Space for Rent
There’s space for rent inside my heart. The plus side is there’s not much in there. Not many tenants, but they’re here to stay—don’t have the heart to evict them. Yes, I know some of them have moved out. Doesn’t matter. I’ll hang on to their stuff for them for as long as they want.
Most of this empty space I’ll admit I’ve been afraid to lease, worried I’ll find the wrong person to fill some rooms. But all this empty space makes me feel a little lonely. That’s gotten worse with time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my current tenants. They live rent free—the space they occupy I make sure stays theirs.
I’ve gotten better at putting out my “For Rent” signs. Most of my applicants are boring though. Nice enough, I’m sure, just…not for me. I’m picky, I guess. Then again, one has to be selective when renting out space in the heart.
“For Rent.” What an odd concept, considering I give the space away for free. Maybe I should change my signs. But I don’t want anyone getting any ideas and taking advantage of me. I’ve got plenty of room. No hurry to change that.
My Blood’s Not Red Anymore
My blood’s not red anymore;
It leaks from my shredded soul,
Seeping tar-like from blackened wounds—
The gashes came from many things, but
Oh, the largest ones, those came from me
Tearing out chunks to ease the pain
Of a thousand missing parts.
Funny how the brain—deranged by overload—
Decides it’s time to die
And tears away the parts of you
That should’ve stayed inside.
Oh, no my blood’s not red anymore
But my filthy heart still beats;
It pounds away inside my chest, but
It's not blood that swims within.
My blood’s not red anymore,
But it oozes from your lips—serotonin vampire,
Midday like it's midnight, but you’re still alive.
Hard to kill something that lives forever,
Embodiment of greed and vulturous lust,
Circling above my head as I fall to my knees
Crushed ’neath my terror and your bloodlust.
Oh, but I know all your dirty secrets—
I wrote them in my Book of Lies
Where the black drips down from pages smeared,
Scarred with everything that makes you hide.
Oh, no my blood’s not red anymore
But my filthy heart still beats;
It pounds away inside my chest, but
It's not blood that swims within.
The wind changes direction as a car flies past, up the hill, speeding away toward nothing. One more person in a hurry to get nowhere as fast as they can. Useless.
Tick, tick, tick. The meter on the gas pump keeps time with the quiet rush of fuel filling the tank on my car and draining my wallet.
Another gust of wind tickles my face, plays with my hair, and shoves aside the open ends of my jacket—too cold not wear one, but not cold enough to zip it shut. White glistens from the roadside, piled high by the plows. Fat with snow, the trees sit quiet and unstirring aside the black gash cutting down the mountain.
The slush beneath my feet smells of gasoline, tinted gray-brown by mud, road salt, and chewed tobacco. It’s only a few shades darker than the morning sky. Suppressed by the thick clouds, the sun hides from the world, caught in the awkward phase of morning where it’s neither early nor late.
Click. The pump shuts off. Time to get in my car and race as fast as I can to absolutely nowhere for no reason good enough to justify it.
From the Moon
As my world burned, I held you in my arms, watching in silent awe and terror from the cold, lonely moon. Half of it blazed in a wave of red, orange, and stark black, the other drenched in the purest of greens and brilliant blues. Amazing how much you realize the beauty of something only when you're losing it.
All My Songs Are The Same
All my songs are the same,
All my lyrics are alike—
The same words describing the same pain
But arranged in different ways
As if it could distract from the fact that
Everything I write is the same.
Interesting how the hole inside my chest
Bleeds over into every area of my life,
Eroding sections of my soul I
Didn’t know I needed until they were gone—
Snuffed out, sucked away into the riptide
Of this awful abyss inside my chest.
But all my songs are the same
And all my lyrics are alike—
The same words forming the same poems
But arranged in different ways,
As if it could distract from the truth that
Everything I write is the same.
The dumpster burst behind me, the heat wave close on my back, fiery wings wrapping around me. Chunks of flaming garbage streamed past, falling stars in the black alley.
I gripped the pistol tighter until my fingers stung with pins and needles as I ran. Out of the alleyway, back into the madness. The burning cars and store fronts, blazing cocktails rupturing and spewing glass and flame like urban phoenixes. Riot police and mob yelling, gunfire cracking from all around. Yellow, orange, and red, dancing against swaths of black and gray, angry color scorching the innocent night.
“Hey!” a masked man yelled ahead of me, gesturing with a handgun in my direction.
I didn’t hesitate, raising my own weapon and pressing the trigger twice. He dropped, screaming, pistol slipping from his grasp and clattering on the asphalt.
Handy. I snatched up the gun and sprinted on, past the box truck laying on its side in the middle of the road, cargo strewn out behind it like entrails. Fire leaped from its charred sides, reaching toward anything near it. I tucked the new weapon into my waistband as I dodged a woman grasping for me from a small group of rioters exiting through the broken window of a storefront. Black masks obscured the lower half of their faces, eyes burning with fury, drunk on the chaos and anarchy of the moment.
The mask obscuring my own face was beginning to strangle my breath. I wanted so badly to tear it off, to let myself breathe. But that would have been a terrible idea. I can’t be recognizable. You’re eye color is recognizable enough—don’t put your face out their too.
I kept on, making sure to concentrate on staying light on my feet. Just a little farther, and I’ll be out of this mess. Though suppressed at the moment, fear hid in the back of my mind, whispering that I wouldn’t make it.
I ducked into a side street, darkness hungrily swallowing up the dancing light of a thousand fires burning on the main road. A man lay propped against a brick wall on one side of the narrow road. Blood streamed down the side of his head. His eyes, yellowed and bloodshot, followed me as I dashed past. I didn’t have time to avoid puddles. Water splashed over my shoes, soaking my feet and shins.
Yellow-orange erupted in front of me as I ran from the side street, glass and heat bursting away from where the gasoline-filled jar had shattered. Bullets whizzed past my head, striking the brick wall beside me.
“Get him!” the men called, popping off more rounds in my direction.
I dove and rolled. Hard, warm, gritty ground scraped against my bare arms. Bringing my gun around as rounds cracked by, I fired. Once, twice, three times, five times. Three men dropped, yelling and clutching their wounds. The fourth, armed with a crowbar, ran the opposite direction in terror.
They’re gonna leave without you. Squeezing the thought back into my stomach, I shoved myself to my feet and hurried on. Left, right, left, right, straight for three blocks. Past shattered glass, bodies writhing on the streets and sidewalks. Past flaming vehicles with their waves of heat, roving gangs of degenerate scum, and police lines firing tear gas into mobs a hundred times their number.
There it was, a few hundred yards away. Rising above the smoking city, the burned-out cathedral’s blackened steeple stabbed into the smoky, red-orange sky. Above it hovered Aegis’ APC, blue jets aimed downward, guns firing into the streets beneath. Three drones whizzed from her angular sides as I got closer.
Blood and asphalt sprayed from the bullet’s impact, dropping the man jumping from an alley at me. The drone turned, weapon firing another round at a man, clutching a rifle, rushing down the street at me. Empty shells clattered on the pavement, dropping from the drones as they fired again and again on nearby rioters.
The personnel carrier descended slowly, bullets ricocheting off its armored hide. Her guns barked back, cannons blasting away at buildings, autocannons sweeping the streets.
I was close now, perhaps a hundred yards or so away. But the carrier was drawing an increasing amount of attention from the rioters. Staying close to the ground for much longer was too dangerous.
She dove out of nowhere, tackling me to the pavement. I saw stars when my chin hit the ground, pain shooting up into the top of my skull. My palms scraped against the road as I tried to roll over under her.
The girl couldn’t have been much older than me—maybe eighteen, at the oldest. Fury blazed in her eyes, fists raining down blow after blow at my head and neck.
Barely, I blocked her strikes, searching for a weapon—she was too close to me for the drones to risk a shot. The gun in my hand had been thrown out of reach when I fell, but my second firearm dug into the small of my back.
I punched her square in the face. She screamed and cursed, blood streaming from her nose as she fell backward. The girl returned with an even faster rain of blows, catching me a few times in my face, before I could hit her again. “Die, you golden-eyed freak!” She screamed.
A solid connection with the side of her face sent her sprawling off me, dazed for a second. Rage took over, boiling up inside my chest. These people—no, these animals—had terrorized the country for long enough. They’d burned and looted across the nation, completely disregarding the lives of those around them. These animals didn’t care for anyone but themselves and their selfish, slanted agendas.
In their eyes, we were inferior. We were the animals, carrying a stained bloodline from a race of beings they despised. They were terrified of us, terrified we’d rise up and become their oppressors. Terrified of the power people like me held. Terrified of my golden eyes.
It was them who should have been purged from the face of the earth with extreme prejudice, them who should have been hunted down and killed, them who should have had to live in constant fear. Not me. Not my family. At least most of the nation saw us as just other humans, albeit unique, who still had a life. A life with value—a priceless human life. Not some dark group of sleeper agents for foreign governments or sadistic terrorists. Or telepaths destined to become Nazis bent on extermination and world domination.
I was atop her in an instant, knees pinning her arms to the ground, fists raining down blow after blow. She cried out, dark red liquid streaming from her mouth and nose.
The legislation she and other anarchists protested would bring equality—true equality—and protection under law for telepaths and Peace Keeper descendants alike. It must have been nice for someone like her, who never had to fear being slaughtered with her family in the middle of the night by a gang hunting down telepaths with golden eyes. Must’ve been nice sleeping in peace at night, worried only about your crush not texting you back, or a test at school the next day.
I grit my teeth so hard my jaw hurt. Strike after strike blasted through her week attempts to block them with her arms. Patches of black and purple were already spreading around her eyes and cheeks. Much of her face was no longer visible beneath broken skin and streaming blood.
“Alix, let’s go—leave her!” Taz directed through a loudspeaker attached to one of the drones circling overhead. “We’re getting called back to base, the drones are almost out of ammo, and we’ve gotta pull out—there’s a lot of idiots with heavy weapons headed our way. The carrier’s a sitting duck.”
“Fine.” I stood up, the girl groaning beneath me. My vision blackened for a moment. I swayed on my feet as I tried to move, still dizzy from the hits to my head.
Shouts of “Kill him!” echoed down the narrow street, sending more rioters dashing my direction. Bullets streamed from the drones, empty shell casings dropping onto the ground.
I staggered toward the rescuing carrier, brain finally clearing. Spots still danced in my vision. Definitely have a concussion.
Chink, chink, chink. The last spent cartridge dropped from one drone, then another, and another.
"Alix, run!” Taz commanded. “Go! Come on, man, get to the carrier!”
Retrieving the gun from the small of my back, I pulled back the slide. Golden brass glinted in the flickering light. Perfect.
I turned, weapon raised. Bullets whistled past my face and torso as I returned fire, dropping the leader of the charge. The metal bat he wielded clanged against the asphalt. I fired again and again, dropping four more, all the while stepping quickly backward toward the carrier and the deafening roar of its engines and autocannons.
The last man dropped to his knees, a knife slipping from his hands, blood streaming from two bullet wounds in his chest.
The girl forced herself up onto all fours, spitting blood. A hateful gaze seared into my soul as she struggled to her feet. Crimson streams covered her face and neck, more spattered across her arms and ripped T-shirt.
I let my weapon fall, halting my retreat to the APC. Which of us is more wrong? No, no—they started this.
With a cry of rage, she sprang at me. The battered girl halved the distance between us in a second.
You people will never learn. I raised my gun and pulled the trigger.
Her face paled with shock and pain, screaming mouth agape but silent. Her steps halted. She wobbled, tears streaming down her bloodied face. Panting and coughing up blood, she struggled to reach me.
I fired another round, this time into her leg.
With a scream, she dropped to the red-spattered road. Arms flailing, she scrabbled at the pavement, still trying desperately to reach me.
She’ll live. But did you make her hatred worse? Confrontation like this always makes things worse. Chaos breeds chaos, bloodshed creates bloodshed.
I left her and ran the remaining few yards to the carrier. The APC’s iron side slid open, jets firing to lift her, as I dove inside. Glancing over my shoulder, I watched the girl reach out for me, fury replacing the pain in her cries and curses. Hatred, all the way to the last. Stupid. But are we really that different?
After All This Time...
After all this time I spent,
Chasing shadows and smoke
Dodging the spears you threw
While I drowned in my own blood,
I came to realize
Your rotting soul, thinly coated in
Sweet and soured love,
Was only meant to fool me—
Your arms dragged me
Into a dangerous embrace
Closer to your stillborn heart
Wrapping my soul in your lies.
Deeper into the abyss
You coaxed and prodded me
Shoving when I was hesitant
Sliding daggers under my ribs
You never loved me.
I gave you everything—
You took all I could give,
Every pound of flesh and drop of blood.
So after all this time I spent,
I opened my eyes to see
The only one I hate more than me
Gifted (Dialogue Only Story)
“Did you see that?”
“The correct answer is no, no you didn’t. Now walk faster.”
“But—wait up! I can’t walk that fast!”
“Sounds like a personal problem.”
“How did you—would you slow down?—do that?!”
“Shoot like, fire out of your hands! And like, burn the carp outta that werewolf!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. What werewolf? I can’t shoot fire out of my hands and that’s silly anyway.”
“I saw it!”
“I SAW IT! Why are you denying everything?”
“Because nothing happened.”
“Then why are you smirking like that?”
“Gah! Never mind! You’re clearly a delusional idiot, not an illegal Gifted.”
“Exactly. You’re clearly highly intelligent, Random-Weird-Girl-Who’s-Very-Nosy. What? You don’t like my summation of you? Fine—that’s fair, I suppose. How about Random-Girl-Baselessly-Accusing-Me-Of-Being-An-Enemy-Of-The-State? You don’t like that either? Well you’re definitely not picky whatsoever. Hey, I’m trying my best here.”
“Why—how are you walking so fast?!”
“Why are you following me?”
“I don’t know. Maybe because you saved my life?”
“Oooo. Sarcasm. How exactly did I save your life?”
“Seriously dude? You just torched a werewolf in that alley back there! There’s probably still scorch marks on the brick wall of that shady discount clothing store. Also, you told me to walk faster, so I assume you want me to follow you somewhere.”
“Wow you really are delusional. Hallucinatory psychosis, perhaps?”
“What…? No! I SAW IT!”
“Well of course you did.”
“Don’t smile at me like I’m three years old and don’t know what I’m saying.”
“You might not be three, but somebody sold you a bad batch of acids.”
“I’m not a druggy, either.”
“Ah. An eyeroll. Cute.”
“Slow down, for heaven’s sake!”
“If you wanna keep up, speed up.”
“Where are we going?”
“Away from this shady area. I’d rather not get mugged and I’m not exactly popular around here.”
“Because of the werewolf who was out when it’s not a full moon and it’s broad stinking daylight? Don’t give me that look, you know what I’m talking about.”
“Werewolf’s don’t exist and, if they did, they wouldn’t be out right now. Ah, here we are—step in quickly please.”
“Why are we in this creepy building? There’s so much dust in here I think I’m gonna choke. Are there any lights in here? It’s dark as—Ow! What did you stab me in the arm with that syringe for?!”
“Well that’s weird…”
“Well duh! Forget Me juice doesn’t work on me. I’m Gifted too, idiot.”
“Lemme guess, your weakness is werewolves? That makes sense. Sorry about the stabby stabby. Just a precaution.”
“Precaution for what?! It’s gonna take a lot more than that to stick me in a suggestible state and tell me everything was a dream, ya nube.”
“Who are you?”
“Illegal, like you. Paranormal Gifted rating 7. How ’bout you?”
“So you’re technically a witch.”
“I prefer the term Paranormal Energy Harnesser, but whatever floats your boat. Why are you staring at me like that?”
“First off, that’s a stupid title, and secondly, I may need your help. Come with me—there’s some people you need to meet.”
“A rated 9.”
“Wait, Diviners are real?!”
“Duh. You just saw a daylight werewolf—a Diviner isn’t that big of a stretch. Wow are you ever slow. Don’t smack me, ya stupid witch.”
“I’m fine,” she said.
The emptiness in her eyes told a different story. They were dead and lifeless, just like the smile she was lying to me with now. Shoving her hands deeper into the pockets of her hoodie, she stared across the deserted park as her fake smile faded.
The gray clouds seemed impossibly low, their cold breath raking the landscape. Naked trees scraped their branches together in a cacophony of shrieks as a crow screamed from its perch in their skeletal branches.
“Aubrey, if you ever want to talk, I’m always here. And if there’s ever anything to need, don’t you dare hesitate to ask,” I said quietly. Her spiritless eyes met mine and my heart shattered inside my chest.
I remembered the night Claire called me from the hospital at somewhere around two in the morning. I remembered springing out of bed and putting on some clothes, racing down the stairs, and practically diving into my car. After a quick explanatory text to my still-sleeping parents, I had sped to the hospital, praying the entire way that I wouldn’t get pulled over or wreck in the rain. Arriving at the hospital, I’d hurried to Aubrey’s room as quickly as possible. It had been difficult to keep from breaking down altogether in front of everyone; as it was, I had been unable to keep the scalding tears from leaking out as I walked into the hospital room.
Aubrey had been on the bed, oxygen tubes in her nose, IV in one arm. It had been nearly impossible not to stare at the bandages concealing the cuts extending up the inside of both forearms as I knelt next to her. I don’t remember how long I held her hand and cried with her that night. She was never the same afterward.
The façade had long since been demolished—she no longer cared whether people thought she was happy or not. Well, except for those closest to her. The ones who cared the most Aubrey tried the hardest to shield herself from. I guess she didn’t want to feel as if she were dumping her issues on Claire and I.
She was losing weight and it was beginning to show. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen her eat anything at school and it wasn’t a stretch to assume she wasn’t eating much at home either.
“Do you want to come to my house for dinner?” I asked. I knew what her response would be before I even asked, but it wouldn’t hurt to try anyway.
“No, that’s okay,” she said, voice so soft I could barely hear her. “Mom’s getting off in two hours and she’s bringing food home.”
The November wind stiffened, shifting her long brown hair to reveal a new dark purple bruise near her temple. Rage began to boil inside my chest. How could anyone hurt their own daughter like that?
Before I could keep myself from doing so, I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around her, pulling her close. At first, she was stiff from surprise, but she quickly returned my embrace.
Sobbing uncontrollably, she squeezed tighter, tears soaking into the shoulder of my jacket. Her body felt thin and frail, shaking from both from crying and from the cold. Tears of my own began trickling down my face.
This is all so wrong, I thought. I wanted to say something to comfort her, but there was nothing I could say that could ease her pain. Guilt twisted in my gut, threatening to strangle me from the inside out. The only thing I could do was to protect her, wrapped safely in my arms.
I held her for so long my fingers became numb from the cold, but I didn’t care. I would never let go until she was okay.
“I don’t want to go home,” she sobbed into my shoulder.
“You don’t have to. You don’t ever have to go home again. Come on,” I said, rubbing her back, “come with me.”
Aubrey drew back and nodded, wiping her eyes as she tried to stop crying.
Placing my arm around her shoulders, I guided her down the street toward my home, just as the first of the town’s Christmas decorations sprang to life in the gathering darkness.