Friday Fictioneers: The ‘D’ In DIY Stands For Divorce

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

photo credit: Sandra Crook

Before Jamison could explain, Suzanne dropped her suitcase outside the front door, ran through the living room and out the newly installed patio doors leading to the garden. Seeing the roof she closed her eyes. Her heels sunk in artificial grass, freshly watered but empty of the pleasant dew smell.

“Fuck, James. You had ONE job.”

Suzanne grabbed her phone and speed-dialed the construction manager, one finger in her ear to block Jamison’s noise.

“Ned! Thank God. About the roof…. Well, my husband’s clearly incompetent!”

Jamison opened his mouth to speak then thought, “Why bother.”


This flash fiction is based off of the photo prompt above for Friday Fictioneers – flash fiction under 100 words. This was my first time participating and it was a lot of fun, so I look forward to joining in for more!

Home: Haiku

in-awe-of-nature-drunk-off-rhetoric
Maui, Hawaii

She felt most at home 

when she bathed in salt water,

and was flanked by green.

 

 

I’m in an honest and fully committed same-sex relationship with nature. Bite-sized poem to put my photographs to use again 🙂 – I miss this creative outlet to my creative outlet.

The Great Tribulation: A Short Story

Woah, it’s has been a minute since I’ve posted a story. Here’s one inspired by way too many wasted Sunday mornings… I tried to make the title a little less obvious, and failed. Ah well.

Curtis roasted like a pig. He moved in a fever between two pots, holding a wooden spoon the length of his arm. The doors and windows of his small shack were open but the heat was unmoved. He looked to see the girl was still naked and sprawled out on top of his bed with a filthy rag on her forehead. The girl’s breasts spilled away from each other like two repelling magnets, a steady stream of sweat licked her from chin to navel. Her mouth was open and dry and it had been minutes since she’d blinked or sighed.

“Hey you. Hey, you still alive?” Curtis said.

The girl made a sound, something like a squawk and wheeze, and managed a few licks of her lips.

“I think so.” she said.

“Unlucky you. Why aren’t you blinking?”

“Oh… I wasn’t paying mind to whether I was blinking or not.” she said.

“You weren’t.” Curtis dashed a palmful of salt into a pot, “I thought I was cooking for a dead girl.”

Curtis took the joint from the corner of his mouth and passed the dregs to the girl. It was mostly ash, but it was familiar so she inhaled and held anyway. Even bare skin felt like one too many layers, she made herself as wide as she could to cool down. Arms and legs spread open so she looked like she was making snow angels in the sheets. And when was the last time she’d seen snow? Heat had built up slow then wrecked them all at once, writhed out of the ground like some vengeful spirit ready to drive them delirious – and succeeding. The girl was half blind and shriveled like a newborn pup when he found her stroked out in the dirt and sand, the poor godless and sun-bleached girl.

Curtis brought a bowl where the girl laid and she finally sat up at the smell. The bowl overflowed with rice and meat, two spoons for sharing. The chunks of meat were mysterious but they both guessed it was goat’s meat; fibrous and swimming in it’s sweetness. He watched the girl’s mouth work the steaming chunk and wondered how she could put her lips on something so hot without batting an eyelash. She caught his slack look and laughed a crack lipped riot saying, cool as anything, “Man, when you’ve been raised by the sun a little heat don’t hurt.”

The girl’s body looked like a heap of Himalayan salt in the distance. Curtis had watched her crawl on her stomach from noon til late, the cloud’s bellies burnt orange and only a few hours left before they’d disappear. If the girl was going to make it, she’d have to drag herself to salvation and prove she wanted it. To be out at this time of the day was a show that at some point she wasn’t sure she did, and Curtis didn’t have time for people who’d given up on themselves. The girl passed out on the steps to the smell of starch and boiled meat.

From the empty bowl of her stomach, Curtis guessed it had been weeks since the girl had eaten. She downed a mug of water and refilled the mug to cleanse her ruddy face, before starting on a plate of sweet bread rolls and jam. They sat on the bed and the girl appreciated not having to move to sleep, the meal formed a content lump in her gut. The solitary candle wisped around in a moment of breeze and they both held their breaths while it bathed them. Curtis pushed the empty bowl away from himself and wiped a rag on his mouth and all around his forehead and neck.

“Why were you out there like a damn slug?” he said.

The girl didn’t open her eyes but cupped the new pouch of belly in her hands like an expectant mother with little more than a peanut in her womb.

“I was trying to find somewhere cool I could lay a while.”

Curtis lit a fresh joint on the candle, the light sparked the girl up like an angel and blasted the rest of the room into void.

“Hm,” he said, “You can crawl all the way to Lakeland and not find a lick of shade.”

“I don’t know. My daddy told me there’s still some places where it’s cool and maybe not so crowded.” she said.

“And where’s your daddy at now? Nowhere good, I bet.”

The girl shrugged and took the offered joint into her fingers. She tried to remember the last letter she’d got from her father and retrieved a memory from a year prior. She waited as the ocean crept closer and swallowed homes in front of hers, before it finally knocked on her own door and swept her inland. She’d stopped believing her father was alive, but not that there was somewhere else to go. If there wasn’t, they would be alone in the dark when the curtain fell on Earth, leaving only godless souls to crawl on their bellies like blind snakes in a barrel, one climbing on top of the other for a chance at dying last. The girl looked at Curtis’s smushed face and missed when there was only man to fear, and the ground boar more than death.

Curtis poured cold water in a large bucket outside and the girl had a good go at washing herself. Her skin was virginal and free of scars; flesh like the smooth hat of a mushroom. He watched steam rise from the pool at her feet. The girl paused scooping water on her body, opened her arms and face and mouth to the black sky in a silent scream. She gave up bathing when a hot wind kicked up and coated her in dust.

Curtis had craned his neck to the clouds in a similar way but let out a primal scream with his own girl’s body laid in his arms and her looking up, too. The gaze was absent and her neck was cut and leaning awkwardly curious. It was done, but she didn’t fly into grace with open arms. Her body laid useless and Curtis left her there knowing this was their punishment and nothing would lessen the sentence.

The girl fell asleep as heavy as a child with a fever, her garish frame barely enough to make a real lump in the bed. Curtis sat up in bed beside her. She looked like a corpse, her skin opaque and veins ribbed up and down her arms and legs. He watched her and grew angry at her carelessness. Dragging herself through the rotten desert for what – she only had to take one look around and it was obvious; this was it and no magic man saved a place for her, or any of them, in the shade. You could live in a dream or with the steady footing and firm disappointment of reality, and he preferred the latter.

The sky was lavender and a steady heat of steam rose from cracks like geysers. The girl was gone when Curtis woke up and he saw her naked body merge with the mirage of wavering air in the not so far distance. She’d taken his boots, but they both knew he had no use for them. She would hear him call her name if he knew it. If he screamed it loud enough and knew he wanted her to stay. Soon the distance was too much and the heat too strong to see her without straining. He went back inside to the unmade bed, still musty and covered in her dirt, stripped the sheets and dumped them in the sink, running water on them until there was a stream of murk. The girl could have her shade, and Curtis would have his. The comfort that even Earth was mortal, and as long as there were sinners you could crawl for eternity and never leave suffering.

A Sleight 21st Century Love Poem: A Short Story

Is this a poem or flash fiction? I don’t even know. I hope you enjoy this fun exercise in bad language and other steamy things. And remember, any writing is good compared to no writing at all, right…? Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


Beneath the gallantry and fuckery,

as fun as she

(and she hopes he)

finds it,

it seems there should have been something else by now.

A slow dig in search of something palpable and wonderful,

electrical and whatever other adjective to describe the build up she feels when he

touches, kisses, works her legs open.

Boundless and burning, but oh is she misty!

So the tune of fuck you, what the fuck are we doing, and are we still fucking other people?

is overridden by the steady skipping track of a whisper to a dancing ear,

fuck me,

until neither have anymore fucks to give. They’re spent and everyone knows it.

And where were we?

The dig, that grueling chore of getting beneath the Earth’s crust, not nearly as attractive in the day time.

The slight unfurled mouth is now a gaping canal that sucks him in but the sun is up again and he wants out of this unholy rebirthing.

The sun is up and the beast run off.

But wait, what happened to the gallantry and fuckery?

What of those steamy windows of his old mustang where the girl’s head appears, disappears, then reappears like some magic trick that would get an illusionist fired?

His best trick is making the audience believe what he tells them,

that there is wonder and electricity and more beneath the fuckery.

But, what a thing it is to find the Earth is hollow.

Physics: A Short Story

The security guard hears the car long before he sees it. It’s low silhouette spits towards the parking lot and is the first to arrive, beating the sun that is barely risen above the hills, an arc of light in the blue-black sky visible then hidden again by fibrous rain clouds. The guard’s box is illuminated as the old two-tone Subaru pulls forward. He gets up and pokes his wide torso out of the warm box, the cold and wet coming in. His hands visor his eyes and motion for the car to go through. He squints to see the driver through the rain, the windshield wipers move too slow to clear the stream of water that casts a shimmer on the driver’s face, the wide set eyes constantly wavering. The woman smiles hard but the rain makes it look like she’s been crying, or maybe she has been crying. Her hand reaches from the car with a cardboard box and the officer takes it and smiles back, says his wife will literally kill him if he has another donut, that’s if his sugar doesn’t do it first, and waves the woman into the empty lot where she parks in a spot furthest from the entrance.

Adannaya turns the engine off and lays her head back, closes her eyes. The temporary black is the closest thing to sleep and the faint drumroll on the roof will do for a lullaby. The urge to cry rises again, from her stomach into her throat, but she takes another hit instead and fills the car with a smoke that makes the world look like it’s been covered with ground glass. She inhales until her lungs are at full capacity, holds even longer, then exhales smooth letting the smoke and everything else go. The car is warm and fragrant and smells like her home, seaside scented candles and peach flavored rolling papers in an overflowing ashtray. Helium-filled balloons bob about the car in a kaleidoscopic fog. She turns and retrieves a bouquet of sunburnt and bell shaped lilies, a stapled brown baggie of her mother’s prescriptions, the balloons nod their encouragements. The walk to the hospital is long and quiet save for slow footfalls across the graveled lot. Adannaya jumps once, but there’s not enough helium or hope to go anywhere.

Walker Learns the Cost of an Emergency Carpet Cleaning: A Short Story

Two men stood outside Walker’s open front door and he debated closing it back in their faces. Thinking Nilah had come to her senses and did in fact want to put that pretty mouth to work like Walker suggested, he answered the door with a grin and an almost empty bottle of vodka in front of his testicles. It was not Nilah, of course it wasn’t, but there was little to do now that he’d answered the door balls to the wind, a gamble in itself. The tall man, stoic with a constellation of dark moles on his face, held a rainbow-striped umbrella that would have been appropriate for a child to use. If he closed the door slowly enough, Walker thought, inch by inch until only his right eye was visible for a moment, then nothing at all, maybe the men would reconsider whether he was worth the hassle. But the second man, short and flat nosed, kept a boot dripping with water just inside the front entryway, a drenched cigarette in between his thumb and forefinger.

“It’s raining cats and dogs out here, Walker. Rude not to invite us in.” The short one said.

It was well past midnight, the only people who knocked on doors at this hour were crooks and hookers. Walker swayed with waves of drunkenness and poked his head into the long hallway where the two men stood. The carpeted hall was empty save for a smell of bleach and moist that was so powerful, forcing itself into every nook and cranny, it could have taken form of it’s own. Generators in the basement fueled the amber lights that flickered overhead, the faint chainsaw racket carried to Walker’s seventh floor apartment, itself illuminated by dozens of candles.

“I’ve got a girl in here,” Walker feigned a sleepy temper, looked at his empty wrist just out of view of the two men, “and it’s way past curfew hours.”

The short one gripped Walker’s shoulder, “There ain’t no girl in there, Walker, and ain’t never gonna be.”

They pushed past the door and the small man splayed out on the olive green sofa bed like a starfish on a psychiatrist’s chair, pulled a fresh cigarette from his shirt pocket and lit it, rolled his eyes in pleasure as he exhaled. The only art on the walls was a framed, life sized photo of the Collective that covered an entire wall so that the only window was closed in. The seven faces of the Collective members varied in degree of suspicion and followed anyone who walked in the apartment with intensity. They wore elaborate robes, a different color to represent each branch of the dictatorship. A half empty bowl of grapes sat on a chipped glass coffee table in the middle of the room. The sofa acted as a makeshift bed, filling most of Walker’s apartment where the living room, kitchenette, and bedroom were one and the same, except for where someone had made an attempt to add division, running old carpet into a 2×4 slot of linoleum in the kitchenette. The short one took another hit of his cigarette,

“Would you put some clothes on?”

“Last time I checked it wasn’t illegal for a man to be naked in his own home.” Walker walked to the back of the apartment and disappeared into a tall cabinet. He came out wearing a small red t-shirt and no bottoms, and sat in a sunken armchair opposite the sofa.

“It’s seldom I have guests so I hope this will do.”

The big one’s face was pinched so his eyes, nose, and mouth clustered in the center of it. He stayed mute and stood by the door with his hands clasped in front of him, still holding the damp umbrella in his hands as if it was the one job he was expected to do right. Walker wondered whether he was one of those invalids the state hired out for menial jobs. A soldier returned home far too mad to fit back into society, so had to resort to holding umbrellas over the heads of midget gangsters. He closed the front door but did not move from it.

“Let’s not waste each other’s time. I’ve been told you’ve been saying some things you shouldn’t be.” The short man said.

“Who, me? You know I know better than that.”

But you’ve proven me wrong time and again.” Still reclined, he popped a sour grape in his mouth and rolled it in his cheeks. They sagged like old bulldog cheeks. The generator clicked off then on again. “Do you think I like my job?”

Walker flung his right ankle over the armchair and the two men stared, willing the other to back down first until finally, the short man averted his eyes.

“You tell me.” Walker smirked.

“I don’t, it’s frustrating. Day in day out, I deal with people who think they’re above the law, then they lie right to my face when we both know it doesn’t help none. And it ain’t right, Walker.” He tapped ash on the table and went on, “you tell me, what gives you the right to have me dragged me out here at midnight in the pouring rain, just to lie to me; do you think you’re above the law? Or are you just a inconsiderate, lying turd?”

It had been a stupid mistake which, like most mistakes, started with a date at the local bar and ended in criminal activity. Walker was a proud, loud alcoholic. One tumbler of gin after another, he poured his grievances to Nilah, a young secretary he’d convinced going for a drink together would be a good idea. That evening Nilah bowed over her drink while Walker stood like a street preaching Evangelist, his speech punctuated with burps, and proclaimed he would no longer accept the constant observation of the Collective because, no matter what they managed to convince other people of, he would continue to think the Collective was nothing more than a “collective nuisance”. Nilah said nothing but looked anxious. Downing the rest of her drink she asked a haggard bar woman holding a bored looking baby on her hip for another one.

Now Walker found himself sitting across from two of the Collective’s gangsters, struggling to keep his words straight.

Liar is a strong word.” Walker said.

“What’s a better word for someone who’s been caught lying through their teeth?”

“Unfortunate, I’d say.”

“I’m doing you a huge favor. I would’ve come here solo if I’d been given a choice. But don’t make me have Big Herbert sort you out.”

“You mean he’s not here just to keep your pretty little head dry?”

It had been a few hours since Nilah abandoned Walker and he’d dragged himself home alone. Still happily in the middle of a drunken tip he had no plans of getting sober any time soon, although first seeing the two men at the door had straightened his vision slightly.

“Did you call the Collective a ‘collective nuisance’ or not?”

“I did, but only because I was trying to impress a girl.”

The short man motioned to Big Herbert who muddled over, his trunk-like body dripping water on the carpet.

“That big one’s dripping wet!” Walker jumped off his seat, “carpet cleaners aren’t cheap, you know.”

“Walker, you messed up big time tonight. We’ve made people disappear for much less than that. What do you think we’re going to do to you?” The short man said.

Like a puppet coming to life with a hand in it’s back, Big Herbert removed his coat, boots, and socks, and placed them neatly on the laminate passthrough of the kitchenette. It was then that Walker saw how big Big Herbert was, six foot five and at least 300 pounds, his foam textured hair scraped the comically low ceiling. Crouching down to undo the buttons of his mud colored khaki’s he pulled out an ill proportioned penis, aimed at the coffee table and urinated over all its contents, turning the bowl of grapes into a stomach turning soup.

“Hey!”

Big Herbert swayed left and right, peeing dehydrated amber on the glass until it spilled onto the carpet underneath.

“Hey you!”

“He can keep going on like that for ages, it’s amazing.” The short one watched from the sofa bed, kicking his legs like a blissful toddler.

“Make him stop!”

“He’ll stop when I’m good and ready.” He pointed the lit end of the cigarette at Walker, “I’m warning you now. You know you can’t go round saying and doing whatever it is you want. If we have to come back here, I’ll have him smash your skull without a second thought.” Big Herbert trickled his way to the front door dripping all over his own feet, and pissed on the Welcome rug. “We clear on that?”

Walker watched Big Herbert wizz merrily in a cracked flowerpot that started to overflow.

“Clear as crystal.”

“Good. I’d hate to see you get your brain tossed because you couldn’t learn how to shut up.” The short one threw a white envelope on the soaked coffee table, the edges absorbing yellow. “Report to the bureau tomorrow at 0800 hours. Don’t bring nothing but this letter.”

“Or else Big Herbert’ll take a shit in my bed?”

Finally, Big Herbert shook the last dregs on the plant, buttoned his khakis and dressed himself by the front door as if nothing had happened.

“Or else.”  The words came slow and overpronouced. Big Herbert’s eyes met Walker’s for the first time. They were dark, glossy pinpoints that cooled blood. Holding his pointer and middle finger to his temple with the thumb extended, Big Herbert curled his lips into his mouth then let out a POW as his thumb bent like a trigger.

Walker locked the door knowing it would be little help against the men if they chose to come back. The envelope lay on the table growing more yellowed. Pinching a corner of the paper he peeped through to read what was already visible, Subject: Walker Damsen, Crime: Public Defiance, Sentence: At the discretion of the Collective.


I hope you enjoyed this short, ”upcycled” and edited from last semester’s creative writing class but could still use some fleshing out, I think. This scene was inspired by a scene from Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World (which I highly recommend), and an assignment where something unexpected happens. As usual, comments and feedback are highly appreciated. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

The Last Man on the Moon: A Short Story

15269476950_fabe242ac2_o
This story was inspired by the picture above, taken by me in Brasilia at the modern TV tower.

Since Eric’s return it was rare for him to go out in the day time. He was mostly nocturnal, but on some occasions would stay up through the sunrise and, rather than go to sleep, take a pair of binoculars to the balcony in his bedroom. He sidled around a four poster bed too large for the room, the posts an inch away from the textured ceiling. The tops of his feet disappeared in fibers of high shag carpet. Furniture from at least three different bedroom sets filled the remaining floor space: a clean birch writing desk, an elm bedside table, a chest of drawers made of cedar wood that towered higher than most but came just underneath Eric’s nose. He was six foot two with the long frame and solid shoulders of a swimmer, the steady feet of a dancer. Something he attributed to years training in zero gravity where steady footing was the difference between taking one calculated step forward and catapulting yourself hundreds of feet until something blocked your path, or you carried on flying through eternity.

The room was purposefully overcrowded and claustrophobic. Eric had grown to find a snug suit full of pressurized air and the tight accommodations two people share in a shuttle, as comfort. How did you know you were alive if you weren’t suffocating just a little? A steady asphyxiation temporarily relieved by a deep sigh. On the balcony of his home, Eric was as close to the sky as he could manage without climbing onto the roof. On nights the moon was particularly grand he would lean a ladder on the edge of gutter hanging over the balcony. A blanket underarm and the rope to a pair of binoculars between his teeth. Shoeless, his toes gripped each rung. He would stay on the roof as long as the moon would keep his company. It was cold but the sun was bright, warming the previous night’s frost. Eric lived in a green bathrobe that hugged him from all angles. Sunglasses hung onto a playdough nose, the sides completely boxed in over his eyes. He placed the binoculars over his lens and focused on a shadowed fissure of craters down the moon’s face. Eric was brought to a familiar sense of eternity, a feeling of confrontation that he had in boyhood and most recently when he took his first steps on the moon. He stared at the sphere through bulbous eyes in search of it again.

He was twelve when his mother pointed to the stars where she saw afterlife but Eric could only see mortality. Looking at the stars, planets, suns, galaxies, all of which would continue to burn, swallow themselves, and burst to life again long after they were forgotten dust, the back of his throat closed. He pressed his mother, How can you be so calm? She scooped his chin in her palm, shook it gently, Why worry about that, boy? Little needed explanation outside of what faith deemed necessary for either of them to know.

While Eric was not religious, when his boot tossed dust and he saw the moon’s erratic surface through the dark tint of a sun visor he felt something that he could only compare to a religious experience. The same sense of awe and fear that came when he stargazed crept into existence again; the tightening in the back of his throat; the slight suffocation. For a time he would not look back on Earth. He refused to become accustomed to the paper mache replica in the distance, too small and easily hidden behind a well-placed thumb. The surface of the moon was grey valleys and mountains, the elevated outer lip of craters were like scattered bowls in the desert. Eric climbed the side of a large crater and took airless hops down to the deep middle of it. It was impossible to see over the edge from where he stood. A single ant in the center of a mountain a million miles from anything. Kicking his feet out from underneath himself his body was parallel to the moon’s surface. He was not laying down, but his body floated, making a slow descent to the ground. He drew his knees into his chest and rocked.

Eric set the binoculars in the gutter and wrapped himself in the blanket. He would not sleep until the moon did. He stared at the moon like a man looks at his wife in the morning haze with quiet and coffee, before the rest of the world screams to life. There is no sound but he does not mind enough to break the silence.


I hope you enjoyed this piece, another first draft I’ll be submitting to my creative writing professor, so constructive criticism, comments, and feedback is welcome and appreciated. Thank you for stopping by 🙂

I read way, way, way too much information on astronauts, astronaut suits, moon and sun cycles, earth rises, and information on what happens to the body when exposed to space (this was going to be a very different story at one point…) and I notice I end up researching a lot of tidbits on things I may include in a story to add more authenticity to it. I’ve learned tons of useless, obscure things because of it. Do any of you spend an absurd amount of time fact finding for a story?

I Came For the Dancing Peacocks: A Short Story

Big assed women danced with multicolored peacock tails strapped to their backs. Their big, boisterous asses swayed to calypso for no one in particular. Just a bunch of dark skinned girls with a beat that needed to be matched with equally feverish movements.

It was carnival and the sun was high. A residential road served as a dance floor, fast food joint, and bar. People danced and drank, scattering for the occasional car then returning to their activities once the car passed. Air carried weed and ackee and salt fish scents through the street. Sweet smells of a successful celebration.

The cluster of chocolate and caramel peacocks danced until beads of sweat ran down their backs; their hair, gelled straight up and dyed bright blue to match peacock crests, tossed and flipped as their necks jerked unnaturally. Their wide peacock tails were peppered with sea foam, turquoise, and auburn ocelli. Huge eyes that guarded the crowd like Argus did Io. Carnival transformed these women into omniscient nymphs of Hera, bouncing their asses in epileptic fits.

A woman lay prone on the tarmac like roadkill. She held onto the rear bumper of a red 1978 Honda Civic, her peacock wings twisted, makeup melted to amorphous pools. A man with stubby dreadlocks sat in the car with a much darker, prettier, french speaking woman. The woman on the ground yelled something to the man. Something about him not really knowing how to speak French – about how he’d always been a good bullshitter and soon this new, darker, prettier, french speaking woman would see. Her pupils were pinpoints, eyes huge with disbelief. If she held onto the bumper any tighter her knuckles might split open. The heads of two small children were visible through the wide rear view window, their eyes darting between the two women. It was not clear which one, if any, was their mother.

An explosive backfire sent most of the crowd to the ground and the rear bumper slipped out of the woman’s fingers, carbon dioxide kicked into her lungs. She might have been better off if the man had dragged her a few miles down the road. Instead she lay there, the rest of the peacocks getting a bird’s eye view of her shamelessness. Calypso was an ill-fitted soundtrack for the worst moment of her life. Voices stirred with tongue clicks and finger snaps, murmurs of “if he’d done that to me”. Hypotheticals that would never be tested so were not worth the talk. Just a brave show among women. She picked herself up, threw her peacock tails down. All of that women’s intuition, all of those eyes sprouting from her tail, proved useless once again.


I hope you enjoyed reading this very short-short, the first I’ve managed to keep under 500 words. As usual, please let me know any thoughts, comments, or constructive criticisms you might have in the comments section!

Nature’s Call Sounds Like: A Short Story

“Did you know Buddhist monks aren’t allowed to touch women?” Jerry yelled even though his mouth was right next to Liz’s ear. His bony fingers wrapped around her waist, squeezing her rib cage from behind. Liz’s eyes narrowed, fastened to the road; partly to resist the urge to snuggle her cheek into Jerry’s beard, partly because she hoped if she stared long enough, the road they were supposed to be on would become obvious. Neither of them remembered to bring a map. Liz’s left hand was on her head holding a floppy straw hat in place. Her long lens camera swung wildly around her neck. The other hand worked to steady the motorcycle.

“What?” she yelled back.

“I said, Buddhist monks can’t touch women!” he yelled, louder this time. “Not even mothers and sisters. Unless they’re sick- then touching is okay. I wonder why.”

Jerry read an ‘All You Need to Know About Cambodia’ pamphlet on the plane and spouted random trivia whenever there was a lull in the conversation, which was more often than not. Liz thought for a while, taking in the bamboo forest around them. She made a right in front of a hut on wooden stilts, an old woman tended a pile of flaming trash behind it. Half dressed children laughed, chasing a small dog around the fire. Why were they up so early? The path was straight, painted sky opened up, shades of orange and pink. Some might have found this place romantic. Liz turned to see Jerry’s face up close, purring in the sexiest voice she could muster.

“Maybe it’s got something to do with desire. It comes naturally between a man and a woman.”

“What? Speak up!”

“DESIRE. IT’S NATURAL.” She could only sound so sexy yelling at the top of her lungs.

Jerry nodded slowly, wrinkled his brow. “Are you saying they’d go as far as incest? That kind of stuff is probably frowned upon in a monastery.”

“No, I’m not saying that.”

“I mean, I could see it. Not being near a woman for that long. If that were me I’d likely rape the first woman I saw.”

The group of children stopped chasing the dog and were screaming after the motorcycle. Was he coming onto her? Liz waited for his grip to tighten around her waist, to feel him hard and pressed up behind her. She waited a little longer, holding her breath to sense any subtle sign he might give. Nothing. Her heart sank. She checked her watch, thirty minutes until sunrise. Liz was losing faith that there would be enough time to reach Angkor Wat, buy tickets to get in, set up their tripods amongst a sea of other tourists, and take photographs for the article. The week would be full of photographing travel spots in Siem Reap, part of a budget travel segment Liz proposed but Jerry was ultimately chosen to produce, while she tagged along playing assistant. Leading up to the trip, Jerry wore mandala printed pants with slouchy crotches and leather bound slippers around the office, sporting a rust colored pre-tan – something Liz was unaware existed until then. It would dissolve any barriers between him and the local Cambodians, Jerry said, handing Liz a pair of her own slouchy crotch pants. Jerry was always a well of information, that’s what she loved about him.

Jerry told Liz to pull over, he recognized the area from a description in the pamphlet, the temple was not far. The sky was blue now, but the sun was not up. Heat stayed pent up in the trees, turning the air thick. They could see everything in this false daytime. Being outside between night and day, just the two of them surrounded by walls of tall bamboo and foreign smells was like a lucid dream. As if they were the only ones that knew this place existed, or they were the only people that existed within it. As if this space would only exist as long as they were there. They climbed off the motorcycle, as good a time as any to stretch their legs.

“Nature calls. And when it calls, I answer.”

Jerry walked towards the trees, already pulling down his slouchy crotch pants. His back was turned but he remained insight, resting his forehead on a tree, his legs in a wider than necessary stance. Liz decided to go a little deeper in the woods, but still, if Jerry turned around he would see her head and knees bobbing behind a small bush. When she pulled down the slouchy crotch pants Jerry had given her (yet had said they made her bottom half look a lot like a potato, when she asked what he thought of them) she rolled the excess crotch in her hands so it wouldn’t sit on the ground while she urinated.

Squatting out in nature with a breeze at her backside, skillfully hovering a few inches off the ground, Liz felt primal. Did nature always have this effect on people? She smiled, eyes closed, face towards the sky. Nature’s simplicity forced itself on them, skewing social norms. There it was perfectly fine for two colleagues of opposite genders to relieve themselves in full view of each other. Liz wondered what else nature could turn on it’s ear.  She watched a trail grow from between her legs and go downhill towards a small clearing where there was a pile of burned trash. An old pair of sneakers sat on top. Something shiny was in the waste, at the base of the mound. Liz got up, looking around her. Jerry was still insight, now on the bike reading his pamphlet – probably still thinking about incestuous monks. The sky was yellow now. Liz walked towards the clearing, unsettling dirt around her. She had never been somewhere so still yet all encompassing. The shiny thing lost it’s shine the closer Liz got to the trash pile. Finally she stood over it and saw it was only cheap aluminium,  wrapped around a bloated wrist.

Liz did not know how long she was staring at the body. The dead man was at her feet, his eyes wide open, the underside of his chin visible from inside his open mouth. The corpse was naked except for a wristwatch that was stuck at 5:38. Liz’s mouth opened, nothing came out. Useless, just like the dead man’s. She could not tell if she was making any noise. Her ears only gave way to the sound of her heart thumping against her chest. Her eyes stayed fixed to the corpse; partly because she was scared it would rear up and kill her, partly because she had never seen anything like it. Her fingers came down around her neck, reaching for her camera. She held the camera up to her eye and took in everything nature had to show her. The sky’s yellow was deepening. Jerry called from the motorcycle, waving his tripod in the air. The sun was rising.


I’m still working on my titles, but I’m not too bothered about this one at the moment. This is a very first draft of a story I’ll be handing in to my creative writing professor so if you have any constructive criticism, feedback, opinions, or questions of any sort, they will be appreciated!

Melancholia in Molasses: Work in Progress

FYI: I am editing this story with help from my creative writing professor and the current version is quite different from this one. I will post the final version here when it is done. Still, your feedback is appreciated!

The medical assistant turned on a bright headlight on his forehead and shone into my eyes tutting, This just won’t do. He was holding the sides of my head in between his hands, close enough for me to wonder whether this was considered appropriate- close to the point I could tell he had just eaten. The light was so bright that for a moment I was sure he had no eyes – just a face made up of a boxy nose and mouth full of coffee-stained teeth.

I came in for a checkup after passing out not once but twice while attempting to have a bowel movement. The first time, I came to in the pink tiled bathroom of my hotel room. I had been calling it my temporary home for six months but had not searched for an apartment since coming here. I guess I did not intend on staying, and getting an apartment would mean I really lived here. “Here” was a slow, pokey community walled with trees, somewhere between there and nowhere. A place that I seemed to materialize into with no recollection where from, but with a faint idea that a time before here existed, and a sense that coming here was my own doing. Anyway, the hotel was modest and cheap and I liked to think the owner appreciated some long term business. Plus it was nice being one of few customers at a buffet of continental foods mostly for myself. When I woke up on the bathroom floor the side of my face was wet from a tiny lake of drool that had grown from me to the sink, where my cat laid on his side doing little to help except licking himself thoroughly. Sitting up I thought I must have been tired from all the buffet food, chalked it up to one of many weird things that had happened to me recently, and went to sleep in the twin bed closest to the bathroom feeling bloated and exhausted.

The second time I passed out on the toilet was at work. It was my birthday and we were an office of people who celebrated birthdays even if the person whose birthday it was did not want to. There was always an impressive spread of snacks and sweet drinks. Since I had not brought my own lunch, I had no choice but to say yes serving after serving until my belly started to make sounds like a dog fight. I excused myself, going to a restroom three floors up to ensure I got some privacy before anyone started wondering where I had gone. Our office was set up like a shantytown of small nooks that I navigated my way through mostly unnoticed. Shelley, the middle aged woman whose cubbie was just next to mine, told me to hurry back since they were waiting to sing Happy Birthday to me. Shelley and I had become somewhat friends and she held a homemade birthday cake lathered with frosting in her fat hands. I seldom ate cake but felt the pressure to appreciate her gesture. During walks through our small office I heard hushed chatter that her husband had recently been crushed to death by some kind of heavy machinery while at work. So, when Shelley crept over to my side of the desk to complain about another improperly filed folder I could not bring myself to shoo her away – and so a relationship spawned. Most times she was pretty useless, but when she was around I felt less lonely and the constant shade of dark that lingered over me would lift slightly. Shelley had only put four candles on the cake because she was a firm believer that a lady never reveals her age. “I believe in that more than I believe in Jesus.” she’d said when we met. That day she wore steel blue jeans and an ultramarine suit jacket with a matching hat over skimpy pigtails that had started to thin. Whenever anyone asked how old I was turning, I parroted Shelley’s words because I wanted to be a lady too. But whatever feigned attempt I made at being a lady was lost when my colleagues found me in the restroom, unconscious, slumped around the toilet bowl, bare assed with my pinned skirt around my knees and a cone-shaped party hat on my head. I was taken to an emergency room. Shelley waited with me, sighing after a while, “I don’t mean to sound selfish but it took me six hours to make that cake.”

The medical assistant who finally called my name introduced himself as Mr Zoon, a man so small and hunched his chest caved in and I wondered whether there was anyone else around that might help me instead. In the middle of the crowded emergency room he took no care in lowering his voice when he shined a headlight into my eyes and bulleted through questions in a coarse, guttural accent.

“Do you eat red meat, miss?”

“Lots of stress or no?”

“What’s your relationship like with your mother?”

“When was the last time you had sexual relations?”

I told Shelley she could leave, then asked Mr Zoon what any of this had to do with why I was here. He labored to lower his headlight, finally showing a set of cavernous milky eyes, then said I couldn’t expect to get better if I kept secrets from medical staff.

“Yes. Yes. Nonexistent… A few months. Maybe a year.”

I was shocked to realize that was the honest to god truth. The closest I had come to sleeping with a man recently was with Steve, a homeless drunkard I did not know was homeless or a drunk until he told me to meet him at his home on the corner of Santone and Beverly, and when I showed up he was blind drunk in the middle of the afternoon, splayed out on the cement with no memory of our date. Our relationship was short lived but there were times he would come over to my hotel room smelling like rancid garbage. The few times he pressed his chapped lips on mine I noticed a perpetual flavor of death lingering on his tongue, but loneliness has a way of making you do some crazy things, and at least he was honest. I wondered what Steve was up to now. Mr Zoon scribbled on a clipboard before taking me to a room for an x ray, then pulling me into the doctor’s office where a gaunt young looking woman with wild hair sat behind an L shaped desk. She looked scared, excited, and angry all at the same time. Around the desk were two sets of chairs, two dragon-aged computers that whirred on their own, and two large filing cabinets. I stood because I was not sure which chair I was supposed to sit in.

“Dr. Alison Rye,” the woman said, not guiding me to have a seat. “Quite a pickle you’re in here.”

“That’s right.”

She sucked air through her teeth, “We have a few cases like this every so often. Are you new to town?”

“I’ve been here around six months now.”

“Where from?”

“It might sound odd, but I don’t remember.”

“Hm. It’s normal to have some gaps in your memory when you first get here, takes some getting used to the feeling of mud on your brain.” The doctor took a swig of something in her mug, “It usually wouldn’t last this long, but one thing that could be prolonging it is depression. You know, mundanity of this place. The repetitive activities, the food, the air, the lack of options for something to do, the people – it’s all very depressing.” Whatever was in the mug spilled as she moved her arms in grand gestures, adding a pattern to the lumpy jogging suit she wore under her doctor’s coat. She dabbed at the spot which worsened the stain.

“How often do people come here?” I asked.

“You’re the first in ages.”

I wanted to say I couldn’t blame people for not coming here. This was a town where cows outnumbered people and I felt duped for not knowing so before. I leaned on the wall beside the door wondering whether any of this had to do with my ending up in this place, and when I could sit down.

“Do you ever feel a darkness come over you unexpectedly?” Dr. Rye asked.

“Oh yes, since I can remember. When that happens I can stay holed up in my room for weeks at a time without coming out once. I’ve never been able to keep a job for too long.”

“Doesn’t it get hard to live, looking for work all the time?”

“Not really. I’m alone in a cheap place where breakfast is included, and the owner and I have a special arrangement where I clean my own sheets, provide my own luxuries, and he doesn’t bat an eye when I take a few extra plates up to my room for lunch and dinner.”

“Uh huh.” Dr. Rye seemed to be writing down everything I said. I wondered whether I should choose my words more carefully.

“What usually helps with this problem?” I asked.

“Most cases would have worked themselves out by now but you’re past that point. It’s important you not let that darkness take over too long, unless you want it to manifest itself physically – which I can assure you, you don’t. You have an obstruction the size of Kentucky on your large intestine, and it needs to come out.”

I had spent enough time with doctors to know lumps and obstructions were a horrible, scary thing.

“Your bowel needs to be resectioned to remove the lump that’s formed. I can do it in a few days if you want.”

I looked at her for a moment gauging if she was serious. Her face was as stone cold as a statue.

“I think I need a second opinion.” The words came out like a husky wheeze sounding nothing like me.

“I’ve helped people like you whose bodies can’t tell heads or tails whether it’s time to shit or sleep, and I’m the only doctor in town.”

“I’ll sleep on it then.”

“That’s your right.” Dr. Rye shuffled her papers. “Just know you have little time to waste with this issue before it gets out of hand. That feeling you’ve been having will rot you from the insides if you’re not careful.” She slid the sheets across her desk, clearing a path of mahogany wood where a fine layer of dust had been. “In any case, look over these papers and bring them back signed when it becomes too much.”

I blinked at her wondering what she had meant, and for a moment I was sure she had no eyes, just blackened hollows where they had been plucked from her face.

*

When I got back to the hotel room Shelley was bundled in a ball on the rug, snoring loudly. She didn’t wake up when I fiddled with my keys, and I thought about leaving her there on the floor until she woke up on her own thinking I’d stayed in the hospital. Instead, I nudged her awake with my shoe and invited her in for some tea.

“Everyone at work won’t stop talking about your… situation.”

I instantly regretted my decision, but wanted her to stay because I could feel the chasm of loneliness about to open up and swallow me whole if I had to spend one more moment in internal dialog. She undid the knot of the pashmina around her neck, curls loosened onto her shoulders where flesh looked painfully taut under blue overalls. The leaves in my tea were bitter but I drank it anyway.

“Can we talk about something else?” I said.

“As your best friend I feel like it’s my responsibility to make sure you’re okay.”

I was not sure when and how that happened. Between sips of lukewarm tea I told Shelley about Dr. Rye’s suggestion for surgery.

“You should listen, she’s the best doctor in town.”

“She’s the best by default.”

Shelley laughed, “It’s not as if you have a choice, if this really is what will help. What happens the next time you pass out on the bowl?”

“I’ll wake up feeling rested and intensely bloated.”

“And what if you wake up four or five days later rather than four or five hours? There’s not one soul staying with you besides that cat of yours and it’ll eat your face off sooner than call for help. This is serious!”

I said nothing, looking down into my tea. In all honesty I had no one. I felt the words out in my mind and on the tip of my tongue. I could taste it’s melancholy. The words sat heavy like molasses, lining the roof of my mouth so it was hard to swallow. Viscous liquid plunged me into darkness again. As if sensing this, Shelley turned on a small floor lamp beside the coffee table where we sat. She poured herself another cup of tea, refilled the portable kettle at the bathroom sink, set it to boil again, then returned to her seat.

“Do you want to hear how I ended up here?” She wrapped her fingers around the mug and sniffed ginger-lemon steam with pleasure. I nodded.

“Like you, I couldn’t remember much when I came here, but after years I pieced memories together and think I have most of the story right. After my husband was buried, the thought of being alone and starting all over… it made me want to jump in the grave after him. What was left of him, anyway. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories. He was nothing but smithereens by the time they lifted the machine off of him, so we had to have a closed casket. What a cheat that was, I didn’t even see his face. What if they’d stuffed some bricks and dirty laundry in that coffin? What if it was someone else’s husband in there? I wouldn’t even know.”

Shelley looked at me as if she expected me to say something, then shook her head and continued.

“I mean, my husband was a partial pile of muscle and bones not fit for viewing. No one should have to die like that. I should have been allowed to see him.”

“Even like that?” I asked. “Even with that gruesome image?”

“Even then! My mind refused to let go because I didn’t see him being put into the ground. It wasn’t real to me. It was like he was going to walk back into the front room at any moment. There was no closure in it.” Shelley sat back looking into her hands. I wondered whether I should be comforting her, but could not think of anything appropriate to do.

“Soon after that I fell into a serious depression. It was like being enveloped in a pair of wings that took hold of me tight. I couldn’t talk. Food tasted terrible. My friends invited me places thinking a little sun was all I needed to get back to my normal self. No one knew how to deal with me. Finally, my parents had me admitted to a clinic where I was watched almost twenty four hours a day. Who could live like that? I hated my husband the most then. He was dead, and death had been so quick he hadn’t seen it coming. The hard part was over for him, but for me it was just beginning.

“A nurse would come every four hours to check my blood pressure and give medications from a tiny white cup. Their heels echoed down the hall when they walked door to door at eight, twelve, and four. This young nurse- she had to have been new, she couldn’t have been older than twenty- came in one afternoon to change my IV.” Shelley turned her right palm down, fingered a light scar between her index finger and thumb, and let out a quiet laugh. “Usually they would change it every three days, but mine was in for two weeks and my hand blew up twice the size. Every time those nurses tried to put a new IV in I would put up one hell of a fight. Who cared if it was rotting, I wanted die! If they managed to get one in I’d pull it out five minutes later. So they let this one fester for a fortnight.

“Anyhow, this young thing brought in an IV kit on a tray and placed it right next to my bed. I knew she wasn’t a smart one. I kept my eyes tiny slits so she thought I was asleep. I didn’t move an inch. I barely breathed. And when she went back to the door for a pair of gloves I grabbed the longest needle in the tray and stuck it right in the side of my neck.” Shelley measured space with her hands, about three inches wide. “That deep, I’m not joking! It didn’t hurt. It was a relief. Isn’t that sick?”

I didn’t know what to say so let out a sigh, shrugged my shoulders slightly as if to say Hey, what can I say? She fingered her pashmina in her lap. I noticed she looked strange without the garment around her neck.

“That poor nurse ran out so fast I thought she wasn’t coming back. My pillow soaked blood like a sponge. When the nurse came back everything started to turn dark. The good kind of dark, like when you’ve been in the pitch black and your eyes finally adjust to the smallest light. You let out that sigh of relief because you’re not scared anymore. Then I woke up here.”

Shelley let out a loud sigh as if she had been waiting a long time to tell this story, not particularly to me, but to anyone. “Do you think I’m a lunatic?” she asked me.

“No, I don’t.” I said, honestly. This was one of the few times I felt she was in her right mind.

“Have you ever felt that? That letting go of fear, I mean.” Shelley asked.

“I think I did once, but I can’t remember the occasion. I remeber there being a lot of birds in cages, maybe I worked in a pet store or zoo at the time, I don’t know. I couldn’t stand looking at those birds locked up in tiny cages all day. So I would open all the cage doors and leave them for a while, but when I’d come back not a single one of them would have flown away. They would just stare, all stupid eyed, like they’d completely forgotten what freedom was.”

“Boy, do I know that feeling.” Shelley poured herself another cup of tea and ruffled in the cupboard, bringing down green apples and a jar of peanut butter.

“Mind if I have these? I’m starving.”

“Not at all.”

She cut the apple into thin slices, dipped it in peanut butter and ate them.

“Mmm, I haven’t had these since I was a kid. It’s the only way my parents could get me to eat fruit; smearing it in peanut butter.”

I laughed, “Whatever helps.”

Shelley smiled at me and we ate apples together in silence.

Shelley insisted on sleeping in the spare bed, but I wanted to be alone. When she left I could hardly sleep. That night I was kept awake by the dreadful thought of waking up in her meaty arms unable to see her face, only being able to tell it was her from her head-to-toe denim. Shelley’s panty breath and spittle misted my head as she shook me awake from the floor I had been laying on for goodness knows how long. The side of my body where I’d been laying was purple and eaten away like a nursing home patient negligibly left unturned for days. I laid useless, looking up at the ceiling as a stain as black as soot spread itself from one corner of the room to the other, encompassing the room, Shelley, then my entire body.

*

The room I was brought into was seedier than the last, with a mix of peculiar odors: talcum powder from an open box of latex gloves Dr. Rye placed beside a gurney; tart chemicals from bulbous jars that soaked miscellaneous animal fetus’ and brains for God knows what reason; also a smell I could not put my finger on, but reminded me of what reeked off of Steve and would come off on me after being with him for a few hours. Dr. Rye’s hair was pulled into a bun so tight she looked Chinese. Her eyes flicked back and forth over the thick stack of papers I had signed and brought in, giving her permission to resect my bowels (although I was still unsure of what this meant). When I called that morning she said I’d made the right choice, and at the time I felt I had too. But standing across from her now still dressed in her lumpy, stained track suit under her doctor’s coat, an ungodly breeze whipped at the back of my open hospital gown and a lump gathered in the back of my throat again.

“What happens now?”

Dr. Rye looked up from the papers as if she’d forgotten I was there, cleared her throat, and hacked into a waste paper basket- this annoyed me for some reason.

“I’ll put you in a twilight state, not asleep but not quite awake, then I’ll remove the mass through a small incision in your abdomen.”

“Is it painful?”

“Yes. But just to start with. Then you’ll feel a bit of pressure and that’s about it.”

I could have asked an endless amount of questions but was already being walked to the narrow gurney. The smell of talcum grew stronger. On a dull metal side table, the gloves sat next to a bowl of clear liquid I was sure was alcohol. I laid on the gurney covered up to my waist in a thin sheet and looked up past a window too high to see out of. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Dr. Rye set down tools that looked unfit for use on a human, then, one by one, dumped them into the bowl.

What Dr. Rye described as a little pressure was searing, stabbing in my side that exploded from my belly, up my spine and through my arms and legs so they shot up without control, almost sending my body to the floor. She fought to keep me still for a while before Mr. Zoon came in, sprinting lopsidedly, with two chunky leather belts in hand. My arms, chest, legs, and feet were wedged down and I could do nothing but yell, until a pin prick in my arm made me nod off, but only enough to stifle my ability to move. Something fogged up the air, turning it thick as if a slice of diseased pork had been left on a frying pan for too long. I looked down and saw the smell was my own flesh drawing back and deforming under a heated tool, while my blood pooled on the floor with the drip drip drip of a leaky faucet. If Dr. Rye and Mr. Zoon had noticed, they did not show it. Instead they hummed cheerfully in unison until black took over their faces and their eyes turned to ash in their skulls.

I woke up to someone wailing like a madwoman then realized that person was me. I was still strapped down when a man’s hand came down on my cheek once, then twice, doing the opposite of calm me down.

“Just relax now sweetheart, it’s over.” Mr. Zoon’s breath acted like ammonia.

My body ached as if I’d fought a ram that had taken its’ horn to my stomach and thrashed its’ head all over. My head ached and shoulders were sore from being under tremendous strain. When I went to stand my knees buckled underneath me and the room turned black again.

I woke up in intervals. Disoriented in the passenger seat of my car. On the familiar main road that led to my hotel. Again, with the hotel manager wearily handing keys to Dr. Rye and Mr. Zoon, who looked odd even by this town’s standards. And again, with the cool ac as they placed me in bed with my shoes still on.

The sky turned dark and Dr. Rye was still there. I opened my eyes to see her standing over me with that banshee smile, her hair once taunt now wet and dripping onto the carpet. She was all dolled up in a clean tracksuit now.

“I hope you don’t mind I used your shower.”

Still in a haze I stared at her, it was a painful struggle just thinking of what to say.

“You’re probably wondering what I’m doing here.”

I nodded.

“I couldn’t abide by sending you home alone to potentially pass out again and reverse everything we’ve done here. Just couldn’t abide by it.”

Words were snuffed out inside my mouth before they could form sentences. My mouth moved as if my gums and teeth were covered in cotton. After a while in silence she sat at the edge of my bed.

“It was a little more serious than I expected.” she smiled again, nodding at me. “You let yourself get too sick. All that black stuff was rotting you inside out.”

I sat up now, hoarse, “So, what happened?”

“I tried to remove the mass for several hours before eventually having to sedate you to try other means.” Spittle hit my forehead but I did not bother to wipe it away. “When all else failed I went to plan B, and I believe that will manage to get rid of all of it.”

She placed a cold palm on mine and let it sit as loose and unmoving as a dead fish with little practice comforting real people.

“What did you do?” the words were like sandpaper on my throat.

“Okay now, it may not look pretty.”

She lifted my shirt that was sticky from sweat and only then did I see the abnormal bulge on the right side of my abdomen. The clear plastic pouch was the size of my hand and a curdy liquid the color of black ink sat at the bottom. My shirt was rolled up underneath my breasts and I peered over them. Seeing for the first time what the bag was connected to I damn near threw up. Where a protective layer of skin used to be was a neat circle of a cut in my side with an offensive bit of intestine protruding where it had no business being.

“See, it fits right into your waistband.” Dr. Rye pulled up my waistband and tucked the bag away with a tap, “There. Good as new.”

But it was still there and I could feel it pulsating and throbbing around and I’m sure I heard it belch- it looked so alive. I couldn’t understand how this could possibly help, unless the goal was to rid me completely of the urge to use the bathroom at all. The stoma, I would find out was the proper name for it, looked ferocious. Enflamed a bright red as if it needed any more attention. Every minute or so black goo would leave my body and enter the bag, leaving me a feeling strangely light. I held onto my belly out of fear the contents would fall out, edging my way towards her, trying to grab anything- her hair, her arm, her ragged track suit- but she dodged my reach.

“What did you do?!” I felt the rage boil within me now, the chasm opening up to swallow me again.

“It was your only choice.” Dr. Rye was walking backwards towards the door shaking her head, watching me as if I had any strength to chase after her. “You needed this, otherwise you’d never see the end of this place. I’m sorry.” Then she was gone.

I lay in the dark while the town went quiet, unable to move without immense pain. Then I called the one person I knew could help.

Shelley labored to bring my bags and boxes into my car, begging with each step that I stay at least until my wound healed but even she knew that would not happen. I’d done little unpacking, only hanging up a few winter coats I never used. She carried me into my car, gently bringing the seat belt around then squeezing my shoulder.

“Give it some time. This is the worst part, but soon all that darkness will be out of you and we can go back to being good friends again.”

The car door slammed and Shelley turned into a dusty silhouette in the distance. I drove on roads that seemed endless in the limited streetlight, revealing ten feet ahead of the car at a time. I had no idea where I was going or where the road led but knew I needed any road leading away from here. I pulled over only to nurse the pain in my stomach, emptying the sluggish contents that had left me congested onto the side of the road when the bag got too full. The gas tank was half full and my vision blurry, making the shops I passed all resemble the same place. Then, I started to double back on the same people, their faces were expressionless in the dark. Looking into the rear view mirror for the nth time I caught my own reflection and I was sure I had no eyes, just blood running down my cheeks and hollow voids where they used to be.