Posts Tagged ‘fiction

21
Nov
19

Snippet: Chrysanthemum Graves

Figured it might be nice to not do something involving the spook, and instead do the beginning. Enjoy.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

“What the fuck are you doing? Where the hell are your shoes?”
The voice came from somewhere further inside the house, the heavy walls and their tapestries deadening it, killing any echoes and making it hard to tell where it had come from. Still, Danny knew it well enough. Calm, despite the words it chose. Deep, rumbling like a subterranean landslide. Faint traces of an accent, but one that was almost impossible to define.

“Taking care of the floor, man! Isn’t that some shit you’re into? Don’t wanna track all over the place.”

Danny’s voice was shrill, nasal, almost the human equivalent of nails on chalkboard. He hated the sound of it himself, and would complain about it to anyone who even vaguely touched the subject, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. Puberty and its mysterious ways had been unkind to him in that regard.

The owner of the other voice had appeared at the end of the hall leading from the entryway. Contrary to his irritation at Danny’s lack of footwear, he was barefoot. A pair of gray sweats were the only clothing he wore. His chest was bare, shiny with sweat. Danny assumed the other man had been in the middle of one of his routines when he’d heard the bell.

“I like to keep my floor clean, yeah. That’s why I don’t want your nasty feet dragging on it. I mean, couldn’t you at least wear some socks? Go put your shoes back on. Then meet me in the kitchen.”

The man turned to his left, slipping through a beaded curtain that blended so well into the wall that it would have been invisible if you didn’t know to look for it. He was silent as he did so, and despite the rattling Danny knew he’d provoke by walking through it, the beads barely moved, as though they refused to defy the master of the house.

“Uh… right. Whatever you say, Ichi.”

His voice shook more than usual, and Danny cursed himself for it. Ichiro had never done anything to make him feel the pulse of fear that always quaked through him in the other man’s presence. Nothing to him, anyway. But Danny still always had to wonder if one day that would change.

He slunk back up the two short steps that separated the main room from the entrance, slipping his feet into the battered sneakers that had last been replaced sometime during Obama’s first term, before moving to follow Ichiro through the curtain.

He slipped past the beads, suppressing a shiver as they slid over his shoulders in a way that made him think of creatures raking their nails against his body in an attempt to snare him. Ichi’s kitchen was clean, though not in the way Danny would have preferred.

A clean kitchen, to Danny, spoke of use and care. Nicks in the counter, a permanent stain under the coffee pot that was so old and ingrained that it was seared into the fabric of the table but shone with polish anyway. Curtains that had faded a little, that maybe had a blot of pie filling at the edge.

Ichi’s kitchen was clean the way a sterile room was clean. Gleaming white tile, black and chrome appliances that looked like they had just come from the showroom floor minutes before, perfectly clear windows without adornment, pots, pans, and cutlery polished to a mirror sheen and arranged on metal runners more suited for display than usage. To Danny, it looked like a surgical ward, and part of him wondered if it had ever been used that way. It wouldn’t have surprised him.

Ichi was sitting at the table in the middle of the room, an oak affair on iron legs that would have looked more at home in a boardroom than a kitchen. Arrayed at five points were short stools of black steel with glass seats. Not comfortable looking in the least, but Danny was thankful he wouldn’t be sitting cross-legged on the floor. Ichi was prone to making him do that, and it always made Danny’s knees ache.

One of Ichi’s brows rose, as his hand gestured to one of the stools.

“Sit. Stop staring. I pay you for information, not to mess up my floors and admire my decor.”

Danny’s head bobbed with enthusiasm, and he slid across the floor putting as little weight into his steps as possible. He made it to the stool without incident, but pulling it out produced an unpleasant shriek of metal on tile, and as he dropped into the seat he saw the black scuff mark the chair leg had left.

Ichi’s expression was unchanged, but Danny thought he could smell the other man’s irritation. He gave a pained smile, shrugged, and sat down.

“Yeah. You do. S’why I’m here. Information.”

Ichi continued to glare, eyes boring into Danny. Danny hated it when Ichi did that; sometimes it felt like the man was sifting through his guts and brain simultaneously, digging up every piece of dirt he could. When Ichi looked at him like that, Danny wondered why the man needed people to bring him information. All he really needed to do was stare someone down, and if he couldn’t just read their mind, even some of the toughies on the Southside would start spewing whatever info Ichi wanted.

“Um. Yeah. You told me to keep an eye out for anybody who’s real particular about their collars, doesn’t ditch their shirts or coats even when it’s boiling outside, don’t talk much. Especially if they’re hanging around the kid, right?”

Ichi said nothing. Danny wasn’t surprised. He cleared his throat before continuing.
“Well, there’s a couple that just got into town. Haven’t seen ’em myself yet, but one of them was asking around for the kid, and the other’s been asking around for someone who sounds a lot like you. Mentioned your back and everything.”

The other man’s hands clenched, producing a click as the thick silver ring on his right index finger rapped against the table. Danny jumped at the sound. Ichi’s teeth shone through his lips in a grimace.

“So they’re here. Finally.”

His voice was a growl, lacking in human inflection. Danny found it most interesting, as he’d expected Ichi to at least be surprised. Or angry. Or anything. Snarling resignation hadn’t been the response he thought he’d get.

“Um, yeah. Sounds like it, boss. I’ve got a couple guys sniffing them out, checking their credentials. They’ll call me as soon as they know more, and I’ll call you right after, but I figured you’d wanna know ASAP.”

“For once, you’re correct.”

Ichi steepled his fingers, bowing his head into them for a moment and closing his eyes. If he hadn’t seen the behavior before, Danny might have thought Ichi had slipped into a narcoleptic fit or something. He knew the other man was just thinking, though, and thinking hard. Danny remained quiet, giving Ichi time to muddle through whatever was going on inside his skull.

“Daniel.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where is Raioh?”

“The kid? Last I saw him, he was on the schoolyard, playing baseball or something. Mark’s got an eye on him, will pick him up after school. You told me not to mess up his life too bad unless we have to. Since they haven’t found him yet, figured we didn’t have to. Yet.”

Ichi nodded, keeping his head behind his hands.

“Correct. So long as they don’t go near the school, he stays. Have Mark take him somewhere else. A vacation. You do not know where, I do not know where, no one knows where. Mark and Raioh only. Understood?”

“Yeah,” Danny said. He’d learned there was no such thing as a disagreeable order a long time ago. What Ichi said was how it went down, and asking questions was liable to become more trouble than it was worth.

“Good.”

Despite the word, very little of Ichi’s expression seemed to imply anything good about the situation. He folded his hands on the table, staring at the reflection of his own fingers in the mirror sheen for a long moment, then spoke again.

“You say they are asking about me. Or someone a lot like me, anyway. What, specifically, have they asked.”

Danny coughed into his hand, looking away. Bringing up this subject was liable to get Ichiro ansty, possibly even angry, and Danny preferred not to talk about it. But when your boss’s back is covered in an exceptionally elaborate tattoo that quite a few of the less-than-savory folks in the neighborhood are aware of, it tends to be a central point of identity.

“Well, they were… uh… asking about a guy with a tattoo.”

Ichi’s face remained stony, eyes unblinking. Danny took it as a cue to keep talking.

“Said they’re looking for a man with a big flower on his back. A chrysanthemum. Stylized. Heavy ink.”

Ichi nodded.

“Unfortunate. But not entirely unexpected. What else?”

Danny gulped. He wasn’t looking forward to the next detail.

“They also mentioned that the flower might be covered up or overlaid with a dragon or a snake that wraps around the guy’s shoulders.”

He glanced down into his lap, not daring to meet Ichi’s gaze after that. The other man had done some touch up work on the elaborate tattoo once he had settled here, and supposedly only a handful of people were aware of the changes. Even if someone had come looking for him, the change should have thrown them off, at least for a time. But if these goons were asking about the serpent as well as the flower, that meant they knew something they shouldn’t… and Danny could be held responsible.

Ichi surprised him, however. There was no anger, no accusations. Just a slow nod.

“I see.”

Ichiro took a deep breath, eyes closed, as though centering himself. Danny took the opportunity to raise his eyes again, watching the other man carefully. Several seconds passed with neither moving before Ichi spoke again.

“It will be fine. Bring them to me. Make no threats. Make no promises. Find them, and inform them that I wish to speak to them. Give them my name.”

Ichi’s eyes opened, locking on Danny’s and seeming to spark with a fervor and passion Danny rarely saw coming from the man.

“But do so only after Raioh has been escorted away.”

Danny nodded.

“Uh, sure. Yeah, I can do that. But…”

He trailed off, throat running dry.

“But what?”

Danny coughed again, then bit the tip of his tongue to force some spit through his mouth.

“Is that the best idea? I mean… what if they’re here to cause trouble?”

Ichi laughed, a low rumble like the idle of a diesel truck, but Danny didn’t think there was any actual amusement in it.

“And if they are? They know who they are looking for, and know enough to be aware of things that have changed since the last time their organization saw me. Better to face the tiger head on than hide and have it strike you in the back. Besides… they may only be looking to curry favor with Oyabun Kenose. They will not receive such favors, but let them try, regardless.”

Ichi pushed up off the stool.

“You know what you are to do. Now do it.”

He turned away from Danny, giving the man a full view of the elaborate flower that had been painstakingly etched into his back. Circles of yellow and white, done with a traditional chiseled style, the chrysanthemum. Ichi had told Danny once they were flowers of mourning, done to remember the dead. Danny had never asked who was being remembered, but had often suspected it had to do with the boy Ichi was so determined to keep safe.

Laid atop and intertwined with the flower was a much more recent addition. A long black serpentine dragon, claws digging into petal groups, with the tail circling around to Ichi’s ribcage and the head lapping at his neck. Being significantly fresher, Danny could still see some of the blood beads caused by the chiseling.

Shaking his head to clear it, knowing he had better things to do than admire the craftsmanship of Ichi’s tattoo or worry about the implications of it, Danny stood up.

Through some miracle he avoided causing anymore gouges in the tile floor.
He scurried out, phone already going to his ear and Mark’s number being speed-dialed. Best get it done.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

KA Spiral no signature

20
Nov
19

Snippet: Chrysanthemum Graves

Figured I’d post another chunk of the WIP. Let me know what you think.

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Magoichi Saika was feeling unwell. It had started just as they’d been getting ready to leave the little punk’s house, a tickle of nausea and dizziness that he’d written off as a bad taco and the heat. How anyone lived in this hellhole, he didn’t know. One hundred plus degrees, practically year round, and air conditioning was still considered an optional luxury? Insane.
When they’d gotten back to their hotel, he’d cranked up the AC – that had cost them extra, but thankfully Oyabun Kenose was generous – and plopped himself directly in front of it, shrugging out of his sport coat and undoing all the buttons on his shirt. It hadn’t helped. He was cooled down, sure, but it only seemed to make the sickness worse. Rikya had asked him if he wanted dinner, and Saika had waved him off. That had been about an hour ago; Saika figured his partner must have found something else to keep him busy besides a burger run.

That was fine. He hated other people seeing him when he was sick. It showed weakness, and Saika hated looking weak more than anything.
Sweat was running down his face in rivers, which was a bitter joke given how cold he felt. But the cold didn’t feel like it was coming from the air conditioner in front of him, or the room itself, despite it probably being below 60 degrees overall. The chill was coming from somewhere inside, like he’d buried an ice cube somewhere in his chest that was somehow freezing the rest of him from the inside out.

“You’re going to pay.”

Saika jumped, knocking the flimsy plastic chair out from under himself and falling to the ground. He landed face first, and could feel blood dripping from his nose as he sat back up.

“What?” His head snapped from side to side, eyes rolling in the sockets as he tried to spot the source of that voice. They’d swept the room when they first came in, and it had been clean and inaccessible except through the front door. Rikya was gone, and would have likely announced his return; no one should have been able to get inside, let alone do it without Saika noticing and get close to enough to speak to him and vanish again immediately.

The room was still as empty as it had been when they’d first checked in, the only sign that anyone had been there at all being the suitcases sitting on the beds, the toppled chair, and the AC grinding away as it chewed up the hot clouds the natives had the nerve to call air and spat out a blessedly cool, moist breeze. Nothing – no one – here.

“I’m here,” the voice said, and this time Saika realized where it had come from.
His own mouth.

“What the fu-”
His jaw snapped shut on the words without his own will issuing the command. When it opened again, the voice that came from it was not quite his own. It almost sounded layered, as though there was another voice saying the same thing a half second early and in a higher pitch.

“Shut up. Your time is done. You’re going to pay.”

Saika’s hands went to his throat. He could feel the muscles beneath his fingers, flexing in tune to whatever puppetmaster was using his mouth as a speaker. The flesh of his neck was cold and clammy, making his fingers feel frostbitten as he pulled them away with a gasp and a wince. Moving was growing harder, and felt as though something was resisting him, something or someone pulling his muscles in the opposite direction of however he was trying to move.

“It’s not fun to fight against someone stronger than you, is it?”

The voice had lost most of Saika’s resonance, now being distinctly feminine, with an accent that reminded him of the rubes down in Kansai. He could still hear his own voice, but now it was the backbeat, no longer dominant. His arms had run cold as well, and the ice was seeping into his legs as they pushed him up.

He found himself stalking jerkily towards the bathroom. He tried to lock his knees, to will himself to fall down, to turn and run the other way, to do anything, but he was completely at the mercy of whatever force had come over him.

“It’s not fun when someone like that shoves you into a tub, and does whatever they want, is it?”

He saw his hands reach down and take hold of the tap controls of the tub, but couldn’t feel them. They were no longer his hands in any way that mattered. They spun the handles and clear water sprayed from the faucet, already collecting in the deep end and starting to pool even before his hands dropped the plunger in place.

“Looks like it was a little clogged, doesn’t it? That’s alright, though. It won’t matter.”
He reached into his pocket, digging past the smattering of change and the small keyring to fish out the knife. His hands held the knife in front of his eyes for a moment, turning it from side to side, making sure to catch the gleam of the overhead lights against the gunmetal gray hilt, before it slid the blade out. He saw his thumb run along the edge, splitting the flesh and causing several drops of blood to splatter on the floor.

He had no control of what was going on now. He felt nothing in most parts of his body, complete deprivation of feeling, except for the tip of his thumb where the blade had bitten. He could feel that with an exquisite sharpness, as though all his consciousness was focused on that one part of his anatomy, tangling with the severed nerves and screaming in unison.

That scream went unvocalized. His mouth instead emitted a laugh.

“Hurts, doesn’t it? It’s going to hurt more soon enough.”

One of his legs lifted up and over the lip of the tub, the expensive leather shoes doing nothing to prevent the water from flooding in and soaking the skin beneath. The water level was rising, coming up over the hem of his pants leg. The force moving him didn’t seem concerned, as it lifted the other leg into the tub, and sat down.

His body leaned back, bracing the legs against the wall, so his head was against the bottom of the tub. His hair, growing wet and losing some of the gel that held it in place, began to tickle against his cheeks and neck.

“So what’ll it be? Drowning, or the knife? I don’t remember which you did to me, so I can’t decide.”

In the back of his mind, the only place that Saika could still think of as “his” – unlike his body, which was continuing to do whatever it wanted and completely divorced of any of his control or sensation, or his voice, which seemed to prefer spouting nonsense that didn’t have any correlation to his actual situation – an image flashed. Him, standing in a bathroom – one not nearly as nice as the one in which he now found himself, but definitely more personal and homey, something that belonged to someone who tried to take care of it, with a fuzzy toilet seat cover, a picture of a cat hanging across from the toilet, a dolphin-shaped soap dispenser and the like – and staring down into a chipped tub.

A woman was floating in the tub. Nothing unique about her to his eyes. He’d seen plenty of girls that way, half-submerged, eyes open but staring at nothing, wrists slashed. His father had shown him how, and he’d done a dozen himself. He didn’t know which one this was, or why she was taking the wet nap – there was always a reason, though he rarely cared what it was – or even when it was. But it was one of his, and he remembered how good it had felt, that spark of joy and vitality he felt right when they finally stopped struggling and whatever it was that kept a person up and moving slipped out of them.
Thinking about it, the feel of his hands around their throats, pushing them down and holding them beneath the water while they stared up at him was arousing. Apparently at least one part of his anatomy was still listening to his brain. His unwelcome passenger was able to sense it, too; her voice pushed the images and sensations aside.

“Ah, so drowning! Won’t need this, then.”

His hands tossed the knife aside, launching it in such a way that it embedded itself in the wall beside him, quivering. Then his body crunched down as low as it could, submerging his face beneath the rising waters.

He tried to scream. Tried to thrash. Tried to do anything. No part of him responded, and his screams only echoed back to him in the emptiness of his own mind. He could feel the cold water soaking through his clothes and lapping at his skin, could feel it flooding his mouth and stomach and lungs and chilling him from the inside out. He could feel his lungs straining, desperate to fill themselves with something other than fluid, felt a horrible bursting sensation inside as one of them ruptured from the strain.

Through it all, he heard laughter. The laughter of a woman, the one who’d told him he would pay. Behind that, a man’s voice, counting to ten.

Then, nothing.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Chrysanthemum Graves is up to 11k this week. Trying not to let it stall, even if it doesn’t make it to the 50k in a month. How’s your NaNoWriMo going?

KA Spiral no signature

14
Nov
19

Snippet: Chrysanthemum Graves

I don’t know why I seem to like sharing the weird segments of this story that involve The Thirst, but it is what it is. Let me know what you think!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

The thirst had returned. As before, it came first, then other sensations. Unlike before, vision wasn’t merely a red cloud. Other colors were present this time, though all of them were muted, as though being seen through a piece of murky gauze.

The sound was duller than previously, and the consciousness that hung from the thirst like some barely-glimpsed parasite found there was room for emotion: gratefulness. Things had been far too noisy during that previous period of waking, and now it seemed more normal. The bugs in the walls and the hum of every piece of electronic equipment was gone, as was the thrumming of the man’s heartbeat.

There were voices. Coming from somewhere in the house. A thought, and they drew close. Three voices, three men. Two large ones, one the man from the night before. The larger ones were speaking rapidly, angrily; the other was responding with an apparent calm that seemed to stoke the rage of the two argumentative ones.

The thirst knew they were speaking, and could taste the flavor of the emotions contained in the words, but was unable to make out the words themselves. It might have thought this was odd, if it were capable of thinking as such. As it was, it was only interested in the flares of color and scent that burst around each of the men as they threw their words at each other like weapons.

There. The one with the longer hair. A splash of black across his torso, as though ink had been spilled. A rotten scent, the stench of sewers and backed up disposal units. Something wrong with him.

Cancer, maybe? The consciousness that piggybacked on the thirst asked, with the tentative voice of a little girl raising her hand for the first time in class, prepared to give an answer she was unsure of. The thirst didn’t know, and didn’t care. All it knew is that the one with the long hair would be foul tasting and unlikely to provide much in the way of sustenance.

The other one, who seemed to prefer being quiet except to punctuate his apparent friend’s statements, had no similar blemishes. He was surrounded by a faint green glow, and smelled of fresh grass.

Not here, the mind behind the thirst cautioned. Not now.

The thirst pulsed with rage for a moment, but subsided. That inner voice was right. It wasn’t entirely able to resist its urges, however; the thirst blinked, and found itself tangled around the long-haired man, breathing in that scent and relishing the smell that was underneath it. Something red, thick, metallic. What the thirst really wanted, what it needed. Something about this one was almost as appealing as the man from the other night, scratching an itch that the thirst didn’t understand it had.

There was a gap in the man, something missing from him in a fundamental way that the thirst could see but not explain. It knew what to do, how it would get what it wanted. Slipping into that metaphysical hole in his being, merging into it and settling in like a bear into a den, the thirst waited.

It didn’t know what it was waiting for, only that it would know, given time. This was what it was supposed to do. Something inside said so, just as it had said to wrap around the man from last night’s throat, just as it had whispered to awaken and see this man here. Something was guiding the actions of the thirst, something beyond or above the faint traces of a mind that it still possessed. Whatever guidance was being provided was nearly of the highest importance, second only to the thirst itself. The thirst, having been sated previously, chose to follow direction.

Curling within the man, the thirst saw a multitude of images flickering by, mostly of violent actions. Again and again this man had abused, broken and stolen people and things. That mattered little to the thirst; it was a slave to its own nature, and understood. What puzzled it was the apparent pleasure the man took from it. He did those things not because he had to, but because he wanted to.

Then one image froze. The mind behind the thirst gasped. Red began to seep back into everything, fury driving out other concerns.

It saw, just for a moment, the man standing above a bathtub in a tiled room that was both alien and somehow familiar. In the tub, eyes bulging, arms hanging limply over the sides, gouges torn into the wrists that turned them into lipless mouths that grinned death and spoke blood, was a woman.

Something about this woman fueled the thirst’s anger, made it determined to kill the man it found itself hiding within. In the image, the wrists of his red sport coat were wet. His fingers were pruny. In his left hand he held a pocketknife stained with rust and fresh blood. The sense of satisfaction in the image was almost a physical thing. The thirst could practically hear the man muttering to himself about a job well done. He had killed this woman, and had enjoyed it.

The red haze grew stronger, overtaking the image and leaving nothing but a crimson void. The thirst wailed, wanting more, but knowing it was powerless against the forced slumber that was coming.

But, as before, there would be a period of waking to follow. Retribution would follow that. The thirst demanded it.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

KA Spiral no signature

21
Oct
19

Chrysanthemum Graves

Being unable to hold it in anymore, I scribbled the first few paragraphs of my NaNoWriMo project. I thought I’d share. Let me know what you think!

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“What the fuck are you doing? Where the hell are your shoes?”

The voice came from somewhere further inside the house, the heavy walls and their tapestries deadening it, killing any echoes and making it hard to tell where it had come from. Still, Danny knew it well enough. Calm, despite the words it chose. Deep, rumbling like a subterranean landslide. Faint traces of an accent, but one that was almost impossible to define.

“Taking care of the floor, man! Isn’t that some shit you’re into? Don’t wanna track all over the place.”

Danny’s voice was shrill, nasal, almost the human equivalent of nails on chalkboard. He hated the sound of it himself, and would complain about it to anyone who even vaguely touched the subject, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. Puberty and its mysterious ways had been unkind to him in that regard.

The owner of the other voice had appeared at the end of the hall leading from the entryway. Contrary to his irritation at Danny’s lack of footwear, he was barefoot. A pair of gray sweats were the only clothing he wore. His chest was bare, shiny with sweat. Danny assumed the other man had been in the middle of one of his routines when he’d heard the bell.

“I like to keep my floor clean, yeah. That’s why I don’t want your nasty feet dragging on it. I mean, couldn’t you at least wear some socks? Go put your shoes back on. Then meet me in the kitchen.”

The man turned to his left, slipping through a beaded curtain that blended so well into the wall that it would have been invisible if you didn’t know to look for it. He was silent as he did so, and despite the rattling Danny knew he’d provoke by walking through it, the beads barely moved, as though they refused to defy the master of the house.

“Uh… right. Whatever you say, Ichi.”

His voice shook more than usual, and Danny cursed himself for it. Ichiro had never done anything to make him feel the pulse of fear that always quaked through him in the other man’s presence. Nothing to him, anyway. But Danny still always had to wonder if one day that would change.

He slunk back up the two short steps that separated the main room from the entrance, slipping his feet into the battered sneakers that had last been replaced sometime during Obama’s first term, before moving to follow Ichiro through the curtain.

08
Sep
19

S. Crowe – Session 1 (Cont.)

(If you’ve missed where it started, you can find it over yonder!)


“If you’re certain. Though that does look quite painful. Potentially infected.”

Crowe rolled her shoulders again, seeming to retreat back into herself. Dorothea wondered if pursuing the subject of the girl’s injuries further would be worth it, then cast it aside. It was a symptom, surely, not the root.

“Alright, then. Do you remember the hospital where you woke up? What the doctor’s name was?”

Crowe’s lips parted, a thin hiss of air slipping free. One hand crept up to her face and she began gnawing an already ragged nail.

“Hanscomb. Dr. Hanscomb.”

Dorothea nodded, allowing her lips to quirk upward in a faint smile.

“That’s good,” she said. “But do you know why you remember that?”

Crowe gave a bark that Dorothea assumed was supposed to be some form of laughter, though it sounded more like an animal crying in pain.

“Yeah. I remember it because he was stupid. ‘Hanscomb like handsome, that’s me,’ he said.”

Her hand came away from her mouth, and she turned back to Dorothea, looking at her normally for perhaps the first time, the way one person looks to another when they’re having a cozy chat. Dorothea’s smile widened.

“That does sound a little… hokey, I suppose. But it stuck, did it not?”

“I guess. Doesn’t seem like such a great thing to me. I can remember some dumb doctor’s name when all he did was tap my knees, shine a light in my eyes, and tell me to talk to someone else. Hooray. Can’t remember my name or anything that happened before that, and wouldn’t be able to remember anything else if it weren’t for these stupid things, but yeah, great, progress.”

She rolled her eyes as she shook her mangled and braceleted arm in Dorothea’s direction.

Ah. Getting closer.

“Those help you to remember? How so?”

Dorothea suppressed a wave of worry as Crowe pulled back into herself, putting her knees to her chest and hugging them tightly. Perhaps she’d gone too far, too quickly.

“I dunno. Something…” Her voice trailed off, became almost dreamy. Her eyes went the corner of the room, losing focus as though she was looking at something much farther away than the potted plant that held watch there.

Dorothea let her stare for several seconds, not wanting to break whatever spell she’d inadvertently conjured. When nothing else seemed forthcoming, she leaned forward, hands clasped between her own knees.

“Something…?” she whispered.

Crowe nodded, and when she spoke again, it was in a singsong whisper that reminded Dorothea of when she would sing lullabies to herself as a child.

“Something my mother told me to do. If you can’t remember, snap a band and all is better.”

Dorothea eyed the other woman’s arm again, thinking that the behavior must go quite a bit farther back than this most recent memory loss. Whatever lay beneath the mass of hair ties and rubber bands was much more damage than could have been done over the course of only a few days.

Perhaps things like this occur often, she considered. Then she shook the thought out of her head. Regardless of how often this occurred, step one was resolving the current episode. Then healing could really begin.

“Do you remember your mother, Miss Crowe?”

There was near silence for several long seconds, broken only by Crowe’s hissing breath and the tick of the clock atop the mantle. When she answered, she was still speaking in that child’s voice.

“Sometimes. When I’m bad.”


KA Spiral no signature

05
Sep
19

Doors

There’s a doorway. Over there. Wait. No. Over there. Maybe. Is it here? Could be.

It moves around, you know. Never in the same place for more than a minute or two. Oops. Missed it again, didn’t you? That’s okay. It’ll come back around. It likes to stay around here. Who knows why.

Where does it go? Who knows? Maybe to wherever it went. Maybe to wherever it came from. Maybe somewhere else. Wouldn’t it be fun if it happened to you right when you opened a normal door, and instead of your nice, normal life, you stepped through into something else?

But how would you leave? Is the door on the other side of itself? Does it move around over there, too? What does “over there” even mean? Does it matter? Try it and see.

Go on.

Open the door. Take a peek. Can’t hurt, can it? What, are you chicken? “Curiosity killed the cat,” you say? You obviously hadn’t heard about the second part of that. “Satisfaction brought him back.” Aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to be…

Wait! There it is again! Right there! Don’t you see it? You sure you’re not curio… okay. Be brave, m’lad. What can go wrong?

There you go. Enjoy the doorknob? I hear it’s made of genie’s brass. Or maybe it was Jenny’s ass. I disremember which.

Open it. Go on. It won’t leave until you open it or let go. How do I know? I just know these things. Yes. That’s it. Pull it open.

Doesn’t look like much, does it? I know. Step inside, though. You’ll see things. You’ll learn things. I promise. Go on, now.

Careful. First step’s a doozy.

KA Spiral no signature

04
Sep
19

Sleeping in

The harsh sound of ducks quacking interrupts the soothing voice of the British woman who has been talking to me for the last two hours. She’s currently telling me that she’d like me to touch the tip of my nose, then reach out and touch the tip of her finger repeatedly.

Both sounds come from the same place. My phone, lying on the bed. The ducks are just the alarm. I’d set it when I decided to take a nap, thinking it might improve my mood or give me the energy to do something besides watch television. An hour, I’d said. The hour was up, and then some.

I didn’t care. Without opening my eyes my thumb finds the right spot on the screen. The ducks stop; the British woman and her eye exam resume.

“Get up.”

The voice isn’t unexpected. It also doesn’t matter. I know if I look to the doorway, where it had come from, the owner of the voice wouldn’t be there, but I can picture him anyway: tall, pallid, thick mop of black hair, round glasses. A cigarette dangling from the corner of a scowling mouth, a tablet or laptop under one arm, and a camera in his other hand. Looking pissed because he had places to go, things to do, problems to solve.

“Don’t listen to him. Stay here. It’s better this way.”

That voice is more familiar. It’s comforting. Like the first, I know the owner isn’t actually there, but can picture him, too. Lying there with the covers pulled over his head, eyes closed, phone on his chest, listening to the British woman and ignoring the ticking of an internal clock as it wasted away. Seconds, minutes, hours, they didn’t matter to him, and he told me it shouldn’t matter to me, either.

I know them both very well. After all, they were me. The sleepy one was the one I listened to the most, though. No matter how much the angry, anxious one yelled – and he could yell plenty, something I envied about him – I could turn his volume down to nothing, listen to the tired one, and just stay here. I might feel bad about it later, and it might make the other one angrier later, but it doesn’t matter. I know if I stay here long enough, soon I can stay forever, and then it’ll all be darkness and soothing voices. No more shouting. No more fighting. No more pain.

“I said. Get. The. Fuck. Up.”

My eyes shoot open, and something is different. I can tell it’s been a while since they last had anything to say; my sense of time is broken, but not completely gone. But that’s not the problem. Time skips like that at the norm these days.

The problem is that he’s straddling me, his face inches from mine, teeth – the few he has left, anyway – bared at me, ash from his cigarette dropping onto my forehead. Somehow that detail, feeling the little flakes drift down from the glowing red eye of his cigarette and tickle their way across my forehead, my check, into the crease of my neck and give me the shivers like the thought of a bug crawling across me, is what convinces me this is real. Somehow, some way, he’s real, and he’s tired of putting up with my shit.

The camera and tablet aren’t with him; I imagine they’re still sitting by the doorway, carefully laid aside so they wouldn’t be damaged. He – we – always cared more for our things than ourselves. But everything else is the same; the Coyotes hoodie, the split left knee of his jeans, the jingling of his keys against the lighter and aspirator in his pocket, the dangling tail of the My Little Pony lanyard hanging loose and flopping as his lays hands on my shoulders and shakes me.

My head slams into the headboard, creating a white flash across my vision. When it clears, he’s still there, lips curled and eyes slitted in the same expression I’d seen in the mirror a hundred times before I took nails to flesh and clawed out a chunk of my own arm or my back.

“Go ‘way. Lemme ‘alone.” That was Sleepy. I don’t look. I’m afraid to look. It’s bad enough seeing one version of myself looking ready to kill me; I don’t want to confirm the physical reality of a third. Angry doesn’t have those problems. His head snaps to the left, he lets go of one of my shoulders, and a moment later I hear what sounds like a thundercrack and a mewl of pain. Blood begins to trickle from the side of my mouth, and Angry’s, and why not? What happens to one of us happens to all of us.

“You shut the fuck up. Christ. I’m trying to save us, here.”

Despite the rage and his actions, there’s a note of sincerity in his voice, curious but harsh care that somehow makes it worse. His attention comes back to me, locking eyes. His left hand rummages in his pocket for a moment and comes up full of pills. I know them well. Antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, steroids, cough suppressants. The things that keep me – us – alive and well. At least as well as we get, anyway.

His face doesn’t change from the bizarre mixture of care and hate as he hooks the index finger of his left hand into my mouth and forces it open. I try to talk, to yell at him to stop, but nothing comes out. He shoves the pills into my mouth, then clamps his hand over my lips and pinches my nose shut with the other hand. I don’t have a choice; I swallow.

“Good. Now get up. And don’t make me do it again.”

I blink, and he’s gone. For now. I glance down at the bed, and see three dents in it; one to either side of me, circular. Knees. To my side, a larger oblong one. The shape of a body.

That’s it. That’s enough. For today. The taste of the pills – the steroids, especially – is still on my tongue, stinging and rancid, and there wasn’t anything that would get rid of it except for chugging a soda and taking a hard drag on my vape box. The taste was shit, but it worked great as a motivator… once I had it in my mouth, anyway.

Time to get up. No more sleeping in.

KA Spiral no signature




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