2k words Short Story: Chain of events, The World Walker

World Walker

“You remember how we never even said hi to each other? ” Beccy told me. “Even when Keith threw the eight-ball at us, and we all played pool for the first time since your friends started drinking there, you didn’t say anything to me. In fact you spoke the whole time to whatshername.”

“Carmen.” I corrected her.

“Sandiago” she finished. I didn’t laugh and she didn’t notice, so I added a: “Wow that was lame.” But she only giggled like I was trying to be funny and not tell her that I found her unbearably annoying.

If she hadn’t lost her contacts on the pool room floor and I hadn’t been the one to find them by the bar, then we wouldn’t have ever started going to the gym, together, and there shouldn’t have been much of a chance the gym’s showers were under repair, that we would live so close to one another, and that I had made a move when she only had a towel on.

She squeezed my nose with her fingers, like a clothes peg. I wrenched my head away.
Said: “I moved house for you.”

She laughed even though I wasn’t making a joke. “We lived nowhere near one another. I had to segue into a parallel world where I lived in a smaller, dirtier apartment, stepped right through and away from a low paying (but money’s never a problem), satisfying job in a bookstore and you know what? Even with all the possible books that have ever been written I still haven’t got enough time to read what’s out there.

She laughed again, so to make myself clear I said: “And I did it because you are the most beautiful girl I have literally ever seen, ever, in all the places I’ve been, your body is a fucking private jet, a mansion, front row seats to every show worth watching, a blowjob from the most enthusiastic porn-star blowing like she’s about to go broke.”

Her mouth dropped open, which was coincidental, but because I was distracted I said: “That’s ironic.” She wasn’t smart enough to correct me. “I disgust you don’t I?” I said. “You know I only shower like twice a week? I can’t be bothered. It’s all deo.” Her face scrunched up. “Why are you saying all this?” She asked.
“Because I’m done, I’m leaving.” And I got up and started to put on my clothes. She went dead quiet. “It’s 4 AM.”
“I’m not leaving this house, I’m leaving this world, this universe. GG Beccy: I have always had the ability to slip into a parallel world. Or maybe it’s a new world. Or maybe I’m batshit crazy, hard to say. But anyway, I’m thinking this time, I’m going to be single. I’ve spent so much energy walking into desperate women who fall for me that I think I’m ready to do the old fashioned thing and plain old delude them till they fuck me.” I stretched. It was always a good idea to stretch first.

She threw a pillow at me. I dodged. Big smile.

She went for my phone.

“NOT THE PHONE.”

It connected with my nose. She was really good at pool.

“JESHUS.”

“IF YOU CAN LEAVE THEN WHAT HAPPENS TO ME HUH?”

It was a good question. I have no idea what happens when I walk out. Maybe I just disappear, which would be mildly traumatizing but also mind expanding- think of the implications! For a normal person at least. Maybe the whole universe ceases to exist, which if the universe was infinite would make me the biggest mass murderer of all possible times and spaces. But I can’t be the only one, so it’s not like I’m alone in this regard. Maybe a copy of me remains. If so, I feel very sorry for him, especially the me who talked shit to that guy with the knife that time in the alley. Either way, fuck it, I’ll never know.

“SO RUN THEN SAM! RUN LIKE THE WIND!” Beccy said, with this very rare, intense look in her eyes that I’ve only seen her have during a real orgasm. She picked up the other pillow. I blinked, so did reality, and she wasn’t there anymore. I blinked again, and there was my new coffin: maybe ten foot by ten foot, a sofa that was probably also my bed, a bookcase that had a series of thick books on the top shelf, plates, cutlery, wallet and phone on the shoulder height shelf, and stacks of books on the lower, taken from the middle shelf to make space for my life. A folding table glistened with chip packets turned inside out and tinfoil microwave dinners scrunched up within each other like blood covered Russian dolls.

The memories came afterwards.

I’m a fucking paralegal this time. Godammit it all to hell. Then the loneliness comes down on me and I’m reaching for the middle shelf with it’s half dead bottle, don’t even need the new memories to know that’s there. And what’s this, taped to the lip? A joint? Amazing. Upsides.

I spend my thirty first year single, in the same universe. Jacky throws a drink in my face at Sherry’s birthday party, which I only get invited to because I overhear her talking about it at work. The girl of indeterminate age at the 7/11 drives me crazy for awhile, has me borderline walking into another world where we get to be married because I’m certain the way normal people might be, that if I was with her the rest wouldn’t stink so much. It’s like a retreat, a monastery where I pretend to be a desperate prole for 365 days.

The breaking point wasn’t a woman, it wasn’t some new shiny crap I saw in a movie that I just had to try (like a G fucking Six), it was Roger Mckay, my boss. It was when he chewed me out for being late, again. He had to do it by my cube, right before lunch, so not only did everyone hear, but they felt awkward about leaving. I’m not a bad guy, I’ve never raped, murdered, hell even assaulted someone despite the fact that I could do it with zero consequences. I mean that’s some darkside shit, I don’t want to go down that path. And it was a close thing, between using the scissor, shoving him into Lee’s wall, and what I actually did: which was to stand up, slowly, adjust my tie, not answer his enquiry as to why, and then hand back, all the way like I’m flagging a blind bus driver, then turn my weight like a tennis serve, and palm open, full on, bitch slap. Goddamn did the fat man go down. I said, after the shockwave: “You incorrigible asshole.” And then it was TA!, one more for the road, and he went to his knees.

“Alright guys, I’m out. Fuck you all very much. Also, Sherry, your boyfriend cheats on you. He doesn’t even play poker. I can walk between worlds and I am leaving this one.”

And just for funsies I decided to full on run at Mckay’s glass office wall, leap sideways and leave. As I did I think I felt something solid. Then nothing. Then a bed, a freaking soft bed. It only occurred to me right afterwards that maybe I do leave something behind, and in which case, previous me just bitch slapped his boss and threw himself through his office window. If he gets medicated, do I get medicated?

What if I suddenly rubber band back to my other paralegal self in that parallel universe? Fucking awful thought. Of course it makes me wonder, almost, about the implication of time. I tried to read about physics stuff once. Thought about having a hypothetical what if conversation with a physicist once. Hell, I even tried to be a scientist, but I never really seemed to concentrate enough to shift into that kind of life. It’s like trying to remember something you just can’t, you’re certain that if you focused enough, if you found the right stimuli, then you’d have it again. I gave up eventually, figured that in the back of my mind was the fear that understanding what I can do would change my ability to do it, or maybe I wouldn’t want to anymore. Ignorance is bliss. Arbitrary is better than horrible.

Jana.

Jana ended me.

A fucking taxi driver. Never saw that coming. Never saw the accident either, literally- was stuck dozens of cars behind it. Like God had reached down and froze the traffic for two hours. I could have left. I could have said stop the meter. Instead I paid, I stayed, we talked for hours and it was completely out of my control. When I told her what I could do, she took it like it was some kind of funny story.

The line that did it for me was when she asked: “What if every time someone, or you I guess, ah, jumps- they create the world they want? So like, you make it, from nothing, like you are God.” That’s when I knew, I had to make it so we were together. That was cool, I’d never even thought of that possibility. Why didn’t I just skip to the marriage? I could have, but I didn’t? Because I guess I didn’t want to leave, it was such a perfect moment. If I jumped I could arrive in another moment, but it’s not the same, the memories would drip in, it would be artificial, even if I was God.

So I stayed. We found a favorite bench, we prevented her bed from ever getting made, I wrote her inarticulate letters on scented paper, she dragged me by the arm to shit I’d never like till I loved it. I loved her, obviously. I’d tried marriage once, but never a wedding. It was glorious, and I didn’t care about my new family, or my new friends, just her, she was fun, the wedding was fun.

Happiness is a funny thing. It’s quiet. I think that in the end, it’s quiet. It’s the opposite of running. Time is the only thing that runs, when you’re happy.

The odds of a plane crash are incredibly low. You could fly your whole life, I mean spend it all up in the air, and it’s still against the odds you’re going to die.

And now, why can’t I find her anymore?

I keep jumping. I keep going from world to world, looking for my Jana. She’s not there. Nowhere I go. It’s like, I don’t know. I’ve wanted things before, I’ve wanted things way less badly than her. But I just can’t do it.

She once told me that the number one reason she’d never believe I could do the whole jumping thing isn’t because it was impossible. She said it was because she didn’t think I’d ever leave people behind like that. That I could be that selfish. And I believed her.

She said: “I think a lot of people would, but not you.”

So I’m still looking. And I’m still getting older.

And I’m starting to wonder if I ought to just stop, and skip all the way to the end. But I’ve never tried that either, all I know is I can’t go backwards. But I reckon I’m going to do it soon.

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Spoken word: Werewolves

Every week I read out some poetry and prose at this open mic place.

Recently I’ve tried to perform some spoken word. Which I think is more memorized than read. I still haven’t quite gotten it down, so this next piece isn’t really a story, or a poem, it’s meant to be read out loud.

There is a video of me doing it but I won’t share that because embarrassment.

I am toying with the idea of uploading a voice recording though.

Anyway:

Werewolves 

In highschool I rarely manifested as a werewolf except inside the toilet and when trying to talk to girls.

My werewolfness actually helped sometimes, boy those bullies ran, when I howled at them, or grew enough white hair that I could bypass the age restrictions on roller coasters.

Still,
If I could get away with I’d get a sicknote from Mom, I’d paw at her with my long claws early in the morning: “HEY MUM I’m a werewolf today, Write me a note..”

“Okay, just could you cut your nails?”

Couldn’t, they were claws.

Couldn’t go out when the moon was full. Kids didn’t didn’t like my long, loping stride, or the way I howled at the moon way past the point when everyone else was passed out. “CALM DOWN!” They’d say. Couldn’t, couldn’t stay as a man or wolf or werewolf it drove the girls crazy. I wanted to hunt them sometimes, wanted to run with them otherwise in a pack as a wolf and as a man was mostly embarrassed.

Never stayed the same shape.

Got on great with ghosts, ghouls, wizards, hated vampires because they always got what they wanted- at a touch, a dominating glance, they always managed to get invited in, practiced routines till it worked whilst I chained myself outside, just in case.

After high school I went to Europe for university because I saw in the corner of a campus brochure the green peaks of a real forest. Figured that would be perfect for me. It got worse and better. There were other shape shifters, trolls (I’d already met those online) and nymphs. Few werefolk though. Couldn’t get close to a nymph without going blind, though at least I could regenerate my eyes when I changed form so they didn’t have to cover up so much around me, thought nymphs were perfect for me, and me for them, and I was, I was the perfect friend. Getting friendzoned usually triggered a change so I tried to stay away from nymphs after that.

I got bitter.

Tried to find the others in London but it turned out the song lied.

No longer leashed, I would roam the cobble streets at all hours, but during lectures it was hard to hold a pen in these shaggy hands. I met a lot of people that had bad teeth, silver fillings, would bite me with their words, drew blood, the blood faded when I changed, invisible except for the memory of the hurt- that remained.

“You’re invincible.” They’d say.

‘So lucky to be a werewolf, most of us can’t change.” And they were right about how it didn’t seem like I was vulnerable.

The number one cause of death of werewolves are werewolves.

After university I was screwed. No werewolf looks good in a suit! I had to get three, one for man, wolf, werewolf and still I could turn on a dime, when someone’s mouth became a crescent moon, the werewolf would come out and ruin another jacket. That got expensive.

They blamed me for it. They always did. Just like the non-ghosts who accused ghosts of being transparent and ephemeral on purpose. That walking through walls and howls, were the same, were just cries for attention. They never blame the moon, or the blood I never chose. Even my family got tired when I’d change mid-dinner, break another plate and sometimes the chair. You can only own so much ikea furniture. “What did we do this time?” They’d ask. Tried to tell them it wasn’t them, it was the moon, I just change.

“Learn to control it!” They’d say.

“We can!”

It was a revelation.

“So wait, you’re all werefolk too?” They’d say they felt like wolves, that they thought of howling at the moon too, and then they’d do a poor impersonation of me. Frankly, it was kind of insulting.

They never grew claws. Never ripped apart objects, never tore apart relationships, get fired, get chained to their beds, how could they say they know what it’s like to be a werewolf? How could they say they knew what it was like to be me? How could they say I’m not strong enough to control it, that they were better than me, how could they claim to even be werewolves when they’ve never transformed into one it made no goddamn sense.

“Well, that’s because we can control ourselves honey. You should too. Cheer up. Go outside more. Get your mind off things. Look on the bright side. Ignore the moods, I mean the moon, ignore the moon, calm down, stop turning into a werewolf, stop it, it’s impolite, it’s awkward, of course she didn’t love you, of course you failed, you turned into a werewolf, just stop. Being. You.

The number one cause of death of werewolves are werewolves.

There aren’t that many of us. Most people only meet a few in their lifetimes. Or an occasional vampire to whom they recommend sun tan lotion. Ghosts who ought to stop talking to and hearing other ghosts because ghosts aren’t real despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that ghosts are real but most people don’t understand ectoplasmic chemistry or have even heard of ectoplasmic chemistry they just see Frankenstein monsters that need to learn to be human and not all the myriad, beautiful, frustrated, terrible creation that look like people.

But are like themselves.

They don’t like them they are scary and distracting and out of fashion. Sure the laws have changed. You can’t burn them at the stakes anymore so they’ll burn themselves burn off their hands their claws tear off their skin try to undo the costume everyone says they wear to find the human inside.

They never blame the moon. They claim to know the silver bullet and they shoot werewolves with it.

It’s a good thing therefore that werewolves don’t exist.

Just gays, obsessive compulsives, schizophrenics, lesbians and the chronically depressed

Short Story: Lucem Ex Tenebras

I was sitting at my desk arranging the desktop icons into the semblance of a middle finger when the chat window popped up. 
 
“Tony, are you there?”
 
I finished giving myself the finger and began to type: “Sorry, but this isn’t Tony.” and I was about to press enter when I read:
 
“I’m drowning in a sea of shit Tony, except I’m the sea. I could really use someone to talk to.”
 
It occurred to me that Tony might not be available to talk to whoever this person was. That is precisely what had happened to me, the day before, except her name was Michelle, and she’d gotten sick of how often I needed her help.
 
Besides there appeared to be no one else at any of their desks, anywhere on this floor.
 
I wrote: “Okay. What’s wrong?”
 
They said: “IT’S fucking stupid. I’m being stupid.”
 
“Whatever IT is, If IT bothers you, then it bothers you. And that’s okay.”
 
They didn’t type anything for awhile. 
 
Then they wrote: “On the subway someone’s phone went off. The ringtone was Don’t Stop Believing by journey and I wanted to cry because of it, but I didn’t want anyone to see so I picked up this newspaper and there was this stupid picture of a soldier upside down and he looked like an idiot so I started laughing but I was crying at the same time and then I realized I was holding the newspaper upside down and that everyone would know why I’d done it.”
 
I waited.
 
Typed “lol” then deleted it. 
 
They wrote “See, it’s fucking stupid.”
 
I typed “Why did the song make you cry?”
 
They wrote it all out. How their face had been scratched by the windshield of their car whilst they listened to what used to be their favorite song. How they had lost who they were and that reminded me qof how I’d lost Danielle, and how simple things that shouldn’t be, did. Like waking up. And breakfast,
 
Except Danielle was definitely still alive and waiting for me at home with the next episode of Game Of Thrones.
 
Later they wrote “Thank you I fucking needed that” so I thought it was time to type: “My name isn’t actually Tony you know. Though I am in tech support…” which is when I woke up from the dream, into an empty bed, on top of a duvet too large for one person because Danielle was still dead and I’d forgotten again. 
 
It took me sometime to get dressed and go to my real desk, out in the real world. It was somewhere around noon when I realized that I’d left my latest prescription at home. My supervisor let me go, told me to stay home, and I knew he meant well but why couldn’t he understand that I would come back the moment I took my pills and that the last thing I needed was to be at home. That auditing the accounts of a popcorn company was bliss in comparison. 
 
The pills didn’t seem to do anything except make day time TV somewhat more bearable. The romance, between an ancient concubine and some kind of half-man, half-bird creature was particularly enthralling, especially since I do not speak cantonese and so made up the words in my head. My stomach growled so I put some instant dimsum in the microwave and pressed some buttons. At some distance from the couch the microwave started beeping. I figured that now that it was cooked, that it would keep, for several hours if necessary. Later the washing machine started making noises. I remained on the sofa, listening with half-shut eyes to the nonsensical patter of another Chinese soap. 
 
Of course my phone had to go off right next to my head. An unknown number. I prepared to be polite. If it was all I going to do today, I was going to be polite to his poor, underpaid telemarketer.
 
“Hello.” I said, in my polite voice.
 
She said: “Hi there! I’m calling from tech support! Why so glum chum?”
 
“Excuse me?”
 
“What’s on you mind man! I heard you’re kind of down.”
 
“From who? Who is this?”
 
“Well, I got this memo, said you’re kind of down. Got it from the sysadmin. He assigned me to you I think. I’m not sure. But who cares, whatever, you sound like ass, you really do and for what it’s worth you shouldn’t bottle it all up. Let’s see here…Danielle…lovely name that. Come on man, tell me about her. I’m listening. You can tell me whatever you like.
 
I tried a few Well’s, some But’s and it’s just’s- she waited for me to finish one of my sentences but I failed to. I only breathed slower, and harder, till I was gasping.
 
She said “Danielle would want you to treat yourself well, I mean, that’s love right?”
 
“That’s…what the fuck…” And it just spilled out of me. In a babbling mess. I confessed about how I’d finally found someone that made me feel everything I’d ever dreamed of, right when I’d given up all hope, right when I was at my most overweight and tired, and then out of nowhere, just like that she’s gone and all the pills in the goddamn world weren’t enough. I told her how I hadn’t really been happy to begin with. How Danielle just accepted me and that was the definition of love.
 
The tech support lady said: “Self-acceptance counts too.”
 
And after that I poured the rest out. And after that I tried to thank her. “That was so much better than these pink pills I take.”
 
It turns out we took the same pills.
 
She had been swearing a lot. I asked: “Have you…ever been in a car accident?”
 
She said Yes.
 
“And do you have a friend, a good friend named Tony?”
 
She said What the fuck.
 
The line began to crackle. I remembered then, being transferred to tech support, the empty office, and a middle finger made out of desktop icons and: “LOOK, IF YOU’RE AT THE OFFICE TONIGHT, MEET ME AT THE PHOTOCOPY MACHINE!”
 
She managed to ask: “The pink one?”
 
“YES THE BRIGHT PINK ONE!!!!!” and the line went dead and I woke up opposite the TV and I made a mental, then a written note to bring all this up with my psychiatrist. Then I did my washing, ate the dimsum, and went back to work.
 
I was so excited that getting to sleep took ages.
 
It felt like I was about to go somewhere new. Meet someone new. It felt like my first date with Danielle and the debate I had about what flowers to buy. So I still thought I was awake even when I found myself at the bottom of a lift shaft, with only a ladder and the distant sounds whirring office machinery. I climbed and counted the floors, perpetually afraid I had lost track, that I was going to miss mine. It made me want to start all over again but my arms were tired and what if I wouldn’t be able to go back up? 
 
The silhouette of a head peeked out, far above me. “About time! I couldn’t find a single freakin’ photocopy machine anywhere. Its like the end of the world up in here.” 
 
At that point it became easier to climb, until I stood on the other side of the shaft from her, the gap in between too large to jump. “Jump it!” she said. 
 
“I’ll fall.” I replied.
 
She extended her hands and it occurred to me that if I ran really, really fast, then maybe I’d outrun gravity. So I did, and I was only a foot away from her when gravity caught up to grab me by my ankles, “OH HELL NO!” She yelled, then her hands clasping mine, pulling me up till we stood, face to scarred face. She kissed me and I didn’t ask why, or feel guilty at all despite the fact that she looked nothing like Danielle.
 
“I checked out the company directory, none of it makes any fucking sense, but I’ll tell you what- the sysadmin’s office is on the top floor. Come on, we’ll take the stairs.”
 
So we ran hand in hand up an interminable fire escape. Eventually we emerged into a white marbled lobby. At the end of it, large and imposing, were a set of double doors. One black, the other white, with a drop of the other color in each. Holding hands we shouldered both open together.
 
Inside the sysadmin dropped the dimsum he’d been eating. Then he tripped over a bundle of wires covered with what looked like unwashed clothes. He stuttered: “Who the…what the…you guys aren’t supposed to BE here! At the same time! Oh jeez, you’re even holdin’ hands.”
 
I gently disconnected from her.
 
The sysadmin sighed and circled us, humming and hawwing to himself. I said: “Excuse me, we would very much like to know how…”
 
“Shhhh.” He gently pressed one finger to his lips. “Shhhhhhhitttttt I see it now. Wow. You guys. The pills you both take. They messed with the system! Fucking PEOPLE!” His hands flew up, beseeching a red neon sign above him, composed of Chinese characters I did not understand. “Always messing around with the mind, like idiot children. Damn pills got side effects. Ought to put that on the label.”
 
“Look sir, is she real?”
 
She turned on me: “SAY WHAT? Fuck you, are YOU real?”
 
“YOU’RE BOTH FRICKIN REAL!” he said. “Look. Here’s the thing. There has been a teensy little screw up. You aren’t ever suppsoed to be together in the same place and time. The same place-time. That isn’t how it works,”
 
“How what works?” One of us said.
 
“The…buddy program. For broken people- not unlike yourselves. What happens is when one person is really low, like, down in the sewers low, then another person, quite like them, but- and this is crucial- not feeling the same way at that exact moment in time, contacts you, and you have a bit of a talk, to alleviate the symptoms of existence. Now you are both, if I may say so, HIGHLY QUALIFIED buddys in your own right. Seriously top notch traumas you’ve both sustained. But the algorithm’s screwed up, there shouldn’t be a recurring relationship. Not like this. There shouldn’t be anything tying you to together. Except for the goddamn pills your quack of a psychiatrist gave both of you. Same pills, same connection, and now you’re freakin HOLDING HANDS!”
 
He sighed again, said: “There is only one thing left to do now. Gotta reset the system.”
 
“Reset?”
 
“Yeah, turn it on and off. Works most of the time.”
 
“And then what, we just…”
 
“Wake up, and all of this is forgotten, and later on you help someone different instead.”
 
I asked him: “But wait, you mean, we go to the same doctor? We could see each other…outside of…work?” 
 
She asked him: “Hey dickhead, what if we don’t want to forget, did you ever consider that?”
 
The sysadmin paused, hands hovering over the console he had been typing at. “Sorry. Really am. But if I don’t do this you guys might end up perfectly happy, and then so much for balancing out the others. And you’ll know all about the backoffice. And you’ll start some frickin cult and invariably in a century or two it’ll all get fucked.”
 
I held her hand again. “What does it mean?” I asked.
 
I was pointing at the neon sign, which had changed from Chinese to latin. “Lucem ex tenebras; from darkness, light.” The sysadmin massaged the top of his forehead. “Even if I reset the system it won’t be over for you guys. You’re on your way up. The darkness, without it you wouldn’t understand each other. You wouldn’t care. Not as hard. Not as much. And for what it’s worth there are a lot of you guys out there, trust me.” He gestured to the stack of servers: “You’ll find someone else. Or you won’t. I don’t know. It’ll be like a dream- you’ll forget the details but you’ll remember the point.” He squatted and reached into a space between two servers.
 
She turned to me, her smile melding with the scar that traveled from her jaw to her forehead. “I’ll remember you.” She said.
 
And then he flipped the switch.
 
I woke up late on top of a duvet too large for one person. I was pretty sure I’d dreamt of Danielle. What little I had slipped out of my grasp, leaving only a few word that made no sense.
 
So I googled Lucem Ex Tenebras and went back to work.

Short Story: The Wave

The problem with doing this 1k thing is it’s a real bitch to edit it. I really ought to though. Not editing something that is potentially good is akin to wasting most of the time spent writing it. Also it is good practice, improves the skill in editing. I want to write more from Children Of The Pantheon because I got a lot of likes, which makes me so happy. But today I was feeling something and that something might be in this story.
 
The Wave
 
Jon played the Louisiana blues and once and awhile the percussion of construction drills matched the rhythm rather than interrupt it. That black man somewhere else, somewhere far away in space and time, got drowned by Jon’s neighbor’s redecorating.
 
They’d saved up for it. Made sacrifices, like holidays, potential visitations to other countries where great memories could have been formed for them, and their kids, instead of this, this permanence; entire decades maybe with a minimalist kitchen, a partition that separates that made the living room and bar seem roomier, like in that movie Heat that Julie once saw. 
 
Kara knew, it was obvious, why mum and dad hadn’t let her buy those concert tickets. She didn’t believe Mom’s insinuations about drugs and booze and boys like Jules; they trusted her or they wouldn’t have let her stay a week in Nigeria, before the killings started. She didn’t cry because she couldn’t go, no, that would be petty. She didn’t cry when the trading of shouts, between mum and her, got so loud that Dad intervened, and swung like a pendulum between the two sides, settled on making it three. She didn’t cry when he told Mum not to treat her like their step son, who was gone. She cried because she’d realized, immediately, the way she understood with stark, sudden clarity a mathematical concept, an economic lesson in school, that she’d been a fool, that if Jules really cared he’d have never asked her if she could afford it, if he really cared he’d have said to do something else, if it was going to have been a date instead of some random, late, confluence of events then it wouldn’t have mattered whether or not she could go and that truth fell across her fifteen year old heart, the first of several blows, a chiseling that would sculpt a cold, statuesque reservation that kept her from something another woman might call true love, twice in a row.
 
Sol first saw Kara on the subway, towering over the locals in her commanding heels, a small blonde head above a sea of bobbing scalps. She was a whole carriage away but he stared anyway, thankful for the distance, confident that she could not tell he was looking at her. He waited for the crowd to dissipate, to uncloak her body so he could see her in full, for her to leave maybe, to abandon him and his lofty fantasy. He missed his stop and berated himself, and at the next, where the best cinemas were, the crowd on the train dispersed like a flock of pigeons, leaving the space between them mostly empty, and her revealed, resplendent in a summer dress, her face sad. More than what he had hoped for, enough it hurt because he knew he would never talk to her. She left, dressed rarely like that, for another of her best friend’s weddings. Kara collected best friends like her step brother had collected types of crisp packets, never opened, never enjoyed. The variety and promise printed upon them the sum of it. She had crushed them, cruelly, one after another, when she found them in a moving box after the first time she left Malcolm, She crushed them just to see if she would feel anything and she didn’t, not till later when the guilt finally arrived. A tear crept down one eye, she let it, thinking that no one will see and if they do see then maybe that was okay. Sol didn’t, he was too far away. When she left the carriage Sol subtly took his fist, and smacked it in slow, point blank movements against his head. He had missed his stop, he had missed her, and by imperceptible degrees he was getting more sick.
 
Marcie was the only one at the party who knew the extent of Sol’s illness. Being married she was only allowed to care a certain amount, that past some wavering line it was inappropriate, despite how desperately afraid he could get when they went to the park, how he let him put his head on her shoulder, held his hand, how that felt warmer than the mostly cold bed. She hadn’t seen him barrel towards her like that before, spilling wine with mad abandon. He arrived and asked her how it was going, his habit, to always start with pleasentries before he conspiratorially asked who She was, pointing towards a tall woman, blonde, who slumped in a chair, head forward, posture broken, a pint of beer clasped in both hands. Marcie knew someone that knew Kara, pointed Sol towards her and reveled at the smile on his face. He went and she watched, watched Kara laugh, then texted Mike, and left. Went home and refused to let Sam sleep, kept him up all night with a desperate passion that he hadn’t seen for two years, It brought them back together, and when she cried at the end it did not matter.
 
On a beach in Indonesia Sam stood, watching his wife from a distance, measuring her against the other tanned bodies and nodding in satisfaction. He struck up a conversation with a bartender, the shadow of a net falling over them both, draping their features in cross-hatches. Eventually he got to say- that’s her, over there, in the pink bikini, and they shared a moment as he whistled and nodded appreciatively. Sam’s phone vibrated and he cursed, went up towards their sea view room to call his brother when with head down he staggered into someone behind a trolley, knocked him over, realized how old the man was and apologized profusely. Sam helped him up, brought him inside his room then noticed the cut. He cleaned it up, added a band aid to the old man’s face. The old man, his face and hands gnarled, dark and lined as treebark danced over the chess set Sam and Marcie kept on their bed. They said nothing to one another and afterwards Sam stared at the chess set and almost asked the old man for a game. The moment passed and they parted.
 
Tirto always smoked during the sunset, from the vantage point of the hotel roof. He saw the orang putih, along with his wife, could trace their tiny movements across the sand. He liked to think they were happy, invented a story about how he was a doctor, and she a nurse, that they met in a hospital when an old man died. Someone kind perhaps. He told himself the story in his head whilst the cigarette burned down, then afterwards considered lighting another. He held the cigarette between two fingers, heard the siren and did not believe. His eyes drifted towards a horizon that seemed to be speeding towards the beach. The tourists did not know what the siren meant. Too few of the locals stayed to explain. When the tsunami came it swallowed most of them. Tirto watched the entirety of it, for hours he watched. He never did not find his doctor and nurse. Prayed for them at home. Wept for them alone. The only solace he could take from that wave was that he did not lament he would die anymore. It was a better death than those short-lived others. Months later in the hospital he realized that wave had begun far off the coast, during an earthquake but also, far before the earthquake, that wave began underneath the earth, had traveled for years across the ground, underneath, had begun a billion years ago just to obliterate all those lives. Tirto counted the waves that led them to that beach to die. The wave was a story no one could tell. There was no God in that wave. That wave itself was a spirit, one of the spirits of his grandfather that Tirto never understood till now. Tirto wondered at the waves that allowed him to arrive all the way here, on this bed, and how far back in time that wave had begun. He wanted to write this all down, wanted to tell someone the story, to make it whole and spread out, all it’s constituent parts like the sand on that beach he had spent so many hours writing on. But his throat betrayed him, his hands were weak. He died draped in the tears of those who would miss him, his last words a gurgle. 
 
The others, they carried on.

Short Story: Rahul or Raul

Raul or Rahul

It was 2001 and the towers had not yet fallen, and Raul’s brother had not left for university. Even though his brother’s empty room was only a scant few meters away from Raul’s, his brother had still tried to send Raul the video over MSN messenger, perhaps just to see if it would work. Raul didn’t know why he’d done that, and the lack of knowing followed him into his dreams, like a hole he could not descend into, a place which when he shouted questions at, would only echo.

So lately, Raul could not sleep. One morning he watched the sky change color again, his eyes half-lidded, feeling itchy all over and incomplete. He lay and wriggled in the stark, smoggy dawn, and tried to list all the reasons for why his brother had sent him the video, and which of the reasons seemed most like the truth. Why not just ask him to watch it? He could have gone right across the corridor, they could have watched it together.

Raul watched the light creep up his own computer, which had itself effortlessly slept through the entire night, and behind the black screen of which waited the link he had not yet dared to click. He went to his computer, tired of being exhausted, and he found the MSN message, the window a week old and still open, the link the color of un-clicked.

He clicked the link.

The ponderous, slow, Windows Media Player whirred to life and an image appeared, of Raul’s brother, a guitar casually perched upon his lap, waving indistinctly in the direction of the camera. So that was what the video was of- that birthday party, from when they had been in school. Raul couldn’t quite remember much of the party, except how his brother had awkwardly dedicated the song to Raul- yes- didn’t he? He did, at the beginning, right before he played the song. He’d said, “this one’s for…” or was it “the song goes out to…” or something else entirely. The song had been for him.

Raul pressed play.

The image would not move. He tried again. It stayed frozen. Raul checked; it wasn’t the codec; or the godawful player. Was it the file? Was it corrupted? Raul slammed the keyboard, then muttered alone, to himself, to calm down. Did his brother dedicate the song to him? Raul peered deep into the frozen frame, trying to access the memory via association, and could not- it was just out of reach, or perhaps, the picture was of too low quality. His doubts clamored about how it never made any sense, for his brother to dedicate that song to him.. It was a love song wasn’t it? The kind you sang to your girlfriend, or in his case, boyfriend. That’s what made it so awkward- though it had been hilarious- everyone knew his brother was gay and this was way too over the top, that he’d meant his older brother.

Unless.

Raul smacked himself in the head.

HE’D MEANT RAHUL!

RAHUL! His brother had had a crush on him! But Rahul himself wasn’t AT the party, so what’s the point in dedicating it to him? Raul didn’t know, and this sent his head into the keys, sounding that annoying warning blare. He noticed then, eyes straining against the top of his head, that in the bottom of the frozen video was someone with a pink mohawk on his head, and an ancient, 90’s style camcorder in his hands. Obsolete, backwards tech, you couldn’t send THAT over MSN. Though supposing if you lived nearby, you could probably run over with the video as quickly as send it online, though you’d need a VCR to play it.

Raul considered, whilst he got dressed for work, of trying out passwords on his brothers locked computer

Then he left.

The world was a bleary mess kept at a distance by the insomnia. At the bus stop, when he heard the tinny, absurd, custom ringtone come from the woman’s phone- the opening theme of Pokemon; “I wanna be…the very best…that no one ever was…” before catching himself, realizing- it was his brother that had shown everyone at school how to get that song onto their phones, his brother who organized that ridiculously awesome phone-sing-a-long-prank during the famous assembly, so what if this woman knew him? What are the odds that this was just a coincidence? How awkward would that be if she didn’t know about him. How do you broach the topic?

Raul said nothing.

Instead he planned how it was he would find out exactly who the guy with the pink mohawk was. At work he used the company landline to place several calls, whilst simultaneously using his Nokia phone to text people. Through friends of friends of his brother, he tracked the number down. He tried it, and in a polite flurry asked the mohawk if he still had the video. The mohawk did. And was he free this evening? He was, sort of. An impending meeting had Raul outright demanding, in a fluster, that he be able to borrow the video that night. The mohawk said sure, but to come by before seven . Raul thanked him profusely and got back to work. It came easier, the promise of the video like a beacon, something to look forward to, that he thought would bring him peace.

The fucking meeting ran over.

When he finally left, it was pushing 8:30. He called the mohawk and the phone rang, and rang, and rang. He texted the mohawk, asking if they could reschedule, that Raul would go anywhere, would travel across the city if he had to, he just needed to see the damn video. Finally a pissed off woman answered. “What the hell do you want?” Her voice softened when he told her who he was.

“Bob’s at the airport. He had a flight to catch.”

“But…what…when is he coming back?”

“He isn’t…” At that Raul couldn’t help it. He began to tear up. “Hello? Are you there?”

“…What’s his flight number?”

She told him and he ran to a taxi, worried inside, ran out of the taxi, and into the airport to a help desk, then ran from the help desk to the check out counters. Then ran from the checkout counters to the immigration entrance. Raul scanned the travelers for a pink mohawk. There were none. Raul wanted to scream, so he did, he screamed: “BOOOOOOOOOOOB!” and someone with a dark crew cut in a suit put up his hand. And no one arrested them as the towers hadn’t fallen yet.

Bob had the camcorder, and the tape, and the camcorder could play the tape on a tiny screen.

“Is it okay if I watch it on my own? In the toilet?”

Bob said it was okay.

Raul sat with the seat down, glad he bought some earphones from the nearby store. He plugged them in, crossed his fingers, and pressed play.

His brother came back to life.

Raul rewinded to the beginning repeatedly. Each time he felt the whole machine shake as the analogue tape physically wound itself backwards. He did this several times to make sure he had heard right, till he was sure his brother had said:

“I dedicate this song to the not yet departed: Rahul! Wish you were here man!” Of course. Rahul. Rahul was leaving the city, a few weeks from then.

So Raul stopped the tape, right before the song began. He felt the hole again, the lack, the truth failing to fill it.

Then he took a breath, and pressed play.

Raul listened, and heard, and saw, that the song wasn’t really awkward at all. It wasn’t hilarious either. It was okay. Under his breath, on top of the toilet, Raul sang along. At the end, to Raul’s complete surprise, his brother made a joke. It was that Pokemon joke. No one at that party had gotten the joke, except Raul. He’d laughed so loudly, wow- THAT was awkward. He remembered now, how his brother had stared right at him, how his brother had made the joke knowing Raul was the only one who would get it, and it was funny because Raul had given him his charizard card, before he knew what it was worth, and that’s what the joke was about.

Then it call came back to him. Raul remembered the whole damn party, the laughing, the dancing, and how, drunk for the first time, he had hugged his brother, and he remembered what that felt like.

So Raul cried, and he said goodbye, touching the tiny screen with his wet fingers.

Third Eye Part 2: Asteroids not meteorites.

Note: I think I screwed up the copy and paste and actually missed out the last third of this part…so if you read it without this note it really wasn’t meant to end where it did!

My arm strained as I held the handle bar while the bus careened around the interminable corner.

The sloping angle gave the impression that the bus was perpetually on the verge of tipping over though no one else had tumbled out of their seats and I refused to be the first. A sound traveled into my palm; a tinking percussion from the child behind, who between wheezing coughs tapped Morse into the rail.We straightened out onto a diving slope and plunged towards the center of the city.The bumps in the road set my pill bottle rattling so I smothered it deeper in my pocket, removed my hand and cupped it from the outside of my khakis. Somewhere in my head a dwarf asks: “What madness drove me here?”Across the aisle a thin, decrepit man battled to hold his paper. A headline shuddered to exclaim: Probe Begins Into Incorrect Asteroid Impact Prediction. I could start a conversation, perhaps say to him: no need to call Bruce Willis now! Instead, once my teeth stop chattering: “What are the odds right?” When he asks me what I mean I’ll explain about how unlikely it is that there ever was an asteroid hurtling towards us. Instead he shakes his head, sighs, says: “Not good, not good.” One drooping corner of his translucent page reveals the horse racing section.

“I meant the impact. Freaking everyone out about it is a bit irresponsible.”

And then the light fades as rain attacks the roof, streaming down the windows to blur the city. A fussilade above, the paper, accusing, on one side, and the damn bottle with the unreal taste of meeting Tom behind. I need a dose of sanity. Some Star Trek tonight to cleanse my mind. We settled down into crawling traffic. The decrepit man exclaims: “Says that the whole thing changed direction.”

“Excuse me?”

“In the papers it says the meteorite changed direction.”

“Well, that’s not actually…possible.”

“Read it yourself.” He thrusts the paper out, glaring. I withdraw, conciliatory palms up. Maybe he lost a lot of money. I turn away and take some wires out from my khakis. Plugs in my ears, staring at the windows, I watch the rain trail down in time to the music. The clipboard dances on my knee, stops as a gust of hot air invades the carriage. The seat sags. I shuffle closer to the window. One earplug catches on a button of her jacket sleeve and we’re trapped untangling the thing, muttering apologies to each other.

She’s got a thick purple jacket on, the puffer kind with the glossy pouches. “Are you warm in there?” I offer. She fingers a nose stud, eyes narrowing to points, she stutters: “I-I thought it would be colder today.” She wraps her arms around herself. Slowly, I pull out the remaining ear phone.

“Well it’s raining now I suppose.” And it is, so I shouldn’t be supposing anything. Tom said I’d kill a woman, and here was one, and I need something to distract me so I say: “Heavy rain too. Should have brought an umbrella myself.” She nods with great conviction, points towards my knees and says:

“You’ll have to use that.”

Turn down the clipboard, turn it upside down. “I can’t. I have to guard these questionnaires with my life.”

Please ask me about the questionnaires.

“Oh, what are those for?” she says.

Relief, I’m back to the real world. “They are for, well, improving the livelihood of the homeless.”

“Amazing! So what are they, summoning spells? Read them out and you summon food? Or a job?” Her smile is a wicked slash, catches me off guard till I’m stumbling: “Well, well, no, of course not, but, it’s important. It’s part of a process. We collect data from the homeless and that way we can decide how best to, well, what policies to enact. It’s part of the process. But in the end it does help. You’d be suprised. Most people don’t know how any of it works but it does, it really does.”

“Most people…”

“Well, yes. For example, with these initial ones we do a census of how many homeless there are, where they are, to learn about them. They are practically invisible otherwise.”

Her throat does a funny thing. She croaks, not unlike a frog. “Barrr-balith.”

“Excuse me?”

“What?”

It might be a tick. No need to press the issue. It would explain her slumping posture, the way she encases herself. I say: “One of the questions is, ‘Where do you sleep?’ The options are a vehicle, the streets, a family’s home, a shelter…and other. Three times I got the same answer in ‘other’: With your mum.”

Her face cracks open, she cackles, then cups her mouth to hide the evidence. She mutters conspiratorially: “Seriously? Can I see?” The top of her jacket presses against my shoulder, her leg against mine- she can probably feel the damn pill bottle, whereas something hard, underneath her shoulderpad, digs into me. I hold as still as I can, make my mouth move only. “I can’t show you, all of this is confidential information. Technically it’d be against the law.” She withdraws. It’s too late to flash a page at her now. Slip my hand in my pocket and re-arrange the bottle, take it out and hide it in my hand. I clasp both together, transfer the bottle, and slip it into the opposite pocket.

Her head turns slowly to face the windshield. I do the same, try not to scan my peripheries. She whips back to face me, “Can I do it?” she asks.

“One of the questionaires? I mean, well, are you homeless?” I could say something corny. About her not being invisible. The words congeal, fail to form a sentence.

“Yes.” She says.

Can’t tell if she’s lying. Being female and homeless, like her. It would be particularly hard. Remember Mira, dessicated beyond her age. Needle pocked, cradling her pregnant belly. It’s too much. Look down and free a paper, hand it to her. It sags in her hands, I proffer the clipboard and she turns it so I’m still holding the makeshift table, placed on my legs, and she writes in the spare moments when the bus is still. From this angle I can see part of a tatoo, poking out of her zipped up collar. Half an ouroboros; one mouth eating one tail. I wait to ask her, when she’s finished, about the tattoo, or her name, or where she’s going, when through the glass behind her head intrudes the smeared sign of St Lorenzo’s children’s hospital. She gets up in a flurry, taking the unfinished questionnaire with her. Her sleeve button catches something under her puffy jacket, a bright yellow string, like the casing of a wire. And then it’s gone, and she turns to look back at me from the stairs, her eyes seeming to be plead. I watch her go, follow her blurry head from my seat. Oblivious to the rain she walks inside the hospital. “Final stop.” The driver reminds me twice, till I calm my pulse and having failed to convince myself that it wasn’t a yellow wire. Perhaps it’s some kind of tool though I cannot think of any that fit.

I get off in time to watch my bus home moon me.

It’ll be at least ten minutes till the next number 21 shows up. Enough time to get her answers. I jog into the hospital, holding the bullets in place so they don’t tumble out.

 

Flashfiction for Scifriday: Alone

What follows is a 100 word piece of flash/micro fiction for SCIFRIDAY! From the following blog:

http://chriswhitewrites.com/2014/03/21/scifriday-1/

I hope more people take a shot at this!

Picture below was inspiration, and then the story follows. I went over a little (112 words), alas. 

tracks_by_sandara-d6ko5hm

Alone

In ancient times it was called a railway, a sort of mass transit system. Now it was a strip of verdant beauty, a green path stretching forward. Luke took off his smart-boots, and for the first time, felt grass between his toes.

“Follow at 3 meters.”

“Okay Luke.” Came the voice, programmed to sound just like Julienne had.

It still caused Luke’s pulse to skip, her voice that followed him across such a gulf of space, and time.

Here, on Terra, alone on this graveyard of a world, Luke would spend the rest of his days. To dwell on loss, of his home in her, and all their homes that once were here.