They called us The Newlyweds.
I wore a white slip. My black hair in kinks and knots. My lips, ripe cherries. We always parked around back. We always left the car running. And I’d always go in first. He’d follow with the gun. We’d go in with an empty briefcase and we’d always leave with it full.
We checked in to separate rooms around noon. I had time to kill. I painted my nails and smoked one after the other until my room was cast in a dull fog. The smoke circled me, heavy. It was superstitious, but I never could leave until I’d had a sip of brandy and read his letter.
Tonight we ride. Hold on tight.
All my love, T.
I tucked it in my stockings and made for the car. And just like always, he was there waiting. We parked in back. I pulled out my pill box and dry swallowed a blue one, then took the bump he had for me, giggling. He laid some out on the space between my thumb and my index finger for himself and then kissed me hard afterwards. His right hand slid between my thighs, and his left crawled up the small of my back, pulling me into him. My skin raised, hot and aching. And my hands grew too anxious and pulled through his hair. My mouth searched for his neck and my breath left in short gasps. And as my self control seeped out of me, he laughed low and pushed me slowly away.
“We celebrate after. You know that.”
I nodded, quick and small, straightened my hem, fixed my lipstick. I laid my forehead against his, my face still too hot and the skin between my legs wet. I breathed calm and deep. Kissed him light on the cheek. I took another bump and climbed out of the car. Maybe I’d taken too much but my breath was coming out in dizzy bursts, and the air felt too heavy around me. I turned before I rounded the corner to the building front and blew him one last kiss. He lifted his chin and smirked in acknowledgment, and I did my best to let the angst slip away.
My heels clicked and echoed against the marble floor. I waited my turn in line. I stood, a picture of patience on the outside. Just under the surface my emotions fussed about in restless fits. And as I came up on the wooden and gilt desk, he walked through the door. And everything melted away. He came up behind me and slid the suitcase across the counter, a flash of the gun sticking out just underneath. And he looked just like a ghost. Haunting and pale, in all black. Sunken eyes, slicked back hair, all wrapped in leather. And me with bloodied lips and my white slip, sitting in stark contrast to my skin. The straps of my dress barely touching my hollowed collar bones. You’d think that we should have worn masks. But people don’t pay attention to faces when there’s a gun around. People don’t watch your face when there’s a monster inside of you.
The girl behind the counter was all wide eyes. My voice calm and drawling like honey, “Sugar, I’m going to need you to go in back and fill that up for me.”
I winked and held one finger up to my lips. She sat, trembling in shock. “T? Help me out, baby?” I tipped my head against his chest, and he kissed the top.
He leaned forward and laid his hand across her shaking fingers. “Hey, now. You just still yourself. We just wanna get out of here as quick as possible. You feel me?” His words slid over her like thunder rolling. She took a deep breath, grabbed the suitcase from his hand, and headed to the back. She wasn’t gone long. When she returned she held her breath and handed the bag over to me. I nodded, handed it to T, and made for the door. Adrenaline was pumping through me hard. Between my quickened pulse and the harsh sunlight outside, my eyes couldn’t focus. I turned behind me to check that he was on my tail, but kept walking. Our eyes met, and something wasn’t right. I expected a wink. They were open and terror struck. And everything slowed. I made to spin around and see what nightmare lay behind me at the same moment that he reached to pull me out of the way. And his hand missed mine. And as my eyes came to rest on the scene in front of me, my sternum caught fire. In front of me were flashing lights. In front of me was a gathering of cars and men in uniform. In front of me there were a dozen guns trained on my face and his. And I looked down at my slip as the front blossomed wet and sticky. My breath stuck in my throat and my chest burned like inferno. And as I fell, it was his gun I saw staring straight at my center. And his eyes were empty and wet. And his mouth hung open. Despair etched across every feature. And my lungs refused to fill. And my insides kept pouring. And his eyes wept. And my baby shot me down.
There Are Chords in the Hearts of the Most Reckless
The chamber was grotesque. The curtains were a textured black on black brocade. A settee rested in the the north-eastern corner. The wood, charred black. The satin, black shadows. The flat black of decayed skin adorned the damaged and bruised walls. An ebony clock with hands of black slept in fits, nestled between two windows. The windows, the sickening color of congealed blood. The glass, almost melting as a fiery, vermillion light poured through the crimson panes and onto the room of gloom and death. And I entered in silence. My ears heard naught, but beneath my skin I could feel rushing and pounding. My fellow stared at my paling frame. Hands raised in front of dirty mouths that coughed out dark puddles to cover the sound of buzzing rumor. And I heard naught. Cradled between the guests were obsidian monuments to the bizarre. Sable statues of the madly disfigured. Abandoned limbs darkened with rot and mounted on plaques of onyx. Vessels of inky liquid allowed fingers and eyes to drown in their waters. I looked on in disgusted silence. The band played endlessly, but I heard naught. Fingers traipsed patterns on piano teeth. Bows ripped across the veiny string of violins. Gloved hands rested on wanton waists, guiding a feverish waltz. And naught but silence touched my ears. The blaring quiet was utter and absolute. And my mind ached from the lack of sound. My being begged to conjure even the echo of a hushed whisper. But I watched in a noiseless horror as the dancers frolicked into unblushing celebration. And though I heard naught, I saw all at once, the room at large turn to the west. And the waltz was ceased as they gazed on in foreboding trepidation. And nestled between the ruby flushed glass, in one of its insomnia-ridden waking moments, the pendulum in the shadow clock swung, rapid and surreal. And the room stood paralyzed. The faces surrounding me, dazed and overcome by sounds I heard naught. And all at once, from every pore in each body, blood leaked. Flaming pinpricks dropping crimson across the dance floor. And the skin paled. And the mouths poured blood. And the ears gushed violent red. And the eyes dropped crimson tears. And the room fell dark as I watched. And each waxen figure fell seizing. And in every black corner lay wan corpses, freckled in red. And my own skin dabbled the floor in tiny constellations flowing out my pestilential veins. And I heard naught. And I seized in hysteric fits. Writhing in pale terror. And the knell of the clock rang out across the scene. And I heard naught.
Focus on me.
Her eyes big as the moon and full as the sun.
Focus. On. Me.
She shook. Fingers pulling through her hair.
Grey, you need to focus on me. You are chaos. Now focus, or I will make you focus.
I had not quite pulled her through to our side of the parallel. All this violent, directionless energy was tying her to her thoughts, and I could not help her to find her physical location. My mind had found her’s easily. We were sitting, knees touching, on opposite sides of a train car. The cabin was closet-like in size and lit only by candle. A stark contrast to where our bodies sat. Though we still sat knee to knee, the bright light and the white of my lab coat were the antithesis of the frenzied train ride. Bullet proof glass surrounded us, small speakers methodically stationed to allow for sound to completely envelop anyone inside the glass room. Two techs in the same white coat as myself stood at the door, ready to enter should I feel endangered.
On the train, I focused on Grey. I lit a cigarette, making sure to blow the smoke away from her wan face.
Glazed expression, hands trembling.
I need you to focus. We are going to get off the train soon.
Her head shook in reflexive disagreement. Fingers, fidgeting against her right leg.
It’s not optional. Look at my eyes.
A shadow cast across the window, and her eyes darted to catch the movement.
Grey, focus on me.
Her gaze made the slow crawl back to my face. And I held her eyes, irises gleaming with soon to fall tears. I sat calm and still. I flicked my cigarette to the ground and crushed it beneath my right boot. Smoke curled softly off the ground, bringing the smell of burnt polyester. And her breathing slowed.
Focus on me.
And her hand began to reach for my own.
And the weight of the room shifted. The change in atmosphere derailed us. Men in white entered from the door to the cabin.
Her eyes, wide open, deep and full as the ocean.
Her hands pressed against her ears.
Fear pouring off her skin.
And screaming. Shrill, never-ending screams. Her mouth flung wide. A noise somehow deep and high pitched all at once. The windows burst. Shards of glass flying in all directions. I watched, impassive as the men in white tried desperately to save themselves. But the caterwaul burst them as thoroughly as the glass. Eyes and ears bled. Hemorrhaging stomachs and bursting veins. The skin around the eyes all broken blood vessels with bruised throats and limbs.
In the lab, I lit another cigarette. A cool voice played through the overhead speakers.
Did it work? Are you ok?
I bent down making a show of it. The question ludicrous. I checked pulses, though one could clearly see from the amount of blood that I was the only survivor in the room.
Aside from the fact that you sent these two in to fetch me for no explicable reason that I can see, the small detail of this young lady still being lost in her own mind, and the massacre of blood lying on the ground in front of me...we’re ok.
My shadowy feathers ruffled out at odd angles, but without my wings I could not fly. A red ribbon tied around my middle held them to me. I cried out in horrid screeches, begging the wind to carry my sound down from the turret that was my prison. Slowly they arrived.
The first raven wrapped me in words. He nuzzled my skin with his beak and orated distractions. A nest of dictation. But it did not save me from the tower.
Then came the second. His beak was razor sharp. He nipped at my bindings until they fell from me. He left me bare and wounded. He kissed them so sweet that I forgot he had been my abuser. Bandages of pain. But it did not save me from the tower.
Next, in response to my tearful screeching was a crow who’s heart was on the outside. He dried my tears with his own weak wings. And in his fervor to save me, he strangled me. Squeezing the air from my lungs. But it did not save me from the tower.
In desperation, I threw my shining, midnight body into the glass. A winged shadow charging incessantly. I flew into it like one returns to their home. My body weak and wounded. Old scars opening. Crimson splattering the glass. Cracked edges tearing my plumes from my skin. Until it all split. And I tumbled from my steeple. And I was certain this was my end. The air too much for my broken wings. And as I crashed to the ground my landing was broken. Black feathers from my ravens. A pile of down.
And I swore I heard it whisper.
And it kissed away my fissures.
And it dried away what pain was left.
And all three had become one.
The View From Outside
If one looked through the picture window, they’d certainly receive a show. The screams had raised to their usual, dull, monotonous crescendo. They filled her chest with a nagging ache. The incessant noise would make one think that the urge had started in her head. Maybe even her heart or her ears. It wasn’t sudden. Her fingers. The sound had reached her fingertips. It was her fingers that could not stand to be left out in that storm alone. She flexed, trying to hide them in her palms. And the more they curled into her hand, the tighter she became. Her throat ached, and her mouth continued to unleash the symphony of destruction that her hands wished to construct. The endless sound creeped up her skin, lingering at her shoulders. It danced up her clavicle, circling her throat like a noose. And the screams built inside her lungs. Blood pounding in her ears. Bones and muscles aching to unleash the violence building inside. And her head never spoke, not even a whisper. But her heart exploded and pushed her screams out through her shaking fists. Fingers unfurled as her hands made contact with his chest. Her body threw itself into his. His back hit the tv, and his foot caught on the mess of cords on the ground. And as he failed to untangle himself his body tipped end over end. His face forced its way through the floor to ceiling glass. Glistening, sharp edges tearing at his skin. His body tipping. End over end. And though it all happened at once, it started in his fingertips. His body tipping end over end. Releasing panic in crashing waves. And his hands made fervent grabs for anything within reach. His fingers finally catching in the knot of electrical cords. And as he rolled through the air, the tv followed. His right limbs made contact with the pavement first. Bones broke and skin ruptured. Blood soaked through his clothes and slowly pooled around his head. His fingers twitched as the last bits of oxygen drained. The tv swung, a pendulum that held her gaze more completely than the pile of man on the concrete. The cord-end caught on the window ledge. The back and forth tension pulled incessantly, fraying the wires as it went. And it started in her fingertips. Her palms itched to push those wires as far as they could stand. And as the urge overcame reason, her hands closed around the cord. She swung hard. And the tv, an acrobat, muscles and tendons spent, could take no more. It broke free, tipping end over end. The cord whipping around, tying an expert knot. Tipping end over end, meeting a soft landing of skin and muscle and bone. And it started in her fingertips.
The lightning hit me in a wave, and I drowned in the brightness. And the fear propelled me. Blinded, short-breathed footfalls crashing across the heavy earth. The white, electric light had passed through me quick, stealing my sight as it left the empty room that I had let myself become. Doors like walls. No knobs. No hinges. And without my ability to see, what was left was muscles and lungs. Inhale and run. Anything to vanquish the unearthly light filling me. The blazing, electric current left me with a ghost image pressed tight against my eyes. Sharp fissures of light cutting through my familiar shadows. The nerve-ending memory of light. The insult to my injury. And me trapped inside with no way out. And panic squeezes my eyes shut to hide the phantom cloud flooding my lack of vision. And the apparition sits inside me. Me, all full of mirrors reflecting what I can’t quite escape. Me, desperate to abscond. Me, tearing unseeing, through the labyrinth of my caged in mind. Amaurotic. Sightless. Taking breathless flight. Haunted by an eidolic sun that I will never quite reach on these broken wings. That I will never catch with this bone-weary body and collapsing lungs.
Nothing to Cry Over (Repost for my 100th Post)
Do you know what it’s like to look at the china afterwards? When the light catches the gilded edge? You scrape off dinner, and underneath are those little painted shells. You look at that flawless, bone-white plate or the dish with the rosebuds. You look at your hand-thrown bowls with the faux cracks buried beneath the glaze. It’s all broken, and you want nothing more than to shatter it. It’s ephemeral, and it’s permanent. The scalloped edges and the machine painted leaves. Every vessel stripped down and unable to do its job. No more containment. It’s haunting. That ephemeral dish sitting so permanent. Just reminding you. Once she was here. Once you ate your meals together. You shared this table. Her feet resting in your lap. You can see her hair fall across her eyes and her smile when you catch them. And you want to destroy every reminder. You want broken glass. The metallic flakes in the glaze scattered across the floor. Nowhere to put the food. Just the debris and the wreckage. Raw glass and glittering, sharp edges. And no more reminder. Just you and the broken pieces and the floor and the empty table and the empty house. And it’s not permanent. It’s ephemeral. And it’s gone.
I’m drowning in his veins. His heart, twice the size it should be, pumping tainted blood through the labyrinth buried beneath his skin. I take refuge in his lungs. And it’s then that I see what’s creating the cataract of sludge. Great piles of charred mess building across the walls. Too hot, poisoned air launched at me and him with kamikaze apathy and sniper-like precision. And all the while he spits the scorched oxygen to his heart. Cranking out more pollution than his body can dispose of. And me with my gas mask, hell-bent on tearing down the filth. I shovel it out like a chimney sweep in a stack that’s still on fire. Until my energy is spent. Until the tears stream hot and sulfurous, only adding to the contaminated blood. And I hope that if I stay here, a living thing inside of him, that the air that falls in on me will somehow be clean. That I can breathe life back into him. But the sky above me is filled with explosions of darkness. And the bombs only continue to fall.
“Today I will be happy.”
That’s how each page starts. That’s how each day starts.
“Today I will be happy.”
It’s perfect. Hanni never has to think. She could. If she wanted, she could think. But why? It’s all written so well. When you’re born you’re given your book. The story of your life. What you will decide to eat every day. How many errands you’ll run. The people you’ll meet. Who you like. Who you hate. All of it foretold for you. Your first day of school. Your wedding day. The day you get your wisdom teeth pulled. The birthdays. The sick days. The lazy days. The memorable moments. All written down. Black and white. Clean page after neat, clean page.
And, “Today I will be happy,” atop every one of them.
“Today I will be happy.”
Hanni stretches. Because that’s what her book says.
“Today I will be happy. And to start today I stretch.”
She scratches her cat, Jax, behind the ears. She showers. Eats eggs. Makes her bed. Hanni dresses for work. She grabs a bottle of water and an apple and is out the door. Because that’s what her book says. And each day is just like this.
“Today I will be happy.”
Stretch. Cat. Shower. Eggs. Clean. Dress. Water, apple. Work. Stretch. Run. Relax. Read. Bed. Sleep. Happy. Stretch. Cat. Shower. Eggs. Clean. Dress. Water, apple. Work. Stretch. Run. Relax. Read. Bed. Sleep. Happy. Stretch. Cat. Shower. Eggs. Clean. Dress. Water, apple. Work. Stretch. Run. Relax. Read. Bed. Sleep. Happy. Stretch. Cat. Shower. Eggs. Clean. Dress. Water, apple. Trip.
Hanni trips. She glides down her front steps like every other day. Her office is 8 blocks from home. And at the third block, Hanni trips. Her arms reach out in a quick attempt to save herself, but it’s too late. She had never planned on tripping. The apple rolls to her right and her water bottle and book fly into the street. A car passes over the bottle and water explodes in every direction. And Hanni’s heart breaks. The book is drenched. She can’t remember seeing this in the book ever. She can’t remember anyone ever ruining their book. Hanni snatches up her book and returns home. No one calls to see why she’s not at work. No one has a book that says she will not be at work. Her life was simple. She had skipped ahead several times and she knew that she was happy. Her life, happy and unremarkable. She would stay happy and healthy until retirement. At which time Jax would pass. She would be happy though because he lived a long, happy life with her. And she would take her retirement money and travel. A new city to be happy and stretch and make the bed in every year until she died herself.
Unremarkable but happy. She could keep going on. She mostly knew the plan. After all, it was unremarkable...
Tomorrow Hanni would wake up and continue the way she had been.
Today I will be happy.
And Hanni’s doorbell rings. Before her eyes are even open, her doorbell rings. That has never happened before. She opens the door and finds a new book on her steps. A red ribbon tied around its leather bound pages.
This book does not say she will be happy.
This book is empty but for one page.
The words are scrawled in her own writing.
They are not neat. They are not even straight or centered. There are splotches where it looks like someone may have not only spilt coffee but also cried. And along the edges someone has inked in little roses and vines. And somewhere in the mess, in Hanni’s own script is just one message.
“Today I will live.”
There’s crushed apples. Sticky, wet, rotting sugar. And there’s blood. Sticky, wet, rotting sugar. I wake on the floor amidst the mess. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. Sticky, wet, rotting, sugary mess. I push down the terror from the sweet, metallic saliva that holds my mouth closed and try to decide how long I’ve been here. Light beats dull and muted through the dust covered windows in the east. I was starving close to sundown. My hunger, unyielding and predatory. And I could smell it on the air. Sticky, wet, rotting sugar. My fingers close on matted hair to the right of me, and I ignore my violent self-loathing. I roll to my side to assess just how much blood has pooled around my victim. I am wasteful when I am mad with hunger, so I know what I will find. Great puddles with chunks of flesh and tissue. Bloody, spoiled apple cores being swallowed slowly by the fruit flies. I yank hard on the hair, dragging the body across the hardwoods. No heat. And the wet mess has coagulated in its deepest pools, while drying into crusty, maroon scabs at the edges. My head pounds with clouded confusion. I press my palms to my eyes and hold my thumbs against my temples. I breathe deep. Sticky, wet, rotting sugar. And all the while, that sweet, metallic after-taste staining my teeth, sending my mind careening into the memory of my voracious hunt. Sticky, wet, rotting sugar. And body after body just waiting to be plucked and ravaged. And syrupy chunks of once white, fruit flesh clinging to the mess. And glazed over eyes, once burning with fire. And sticky, wet, rotting sugar.