The Once and Future Creep

Some say Paul lost his mind in that cell, but I know better. Paul found something in solitary those sixty days. He came back to the world with few words but many thoughts. When we met him the next week for visitations, he was sort of gone. He had this breathless determination that overtook him. It was like he was walking cross country through tall snow; he was going home. After five years, he finally got there.

We were happy to have him, back but he’d often still have that distant look about him. He could stay with us a while, but he was just visiting. He’d go someplace else and leave his body in the room. He would be laying in his room eyes wide open, covered by a sleeping mask. I don’t think he ever slept exactly. Understandably, he was hard to employ.

One day while we were sorting socks, he came back. I didn’t even know he had left but then again that was six months after parole. Everyone had long since given up tracking his mental roundabouts. He was more efficient at work when he was gone and I had the habit of talking to him in this vacant state. I would learn to regret this.

“How long do you think I have, you know before it’s my time?” My small talk was somewhat morbid.

“Until 2040, Christmas decorations are still up. Your wife has a beautiful voice but she can’t sing Amazing Grace, it’s just too hard.” He spoke half here.

I stood dumbfounded.

“So you’ll still be alive?” By my estimate that would make him north of a hundred.

“I am yes.” He shrugged. “Guess I don’t get to die, maybe that’s punishment enough.”

Suddenly he snapped awake, realizing what he had said.

Paul had been reliving the actions that led him to his incarceration. Downtown and full of whiskey, he had started himself an altercation. Someone had the gall to poke him in the shoulder. Paul answered in kind with a stiff jab. The two got into it quick and before five minutes had passed the stranger was dead. The poor man had died for the great sin of not owning a watch.

“Geez, I’m sorry kid.”

I accept his apology with hopes that he wouldn’t breach the subject again.

My guess is Paul had nothing else to do in solitary so he faced his demons. He went back and forth so many times that he started to forget when was the start and when was the end. He had broken his own personal time. 2040 and 1987 were the same time, just different places. I could be wrong, but he had about eight headlines predicted with dates and everything. It was to the point that we simply asked him to stop reading the newspaper.

I don’t talk to Paul anymore, on top of the future sight he has a bad habit of spoiling books and movies. We email so he can appropriately tag his messages. Whenever I get to stuck thinking about the winter of 2040, I remember the events of September 11, 2001. Paul had told me that some 300 people would die in a plane crash headed to New York City. The actual events were obviously quite different. It’s the most disturbing sort of hope I think I could conceive.

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Birth of a Universe

He tried killing it, but it wasn’t something to be killed. He tried drowning, it but it wasn’t to be filled. It was a want, although it manifested specifically as a hunger. To be even more specific it was a void which no one could explain without one of these words: faith, impossible or improbable. If you looked at an X-ray there it was, an absence without cause and stranger still without concern. Every organ was there somehow contorted around a sphere in his abdomen filled with no quantifiable matter. What started as a bezoar (a ball of matter compiled from foreign matters indiscriminate inside the intestines) had now become a universe, thanks to time and pressure. His name was Tim, but some called him God.

Of Dogs And Streetlamps

It appeared suddenly, like out of a jump cut. There was a dog. It was big, hungry and angry. Tyler sacrificed a fraction of a second to frozen panic. As one eighth became three sixteenths, Tyler ran, beating a path backwards through the alley from whence he came. It made chase swiftly with little effort but much gusto. Tyler realized a problem with his plan. Simple arithmetic betrayed Tyler in a hideous fashion. Four was more than two, four was faster than two. No matter how nice the cross trainers strapped to the two legged runner, the four legged runner had the advantage. The dog would overtake Tyler shortly.

Lights of orange reflected off trash bins giving Tyler the slightest bit of hope that the proper streets of the city were close by. If he had looked up he would realize that the light was coming from above but Tyler took care not to notice. It was hard enough to outrun a dog without the extra hurdle of reality. The dog huffed and puffed on Tyler’s ankles. Once pup got close enough to nudge him with the very tip of its nose. Tyler with a second wind, made a sprint towards a dumpster.

The dog whimpered and whinnied and wanted. Tyler wanted too, wanted something softer, something safer. No one was getting what they wanted. With a quick scramble Tyler was up the green steel and on the black plastic lid of the dumpster. The dog was circling, jumping and trying to find purchase. Up a fire ladder with safety rings, Tyler started to climb.

Finally, the dog was on the dumpster. In a half second, the dog was attached to Tyler’s leg. He flailed his leg wildly hoping the dog would give against the brick wall or the steel ring. For the worst two minutes of Tyler’s life, Tyler screamed loudly to absolutely no one. The bus was probably gone and he was probably losing blood badly. The pain was excruciating.

On an outward swing the dog finally relented. Violently and involuntarily, Tyler flung the dog into the passenger door of a passing city truck. With a last whimper the dog disappeared into the night. Gingerly as possible, Tyler dropped to the dumpster. With as much care as he had left in him, he got on the ground. Sheepishly, Tyler knocked on the passenger door of the truck. The bewildered driver rolled down the window.

“Yeah, can I get a ride to the hospital?”

The driver could do nothing else but oblige. He imagined anything else was tantamount to murder. Tyler slowly climbed up into the trailer and sank back into the bench seat. He groped through his backpack and found a towel. Quietly, Tyler thanked Douglas Adams for this wonderful implement and wrapped it around his ankle. The rest of the night was pretty ordinary, although that may just be a problem with contrast.

The Man Who Saw

On a warm July day, Virgil stood staring through the masses on a busy downtown sidewalk. Confusion, horror and slight amounts of anger had congealed on Virgil’s face. His gaping maw was open large enough to fit a donut on its side. Melissa knew the face all too well. She made that same face some five years ago, it stuck there for four days. It could only mean one thing.

“You see them don’t you?”

“Sea cucumbers, giant land dwelling, sea cucumbers. They’re everywhere. How come no one’s screaming? How can no one notice them?”

“What’s happened is your filter has broken. People can only take so much in so their brains sort of edit out.”

“So I’m watching a deleted scene, that’s full of sea cucumbers who live on land.”

“If that helps you cope.”

“It really doesn’t. Maybe Valium would.”

“Just makes the sea cucumbers kinda plaid. Also breaks down your filter a bit more.”

Virgil noticed that the sea cucumbers had started to turn their focus to him. Soon they started to congress towards him and all he could do was slowly back away and turn. As he did, he saw more sea cucumbers creeping towards him. He did not scream in the face of giant sea cucumbers; that would be his epitaph.

“I think they can hear me.”

“They can actually sign too. They use their tentacles, it’s a bit gross.”

“Should we be running?”

“It’s okay, they can’t touch us. They can’t interact with our world.”

“So our visual frequencies overlap with their universe.”

“Yeah wow, that took me months to understand.”

“I read a lot of science fiction, my abilities to pull theories straight out of my ass is highly tuned.”

“On that note, don’t look at your naked ass until you’re ready. It’s a bit disconcerting.”

“Will I ever get use to this?”

“No, but you’ll find that it’s quite fun to ridicule all those silly people who can’t see sea cucumbers.”

“They are kinda funny. This might be the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Melissa laughed. “Shit, I just realized you can’t even see flying squids yet. What a noob.”

“Flying squids?”

Virgil had found his way into a brand new weird world. Yet, he was still a noob. The more things change, the more they stay the same. He squinted hard and was sure he could see the squids. Melissa laughed, knowingly, absurdly.

Love’s Abiding Crime

I’m in love with a girl and she doesn’t even know my name. Common problem I know, but there is so little common about her. Few woman can command attention like she can. She’s graceful, willful and captivating. She has a way with words that can make grown men grovel. She is the thunder, the lightning and the glorious electric blue glow: the whole package.  She’s got a soft side too. After all, she didn’t shoot me.

I met her for the first time at the Second National downtown. Between bronze rails and above a marble floor, she walks in. Somehow through a thick down coat, she sashays. For a moment I see her eyes, magnificent emeralds that seem to pierce my very soul. She turns to the tellers, moving to the center of the lobby. From a space between buttons she pulls a revolver. It’s a Manurhin 73, I looked it up. Her voice booms DOWN ON THE GROUND and I am but a helpless fool to cupid and the gross misuse of the 2nd amendment. Apparently, we were all watching her because no one noticed the four burly men covering the exits with rifles. Security is especially ashamed of this oversight.

I’m down on the floor fighting my third leg, trying to avoid an involuntary push up. She’s walking among the crowd. I get a good look at her, though there’s not much to see. She’s been winter treated with fur boots, stocking cap, wool scarf and a pair of driver’s gloves. Somehow, I’m attracted. I guess I just like powerful women. They take two bags each back to their car. I’m left heartbroken, she doesn’t even give me a second glance.

Well, winter turns to spring and time comes that a man thought’s turn to cheetos and sodas the size of trucks. So as the big hand meets the little hand at twelve, I find myself at the Gas N’ Gulp feeling empty and wishing to be a trash receptacle. As I reach the door I hear a familiar voice. It’s my favorite criminal and she’s as passionate as ever.

IF I SEE A COP I SWEAR TO GOD, YOU WILL DIE.

I’m frozen, she plows through the door and then I’m on the ground. She stops and is just short of apologizing. The hockey mask she wore is in her left hand, her right hand is carrying the same beautiful piece of French weaponry as before. Her face is a long oval with a straight nose that meekly points right below the lip. Her hair is long, curly, black and fake. She considers shooting me but sirens are coming and our rendezvous is cut short. SHIT! Then she’s gone and I’m left wondering if she’d come to visit me in heaven.

It’s Monday and we meet again. She’s in orange scrubs and I’m wearing Armani. The inequity between us is awkward to say the least. I try to say hello but the deputies are very rude to me and refuse to allow her any privacy. Her hair is red, straight and real. She seems beaten and worn down and it’s all I can do not to cry. There’s a tough trial ahead but, luckily I can be a horrible prosecutor when I want to be.

Sherman in the Reverse

Somewhere in a dead expanse, flowers are growing. A desert is turning into a forest and no one knows why, no one expect Howard. Howard know that above all else there is balance. There are few things that could hope to balance the inequities that was placed in front of him and a blooming desert might just do it. On the horizon, the second dawn was approaching from the shore. It was stories tall, blocks wide, red and leaving a scorched trail of black.

Howard stood against his house watching the horizon engulf. Melissa had locked herself in the cellar, sure of her hero’s abilities. Howard wished he loved someone more reasonable but there was nothing he could do about that. He waited with rifle in hand, a radio tuned to something country and ten boxes full of Federal Ammunition.

As Nelson turned to Cash, Howard sighted the monster that was the horizon. With the same dedication he put forth throwing a stone across a pond, he pulled. The bullet wandered into the distance. Inevitably it hit but unsurprisingly, the monster did not abate or even flinch. A .308 had little effect on a bus and much less on this critter. Rudely, a news broadcast interrupted Howard’s country music to tell Howard that a giant fireball was coming for him. Howard was less than shocked.

“Eye witness reports indicate that ten minutes after ten, a giant jet black reptile about the size of a city block emerged from the Atlantic Ocean. The creature then ignited upon contact with air. The flames themselves seem to reach some hundred yards away from the monster. It is believed that Savannah, Georgia has been literally decimated with some ten thousand dead reported. It’s moving on all fours inland towards Atlanta. If you are in between Savannah and Atlanta, authorities urge ” *kssht*

The news was getting downright depressing and Howard was tired of listening. Howard sighed, resigned to his fate. If there was someone to save Melissa it would be Howard and Howard couldn’t bare the idea of being without her anyways. You can’t choose the ones you love however, from that day on Howard would choose balsa wood for any further projects; contractors be damned. That of course hinged on him living through the next fifteen minutes.

He knelt on one knee into the dirt his father bought some eighty years ago. With futile fervor he pulled the bolt and reloaded. He pulled and repeated thrice. According to Melissa, that fifth bullet did the big sumbitch in. The thing had fallen dead right in the middle of the crops. Howard could do nothing but scream his damn fool head off. Soon it was a two part harmony, as Melissa realized they weren’t dead. She had finally left the cellar.

“Honey, I don’t recommend you try that again. I believe that’s my alotted courage for this life.”

They lived happily and cowardly ever after.

So White and So Pale

She burst just ghostly and that was the last thing she ever did. Her last breath rose above her and dissipated into the cold midnight ink. I sat there cradling her body, most of it anyways. She sorta stopped halfway down and trailed off into bloody strands. I was looking into her eyes, I was the last thing she saw. What I would give not to see that special breed of loneliness and fear.

He had come barreling through in a panel truck. Without common sense to act as a compass, he was blind and apathetic to anything in his path. He splashed me and I vowed petty, impotent, vengeance. She had sprained her left leg, the coroner told me. She saw it coming, she must have and I just had to hear her scream. Then I hear the scream crumble as the truck runs over her twice, the weight breaks her.

Her name was Tina Bowden. Her brother was glad I was there, glad someone was there. I gave the police a general description of the truck but it wasn’t much. I went home and hid from the last five hours as best I could. I tried TV, I tried books, I tried a shower. Nothing relieved me of Tina’s face. You can be the manliest man of all time and still cry in the right situation.

I’m not him, I wept like a camera was panning over me and I needed an Oscar. I found myself sunk into weird selfish guilt like a kid looking under a Christmas tree at all the gifts that weren’t his. Why should she die with me? I didn’t do anything to warrant such a punishment. Slowly with the help of good brandy, I slept. I kept myself in a sort of waking sleeping. When I dream I see her, so every night I got myself good and blotto in hopes of tranquil transitions between the days. Sometimes, it works but only sometimes.

One day (a month short of cirrhosis I’m sure) the numbers come to me. It’s the license plate number of a truck that has caused me no small discomfort. I take myself to the BMV and meet Charlize. She’s pretty and pretty far out of my league but sympathetic enough. I befriend her, I beg her and then a week later the waterworks start up. I’d love to say I was just manipulating her but that would be a gross overestimation of my talents. Through pity, weeks of pestering and friendship, I get a name and an address. Vernon White was not getting a month older.

Four hundred dollars and five days later, I pick up all the courage I need to face him. He lived near the airport. As I approach, the world becomes scenic and destitute. In my head a banjo is playing and it seems to echo all around me. His home’s wheels are flat and the hitch is rusted beyond use. The door is open and Vernon’s a ghastly old apparition of a man. Some time ago he had died. With Vernon dead, I leave empty handed and heavy hearted. I didn’t get what I want but I got better than Tina and that would have to do. Hell, I even made a friend at the BMV.

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