else he seemed to try was working.

Mental block is a bitch.

Maybe he was just forcing it too much. Maybe he’d been cooped up inside his suffocating house for too long. Maybe he needed to take a break.

He snorted derisively at the last thought. He definitely needed to take a break.

“George Ryan Ross III, you need to get the hell out of this damning place and pull yourself together!” He proclaimed to himself, his soft voice echoing throughout the empty rooms of his house.

Filled with a new fervour, Ryan resolutely headed to the door, but not before making sure to grab a heavy parka from his closet and a badly-bent umbrella leaning by his shoe rack. As soon as he stepped outside, the scene that greeted Ryan completely took his breath away.

It was a whole lot prettier than he imagined.

Careful not to trample on the newly-blossoming flowers, Ryan giddily spun and traipsed about for a bit before finally standing still in the middle of his front yard. He then breathed in deeply, taking in the fresh scent of lemongrass and rainwater painting the air in that sluggish April afternoon.

The initial rush of wind that blew by was rather strong, rustling the tree branches madly and making him lose his umbrella. The latter was sent careening out of his grasp and ended up tumbling away onto the puddle-soaked street, creating an awful screech as it went along, metal scraping against pavement until the abrasive sound slowly faded away into nothing.

But surprisingly, Ryan found that he didn’t mind it at all. The umbrella’s already old and half-broken, anyway. And the weather never gave a damn about me.

Hey, that kind of sounds like a good line…ladies and gentlemen, we finally have a breakthrough! A voice at the back of Ryan’s head announced victoriously. It was such a silly thought…but suddenly, he didn’t feel so exhausted anymore.

And for the very first time that day, Ryan smiled.

Ryan stayed out in the rain for a rather long time, shivering madly and humming melodies to himself until he was numb from the cold and drenched to the bone. He laughed until he cried, he cried until he laughed; until the tears were indistinguishable from the cloudburst, until the childish laughter was intertwined with the sweet reveries of spring.

And there he stayed, until the rainfall finally ceased and the drowsy sun slowly sank under the scarlet horizon; still cheering and singing along to the march of the clouds.

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Impossible Year: Haze

The eventide stars, Spencer Smith decided, were more beautiful when their iridescent light coalesced softly against the glimmering snowfall.

Holding a freshly-bought cup of coffee to warm his hands, he wrapped the scarf around his pallid face a bit tighter, his cheeks already a pleasant shade of pastel red from the cold. Finding a nearby park bench to rest on, he placed his bag on it and gingerly sat down to stretch his weary legs.

It had been a long day.

The dim sodium lights above his head overhead flickered once, twice, before completely blazing bright, gradiating his shadow farther and making the darkness seem a little less lonelier than it was.

Lonely little life…

Intricate whorls of vapour escaped from his mouth in a lost sigh. He gazed thoughtfully into his untouched drink, languid mind turning to reminiscing as it replayed old memories like damaged black and white film reels, visions rolling through his half-closed eyes like a fast fading dream.

He thought about his best friend, the clever idiot. Spencer hadn’t seen him in…years? Had it been years? Most likely. He already stopped counting, and he was pretty sure they had done the same, as well. They’ve all been separated for a while and doing their own things now, after all. That was just a part of growing up.

But suddenly remembering those old moments of madness and melancholy alike; the dumb interviews spent joshing each other around and the absurd-looking costumes they put together with thrifted clothes and dollar store supplies, the way they constantly joked around together and made crazy music that left a lasting legacy to always be proud of, the hell-high youth that intoxicated them and, for one moment, made everything feel deathless—it all came crashing back to him and made him feel rather blindly exposed. The frigid breeze suddenly started to pick up as it blew past his rusty bones, making made him shiver slightly.

Best friends, huh…

He hugged his jacket a little tighter towards him as he felt a slower chill run past his skin again. This time, he wasn’t quite entirely sure if it was still from the cold weather.

Spencer smiled dolefully, ignoring the quiet pang of ache that made its way under his ribs. He was happy for his old friend, he really was. That man had helped him through so much, carrying him throughout his worst relapses and his painful withdrawals and even the most hopeless moments of his life, god, they’ve been through so much together. But it couldn’t always be a fairy tale ending for all of them. Sometimes clocks simply stop, and cogs simply fall apart, and after everything that’s happened, time couldn’t ever be turned back and everything has to go on. Happily ever after wasn’t ground zero, it was simply another fork in the road.

But it’s alright. That’s just life. And it was fun while it lasted.

Despite himself, he still can’t help but badly miss everyone. He wondered if they also missed him, as well.

Spencer sat by the very corner of that fragile cardboard town for quite a long time, resting beneath the sinking lavender haze of the early winter afterglow as he let frail snowflakes blanket his tired body; waiting for answers he knew will never come to him.

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Impossible Year: Caramel

(Okay, so I was originally supposed to post a really intense and serious shitty creepypasta-esque story that I wrote about a year back, but since it’s in my computer and it’s being a complete arse that won’t let up, here, have one of the parts from a Panic! At The Disco fic that I’ve been working on for a while now instead. Since all of the past halloweek stuff I posted have been nothing but morbidly dark and really gruesome, we’ll have something stupidly wholesome to end the spooky month instead. Boom, plot twist, happy Halloween fuckers!!! 🎃)

OCTOBER 31ST, HALLOWEEN.

Every house in the block and beyond displayed scary decorations on their front lawn; of plastic skeletons, fake cobwebs, carved pumpkins and other usual novelty spooky items. Squealing kids rounded the streets with their friends and parents, donning various colourful and monstrous costumes as they knocked on doors and yelled a cheerful “trick or treat!”, and teenagers held their own parties and dared each other to do crazy horror-related things that either sent them running away screaming, or laughing, or in most cases, both.

It was a festive night as usual, perhaps even more festive and rowdy than he’d ever witnessed in his entire life, but Jon Walker simply felt like he was getting too old for this shit.

He had just dropped a couple of fun-sized Snickers on the bag of a kid dressed up as a vampire slayer (“points to him for being a notch above cliche,” Jon wanly mused) and was heading back to his living room, a cup of store-bought coffee in one hand and the TV remote in another.

Nursing a headache, Jon tightened his shabby red bathrobe and sipped on his drink, grimacing slightly at the strange taste of…what was it that kids these days called it? Pumpkin spice? Yeah. Whatever the hell that meant.

He groaned as he unceremoniously plopped back down on the couch to continue watching a random B-list horror movie he found on Netflix. As soon as he pressed the play button, the TV immediately died and all the lights in the house flickered off.

“Great, just my luck.” Jon dryly thought, scratching absently at his unkempt beard. “This is so textbook cliche. Next thing you know, I’m going to fetch my flashlight in the kitchen and there’s going to be an axe murderer waiting behind the fridge to hack me into pieces.

Fortunately for him, there wasn’t anything of the sort.

Although, there was a translucent little girl calmly sitting on his kitchen counter, which definitely was not there before.

Jon recoiled back in shock, nearly spilling his lukewarm drink all over himself in the process. He blinked a few times, rubbed his eyes furiously, and determinedly pinched himself on the arm, all before cautiously glancing back at the apparition.

But instead of being gone, the ghostly child was still there, and this time, she was staring straight back at him.

“Oh.” She piped up as she waved softly, making Jon deliriously laugh. “Hullo.”

“Oh yeah no cool, how’s it going? Oh nothing much, just TALKING TO A GODDAMN GHOST.” He rambled on senselessly in reply. The small phantom, however, seemed mostly unfazed by his reaction, probably already used to seeing that sort of thing. She’d seen worse.

“Are you okay, mister?” She asked innocently, stubby legs swinging back and forth and occasionally passing through the closed cabinets. Jon paused for a moment to think about what he was going to do next, and sighed out as he finally decided to give in to the sheer insanity of it all.

“I’m sorry. I overreacted. Let’s start afresh.” He said, clearing his throat extravagantly. “So. What’s your name, kid?”

“…Nic.” The ghost replied hesitantly.

“Nic, sure, yeah, that’s a nice name.” Jon pleasantly appeased. “So. Nic. Why are you haunting my house?”

She blinked a few times before limply shrugging. “…Dunno. I’m bored. And I think I’m supposed to, I guess.”

“That makes sense.” Jon nodded sagely. “Do you like scaring people?”

All he got was the same blink-blink-shrug routine in reply. “Dunno. I guess. I know I’m not very good at it yet.” Nic pouted sourly. “The older ghosts keep telling me to practice some more and if I don’t, some dumb priest or whatever’s gonna send me back to hell or afterlife or something, like they even know if that’s a real thing, they’ve never been. But I just wanna go outside and play with the other scary-looking kids, honestly. I only ever get to do that once a year, and I’m not even allowed to.”

Her eyes began welling up with tears and she turned away stubbornly, trying to hide them from Jon’s view.

Jon had never seen a ghost cry before, least of all a child ghost. For sure, he could definitely check that off his bucket list. Or just throw away the damn thing because for sure at this point, he’d seen it all.

He set down his coffee cup on the counter and carefully approached the quietly-trembling Nic.

“Well, Nic, if you don’t mind, let me tell you a secret.” He began. Nic still had her face buried in her hands and didn’t move even as he spoke to her, but Jon could sense that she was listening intently, so he carried on.

“Here’s the thing I’ve learned. Sometimes, you don’t have to listen to mean old adults. We’re just really cranky and tired from doing a lot of boring stuff. But you’re still a child after all, and you’ve got a lot to learn, and heck, maybe one day you’ll grow to be the best damn scarer in this cul-de-sac and scare those ancient naysayers back to their miserable graves. But hey, if you just wanna mess around, go wild. You won’t get a lot of chances to do that soon, and honestly—what have you got to lose?”

Nic finally rose from her hunched position and was seriously gazing at him now, a wistfully curious look etched on her pallid face.

“They can take you out of the fight, kid, but they can’t take the fight out of you.” Jon concluded with an assuring nod, finding even himself impressed with his whole speech. “Now go out there and trick or treat with all the other youngsters and show those creaky geezers that you’re made of more than goopy ectoplasm and boring boo noises.”

He shone his phone screen down as he fumbled with his ratty robe’s pocket, and managed to fish a piece of hard mint out of it. Secretly picking some lint off the old candy, Jon handed it to Nic.

“Here’s something for a start.” He said with a casual shrug, “I know it’s not much, but…”

But to the ghostly child, it didn’t seem to matter at all; as the bright grin that grew on her face could have lit up the entire house by itself. She excitedly swiped the candy out his hands (“Note to self,” Jon wondered absently, “ghosts can actually eat candy?”) with a shrill laugh and went in straight for an unexpected hug.

Jon shivered madly at Nic’s hold. The sensation was like getting dunked right into a vat of liquid nitrogen. But he tried his best not to show his utter discomfort as he awkwardly patted her on the back, careful not to let his hand completely pass through her.

“That’s, uh, that’s the spirit.” He stammered out with chattering teeth, chuckling at his own pun.

“Thank you, mister!” She gratefully squeaked.

“You’re welcome. Now git outta here kid, yer bothering me.” Jon replied with a playful wink.

Nic simply nodded fervently, visibly filled with a new excited energy. She waved back once again and smiled the biggest smile a ghost could possibly ever have, before finally running on ahead of Jon.

He silently watched the otherworldly child as her glowing ethereal outline passed through the kitchen walls, and faded away into nothing. At that very moment, the lights flickered back on, but Jon didn’t even notice, still deeply lost in his own thoughts.

“Trick or treat!”

A giggling chorus of childish voices outside finally startled Jon out of his trance. Picking up his cold pumpkin spice drink (which didn’t taste so strange anymore) and the half-filled candy bowl, he walked to the doorway, sighed once, smiled the biggest smile a person could possibly ever have, and opened the door.

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Elizabeth and the Zealot

His embittered smile proclaims of an innocently senile man, but his rancid breath reeks of irreparable psychological damage.

Outside, a group of children playing tag in the playground across the street, clambering across loose gravel and joyously shrieking as outstretched hands willingly grab for their shoulders, caught unaware and simply caught.

Inside his shirt, the old crucifix his long-deceased mother gave him on the brink of her deathbed, clasp half-broken and several priceless encrusted jewels missing; a toothless grin, unfaithful gaps. The tiny metal weighs heavily against his unwashed chest, the unpleasant sensation almost burning a hole through his heart. Sometimes, he mutters a memorised creed out of reflex, though no one believes in it anymore. Perhaps not even God Himself. But him?

Mindless gazes. The chipped, mouldy statue of a weeping wooden saint in one dark nook of the living room, rotting food and dusty candles its ever-resilient offering. The mirror, barely reflective, smudged with soot and cobwebs and his tuberculosis-infected saliva. The closed window beside him like a sleepy eye, tiringly wary as it occasionally betrays a resounding laugh or a glimpse of excitedly-billowing hair. He forgets so many things nowadays, but he always remembers. The children. He must watch the children.

Or else?

Or else…

Grabbing his ragged coat from the settee, the man coughed into his fist once, twice, and absently wiped the offending knuckle onto his beige pants. He headed for the door and resolutely grabbed the tarnished doorknob with a shaky hand. The hinges squeaked. A child, perhaps the acting leader of the pack, called out for everyone’s attention as he insisted to play hide and seek.

A countdown, and the palpable air of small bodies scattering. The man decided musingly, that he would humour them and join in their little pastime. He’s always been good at hiding. Though, he sighed out in quiet lamentation, with his old age and raging rheumatism, it would not really make the job any easier for him.

But only one child would win the game that night.

No one would ever find her.

He’ll make sure of that.

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Just Exist

N̵̖̻͙̓i̴̧̢͐̿͜g̷͚͙̜̓͝h̴͉͈͌t̸̟̱̾s̵̗̯͋ ̸̠͍̈́̕l̴̢̀͊i̸̛̖̳̰̾k̵̜͎̐e̷̡̦̯̔̈́ ̴̖̇̒̅t̵͎̙̞̑̄͘h̴̨̯͙̉̈́̇ě̴̢͇s̵̻̲͜͠ē̸͚,̸̛͚̜ ̵͓̞̳̇̇w̴̹͂̓̍h̶̨̪͂é̶͕͚̖̓̚r̷͇̖̉ͅe̴͈̋̌͋ ̴̨̛̳̇̾Ỉ̶̪̚͘ ̷̱̩̅͜f̴̖̾̂͆e̸͉̻͒ě̵̪̰͂͜ľ̵͖̟͖̋̏ ̸̬̽r̷̭͖̼̈́̋e̴͕̥̍a̵͈͂͆̅l̷͈̗̽̓͌.̶͓͉̽͋̀͜.̵̧̣͈͑͝.̷̻̟̏ͅ

For a moment, the catatonic world seemed like a transparent illusion to him; nothing but faceless ghosts and vague outlines of ruined buildings and veiled horizons that barely existed beyond the twilight skylines. Gossamer, that’s the pretty word for it. Everything was so exquisitely gossamer.

“Kyle…Kyle?”

From beside him, he could hear Dylan softly calling out his name, beckoning him out of his efflorescent daydream. But Kyle merely closed his eyes and sighed, leaning back and letting the warm sand slip and sift between his delicate fingers. Dylan knew better than to persist and disturb his reveries further, thankfully.

Everything seemed like miles away from Kyle; the aegan ocean, his bickering friends, the salty breeze in his lungs, all of it seemed to be gradually wandering away from him, in search of a better reality.

Tranquil tidal waves solemnly lapped against the coastline, cool and fragile, barely reaching his toes. From behind him, a warped laugh from Zach, an indignant cry of protest from Jordan, Dylan’s poor exasperated attempts at mollifying the situation—a polaroid snapshot of a fleeting argument, a fleeting memory, in a fleeting lifetime.

In a while, Kyle’s spine began to feel quite sore from sitting upright, so he shifted a bit further to shake off the discomfort and rest against Dylan’s shoulder.

But, in leaning back, he found in surprise that his friend seemed to have disappeared into thin air.

In fact, all of them had.

Kyle panicked as he flailed in an attempt to retain his balance, but it was all too late. He quickly toppled backwards and felt himself crashing fast onto…the ground?

Not this time, still.

There was nothing but empty air beneath him.

Kyle could do nothing but let the volatile wind carry him away, as the horizon tilted from his vision and blurred into a sfumatic landscape—of violent fugacious colours and relapsing imbricated patterns.

From beyond that psychedelic film reel, he swore he could faintly hear Zach’s echoing voice counting down, so dangerously close yet so far away from him. But…to what end?

Five, four, three, two, one…

Kyle finally landed on something with a soft thump. He wasn’t quite expecting a gentle landing, but he was really grateful for it.

For about five seconds.

Until he shifted his gaze to see a messy tangle of translucent plastic wires connected to his chest and snaking past his limbs, a thousand needles painfully embedded in his veins and all over his arms, and all of these damned things tapering off to poisonous IV lines and contraptions stretching far beyond the gurney’s reach.

Creeping panic descended on Kyle and quickly set in once more. His heart began to beat fast, faster, somehow even overtaking the metronomic beeps that were supposed to be in sync with it. The discordant sound raged and roared in his ears, but he couldn’t block it out. He couldn’t scream for help. He couldn’t do anything at all.

Rendered completely powerless, Kyle could only watch in silent horror as metal medicine men disguised with stained scrubs and face masks milled frantically around him, attempting to suppress his rapid tachycardia and to no avail. The anthropomorphic beings wielded sharp scalpels that drew scarlet lines across his flesh and reviving paddles that numbly jolted him, but seemed to be useless in the fight to keep his failing heart still functioning.

Right behind them, Zach stood morosely, shifting from one foot to the other unsurely as he overlooked the grotesque scene. He was wearing a tattered funeral suit and holding a wreath of shriveled black dahlias in one hand, his miserable stare full of pleading remorse.

“Stay with us now!”

That final scream wasn’t a strange android’s monotonous voice. It was familiar, pained—an aching, desperate plea. Whose voice was it?

Kyle, it seemed, didn’t have time to find out.

He felt the life drain out of him as his frail body went limp, his stuttering breaths became elusive, and his vision slowly faded out into darkness. A bored voice announced his time of death as if they were reading it off a newspaper obituary.

A droning flatline. A blinding white light. Another dreadful sensation of recklessly falling away…

“Kyle!”

He suddenly awoke to find himself floating in the middle of the ocean, frigid waves angrily cresting and swelling around him. He was still wearing his hospital gown, which was heavily soaked but did not weigh him down much, thankfully. His mouth also tasted rather salty from—was it from the ocean water or blood?

Kyle tried to take a deep breath, but his throat immediately constricted and he swallowed back a mouthful of the unknown liquid; lungs burning, coughs overtaking, still struggling to keep himself afloat despite the inevitable void that was pulling him in once again.

Or was it something else?

He felt a steady hand grasp him by the arm and carefully drag him out back onto the shore. Heaving and spluttering, Kyle weakly crawled away from the waters and peered up into the looming face of his saviour.

“Jordan, is that you?”

“Maybe. Maybe not.” His companion simply replied. “Are you okay?”

“No, no I’m fucking not!” Kyle snapped in frustration, his eyes welling up with tears and blurring his vision. Looking up once more, Jordan’s face appeared less of a human being to him and more of an abstract portrait. Spiralling, he was still spiralling…

“I don’t know why I’m being put through this and which one of these memories is reality anymore and just—I don’t wanna live in a world like this!” Kyle continued to seethe as he punched the ground until his knuckles bruised, hoping that the pain would keep him from completely losing grasp again. “Are you even real? Are any of you?! Or is this just another fake fiction? And what about me? Am I also just make-believe? I don’t know and I can’t fucking trust my head anymore. What the hell is going on here?”

Jordan, however, appeared to be mostly unfazed by his furious diatribe. “To tell you the truth, we don’t know either.” He said with an indifferent shrug.

“I figured as much.” Kyle buried his head in his hands in sullen resignation, still shuddering from the hypothermic cold overtaking his skin. “But, I swear, just tell me one thing, please…” He pled, voice barely above a whisper.

“When will this end?”

“You can’t ask too many questions here. Likewise, we can’t reveal too much. Trust me when I say that in this situation, ignorance is bliss.” Jordan’s tone unexpectedly shifted from callous to pitying, which made Kyle’s stomach turn even more in sheer dread.

“I really wish I could help you, Kyle. But I can’t. I just can’t.”

“It’s okay. I guess I’ll just have to figure this one out myself.” Kyle murmured, smiling thinly in defeat. “You’ve done enough already.”

Jordan walked away without saying another word, his solemn shadows moving away from Kyle and stretching out into black labyrinths on the sand. Overhead, a seagull sluggishly flew past and squalled, almost mournfully. A bright ray of afternoon sunlight peeking through silver cumulous clouds shone on Kyle’s face and momentarily blinded him, and he blinked once more.

“Kyle…Kyle?”

When he opened his eyes again, he was back with his three closest friends, resting on a checkered picnic blanket by the shore, back in that transparent world with its faceless ghosts and vague outlines of ruined buildings and veiled horizons—catatonic, yet somehow comforting.

“Yeah?”

“You’ve been kinda quiet for a while now.” Dylan observed thoughtfully. “You alright there? What are you thinking about?”

Behind him, another warped laugh. Another indignant protest following it. Another spell of hellish deja vu, resentfully nostalgic yet drastically different. Dylan’s concerned gaze was piercing through his confused soul, searching for some answers, meaning to understand him. But there was nothing left to be understood anymore, that much he knew. There just wasn’t.

Instead, Kyle simply shook his head in response and sighed wistfully. “No, it’s nothing. Nothing at all.”

He didn’t dare close his eyes now. Instead, he stared up into the calm indigo nothings above him and quietly wished that this time around, those hopeful words would be the only truth, even if it wasn’t going to be pretty at all. Gossamer…why is everything so exquisitely gossamer?

P l e a s e . . .

R̵̗͖̿e̴͕̞̍ą̴̘͔̽̽̉l̵̺̥͌̌ȋ̷̱͆̂t̵̢̐ŷ̴̤̋ ̷̮͌̍s̵͚̮̫͌͑̀ė̵̡̩̻t̴̫̟̔s̶̖͒̈́ ̵̪̗͆͛̊į̷̩̀͊̍n̶͉̬̆̍͠,̷͎̰͘ ̶̙͓̆̀̄a̵̠̐̇̎ṅ̸̢̜d̸̪͚̭͊ ̸̺̩̭̓͝I̶̮̺͇̾͋̕’̴̛̬̝̳̈́̅l̵̟͍̝̍̇l̷̔͗̕ͅ ̸̟̜̿̐b̵̪̑͗̒e̵̱̒̚ ̶̺̩͔͛̽͂g̸̢̘̥̈͊o̵͔͋́n̴͍̅́̈́ẽ̵̢̈́͗ ̴͎̙̍͌̽ä̵̗́͑g̷͇̥̓͌̈́ä̴͕̳̎̌i̵̟̍̌̕n̷̩̋.̶̖̣̰̈

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17 – urge

today, he woke up after four hours of a very restless sleep, his cold bones craving madly with the overpowering desire to simply cease existing.

it wasn’t his usual run-of-the-mill panic attack or anything he could handle. it felt…different, somehow. more threatening. more accessible. more tangible.

it felt strange as hell to him, and considering that his main thoughts consisted of daily morbid jokes about demise, that was already saying a lot. all he wanted to do then was to go back to sleep, but every time he shut his eyes, he could vividly envision his own warm blood liberally pouring out of his arms and spilling all over his bedsheets, dripping from the edges of his stained white pillows, and finally pooling all over the floor, where it patiently awaited for someone else to stumble and get hurt on it.

it felt real. it was almost too real. he wanted it to be real. this time, this time, this time

he was so tired and confused; still muddled by the coalescing haze of heavy medication and sleep deprivation. he didn’t know what to do anymore. he wanted to physically call out for help, to chat up a casual friend and tell them about everything that’s running on his mind, or perhaps to dial his estranged parent’s number and finally confess that he couldn’t take it anymore; anything but keeping it to himself again. this was dangerous. he’s in danger. he should save himself.

but he didn’t do any of those. he couldn’t. after all this time, he still could fucking not.

so instead, he gave way to asinine distractions and a different kind of pain to bide him by, hoping that what he was doing is going to be enough; waiting, waiting, waiting.

it’s been eight hours since he first woke up. he’s still all alone and staring dully at the darkened walls of his bedroom, and the immense hunger is carving his protesting flesh into a sculpted gauntness, but he doesn’t dare move. he barely even dares to breathe.

now, he’s calmed down considerably—but not in the way he should have been. he’s too calm. he shouldn’t be this calm.

and it scares him.

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Filed under Prose

Chase Atlantic

For you, I chased down atlantic until it was drained and empty, consuming every last drop, and still, you were thirsty.

Xans, Oxy, gram, adderall, molly, vicodin, ketamine, codeine, amphetamine, heroin, every medication legal and illegal you selfishly overdosed on like it’s the sweetest candy, drugs and money fucking everything up, riding the waves, breathing in the ozone layer and craving the vaporous atmosphere, until all you could hear are birds singing at midnight and all your blank glazed eyes could see where pink shadows coalescing in the basement and the sound of your own synesthetic undersea voice, sewn up into crude stitches before it shatters soundlessly against the restless pastel ghosts; and you find out you were uncomfortably lying on your back in the bedroom floor all along, staring at the unlit ceiling dripping what you thought were your own tears but turned out to be rainwater, dial tone screeching your garbled songs, trying to call nobody at half past four in the morning, worn-down carpet igniting the smoke alarms with your interminable vices. I could only wish to hell that I was there to put it out.

There was a certain elegant delicacy in your tactlessly constructed words, soft beatnik aspersion and aggressive indie slurs romancing and entrancing my chilled spine, humming saxophone amid the alluring amalgamation of incoherent voices intertwining together into a strange, tangible, panicking tranquil. It was an art form in itself, inimitable, one of a kind, scattered accentuation your personal intricate signature. Every careless lilt about the dangerous pseudonymous girls you slept with last night, Angie, Cassie, Roxy, and the pill-popping pharmacists you’ll hold up with a gun as soon as the sun hits tomorrow. All these unsettling courtesies set in three parts of pastel grey and explicit roses, the dalliance and the nostalgia of everything, you were speaking in a foreign language only the truly sick in the head could properly understand, and the way you talked about all the mental pressure and self-esteem and choking anxiety so goddamn beguilingly, the way you talked about addiction as if you weren’t an addiction in itself, the way you just fucking aren’t, it got me overdosing on the panoply panache and sovereign shit on your bedside, but I was so into it.

How many times have you made my pulse beat when it was no longer mine? Every single afternoon, I wake up with a stabbing jolt like a guillotine’s rope pulled tight against my throat, gasping and desiring desperately for more, more of your prevarications. It was a talk show tactic, and you were the host telling me to talk slow and tell no lies, and I was your prize trophy, spilling my secrets and picking my battles cautiously, even though I knew that you were probably lying to me all along. The world was on your shoulders, angels hissing temptations under your skin, and we danced to the beat of your laughter and talked endless miles of film spiels about friends and no friends, gravity and good vibes, church walls and dancing in the dark with the devil, indiscretions and junkie stories high on adrenaline and dopamine, driving too fast and run over by the cops and swimming and thrashing in paradise until we’re so much higher than before, and everything was rhapsodic…until you hit the trigger and got me begging on my bleeding knees again. I’m scratching my nails, shivering madly, abusing my liver, and tearing the veins off my dead-ass heart as you killed my sanity, and baby I was only 23.

I’m obsessive. You said hold your breath, you’ll save me from the fading injections and we’ll run away right here to the underside of the world, and I won’t need to miss you and your anchor tattoo. And fuck it, but I believed all your twisted promises so fervently. I didn’t expect to fall instantaneous victim for such a scrupulous stratagem, this alternative relativity of drugs and parties not my accustomed niche, fucking up this whole thing. I was married to the screaming voices that serenade me everyday and haunt me every night, and I was theirs to render completely deaf into freedom; until you came out of nowhere and divorced me from the nightmares, and you incarcerated me—you made me even worse. You’re a psychopathic fringe wearing a smile on your face and holding a knife in your hand, you’re becoming a work of art. You don’t look too sane when you act like that, and babe, you won’t live too long with a mind like that. I was always fastidious about the taste of serotonin that I place against my lips, but even though it’s fire I’m kissing now, I’ve already been burnt, I fucking have. And I love counting the cigarette stains in my fragile marred skin, sepia-shaded nicotine tattooed permanently between my fingertips, branding me with your whispered name. My parents say I’m crazy, but I only wanna be buried six feet under your bed, ready to meddle about and smoke the cancerous stars away with you anytime. They say be rational about these things, but I stopped being reasonable the moment I listened to your drugstore symphonies and drowned in your cheap perfume. This chemical destruction is beautiful. I’ll keep it up, and I’ll keep riding the waves, crashing into you once more. And why stop at all? Okay is all I know right now. Mama I’m sorry, but reality’s boring.

For you, I’ll chase down atlantic until I’m drained and empty, consuming every last drop, and still, I’ll be thirsty for your eyes.

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Filed under Prose

Fly Me To The Moon

12:35 AM. She took a long drag from her cigarette, Sinatra’s smooth timbre crooning about love in the background, as thunder rumbled heartily outside, accompanied by jagged flashes of sharp lightning that streaked the rainy midnight skies.

Sitting alone on a tall creaky barstool and leaning by the countertop almost choreographically, cigarette held quaintly on one hand and poised with a radiating air of regality, the intriguing charm and the allure of the mysterious woman had an effect that made heads turn, eyes pop, and hearts beat out of their chambers. She had a stunning slim figure, the short black silk dress that she wore flattering her form breathtakingly, fabric glistening with water droplets that shimmered under the low sodium lights. Her usually cascading honey-blonde hair, now pulled back in a tight bun, dripped water onto the dirty black-and-white checkered linoleum floor; the occasional stray strands she blew away from her porcelain-smooth face. Her delicate hands were quaint and slender, her glinting sharp nails painted a perfect cherry-red. Her flawless lissome legs were crossed quite exquisitely, bright five-inch scarlet stilettos almost—but not quite—touching the floor.

With smoky grey eyelids, thin streaks of perfectly applied eyeliner that ended in a slight curl, and pencilled eyebrows arched ever so slightly in a manner of allusion, she observed with drooped caramel-coloured eyes, scanning heedlessly in a state of curious ennui, her sophisticatedly jaded gaze passing all throughout the small room, before returning to pay attention only to her cigarette and ignoring the simmering brewed coffee that sat on the marble countertop, waiting patiently in front of her.

The old dingy 24-hour diner, as the woman noted, was virtually empty, some worn-down plush red chairs and neon decorated vinyl booths that have already lost their colour occupied by a small motley crew of shady figures, nocturnal regulars, and one or two lost souls that got caught in the unpleasant weather and found no other roof to huddle under, simply waiting for the rain to pass. A green and yellow broken fluorescent sign flickered tepidly by the glass door, inviting everyone that might pass by the diner that the said establishment was “_PEN”.

The barkeep, a hairy overweight man in his late 50’s, with thin wispy hair and several balding spots, a gruff military demeanour, and a permanently stained white apron, was sitting hunched in a dimmer corner of the place, scratching his liver spots while absentmindedly flicking through a day-old newspaper. Occasionally, he would also chance to shoot the mysterious woman quick furtive glances, then he would resound a guttural harrumph from the back of his gravelly throat and resume turning the pages, as if she wouldn’t have noticed.

She merely disregarded the barkeep’s lewd pervading eyes, very much accustomed to the uncalled-for attention, and continued occupying herself with her cigarette, taking a prolonged drag, breathing in the fumes deeply, and, upon exhaling, blowing plumes of smoke out of her puckered ruby lips, the grey tendrils curling up and creating intricate abstract patterns before dissipating into thin air. She peered at them with daydream-gloss eyes, as if lost in a train of thoughts.

“Got caught in the rain, dintcha, hun?” A voice suddenly interrupted her convoluted reverie, a silky baritone voice, almost purring and sounding ever so close to her right ear. Alarmingly close.

Startled by the intrusion, she snapped out of her slight trance and swiveled her head towards the distraction, gossamer flaxen tresses fanning softly with loose strands of hair, chin tilting up haughtily in slow motion, welcoming the intruder with her finest chatoyant glare. What greeted her sight was a lanky and weather-beaten man with a comical wolfish grin, possibly in his mid-40’s, donning a grey flannel suit that was even more so drenched than she.

Strange, she thought warily. This man snuck up on me. She hadn’t noticed that he positioned himself next to her. Matter of fact, she didn’t even hear the rusty wind chime by the door tinkle to signify his entrance. She shook her head infinitesimally to clear her mind, and glanced at the man unsurely. He looked back at her with one brow raised and a half smile, as if expecting an answer.

“You did, dintcha? Caught in the rain, I mean?” He repeated.

“And so were you, my dear gentleman.” She pointedly replied, speaking for the first time since she entered that diner, her voice husky and sweet, like soft cream dissolving in hot coffee.

He simply laughed heartily, either failing to catch, or choosing not to notice, her indignant tone. “That obvious, huh?”

Setting his wet trilby hat on the countertop, the man ran a rough hand through his slicked-back salt-and-pepper hair, drops of water mixed with greasy hair product falling from the tips, and shook himself off like a newly-bathed dog. With that, he sat next to the woman, the barstool making a groan of protest under his heavy weight, and began telling a story that frankly, no one asked to hear.

“Yeah, we got some real nasty weather outside. Been livin’ round these parts for what, a year now?, and I haven’t this dammed town pour down like this in ages. And I was just coming home from business. Usually don’t stay out this long, god knows how terrible overtime can get, but that damn Andriacchi, ballsy as ever, took long strides that w’aint even in the contract, making it take far too long to seal the deal. Had to wait the entire thing out, nearly whacked Andre, as we called him in the office, several times, but he thank his God I didn’t, and by luck of all bad lucks, damn rain had caught me before I could even attempt to catch a bus.”

The woman smiled politely at his lengthy narration but said nothing in reply, looking down and pretending to be engrossed in her cherry-red nails.

But despite her blatantly-obvious disinterest to carry on the conversation, the man still persisted. “And how about you, my dear lady? What were you doing before this raging storm came to claim the land?”

The woman sighed inwardly. This man is becoming a bit too nosy for comfort, she thought. But she didn’t wish to come off as rude, so she decided to play along.

“Oh, I was waiting for someone. Nothing much in need of attention.” She replied, waving her hand with the cigar airily, fingers passing through silver smoke, her sultry voice slightly accentuated now. “My, I don’t have to tell the whole thing, do I?” She asked, placing a hand softly on her bosom and feigning slight horror at the discourse.

The man laughed his booming laugh once more, clearly amused with her little playact. “Not if you don’t want to, of course.”

The barkeep, who had been sneakily eavesdropping in their near one-sided conversation for a while now, set down his dogeared newspaper and decided to intervene. He set a meaty hand down forcefully on the countertop, rattling the cups and coasters placed on top of it, and brashly interrupted their chat. “Ey, look ‘ere man. Ye come ‘ere lookin’ fer pur’ty ladies te bother er ye gon’ order sometin’? If ya ain’t, then imma ‘ave ‘te kick ye out. I needa make ‘e livin’ here, an’ not simpl’y serve ‘es people’s glor’fied ‘mbrellas.”

The man raised his hands up in a sign of good faith and apologised in surrender. “Oh, I’m so sorry, my good man. I meant no harm, after all. I suppose I’ll have a cup of Joe, make that black. And nothing else at the moment, thanks very much.”

The disgruntled barkeep grumbled an undecipherable snarky retort in annoyance, mumbling profanities all the while, but grabbed a dusty chipped cup off the shelf and poured man some stale coffee anyways. Taking a brown-tinted towel that was hanging limply from his hulking shoulder, he started wiping the puddles of water off the countertop, very much tempted to knock off the man’s sodding hat onto the floor in the process, but he didn’t.

After pausing shortly to take a careful sip at the scalding black liquid, the man piped up once again, restarting his and the woman’s hanging small talk. “So…who’s this guy you’re waiting for? Someone special?” He smirked cheekily, as if thinking of insalubrious entendres, and teasingly suggested with a playful glint in his cold sapphire eyes, “Ah, your lover, perhaps?”

The woman nearly choked on the cigarette smoke at his brash rhetoric, but she managed to return to her insouciant composure. Exhaling trails of steam, she scornfully shook her head, perhaps a little too defensive in her denial, and blots of water flicked from her hair and dotted the recently-wiped countertop. The barkeep snorted disdainfully at this and roughly wiped off the quivering drams with a flick of the wrist, making his action prominent and loud and accompanied by more cussing under the breath and obnoxious muttering.

The woman ignored the irked barkeep and finally replied, “Oh no, no. Heavens, no. Nothing of that sort, thanks very much. Just an old relative who came to town, and I simply wanted to say hi. He wasn’t all too pleased with the prospect of seeing me though, and after a bit of bickering between us about petty things, we got into some exaggerated quarrel and a disagreement, and he hurried away to god knows where, leaving me to catch pneumonia in the rain.”

She said those last words lightly in jest, yet still with noticeable spite and suggestive bitter undertones between her gritted teeth.

Bindle stiff didn’t even give you a ride home. Pigheaded uncultured prick.” The man only replied, his tone surprisingly dark now, his reddened hands slowly clenching tightly, the initial cheery ebullience in his personality gone and replaced with a furious seething vendetta. “What gives him the nerve to be abandoning such a beautiful lady such as you to get caught in such a harsh rain? If I ever see that guy’s face here, hell, he better run for his life ‘fore I go give him a good taste of this.” And he punctuated his sentence with a strained fist slammed loudly on the counter.

The plangent bang of his terse hand, accompanied by the clangorous rattling of their disturbed coffee cups, rang clear and sharp throughout the small space of the diner, throwing the midnight’s peace off its momentum, making everyone stop with their static chatter and grow suddenly quiet.

“Oi! Watch ‘de mahog’ny!” The barkeep scowled, waving the besmirched towel at the man threateningly. “Unless ye plan ‘te pay fer it, dun’ break it, ye snot-faced bast’erd.″ Some off-put onlookers glared at the man disdainfully and huffed rather condescendingly before going back to their meals and drinks.

The woman snuffed out her cigarette, faint traces of ashes adhering to her exquisite fingertips, and stared at the angry man almost frightfully. “Oh, dear me. I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m quite fine, really.” She said softly, her sultry voice dropping an octave, barely above an audible whisper.

The sound of her hushed tone immediately relaxed the man’s rage and pounding heart, and his sudden burst of anger died down. Removing his agitated fist from the countertop, he shot a sincere apologetic glance at the glaring barkeep, who was wiping some crystal glasses and muttering spitefully about the man (“Bad enuf’ ye’ swagger ‘ere an’ only order coffe’, naw, but ye gotta break sumthin’ too…”), before turning to look at the woman.

″I guess I should explain.″ The man said in an equally quiet voice. He sighed heavily, cleared his throat, and began to relay another tale again. And this time around, she decided to listen.

“I didn’t mean to—I, um, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have lost control. It’s just, my wife, she, uh, she recently…um, how’d you say this politely…right, she just recently passed away. And I was a wild man back then, I’d left her alone until the dawn breaks, but she’d keep waiting for me, waiting while I went on drinkin’ and having the time of my life with my buddies and messing around with chicks and all that. She was persistent, Katherine was. Waiting, waiting outside, peerin’ and lookin’ and starin’ out the windows hopefully to see me return, until one day, well, hah, one day, she were home alone, and some damn burglars burst in. Those thieving sons of bitches took everything. Even her life. And the bastards didn’t even leave her untouched.”

The man swallowed hard at the final word, his steady booming voice finally cracking and choking him up. The dark implications quickly dawned on the woman, the staggering impact of his story rendering her dumbfounded for once. He merely looked down at his coffee in shame, trying to hide his pained tears unsuccessfully, as she stared at him in surprise upon the revelation, her scarlet mouth slightly gaped, her almond-shaped eyes now rounder than an orange.

“And at the very end of it all, I was the one that was left waitin’.” He scoffed hollowly, sneering at his own morbid joke. “Karma, huh.”

“But it wasn’t…it wasn’t your fault.” The shocked woman tried vainly to console him, but he only buried his etched stone face deeper in the shadows and shook his head stubbornly, refusing to look at the woman’s glistening umber eyes.

“No. No matter how hard you try’n to spin it, it’s still all my fault, miss. I left her alone. I let her die. I let her wait forever. I let her be desecrated and killed by some filthy ten-cent thieves.”

The woman fell silent as he recovered from his despair and slowly straightened up, looking outside the windows, into the clashing darkness and water of the distant fallen night, remorseful regret replaced with newfound determination. “And now I swore to myself that I would protect any lady that I could, no matter what it takes. And I ain’t leaving no one waitin’ anymore.”

The woman finally managed to purse her hanging mouth closed, and she bit on her lower lip as she gazed at him with pitying yet understanding eyes. “That’s…tragic. It’s not much, but I’m very touched. Really, I am. I’m very sorry for your loss.” She didn’t know what quite to do, so she reached out a hesitant porcelain hand and patted his back comfortingly.

“I’m afraid to say though, that you can’t protect me anymore. It’s quite a bit too late for that, now. And you can’t be everyone’s avenging angel, you know. But that’s okay. You’re a noble man with a noble cause, that’s for sure.” She sincerely assured, then paused to consider. “If not coming off as a little nosy at times, that is.″

The man burst into a warm chuckle at her little chide, and the woman, glad to have lightened his spirits, smiled brightly in return, her ruby lips splitting open, showing him her perfect row of gleaming white teeth, smoky eyelined lids softly winking in assurance.

With that, the high-strung tension that initially enveloped the atmosphere was instantly broken, the casual background ambiance of the diner quickly returning again, with the pattering rain, amicably chattering costumers, and the hissing sizzle of the greasy grill accompanied by the starting drumbeats of Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon.

“Oh, I absolutely adore this song.” The woman gushed sultrily in awe, as she closed her eyes and started humming and swaying her head along to the jazzy tune, her comely countenance wistful as she listened intently, lost in the haze of the blaring trumpet notes.

The man smirked in affirmation. “I agree. Lemme tell you something, this Frank guy, everyone thought he wasn’t gonna be nothing, but now he definitely got his steppin’ stones on stardom out there. And he deserves it too, oh yes. Ol’ blue eyes’ voice is simply absolutely great, and what’s even better is that all the ladies love him.″ He stopped his tirade momentarily, derailed by an amusing thought. ″Y’know, tell you what, I could actually sing too.”

The woman only looked at him with coalescing disbelief and challenging eyes, a hint of a smile playing on her carmine lips. Without a moment’s hesitation, the man stood up and cleared his throat grandiosely to get the small crowd’s attention. Heads turned and watched as modulated his voice in faux preparation, placed his soaked trilby hat back on his head and tipped it angularly for an added jaunt and flair, and he gently took her elegant hands in his, suave as he gazed at her meaningfully and winked. The flustered woman couldn’t help but blush, her usually pale cheeks now a pleasant shade of tickled pink.

And with that buildup, the man opened his mouth and finally began to sing along.

“Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars…let me see what spring is like, on Jupiter and Mars…in other words, hold my hand…in other words, baby, kiss me…”

And indeed the man sang. Horribly off-key. Trying absurdly hard to imitate Sinatra’s sonorous smooth melodies, but utterly failing to do so, and instead ending up wailing like an insufferable beached whale, and once again causing a slight disturbance among the diner, not for the first and the last time in that rainy night.

The quick-tempered barkeep, vexingly exasperated and finally done in with the man’s bamboozling antics, heaved the dirty towel directly at the man’s face and, shaking a threatening meaty fist, hissed indignantly at him to “Pipe ‘de ‘ell down, will ya?!”. Several straying onlookers laughed under their breaths at the comical scene, welcome at the break from monotony, and more amused than annoyed.

The woman could only giggle at the man’s poor attempts to sing, and she laughed even harder at his slapstick attempts at removing the disgusting towel from his face. She pulled her hand away from his grasp to nudge him scoldingly as he stumbled backwards and nearly tripped, still partially blinded by the foul-smelling cloth.

“It was absolutely perfect until you opened your mouth. How could you do such a terrible thing to such a good song?” She chastised playfully, tutting disappointedly and wagging one painted finger at the man.

He joined in with her mirth and let out a small cheer as he finally managed to remove the antagonising towel from his visage, the woman clapping jestingly at his mini success. He tossed it away onto the counter, accepted her offer of a crumpled tissue, and wiped his face thoroughly with it, before returning to his seat and finally settling down. “Hey, I did say I could sing. I didn’t say could sing great.” He quipped.

With nothing else left to say, and lulled by the song’s instrumental interlude, they sat taciturn for several minutes, letting the song continue to play in peace, her eyes closed in contemplation and tapping her long cherry nails on the counter, him whistling along to the tune merrily as he drained his coffee cup to the very last drop and asked for a refill from the disgruntled barkeep. Finally, the woman decided to break the comfortable silence, and grazed the man on the shoulder.

“Here. Keep this for me, would you?” She requested, removing a simple golden ring from her hand and dropping it on his palm. “It was my grandma’s. I inherited it from her, and I was very dear with her, so this quite special to me. But well…call me absolutely mad for giving it away so easily, and to a complete stranger too, but somehow…I just really want you to have it.”

The man gaped blankly at the ring flashing back at him on his palm, unable to digest the news. “But…I can’t…I can’t accept this. What—what’s it for?” He blanched, trying to return the ring to her. She simply waved away his futile endeavour and took his calloused hand with the ring, balling it into a tight fist and patting it in finality.

“Oh no, don’t worry too much about it. I have no more use for this ring, honestly. And it’s highly possible that we never cross paths again, so I give to you as a present, as a memento, from the girl that you saved, to my avenging angel.” She said with a curious wink of her mocha eye. “Just trust me on this one, okay?”

Before the confused man could muster out a reply of thanks, the door of the diner suddenly opened with a prominent tinkling sound, interrupting their conversation.

Both heads turned to look as a stern-looking elderly man wearing a brown suit stepped in, tossing his soaked tweed jacket on the coat rack carelessly and placing his wet umbrella by the side of the doorway. His brown oak walking cane, lined with a streak of affluent gold at the side, made a rough tap-tap-tap sound as he walked briskly, impatiently making his way towards a nearby formica table, as if even the tiniest milliseconds of time was something he did not wish to waste.

But as soon as the old man spotted the woman staring at him very intently, he immediately stopped walking, his black beady eyes widening and threatening to pop out of their sockets, his wrinkled face turning deathly white, his austere personality morphing and revealing his vulnerability, as if he had seen a ghost.

The man noticed his startling expression in contrast the woman’s equally-terrified one, and his breath hitched at his windpipe at the realisation. He cleared his throat quietly, as if wishing to dislodge the growing hard lump in his throat, and leaned in closer to the riveted woman.

“…Is that him? The man who stood you up?” He asked cautiously, his voice low and urgent. The woman could only nod stiffly in reply, skin quivering faintly as her worried eyes were still locked upon the old man’s glare.

The old man’s cane made a startling clattering noise as it fell on the floor, resonating hollowly and juddering every patron’s soul. This sound seemed to give the old man a start, as he mustered up enough courage—or foolishness—to make use of his voice. “You…! But-but how could this possibly be—?!” The old man stuttered out. He pointed an accusing tremulous finger at the woman. “You’re supposed to be dead!”

The barkeep, whose mind was on automatic and had been rather engrossed in carrying on with his torpid tasks, finally took notice of the disturbance and stopped rearranging the newly-washed plates. He glowered in irritation at the old man. “Wossa big idea’r, eh?!” He snapped angrily. “Get de’ ‘ell outta ‘ere an’ bother some’un else, ya nasty geezer!”

Ignoring the frazzled barkeep’s immediate demands, the old man hastily reached for his back pocket, pulled out a .45 calibre gun, and pointed it directly towards the woman, trembling and continuously babbling some undecipherable chants, occasionally mumbling a more coherent death threat like “Dead!!! The dead should stay dead…” in a fit of insanity.

The usually-tough barkeep stepped back in alarming surprise at the procurement of the weapon, accidentally dropping a newly-washed plate, which shattered loudly on the linoleum floor.

The sound jolted the entire diner into action. Commotion and panic immediately arose. A morbidly obese woman wearing fake jewelry pearls clutched her purse and shrieked in fear. A worn-looking businessman snatched his briefcase from the floor and held it defensively. Someone, in their haste to try escaping from the madman, accidentally bumped into the still-playing jukebox, ceasing Sinatra’s croons at “Fill my heart with—”.

As the delirious shivering old man cocked the gun and fumbled with one unsteady hand to clutch the trigger, something in the man’s mind instantly snapped, and he stood up and fearlessly faced the armed old man with his chest puffed out, filled with a mélange of sheer bravado and unadulterated rage.

“Dead?! I’ll show you dead, you disgusting old creep!” He yelled out boldly, advancing aggressively towards the old man. With a strength he didn’t know he possessed, the man harshly pushed the gun’s muzzle away from his face, which, fortunately, was quite easy enough, for the old man was so severely shaken that he had trouble gripping it tightly. The man then pulled for the gun and yanked it out of the old man’s hands, dropped it cautiously on the floor, and kicked it away. He grabbed the insensible old man by his collar forcefully, lifted him a couple inches off the ground with one hand, and with a final burst of power, knocked him down to the ground with one swift powerful punch straight to the jaw using the other.

The old man lay there unconscious, and didn’t stir for quite some time.

The man, rubbing his sore knuckles gingerly, turned away from the knocked-out fellow and saw that the woman was already gone. Hearing the backdoor slam open, he impulsively grabbed at his pocket and threw a couple dimes at the countertop, grabbed for his still heavily-soaked tan trenchcoat—which made the coat rack fall loudly and spill its contents, and ran towards the sound to find her, ignoring the other fleeing customers’ frantic discordant shouts and pushing past the shocked barkeep, who was reaching with a visible shaky hand for the telephone to call the police.

His boiling blood was rushing wildly, his panicked heart was pounding deafeningly in his ears, his coursing adrenaline working its way to his body and legs as he ran against the frigid hurricane winds and the stinging blades of the raindrops, resolutely fighting against the chasm of the hysterical storm. He wanted to shout out to her, to call out her name, but much to his deep chagrin, he realised that he never asked her for it, nor was it given to him.

“Where are you?!” He bellowed in a fit of desperation, rain blurring and impairing his vision and seeing only occasional flashes and glimpses of the woman’s black dress, or her blonde hair, or her red shoes, teasing him, tossing him, taunting him to deliria, as he twisted left and right, darted down the abandoned streets, and crossed through dirty suspicious alleyways relentlessly.

After what seemed like hours of chasing mere spectres and thin air, the man finally came to a literal screeching stop, nearly slamming headfirst upon a tall graffiti-infested wall, and found himself standing in front of a dead end, quite literally. Mottled hairy rats scuttled about the blind alley harriedly, bits of trash and dust blew everywhere as they were caught in precipitous winds and torrents of flooding water alike, and a conglomeration of filthy skittering cockroaches were congregating by a soggy pizza box.

Panting, frustrated, drenched, worn-out, and severely tired, the man can only groan disappointedly in defeat, carelessly leaning his hand against the grimy wall to catch his breath and rest. But in doing so, he accidentally kicked aside a pile of waterlogged newspapers, and something that was just a little harder than paper.

Looking down at his ruined muddy pennyloafers, he saw shreds of torn paper, an empty plastic bag from a local grocery store…and a withering slender hand with a pale circular ring mark on one finger, long nails painted a perfect cherry-red, and fingers clutching a snuffed-out cigarette, sticking gracelessly out of yesterday’s headlines.

He threw his head back and screamed in consternation. The rats squealed. The cockroaches scattered. Thunder boomed angrily overhead. Shrill police sirens abruptly pierced through the soft pattering of the dripping water, as the dying rain slowly came to a tranquil stop, leaving only the echoing howls of both man and shearing wind.

~*~

And indeed, the dead woman who had been found under day-old headlines had become the new headline for the newspapers the very next day. WOMAN FOUND MURDERED IN AN ALLEYWAY, they all announced in bold and bright red uppercase letters, baiting for curious attention from the rushing passersby, tabloids and reliable sources alike propped up on newsstands and magazine stalls on every busy street that morning.

Supplying the specifics, the tawdry detail for detail articles mentioned that the victim’s name was Christine Emica Evans, 30 years old, an out-of-work actress from lower downtown. She was brutally raped before being finally murdered by her own uncle from her father’s side, Thomas Elcott. Elcott, 67 years old, was a ruthless and renowned businessman, infamous around the city and, according to several unaccounted rumours, a suspected honorary member of the Mafia. The dry monotone narration included snippets of quotes from the police, including one that stated the assumed reason for the crime was that Christine’s deceased father supposedly owed Thomas a huge sum of debt and she was not able to pay it under the given deadline, and they failed to talk it out and settle on a peaceful negotiation, instead getting on each others’ nerves and having a fallout.

Forensics estimated that she had been dead for about five hours before she was found. She was instantly killed by a bullet that entered her frontal cranium, passed through her brain, and exited the back of her head, at about 11:30 PM on Sunday. The suspect was found also dead inside Good Joe’s Diner in 6th Avenue, leaning against a wall, with a broken jaw, a .45 gun clutched limply in his left hand, and a bullet in his head. Several reliable witnesses attested that it was suicide, carried out by Thomas in a fit of madness after rousing into consciousness, only several moments after the anonymous man who broke his jaw fled from the scene.

Detectives interviewed all the scant customers and the shaken barkeep thoroughly. The barkeep, who was brought in for further questioning, recalled an unknown grey-suited man coming inside for some coffee, slamming his fist on his “preshu’s mahog’ny an’ marble count’er”, and singing rather horribly. He also gave the whole story of the incident, starting with Thomas entering the premises, pulling out a gun, the anonymous man punching Thomas in the face, Thomas falling unconscious, and the man paying for his drink before running away. He also conjured up some other distorted hazy recollections of “sumthin’ ’bout ‘e cigarette ‘er ‘e black dress, I t’ink, I ain’t sher”, and nothing more.

~*~

6:00 AM. A lone unnoticed figure was lingering around the recently-discovered crime scene, hunched behind a corner, a burning cigarette dangling loosely from the side of his cracked lips, peeking out by the side of the wall occasionally.

He silently watched and smoked from afar as the police worked at the cul-de-sac, taking notes, searching for further evidence, poking and prodding and taking photos of Christine’s cold lifeless body before carrying her away in a gurney unceremoniously. After several minutes of staring blankly, he finally managed to tear his eyes away from the grotesque scene, and, blowing smoke from out his nostrils, gazed down melancholically at the muddy tarnished golden ring that he was clutching in his hand.

Words failed to find themselves in his tongue, and he stood there silently, contemplating, assessing the ring with utmost concentration like a pawnbroker, until he managed to conjure up what he thought was a decent farewell.

“Well, I may not have saved your life…but I sure damn well avenged you. I reckon that’s enough.”

“Don’t you come waitin’ for me now.” He said, and with those final parting words, he dropped the cigarette and stepped on it, stuffed the ring carefully into his trenchcoat pocket, tipped back his trilby hat ever so slightly, and slowly walked onto the taut horizon’s languidly rising sunlight, peeking out from under the gloom, the faint intrusive police lights dissipating into the cool wind, a faint giggling voice—husky and sweet like soft cream dissolving in hot coffee—echoing at the back of his mind, and his quiet voice mournfully whistling out the last coda of Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon.

“In other words, please be true—In other words…I love you.”

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Operating Room #66

A celebrated man amongst the gurneys
They can fix me proper with a bit of luck
The doctors and the nurses, they adore me so
Which is really quite alarming
‘Cause I’m such an awful fuck…

~*~

His ineptitude was not a gaffe to be forgiven easily. The masked surgeons and the bloodied nurses were merciless and beleaguering; they turned on the blinding light of the dysfunctional surgical lamp, its constantly flickering bulbs enough to induce a bad weather migraine and an epilepsy episode, and shone it onto their latest test subject’s (although the hospital employees never say it aloud, it’s simply an unspoken given, and thus they usually refer to them as a very sugarcoated ”patient”) visage, contorted into a subdued emptiness. Without any further ado about nothing, they began, rather unceremoniously, to proceed with the operation (or ”experimental treatment”, if one wished to continue to be politically correct, however pointless it may be at such a situation), lashing at the hollowly-staring patient with rusty scalpels, shoving non-disinfected blunt hypodermic needles that pricked his rubbery pockmarked skin, siphoning various fluids and effluvium off his rapidly shriveling body, lathering liberal amounts of unnamed substances that had varying reactions, more positive than negative, severing veins, limbs, organs, muscle, and epedermis, tapering lines of intravenous antibiotics, saline, venomous liquids, and various medicines and panacea that should never be ingested, and hacking away at his dismembered body, which already looked like a twisted asylum head case’s demented jigsaw puzzle to begin with.

All the while, a nameless tall silhouette leered over the discordant operation, supervising and watching taciturn by an elevated lightless corner, obscured rather fitfully by the pure vantablack shadows which seemed to conglomerate around it like clinging needy pets, overlooking everything in smug amusement like some form of a fallen god figure in his throne, not quite palpable, not quite corporeal. The harassed and scurrying employees were his to denounce, condemn, and order around, and though the hospital employees’ actions were that of someone who pretended that the ever-surveillant silhouette did not, in fact, exist, they still kept their distance safe and respectful. Since they were all also terribly frightened of the heavy comeuppance that may be penalised to them if they come off as impertinent and failed to give devotion to their superiors, yet they dared not risk anything else extravagant, their heads merely jerk into a twitchy bow, mayhap a sign of a subconscious nervous tic or that of involuntary worship, whenever they happen to face that specific elevated lightless corner.

Halfway through sewing both their guinea pig’s (the more they worked, the more unkindly they become, the final stage of derogatory term being bag of bones, left to the rubbish bins) lungs and left kidney together with used fishing strings (solely for experimental purposes only, the procedure did absolutely nothing for benefit nor treatment), the patient, who was originally lethargic and apathetic and remained so the entire time, did the strangest thing, out of the blue. It was so abrupt and sudden, a change in the circadian rhythm, a derailment of the train tracks, a break from the usual cycle, so much so that unsureness and hesitation immediately enveloped the room like a milky opalescent fog. The patient’s action was nothing like the professional surgeons nor constrained nurses, and not even the omniscient godlike silhouette, had ever seen before. Sensing that he had caught everyone’s attention, the patient, making motions for the first time since the start of the operation, blinked both swollen eyelids gingerly (one socket was missing an eyeball), and tilted its barely attached head slowly, in a pompously suspenseful manner, to show them a fuller glimpse what his disfigured face was doing.

The effect was instantaneous and devastating. It caused bloodshot eyes to widen momentarily, jostled volatile gasps of shock from the disturbed nurses, and made everyone react in some way or manner. Some could only stare in horror, frozen to the spot and absentmindedly muttering undecipherable incantations, others swayed slightly as if shot with tranquilliser, gripping their knuckles white against nearby solid surfaces to steady themselves, and one even backed up against the wall and slid downwards into a faint, collapsing on the grimy linoleum floor, next to where the patient’s missing eyeball apparently rolled onto. It was so appalling that it even made the usually-unperturbed tall silhouette flinch, as if touched by the most potent muriatic acid (which, as a matter of fact they did have, but in storage), and instantly it recoiled and drew away from the scene of the crime, a tortured sibilant hiss accidentally escaping through its grimy gritted teeth as it did so.

The unknown silhouette’s poisonous reaction was the final breaking point. For a singular moment, the place grew was mollified, growing uncomfortably quiet. Everyone was petrified in an almost tableaux position, nasty accusing looks and roving uneasy glares tossed around with bated breaths, as if taunting each other to act. The silhouette, appeasing of his sagacious error, merely stood guard and watched its subordinates to see how they would react, kicking aside a tendrilled shadow that wrapped itself affectionately around its leg. An eternity and an aeon passed. When no one twitched even a muscle, it seemed as if everyone was finally calmed into a gregarious rationality. But then, as the scene was only just beginning to thaw, the person who fainted also thawed with them. She stirred slightly, opened her eyes groggily to see a severed, mangled one gazing back at her, and opened her mouth to scream.

The fragile glass of silence shattered. The operating room was thrown into pandemonium in a split-second, cacophony of high-pitched shrieks amongst disgusting sounds of ripping fabric, perhaps of the soiled unreplaced bandages or the thin discoloured gurney itself, harried feet stampeding to the nearest emergency exit, sickening crunches of fractured fingers and broken bones as brogues and pennyloafers trampled carelessly on those who got caught in their own feet and tripped, quailing whimpers and quivering murmurs of those who were unlucky enough to be casualties and collateral damage (one of whom stepped on the continuously troublesome eyeball and slipped on it with an unpleasant squelch and a deadened thud), as the susurrus disembodied voice overpoweringly rose above it all, inhuman dissemination getting increasingly stentorian and piercing through eardrums, its sound like coalescing amalgam of tireless radio static, screeching microphone feedback, and unclipped fingernails dragged down a chalkboard, snarling at everyone to return to composure and finish the procedure.

But no one listened. No one obeyed. No one stopped to care. Not even the catatonic patient. He simply laid there, supine, bemused, watching the madness with his remaining glossed-over eye, his remaining members, positioned like a gruesome present, on a wicker basket dripping with glimmering scarlet blood, his mangled body still strapped with chafed leather belts to the bare freezing metal bedframe, not showing any acknowledgement of seeing the fiasco, not attempting to release himself from the constraints, not changing nor moving all the chaos. He just continued to smile.

~*~

I gave you blood, blood
Gallons of the stuff
I gave you all that you can drink
And it will never be enough
I gave you blood, blood, blood..
I’m the kind of human wreckage that you love!

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