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Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Quick Run to the Store

It was a small cut, thought Judy as she clamped a hand over her bleeding forearm.  A scratch really.  Nothing to bother anyone about.  She’d been putting groceries onto the belt from her shopping cart and her arm had scraped against the blue plastic that was used to protect the corners of the carriage; or perhaps protect any unlucky automobiles that might find themselves in the path of the cart.  At any rate, the damage was done and the blood had come quickly to the surface.  Judy clamped her hand over her forearm, just as she’d learned from her brother who’d been in the Boy Scouts.  Applying pressure would stop the bleeding.  
    “Oh my! Are you bleeding, dear?” said the helpful cashier.  Her name tag read Lucia.  Judy wondered idly if that was pronounced as “Loosha” or as “Loo-chi-ah” but only nodded her head by way of reply.  
    “You ought to be more careful.” Lucia said, pursing her lips.  Judy felt a drop of blood run through her hand between her fingers and drip from her fingertip to the floor.  It was then that she realized that the blood had been dripping in this fashion and a small pool had begun to gather.
    “Oh dear! That’s quite nasty isn’t it?” Lucia said.
    “It’s just a tiny cut.” Judy said, though the amount of blood she now saw told her that it must be worse than she thought.  
    “Stay put, dear.  I’ll be right back.” Lucia said.
    Judy stood still as she was instructed and followed Lucia with her eyes.  The cashier had disappeared into a small office.  It was actually more of a cupboard with a makeshift desk.  Judy watched as Lucia gathered paper towels, a spray bottle of some blue liquid and a first aid kit.  All of these items were innocuous enough but Judy couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that a lot of fuss was being made over a cut that she could tend to as soon as she got home.  Still, in a society that was “litigation crazed” she supposed it was in their best interests to make sure a lawsuit wasn’t pending.
    It was then that she heard something.  It was guttural, low and came from deep in the throat of whatever creature was making it.  She looked around her for the source of the sound and immediately wished she hadn’t.  The sound came from a person.  Deep and somewhere between a groan and a growl.  The man that it came from was staring at her arm blankly.  Before her eyes she watched the color drain from his eyes until they were glazed and . . . dead.  His skin took on a pallor that also gave the appearance of death and he reached out his arms for her arm.  With a scream Judy backed away and immediately fell to the ground using the balls of her feet to get what traction she could.  It was no longer just one person that was coming toward her, arms outstretched and looking like a corpse.  It seemed that everyone nearby had gone insane and was after her.
    “HELP!” she screamed, finally turning and getting to her feet.  She ran blindly through the small store, each aisly filled with walking corpses that, upon seeing her, moved impossibly fast for being in such a condition.  Judy for her part, became an expert at pivoting on her heel and running the other direction.  She ran until her lungs felt like they would burst.  There seemed no safe haven near her.  She zigged and zagged from one aisle to the next and each was filled with empty eyes and the groans of what seemed to be animated corpses.  With one aisle left and knowing what she was bound to find there Judy began to panic.  Stopping for a moment she leaned on her knees, out of breath.  
    “What you doin’ girl?  You tryin’ to get killed?” came a voice.
    “Wha-what?” Judy said.  The shock of her situation was now beginning to set in.
    “You’re runnin’ around panickin’ like ye are ain’t gonna save yer ass.  Now come on in here.”
    Judy moved toward the voice, almost as catatonic as the things chasing her.  She noticed the arm that was attached to the voice that was now rescuing her was holding open a door that said “employees only.” She continued moving toward it slowly until she was within arm’s reach and the man reached out and in one smooth mothion pulled her inside and shoved her behind him as he shut and latched the door.

    It was just a small cut.  A scratch.  Judy’s mind played it over and over again.  Perhaps if she promised not to press charges then this nightmare would end.  Perhaps it was, in fact, a nightmare.  Nightmares involved a lot of running after all, running away from monsters that seemed to be around every corner no matter how far or how fast you ran.  She’d nearly convinced herself that she was  dreaming when her arm began to tingle and throb with aching pain.  She hadn’t been pinched, but the blood that was still pouring from the wound in time with her racing pulse was enough to convince her that she wasn’t dreaming.  
    “Damned fool.” her benefactor said, gruffly.
    “Eat this.” he said, shoving what looked like a chocolate bar into her face.  She took it and nibbled a few bites tentatively.  He eased her into a chair and sat her down firmly yet gently.
    “Yer in the early stages of shock.” he said and she looked at him dumbly.
    “Yer mind caint make sense outta what yer seein’.”
    “Who are you?” she managed.
    “Name’s Jonny.” he said.
    “I seen this down in Charlotte few months back.  Damnedest thing I ever saw.  Caint kill ‘em ‘cept if you shoot em in the face, crush they skull or bash they brains in.”
    “What are they?”
    “No idea.  Seems like they sorta “wake up when they catch a whiff of blood.  That cut there did it.  Made ‘em all crazed.” he gestured to her bleeding arm, pulling a first aid kit from under his arm.
    “Give that here. You ain’t no use to anyone leaving a trail of blood for ‘em to follow.”
    “You saw them before?” Judy asked.
    “What did you do?”
    “Got the hell outta dodge.” he said, roughly binding her wound with an ace bandage.
    “Ran far and fast and never looked back.  Ain’t seen nothin’ on the news and ain’t seen nothin’ like it since.  Almost convinced myself it ain’t never happen.  ‘Til today.” he said.
    “So what do we do?”
    “I don’t care what you do little girl.  Me?  I’m doin’ what I did before.  Gettin’ the hell outta dodge.  Whatever this thing is makes people change when they smell blood and it might be spreading.  I ain’t got time to take care of no little girl ain’t got no sense.  You’d get me killed.”
    Judy looked at him dumbfounded.
    “Well you can’t leave me here.”
    His shoulders shook with ironic laughter.
    “I ain’t beholden to you little girl.  Ain’t gonna die for you neither.  Now listen up.  I’m gonna go for an exit.  You want out you follow me and you stay close.  When we get out you go your way and I’mma go mine.”
    She nodded, her face stricken.  She knew he was right about her going into shock.  She new that right now the only keeping her going was adrenaline and the sheer will to live.  She watched as Jonny packed up the first aid supplies and glanced at her arm.  It was no longer bleeding and the throbbing had stopped.  He moved to the door and opened it a crack.  Judy screamed as a pale hand pounded the door into his face and pushed its way inside.
    Jonny cried out and fell beneath the weight of the body that had pushed its way in.  It was on him with its hands clutching the side of Jonny’s head and pushing its thumbs into his eyes.  There was a loud pop the eyes crushed beneath the pressure and blood and crushed eye matter oozed out from the now empty eye sockets.  Jonny’s body had gone limp as he had graciously lost consciousness; though it was a moot point as the creature (it was definitely no longer a person) pulled and twisted and pulled and twisted at his head.  With a sickening wetness his head came apart from his shoulders and blood spurted into Judy’s face, covering the front of her body.  At that moment she did the instinctual thing, the natural thing, the worst possible thing.  She screamed.

    The creature looked up at the sound, Jonny’s head still in its hand.  Remarkably, it made no move toward her, seeming for the moment to be more interested in the severed head it now possessed.  Judy clutched her hand to her mouth and forced herself to stop screaming lest she draw more of the creatures to finish herself off.
    “Alright you fucker.” she said.
    “What are you gonna do now?”
    In reply, the creature brought Jonny’s head to its mouth and pulled off the right ear and began to chew.  Judy shuddered as she felt the contents of her stomach churn and rise to the top of her throat.  She stared in horror as the creature continued to gnaw at Jonny’s head, pulling and chewing at the flesh until bits of bone were visible beneath.
    “Okay Judy, think.” she looked around the room.  It was a supply room with boxes stacked floor to ceiling.  There was nothing useful for escape that she could see.  Between her and the door was a dead body and a creature that clearly had a taste for human flesh.  She was grateful to Jonny for bandaging her arm but silently cursed the man for pulling her into a supply room with nothing that could help her.
    “Let’s try standing.” she said, moving slowly away from the creature that had discarded Jonny’s head and was now reaching down the cavity of his neck to pull out the innards and eat those as well.
    “It looks like I’m safe as long as you have him to munch on.” she said.
    Standing now she moved as far away as she could from the creature.  Paying no attention to where she was going or any thought to what she would do when she got there, she felt the rising panic of shock threaten to take her again.  Her vision blurred and darkened in her periphery as she moved.
    “No Judy.” she said to herself.
    “You’ve got to stay awake.”
    She began to hum a tune to herself, non-descript but familiar nonetheless.  She continued moving, smoothly and more quickly.  Never taking her eyes off the creature that was now devoring the insides of Jonny’s torso.  She jumped, startled as she felt something at her back.  She risked a glance over her shoulder and sighed with relief.  She couldn’t believe her luck.  She’d backed into a large receiving door.  She smiled and felt a fresh wave of adrenaline rush through her as her giddy happiness at her possible salvation took her.  She looked over at the creature once more.  Satisfied that it was still devouring Jonny, she turned her back and began to move more quickly.
    She no longer cared about noise or what she was doing.  She yanked hard at the bottom of the receiving door and felt it give way.  She shoved it upwards and it opened as any garage door would, bouncing on its springs. Luck was still with her; there was no truck parked at the door and open air was before her.  
    She spared a thought of sympathy for Jonny, her fallen benefactor, but did not wait to give last rites over his body.  She jumped down from the loading platform and drew in a deep breath of fresh air.  She noticed that there was a hint of decay in the air, almost as if it were autumn and the fallen leaves were beginning to rot.  
    “Time to go.” she said, glancing down at her feet.  Her shoes were not suitable for running and so she took them off, relying on her bare feet to carry her to safety.  Now unfettered, she ran without stopping around to the front of the store and straight to her car.  Diving inside she locked the doors and turned over the engine.  Her breath was coming in great gasps now and there was no question that shock would soon take her.  She slammed into gear and sped away from the nightmare grocery store.  She thought of poor Jonny and his story of having seen something similar in Charlotte months prior.  If the phenomenon was spreading then she would need to get away.  Far away.  She wouldn’t possibly be able to stay where she was, not knowing that those creatures were nearby, and what they would do.
    With each mile she put between her and the grocery store, she began to calm.  Her breath evened and finally the tears came.  They blurred her vision but she didn’t stop driving.  She knew that she dare not.  She glanced at her arm, the bandage covering the wound that had started this horror.  She forced all the images of the creatures from her mind and thought nothing of blame or fault.  After all, it was just a small cut.

You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry

I can see you, my old friend
Built of fire and ice and rage
I can see you and I can feel you
You've served me well these many years
Provided survival through pain
Healing through scars
Warming me like the fire of the sun
Now, amidst the storm in the heart of such a sun
Comes the night. 
Steady, friend
The Dark must come before the dawn
So too, must come the knowledge of the end
You've served me well these many years
Though now such service comes to an end
All balances have been cleared and
All debts are repaid
And so my old friend
I must speed you on your way.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One Last Fight

"I came, just like I promised." the voice was soft and trembling, though not from fear.  She knelt down, placing her palms on the tops of her thighs in a gesture she thought might look regal and hoped it didn't look supplicating.  She smiled at this.  What a thing it would be to submit to the dead!  Her smile turned to a muffled sob as she realized he would have found it funny too. 

The tears fell as she looked up, away from where he lay, and remarked that this was a holdover from the past. She'd been unable to look at him when she was crying for years.  She always hated that and a surge of anger flooded through her at this realization that she was still unable to look at him.

"Damn you!" she said, loudly causing several birds to take flight and this made her laugh again.

"You're such a jerk." she said, looking back at his resting place.  All she saw was the cold unyielding stone that was all that was left to mark the presence of a man she felt so dynamic, so much larger than life.  She stroked the top of the stone and felt a fresh, raw surge of sadness at it's cold, unyielding surface scraping against her skin.  There was none of the warmth, softness or hidden strength that she'd felt in his arms as they'd wrapped around her, making her feel safer than she'd ever been.

"Not a jerk. You're an asshole!" her anger rose again.

"You left me. You left us! How could you do that you selfish prick?  Did you know they ask about you every day?  Did you know we all cry ourselves to sleep with-"

"They really ask about me?" came a voice making her jump up so fast that she bumped her head on a tree branch.  She whirled around ready to give this intruder, this stalker a piece of her mind---how dare he interrupt her grieving---but the sight she beheld caused her knees to buckle.  It was him. 
Defying all logic and all reason, he stood before her.  She felt her knees go weak and she clenched her fists vowing not to faint, if for no other reason than she hated women who fainted at shocking situations.  Though there was an honest fear that if she fainted he would be gone when she came to.

"Brian?" she asked in the same soft and trembling voice she'd used when she'd arrived.

"In the flesh." he said, flashing a lopsided grin that had always made her melt in life, but now his flippant tone did nothing for her.

"You can't be here." she said, her tone incredulous.

"But I am." he replied, his tone light.  He came closer, a literal spring in his step and he enfolded her in his arms.  He felt her melt into him for just a moment and then her coldness took over and she shoved him away.

"WHO ARE YOU!?" she screamed, giving into the shock.  His face fell, the happiness dripping away to fear.

"I'm Brian." he said,

"Babe it's okay."

"Don't you 'babe' me!" she spat.

"How dare you!  How dare you do this to me!" she sobbed, and did, at last fall to her knees, though to her credit she didn't faint.  He touched her shoulder gently trying to reassure her in that infuriating way he'd had in life.

"You're dead.  You died.  We buried you.  There isn't any resurrection.  You can't be here."  Her voice was now desperate.  Her need for this to be true was equal only to her need for it to be untrue.

"All the more reason you should be happy to see me." he said gently.  His voice shook, but it wasn't fear or sadness, it was . . . effort.  He was straining.

"Well I'm not." she said with finality.

"I understand." he said simply, but his eyes pleaded with her for understanding for acceptance.

"Why should I be?  If you're here then there are a handful of reasons why," she ticked the points off on her left hand.

"One, you're really dead and I've finally lost it, which would mean I was far more dependent on you then either of us wanted; if I've somehow resurrected you in my head to help me cope.  Two, you aren't dead and there's some kind of elaborate reason you faked your death, which would lead to some extraordinary thing like 'Witness Protection' or some other shit like that which would mean you came to say good bye; which means I'm about to lose you all over again and that's just the shittiest thing you could do to a person.  Three." she choked on the word.

"Three, you've been genuinely resurrected which would imply the existence of something that had the power to do that which would mean my entire belief system (or lack thereof) is wrong.  Now, which of these people do you want to be?" she looked squarely at him, challenging him to declare himself as the harbinger of her mental infirmity, and insensitive clod or the proof of divinity which she denied.

"I'm Brian," he said simply, stroking her hair.

"I'm the Brian you know and I came to say goodbye, that's true." and then he laughed, loudly and deeply, a belly laugh that reminded her of watching him play with their children.

"And I'm in awe of you. As usual." he said smiling.

"So, you're real?  And this is what?  It is a witness protection thing?" she said, her eyes icy, but within herself she couldn't deny how happy she was to see him standing before her.

"I'm real.  And I've come to say goodbye my love.  But the rest . . . " he trailed off.

"Oh no!  Don't you do that!" her voice was angry again, and he laughed again and this made her even angrier.

"Why are you laughing at me?" she cried, her anger giving way to tears once again.

"Look at you!" He said,

"So beautiful, so full of fire, so sure of yourself that even given the final goodbye that no one ever gets you're picking a fight with me.  You're a joy to behold." his voice then gave way to sobs and he grabbed her hands.

"And I don't know how I got here or how long I'll be here, but you have to believe me.  I came for you.  I came across time and space and death and reality just for you.  Just to say goodbye.  And you're fighting with me." he gave a little laugh at that last,

"I can't believe you're fighting with me."

"I'm not trying to fight." she said softly.

He stood, his energy crackling with intensity.

"Well of course not.  I mean why would you?  I mean, it's clear you're just trying to cope with something you can't understand because it's inexplicable.  Do you think I wanted to go?"  his voice returned some of her anger now,

"Do you think it was fair?  There's no fairness in the Universe.  This is all there is."  He reached out and touched her breast, over her heart.

"And it was enough to bring me back to you.  To say good bye.  So.  Say it."

"No." she said defiantly.

"No?" he asked, hardly able to comprehend.

"No," she nodded,

"I mean why should I?  I don't know what you are or why you're here or if any of it is real.  What if I don't want closure?  What if I don't want to let you go or say goodbye because I want you here always?" she touched her heart over his hand,

"Besides.  You're not real.  Jerkface.  You can't be."

"Oh I'm real." he said and his hands were on the back of her neck and he pulled her into a kiss.  Long and deep and slow.  She did melt into him this time and though her eyes were closed she was aware that he was glowing and she knew then, without knowing why that it was ending.  She wrapped her arms around him desperately.

"No!" she screamed,

"No don't leave again! I don't even know why you're here."

"Because I am," he said,

"Because the universe is big. It's vast and complicated and ridiculous and sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles... and that's a theory.  But it's something you can believe in that doesn't require faith.  Theories can be proven by science." he winked at her.  The light surrounding him was blinding now.

"Or disproven." she said.

"I'm going to miss fighting with you." he said.

"I'm going to miss fighting with you." she responded, reaching for his hand.  He reached out though there was no longer any solidity to his form and her hand passed through his.

"No!" she cried.

"No, no, no." she repeated it over and over again, mournfully.  Sinking to her knees once more, placing her palms open on the tops of her thighs staring at the headstone that would once again be all that was left of her lover, her partner and her friend. 

"Goodbye my love." she heard him as if from a great distance and she closed her eyes against the tears.

She was still for a long time after that before opening her eyes and standing up.  She glanced at the stone that was all that remained and she whispered his name, giving it a lingering touch.  She knew she'd never know if what happened was real or imagined but she had to acknowledge that whether real or imagined the experience had left her feeling something she hadn't felt since he'd died.  It left her feeling loved.

Happy With You

21 things I want in a lover?
I'd be happy with you.
Imaginary Prince making me feel loved
Illusory lover showering upon me affections
As a feast to the starving
O' to be in your arms!
The very idea intoxicates me
21 things I want in a lover?
Such a paltry number to the man that would make me feel thus:
Made of star stuff
With eyes telling fairy tales and
A head full of dreams
Though tread softly for
This is what it means
To love a dream
And in the dream comes the lesson that
From a dream one must always awake.

21 things I want in a lover?
I'd be happy with you.