Archive for the 'short story' Category

Evan

Dorris Watts had a friend when she was a little girl. Nobody else could see or hear this friend, and Dorris called him Evan.
It was 1939 and Dorris was eight years old. Her family lived in a large house outside town near the edge of a forest. Dorris spent a lot of time out of doors, wandering through the trails of the forest with her friend Evan. When she was fifteen, she spent most of her time in her room. Evan’s name was no longer whispered audibly in the house, he had seemingly vanished with the toys and books of Dorris’ childhood. But sometimes, if you were to listen very very carefully outside her door in the black of night, you could hear the name, not even a whisper, slip through the air.
Dorris was very beautiful. She had fair skin and dark hair, large dark eyes and a pleasing figure. Her voice was silky and her words charming and carefully chosen. She was shy, however, and despite having a large group of friends, she never had an extra special relationship with any of them.
The years passed rapidly and Dorris graduated high school and then college. She was twenty two when her parents died. The trauma lead to her nervous breakdown and she spent the next several months of her life recovering in a hospital full of wealthy patients suffering from all sorts of nervous and emotional disorders. Dorris had few visitors, a couple family members and an old friend or two. She was well liked among the other patients, even if they thought she was a bit odd. Dorris was very close to another patient named Phyllis. Phyllis was always sad and was prone to spells of uncontrollable crying and incoherency.
When the doctors determined that Dorris was stable enough to be released back to the world, an estranged aunt came to the hospital and took Dorris by plane to her home in England. Phyllis had been in bed for days and missed Dorris’ departure, but upon hearing of her friends release, Phyllis told another patient, among other things, “Dorris is so lucky she never has to feel alone. Her lover Evan is always with her, clasping her hand and whispering in her ear. He never leaves her side, not even when she goes to bed. That’s why sometimes you can hear them at night together.”
Dorris’ Aunt Emily was a handsome old woman, full of sharp criticism and opinions and money. She was a writer of poetry, and encouraged her educated niece to transcribe her emotions into her writing. Dorris became popular among Aunt Emily’s society friends for her clever versus and descriptions of romance and love, nature and childhood, and of spirituality and heaven.
The year was 1956. Dorris was engaged to a good looking and charming young man, Christopher Pleeting, the youngest son of Aunt Emily’s closest friend. Christopher was the first man Dorris had given her heart to. Far more than lovers in love, Christopher and Dorris were close friends, traveling the country and abroad together, even before their wedding. They were married and together wrote five novels and raised three children. Sophia was the eldest, smart and beautiful, a writer herself and married to an American politician. Evan was the middle and the smallest child, possessing an aura of weakness from childhood illnesses, though his paintings were brightly colored and vibrant. Julian was the youngest and the strongest. His personal stories of adventure as an airplane pilot entertained the family on the rare holidays they were all gathered together at the family home in Manchester.
Christopher died in 2003, and Dorris’ health sharply declined, falling calculatedly as the months and years slide by. Dorris Pleeting moved in with her daughter Sophia Vutesch in Alexandria, Virginia. Her grandchildren and her books occupied her days, but her nights were long and too often sleepless.
Dorris looked across the room and out the window. The moon-fashioned shadows streaked across the floors and walls were still and Dorris felt tender fingers sliding across the skin of her arm. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, letting go all mental images of her deceased husband, falling back into a mental state dusty from childhood, but solid and real as ever. The shadows shifted and morphed across Dorris’ eyelids and lips murmuring silently the name, Evan.

Oasis

The rain fell in sheets for several days. The river rose and threatened to trespass its boundary. The sky was a deep and smoggy grey, the air thick and moist and warm.
Crickets that normally played loudly at night at last regarded the miserable weather and left. The only sounds now were the drizzling wind and the gurgling of small streams gutting themselves, twisting their way through the miniature gullies in the mud.
The dense fogginess of the rain and the billowing clouds interrupting the sunlight cast dark grey shadows on the trees and distant hilltops, black outlines of leaves danced lazily above the forest floor, cold raindrops cascading through the air, rippling across the surface of the river.
A large fat toad observed all of this in complete reptilian silence. His pimpled, parchment frog skin appeared bloated from the wet, somewhat like a sponge absorbing water, plump, on a rock near the river’s edge.
The toad had come so close to the river with one mission in mind. The toad was going to kill himself. The river was too deep to swim in, and the current would certainly have its way with him in a matter of seconds, and he would be gone, innocuous and forgotten. He had managed to make his way through the forest, picking his way through thick grass and haphazard sticks and tree branches, casualties from the storm.
Unable to cry, and without the physical strength or mental will to actually fall into the water, the toad had settled on the rock, feeling the earthy hardness beneath his feet, dew forming on his leathery skin, slowly breathing in the cool clean air. In the muddy light, the forest was nearly bare of color. Shades of ashy grey and chalk white had been splashed across the forest, muting even the remembrance of vitality and life that normally impermeated the riverbed.
If toads could cry, the lonely toad on the rock shed several tears that were lost among the millions of tears falling quietly from the sky like small dobs of grey paint. If toads do cry, their tears are magical, because although these tears dribbled down the rock and faded out of perceptible sight, a tiny trail of bright green mold grew rapidly on the rock surface.
The toad held his gaze towards the sky, silently cursing the sky, cursing the dark trees and cursing his own sorrow. Overcome with emotion, he endured a flashback from his childhood. In his mind he saw vividly a young human boy-child running and screaming happily through the grass, ceasing his yelling when he noticed the toad sitting in the grass. The child formed a tiny 0 with his lips and bent down to stare at the toad in curiosity. The toad paid the child no heed, and remained lost in thought in the grass. It wasn’t until the child had scooped him up in his pudgy hands that the toad was wrenched from his philosophizing and stared back angrily into the boy’s eyes.
“Put me down” said the toad. “You’re my new pet” the child replied merrily. “Froggy. You’re name is Zo.” The toad narrowed his eyes. “No such thing. If you don’t put me down this instant I’m going to turn you into a marble.”
The child didn’t respond, and instead began to dance around the yard, hopping from foot to foot, making the toad sick to its stomach.

Rain. Grey. Dampness. Misery. The toads eyes glazed over and he remembered where he was. He remembered the things he had done. He had turned the child into a marble. This was just one of the many scenes that played in the toads mind. All of these events occurred several years ago, several hundred years ago some of them, and now the toad was old and weak and forgotten.
As the toad sat reminiscing, the green mold had continued to grow until it covered the entire rock, and was even spreading into the grass. Small white flowers were growing and blooming out of the mold, surrounding the toad, who didn’t notice until he felt himself lifted into the air, sitting on top of a large white flower that was shooting up into the air, apparently growing straight out of the rock. The toad emitted a low throaty rumbling sound of surprise, but it couldn’t do anything. He moved around in a circle, unwilling to hop down, unsure of what to think or do.
Eventually the toad died and the rain continued to fall No one knows the cause of death, or where the toad originally came from, but when the sun finally broke through the clouds and the life began to reawaken in the forest, all the animals were surprised to see a toad, seemingly made of solid brass, set squarely in the middle of a white lotus flower growing out of a rock. No one was ready to disturb it, mostly regarding it as a sign from God, although the interpretation of such a sign was hotly debated.
Many years after the discovery of the sign, a small cult of creatures emerged, devoted to the brass frog. They gathered under the lotus, donating prayers and offerings of berries and nuts and petals, and a festival was held each year in the toads honor. For decades the toad cult prospered, and the forest was in peace. Brightly colored birds flitted from tree to tree, deer and wild dogs came to drink from the river, pastel flowers grew by hundreds everywhere, and the rain came gently during the night, caressing the forest in an erotic gesture of divine love.
But one horrible day a group of children who had lost their way, found themselves deep in the forest, and attracted by the sound of running water, crashed their way through the brush and to the river. The eldest child, a girl of about nine with bright red hair, sighted the toad on the lotus and snatched it up in her greedy hand and stuffed it into her dress pocket.
The children left, never to be seen again. But it didn’t really matter because that night the rain didn’t come. And it never came again. Soon the river dried up, the flowers turned to dust and forest became a desert, a wasteland, parched and dead. Silence overcame the land and it was like it had never existed at all.

Deborah – The Perfect Housewife

(still maybe not complete…)

~

Deborah set the color sample strips on the dining room table for her husband to look at when he got home. Even though she already knew he wouldn’t mind, whichever colors she chose would make him happy, it was an excuse to bring him into her world again. The past few months they had been drifting apart. He was caught up in his job and she found herself being caught up in her painting. Ever since she had returned from the hospital a few months ago, a throbbing ennui had encased itself around her head like a fog.
Lance had been partner at his father’s law firm for four years now. His promotion had coincided with their wedding. They had started their life together in a comfortable and spacious apartment in an affluent neighborhood in Manhattan, with the occasional visits to their other residence in the Hamptons.
From a mere glance Deborah seemed to be a classic trophy wife – the perfect addition to Lance’s otherwise modern fairy-tale life. Deborah had been orphaned at a young age, and had lived the quiet life of a student until she unsuspectingly caught Lance’s eye one evening at the restaurant she waitressed at. She had been thrilled to date him and ecstatic when he asked her to marry him eight months later, and with no regrets had dropped out of art school in order to dedicate herself to being a wife and eventually a mother. A year after their marriage she gave birth to a son, Damon, and the following year to a daughter they named Meryl. They hired a nanny so Deborah could start painting again in her in-home studio without distractions. She had a beautiful family, plenty of money, and the time to pursue her passion.
Her current domestic project was to repaint the kitchen. In the beginning, Lance wanted to hire a housemaid who would both clean and cook, but Deborah insisted that it was her upmost pleasure to make meals for her husband and she always had dinner on the table shortly after he came home from work. She had a pristine kitchen, simplistically designed by Deborah herself with quiet and refined colors. When they first moved in, she had the kitchen painted white and silver with gold plated appliances; contrasting sharply with the decorum of the rest of the apartment. Her life had always seemed to revolve around colors – the colors she adorned herself with, the colors she had chosen to decorate the apartment, and the vibrant colors that were so prominent in all of her paintings. The colors she favored shifted with each season, each mood swing, and each subtle change in her life.
The colors she was planning to use for the new kitchen were once again simple. Muted blues and reds, whites and pale oranges and browns all testified to the facile and classy themes she had been implementing in her recent paintings. Her own sense of eclectic style blended with her husband’s more conservative and traditional aesthetics to create a comfortable home. Flashy family photographs in crystal frames hung in the hallways, featuring Lance dressed in a dark navy suit with a tie, the children in their small custom-made formal outfits, and Deborah in a stunning purple evening gown, a large peacock feather embroidered on the front in emerald, gold and black silk. Her solid ivory skin blended lavishly with Lance’s much darker Caribbean skin.
The apartment itself was irreproachable. After they returned from their French honeymoon Lance let Deborah redesign and decorate the place. In accordance with her own moods at that time, Deborah chose royal blue, gold, purple, dark red. The hardwood floors she covered in Persian rugs, oversized chairs and couches in the living room, and gold plated mirrors hung for the walls. The kitchen had been her favorite room then, and she decked it out with imitation mahogany paneling on the walls, mother-of-pearl tiles on the floor. Time had changed along with Deborah’s tastes, however, and she was finding the whole house to be caving in on her. Everything was so richly done, even the expensive impressionist paintings she had once loved made her feel as if she was an exhibit in a museum – perpetually stuck in a stiff and hot room, unable to move, unable to scream. It was overbearing. The only room she felt truly free in these days was her studio, which had large windows looking over Columbus Avenue, the walls a very light lavender – almost white – and a bare floor. The whole room seemed to glow during the day from the sunlight, and it was cold and empty at night, her refuge when her own bedroom walls were closing in on her, and the sound of Lance breathing next to her became louder and louder until she could take it no longer. The warmth of love and cappuccino fabrics that had once caressed and nurtured her calmly now threatened to choke and suffocate her to death.
Empty space was what she wanted. Clean, clear, airy space, accented with simple and low contrasting colors. She couldn’t imagine herself feeling crushed in the kitchen if the walls were a solid light blue, dull green countertops accented with orange bowls and plates. A change of color is what she wanted, starting with the kitchen. Lance wouldn’t care, but maybe he could catch her before she fell into something she couldn’t pull herself out of. He had to feel the impending doom. She could smell it, surely he could at least sense it. But she felt so alone.
~
Eric had just been handed his dream job. Now that he was going to be making some real money he wouldn’t have to take the subway to work every day, he thought as he got into the back seat of a taxi. He gave the driver the address and leaned back into the seat, exhaling all of the nervous stress that had accumulated during his interviews at the newspaper office. He was now an official travel writer and would be flying off to Indonesia the very next week to start his first assignment.
Wouldn’t his ex-girlfriend be pissed at herself for breaking up with him last month, he thought to himself. Afraid of being trapped with a man going nowhere with his career, she had dumped him for a recent NYU law school graduate ten years her junior. The last boxes of her belongings had been moved from his apartment only a few days before. Well this would show her. Not that he needed her anyway, he thought. Indonesia was far away, and there would be more places too, Sweden, Hong Kong, Australia. All perfect places to meet someone new, someone better.
He paid the driver and got out of the car. He could not wait to start his research, get out his cameras. But first he had to do something else.
His mother had visibly aged a lot in the past few years. She still lived alone in a small apartment in Brooklyn, but she could no longer keep her beloved plants and flowers alive, or take the walks with her dog that she had once cherished. She needed something new, something to brighten her place up. And Eric knew what would make her happy.
One of his fondest childhood memories was of his mother teaching him how to paint on their balcony, telling him how to hold the brush, how to mix the paint, how to make the stroke – long strokes with the arm, use the arm, not the hands and fingers to guide the brush – not like using his crayons and coloring books. He never did make it as a painter, not that he had tried, but the appreciation for the art remained. After his father had died, she had sold most of her own paintings so Eric could finish college, and these days her arthritis kept her from doing many things, and her painting days were long gone.
Of the several art galleries within minutes of walking from Eric’s building, he had only been inside of one. Large display windows out front always featured different local artists, many of whom were very talented. One recent piece in particular had caught his eye, a painting signed “D.D.”. It was an interesting painting of an unusually uninteresting subject – a green fern sitting on a sill in the sunlight. Maybe he was losing his mind, but the way the artist had captured the light that cascaded through the window to be absorbed and reflected off the plant was unlike anything Eric had ever seen. The painting would be perfect for his mother, something she could look at and enjoy while he was so far away for work, something to brighten her home and remind her of the appreciation for art she had passed down to her son.
Pushing the taxi door shut behind him, Eric walked across the sidewalk and opened the door to the gallery. He walked around, taking in the clean smell, the polished floors, and the echo of his own footsteps. A short, thin nondescript woman in her forties appeared from behind the counter.
“Don’t you love the way the sun stays out longer this time of year?” she asked him with a smile, smoothing the creases in her yellow skirt. “It makes everything so much more cheerful, all of the light, the whole neighborhood.”
Eric agreed, and inquired about the painting he intended to purchase. She agreed with everything he said about the perspective, the unique style. She walked him over to a desk, and sitting down began to type on her computer, chatting pleasantly about the artist.
“She’s very talented, though she hasn’t shown much of her work. At first she wasn’t even interested in selling – apparently some of us have the luxury of being able to work solely for pleasure these days. A stockbroker of all people saw one of her paintings though, and he had to have it. He had me talk her into selling. He would have paid a not-so-small fortune for it too, but she only sold it for a few thousand. This is the only painting of hers I have left. Do you want me to have this ready for you to take with you now, or would you like it delivered tomorrow?”
Eric left the gallery with the painting soon after and made the way to his apartment. Once inside, he took the painting out of its wrappings and admired it again over a drink. He would take it to his mom later, tonight he was going to celebrate.
~
Deborah stood in the kitchen while Sarah, the nanny, rinsed off the dinner dishes and loaded the dishwasher. Sarah walked over to the refrigerator and began to organize the fruits and vegetables Helen the cleaning lady had brought over earlier in the day. Deb walked over to the sink, washed her hands, and gazed out the window. She let her eyes glaze over, the shimmering lights from windows and cars running together into golden streaks.
Lance had, of course, approved of her repainting the kitchen, without giving his precise opinion to which colors he preferred. She didn’t mind so much, but she always wanted to please him. It was his money, after all, not that that was everything to her. She loved him, despite the fact that they didn’t communicate much anymore. She still valued his opinion. She wasn’t worried anymore about going back to a low-paying job at a department store, barely affording a small apartment. She could be self-sufficient now if she wanted, she had sold a few paintings by now. It was very gratifying to have money of her own. She had a silk pouch stuffed with cash in her dressing room. She had the credit cards and checkbook Lance had given her for everything, her cash was hers alone, in her possession.
By now, Sarah had left, probably to put the children to bed. Deborah sighed. She loved her children dearly, but felt that they were part of the trappings of her life, rather than extensions of herself. She was confused as to whether she should feel bad about this. And worse still, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to feel bad. She had been treated for depression after Meryl was born, a few therapy sessions and a bottle of pills. What she felt now wasn’t depression. It was a stillness that surrounded her, and threatened to drag her into an abyss of nothingness if she didn’t do something about it soon.
Standing there, alone in the kitchen, the skyline outside growing dimmer and dimmer, Deborah felt conflicted. She didn’t want to move, want to go out into the living room where Lance would be reading something, the Times perhaps, or even a case study. He would smile at her, put his papers down and motion to her to come over. They would kiss; exchange a few more remarks about their day. Then she would go take a bath, or go back to her studio, either to work or to pretend to work. And he would stay in the living room for another hour or two before going to bed himself.
She felt a sort of dread at knowing that she could map out the entire evening in her head. True enough, Lance would be handsome sitting in his leather armchair, black hair shielding his forehead. He would have taken off his dress-shirt by now, probably wearing a long sleeved tee-shirt with more comfortable pants. She was still attracted to him. But for now, he could stay in the living room. Her children could stay in the nursery, and Sarah could stay in her own room, where she was probably on the phone with her mother in San Diego. Deborah was going to go out.
She scribbled a note on the telephone pad, saying that she was going out for some air, set it on the kitchen table, grabbed a light jacket from the coat rack and quietly walked out the door. By the time she had reached the 10th floor on the elevator, tears were in her eyes. Why am I crying? She thought to herself. Wiping her eyes and glancing at her reflection in the door, she clutched her handbag to her body as she hurried past the doorman and into the evening.
The warmth of June surrounded her as a sharp wind attacked her face, causing her hair to fly up behind her. She was usually so immaculate about her appearance, but she hadn’t put her hair up today. It hadn’t seemed so important, since it looked fine down, framing her finely featured face.
The diversity on the street was always astounding to her. A homeless man, sitting cross-legged, back against a building with an empty coffee cup in front of him, head to one side, eyes closed. A large family of tourists, cameras flashing, talking loudly rushed past her. Street vendors, women with strollers, businessmen talking on their cell phones. She stopped in front of a produce market, looking at dozens of flowers in pots set outside to lure in customers. Flowers were needed in her house, in her life. Her moods had become more organic and pure, flowers would complete her designs. She bought a pot of tulips, some lisianthus, and a bouquet of white roses. Daisies, she thought to herself as she was making her selections. I need daisies. Daisies are such innocent flowers, they grow wild in meadows and in yards, and daisies would be perfect, just perfect. She had to inquire inside. They had daisies, used mostly for arrangements; however he sold them to her as a bouquet by themselves. He put all the flowers into a box for her, being all alone, and she carried them back up the street to her building. Politely refusing help from the doorman, she went back up to her home. The sound of running water – Lance must be in the shower. Silence from the rest of the house. She took the box of flowers into her studio and set it beneath the window. She would take care of them tomorrow.
She awoke in the morning early before Lance. Most mornings he was gone by the time she opened her eyes. She loved the way the morning broke in the city, loved the light and the brightness and chill, yet she could rarely bring herself out of bed to enjoy it. Lance was facing her in the bed, snoring gently, a sleeping beauty. A strange feeling came over her suddenly; she longed to feel the warmth of his skin against her own. The void in her heart she concealed most times cracked and opened a little more, she craved his lips against hers.
Deborah slipped off her night dress, reached her arm around and put her hand on her husband’s cheek. His eyes began to flutter; wasting no time, Deborah moved closer and kissed him on the lips, letting her hand trail down his bare chest. Lance’s eyes opened, and with no resistance let his wife pull off his boxers and pull him on top of her.
When they had finished, Lance kissed her deeply, then got out of bed and walked into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. Deborah walked naked to the window to pull back the curtains, letting sunlight flood the room. Walking into her dressing room, she put on a clingy black dress, and threw a hat and a silk scarf out onto the bed. By this time Lance was back in the room wearing only a towel. As she was putting on her boots, Deborah noticed how his dark golden skin shined in the morning light, and she smiled at him.
“Why are you getting dressed up so early?” he asked her, pulling a suit out of his own closet. ‘I think I’m going to take the children for a walk” she replied. “We’re going to go to the park.”
Helen always cooked breakfast, because Deborah usually slept until the hour after Lance had left the house. She always cooked for two however, just in case Deb woke up to eat with her husband. This morning, they ate together in the kitchen. They ate in silence, Lance reading the newspaper, Deborah staring into her coffee, stirring it aimlessly with a spoon. She now felt detached again, and in a way, bored. She thought about what would happen if she pushed her mug off of the table. What patterns would be formed from the steaming coffee as it ran across the floor.
She was shaken from her daydream when Lance appeared at her side, wrapping his arm around her shoulders, kissing her cheek, telling her to have a good day. Then he was gone. The door shut, Helen was back in the kitchen clearing off the table. Deborah went to go check on her babies.
Sarah had dressed Meryl in a white sundress with a bonnet to keep the sun off her sensitive skin, and placed her in a stroller. Damon was dressed in his toddler sized jumpsuit, with a skull cap covering his dark brown hair.
Deborah decided to spend alone time with her kids and give Sarah a few hours alone. Pushing the buggy with one hand, holding onto Damon with the other, they rode the elevator down, and strolled out into the busy street.
Walking the few blocks to Central Park in mid-morning with her children should be a freeing experience, she thought to herself, keeping a close watch on Damon, who was trying to jump and hop instead of walking. Instead, she felt annoyed. Annoyed that she had to push her daughter around, annoyed that her bag was full of snacks and cups of juice, annoyed that Damon couldn’t walk like a normal child. She kept all these thoughts to herself though, smiling back at the old women on the street who admired her children, acting pleasant and reserved – the perfect mother on an outing with her precious children.
She found a bench near the lake, turning the stroller so she could see her daughter, placing Damon next to her on the bench, where he instantly became occupied in playing with a handful of grass he had plucked. Deborah bit her lower lip and looked around at the people. Friends and lovers walked together, hand in hand, smiling, laughing. Children ran around screaming gleefully, throwing Frisbees and footballs, an old woman pushed a handcart full of packages. Sitting directly across from her was an elderly man in a brown suit and cap, reading a book. Every so often, he would itch his moustache and turn a page, totally engrossed in his activity. The park was full of movement, of sound, of life. Meryl kicked her left foot in her sleep; Damon chucked blades of grass onto the sidewalk, people walked past, talking, illuminating their conversations with their hands and piercing laughter. Deborah alone sat still in her black dress, flanked by her children, in the middle of the park, surrounded by color and sound.
She closed her eyes, breathing in the smell of early summer, feeling the wind on her face, using some foreign instinct to feel the movement of her son next to her on the bench, taking everything in. She opened her eyes at the sound of a yell; a boy of about 10 had fallen off his bike and cut his knee. He wasn’t crying, but there sure was a lot of blood, why hadn’t he worn knee pads like his friends? The man in the brown suit pulled out a handkerchief and wrapped it around the boy’s knee. Thanking the man, he jumped back on his bike and sped off.
A group of pigeons made their way around from behind the bench Deborah was sitting at, and flocked on the sidewalk in front of them. Damon pointed and clapped his hands. Deborah stared, admiring the shades of blues, whites and blacks of the bird’s feathers. A deep red patch on the concrete among the birds caught her eye. It was blood from the boys cut, in a small pool. Not a lot of blood, but enough to be seen from her seat. Deborah sighed as the pigeons scattered, flying off in groups of two, or strutting on their tiny bird legs down the path.
Damon had gotten off the bench and was tugging at her dress, so Deborah took his hand started steering the stroller back on the path heading home. She didn’t feel well, her head was starting to hurt, and Damon was getting a little wild.
As they were gathering on the corner to cross 5th avenue, a scrappy looking man across the street suddenly broke into a run, sprinting headlong into traffic. Car horns and screeching breaks cut the air, and a crashing sound caused an uproar from everyone on the street. A white minivan hadn’t been able to stop in time and had hit the man full on. He lay sprawled on his stomach on the street, his arms in awkward positions behind him, head tilted to one side.
The traffic was stopped, sirens went off, and a crowd was beginning to gather. Deborah pulled her son closer to her and walked down the sidewalk at a brisk pace, crying out excuse me! to get through the people all straining to get a look at the scene.
Back inside the elevator, Damon silent, still holding onto his mother’s hand, Deborah pressed her fingers to her temples. Sarah took the children and went into the den; Deborah walked into her bedroom and shut the door behind her. In the bathroom, she let cold water run, washing her hands and splashing some on her face. She looked up into the mirror. Drops of water stuck to her powdered face and her right eye was starting to run black. All she could think of was death. She knew the man was dead, the blood seeping through his tee-shirt and on the side of his face and his stillness; there was no way in her mind that he could have survived. She didn’t feel upset or moved in any particular fashion, rather she felt contemplative and a little inspired.
Death always seems like a shock. It’s one thing to think about death, she supposed, but an entire thing altogether for it to actually occur. She wondered what it felt like, to die. Was it like a sharp slap across the face? Shocking in an icy way that lets go to a stinging pain? Was there pain after the actual death occurred? Wasn’t death the departure of the soul from the physical body?
Her mind flooded with questions and musings. She grabbed a hand towel, dried her face, kicked off her shoes and left for her studio. She grabbed for her brushes, opening paints – yellow ochre, burnt umber, red, white, blue.
Normally she would have watered down her colors a little so when she first touched the canvas color would spread out from a single point like a fire, forming its own shapes, taking on a life of its own. But this time she was just slapping the paint on, mixing it messily on the palette, creating dark colors, clashing colors, colors of speed and violence.
For hours she painted, covering three canvases. Backgrounds of bistre, olive and grey, outlines in heavy black, ruby red scars and slashes, gaping mouths and deformed hands. She created visual screams using color and texture, scenes of pain and agony unfolded in severe lines and curves, dry paintings, void of moisture and caressing movement, instead harsh slabs and jabs.
It was mid afternoon when she had finished. Her black dress was bespeckled with paint; her eyes were starting to cross from intense concentration. She stepped back, placing the back of her hand to her forehead, examining her work. Her new paintings seemed so out of place in this room. The walls gave off a dull lilac colored light, creating a misty glow over the solid brown floor. Other canvases on easels and leaning against the walls were done in bright, vaporous and sturdy colors. These three were rough and unforgiving, scarring the ambiance of her studio.
The door to her studio unlocked, back in the bathroom once again. Her reflection this time was erratic. Her makeup by now had stopped running, leaving dark shadows beneath her eyes. Dark smudges of paint broke across her face and hands. She took off her dress, tossing it carelessly on the floor and stepped into the shower.
~
Eric overslept. He rushed off to work after throwing on some clothes and brushing his teeth, grabbing a bagel on the way. It wasn’t until 4 that he was able to leave. During his lunch break, he had received a call from his ex, and they had agreed to meet for dinner at a café near 69th street at 6. He had just enough time to run home and shower before he would have to leave again.
His floors were covered in clothes and books and paper. He kicked aside a pile of stuff, looking for a jacket. He had started packing last night, and his clothes were everywhere. He grabbed his wallet, keys and cigarettes and made his way uptown.
The dinner went well, Eric thought. At one time he thought that he was in love with Reena. She was beautiful, a talented music teacher and a fun woman to spend time with. But throughout their three years of dating, she had constantly nagged him to change. He had to change the way he dressed, change the way he furnished his apartment, change jobs. Now he had changed jobs, in a way. This promotion would mean a lot more money and most likely a good amount of fame and publicity, and now Reena wanted once again to be a part of his life. It wasn’t going to happen, at least not this easy.
They had a nice talk, somewhat formal conversation, ending with Eric promising to call Reena within the next few days. She had told him that she had made a mistake, to which he replied that he didn’t know if he was ready to give it another try, he would have to think about it first. He was sure that he didn’t want her in his life anymore, but he liked being in control of the relationship for once, and he was going to enjoy it.
He took out his cell phone and called his mom, walking leisurely down the street. He told her that he had a present for her, he was going to bring it by in the morning. And had his sister dropped by to see her in the past few days?
~
Deborah had a set of knives that had been given to her at her wedding. She had always prized perfection, and she had taken pride in making sure everything in her kitchen was spotless. She had sharpened the knives herself only a month or two ago. They cut through the thick, meaty pieces of steak she was seasoning like butter. While they were cooking, she wiped them off with a wet cloth, and watched as they sparkled in the artificial lights on the ceiling.
Something about the mood she was in, spending so much of her time recently reflecting on death had her enamored with the blades. She ran her finger up the sharp side, ever so slowly, gently touching the tip. She held the knife out in front of her, observing her bright red lips in the steel.
Hearing the front door open and Lance’s voice calling out to Damon, she opened the drawer and set the knife gingerly inside, savoring the soft clank it made among the other utensils.
She sat patiently through dinner, watching Sarah cut up Damon’s food on his plate, accepting her husband’s compliments on her outstanding cooking. The children were back in their nursery, Lance was once again in his chair and the dishes were put away. Deborah sat contemplating her strange new feelings on the couch, staring straight ahead into the empty fireplace. She could imagine the rays of light and heat that would be emanating from it if it were winter. Orange flames shooting up from a single log, casting long shadows on the rugs. She thought again of her knives, of running the blade through a flame, making the knife hot to the touch, refining the point to precision.
They made love again before Lance fell asleep; his arm lay across her chest, she on her back staring up at the ceiling. She glanced over at the clock, it was only 11. She closed her eyes, trying to hold back urges she had been able to express in her studio. Urges that had only grown stronger and more vicious. She had to do something. She crept out of bed, put on a scarlet evening gown, a new pair of boots, put her hair up into a tight bun and got out a black leather purse.
She walked into the living room. Checking all the doors, making sure that Sarah was in her room, the children were asleep and her own bedroom door were closed, she set the bag on the kitchen table. She opened the door to the cleaning closet and took out two pairs of latex gloves and a clean cloth. She placed these inside the bag, and then went to the drawer where she had placed the knife hours before.
This time the blade was more opaque, there was little light to shine off of its polished surface. Carefully, she put the knife in the bag, wishing she had a sheath to carry it in.
The door opened and closed, the elevator chirped and the doors slid open. The ride down was peaceful, she thought, and uninterrupted. She passed a beautiful young couple in party clothes on their way back home as she left the building and began walking down the street. There was a slight breeze, causing her to cross her arms. She thought of the blood running through her veins, under her pale skin, a deep red substance taking its course through her veins, constantly flowing.
~
Eric downed his third shot of whiskey and paid his tab. He shouldn’t drink anymore, he thought. He needed to stop before he couldn’t hold himself back anymore. Whatever had lead him into this bar, more expensive than he was accustomed to, was telling him that he had had his fun, and that it was time to go back home to the safety of his own apartment.
Out on the sidewalk, he was preparing to hail a cab, when someone caught his eye. A beautiful woman, ivory skin shining in the city lights, a red flowing dress gripping her midriff and thighs, billowing out below her knees, long legs ensconced in black leather boots was striding down the street in his direction. Her dark hair was pinned up, her red lips arched and pointed in a sort of attitude he had never seen before. Her eyes darted from side to side; she seemed to be looking for something, thinking about something serious.
With confidence born of career, relationship and liquor, he turned to face her and said something to get her attention. They began to talk, two strangers on the street apparently making some sort of a connection. She spoke with a sort of warmth and openness he hadn’t seen much in women, especially ones of such beauty and grace. He offered to buy her a drink, which she accepted, and they went back into the bar.
She sipped her wine and they talked more, him telling her about his job as a travel journalist, the adventures abroad he had, the danger that could befall him as a lone traveler in foreign countries. She smiled, asked a few questions, held the conversation. He worked up the courage to ask her if she would like to see his apartment, maybe look at some of his work. She readily agreed, and together they left the bar, and into a taxi.
Eric held the door for his beautiful new acquaintance, June she had said her name was. Seated next to her in the cab, he could feel the warmth of her body radiating throughout the car. Screw Reena, he thought. There was so much more to be had in the world, and he wanted to have it all.
~
She had done it. She didn’t even have to look for someone; he had stopped her on the street and practically invited her to his place on the spot. She listened to him ramble about his career, his life, etc. She wasn’t paying much attention to what he was saying, but she noticed all of his physical features. He had dirty blonde hair, naturally, she assumed, different shades casually combed to the side. His blue eyes seemed rather dull, and were the color of one of Damon’s crayons. He did have a nice nose, not too wide, ending in almost a point that rather suited the rest of his face. His lips were full, and he seemed to have nice teeth.
When he finally hinted that she could come with him back to his apartment, she accepted, her mind racing with scenarios. He held the cab door for her, and she slid onto the seat, her heart pounding. Not for a second did she reconsider revoking her plan, she was still in a state of disbelief that something could be so easy.
He kept talking all throughout the ride downtown, to a rather shabby neighborhood. Through the door and into the hall, and then inside his apartment. He asked her if she would like another glass of wine. “That would be nice” was her reply. He left her alone in his living room. She glanced around. It was messy, scattered books, some open and with pages torn out littered the floor. Deborah heard the sound of wineglasses against one another coming from the kitchen, and reached into her bag for her gloves. She wasn’t even sure she needed them, but she knew that fingerprints often lead to capture, so she had seen on TV and in books, and she wasn’t about to take any chances. Gloves on, handbag set on the floor, knife in hand behind her back, she trailed after Eric into the kitchen. He had his back turned, putting the bottle back on a shelf. She seized the opportunity, her mind blank, her hand flew out and aimed the blade towards the center of his back. With intense force she drove the knife into his body, causing him to fall foreword into the shelf, onto his knees, spilling onto the floor. He didn’t make a sound going down, and she managed to pull the knife out before he dragged her down on top of him.
She got down on one knee and watched as blood poured over his back, soaking his shirt, spilling onto the floor, running in riverlets across the floor tile. Careful to not get any blood on her dress or her shoes, she stepped back, still enamored with the sight.
It seemed that the single act of her driving the knife into his back had done the job; she knew he was dead without feeling his wrist. There was so much blood though, more than she had expected. Maybe she pierced the heart, she thought. What must that be like? Slicing the very organ that is the source of blood, the source of life. She couldn’t smell anything, not that, she supposed, death itself had any particular smell. It was the thirst for blood, to see it in front of her eyes, actual blood, not any shade of paint in her studio, but actual blood, life giving blood being exposed in front of her eyes.
So this is what it’s like to cause death, she thought. She grabbed a towel hanging on the refrigerator and wiped the blood off the knife, once again admiring her reflection. She then wrapped the knife up in the towel, walked back into the living room, put the knife, towel and gloves in her bag, and left the building. She walked a few blocks before getting into a cab, heading back to her home.
She awoke the next morning perfectly rested. She could hear Lance in the shower, the curtains open enough so she could see a sliver of light from the morning sun. She closed her eyes and thought about what she had done. Who was to say she had murdered anyone? There was no blood on her clothes, no blood on her skin. All she had was the memory of holding the knife, the resistance she felt as it broke through his shirt, through his skin, into his flesh. She hadn’t seen the way his eyes cried out in the absence of a vocal scream, she was focused on the pressure shooting through her arm, the spiraling tingles running up her spine, around her brain and out of her body, shooting towards heaven.
She had flushed the gloves, one by one, down the toilette in the lobby of her building. The knife had been washed over and over again, until it shimmered on its own in the dark. The towel was burned in the main bathroom sink before being flushed down the toilette as well. Everything had been taken care of, and she felt no remorse. Why should she? She no longer knew what she had done. She didn’t feel as if she had killed anybody – wouldn’t she feel at least something? Some pang of guilt, some bit of human remorse?
Nothing. She felt empty and alone. An icy shiver washed over her body and she gripped the blankets, drawing them up to her neck, closing her eyes. The blankets were warm, the smell familiar. The sound of her husband in the shower was reassuring. She lay in her bed, alone, waiting for something to happen.
Lance left for work. Damon and Meryl came in and jumped on her bed. Helen brought her juice and toast. Deborah hid her feelings well, shrugging Sarah’s concerns off, saying she just had allergies. When her bedroom door was shut and she was all by herself again, the image of the knife, the way it looked in the light, the way the blood laced the blade after she pulled it from his back. She wondered if his body was still there, an empty shell, his soul long gone. She wondered if she could feel the soul leave the body next time if she tried.
Next time. Now she had a motivation to leave her bed. Always careful, she had to wait for Helen to leave first. What if she noticed the missing knife? Deborah locked herself in the studio, starting a new piece, new inspiration, and new colors. What did the soul look like? Was it the base color of skin, earthy clay tones? Or was it the color of blood? Blood… She thought of rubies around necks, adorning long slender fingers. She thought of cherries and raspberries, biting teeth, juice slipping from between red lips, down the chin and onto white cloth.
Helen was gone by 2, typically all she did Thursday was wash the windows and polish china. Deborah told Sarah she was going out to meet a potential buyer, taking with her again the black handbag with gloves and the knife inside.
She walked towards Central Park, taking the same route she had with her children the other day. She crossed the street, entered the park, past a group of children on bicycles, past a woman in a large hat walking her dog. There he was, the man in the brown suit from the other day. Today he was dressed in khakis and a sweater, still reading his book.
Deborah took a seat at the bench opposite, fixing her stare far away across the lake, rubbing her hands together. Maybe she wouldn’t need gloves this time. She sat, wondering how long it would take him to finish and leave. She didn’t have to wait long; ten minutes later he closed his book, stood up and began to walk further into the park. The path itself was rather crowded, but he was making his way across the grass, up a knoll, into a group of trees. Deborah stood up; following him at what she felt was a safe distance.
What was he doing? He was looking for flowers, bent over on one knee, examining a flower. She stood behind him now, gripping the handle of the knife in her bag. He turned his head towards her and looked up.
“Oh, hello,” he said. “Look at this hibiscus, isn’t it beautiful?” Deborah stood transfixed, staring at the flower, snow white petals, deep crimson center. “It’s… it is beautiful” she replied. Then with a sudden movement, she pulled out the knife and impaled it through his chest. She felt as if she could feel it pierce his skin and cut clean through his heart. It was as if his pulsing body was sending waves of heat and electricity through the knife, up her arm and into her head. She felt exhilarated, surrounded by trees and flowers; she could feel her own heart beating to the sound of life in the distance. A brief gust of wind wound its way through the park; she could feel it with her cheeks as it past her. Maybe that is his soul’s departure, flying from his body and into the air, she thought to herself.
The old man had remained silent; his eyes were closed, busy grey eye brows accentuating a lightly wrinkled and tanned face. A trickle of blood from his mouth was dripping onto the hibiscus that lay beside him.
Deborah couldn’t take the time to clean off her knife. Fearful of being discovered, she threw it into her bag and took off at a quick pace back to the path, out of the park and back to her building, the whole time savoring in her mind the memory of impact, steel to skin. Her hands still felt warm, she was sure that if she reached into her bag to feel the knife, the handle would be hot to the touch from the energy she had created.
Two weeks later the kitchen was finished. She stood among her pots and pans, a pie cooling on the counter, the roast on the table ready to be served. She pulled out a knife from the drawer, turning it at different angles, admiring the glint created from light hitting metal. Sarah was placing Meryl into her chair; Lance was pouring himself a glass of wine in the dining room. They were all waiting for her, waiting to eat. Deborah held the knife down at her side, carried it into the adjoining room, and began to cut the roast, smiling at her husband, who told her that she was radiant.
~
Diana was the personification of some foreign goddess at the banquet, her tight fitting gold dress added to the flash created from her gold and diamond earrings, a rope of gold encircling her neck, inviting the eye to stare and make its way down her front. She caught more than a few glances among the lawyers, judges and politicians, even from the waiters, but she was dressed to impress only one man tonight.
She had kept Safir waiting too long, constantly enticing him, flirting with him, leading him on in the office. He wanted her, she needed him badly, and tonight she was going to get him. He looked dashing in his tuxedo, black hair slicked back on his head. His only flaw was his wife, laughing too loudly in an oversized and outdated gown on the dance floor.
They met in front of the champaign fountain, accidently touching hands as they both reached for the same glass. She giggled, and stroked his wrist with her forefinger. She winked, and motioned him to follow her. She turned around and headed out of the main room, away from the crowds. She knew her way around this building, they could have privacy.
She led him to the women’s bathroom in the other wing, which was sure to be empty at this time. Flicking the light on and closing the stall door, they began to feast their hands and eyes on each other, ripping off clothing, breaking the silence with moans and sighs of long anticipated pleasure.
~
Lance and Deborah were a beautiful couple everyone thought, dancing together, cheek to cheek at his firms annual summer dinner party. The floors were polished to their zenith; marble that shown with a light of its own, marble that echoed the sounds of stilettos on rock, echoes that added their own bass to the music of the live band playing at the front of the great room.
Deborah was stunning in a shapely black silk dress that fell almost to the floor, her shoulders adorned with bright red feathers and a flowing scarlet sari. Red was her new color, it suited her, red on her lips, red blush accenting her cheekbones and flawless skin, a flashing red jewel on her finger. She attracted attention wherever she went in the room, but she was oblivious.
To her, the entire room seemed to glow with light. Light exploded from the starched white of their tuxedos clashing with the black jackets and ties, light cascaded and shattered from the brilliant gold of liquid in crystal, and the many colors of women’s dresses and hair pieces scattered around the room, complementing the black and white of a hundred men in suits.
The buffet table was the most beautiful of all. Salmon, sliced open to reveal succulent pink meat that seemed to melt into the silvery grey of the platter, vibrant pulsating purples of grapes, still on the vine, twisting around the table, garlanding the dishes of caviar, crostini, sushi, shrimp and cakes. The table was a rainbow of color, the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling illuminating the whole room in colors, shooting off one object only to crash into another, a single spark splitting into a thousand pieces, setting everything in its reach on fire.
Combined with the sounds of crystal, of footsteps and polite laughter, the party was intoxicating. Deborah felt herself begin to sweat, and excused herself to go to the ladies room. She had to get away from the people, from the smells, from the noise, from the images burning into her brain. Why did she have to wear such a deep red, why hadn’t she worn her white dress instead?
She walked alone down a hall, finding a bathroom at the other end, in an unlit part of the building. She opened the door slowly, lost in her mind, resisting the urge to take off her dress right there at her husband’s law firm. She wanted to break something, shatter the mirror, kick down the door. Then she heard a gasp and stifled laughter. Under the door of the stall directly in front of her she saw a flash of gold and movement of feet.
At once Deborah knew what was going on. She knew she was alone with them, in an unoccupied wing of a large building full of people. It was perfect, it was fate. She quickly reached into her bag, pulled out the knife she had thought to bring at the last minute, wrapping the blade in a small silk scarf. She cleared her throat loudly, causing a small uproar within the stall. The door swung open, revealing a young woman with her hands covering her naked chest and an older man gaping at her.
“This isn’t what it looks like” he stammered, but before he could say anything else Deborah had cut into his chest with the knife, piercing his breast and stabbing downwards, causing blood to spray out of his body, showering over his partner, who stood screaming, forgetting her modesty and cupping her face in horror. Deborah wasted no time in yanking the knife out of his body as he went down to the floor and turning it at an angle shoved it into the exposed body of the screaming woman, who inhaled sharply. Without the hindrance of cloth to break her vision, Deborah watched as clear skin gave way to dark, sticky blood, pouring down her victims dress and spilling onto the floor, ruining Deb’s own dress at the same time.
Once again the bathroom door opened, provoking screams and the sound of footsteps.
“What have you done to my husband?” the woman screamed, clutching her chest in shock, unable to move. An older man pushed his way past her, shouting something about 911 and the police, commanded Deborah to put the knife down.
She turned to look at the blood that covered the floor, warm blood that clung to her skin, blood still pouring out of her victims gaping wounds. She closed her eyes, allowing the physical warmth surrounding her to overtake the rest of her senses. The knife slipped out of her hand and fell to the floor with a metallic clink that blended in with the gasps and shouts of the audience gathered in the hallway. Deborah heard nothing; her hand went to her forehead, her body convulsing and shivering, taking in every vibration, bathing in the commotion. She barely felt the strong hands that were grabbing at her waist, at her hands, pulling her into the crowd, pulling her away from the scene she had caused.
Eyes still closed, she laughed out loud, tasting the dark red of blood, of excited faces, of wine and laughter. She tasted the swirling colors of a hundred different emotions and words in her mouth, licking her lips, unwilling to let a single sensation take flight. Her laughter subsided, the colors and the sounds and the sights from behind her eyelids faded, the world grew blacker and blacker, pure darkness, a void of nothing, no sound, color or touch.
My soul is flying, she thought as she remembered what her physical body would feel like going numb, how it would feel to relinquish control over ones limbs and spine, the body toppling over upon itself, spilt on the floor, disconnected from the brain.
~
Meryl once had a faint memory of her mother as she was before she was taken away, but she had since lost the ability to procure an untainted mental image. She still saw her mother once a week, seated across from her at a table in a dimly lit room with plain grey walls. Deborah didn’t talk to her daughter much; occasionally she would ask a simple question in response to Meryl’s descriptions of her life at home, at school, her friends.
Every second Sunday of the month her father would take her and her brother upstate to see their mother at the facility. At the end of the long driveway stood the tall, lonely stone structure. Inside one of the visiting rooms Meryl waited alone for her mother to come out. The single window at the end of the room didn’t offer much light, and the bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling illuminated the crude, empty room.
With a loud buzz, the door opened and Deborah was led in by a guard. After being escorted to her chair, the guard took his place at the door.
“Hi mom” Meryl said. She got no answer in response. As usual, her mother was not looking at her directly, instead her eyes were moving around the room slowly as if she was taking in her surroundings for the first time.
For a few minutes the mother and daughter sat together in an uncertain silence. After awhile, Meryl pulled a bouquet out of her backpack. “I got you some flowers from down the street” Meryl said, setting a loose arrangement of peonies and rhododendron on the table.
Deborah stared at the ceiling. Slowly, she lowered her gaze, stopped when she saw the flowers. Her eyes grew wide as she beheld the bouquet, reaching a hand out to touch the petals. Slowly but with sureness she took the flowers in both hands, smelling them, rubbing the petals across her cheeks and lips. At last she placed the flowers back and laid her head on the table, face down.
“Do you like them mom?” Deborah’s body was shaking slowly, vibrating in the chill of the visitors’ room. “Mom?” Deborah lifted up her head, her face now streaked with tears. She inhaled sharply and quietly murmured almost to herself. “Beautiful… They’re beautiful.”

Class

I turned my eyes to the left and to the right. Naturally the classroom was surrounded by four walls. They were too close for my own comfort. The professor had not stopped lecturing, not even for a quick sup of coffee, for the past thirty seven minutes. I didn’t want to write anymore. Blue ink on white paper no longer appealed to me. My handwriting was skewed.
I glanced at my cell phone. Another hour before we would be dismissed. My mind wandered. They say magic is supposed to be the projection of the will to impact the physical world.
My eyes closed and I silently willed myself to appear beachside, alone with the seagulls, with warm sand and a cool breeze against my skin. In my mind I saw the clear sky, smelled the ocean air, heard the cries of the gulls, the movements on the water against the earth, my own breathing.
The slamming of the classroom door caused my eyes to involuntarily flick open. I was assaulted by the artificial light reflecting off the white walls and the pasty skin of my classmates. Artificial light terrorizing my own skin, burning and stinging. I wanted to rip the fucking skin off of my bones, peel and shred it and let my bones breath on their own.
The vibrations of the phone in my bag interrupted me from my sadistic reverie. I reached down, but instead of the phone I took out the book I had read from the class. Professors words still polluted the air, individual letters tearing around the room disjointed and recombining in midair, stuffing themselves in my ears, clogging my throat. I coughed.
The class book had a soft white cover. The lights above rippled across the plastic coated spine like clouds reflected in a pool. With a grimace I carelessly let the book fall out of my hand, landing on the tiled floor. The resulting smack of book on floor seemed to send up a mushroom cloud of opaque smoky sound, chasing away the letters in the air, hovering a moment before evaporating. Nobody noticed or cared, no eye blinked in acknowledgement of my slight disturbance. Bastards.
I clenched my fists, squeezing an imaginary cloth bag of plastic pellets. A red cloth bag sewn together with black thread. I imagined chucking the bag at a wall, perhaps knocking it down in a cloud of plaster dust. Enough, enough.
I traced the lines of the lips on my face, the hollows of my eyes, the curves of my brows. Though my fingernails were short clipped, I dug them into the skin by my left eye, deeper and deeper, slowly breaking through. I felt the blood start to fall down my cheek.
My skin peeled off amazingly well. The left side of my face was now bare, the bloody skin on the floor by my shoes. I’ll save the rest of my face for last, I thought to myself. Immediately I peeled the skin off my lower and upper arms. I struggled a bit with the hands, but found that I could just pull it off easily by tugging on my fingertips.
The smell did not exist. One would have thought that the disengaged human flesh lying on the floor, bloody and raw would have some awful stench, but no. Again no one seemed to notice.
The shoes came off. The pants came off along with my shirt. Once all the skin below my waist was gone, I unwrapped the skin on my neck, and finally lifted the final patch on my face. My scalp came off easily enough, and once my hair was on the floor, I sat there completely exposed, a sitting and breathing skeleton, bare bones absorbing the fluorescent lights. I got up, stepped over the maze of skin surrounding my chair, and stood before the wall. White painted brick, not cheap plaster. Strange. I inhaled, and threw myself full force against the wall. I felt it give way from the impact of my body and together we fell with a crash to the floor.
I heard screams piercing through the sandstorm of brick dust and paint chips swirling in the air. My bones became disjointed, my arms together to the right of my skull. I didn’t know where my legs were. One of my eyes had fallen out and probably lay crushed somewhere. Somehow I summoned the will to rotate my eye all the way around so I was staring into my brain. My vision darkened and I saw nothing.
The shouts and screams faded to a numbing silence, a faint ringing and buzzing sound. Then nothing. I hummed quietly to myself and discovered I couldn’t move, couldn’t feel. Then music.
My favorite song was stuck in my head.


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