Monday, September 21, 2009

Try not to stare

Why do I have to wear shoes like these?

She was having a bit of a hard time keeping her game face on. Her bridge, a part of her body she did not know existed until it started to hurt, was aching. She gritted herself, wanting to show strength and tenacity. Her job was to give as little as possible in this merger.

How is this even professional? Why do I need to be three to four inches taller than I actually am? Does this make me a more shrewd broker?

She looked around and yes, it was mostly men but not that much. Things weren't equal but she had seen success. She felt like a "she" who could be successful. Sheccessful! This was her chance to stand out a little bit above the crowd. Be more than someone in between the middle of entry level. Be a closer, or a shark, Sheshark!

Still, she felt like she had to wear those shoes.

Do they make me that much more sexy? I'm a pretty tall girl to begin with. I might be intimidating some of the smaller guys. Maybe that's what they want me to do?

She kept thinking about how uncomfortable her shoes were because the merger was going nowhere. That and her shoes were kind of painful and impractical but the merger was going nowhere. It sucked. She felt like she was an ace pilot assigned to some fake, dumb ass war game where all she could do was circle around her opponent and try to avoid having the same done to her. There were no bullets, no bombs, no action. Just one group of highly educated professionals staring down another group of highly educated professionals. Fighting over who loses the least in an ever shrinking pot.

Her supervisor, a ladyshark who had worked her way up to loafers, touched her shoulder.

"Liz, we're getting nowhere, I'm calling him in"

She leaned a little bit towards her without changing the direction of her face. It would have been easier to turn but she thought it looked cooler this way. Like a crime boss or a secret agent.

"Who's 'him?'"

"Him. You'll see"

She pulled out a cellphone that was small and gray. It was very no frills and looked outdated. It only had one button in it's center. It had a little square cover over it that had to be carefully lifted. Her supervisor did and with a visible reluctance, pushed the center. After waiting for 40 seconds, she crushed the whole phone into her palm. It crunched fairly easily. Liz watched her wrap it in a small plastic bag and place the broken device back into her coat. Her supervisor leaned back into her and said

"He's the best and he's on his way"

Liz nodded. She then grabbed her forearm. Yikes!

"Try not to stare"

She walked out. She looked like she wanted to avoid something.

Liz sat down for a while and found it to be a small comfort. She heard a faint slapping, scrapping like something fleshy being dragged across the ground. The rest of the room noticed too and began to quiet themselves in awkward anticipation. The door opened. It banged against the frame. He glided in.

"Alright you fucking babies, what's the problem?"

He sounded like someone who would never even consider raising his voice. It just always sounded loud, no matter what the tone volume. He grabbed your attention with his words and his otherworldly appearance. He stalked around the room, challenging each and everyone with his presence.

"We're all dying out there and you both know we need to stem the bleeding or you're both going down"

She could not stop starring at him, exactly as her boss told her not to do! No one could help it. How did he eat? Or sleep? Could he make love or use a bathroom? Was he born this way? Was it a curse or a mad experiment? How could anyone acquire a condition such as this?

Defying all expectations, he sat down. It looked impossible and uncomfortable be he seemed fine with it. Hands on his lap, he looked around. You had to strain to see it, but he pointed to himself with his thumb.

"Both of you have brands and capital I would have killed for. Do you know what I started with?"

He waited. Time hung, sucking up all the room's air. No one blinked. Was this a question he wanted someone else to answer? No one wanted to take that chance. He continued to point at himself and he gestured wildly with his other hand. It was hard to watch.


All Liz could think was how much she did not want this man to involve her personally in his "pep-talk"

He got back up. It was like some sort of spin or flip and a few in the room gasped when it happened. His feet rose to the sky once again as he glided and skidded over to, (sure enough) her.

"Hey. Hey!....Miss America, I'm talking to you"

Being terrified while on what was supposed to be "Biz-caz Friday" is quite a sorry situation. This merger was going three days too long and everyone was feeling the heat. Now all Liz could feel is a chill as he hovered over her, a backwards awkward menace.

"Are you going to be downsized before you turn 24?"

She sat there as he loomed over her. His feet were right in her face.The question made her mouth drop. He rotated. They had to look down, but each set of eyes was locked onto his.

"All that I ask, is that you earn your pay. Try, try really hard, to make sure you have a company to work for by this Monday"

He glided out of the room and never looked back, skidding a little bit on the way out. They sat in silence.

She looked around. She drew her breath. The worst was over. She felt emboldened.

"You heard him. Let's revisit some of the bigger conflicts we have and work from there"

And so they did. Neither side left happy but it was completed, eventually.

Later that night, she would tell her boyfriend of the man she met that day.

"He was upside down?"

"Yeah. Just upside down. His feet were straight up in the air and sometimes his head would drag against the floor, like he was limping or something. He stood up straight and was normal every other way. Just, upside down"

"How did he walk? Did he use his hands?"

"No, he just kind of took steps off the air"

"That doesn't make any sense! How did he do that?"


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dunk n Run

She knelt down, ready to spring to action. Her breath stopped. She waited for it. Waited. Still waiting. Nothing. Not knowing was almost as bad to Asha-lee as the real thing. She was not a fan of surprises. Knowing did not make it any less awful but it did make it less devastating.

She put her hand on the pavement. There it was. It was pulsing, churning like a sick stomach. Hoping it was a jackhammer or some out-of-state/imaginary subway she waited. Waited. Still waiting.

Still there

Now here!

"Clear the area right now! I want a 3 block radius shut down. WE HAVE A RISER! I REPEAT, WE HAVE A RISER!"

It felt like the "Munchkin Mess" of 1985. The one that got her started....

He was hunched over, looking for the marker as the school had recently updated to whiteboards. There it was; the slit. A coin slot, man hole, plumber's crack, etc. Asha-le looked at the nook on her desk chair where she was encouraged to keep her pencils. She considered the cost/benefit analysis of what she wanted to do very maturely, but still came to the childish conclusion to drop her pencil in her substitute teacher's pants.

I'm going for it

Asha-le hoped no one would tattle her out and ruin the surprise. She liked surprises back then. She leaned in and dropped it. He did not notice.

"I'll find ol' Bluey in a second kids, just sit tight"

He did not hear the snickers and giggles. This was the greatest health class she ever had. She hoped her peers would recognize that it was she who deftly inserted the pencil into the sub's buttcrack.

A nervous chill went down her spine. It prowled her stomach, making her edgy and uncomfortable.


The room caught her chill. Everyone felt the desks shake and the shades rattle. The radiator sputtered.

"What's going on?"

The substitute teacher stood up and as something slid down his right pants leg.

"Okay, relax. And who dropped a pencil down my pants? I lost a lot of weight recently and its hard to find things in my closet that fit my...."


Just like that, the floor beneath the sub sunk in. He was gone. The children began to scream. They began to panic rushing the door. Asha-le froze. She was waiting for something to


The children slid and fell atop one another before disappearing like their substitute. Just like that. Though young, she knew they would be dead the next time she saw them, should she ever get the opportunity. Pawtucket is a hard city to grow up in. Once those mills shut down it took everyone's will to live with it.

She sat in her desk chair. Asha-le sniffed a few times. It was an attempt to hold in her tears. She did not want to let them out until her mother was there to catch them. They trickled out a little bit as she frowned. She clenched her fists and sucked in the dusty air.

"Lee..Help..Help me"

Springing out of her chair, she remembered her cousin Byron. She dashed over to the hole. It looked like a popped zit; violently unfolded with sick jagged edges. There was a small patch of floor between where the substitute fell and the hole near the door. She hopped onto it and then peered down at the larger opening near it.

It was odd looking at her school from the top down. She had seen a blueprint of Goff Community Middle School before, so nothing really surprised her. She still gasped, unprepared for it to be this unstable. Girders and beams burrowed through walls that shouldn't be. She got on her knees and leaned a little forward.

Grabbing onto the edge as she slipped, she hung there facing forward with her arms behind her back. She looked for something close enough to fall on, took a risk, and went for it. The sound of her landing shook her more than the impact but she felt okay enough to hop down from the cafeteria landing.

The floor was covered in coffee. She sought the faint moaning curling around her ears.

Before it really hit her, she buffered her feelings; observing to delay that Byron's blood wasn't really changing the color of the Dark Roast very much.


The official term became "Unplanned franchise eruption" as it was officially referred to by the worried experts who ran domesticated, benign locations, would prove to be far less destructive. At least on the surface. There was the great likelihood of hundreds of thousands in damages to sewers, street, and the aging grid. This was Pawtucket after all and sometimes its hard to gauge the freshness of local ruin.

Most flee a rising to at least a 500 foot radial distance but not her. She knew this intuitively at first. Over time it was developed with specific studies in physics, architecture, and probability. Despite all this, Asha-le was always the first one in during a recently metastasized specimen.

The pavement cracked with a dull roar as the medium sized franchise rose. Dust flew up into the air and rocks fell to the ground. Power lines tipped over as this building completed itself. A light gray granite sludge rose and dried beneath it, providing support.

Beyond the suddenness and the naked impossibility of buildings violently constructing themselves, Asha-le was unnerved by its completeness. As soon as a wild, unplanned Dunkin Donuts settled, its products manifested. Muffins, coffee, donuts, biscuits, liquid egg mix, sugar and Sweet & Low packets, sometimes even pipping hot espresso (in wealthier neighborhoods somehow it "knew"). This did not stop her from grabbing a low fat Blue Berry muffin and eating it. Thousands of hours of analysis had proven the food to be no more toxic than domesticated products from control group franchises.

Something always brings me back to you/it never takes too long

She grabbed a napkin and wiped her face. While her hand was reaching her eyes stopped at a round metal container full of plastic knives. She took one and snapped it in half, keeping both carefully pieces.

She closed her eyes and reached out. Somewhere between hearing and feeling there it was. Pulsing, it was what gave this plastic/metal/granite tumor a sort of wheezing life. It felt her as as she felt it. Both became screamingly aware of one another. Her head hurt. She helped herself to a large black Turbo ice before seeking its dark heart. She descended to the immaculate basement, stepping over bags of beans and boxes of frozen dough templates.

It seemed to float as if supported by its own improbability. Flowing charts and consumer spending trends made its veins. They were stitched together in a semi-real sinew filled with fleshy chords. All working in an impossible harmony that brought this "idea" to life. Its chambers were lined with red anti-money, lies so powerful you could spend them. It had no mouth to scream, so it shook.

She held up half of the plastic knife. These things could be more easily killed when done with its own phantom materials. Stabbed with its own bones. She kept it still with her left hand and pressed the shard to it. Still it struggled, gently tugging her hand with all its might. She hesitated.


"I'm not angry, you know?"

She blinked. Snapping out of something.

"Angry at what, Byron?"

She turned around and saw that he had wheeled himself right next to her. Once in a while she caught herself being freshly saddened by her cousin's condition. It had been a while since the fall.

"The riser. The one that hurt me. I'm not mad at it"

She turned around and went back to her graphs.

"Of course you aren't. How could anyone be mad at them?"

"Are you sure you really believe that? You can be mad at anything. It doesn't have to make sense,"


Asha-le could not not remember when she had that conversation. She could remember it being the last time she really listened to Byron in quite a while. She loved him but he was a burden, her generous salary and benefits not withstanding. Sometimes we forget that the people who need help can help us too. That in all their need and helplessness, they might have something to say.

She focused on the task in her hand, the dark heart of this wild newborn store. She looked at it. She looked at it some more. She stopped looking and felt it beyond skins.

You just want to live

In your own twisted way

She dropped the knife shard. It laid there for a moment before being absorbed into the floor, forever cutting nothing.


"Welcome to the Rhode Island Border Sanctioned Dunkin Donuts Runoff Distribution Center. How many I direct your Public Domain Naturally Manifesting Food/Beverage Product Allotment?"

"I know I came here before today, but I was hoping I could get an extra biscuit and a Extra Extra 'Great One'"

"I will see what I can do"

Due to the low volume time of day, human services worker A. Gonsulao was able to get an extra free treat after a particularity tough day at work. Dunkin Donuts containment policy had changed after Asha-le's change of heart. The products, equipment, sometimes even the building materials themselves were harvested periodically and given out to the community free of charge. Planned commercial franchises were converted into Subways and Papa Gino's depending on the local sandwich/pizza ratios.

Public hunger dropped drastically. People now had significantly more disposable income to pump back into the economy. The distribution was performed at a controlled pace that allowed it all to grow back, though no one seemed able to witness the event. Despite cameras and many eyes they just seemed to manifest ex nilo the moment anything glanced elsewhere.

Riser policy changed throughout Rhode Island. The rate of new risers decreased drastically by simply leaving most of them be. Some states were a little less progressive with their Dunkin Donuts containment methods and continued with their destruction. This ironically insured that the rate of wild buildings would steadily increase in certain parts of the country while remaining flat it places like Rhode Island.

Asha-le would continue her work, pruning tumors that would occasionally rise in structurally intolerable locations and providing early warnings to all involved. It became very organized and predictable. Asha-le showed America how to properly run on Dunkin and we were all the better for it.

A little small town magic (inc)

"I've lived here all my life"
He rocked back slightly. Unseen, his left hand glided a pipe to his mouth. It looked old but made with care. A quality you could not buy easily.
"Mind if I smoke, boys?"
The sun caught agent Brent in his sunglasses. It drew a bright line to his teeth. He smiled.
"It's your home"
He lit, drew, and presented to him a thick and dark mushroom cap of smoke. His face was invisible for a moment, shrouded in sweet embers and mystery.
"It is, isn't it"
He looked away and then his eyes darted right back.
"There is only one reason why F-A-A would come round these parts "
"Bull Run is such a nice unincorperrrr..., um town"
"I thought the accident happened closer to Chantily"
"It did. We're still asking you folks in Bull Run though"
Agent Hector said little and moved only slightly. His presence made the man of the house all the more present in his situation. He could not conversationally dart his eyes away from Brent for a moment's reprieve without seeing another tall, solid, clean and collared authority figure.

This time it was Brent's turn to lean in. He had gone through a lot of chit-chat and he wanted to end his day. This, this man right here seemed to be the only one in this town to know something. He just felt it. The polite way he tried to move him along quickly as possible. What was his angle? Moonshine, meth, stolen parts? You can usually smell or see something like that. Those sorts of things were not his specialty but its not like he could just ignore them. Plus suspicion like that could give him all the access he needed to tear this place apart. He wasn't sure what he was looking for or what he wanted to find, but he was tried of dicking around with the salt of America.

"So what is that one reason, sir?"

He put his head on his hand and sighed.
The agents looked at each other. Foreheads were furrowed.
"You sound awfully fond of him"
He tilted his head.
"We all were. He was, just, a little small town magic. That's what he was"
He closed his eyes and thought of better days. He opened and looked around.
"Okay this is going to take a bit. Why don't you sit a spell and I'll have Jess bring us tea JESS! BRING US SOME TEA PLEASE! WE'RE GOING TO BE...."
"Thanks baby. That's not how you pronounce it but so anyways boy let me tell you all about the pride of our town"

"Was he your quarterback?"

"No but he's a distant but not too distant....eight. No David was our kicker. Couldn't do much else but Goddamn was he a good kicker"

"Are you talking about David again? Oh, John you know I miss him too but the doctor said we all got to get over him"

She bounced in and dropped off a pitcher with three icy glasses.

"You don't get over a little small town magic, baby. You just pick up the pieces and live the rest of your days"

Husband and wife looked to the ground. Ashamed in their own home. The wind picked up slightly. The agents felt...sad? More certain than that, they were confused.

"Tell us about David, if you please could."
The agent in the back who had said little elbowed his co-worker.

"We're sorry for your loss"

John nodded, accepting his solemn burden.
"I will"

The wind blew again. It shushed the outside so that all present were paying attention.

"David he, he was a good man. He sometimes did not so good things but he was something special. He made us all feel special too, special enough to be here in this little town at this time right now, well, now its back then but you get my point"

The agent wondered if it was okay to butt in
"What was so special about him?"
and did so before he finished his thought. The man of the house tilted his head. It was one of those things, explaining something so central, so important in your life to a stranger, it was heard to tell where it began and you ended.

"Dave could, and I hope to God he still can, kick a small dog over three miles into the air"

Both agents breathed heavily and curled their lips. The one in front turned to his co-worker, gave him a look, and pulled out a pack of smokes. He grabbed, held, and lit the match in one flick of his thumb. He lit his cigarette and smothered the match, placing it in his breast pocket. Not throwing match sticks onto people's property was one of the first unexpected lessons he learned on the job.

"Go on"

"I know what you are thinking"

"Do you?"

"The amount of force required to launch an animal that distance, at the high velocity we witnessed..."

"They moved real fast, real real fast" His wife said from inside the house.

"That's what I'm saying baby, so yeah, I know that the amount of force needed to do something like that would tear the dog apart but it never did. Don't think we just saw local boy pull a crazy hick trick and took his word for it! We checked, we didn't find them all but we did retrieve a couple of goldies and various shepherds. They were dead of course, some from hypothermia but most from the landing but they were there! Most of them"

Both agents took a moment to reflect upon the meaning of their careers and the people they choose to protect. Hector whispered "And we had to take the time to get him to talk about this shit"

"We first knew of David's wonderful gift, a spiritual talent if you will, in a pretty unexpected way. See David wasn't always the legend he is now. He used to be kind of a goober. See, being a kicker for your local high school team is kind of like being Stone Wall Jackson's favorite saddle maker or a sidekick's sidekick. You are there, you are needed, but that's it. Even if you score you're still mostly sitting out, a thought only for specific scenarios"

Brent thought of fluency in Portuguese and how little use he had of it lately.

"It's not like David was bad at his job. He wasn't, he was pretty great. But a great kicker is just not really something people take notice of. Maybe if he was the only good player on the team, and he wasn't, it would have made a difference. The 2002 Feralcats, that's a cat that was once domesticated and then breaks free and regains it's wild instincts again...."

"We thought there too many schools out there that used the name 'Wildcats'"

"Yes dear, thank you, this was a recent thing, someone just kind of mentioned it at the PTA and it all kind of snowballed into a vote. It was the most we ever got done at one those"

Hector bit his tongue slightly to keep his eyes from glazing over.

"David had okay grades and his daddy ran a few convenience stores. He wasn't very talented in anything else and he was not really good looking or nothing. Just an average guy who did well at one thing"

John leaned back a little bit and tapped his ashes out again. This was not a fun thing to discuss but it was part of what made Dave so special.

"And that's not enough, is it? Being a, feh, field goal kicker in a small town in particular. We put these limits on ourselves without realizing it. I think its because we are all so familiar in a such a small setting. Sure its easy to be the big fish in the small pond but that's more about being something special all around. It can't be just one thing, especially kicking a damn field goal"

He inhaled again, the hurdle was over. The banality had been established so that the magic could be the contrast that made John so special. John let the smoke slowly seep out of his mouth. It shrouded his face.

"So David became all that much better at his one thing. I do not know if it was intential, I doubt it, because the first time it man-uh-feasted was in an argument with Toni"

"Doooon't get me started on her let me tell you...."

It was faint but angry enough t
"I know

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


"I still love you. Despite all this, I still do. Don't ever forget"
She held the tip of his finger with both of her hands. They dwarfed hers.
"I know. I'll never forget. I love you too"
She ducked her head into the the cab door. Turning before sliding down the seat, she smirked.
"You better, we're two of a kind"

The Taxi sped off. She would be safe away, far away from him on a night like this.

Fred looked up at the full moon, all too cognizant of the pain it caused him, and thought of that fateful night decades ago. His face did not reflect the time for he was unnaturally young beyond his years. He remembered was holding a lantern. Walking down a cobblestone road.

ptt was the only sound it made as it quietly stalked the bumpy terrain; a calm and deadly street predator. Fred's senses would later change and he would look upon the world with new eyes but back then, he was unaware of what lurked behind him. It pounced! Teeth bore into his shoulder, a pain dull and sharp at the same time as they sunk further in. He screamed but there were far less people around then and for all their simple superstition, they knew better than to be out on a full moon's night. It tore into him and threw him to the ground. Fred thought he was going to die. All the things he wanted to do, all the people he would leave behind. Countless unanswered and even unasked questions. They urged him to stay, bound him to this Earth. He would live.

The beast was merely having fun. It did not truly hunger for it was not a natural. It raked its nails into his back as a parting shot and bounded off, howling.His shoulder would heal before the night was over. Fred's body seemed to leap from near death to unnaturally alive overnight. It would be another 30 days before he too felt the curse. Before he transformed and transformed again; month after month, year after year.

Standing in his bathroom, Fred prepared. He breathed slowly. He anticipated his own increasing heartbeat and tried to hold it off as long as he could. His muscles tensed. They were changing, shifting and becoming something else. Fred had stripped naked. He learned a long time ago to save his clothes from being torn apart. He wish he could say the same for himself, for his home, and loved ones.

The worst part was the hair. It split its way through his skin, scorching down his arms, back, and stomach. He screamed, his voice deep and bestial. He lurched forward, still after all these years not used to the added bulk. He vomited, a normal man's diet unsuited for what he had become. He tried to avoid the mirror, for the image scowling back at him was not Fred, not at all.

He could not bare to see his cursed reflection that only arose on full moon nights because it was not him but that of horror, disgust, and tragedy. Once a month for three, awful days, Fred was cursed to TRANSFORM into a

slightly different man.

Fred could kind of recognize himself in the stranger's face. It looked like he was halfway between himself and whomever bit him on that night, close to a hundred years ago. It was a dark but within what could be called "Caucasian". Maybe he was Greek, Italian, Portuguese or something? Fred thought Portugal was a city in Spain if it matters. The man Fred became once a month was not a handsome man. He was sketchy and unsympathetic. One of the few lonely people you'd think that deserved to be alone. For no reason other than you just had a hard time tolerating his face.

Ever since Fred was bitten by this lunatic, he would become him when the sky was right. At first Fred did not really feel different, other than kind of fat and unmotivated. It took him a while to realize that his transformation would affect his mind too. Fred's attacker was not evil, he was just kind of a dick. That one fateful evening so long ago was a "bad day that lined up with a bad night".

Fred was a little disappointed with the answer, after spending years of his newly cursed life tracking him down. He planned on killing him to "reverse the curse" but the attacker told him he had done that to his attacker about a hundred years ago and it did not work. Upon hearing this, Fred dropped the silver fire poker from his gloved hands; his enthusiasm for revenge and redemption died with its clang. Before he left, he told his attacker that he thought curses like this turn people into giant wolf-person hybrids. The older monster told him that was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard.

Forty years later, he would turn down his attacker's request to be Facebook friends. Fred settled down and tried to live a normal life. A few times even. He had to fake his own death twice once his wives and children began to wonder why he never aged. One time he was run over by a semi and just choose to lie there. He waited to be be zipped up and taken away. He was getting tired of being a Mormon insurance agent anyways. He later snuck out of the morgue and started anew again. His wounds sealing, his bones straightening out as he hopped off from the pavement.

This time was different. He took a risk and spread the curse to his new wife, locking her in at 27 years old. It was awkward biting her. While the "kiss" of a vampire has an erotic appeal, a bite from a were-man like Fred just felt odd and smelly. It worked and before long, she too turned into the greasy, creepy man who rocked Fred's life. It was even worse for her, because she was beautiful and he was ugly. The half way look between the two was no fun for either of them. They tried having sex once when both of their cycles lined up. It was awkward and put them through a rough patch. They are past that now. That's a good thing because its harder to get more invested in a relationship than making your partner an immortal, unnatural, involuntary shape shifter, just like yourself. So think about that next time the toothbrush of an other is making you uncomfortable as it stares at you on your bathroom counter.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


This was a question she hoped she knew the answer to already. She squeezed his hand.

"Haven't you ever wanted to just, be pregnant?"


"You're silly". He pinched her her side and held in her giggles.

No no no no no no no no!

"I can't wait to have this baby with you"

She leaned in and kissed him on the side of his head. His guilt became worse.

I don't want this. I'm not ready. The two of us barely make rent. I'm pretty sure you're not fucking laying a golden egg, idiot.

That's good baby, because he's coming. Nothing can stop him now"

Not for lack of trying though. On his part at least. She felt the heat dash from his skin, with a slick of sweat. She thought it was just nerves, and it was, but they were in fear of the child they made, not for it.

He tried a thousand underhanded ways. He just could not have this conversation with her. Not years ago when they first met, not 7 months ago when he heard the news, and not now. He tried raising the temperature throughout the apartment to uncomfortable levels. He snuck tuna, swordfish, hot dogs, caffeine mints, and vitamin A supplements into her food. He left bottles of paint thinner open one day. He slipped Vodka into her orange juice a couple times and even released a few ticks into her hair while she slept. He bought a few tabs of acid but backed out of slipping them in with their normal stamps in case she ran out of things to mail and/or he forgot. This child to be made him feel like a monster and he acted the part.

It haunted his dreams. At first it was just kind of a "baby cloud", a vague formless threat lurking in his subconscious. It later became male-ish when he learned of its gender. He hung, still in the sky. Suspended and floating on nothing. There was a brown red fluid on the surface dripping beneath, filling its own shadow up with goo. It called his name. A name he had no use of anymore. A name he had been running away from for as long as he could remember.

His eyes sprung open. He laid motionless and on his back. He wanted to curl up with her and feel better. He was still afraid of him the child that would ruin everything. He did not want to get any closer to his future burden. They slept alone together that night.

He forgot that he worked last Saturday and was pleasantly surprised to find he had the following Thursday off. He picked up his check and ducked out. This whole thing, this little strip that proved his time was worth something would be gone in moments. He might be able to sneak a coffee before he throws it down the baby-hole but that would have to be the highlight of his whole week.

Fuck This.

He deposited half of it and carried the rest in hundreds and a few twenties.

I'm doing something for me today

He walked down the street. He did not really think about where he was going and looked for corners he never considered before. He was normally the type to estimate property value whenever he walked into a new place. This time, he was considering more ethnicity.

What kind of people are these, uhh, people?

The buildings were tall and aged with colors between black, gray, and brown. There were flags with symbols and animals that did not look like they could have even been imagined on Earth. The people scurried about. They were holding bowls and round metals. Some had opaque blue plastic bags without labels. Their skin was covered in ornate and dirty coats, their faces in scarves and flu masks. They did not stare at him but they did occasionally peer and point as they went about their business at a slightly slower than usual pace. They were most definitely not afraid of this outsider.

He felt his feet stop before he saw where he was. They decided for him. There was a large and rotted white sign on top of a two floor apartment store. Small, clear, and centered read Solutions , you had to be looking (hard) to see it. He shouldered through the door. He tripped the bell as he swiftly slid in.

There was no one there. It smelled mostly of incense and moss. His eyes locked onto a figure on crucifix. The face was gouged out. It had to have been made once before in detail for the purpose of a savage hammering off. The material looked to be made of some sort of black stone. He could not tell if it was upside down or not, the arms seemed to be held low, on the sides. Defeated. He saw a few votive statues of sickly thin women with shrunken breasts and fuzzy faces. He saw frogs in jars; sterile and frozen in formaldehyde. He saw a jar full of parrot heads; their faces looking almost humanly terrified.

There was a picture on the wall of a ancient Arabian...?, his face captured in uncomfortable detail. He was holding hands with a child in an extravagant white dress. Neither of them look happy with the arrangement. Next to it was a picture of a sick, swollen Buddha. Obese and drenched in gaudy trinkets, wine, food, and women clinging to his sides. His right hand held a bag of coins and his left hand, a sword. He sat on a toilet, wisdom and serenity passing through him as waste. Then he saw him.

He just zoomed into his line of view. He never remembered the shop owner coming from anywhere. Maybe he was watching him and seeing how bad he wanted it. He smiled. The teeth were the first feature he could make out. They were huge and immaculate. You could ride a train on them.

"Jyess?" The shop owner was now a few inches from him. His eyes were somewhere between hazel and yellow. He had patches of skin snow white and coal black. It was not a neat nor consistent mix. He was covered in something between rags and a duster jacket. His hair was shaggy with flakes. He seemed to be shedding or molting something. The shop owner rose his hand above his own head and then slowly pressed it down his face. He breathed in deeply while doing this. It was uncomfortable.

"Ni parolu"

He motioned to him to follow as they walked towards a small door. He opened the door and passed through, he accompanied him. The room seemed large, too big for the lot the shop was on. It was kind of dark. He could make out three structures. The center was tall and pointed with a curved and multilevel roof. There was two curved walls as well. The whole place was ornate like a temple. He felt his feet squish into something as he walked deeper in.

"I'm going to turn the light on, my boy"

He closed his eyes just in time so that it would not hurt. It was all for naught. The entire room was covered in blood and gore. There were vast red pools dripping down the roofs, onto the floor. There were pink, purple, red, black, clumps and tubes everywhere! Everything looked like it belonged in something else; behind, around or near some other organ. Something else more conventional and less acutely medical.

The shop owner breathed it all in.

"Shin-tao. Very clean religion. They ostracize people in butcher and tanning families for generations. They'll still eat the fish and wear the leather though. Its kind of funny really. This room is for unhappy customers from that sort of background"

He looked at the young man and cocked his head.


"Well, what?"

"How are you feeling, my boy?"

"This is disgusting. I want to run out of here, but I need you. How do you think I feel? I feel awful"
but not as awful as I know I should. That may be even more awful than what I started with.

He walked closer and did a little hop in the wet.

"You must really want a solution?"

He was becoming less afraid by the moment. He said without breath or blink "Yeah"

The shop owner pointed to the door again. The lights went out. He waited to hear his footsteps and followed.

"This is a different door. You just remembered it wrong"


And so it was. Through the door they once entered from now led to a long white hallway. The light was shaped like a tunnel and only split slightly onto the walls. The shop owner turned around and loomed over him.

"I know but I want you to tell me your problem. This won't happen in your head anymore; it all starts with the words. Let them fill the air with your intentions".

Somewhere between relived and indignant, he said

"I don't want my girlfriend to give birth. I don't want my son to be born. Maybe later but not now. I want to keep her all to myself. I don't want it coming between us. "

The shop owner smiled. It seemed like a smile of fulfilled expectations. It did not rise rather it curled around the sides of his mouth. Whatever it was, it wasn't the conventional form of happiness.

"Jyessssss". The shop owner put his hand above his head and down his face again.

Like the owner before, the buggy zoomed into his view at the end of the hall. He had not seen it before. You had to move towards it to really make it out. It was an old Victorian style baby buggy. It was black and frilly with big wheels. It was pretty high off the ground.

"Take it. It's for loan. Leave the shop with it now. You'll know when the time is right to return"

He walked down the long hall. He hesitated for a moment before his hands felt sucked in onto the handle bar. It was cold. It squeaked as he wheeled it back out.

"How does it work?"

The shop keeper was getting hard to focus on. He seemed to be fading. He snorted in laughter, as if he could explain such a thing.

"Don't worry, all she has to do is accept it"

He walked out the door, grim and determined. This had to work!

"How much, old man?" He called back.

The door shut behind him and he was outside. Night had fallen.

"You'll pay later"

"This is so tacky, I LOVE IT"

He sat hunched forward at a slight angle. He was very close to the fire place, which was roaring with accusations only he could hear. It cast a shadow on the top of his face.

"I knew you would. That's why I got it"

She pointed to a drawer.

"Tomorrow, I'm going to get my kit and I'm going to redo the whole thing. I'm going to make it navy blue but I'm going to keep the long black frills. It will make our baby bad ass"

He laughed, despite himself.

How was this going to work? Is she going to fuck it up?

"I'm going to take a shower. I'll meet you in bed" He slowly drifted up the stairs.

"I love you baby. Though you won't be my baby anymore. You'll be something else"

He rinsed and plopped into bed, still a little wet. Later, he would feel her slink next to him, hours later. She curled his arms around him and whispered

"Thanks for being so great about this I wouldn't want to do it with anyone but you".
She kissed him. It sealed the deal and he fell asleep.

He dreamed of his son again. There were white streaks now in this floating mass. The only thing worse than dreaming of him was dreaming of him dying in agony. It screamed at him, his sound low and heavy. The dripping now felt more like leaking and he seemed to tilt on his axis.

He dreamed of this for days. Night after night. Until the evening before. This time it was an empty room. Nothing was there where his son once floated. He awoke to the sound of her vomiting. He recognized the patter of wet solid chunks mixing with coarse liquid.

Problem solved.

He leaned a little bit forward, still in bed. The baby buggy was almost done. She made it look cool and exciting instead of a depressing relic. It was a cheerful deep blue. "You did a great job on this, baby". She could not hear him.

He waited for relief but it did not come. He underestimated how much this would affect her. He had not even considered what to do after his son was no more. After the remains were removed. He held her and cried with her, not knowing exactly where his own tears came from. He took her to therapy. He took time off from his job just to be there for her. It felt nice. There was guilt each and everyday but it was a secret one. He tried to cover it up and bury it in her and the time they spent mourning together.

Time went by and they got better. They even talked about trying again, since the doctors could not find anything wrong with either of them. They should look harder, he thought. He almost wish someone could find out about what he had done. Maybe it wasn't the buggy. Maybe all or one of those awful things I before worked. He had not heard from the shop keeper and was too busy taking care of her to visit him on his own. He was not sure if he even remembered how to get there.

One day he came home and found her working on the buggy again. She was almost back to her old self. Her project was near completed, she was making the last touches.

"You know, maybe we should go for it. I'm ready. I think this time we'll do it right. Let's try again. I want to have a child with you" Her hand flicked the exacto knife to the side for the final touch.


The last
excess tassel was trimmed. It was complete. They stood together in front of the buggy. He felt different this time. Hopeful even.

There was a faint groaning sound. It was familiar to him. The buggy bubbled. The blue fabric sloughed off. All her work was gone. The room filled with the smell of burning plastic and old oil. She fell to her knees and wept. He remembered where the shop was. She choked, and sobbed, and sucked in air alone on the floor. He couldn't do a thing.

Hours passed. No one was moving. He breathed in through his nose.


She was silent and still. He walked over to the buggy, restored to its former ruin. His hands magnetized to the handlebar again and he wheeled it off. It squeaked down the halls and out the door, like it was laughing.. He was at the shop before he knew it. He looked up at the sign and he was suddenly inside and behind the counter. Next to him was the shop owner. He leaned into his ear. How much do I owe?

"Atendu momenton"

He motioned forward with his whole hand.

"Via vico"

There was woman standing on the other side of the counter. Dirty, haggard, old beyond her years, she had a hunger in her eyes. She did not blink.

"I need a solution"

He turned to his right. The shop owner was gone. It did not matter, he knew just the thing.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Run the Sky

The stars are projectors/yeah/projecting our lives down to this planet Earth

I always liked to start my day with something silly. Like Horoscopes though no one thinks they are silly anymore. I have a very vital and very boring job. Despite the seminars, the certificates, and the degree, it really just comes down to keeping an eye on the temperature. It can't get too hot; it can't get too cold. That's it. I have a fiveish degree margin to work with or I'm fucked, the plant is fucked, and probably the 10 mile radius surrounding us is fucked too. I won't tell you what kind of degrees I'm working with. Its just part of the magic that makes me one of those unsung heroes you never really hear about. I used to be, at least.

So I liked to start my serious day with a silly horoscope, but I was distracted. The front page (made out of actual tree guts, I'm oldskool) screamed "George. W. Bush Dead". I was a little surprised. I bet my dad's surprise was pleasant for him. He's like that. Mine was neutral. Dubya seemed like a healthy guy and he was not that old. Though people have died suddenly at a younger age. I did not think much of it at the time.

The paper described his wife finding him slumped in front of his TV watching a Rangers game. He dropped his O'douls. The pundits accused each other. Leaders began crafting their careful condolences. I wondered how long it would be until I started hearing pretzel jokes, again. I hate it when I think of a gag before Conan does. Its like I spoil it for myself. I should write for TV, I'm pretty funny!

So I read that article, more interested than in mourning. Something was bugging me and I'm pretty sure it wasn't sadness or indigestion. There were follow up and side stories about the death of the former President throughout the paper. It hit me about 2 mins and 25 seconds before my shift really started. The horoscope was there but my little piece of the stars was gone! There was no Cancer! Although that might sound good to smokers and oncologists, it was a little unnerving to myself. There was Gemini and Leo, all three of them standing above and bellow that crab that I was supposed to be, but no Cancer. It was gone.

I had a pretty normal shift at work. Things got a little bit too cold for about one hour. It was quite exciting, let me tell you but I won't because I'm being sarcastic. I do not want you to miss out. The radio on the car ride home told the same story but it also had a few other famous deaths to report. Dan Aykroyd and Ringo Starr were dead too! They died the same way, quietly and apparently, suddenly. What the Hell? Did you see Ghost Busters? That shit was great and who the hell would mess with Ringo? I mean the Beatles were a little bit before my time but he seemed like a nice drummer. Hey, what do you call someone who hangs out with and follows around a band of musicians? Think about it, aha hah ha. I told you I was funny.

I went to sleep pretty early. I like to stay up latter and latter as the week goes on. That night was a Tuesday, so I hit the hay pretty early. I was staying in a hotel suite at the time. My assignment at this plant would be over in a little over a week. I missed my baby and I wanted to speak to her. See, my baby was having a baby. And by the first "baby" I mean my wife and by the second "baby" I mean I knocked her the fuck up! I always knew I had some pretty strong stuff, ever since I was 13. Once we stopped trying to prevent a baby (RU ready for a kid? Hellll no! 436 times no.) it was easy to have a kid. I've been waiting since September for this lil' guy and it looked like we were both going to be born around the same date. Isn't that great? I hope they still serve beer at Chuckie Cheese. Though lately those places have gotten kinda dangerous.

I dreamed. Not of a better world, but of a man. He is strong and scarred. He has a wild look in his eyes. He's wearing a toga/tunic type thing. He is grappling a mighty multi-headed dragon. The Goddess does not want this man to beat this dragon. She seems to be worried about him losing for some crazy reason. So she sends me to distract this champion of gods; gods other than the one I am currently serving. Only, I'm not a dragon too or a thunder bird, or some sort of superhero/villain. I'm a fucking crab. A little one too! Not a giant enemy crab but a tiny one that you could probably eat and not feel full on. I grab onto this man with all my claws and might too. I hope to throw him off his game enough so that the real monster can kill the man. He looks down at me, he looks down on me (asshole) and crushes me with a beat-up sandal.

I'm fucking dead. Thanks for sending me, goddess! Can you be divine and an idiot too? Apparently. She does not hear or chooses to ignore my dying curses and scoops me up. I'm embarrassingly grateful. It feels good to be held in my goddess' arms. Its a love beyond a mother or a lover can give you. She knows me more than anything or anyone ever. She admires my pathetic but earnest effort. She throws me into outer space and I become a line of stars that kind of look like my original form. I feel so close to the moon. I watch the people on Earth.

I wake up. I have a few hours after to kill after my three S's (shower, shit, and shave) and I wonder what to do. I make a good amount of money but I really can't go anywhere when I'm on assignment. It's pretty remote. I could have slept at the plant but I figured it was worth driving an hour to sleep in a hotel. I did not feel like driving out further because this hotel was pretty remote too. I'm still wondering about Cancer, so I call up an "expert", ha ha. I punch in my credit card, including those three little numbers at the end on the back and await my fuuuuutuuuuureeeee.

She sounded frantic.
"Hi, I was just wondering, what..."
She sputtered an interruption.
"We do not know what happened to Cancer. We're sorry, you will not be charged for this call. Goodbye"
She hangs up. On me!
That was the first time I realized that this was serious.

Cancer was gone. Really fucking gone! Gone from the papers and gone from the sky. People were freaking out and for good reason too. They were dying. At first we thought it was one of those times when celebrities start dying off in clusters. The thing was, these people were not close to around the same age. Chris Isaak and Bill Cosby were dead. Tom Cruise and Lil' Kim were suddenly relevant again. Huey Lewis was returned to the news along with Pamela Anderson and Lindsay Lohan (though who didn't see that coming, amirite?). People thought there was some sort of zodiac serial killer on the loose. Tobey Maquire fell to his death while doing some Spiderman shit and I thought it was connected to the movie about the Zodiac but it turns out that was Jake Gylenwhatever and as far as I know, he's still okay.

The astronomers talked about "parallax" and astrologists started speaking in tongues. We all soon came to realize that it wasn't just celebrity Cancer signs who were dying. People born between June 21st and July 22nd all over the world were dying, suddenly and randomly. It was mostly in America, Australia, and Europe, but I heard reports of a lot of Indians (the dots, not the feathers) dying too along with smaller pockets of people in Asia (like hardly anyone in China) and Africa too. Some of them were quiet and peaceful ways to go but others were not.

Flying tires from wrecked semis, escaped lions, plunging stage lights, snapping elevator cords, pharmaceutical errors at every level, anal hemorrhaging, ergot in the bakery, heart attacks, strokes, and one story of motherfucking Shamu (one of her kids cuz the original is dead) jumping a little too far out of its tank and onto a whole crowd of people. Just to get one July baby! They just wanted to get splashed, not squashed. This bane or curse did not strike very carefully. You could get killed by just being around a Cancer if his or her ticket was going to be punched in a AoE sort of way.

Our modern world (and the ancient one too) is pretty dangerous, so it was hard to tell the difference between a horror-scope (that's what we started calling it) death and just random chance. Not all Cancers had the same amount of time. Some stuck around for years. Your twin brother could die tomorrow but you could still be kicking it for a little while. Unless something other than the stars was going to kill you. It was maddening. All we knew was that were doomed and dying out quickly. The shit really hit the fan when we were declared "An endangered species" by international bodies who could do that sort of thing. Not that there was much anyone or anything could do about it.

Cancer remainders (because Cancer Survivors would be misleading) became the newest minority group and an easy way to become a celebrity. We banded together and pooled our money and time to lobby D.C to protect us. They took our money and promised to do their best but we both knew there was nothing they could do to prevent any and all accidents; within and without. It just made us feel like we were doing something. Another group of our dwindling population banded together as well and built a rubber padded, self sustaining, bunker where they felt they were safe. No one knows exactly how that fire started, spread, and continued to burn, but the whole scene was described as "complete vulcanization" which sounds as a pleasant a way to die as it is.

Some of us just shut down. They stayed in their rooms and refused to leave. Others were abandoned by their friends and family out of fear they would be collateral damage for their invertible calamity. A band of elder teenagers formed calling themselves "The Too-Mores". They did not invent the phenomena, but they catapulted into the top-ten with their one and only hit single "Run the Sky".

I'm going out/I'm getting high/and before its all over/I'll run the sky

They all died on (or under, hah haa) stage when the floor collapsed beneath them at a packed venue. The drummer survived. It turns out he was faking it and he was really born in April. Fucking drummers, amirite?

It was a real thing-to-do, depicted in their music video, for non-catatonic Cancers to run wildly at night and challenge the stars to strike them down. It was empowering and exciting. A lot people liked to have a little snort, toot, smoke, toke, shoot, sniff, snip whatever before they headed out. It was a very personal thing you were supposed to do alone but a lot of people liked to invite their friends to watch them. They even threw parties sometimes afterwords. I did it a few times myself. It almost seemed to me that "running the sky" was not anymore likely to kill a Cancer remainder than any other activity or non-action but I had seen enough folks hit by lighting on cloudless nights to be willing to consider otherwise.

The worst part about all this were the babies. There were waves and waves of miscarriages and still births. Some were quiet and devastating and others were loud, explosive, and messy (and also devastating). It was rare for a human to be born between June 21st and July 22nd. At least in our corner of the globe. Scientists claimed it was some sort of virus but we all knew better. My baby died before he was even born. The clumpy fucker took my wife down with him. I have to pretend that everything is okay but its not. I miss her so much. I've thrown myself into my work because I am so alone. That's not enough, apparently. Its so funny! I've started joking even more now because its one of the few things that takes my mind off of how sad I am that doesn't come in a bottle or a plastic jar. Ha ha. My boss, a guy I've met fucking once, told me over email I'm a "cosmic liability" because of the danger that comes with being around a Cancer. Whatever it is that kills us could take the whole plant with me. Its nice to feel appreciated.

I'm a celebrity now, a "personality". I riff on pop-culture. I discuss politics. What, did you think the world would stop spinning without us Cancers? I may be one of the last in America and one of the few in the world. It may have something to do with the fact that I'm adopted. My parents abandoned me somewhere and I was in the system for a very short period of time. My birth date may be inaccurate and a guesstimation on behalf of a bored government clerk. No one has seen my real birth certificate, if such a thing exists. You may know me as Barrack Obama.... ah aha ha hah. Just kidding. That would not make any sense, ha ha ha. Speaking of "ha ha" did you hear his address about this situation? He did not know what to say. What could you, it made no sense. It just happened.

I hear that Geminis and Leos live with a vague but constant state of dread but there are exceptions. Sometimes I look to the sky where the crab used to be and I feel guilty. It could because I'm a survivor but I kind of feel responsible for all this. I usually get this feeling nights after I have my crab vs toga man dreams, which reoccur more than I would care for. I sometimes feel like I abandoned some sort of duty in order to have fun. For something different. The sky calls to me and begs me to get back to work, to stop all this.

But I don't want to. Maybe I want other people to suffer instead of just me. Maybe I want lovers trying for a child to dread September; to fear each others touch for a whole month. Maybe I want other husbands, wives, sons, and daughters to feel as shitty as I do. I'll get back to running the sky when I'm damn ready. And fuck you if you have a problem with that!
Ha ha, ah ha ha h ahhh.