The Snipped Red Whip

I saw her first on the bus at dusk on a Monday. We were sitting parallel to each other in the seating arranged for the disabled and the elderly. She had pouty lips with bright red lipstick and long thick red hair framing a pale face. The length of the hair was a theme, coinciding with her long legs and long arms. She stared into me and I thought I had a chance.

Meeting her eyes sheepishly, she smiled and when she smiled the world seemed to light up despite the setting sun. My eyes are a dull gray that’s never been able to move a woman any further than a millimeter either way. There was nothing in my eyes worth a second glance. Her eyes were a deep blue. If I were to stare into her eyes deep enough, I imagine I could see waves and maybe just a little bit of the Ivory Coast.

She was sitting next to Sabrina Waller. Age had shrunk Sabrina 2 inches since I first met her. Her green eyes were slowly turning to milk from behind a pair of thick glasses. Her clothes were walking the tight rope between apathy and neglect, shown apparent by the two month old coffee stain still on her blouse. Sabrina was a friend to anyone and had been for all her 80 years but right then she was listening to Gershwin and removed from the world at large.

5 minutes from my stop and the red headed woman was still staring at me, growing a large toothy smile. From behind Sabrina’s thick braided hair she pulled what seemed to be a piece of red licorice. Dumbfounded, I stared as she retrieved more and more confectionery. Then she bit into the candy and pulled with her teeth until the whole meter long piece was ripped from Sabrina. With an impossible slurp, she sucked it in. I could have sworn I saw it wriggle, resist.

Sabrina fell to the floor and never got back up. Two days later, (if her daughter told me the truth) the doctor declared her dead. I thought of mentioning the redhead with the powerful mouth but I realized no one would believe me. I had been up for 72 hours and I think I’m the only one who saw her. Maybe that’s why I saw her; she’s something that’s always there but it takes a tired mind to see.

When I think of her picking the strands of all those innocent people, I shutter. I’m pretty sure I know what she is and quite frankly I do not appreciate the service she provides. It’s been 48 hours since I last slept and I’m riding every bus I can with the hopes of finding her again. She’s probably looking for me too as my health is not what you’d call good. I thought about just sitting in that comfy chair in my living room and waiting for her to come to me but I feel I must be proactive.

The pistol feels heavier in my bag than it did in my hand.

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The Peace Comes After

After Appomattox, before the Mississippi.

The man had his six and six more and six more after that. There were those who would fight him but he refused to discern between shootist and mother of five. With steady hands and steady feet, he moved through the town seemingly unaware of the bullets landing all around him. With an outstretched hand he shot forth. The townsfolk would later say that he shot blindly but everyone there knew he aimed for everything he took.

James Shifton, 12, had the uneasy thought that he was indeed the stuff of heroes. He held his father’s Harper’s Ferry pistol in his hand and prepared a dire shot. It was a double barrel musket and no match for a Peacemaker. There was a 25 year difference and the gun had evolved since. If James were to miss and then miss twice, he would have to sequester himself behind some wall to ram down two more bullets. A battle hardened man might use 20 seconds but while brave, James was too long a distance from a man. He had to do this all while hoping the man did not notice him.

Still the boy had to try. The hand was steady and for a brief moment James wasn’t there. He was just an assembly of motors that conspired for the purpose of murder. From somewhere cold he pulled back the hammer and shot. Not waiting for a reaction, he pulled back, took aim and shot again. It found purchase in the gunman’s back.The weak pale man with the hollow eyes came against James so fast and simply ripped the arm out of his hand, throwing it aside.

As James stared into those eyes, James realized to his horror that he was looking at absolutely nothing but a gun and the hand to hold it. What James had been for a moment, this man had been forever. Shiloh, Wounded Knee and all those other bloodied times were etched into a tapestry of pain and suffering inside that… something. This was a harvester in its season.

“Not yet.”

With that a rifle cracked and the gunslinger was blood from the neck up.

Next day, winter came and everyone had more pressing issues.

The Storied House

In this house, Paul is the father. Out there he is a swinging and often missing (but rarely sore) bachelor. He enjoys the chase and that strange dance. He use to call it the hunt but that would he seems to say he takes and Paul’s relationships while somewhat temporary, are symbiotic. Well, that’s outside this house. Inside this house, Paul is a host to a parasite that is draining him.

His wife is Theresa and she’s a career woman. She has lived her whole life to get to the top of a very big tower. She plans to help people up along the way, not inside the company but with charity external. She wants money because she knows that there are problems in the world that she can fix with money. She’s never liked sex, it hurts too much but inside this house, she is a wife and preforms all her wifely duties. They do not look at each other.

Their son is named Sam and he builds things. He believes that good craftsmanship is somewhere near the path to divinity. He thinks he can help, that he can build something that is good and useful. Mostly he makes electronic things that cost money because they’re allowed to cost money. He tends to forget himself and his hands forget too. He touches the soldering iron while it still smokes. He forgets to ground himself and destroys his work. He is the son and therefore he is young and forgetful.

They all have their roles to play, written in the rafters and the planks, echoing from the furnace. This is the family the house loved and these people will do their appointed tasks just fine. They have a six month lease and then a very long road back to where they were. There are however other ways out. Some nights it occurs to Sam, that if he were to loose a wire on that old television it could start a fire. He’d have to place everything precisely in the worst place. Then if everything goes just wrong, they might get to leave and resume their normal roles.

One night (not long ago) he did this and it’s sitting there unplugged; waiting for his childlike curiosity to get the better of him.

The Savage Shot The Darkness

The antique Savage sat on the desk. Even in it’s own day, the pistol was considered unpredictable but now somewhere near a century since it’s creation it was unthinkable that Frank would have loaded it; unthinkable, to everyone but Frank who wasn’t thinking quite right. The hookah on Frank’s other side was supposed to be have tobacco in it. It didn’t.

What it did have was a strange black smoke that granted Frank new spectrums of visible light. These new sights were men, men of foggy, hazy, black persuasion. From the hazy silhouette all one can see of these men are ten sharp light catching metallic edges, one for every finger. As one came closer, it seemed to laugh. Frank being not of sound mind shot the monster and in it’s a last moments it seemed familiar.

Two others came and he disposed of them just the same. Their shadows moved across the floor and stained the carpet red. More shades would come for him. In the right drawer nest to the pens sat a box of .380s one hundred full. The sweat kept on; Justin knew the trip was far from over.

The Butcher Shop, The Swap Meet, The Bus

A bicyclist passed me full speed; almost knocked off my hat. Funny thing was, I was sort of checking him out. I looked at his legs and I knew those could be my legs. I have these little plastic tubes in my backpack and all I’d have to do is just bundle up all the nerves I can and shove’em into the adapter, then do the same thing with my knee. Hurts like hell but if you need a new leg, right then you do what you got to do.

I can’t believe I even have that thought in me. That guy’s a person and I’m judging him by parts. I guess once you’ve parted out a person, it gets easier to think of people by their parts. God, that was a bad day and it’s still in me I guess. My southpaw twitches, I think it might just remember.

Twenty years ago, I was on the bus going home with some new parts I found cheap. Basically same tubes I have in my pocket, back then I got them for five each and felt lucky. They have a lot of applications but I was using them to extend my speaker wire with minimal loss. They were a bit more than I needed but a bargain is a bargain.

Ten seconds before I get off at my stop, a mortar shell hits right next to us. We knew they were coming but you get use to the risk. The consequences however I find myself less adaptive to. The bus actually flipped, and then crashed to it’s side. A lucky few of us survived, cushioned by the unlucky. None of us were exactly intact. Ambulances were hours if not a day from actually coming around to rescuing us. If we wanted everything we had, we had to work for it.

Between us we had scrounged up basically everything you need for a… well we called them swap meets back then. The process is simple you first divide customer from product. If they have a pulse it’s a customer; if not product. Then you find the best part for the customer. Between us we had about fifteen of those special tubes, ten knives and three capable saws. We also had ten rolls of that special tape, you know the stuff, with the coagulation aiding germs.

Look, we pretty much walked around like hobo boy scouts back in those days. If we could see a function and we could we carry it, we did. Paid off too, we taped and tubed maybe three dozen organs and appendages together. Saved twelve people with only three ahem usable products. Helped myself to this here lefty, it’s a little small but I like it. Can’t shoot or cast a line but it can pick stuff up, punch, claw and pry. Really, I can’t complain.

It’s just sometimes I feel guilty is all.

Sorry, guess I ruined your lunch. Make it up to you later, I promise.

The Long Playing 45 And The Eternal Waltz

To the tune of Am I Blue?, they waltz. Actually, they waltz in spite of the tune. They waltz with the knowledge that they waltz eternal, existing in a set rhythm forever. Twenty pairs shuffle slowly around the floor staring deeply inwards towards their other halves. Entropy and fatigue slowly brake them. They fall and the waltz continues as the fallen are methodically trampled. They die without sound, without emotion.

The old wood floor is getting scraped up in the spins and the somber motions. The old high school is in pretty bad shape all around. The wiring in particularly terrible condition but Wilma had the know how and the patience to get the lights working. The record was harder still to find but it was worth it. She sits next to her small record player and drinks her brandy on the very top of the bleachers.

In front of Wilma is a few members of the Westwood High Class of 1947. She can still recognize Effie, spider veins and all. Lance is a little bit more arthritic and a bit more worse for wear. Sam has still got that stupid grin. These are the great faces of her high school yearbook and people that would never been caught dead with Wilma. Well, obviously that was an overstatement on their part.

The sound stops and the dancers realize that they are dead. They allow themselves to fall, a bitter and short lived mercy. Wilma is quick to move the needle back to the start of the record and the dance starts again. As long as the record plays, they can’t stop and Wilma intends to play this 45 for a long time.

The Shadow Behind Him

Kevin walks in shadow. It’s a loathsome shade of foreboding immensity enveloping him like a fog. In the right angle, with proper focus, you can see it: like rain, like snow. There is something tall following him and everyone knows. None can comprehend it’s nature or form, but you can feel it in every part of you that tells you when there is wrong around.

All things considered Kevin is dong remarkably well. He’s taken to the philosophy that we’re all doomed to die, but it still nips at him. It’s been three years since he could leave the house without a jacket. You could see his breath if you dared to look at him. You wouldn’t dare, because everything is telling you walk away.

If it’s any consolation he wants to leave too. He doesn’t know what’s coming but he knows it’s a good deal worse than a bullet to the head. When he sleeps he can hear it, a low raspy voice resonating beneath the sounds of a mountain top. The words are not our words but the smacking of the lips is unmistakable; it’s hungry.

If a man looks at the right minute of the right hour, in that special angle with proper focus, he might see an eye above Kevin’s head. If he’s real unlucky you might see a fang, or maybe just one of the foot prints, as wide as a man is tall. It’s all the same dread really.

If you do see Kevin and you’re feeling brave, put the poor bastard down would you? This won’t end well and we should all give what mercy we can, while we can.

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