Thursday, December 14, 2017

Till Death Do Us Part




Till Death Do Us Part


Bill felt uneasy as he walked up the steps to Lucas and Adelaide's house.  They had decorated for Halloween, and a skeleton grinned at him as it flopped in a violent wind, dancing to the dissonant symphony of myriad wind chimes.  Strings of novelty lights bobbed about, casting shadows like playful spirits.  A black cat swirled about his feet, trilling and mewing, as he fumbled for the right key. 
He pushed the door open and walked inside.  The house hummed with the comforting waterfall of an aquarium pump.  He hadn't been there since last Christmas, that fated day that resulted in the near death of his daughter, and the imprisonment of his deranged wife, Elise.  He almost said no, but after all Lucas and Adelaide had done for him, he felt obligated to house sit while they visited Lucas's father on his deathbed.
The cat stood at the threshold.  "Hey, Morpheus, are you coming inside?" The cat looked up at him and meowed, but made no effort to join him.  "Well fuck you, then."  He shut the door in the cat's face.  He locked both the knob and the dead bolt, and then he flipped the light switch.  The foyer lit up but for a moment before the bulb popped off.
Fiery eyes peered from the blackness above.  Elise loomed like a banshee at the top of the stairs. 
Bill gasped.  "How'd you get here?  You're supposed to be in jail!"
Elise stared through him in silence.
"Answer me!"  As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he exhaled with a sigh of relief.  Adelaide had used the old mannequin that Bill had gotten dumpster diving for a Halloween decoration, and its eyes were reflecting moonlight from the window.
He felt drawn to it, as if it awaited his return home with a tender kiss for him, like the loving bride his wife could never be.  He climbed the stairs and stood before it.  He gazed into its orange eyes and remembered the day Elise had created it. 
It was Christmas Eve.
EEENK EEENK EEENK!  The alarm clock had violated Bill's sweat dreams with 7 am.
 "Get up!"  Elise had said, shaking him, the flab of fat on her arm jiggling like Jell-O.  "Turn that damn thing off!"
A few months earlier, Elise had been fired from Corners, a chain bookstore.  Now they lived in the guest bedroom at Lucas and Adelaide's house, and Bill felt their welcome wearing thin.  He felt depressed and didn't want to get out of bed, but he did anyway.
He drove to work in a 1978 Toyota Tercel.  As he reached the machine's top speed of fifty miles per hour, he prayed the band stickers would hold the rusty body together.  He arrived five minutes late, and a woman wearing too much perfume told him he was skating on thin ice.  He was an assistant manager at Zaftig Apparel, a woman's clothing store selling yesterday's hot fashions in plus sizes at bargain prices.  He had no problem telling old fatties how fantastic they looked, and thus he made a small fortune for someone he didn't know.
After Bill left for work, Elise went back to sleep and didn't wake again until noon.  She read a book until dusk and then went downstairs to take a shower and dye her blond roots black and red to match the rest of her hair.
"Hey, Elise," Lucas said, "do you think you could help me with the dishes?  Christmas is tomorrow, and the house is a mess."
"I just did the dishes last night."
"What?"
"I washed the bowl and spoon I used, the rest is Bill's.  Get him to wash them."  She went into the living room and flipped on the TV.
Lucas wondered why he kept helping his ungrateful friends.  He still hadn't finished the dishes when his wife, Adelaide, arrived home from work.
"There is no hell like working retail during Christmas," Adelaide said and fell like Goliath onto the couch.  She kicked her shoes off with her feet.
Lucas leaned down and kissed her cheek.  "I fixed you some chicken, if you're hungry."
"Thanks, doll."
Lucas went to the kitchen to get Adelaide some food.
"How are you today, Elise?"  Adelaide said.
Elise rolled her eyes.  "Bored.  I wish Bill would take me somewhere.  I'm sick of being in this house."
"Maybe you should learn to drive, Elise, you know?  Then you could get a job."
"If we didn't live out in bum fuck, I could get a job I could walk to."
Bill looked exhausted as he walked in with his two-year-old daughter, Ava, on his back.  She had been staying with his mother since they lost their apartment.
"Did today suck or what?"  Adelaide said.
“Yeah.  We were so busy,” Bill agreed.
Lucas brought Adelaide the plate of chicken and a glass of milk.  She set up so she could eat, and he sat down on the couch beside her.
"Are you looking forward to Santa Claus coming tomorrow, Ava?"  Lucas asked.
Ava's eyes widened and her face lit up with delight.  She bounced with excitement.  "Santa!  Santa bwings toys!" she exclaimed.
"Awww, that's so cute!"  Adelaide said.  A horrible screeching noise like nails on a chalkboard came from the window.  "Somebody let the cat in."
Lucas went to the front door and let Morpheus inside.
Morpheus raced him to the couch, nearly tripping him, and jumped up beside Adelaide.  He begged for chicken, and, failing that, he rubbed his head against her.
"Stop being a nuisance," Lucas said.  He picked up the cat and sat down with him.
"Sweetheart," Bill said, "would you get me a candy cane off the tree?"
"God, Bill, you're so lazy," Elise said.  "It's just across the room.  Get up and get it yourself."
Bill puffed his cheeks out like a frog about to croak.
Lucas looked at Bill as if to say, where's your balls, man?
Bill made a poof noise with his lips as the air escaped them.  "I'm sick of you treating me this way," he said, his voice almost a whisper.  "I bust my ass for this family, and all you do is belittle me and ridicule me.  You insult the music I write, and you won't even get a fucking job."
Elise contorted her face into a ridiculous gesture of affliction.  She crossed her arms and whined, "You don't love me."
"Elise, just look at yourself, not only are you a lazy bitch, you're fat," he said.
"Take it back!" she yelled.  She pulled back her fist, and punched him hard in the stomach.  He crumpled over.  She hit him again in the face and head, pounding on him like a raving lunatic, until Lucas and Adelaide pulled her off him.
Ava cried.
"You're a fucking psycho!"  Bill said as his tears streaked through the blood on his face.  "In front of Ava!"
"I hate you!" Elise screamed and ran upstairs.  She slammed the door shut behind her and locked it.
She put on The Electric Hellfire Club's Satan's Little Helpers and cranked the volume.  She ran her fingers through the mannequin's luxurious blond hair.  Bill had salvaged it to use as a stage prop if he ever got his act together enough to play live.  When he first brought it home, he had gushed over the piece of trash as if it was his new bride.  Elise pulled a plastic tub of art supplies from the closet.  She took a pair of scissors and chopped off its locks down to its plastic scalp.  Then she whacked off her own hair and glued it to the head.  It matted down against the scalp in some places, and frizzed and tangled in others.  Her own hair, now short, jagged, and uneven, made her look insane.  Then, she gouged out its eyes with a utility knife and glued tiger's eye stones in their places.  She painted its face up as she painted her own.  She cut a slit in its mouth, and inserted Halloween vampire fangs inside.  She clipped her own black fingernails and toenails and glued them in place on the mannequin's body.
She took off her clothes, a stereotypical goth dress and a poorly made corset bought from the chain store at the mall.  She lit incense and black candles on her altar to Satan, and then she returned her attention to the life size doll lying on the floor before her.  With the utility knife, she carved a Tetragrammaton into its chest.  Then, she cut the palm of her hand.  She muttered an incantation as she squeezed her hand and dripped blood into the doll's mouth.
"In the name of Satan, I give you life," she said, and, then, she leaned over her creation and put her mouth over its mouth, smearing her own lips with blood as she exhaled her breath into it.  "In the name of Satan, I command you to rise!"
The door shook as someone tried to enter.  "Elise, I'm sorry!  Come on, open up!"  Bill said.
Elise rose from the floor, walked over to the door, and flung it open.  She stood naked before Bill.  She licked her bloody mouth as if to seduce him.  Her nipples, large and splotchy, stood erect.  Her blond pubic hair betrayed the dye job of her now butchered hair.  Her pale skin looked to have never seen the sun.  She had always been fat, but she had gained so much weight while pregnant, if he wanted to fuck her now, he'd have to fold the flabs of fat until he smelled shit and then fold back one, or maybe he could just dip her in flour and aim for the wet spot.
"My God!  What have you done?" he said with his mouth hanging agape.
"I made something for you," she said.  "You can use it on stage when you're a big rock-and-roll star."  She laughed at him.
"Cut it out!  For Ava's sake, let's try to get along while she's here.  Adelaide said she'd watch Ava, let's go out for a beer and talk."
"Fuck you, Bill!"
"Whatever.  I'm going out."  He stomped down the stairs and out the front door.  He didn't come back until he smelled like cheap perfume and sex.
The memory left him feeling jittery and alone.  Damn, that thing is creepy, Bill thought, looking at the mannequin.  He wished he didn’t have to turn his back on the thing to go back downstairs.  As he descended, he felt as if someone, or something, watched him.
He grabbed a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup from the candy dish by the front door.  Lucas and Adelaide never had trick-or-treaters there anyway.  He stuffed the candy into his mouth, walked to the kitchen, and put a kettle of water on to boil.
His heart sank when he saw the photograph of his daughter hanging in a magnetic frame on the refrigerator.  He remembered the day of her accident in vivid detail.
 It was Christmas day.  A light snow fell.  Numerous beautifully wrapped packages were piled beneath the twinkling tree.  The air had smelled delicious as Adelaide and her sister, Molly, had whizzed about the kitchen whipping up mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuits, and pumpkin pies.  Their mother, Leena, had cooked the ham at her house and then brought it over.
Lucas had built a fire while Leena played Christmas carols on the piano.  Ava had sung along, "Away in a mangor no cwib foor a bed, da wittle word Jesus way down his tweet head."
Elise had awoken early and poured herself a glass of wine.  After the third glass, she started drinking straight from the bottle.  Then she took a shower.  She played Tori Amos at full volume, belting out the lyrics in an inharmonious duet, draining the merriment from all who heard her as surely as she emptied the hot water heater.
Bill got up late enough to miss the musical stylings of his melodramatic wife.  He had prayed in vain Elise wouldn't make a scene.
"How could you!" she spat at him as soon as he came down the stairs.  Her eyes were bloodshot with tears.  "And with a stripper!  My husband fucked a stripper!"  She ran outside, her wine bottle still clutched in her hand.
Lucas followed her outside, calling her name.
She ran from him, around the house, screaming at the top of her lungs, "I'll kill him!"
He finally caught up to her, and took hold of her by the shoulders as if to shake some sense into her.  He looked into her eyes.  "Elise, you have got to calm down, or someone is going to call the cops."
"Fuck you!"
Her flippancy infuriated him.  "Fuck me?  What the fuck have I done but be nice to you?  You can just find yourself another place to live!"
She jerked away from him and ran back inside the house through the back door.  She darted through the crowded kitchen and into the living room.  She charged at Bill.  She swung her bottle of wine at him, spilling wine all over the gifts.
"Shit!" he said and ducked just in time.
"You son of a bitch!"  She threw him across the coffee table.  "I hate you!  I hate you!" she screamed.
"Uh-oh!  Daddy's got a boo boo," Ava said and ran to her father.
"Get away from him!"  She flung Ava off her father.
Ava flew back.  She tripped over the hearth and fell into the fire.  She shrieked, sounding like a squealing pig, as her hair caught ablaze and her flesh melted.  Bill ran to her and pulled her out, but she already looked like a cheap wiener cooked on an open flame.
Morpheus scratched frantically at the window.
"Call 911," someone yelled.
Bill stroked his daughter's good cheek.  "Please angel, don't die," he said.  "I'm lost without the sanctuary I find in your eyes.  Each breath I take without you is a thousand years in hell."  He lost himself in her good eye, so big and beautiful.  There were no sufficient words to describe what he felt.  He felt as if his own image had been burned, as if his own soul sizzled with guilt.
Elise felt the same jealousy towards Ava she'd felt towards the stripper.  She burst into tears.  "Why don't you love me?" she cried.
 As the memory washed over Bill, a tear ran down his face as he looked at the photograph.  Even with half her face charred off, Ava had smiled for the camera.  She didn't yet understand the extent of her injuries.  Being blind in one eye seemed bad enough, but the disfigurement would haunt her for life.  Just yesterday, Bill had taken her out to eat at McDonalds.  As they were leaving, he'd overheard a teenage boy say, "Thank god vomit face is leaving.  I don't think I could look at that while I eat."  His group of friends had cackled at the comment.  Bill wanted to walk over and punch him, but he pretended he didn't hear them instead. 
He went into the living room, plopped down on the sofa, and flipped on the news.
The wind flapped the news lady's coat about violently, but her plastic hair stayed perfect.  "Three women escaped from High County Women's Correctional Facility today, killing six guards and starting a riot that is yet to be brought under control.  One of the women, Betty Dooglebee, was shot dead by one of the police.  As most of you will remember, she was the infamous registered nurse serving a life sentence for running into a homeless man while high on marijuana and ecstasy.  She then drove home with the man, Toby Fletcher, still hanging from her windshield.  She let him bleed to death in her garage, and then she and two accomplices dumped his body in Goose Creek Park.  Isabella Donna, a convicted pedophile, has been recaptured and is being questioned at this time.  One, as of yet unidentified prisoner, did escape.  High County Police advise all to lock their doors and windows and not answer the door for strangers.
The hair rose on the back of Bill's neck.  He felt as if someone trampled across his grave.  That unease he had felt as he arrived, he had smelled the faint scent of Manic Panic hair dye.  Only Elise would make sure she had hair dye in jail, he thought, and she's here now, hiding.
He muted the television, then went to the kitchen and took a butcher knife from the block.  He held the knife up high like Laurie Strode as he tiptoed through the house.  He checked the back door.  Locked.  He checked the bathroom.  Nothing.  He checked the coat closet.  Nothing.  He checked Lucas and Adelaide's bedroom.  Nothing.  She would hide in our old room, he thought.
As he crept up the stairs, the scent of Manic Panic seemed to grow stronger.  At the top, the mannequin eyeballed him like a vigilant sentinel, and he half expected it to call out a warning to Elise.  As he snuck to the door of his old room, the floorboard in front of the door squeaked.  Shit!  he thought.  He stood motionless for a moment and listened for her movement, but he heard nothing.  He threw open the door, certain she would lunge for him, but she didn't.  He checked everywhere, but no monster lurked in the closet or under the bed.
He had to walk past the creepy mannequin again to check the library, but found it empty.  Satisfied that Elise wasn't hiding in the shadows, he breathed a sigh of relief.  As he returned to the stairwell, he again felt as if he were being watched, as if he were not alone, but he foolishly wrote it off to an overactive imagination and made a fatal mistake; he turned his back to the mannequin and began to descend. 
As he took his first step, the mannequin took its own. 
He stopped.  Was that a footstep behind me?  he thought.  He spun around to look.  The mannequin seemed a bit closer than it should be, but his mind wouldn't accept what his eyes could see.  He dismissed the internal warning, and continued his descent, each step he took towards the bottom mirrored by the golem.
At the bottom of the stairs, he went straight to the front door to check the locks again.  The golem used the opportunity to slip into the shadows of the master bedroom.
The silence of the house weighed heavily upon Bill, and when the teakettle whistled, he nearly jumped from his skin.  He made himself a cup of Chamomile, sat down on the sofa, and used the remote to unmute the news. 
"This just in," the news lady said, "the third escapee from the High County Women's Correctional Facility has been caught at the Greyhound bus depot.  She has been identified as Kay Myrium Young, the woman who three years ago to this day woke her children in the middle of the night, drove them to Wal-Mart and made them pick out the baseball bat that she then used to beat them to death."
Morpheus scratched frantically at the window.
Bill went to the front door to let the cat inside.  He didn't notice that the locks on the door had been unlocked.  He flung the door open.  "Come on, Morpheus, it's cold outside," he said.
He turned white as a ghost.  The thing on the doorstep could not be.  His mind cried out in terror, but his voice betrayed him. 
The golem had slipped out the front door, mimicked the cat to lure him out, and now stood before him.  Elise's hate bore through the golem's glowing eyes.
Bill tried to run, but his legs turned to jelly.  Petrified, he couldn’t move.  Hot piss soaked his pants.
The golem lunged at him, sank its fangs into his neck, and ripped out a scream.
As Bill lay dying, his thoughts turned to Ava, who was now more than just a grotesquery; she was also alone.  Her precious vomit face faded from his mind as the golem emptied his veins.  He should have left Elise the first time she hit him.  Now, he was hers, forever.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Last Halloween


A gas mask in front of a glowing pentagram.


Last Halloween


Bone chilling rain misted down upon the Oldsmobile 442.  Thick fog made the curvy mountain road even more treacherous for Scot to navigate the foursome to their sacred place.
The rock-and-roll on the radio gave way to static, so Louise, who was riding shotgun, fingered the dial.  Finding nothing on the FM, she switched over to AM to listen to the news.
"The debate still rages over whether or not it is safe to incinerate some 47 million pounds of chemical weapons, 850 of which are known to be leaking.  Last month, the waste, including Nerve Agents and Mustard Gas, was shipped to an Army Depot located just three miles outside of Tobacco City, when a heated debate broke out over the proper process controls to destroy the stockpile in a safe, environmental manner.  In other news, five hundred and fifteen soldiers have died since President G. W. Shrubs Junior declared the war in the Middle East over last May."
Junior had not actually won the 2000 election to rule the United States of Americorp.  His brother, Governor of Wrinklida, rigged the election so that African Americans couldn't vote because black folks remembered how bad things were under the rule of Shrubs Senior and would never vote for a chip off the old block.
Shrubs Senior, or "Pops" to his friends and family, was former head of the CIA and orchestrated the 1963 assassination of President John Denakee, a beloved humanitarian with the people's best interest at heart.  Then Pops got himself elected as Vice President.  The President at the time, a former Hollywood actor named Mr. Zombie, had a disease called Swiss Cheese of the Brain, and Pops found him to be extraordinarily easy to control.  Soon, Pops decided he'd had enough of playing puppet master.  He pulled his hand from Mr. Zombie's rear end and ruled the land as himself. 
After awhile, he grew bored and needed more for his power fix.  He decided to put his fingers in the Middle East pie because they had so much of Mother Earth's blood, and he had so little.  He armed them first, as any southern gentleman would.  He waited, and when they used their arms against a small neighboring country, Pops cried war and quickly overran his new playmate.  At last, he felt powerful again!  He told his playmate's disheartened people to trust him, encouraged them to take up arms against their King.  Knowing their King would slay them for tyranny, he abandoned them and, with glee, watched what he had caused.
Pops lost the next election to a slick talking donkey named Willie, but it didn't take long for him to regain control.  No one suspected, but in 1998 Pops blackmailed Willie with video footage of a sex scandal involving Willie and Junior's underage daughter, Laura Shrubs.  Pops made his agenda clear, so Willie grabbed his saxophone and played Americorp the sweetest lullaby before signing H.R. 4655 into law, which instituted a policy of regime change against Pops's old playmate in the Middle East.
When Junior found the video tape, he got hot headed and demanded Pops get Willie impeached.  Pops almost did, but at the last minute Junior accepted his dad's offer of the next presidency if he'd just let it go.
Junior's opponent, Greg Allen, recognized not only the ploy against the African American vote, but also that the vote count was corrupted in general.  He demanded a re-count by hand, including the absentee ballots.  Pops had his friend I. Judge put a stop to all the challenges, and thus Junior became President as promised.
The media, not easily satisfied, decided that even though it didn't matter anymore, they would recount the vote anyway.  It turned out that, even with all that racist cheating, Junior still hadn't won the election.  The people of Americorp were infuriated when they realized voting had become such a hoax.
The people's unrest frightened Junior.  He called Pops, who decided slide of hand to be the only recourse.  Pops called his brown friend Ben and arranged a fireworks display on a scale far grander than any other Americorp had ever seen.
Junior responded with his own fireworks display in the Middle East.  The average Americorpse became so terrified of fireworks, they forgot all about the stolen election.  Junior declared the war won soon thereafter. 
The days turned to weeks as the blood slowly seeped.
"Louise?  Are you listening to me?"  Scot said.
"Sorry.  I was just thinking."
"What about?"
"That whistle ass Shrubs.  He's gonna get us all killed."
Paris and Veronica were cuddling like new lovers in the back seat, when Veronica suddenly lurched forwards.  "Stop at the store!" she yelled in Scot's ear.  "I wanna slushie!"
Scot docked his boat of a car and everyone disembarked.  Americorp propaganda covered the storefront, as if to say, "Please don't hate us."  Eight dark eyes watched the Americorpses fill their cups with cherry gluttony.
"It makes sense if you think about it," Scot said, operating the slushy machine like a seasoned professional.  "Let's say I'm Satan, right, and the world is mine to tempt as I choose.  My plan would be simple.  I would take God's divine words and twist them ever so slightly through hundreds of years of translations until they become a lie.  Look how many followers I'd have, and they wouldn't even know it.  Think how many wars have been fought in God's name, and really Satan's the one reaping the rewards."
"That would so freak with my mom," Louise said.
They walked up to the counter to pay for their slushies. 
"Tahir" was written on the nametag of the cashier.  "You are going to a happy Halloween party then, I presume," he said with a thick accent.
The way Tahir's mustache wiggled as he spoke reminded Louise of a woolly worm.  She watched it intently, trying hopelessly to predict the upcoming winter.  A chill ran up her spine.  "No, why?" she asked. 
"You wear costumes, yes?"
"No, this is how we always dress," Louise said.
"I understand.  It is Marylyn Manson you are wishing to be like.  It will be thirteen dollars even, my friend."
"Thirteen dollars!"  Louise exclaimed.  "What's it made of, frozen suicide bombers?"
Scot dragged Louise out of the store while Veronica paid for the slushies and apologized.
"Damn Louise, that was cold."  Scot said, laughing.
"He said I like Marylyn Manson!  Fuck him!"
The radio came to life as Scot started the car.  "Still no word on the plane that disappeared from an airport in Africa thirteen days ago --"
"Think they've got enough employees?"  Veronica said.
"Damn, it probably takes four of 'em to feel safe enough to keep the place open," Paris said.  "I can't believe you said that, Louise."
"Yeah, neither could he.  Did you see the look on his face?"  Scot asked.
"Absolute terror," Paris said.
"Absolute terrorist!"  Louise said, laughing.
A few miles down the road, Scot slammed on his brakes.  The car skidded and then jerked to a stop.  "Damn, I missed the turn!"  He backed up, and then turned onto an overgrown, dirt road.  Tree branches slapped the windshield as he forced the car through the foliage.  He stopped at a small clearing, where his ancestors lay buried beneath crumbling gravestones.
They got out of the car.
Clouds obscured the heavens.  The darkness was absolute without a sliver of radiant light.  Fog swirled about them as if the Spirit of the Forest had come to witness their most sacred right.
"This place gives me the creeps," Veronica said.  A noise came from the shadows, a disassociated voice, deep and demonic, followed by the beating of large wings.  She spun around in the general direction of the sound and strained her eyes against the opaque night.  "What was that?"
"Just a hoot owl.  Relax," Scot said.
Paris opened the trunk and retrieved his supplies.  He poured a mixture of salt and herbs around the graveyard's perimeter.
Scot built a fire in an open space between his great grandmother and great, great uncle.  He leaned in close and gave his breath to the small flame. 
Paris cut a pentagram into the sludgy ground with a handmade sword, a gift given for just this occasion.  He topped the pentagram with eight candles, alternating black and white, to shape infinity.
"Help me with this," Veronica said to Louise as she struggled against the wind to spread a lace cloth across a large, flat stone.  The girls then sprinkled fresh red rose petals all over it, and placed a statue of Oshun in the center.  Veronica set out four red candles as Louise filled five goblets with a mixture of equal parts Kava Kava and wine.  She then set out five fair portions of space cakes and psilocybin mushrooms.
The flame finally flared, causing the wet gravestones to glisten with flickering firelight.  As the wind blew, big fat drops of ice-cold water rained down from the treetops.  Limbs snapped, sounding as if myriad undead awaited hungry for brains just outside the graveyard.  A shrill scream filled the air, sounding like a terrified baby, its voice invoking images of a night hag or banshee.
"That was not a fucking owl!"  Veronica said.
"That was just a mountain lion.  Nothing to worry about," Scot said.
"Oh yeah, knowing that puts my mind right at ease."
"Let it begin!"  Paris said.
"Here comes the shrinky dink!"  Scot said as they all disrobed into the freezing cold.
"In the flickering firelight, beneath the bereaved and blackened sky, before the witness of our fallen ancestors, and the blessing of all deities of love, we four become one," Scot proclaimed, and they clinked their goblets together, giving the fifth glass to Oshun.
They each pulled strands of hair from their heads and tied them all together, then buried them inside the sludge drawn pentagram.  They ate their cakes and shrooms, giving the fifth to Oshun.
They tingled as old spirits filled them.  They danced and chanted, conjuring up images within the fire of vines twisting together, becoming one, becoming nothing.  They gave sacrifices of their own blood and fornicated in the mud.  They no longer spoke with voices, but with their mind's eyes and "Without fear!" was what they chanted.
The following day, Louise awoke around noon.  As she made a pot of coffee, she noticed a trail of tiny, black ants traipsing back and forth across the countertop.  One ant met another, and stopped as if to chat, then changed its course, going back from whither it came.
She poured four cups of coffee, adding sugar and hazelnut nondairy creamer.  Dead ants floated to the top of each cup.  "Fuck me," she mumbled to herself.  She poured out the bad coffee, and then put on a fresh pot to brew.  She checked the sugar, but found it clear.  The nondairy creamer, however, had proven to be a death trap.
Louise wet a dishrag.  She hesitated for a moment, and then wiped up as many ants as she could.  She rinsed their little bodies down the sink drain.  She felt the pitter-patter of petite feet as an ant scurried across her hand.  She started to smoosh it but couldn't.  She set it safely down on the counter top instead.
She poured four more cups of coffee.  An ant climbed across the rim of one of the cups.  Louise sighed, and then pulled a bottle of ant poison from underneath the sink.  She put a dab of the poisoned syrup onto a piece of cardboard and left if for the ants to eat.
For a moment, she thought she understood how Dali must have felt.  "Hey guys, coffee!" she yelled.
As they sipped their coffee together, Louise felt truly happy.  She had fantasized about having a four-way marriage for years.  She hated to be alone, and one person could never give her all the attention she demanded.  She was a prima donna with implicit taste, and it had taken her years to select her three perfect mates.
After the foursome finished their brew, they went shopping for Halloween costumes.  They returned to get ready for a big party at Stygian Playground, a former cathedral turned cabaret.  Located just outside the city limits, next to the Army Depot, everyone knew it for its wild parties, illegalities, and general debauchery.
Scot dressed as a pirate, and couldn't stop himself from telling bad pirate jokes.  "Why did the pirates get a divorce?"  he said.
"I don't know, Scot, why?"  Veronica humored him.  She had dressed up like Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
"They arrrrrrrrrrrrrgued," Scot said.  "What did the pirates say when the world blew up?"
"I don't know, Scot, what?"
"It's arrrrrrrrrrrrrmagedon!"
Paris had found an excellent Phantom of the Opera costume at the Halloween store in the mall.
Louise knew she wanted to be Lily Munster, but those costumes had already sold out.  Disappointed, she had left with nothing.  Now she tore the house apart trying to think of something to wear.
"I know what you can be," Scot said.
"What?"
"Put on my gas mask and chemical resistant gear and go as someone from the arrrrrrrrrrrrrmy."
"What a great idea," Louise said.  She dashed upstairs to get it.
The party raged by the time the four arrived.
"Fart!  Fart!  Fart!" went the gas mask as Louise got her over twenty-one wristband.
"I'm gonna get a beer," Veronica said.  "Anybody else want one?"
"If you don't mind," Scot said.  "Are you all right in that thing, Louise?"
"I'm okay," Louise said, her voice sounding as an echo escaping from a tin can.
On stage, GWAR threw buckets of blood on the audience.  The audience jumped up and down while yelling, "Blood!  Blood!"
Veronica returned with the beers.  "It's awfully smoky in here, "she said. "  Let's step out for some air."
Outside, they found two of their friends, Seth and Keith, smoking a blunt.
"Hey guys, what's up?  You guys wanna hit this?"  Keith said.
"Arrrrrg!"  Scot said, taking the blunt.  He took three tokes, and passed to Louise.
Louise took off her gas mask to smoke.
"Wow, Louise, that's some crazy get up you got there," Keith said.
"Scot's crazy brother gave it to him," Louise said, smoke curling from her lips.  She passed off to Veronica, and put the gas mask back on.
"Scot has a crazy brother?"
"Yeah.  He's got Gulf War syndrome.  He thinks the world's about to end."
"So it works?"
"Oh, yeah.  He gave him a whole shitload of canisters, too."
"What the fuck are you supposed to be?"  Seth asked Veronica as she took her turn on the blunt.
"I'm Sally."
"Sally?  Sally Jessie Raphael?"
"Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas, dumbass." 
A noise like a speeding freight train intensified.  "What's that noise?"  Paris asked.  The hairs on the back of his neck stood up and a shiver ran down his spine, as if someone had just walked across his grave.
"Sounds like an airplane," Keith said, craning his head to look at the sky.  "There it is!"
"Should it be so low?"  Veronica asked.
"Airports not far," Scot said.
"That's too low.  Something's not right," Paris said.
The windows rattled as the airplane passed overhead.  "Oh my God!"  Veronica screamed, but the roar of the engine drowned out her voice.
Horrific noises filled the night, sounding as if a tractor-trailer fell from an overpass, thudded onto a busy highway, and started a multi car pile-up.  Sounds of grinding, crunching metal, tearing steal, screams of terror, and finally, the tremulous boom of an explosion resounded.
Outside Stygian Playground, the force of the explosion knocked everyone down to the ground.  The stained glass windows imploded.  Everything went black, making the stars twinkle more brilliant than before.  People screamed in panic. 
As Louise stood up, she could see flames shooting up from the Army Depot.  "Let's get inside," she said, helping Scot up.  His eyes were full of tears.  His once handsome face blistered.  "Oh my god!  What's wrong?" she yelled.
Scot gasped for breath.  He fell down and vomited a grayish slime, then jerked with convulsions like a cockroach after a bug bomb.  Blood poured from his mouth and nose.  Wide eyed, he stared at nothing.
Louise looked to Paris for help, but he and Veronica had fallen down on top of one another.  Their fingers were grotesquely twisted, and their eyes had sunk deep into the sockets.
Louise couldn't believe what was happening.  It seemed so surreal, like a nightmare, a bad trip, a trick of the mind.  Her biggest fear, of being alone, realized in this moment.
All around her the moans and screams stopped, giving way to an eerie silence, broken only by the rhythmic farting of an unwanted gas mask.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Punkin'


Picture of a scarecrow with a pumpkin head.


Punkin'

Maynard sat on the sofa, curled up against the backrest with his face half buried in the cushions.  He didn't say much.
Nikki stared at him.  She wondered why she hadn't noticed before that Maynard sort of looked like a turtle.  She kept thinking that his nose looked funny tonight and his feet seemed bigger than before.  His shoes were hip-hop raver, kind of funny looking, but it didn't matter.  She wanted to touch him, just to see if his skin felt cold or warm.  She lit two cigarettes and gave one to Maynard.  It hung on his lower lip as if he were a musician playing the blues.
"I like your shoes," Nikki said.
"Thanks.  My mom bought 'em for me."
Nikki had been chasing after this boy forever, and now that she had caught him, she didn't quite know what to do with him.  She blew three perfect rings of smoke.  "You wanna have sex?" she said.
Maynard shrugged his shoulders.  "I don't know if it'd be right -- given the circumstances and all."  Maynard's girlfriend had died in a car wreck the month before.
Nikki said, "I remember when my friend Paul died.  I mean, I didn't know him that well.  He was kind of nice to me in high school and all.  I hadn't talked to him in years.  Nobody told me he died 'til the next spring, and it made me think.  It's kind of creepy, ya know?"  Maynard looked like a lost little boy, wet eyed and distant, and she thought maybe she'd said the wrong thing.  "I guess it's not the same."
"It's okay.  She was cruel to me anyway," he said.
For the briefest of moments, disillusionment gave way to unobstructed truth, and Nikki remembered that Maynard wasn't Maynard at all.  The real Maynard lay naked inside a shallow grave within her earthen cellar, with her studded leather belt wrapped tightly around his neck.  She had stuffed the clothes he had died in with hay, and then sprayed them with CK-1, his brand of cologne.  She had given him a jack-o-lantern for a head.  She had scalped him and hot glued his hair to the top of the pumpkin.  She had spooned out his eyeballs, stuck them on toothpicks, and then inserted them into the jack-o-lantern’s triangle eye sockets.       
"No.  I'm the cruel one," Nikki said.  "I don't know what happened.  I just kept thinking about how beautiful you are and how good you would look with blue skin and lips, and, and things just got crazy.  Look, I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  I love you, Punkin'," she said and kissed Maynard on the cheek.
Nikki looked at her watch.  "Oh goodness!  We are going to be late.  I've still gotta put my costume on!"

*  *  *

The intoxication of the Halloween crowd spilled out the club walls in whoops and hollers by the time Nikki and Maynard arrived.  A local band massacred the Electric Hellfire Club's 'Mr. 44' on a small stage.  Nikki dragged Maynard through a host of costumed fools stumbling and fondling one another to a sofa in a dark corner. 
A young black man, dressed like a French whore complete with wig and make-up, plopped down on the sofa next to Nikki.  In a bad French accent, he said, "Oh!  Hello, hello!  Let me introduce myself," he said.  "I am Claire Nin de la SoufflĂ©.  I'm not a drag queen, but I am bisexual.  I mean, I could be a girl, but it's just not in my plan for life.  Oh, I'm losing my accent 'cause I'm really drunk.  What are you supposed to be?"
"I’m myself," Nikki said.
"Oh.  Are you one of those little gothies?  I have a friend who's into that.  Maybe you know him.  His name is Maynard.
"Of course I know him.  He's my date," she snuggled into the scarecrow beside her.
"Maynard?  I know Maynard well.  He is my best friend.  Hello, Maynard.  I like your costume.  It's good.  I didn't even recognize you." 
Maynard's pumpkin head wobbled a little.
"He's really drunk," Nikki said.
“Let me tell you, I was into that goth thing for a while," Claire said.  "I used to wear all the black and talk about death, but it just wasn't in my heart, so I couldn't do it.  And you know, I think to be truly gothic you just sit in a dark room all day and listen to The Cure and cry.  It doesn't have nothing to do with fashion at all or nothing else.  Oh!  And Maynard here, let me tell you, that boy's gonna just grow out of it.  You see, I think the only reason you're goth is if you have bad sex 'cause when I was goth, all I had was bad sex and I mean, I thought it was good at the time and all, but let me tell you it wasn't.  As soon as Maynard gets good sex he's not gonna be gothic no more either."
Nikki stood up.  "On that note, I think I need a drink," she said.  She cocked her finger like a gun.  She pretended to shoot Claire and then winked at him and walked away.
When she returned with a couple of Pabst Blue Ribbons, Claire had left.  A girl dressed like Raggedy Ann had sat down next to Maynard.  Her hand rested on his crotch.  Nikki flushed with jealousy.  "Bitch!  You better back up off my man!"  she said.
"Whatever.  I've had him.  He ain't all that."  The girl got up and walked away.
Nikki plopped down on the sofa.  "She must have been some of that bad sex Claire was talking about," she said.  She leaned over and kissed Maynard, running her tongue inside his pumpkin mouth, tasting the drying pumpkin guts.  The pumpkin proved to be a better kisser than Maynard's corpse had been.  She snuggled against his musty form.
A can of Raid approached the lovebirds.  "Hey Maynard, nice costume," a familiar voice said.  He toked a joint, and blew the smoke out like a fume of bug spray.  "You want a hit?" he said and put the joint up to Maynard's pumpkin mouth.
The jack-o-lantern rolled off and landed face up in the scarecrow's lap.  Nikki's mouth gaped.  "Oh my God!" she screamed.  She grabbed Maynard's head and recapitated him.  
"Maynard, dude man that was cool.  How'd you do that?  Do it again!" the can of Raid said, putting the joint against Maynard's jagged smile.  His head rolled off again. 
Nikki smiled.  "Isn't he so cool," she said, retrieving the head.  "Can I hit that joint?"
"Oh yeah, yeah," the Raid said, passing her the weed.
She vigorously toked and then held her breath until her face turned red, and she had to exhale.  Then she took another and gave Maynard a shotgun.  The smoke rolled out of his holes, swirling about the gouged out eyes.
"You guys wanna shoot a game of pool?" the Raid said.
"Sure.  Help me get Maynard over to the tables.  He's too wasted to walk."
 Moments later, Nikki leaned across the pool table, her black hair hued amber from the Miller light dangling from a chain above the table. 
Maynard didn't play, but instead just sat there in the corner watching Nikki like a classic man watches Marilyn at a late night film festival. 
"Did you have any trick-or-treaters this year?" the can of Raid asked as he scratched the ball.
"No," Nikki said, sinking the last of her stripes.  "All my neighbors think I'm weird."
"We just had one kid.  My mate and I had rigged up a walkie-talkie inside a jack-o-lantern and left a bowl out there, you know.  We figured we'd peek out the curtains and watch and when the kids came to the door we'd say 'one piece each,'" the can of Raid spoke in a guttural voice.  "So we smoke some dro, and you know, we were feeling good when the first kid arrived.  And it was the retard from across the street, so we thought, this shit is gonna be hysterical.  The 'tard, man, he freaked out, and he grabbed the jack-o-lantern and put it up over his head and smashed it on the porch.  He grabbed the whole fuckin' bowl of candy and ran off down the street."
"Side pocket," she said, pointing at the hole on her left.  She pulled back and then thrust the stick forwards with a smooth stroke, running the eight ball to its predicated destination.  She turned around and realized she had run the cue into Maynard's nose and decapitated him again.
"Oops!"  she said, and collected the head, again.  "I think Maynard's getting tired.  Perhaps we should go."
"Here's your twenty dollars," the Raid said.
Nikki shoved the money in her pocket, scooped up her scarecrow lover, and dragged him out the door.  As she crossed the parking lot, she lost her grip and dropped him.  She heard the screeching of tires.  "Nooooooooo!"  she screamed as, with a KATHUMP, a tire rolled over Maynard's head, disintegrating it into a pile of orange mush.
Cigarette in hand, Claire got out of the car.  "Oh no, oh no!"  He fell to his knees, cradling Maynard's body.  "I shouldn't have been driving drunk!  I've killed my best friend."  Just then, the cherry fell off the cigarette and into the hay stuffed clothing, and Maynard's body burst into flames. 
Nikki laid her hand on Claire’s shoulder.  "It's okay, Claire.  I won't tell," she said.
"Larry."
"What?"
"My name is Larry.  Claire was a joke."
"Larry, why don't you come with me back to my place?  I'll make you forget all about poor Maynard."
"Yeah, okay.  I need to get out of here before the cops come.  Maybe I'll lay low at your place for a while."
The light glinted off Larry's face in a curious manner.  "You know," Nikki said, "the shape of your head kind of reminds me of a zucchini."