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Johnny Spacehair and the Oil of Ages Pt. 1

Druglas Curdle winced and wrung his hands in apprehension as he stared at the empty space where the vial had sat. The Oil of Ages was missing and the counsel would have his head. Not three days previous he had been bragging heartily to the pompous Duncan Sneakly about the power he had managed to contain in that vial. Now he suspected that Sneakly had snuck in and stolen his precious fluid and therefore jeopardized the future of mankind. But it was quite a big deal to blame a fellow counsel member for such an act and he did not want to face the consequences if the accusations went unproven. No conversation in these hallowed halls went un-heard among its members. This situation would require a different tactic: a hired gun.

    Little birds had whispered back to him a number of names when he first set about his inquiries to find a suitable candidate for the task. The name that rose to the top of the list was a young fly-by-night mercenary with a flare for theatrics and an ego to boot. He was known as Johnny Space Hair and unbeknownst to the councilor the agent currently awaited him in Crudle’s private chamber.

The faux-oak chamber door shinked metallically to the side, recognizing Druglas’s thought scan. The nanites twirling in his cortex did flips of joy upon performing the task and Counselor Curdle got the rush of endorphins the technology promised and which made the innovation of Limited Telekinesis mildly narcotic. He only used it when he was in a hurry and only hurried when he felt like using it, which was always. He gave the nanites another twirl around the refrigerator door he knew was to his left as he entered his office and commanded an Orange Fap-Shandy fizz drink to meet him at his desk. But this time no rush from happy nanites squirting endorphins at a job well done and there was certainly no Orange Fap-Shandy on his desk.      Druglas Curdle was getting more and more annoyed and finally looked up from his papers as he sat down upon what he knew beyond all doubt to be his empty desk chair. As he did he wondered in an instant, “What’s that smell?”

“For the love of Hat! Don’t you see me here!”

Curdle leapt up startled and dropped his papers, spinning around to see an oil slick of tall hair wrapped around the smug symmetrical face of a young man whose body Druglas immediately described to himself as ‘dimensionally impaired.’ Everything about him outside the grinning circular mug was completely out of proportion. His head was too small for his hair, his arms too log for his torso and, propped on the desk, were two feet so insensibly tiny they looked liked two field mice disguised as canvas sneakers.  

Druglas wished to berate the young man but all he said was, “You smell terrible.”

The young man sniffed himself under his ungainly arms and recoiled, “You’re right. But it’s part of my cover, your message reached me on a job. Everyone notices repugnance but no one is willing to look closer. A stench is irreplaceable for deep cover. I happened to be nearby so I thought I would drop in.”

“How’d you get in here?”

“Nothing’s impossible, pop. Most things aren’t even improbable. People just don’t want them enough. You shouldn’t care how I got in. You should wonder why no one else wants in. Aren’t you interesting enough? Probably not. Which tells me you’re probably not worth my time. Though I do have to respect a man who keeps a supply of Orange Fap-Shandy.”

The younger man, who’d thus revealed himself to be the one and only Johnny Spacehair, lifted a sweaty glass bottle with a red striped plastic straw to his lips and took a long sip that seemed to last forever, each nano-second adding to Druglas’s annoyance until the slurp of the last dregs came across loudly and Druglas Curdle broke. He flared his cortical nanites like an outboard motor and grunted until he screamed. The bottle lifted out of Johnny’s hand and smashed against the adjacent wall, upon a framed picture of two very nice and serene wooden sailing ships.

Johnny stood and leapt across the desk and taking the smaller Druglas by his lapels said angrily, “Now THAT was interesting!” His demeanor softened and he let go of Druglas. “Maybe you will keep me entertained, pops. And sorry I drank your last Shandy. But let’s get down to business. Someone’s gotten to you beyond the security of office windows and fizzy drinks and you want Johnny Spacehair to roll back the uncertainty and smack ‘em around ‘til you’ve got your dignity back. So what’s the story?”

Druglas wiped at his now greasy lapels only to regret the action as he regarded his befouled hands. Despite his disgust, rumors of the man before him had proven surprisingly accurate and there was no mistaking that this pungent sneaky weasel was the man needed for the job.

     With some effort, the counselor formed a smile on his lips and in a polite tone said, “Forgive me that little outburst, Mr. Space Hair. You just surprised me is all.”

     Johnny waved a leisurely hand and replied, “It’s already behind us and please, call me Mr. Space Hair. Now tell me about this job and the . . .” he paused for a moment, eyeing the counselor with a squinty expression, “. . .Oil of Ages.”

     Though he showed no visible emotion, Druglas felt a chilling tingle travel down his spine at the notion that this man already knew about the Oil of Ages and also how he might have acquired this information. “You are a telepath?”

With a sidelong glance Johnnie replied, “No, sir, I don’t swing that way, now if you’ll please, sir, put my sexy swagger out of your mind and let us get down to business." Then he laughed at the counselor’s expression and waggled a lengthy finger.

“Very Well," Druglas replied irritably. “For years I’ve been doing research into the arcane field of Futuredoomenomics, from a more cynical age you realize. It’s my hobby, and all of my painstakingly brilliant study has led to one ultimate unavoidable conclusion: The world has forgotten to end.

     In his head Johnny immediately began writing a snappy tune with this phrase as its first lyric. It had a loping rockabilly bass and a tasty guitar lick that would have sounded like Buddy Holly playing Christ Jesus off into the sunset. ‘Sure to get the socks hoppin’ down in club land’ he thought and was unconsciously humming it when Curdle snapped his fingers.

     “Damn it boy! Didn’t you hear me?”

     Johnny jumped up and jived a bit as he said with the rhythm of his still gestating rockabilly miracle, “Sounds like the beat’s gone and left you dangling, dad. That’s some heavy nonsense. The world can end anytime it likes. An’ what makes you the guy to know it shoulda done so yesteryear?”

     Slowly resigning himself to the pace and character of their discourse, Councilman Curdle leaned back in his chair and sighed as he picked up a paper from the middle of the stack on his desk and began reading, “All the most reasonable calendars ran out or turned over ten years ago. Christians gave up waiting on Jesus and now just make B movies about firefighters. The Mayans flipped a page and kept right on counting, the Muslims pray five times a day facing Mecca Disneyland on their Gucci prayer rugs and the Buddhist wheel of suffering seems less so since the medical replacement industry ended that whole death thing. Plus people like feeling good too much to bother being poor anymore. Death has become so unfashionable. No one’ll get off their third-generation lab-grown asses and start any trouble. And frankly I’m sick of it.”

     Druglas looked up to absorb the impact of this ancient text on Mr. Spacehair. The younger man was still bobbing and twisting to the tune he was writing but now in his head it had stranger lyrics, wondering why an innocuous diary entry from hundreds of years ago should bother either his interlocutor or by extension himself.

     “Could you please stop dancing, Mr. Spacehair?”

     “Not until you start making sense. If I stop dancing then the tune in my head’ll clip off and then all I’m left with is the fact I left a groovy gig to come talk to a half-wit public servant who enjoys sifting through personal correspondence of the last malcontent left on earth four hundred years ago. No. It’s my party and I’ll dance if I want to.”

     Figuring the key to communication was commonality, Curdle watched the beat Johnny kept and slowly stood up, walked over and began to dance as well. Part thumb jive with a hip action every third beat and the occasional twist seeded in the heel and working its way up to the knee, Druglas Curdle and Johnny Spacehair cut the softened carbon fiber rug in his office to metaphorical bits as they continued their conference on the subject of the missing vile of ‘The Terrible and Spectacular Oil of Ages.’

     “The government is worried Mr. Spacehair. Don’t you, as a young citizen, wonder about the stagnation of the world around you?”

     “Not a bit, Drooooglasss.” He over pronounced the name and altered the conditions of their dance, taking the counselor into his arms and finding a waltz tempo between them. “And don’t ‘young man’ me. I’m ninety-three. And even though your dossier places you at one-hundred-fifty-two, even you have to acknowledge I’ve seen my share of sunshine.” At this he dipped Druglas who replied, “Mister Spacehair, my point is,” the dip ended and he caught his breath as he was upright again, “culture only chews its cud in our day and the government is no different. There are no frontiers, no conflicts, not even any credible threats. We just do what we do, more and more poorly and fewer of us too, as pleasure tensors and nanites leave the population sitting still.”

“Don’t go badmouthing pleasure tensors, Counselor Curdle. They keep the planet from choking on pedestrians. If even a significant percentage didn’t sit at home, taking up their allotted three-feet square, getting pleasure-center-spanked 24-7 there’d be no room for me to do…this!” Spacehair broke off and began a pirouette that sped into a centrifuge. He finally slowed and as his spin ended he sat, contemplatively on the floor, over taken by the dancer’s one foe, the only reason a dance ever begins or ends, self doubt. In this case a doubt that maybe too far had not been far enough. He was bottoming out and Druglas approached him, thankful the hyperactive portion of their interview had ceased. He’d seen manic and was quite looking forward to depressive.

“Ten years ago,” said Druglas “A group of higher ups came to me, I was a junior member at the time, still trying to earn my stripes. Which believe me, in a society without any problems is pretty challenging. Everybody’s a genius that brings the president his coffee. Meanwhile it’s the same guy everyday, not much room for ambition. So for a group of consternated superiors to approach me simply screamed advancement. Actually at the time, I screamed it. Scared them right out of my office. But when they came back two days later I listened with much more poise and reserve.”

Still staring at his own tiny feet, Johnny asked, “What did they have to say?”

“I’ll lay it out for you like they did for me, ‘We are bored.’ They said”

“That was it?”

“Exactly. A clutch of two-hundred year-old council men walked up to their junior member and confessed to bone-chewing boredom.”

“So what did they want you to do about it?”

“My very question, ‘What do you want me to do?’ They looked at me and said, ‘Consider history, Druglas. What have people gotten bothered about back in the past, before…all this? Sex, power, money…we have, have had, will have, all of it in abundance. Nanite gene replacement gives us longer lives and longer priapisms. The poor conveniently lost the race and died decades ago, we have sex with robots and wall sockets and almost never have to touch anything or anyone unless for the pure sensation of it.’ He moved to his desk chair, confident Johnny was listening and sat down before enquiring in his own voice, “What do you want when you get up every day, Mr. Spacehair?”

“One of those deely little wall sockets’d be sweet.” Johnny was becoming aware of a slight distance between himself and the floor. He discreetly looked to his right, then to his left. Everything in the room was hovering an inch or so above normal resting place. Nothing was touching the ground. Even the painting of the old wooden sailing ships was a touch above its wall-hang. “Also, some assurance from you counselor, that you will keep your nanites from misbehaving.”

Druglas looked around and breathed in sharply. Everything dropped back into place with a slight rustling ‘thunk.’ The room settled.

“My apologies Mr. Spacehair.” He lost no dignity and did not cede control of the conversation, as he had managed to regain and keep it between them by the slightest margin even despite all the dancing. “They do have a tendency to get away from me in unguarded moments. This furniture likely spends more hours a day off the ground than on it.”

“I am not a piece of your furniture councilor.” Said Johnny with a touch of boredom as though he’d grown accustom to pointing this out to others.

“The nanites seem to think otherwise.” Druglss said trying to be amusing. The comment instead came off as the sort of smarmy threat you’d like to ball up and shove back down a person’s throat.

“I’m afraid I cannot stay long. I mentioned I was on a job.”

“Oh yes.” Said Crudle. “My superiors placed me in charge of research into the sorts of desires that fueled wars and hatred back when all that was all still a thing. My well known background in cultural arcania made me ideal.” His voice lowered and he said with a weight of seriousness Johnny could feel in his temples, “And I found it. Two years and all the council’s recourses but it was there and I found it and now it’s gone. Someone’s taken it, and that’s where you come in.”

Watch for Pt. 2 when Johnny Leaves the Room! 

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what am I.

I am a piece of the universe

floating about in constant existential crisis.

constantly wondering about EVERTHING

seriously my brain never stops.

I’m a friend, daughter, sister, lover, dreamer, fighter

I am strong. I am powerful.

I know this yet I feel weak.

I have moments of complete sureness and moments of complete doubt

the contrast interlaces till it weaves me together

I am pieces

sometimes whole

altogether lost

yet I am here, therefore somewhere, so in a way, found

one can never be lost if there was no point you were coming from or trying to get to

my eyes are the lens through which my mind sees the universe

I often wonder about the human perspective, how the world looks to other forms of life

things we can’t percieve

I know there will always be mysteries because we literally don’t have the capabilities of understanding. Elements we will never discover. Our human selves don’t have the senses. Things go beyond the basic sight, smell, sound, touch etc.

I’m off on a tangent.

I am merely woven thoughts.

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(Restricted) Entries

I was really never the adventurous type. Not like my parents— who many people believed including myself that they were born to explore beyond the boundaries of what is known to them. I, on the other hand am the exact opposite. I never threw caution with each encounter of new things, of new experiences and always felt this constant need of familiarity, of repeating routines.

Dad used to push me out of my self established safety zone within our fence. Little by little he carried my steps one at the time until we’ve reached the small gate I have helped put up when we first moved in. That fence made me feel safe, secured and for reasons I have nearly forgotten, white wood was the divider between me and the world outside.

How long has it been since then? It always seemed like another lifetime ago the moment when I minded no entry signs to put my advances on full stop.

Up to this day, I can still recall how I managed to step into the darkness. It was when my mom had finally persuaded me to go with her and dad on their trip to the mountain province in Luzon.

I had to try and transform myself into an outdoor-sy person and learn to live in the wilderness for two and a half weeks. For as long as I could remember I have never been scared my entire history of being so. At first I spent five hours inside the van when we arrived at the foot of the mountains— I simply refused to go outside. I wasn’t ready. Dad had to drag me again like the time with the white fence and it took me a few minutes just to make a single step. The fear got the best of me as it rendered me immobile and unable to function.

That all changed after a few days of dragging my stone feet around. I knew I was a burden to my parents and I felt sad that they could not enjoy their trip like they planned to — and to think they were excited about all of this for months. Like how two adults suddenly turn back in to giddy children waiting for twelve midnight during Christmas eve or  on their birthdays.  It crushed me to an extent and I summed up all of my will, tried my best to keep up with their enthusiasm. 

We trekked for a good number of hours until dad spotted a cave hidden behind a thick wall of vines. And of course their curiosity could not be tamed— especially when we all felt that faint breeze as it slipped past  the tiny crevices. Mom insisted that it was her turn to hack off the vines with their favourite machete. They argued for a little while until victory was hers.

That cave was no different than others. The very sight of it made my insides crawl. Another argument took place when I refused to go inside with them. In the end I stayed behind and they vanished against the pitch black shadows. Just like that, I was alone— least I thought I was. 
I have always imagined the forest to be silent, I never would have pegged it to be relentless and restless. The wind always tussled the leaves of the trees, the birds did not stop singing at far corners and insects had put up a great fight not to be muted. 

All the while I wrestled with the noise, I stared at the cave’s entrance. In my mind’s eye there was this huge no entry sign that hovered mid air. It was a habit of mine from back then that reminded me of restricted places.  I took out my journal from my back pocket and wrote down descriptions of my current status. I heard mom’s laughter echo inside the caves until it faded with the sounds of the forest. It was faint but I was certain it was her. Thirty minutes had passed and dad had been clear and very specific that they would only be inside in that given frame. 40 minutes was when I panicked  and they still haven’t got back. The thought of them being in harm’s way made my insides run and with everything that held me back, of all my constant efforts to ward off the unknown— I knew I had to go in. 

I wasted no expense  and ventured beyond the no entry sign. Even when dad had explicitly told me not to go in alone no matter what I do.  I never imagined that I would set aside his direct order for something I was certain before that I will never do. The flash light I had didn’t much and I had to rely on my gut instincts where to step next. Little by little the restless forest gradually fell asleep as I pressed on forward and for the first time I heard the silence I was looking for. There was still no signs of my parent’s voices anywhere— no matter how hard I tried to listen. It was me who then became restless. I started to yell out their names like a madman lost in the dark. I tripped and tumbled down a lot and got scratches all over my arms and legs. I was frantic. I easily broke the silence; the one thing that had kept me calm and composed. 

Just when I was about to lose all hope— I saw something bright a midst this abyss I have cast myself into. (I know it is cliche saying that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel but I’ll be damned— that light to this day was the most beautiful thing ever.)

There was an oasis that rested in the cave. It was magical in a way the light slipped through a huge hole from above. Aside from healthy trees and wild flowers, there was a huge lake. I couldn’t see where the water ended when the further parts disappeared in the darkness again.
It was paradise in a nutshell and the silence rushed in like a seamless river. For a brief moment I got myself back together and to my relief I heard mom’s laugh again. They were surprised to see me there and distraught to see all of my scratches and wounds. I told them why I went in as they apologized to me. It was a rare moment for each of them to apologize to their son. They both lost track of the time— they told me that they have never seen something this beautiful in their forty five years of existence and I agree with them completely. And that was the first adventure that I shared with my parents and for the first time I embraced the idea of the greater unknowns. 

Here I am years later at the summit of the mountain regions. Looking down below from great heights. I took out the marble urn tucked neatly in my pack. Mom and dad made me promise that I will do this when they are no longer with me and there was no way in the world I would ever deny them of that when it was one of their last wishes. They always joked about having their ashes thrown from the heavens. It was only until late that they realized it wasn’t such a bad idea. Not anyone, including myself could stop them once they made up their minds.

And as I said my last farewells—  as their ashes flew with the wind. I have realized that there was nothing that divided me between the world. The fences have disappeared.

The possibilities felt limitless. Restrictions were but a thing of the past.

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The Beginning

(Author's Note: A little something for the mood...)

It was the end of the world, or so they say, but she wouldn't let me go. 

Something about her was twisted. That's my fault. That was what I used to wish for, after all.

I suppose that there's a sort of pretty sadness to an undesirable love song. There's something heartbreaking about small hands that feel clammy and far too close. When all you used to think about was something, anything more? That song was perfect. But I guess the world is full of random hills and valleys, places where hearts open in open snow and sizzle next to summer skin.

I guess that you can say the world's not fair. At least, it wasn't. Now, can't you hear?

The sky is falling.

I can imagine it now, a flawed world realigned. Where hunger leads a belly like a compass to a sensible ending. I can envision every hope answered, every story finished, every ambition honored. Of course, some people dream of self-destruction like it's art. That cannot be changed.

I guess that there's something beautiful in horror. At least, there was. Now, can't you see?

Your own poetry is coming for you.

Did I make the right decision? Ella, my bella, my ideal of a broken woman... a girl too far away when I wanted her close, too close now when I'm so ready to just be gone. Is this even worth it?

I guess that I must admit that all choices have consequences. Every choice does. Can't you feel?

A rain of broken glass about to strike your skin.

So shall it be. Broken glass and answered aches and everything you dreamed of. Every dream.

May your every dream come true, then, and forgive me. I'm so sorry, Ella, but I have to know.

What is this world really worth to you without me?

What will your dreams do to you?

Prompt: valarsyd via writeworld:

Something about her was twisted.

Writer’s Block

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

 

And so ends my genre July experiment. I'm still eager (and a little desperate) for prompts, pieces to review, questions, comments, love, hate (both anonymous and hilariously exposed), and anything else. I am programmed to receive. Thank you.

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins. I, of course, do not own Jamie Cullum or the Universal Music Group. Sadly.

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Joules In My Corona

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Red Marrow and Tomorrow

"Journal entry, November second." 

Eli mashed the Stop button on the digital recorder and let his hand fall loosely back to his side. He had finally warmed himself by nestling his limbs deep within his mattress’s plush bedding. Beside him, the nightstand, and on it were placed the familiar items. A lamp, a book, chap stick, and a water glass, which left a tiny rectangle spot perfectly sized for his digital recorder to live. It now lay atop the bedding beside his body as he clenched it in his palm. Feeling the thin plastic grate against the inside of his knuckles in a tight grip, he thought of the way some people carry journals and pens, and what those items might mean to the people carrying them. 

He thought of wombs and coddled children, and he thought of the special drawers mothers give to their pearls. 

He imagined the sanctity of a journal, the holy ground on which pens scotch. 

He thought of whiskey flasks on brisk nights, the joy of carrying familiarity on your person, and how flasks, like journals, hug the inside of breast pockets and are shaped just right for secrets. 

Above all he thought of ventilators, and iron lungs, and oxygen masks on old faces in hospital wards and all the other gadgets that help people survive for one more day, to just keep them breathing. 

With every salvation that journals offer, Eli likewise told everything to his recorder.

Head back against the pillow top, chin to the sheets, he created a new entry. He cleared his throat.

"Hooking the loose ends of a baggy sweater around my raw knuckles, I imagined the dresser top at home were the gloves I had forgotten sat dry and unused. When you bicycle through fifty degree rain in early November, being sideswiped by a speeding vehicle seems effortlessly more attractive than another mile of wet and cold.

Everyone looks at you madly. I must bike with an expression of rage in this weather. I suspect I can feel it too, tempering me, eyes scorning the Earth. To wipe my forehead with an ineffective wet sleeve only rips at the first layer of cold damaged skin upon my brow, and that's when I see them. A fantastic couple in Merino wool sweaters. Dry in their Volvo SUV. Foot heaters, most likely, on medium high. They smile through it all. Another quaint, rainy November night. Saying, 'I just love Chicago in Autumn, don't you?"

Eli took a swig from his water glass without stopping the recording and continued again.

"I once found a tattered Merino wool sweater at the thrift store for five dollars. I spent every day of a week wearing it, just to show it off. I kept asking friends to pull at the back of my collar to check the tag for authenticity, like looking for a serial number or dating code on an old oak RCA Victrola in a pawn shop. We are all the same poor here. you never ask my friends what whiskey they drink because you always figure it's bottom shelf.

It's easy to get sad. Hell, most days go by and if I'm not depressed about something, I feel misplaced. As though on the precipice of disaster, tragedy about to strike. Like in winter, they blast these heaters in shopping center doorways  before you exit. A bit of warmth before the frigid cold, but it only makes the chill outside worse.

Yet at the same time, if on any given day, I'm not overjoyed to tears about life's goodness and possibilities and whole heartedness, I feel just as odd. The most minuscule things can trigger my joy. I learn to pick up the pieces of people as they walk. Like small touches I cherish. Breezing past a friend at a party, they will just lightly extend their hand and smile from one room to the next, saying, 'Want another beer, Eli Salinger?" I love my fiends for that. For what they don't realize they do to me.

And that's how I know I'm doing it right. because I've started feeing things again. Like arriving home today, I could feel every nerve ending screaming, pealing off my rain soaked jeans from frozen thighs with cramped hands like paint stripping claws. And I've never been able to describe that before. I am more alive, more aware. More then when I had a car, arriving home warm and dry, and forgetting all the years so easily as they passed me by."

Eli let the recorder fall to the bed and they slept nuzzled there together, side by side.

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Eat, Drink and be Merciful

When your life loses meaning and your heart is numb, 
carry yourself to the kitchen.

Find bread. Slot it into the toaster with unsure hands. No one
expects elegance of you when you hurt this way.
Carry the kettle to the sink. Breathe gently. 

Elsewhere, people whisper that you have lost your footing.
Boil water, take down a chipped mug, and watch thoughts of death disperse.
No one can pass judgement on you here.

Scrape butter onto toast. Inhale the smell. Do not scold
the crowded ache in your head, or the tremor in your hands.
Let them fall among the crumbs on the counter, and sweep them away.

Drop a teabag into water. Breathe curling steam. Do not expect
to solve every heartache that finds you at every turn.
Drink the cloud of warmth from your cup instead, and think of nothing.

If you have no faith left in the return of happiness, eat, drink
and be merciful. Become a friend to yourself. Smile through the ache
and make a gift of simple, warm things that cannot judge.

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The Cabin

Michael reaches the climax of the story, his deep voice filling the room. He likes the way his story makes Beth squirm, but he’s overdoing the theatrics, trying to get a reaction from John who is as stoic as ever. I listen carefully, using the action of the story as an excuse to curl closer to Kyle on the couch.

“He lunged at the knife in his attacker’s hand. He wanted to kill the girl. He couldn’t help himself. Tears blurred his vision, but his anger propelled him forward to overpower the stunned girl. And without hesitation, he stabbed her in the stomach. One penetrating blow into the hot, slick flesh wasn’t enough for him. No. He stabbed the girl again, and again, and again until the blade finally slipped in his bloody hand, slicing his palm open. He walked away slowly. His shoulders hunched in defeat. He crumbles on the floor next to his dead lover’s body, weeping cradling the almost decapitated corpse.”

Michael stares at each of us in the silence, letting the images from his horror story sink into our psyche. I try not to laugh at Beth’s overreaction, with her iron clad grip around John’s arm, her face buried in his shoulder. Michael becomes more animated as he finishes.

Somehow, he has roped us into sitting next to the fireplace as he waves a flashlight in his face attempting to scare us all. This is not how I planned for the weekend to go, but I’m content right now, sitting next to Kyle who cannot take his eyes off of Michael and his story.

Once he feels like the silence has completed its purpose, Michael lowers his voice, angling the flashlight under his face so the contours of his features are more pronounced.

“He glared at the body of his attacker, angry he could not reanimate it for the sole purpose of killing her again. He didn’t want to remember what had happened and what he had done. He grabbed the spare tanks of gasoline from the shed, spreading the contents throughout the house, taking slight pause in his work to douse each body thoroughly. Outside, in the night, he threw a lit match on the wet steps, watching calmly as the cabin was quickly engulfed in flames, burning brighter than the stars in the sky. Satisfied. He walked away without looking back, not wanting to think of that dismal weekend ever again. Today, he walks among us as a broken man.”

Once Michael finishes his story the spell breaks, and Beth fills the silence. “Did they really have to be in a cabin in the woods? I’m terrified now.” Beth’s voice breaks as she cautiously looks from around John’s shoulder.

“So it worked.” Michael answers with a charming wink.

John gently pries Beth away from him, shaking his arm to regain blood flow. “At least someone makes it to the end. It should have been the black guy for once. You know, mix it up a bit. You could have even thrown in a lesbian, a samurai, or a witch. They are very underrepresented parties in the creepy campfire genre.”

“Or, their parents could have showed up and baked them cookies. Well, not in my story, buddy.” Michael retorts, slightly annoyed at John’s slight critique.

John ignores him turning to Kyle, “What did you think of it, Kyle Earl Scott?” He smiles at the mention of his full name. John’s the only one that calls Kyle by his full name. It’s weird.

“I think there was a great moral to the story.” Kyle looks between me and Beth as if he knows he’s about to say something he shouldn’t. “Chicks are crazy.”

“Shut up.” I playfully hit Kyle across the shoulder, but all of the boys can’t stop laughing.

“Ow, Natasha,” Kyle rubs his shoulder, speaking only after his fits of laughter subside. “It was only a joke.”

Beth doesn’t respond to Kyle’s comment at all. She’s still terrified from the story. She has her hands clasped together, shaking in her lap. Her makeup is smudged all over her face, but her hair is still tied back immaculately, a glimpse of Beth’s true nature when she’s not scared out of her mind. “Can someone please turn on the lights? And get some firewood? I’m freezing.” Beth starts rambling off demands that are hidden as requests.

I like the cold. I like the draft that’s natural to the cabin and the random creaks of the old wood. It comforts me to know that this place has history. People have lived here. People have died here. It’s wonderful.

Michael turns on the light, while John offers himself and Kyle to go get the firewood. Kyle agrees because he’s a nice guy, but I want him to stay. That is the whole point of the weekend, for me to be with Kyle. But, somehow, John got invited and then Beth and Michael. I’m just trying to make the best out of the situation. Think positive like the book my mom gave me tells me to.

John puts on his letterman jacket before leaving, beckoning for Kyle to follow, “C’mon. We have tiring work ahead of us.”

“Don’t worry Natasha.” Kyle gently adds, still trying to get away, “If a mad slasher woman comes barreling through the woods, Michael will be here to protect you.”

“Yeah. Whatever,” I can only roll my eyes at the ludicrous comment, before finally letting go of him.

“Fat chance,” Michael retorts from the kitchen. “I know what happens to people like me. We die. First sign of trouble, I’m hoping in my car and driving until I get a signal on my phone. It’s everyman for himself. Survival of the fittest. It’s only natural for-” The rest of his rant is lost in muffles as he begins to stuff his face with food.

“You don’t mean that,” Beth snaps, slowly getting back to her normal self. She’s opened a compact mirror and has begun to put back on the foundations of her face.

“It’s okay,” John remarks in the frame of the door, obviously eager to get out into the night. “If you scream loud enough, we’ll come running back.” Kyle slips out the door behind John and the wait for him to come back begins.

“You ladies hungry?” Michael momentarily surfaces from in the kitchen, offering us a plate of food.

Beth waves him away with a hand, and I leave as an answer. I don’t like either of their presence here, ruining my weekend away with Kyle. I walk upstairs to my room. My parents and I move around a lot because bad things always seem to happen around us.

This cabin has been in the family for years, and it just so happens that this year we live close enough to it that I can use it on a regular basis, instead of as a vacation destination. I haven’t been back long enough to redecorate my room, so it is still filled with all of the things I loved when I was seven. Random CDs and a picture of me and my best friend at the pool are all scattered on my dresser. Her name was Alice. I saw her drown. Then we moved for the third time in two years.

The Secret, a book my mom gave me so long ago but I only recently cracked open, lays on the bookshelf as the only new addition. My mom gave it to me as a not so subtle hint. I resented her at first, but I’ve been trying to follow what it says about positive thinking lately. If the start of this weekend is any indication, positive thoughts don’t work.

Someone knocks on my door. Michael pops his head around the wood, with the last vestiges of his sandwich disappearing between his lips. If I’m not with Kyle, I want to be alone, but Michael can’t seem to get the hint.

“Go away,” Even before I spoke, I knew my command would fall on deaf ears. He walks into my room anyway and sits next to me on my bed. Wait. Positive thoughts. Hopefully, Michael will get hungry again and walk away.

Michael begins to do the most irritating thing he could possibly do right now. He opens his mouth and words start to come out. “I’m trying to figure you out. You invite us all down here yet-”

“I didn’t invite all of you.” I interrupt him, trying to make it clear that this weekend has not been going the way I wanted it to. If he knows that I positively don’t want him here then maybe he’ll go away. “I only invited Kyle.”

“Oh, if that’s the case then let me tell you right now that it’s not gonna happen, sweetheart. Trust me.” Michael smiles as if he’s laughing at an inside joke. “Don’t waste anymore time on him.”

Positive thoughts aren’t working. Michael isn’t going away, so I have to make him got away.

“Follow me,” I say with a smile, instantly switching strategies.

“Um, okay,” Michael stutters before stupidly following me into the bathroom. “What’s going on?”

“I just want to show you something,” I turn on the shower first then quickly look for the knife I used to keep in here. “Here it is.”

I turn around and jam the dull knife in Michael’s neck. He doesn’t even have enough time to look surprised. A soft gurgle escapes his red lips, but the steady rhythm of the shower drowns out his muffled screams. His fingers weakly grab at me as I stab him again with more precision, making sure to hit a major artery. He crumples on the floor in front of me. For fun, I stab him in the chest; his last heartbeat reverberates from the steel of the blade to tingle the palm of my hand.

“Everyman for himself, right?” I whisper mockingly over Michael’s corpse. Not wasting any time, I drag his body over to the bathtub. First, I lift his legs into the tub, then the rest of his body. I’m covered in blood so I decide to take a shower while I’m here. The water feels nice cascading down my back as I straddle Michael’s body, my feet completely immersed in his blood. With one down, I have two more to go before I’m alone with Kyle. This weekend might not be so bad after all.

After I’m all cleaned off, I hear boots and the door opening downstairs. That has to be Kyle returning. I can’t help the smile that engulfs my face and the excitement I feel as I put on fresh clothes.

I reach the bottom of the steps before I can see Kyle. He’s smile beaming as he puts his logs on the fire with one hand, using the other to brush leaves and twigs out of his dirt hair. If we were alone, Kyle and I would be sitting next to the fire together. He would whisper in my ear and I would-

“Where’s Michael?” Beth interrupts my thoughts.

“I don’t know,” I answer with a shrug of my shoulders, switching my attention from Beth to John. “You guys didn’t bring back enough firewood.”

“That’s all we could find. We checked everywhere,” John shares a laugh with Kyle for some reason.

“Well you didn’t go in the shed. That’s where we keep most of the firewood. Follow me John. I’m going to need some help,” This time John follows me out the door, and we make the short trek to the shed.

“So why do you call Kyle by his full name?” I ask, wanting to know before I kill him.

John opens up easily, “With a name like Kyle Earl Scott, how could you not?” John gets oddly animated when talking about Kyle’s name. “It’s so perfect. Each part of his name could be a first name. And it’s like you just know one of his parents wanted to call him Earl and the other didn’t want their son to go through his childhood years with the name of a grandpa. And it’s just one of those names you have to say it fully because it just sounds better. And of course, once I started calling him by his full name, I couldn’t stop.”

We finally make it to the shed, and I let John enter first. I follow, but instead of going to the piles of firewood, I go to the back of the shed, grabbing my axe. I stand there for a moment contemplating what John said about Kyle’s full name. Kyle Earl Scott. Kyle Earl Scott. Kyle Earl Scott. It sounds nice, but I don’t like it. Kyle Scott sounds better.

I turn around and John is still bent over the pile of firewood. Without a moment’s hesitation, I swing the axe high, aiming for his neck. I feel a satisfying thunk as the blade of the axe connects with bone. Blood splatters against the wall and along the piles of wood but thankfully none gets on me. I could explain one costume change but not two. Beth already thinks I’m weird.

John slumps onto the ground, his head jutting off at an unnatural angle but still connected to his body. I’m impressed with my work. John has a thick neck, but I easily cut through half of it with one swing. Those trips to the gym have been paying off.

I want to move him into my bathroom so all of the bodies are in the same place. I wrap John’s body in a tarp and drag him to the back door of the house. I make sure Beth and Kyle Scott are not around before entering the house. For being a starting football player, John is oddly light. I get him to my bathroom without any problems. When I come back downstairs Kyle Scott and Beth are sitting on the couch together, looking worried.

“What’s wrong?” I feign concern.

“Michael. We can’t find him anywhere and his car is still here.” Beth answers truly concerned.

“Where’s John?” Kyle Scott asks, his eyes wide with panic.

“He’s still getting firewood. Calm down.” I answer, sitting next to him on the couch and grabbing his hand. “Maybe Michael saw trouble and left. Everyman for himself and whatnot.” I say with a halfhearted laugh.

“But his car is still here.” Beth says, clinging to logic.

“We can look for them again if you want,” I say, giving in so I can get her alone with me. “You and I can check upstairs and Kyle Scott can stay down here.”

“What did you call me?” Kyle Scott asks stunned.

“Kyle Scott. I like the way it sounds.” I look at him, wanting him to smile like he did when John said his full name, but I don’t even get a smirk. That will change when we’re finally alone.

I walk upstairs and Beth follows. “We should look in my room first since it’s at the top of the stairs.”

Beth can’t find the words to answer but she nods. Beth had just finished putting herself back together, now she’s starting to unravel again. Her usually pristine nails are chewed to bits.  Her clothes seem ruffled and her face seems to be riddled with lines. She is stressing herself out and it is tearing her apart. If I toyed with her a bit more, I bet she would go crazy and take her own life. But I don’t have that kind of time.

I slip into the bathroom, grabbing the knife I used to kill Michael. I do have some time. Maybe I can gag her and have a little fun. I could get rid of the rest of her nails or make my own lines on her body. The knife is old and dull so it will hurt, and I will be able to see the pain in her eyes. I scurry out the bathroom in my excitement, careful not to open the door too wide.

Immediately, I see the red cover of The Secret flying at my face, knocking me on the head. Someone throws me against the wall and my feet give out from underneath me.

“It’s you. You’ve done something to them?” Beth says calmly while kicking the knife out my hand. For once someone has taken me by surprise. “Michael goes to look for you then we can’t find him. John gets wood with you, and he still hasn’t returned. Where are they? What have you done?” Again her questions demand answers.

I try to get off the floor but she kicks me back down. Instead, I tackle her knees, taking her down with me. We grapple on the floor, but I easily gain the advantage. I wrap my arm around her neck, pulling tight. She struggles. Who knew Beth would be the fighter in the group? I like it. I like not knowing if she will overpower me or not. She struggles and struggles until she’s finally still in my arms.

“Is everything okay up there?” Kyle Scott yells from below while running up the stairs. Panicked, I quickly kick Beth’s body into the bathroom, unable to fully close the door before Kyle Scott finally barges in.

Getting over my initial panic, I can’t help but smile. We’re finally alone.

“What’s going on? Where’s Beth?” He belts, frantically walking to the other end of the room as if one of his friends will magically appear.

“She’s down the hall, looking for Michael.” I answer calmly.

“I heard something in here, though. It sounded serious.”

“That was just my book falling.” I lie unconvincingly as Kyle Scott’s eyes find the smallest book on the floor. He raises an eye, trying to connect the amount of commotion with the small novel. I should really get better at lying on the spot. I don’t want to have to kill Kyle Scott. That would make this weekend a waste.

His eyes find the knife instead still coated with Michael’s blood and his eyes turn wide. “John never came back. Michael is gone and now Beth. What have you done, Natasha?”

“Nothing,” I answer. “I just wanted for us to have a nice weekend together and they were in the way.” I try to grab Kyle Scott’s arm and pull him toward the bed but he doesn’t budge.

I can tell that he’s not taking it well. My parents didn’t take it well the first time they found out either. I don’t want to hurt him, but I might be forced to. Maybe, he will see that I did this all for him.

“Natasha. Where are they?” Kyle growls at me, demanding an answer. I point to the bathroom. He gently tries to open the door but is stopped by Beth’s body. He steps over her body and disappears behind the door.

“No! No!” Kyle Scott yells as he fully begins to comprehend what I’ve done.

“But we’re alone now. We can be together.” I try and convince him through the door, but I pick up the knife in preparation.

“I’m gay, Natasha!” Kyle Scott yells barreling through the bathroom door, blood on his hands and tears streaming down his face. I see the fury in his eyes, and he lunges at the knife in my hand.

I’ve already been told what’s going to happen next. I’ve already lived this life. This is the story of how I die.

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Diseased

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hardest


the hardest part
of you and i
is not in saying hello
but in saying
goodbye