CHRONESTHESIA

 

 

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By Todd Mayhew & Dustin Tyler

 

 
EXT. SKY – DAY 1.

The morning is pristine and cloudless. The sun blazes.

DANIEL (V.O.)
I once ran so fast I was able to bend time…
To merge with a memory.

EXT. RUNNING TRACK – DAY

A man, Daniel, mid-thirties, sprints full-force. The track is empty but for him, the bleachers vacant.

EXT. ALLEY – DAY

A boy (young Daniel)races down a long alley. He looks over his shoulder. GROWLS and BARKS echo. He reaches an intersection.

To the left, the alley empties onto a busy street. A violent BARK.

He turns to the right, down another alley and comes to a dead end. He whirls around. A rottweiler pounces, clamping down on his shoulder.

EXT. RUNNING TRACK – DAY

Daniel runs faster, shirt drenched, sweat running down his face.

DANIEL (V.O.)
The faster I went, the more vivid it became.

The track ahead of him flickers. We see the alley in its place.
Daniel’s eyes close. All around him, the background begins flashing violently between the track and the alley. We hear a GROWL.

EXT. ALLEY – Day

Daniel, grown, in his running clothes rounds a corner, full speed, the dog in pursuit. He reaches the

INTERSECTION

Adult Daniel is gone. The boy enters the frame, veering left, out onto the street, vanishing into the crowd. The dog skids to a halt.

EXT. RUNNING TRACK – DAY

Daniel stops. He touches his left shoulder, under his shirt.
DANIEL (V.O.) 2.
The giant scar from the dog was gone. I can’t
explain it. I showed my family, but they
didn’t remember it to begin with. They thought
I was slipping because of what happened.

INT. DAINEL AND MARY’S KITCHEN – Day

A blond woman, Mary, clutching a cell phone is backed against a sink. A huge man plunges a knife inside her.

DANIEL (V.O.)
But I know I am able to change things.

EXT. RUNNING TRACK – NIGHT

Stadium lights blaze. Daniel sits on the bleachers in a track suit.

DANIEL (V.O.)
It took me fifteen minutes to get home the
day it happened to her… It normally takes
five.

SERIES OF SHOTS – FLASHBACK

A) A classroom. A BELL sounds. Students stand, then Daniel, up front
in a dress shirt and tie does too.

B) A van pulls in front of a house. A huge man steps out.

C) Daniel drives. He turns at an intersection into a traffic jam.

D) The huge man forces open the lock on a house’s back door.

E) The man walks down a hall slipping necklaces into his bag.

F) Daniel exits his car in his driveway. A woman inside screams.

EXT. TRACK – NIGHT

Daniel stands and descends the bleachers.

DANIEL (V.O.)
If I’d taken a different route…
Or even jogged home that day.

EXT. RUNNING TRACK – MOMENTS LATER

Daniel stands on the track. He begins to run.

DANIEL (V.O.) 3.
Just have to get my head in the right place.
(beat)
Start in the car. No…earlier. Classroom.

INT. CLASSROOM – DAY

The BELL rings. Daniel, in his shirt and tie, stands up from his desk and follows his students into the hallway toward the exit.

DANIEL (V.O)
Faster. Move!

EXT. RUNNING TRACK – NIGHT

Insane breathing. Insane pace. The background begins to flicker.

DANIEL
It’s happening.

THE TRACK AHEAD OF HIM

flashes. It becomes the parking lot.

EXT. SCHOOL PARKING LOT – DAY

We follow Daniel, in his shirt and tie, toward his car. He opens the door and climbs in and drives off.

DANIEL (V.O.)
Stop! Don’t take the car!

Daniel, in his running clothes, bursts on screen and chases after it.

EXT. ROAD – DAY

The car stops at a busy intersection then turns into a traffic jam.
Daniel is in pursuit. Within feet. He reaches out toward the door.

EXT. RUNNING TRACK – NIGHT

Daniel blazes ahead. Groping at empty air.

EXT. ROAD – DAY

In the car’s driver seat, we see Daniel in his stained sweatshirt.
DANIEL 4.
Now move.

He slips out the door, leaving his keys dangling in the ignition. He
vaults the hood of a car onto the sidewalk, then cuts between two buildings. He emerges on a

SIDE STREET

then darts across someone’s yard. Ahead, across a street and two more lawns, he sees

HIS HOUSE

EXT DANIEL AND MARY’S HOUSE – MOMENTS LATER

Daniel races up the front steps and grabs the doorknob. Locked. He pats his pockets for his keys.

DANIEL
Fuck!

He quickly glances through

HIS WINDOW

Down a hall he can see his empty living room and part of the kitchen.

INT. UPSTAIRS HALLWAY – DAY

The huge man stuffs a necklace in his bag, then heads down the stairs. He knocks a picture from the wall. It tumbles down the stairs and shatters.

INT. KITCHEN – DAY

Mary, leaning on the counter, waiting for the microwave, hears a CRASH, grabs a steak knife from the sink, and creeps into the

LIVING ROOM

The man reaches the bottom stair, then turns and sees her.

EXT. DANIEL AND MARY’S HOUSE – DAY

Daniel begins ramming the door with his shoulder. Mary screams.

 

INT. LIVING ROOM – DAY 5.

The man approaches. Mary turns and lunges toward her phone on the kitchen counter. The man charges her.

EXT. DANIEL AND MARY’S HOUSE – DAY

Daniel breaks a window with his elbow, reaches in and unlocks the door. He barges through it and into the hall.

At its end, through the living room, we see the man in the kitchen doorway. Daniel charges.

MAN
(to Mary)
Don’t you dial that phone!

INT. KITCHEN – DAY

Mary fractionally closes the phone, but the man is already rushing at her, a large knife in his hand.

INT. HALL – DAY

Daniel lunges ahead. Into the living room. Halfway through. He reaches out, ready to complete the last ten feet, grab the man, and throw him aside. But

HIS ANKLE

twists and snaps sending

DANIEL

flying forward.

A silent moment. The man plunges the knife into Mary’s stomach. Daniel shuts his eyes. He lands hard on the

EXT. RUNNING TRACK – NIGHT

Pavement, face down, foot twisted unnaturally.

We watch from above as he lies still for a long moment then rolls onto his back. As we pull back, he begins to sob violently.

The stadium lights go black.

THE END

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Skinwalkers

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                    By Dustin Tyler
Let me tell you a story
It’s of how our eye colors match
Though yours are of a volcanic ash
And mine are blue, as blue as the ocean
And here we sit years later as our colors now clash.
So out comes the facade
I’ll watch you model it for the new ones
So out comes the facade
And would you wear it for me too?
Our voices carry you say in the same tone
They sway across the room
And when they land, you hardly remember your name
You denounce any symmetry, and change your format

Then you find the nearest tower to broadcast your new tune

And here is the new you
And why do you look so familiar?
Could it be, the only one of us changing is me?

Ooh, My! (Slit Throats)

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By Todd Mayhew

Part One: My Muscles

These are the muscles I was talking about. My swollen biceps, triceps, and forearms. My pectoral muscles are massive, but you can only really see their outline through my t-shirt.  I’m very strong because of these muscles and when I flex them, all the girls and their mothers and grandmothers and sisters and aunts come to the windows and peek out through the curtains at me in the middle of the street below and say, “Ooh, my.”

In bed at night I lay there and let my fingers trace over their contours. Over my deltoids, my thumb running along the inside of my shoulder, my index finger on the outside, both moving downward till they come together at the point where the muscles converge. Then I squeeze my bicep until it hurts a little and I twitch and giggle and kick my feet.

“Hurry up! You’re going to be late for the birthday party!” That’s what I tell my little dog. He’s an eight pound Chihuahua with a little black tail that curves up and, along with his rump, shakes all over when he’s excited. And his ears are gigantic and stick out like wings, like he could fly with them. Sometimes I pretend (again lying in bed) that when he sees something scary, on a movie or show, he uses them to cover his eyes. His eyes are huge.

People say we look funny walking together because I’m seven feet tall and he’s so tiny. Plus all my muscles which make me bigger. We’re on a cul de sac now. On the sidewalk. He’s stopped and is smelling the grass below a tree, his leash taut. My arm (which is very muscular) is fully extended because every time we take two steps, he stops and digs his heels into the ground, and pulls back with all his might, and I have to wait for him while he sniffs all over. It’s embarrassing, because all the women on the block are standing out on their front steps watching, and I worry that they think the dog is stronger than me and that’s why I had to stop. So I raise my other arm and flex it, veins popping out everywhere, the sleeve of my shirt threatening to split. The ladies all say “Ooh, my,” and I feel myself calm.

“Yap yap yap,” my dog says like he doesn’t even care that we’re going to be late for a birthday party.

“Go pee. Pee!” I shout. “If you don’t go pee you can’t come in the car and the birthday party is way too far to walk to!” The rubber string from my birthday hat is digging into the flesh under my chin and I adjust it and bend down at the waist. I scoop my dog up into my arms and tell him that we’ll try again on the next block. He rests his chin on my trapezius muscle (which is very big) and presses the side of his snout against my jaw.

My mom always told me I was going to be an attorney-at-law. “You’ll help the little people,” she’d say when I asked why. I never did become an attorney-at-law, but my dog is little and I’m helping him so that’s good too. I dig my phone from my pocket to call my mom and tell her this (which is hard because my jeans are tight because of my muscles), but she doesn’t answer. This is embarrassing and I worry that all the ladies watching will think people don’t want to talk to me, so I quickly slide my phone back into my pocket and loudly say to my little dog, “Wow, I must have squeezed that phone too hard with my muscles, because it stopped working.”

“Ooh, my,” the women say.

We round the corner into a housing development that’s under construction. As I set down my little dog, I see a giant wooden joist on the muddy ground in front of a half-built home. I trudge over to it, wrap the dog’s leash around my wrist, and make sure I can lift the beam over my head. I can. High up. So high that my little dog is pulled up off the ground by the neck, his little back toenails just barely touching the ground.

Quickly, I toss the joist aside, and place the dog back down. He coughs. “I’m sorry,” I say, scratching him behind his ears. I shake my head. I’m nothing like an attorney-at-law.

Part Two: The Birthday Party

I’d never been afraid of anything in my life until I got to the birthday party. As I opened the door and saw inside I yelled out and dropped my little dog leaving him to run up to the lady in the recliner and lick the blood off her slit throat. All the guests’ throats had been slit.

Al from work (the birthday boy) had his head thrown back like he was staring at the ceiling and a raggedy red line traced a bleeding path from one ear to the other. He was the forklift operator. I wondered what it would be like at work without him and I pictured the forklift with no one on it just going in circles over and over.

A few others from work were dead there too. Al Two was lying face down on the coffee table in a crimson pool that dripped down the sides. Roger who we called Rodge seemed to have collapsed back against the wall by the TV and slid down till he was sitting. Rebecca, the engineer who designed the parts we made, was lying next to him. In her hand she clutched a bottle of mace which she probably tried to use against the killer.

I felt terrible for her. And for all of them. If the rubber string from my birthday hat hurt as much as it did, I could only imagine what it would have felt like to have someone plunge a knife into my throat and cut out my trachea. I was so sad. But more than that I was afraid. I stood in the middle of the room poised to take off in any direction, but not sure where to go. What if someone saw me there? What if the police walked in and thought that I wasn’t strong enough to stop an intruder?

I raised both arms up, my knuckles knocking against the ceiling, then with all my might bent my elbows, pulling down my fists so they were next to my ears. My biceps grew like balloons being pumped full of air, bigger and bigger. I flexed harder than I ever had before, gritting my teeth, eyes squeezed shut. I could feel my face redden and the muscles and tendons and sinew in my neck tighten till I thought they might tear the skin.

This time my shirt did rip. The arms did. Right at the seams. I reached across my chest with both hands and tore it away, letting it fall to the floor behind me. My chest was exposed. My shiny pink pectoral muscles covered with curls of brown hair. Any minute, it would happen. It had to. There was no hope for the men, but the women could be spared. They would awaken and sit up and swoon like they always did.

But hours passed and no one stirred. I stood there, frozen, statuesque. A tremor of delight shook me when I finally heard an “Ooh, my,” but it ended up just being an old woman pedaling by on a bicycle, spotting me through the house’s open door. Tears rolled over my chiseled cheek bones into the corners of my mouth as I continued to flex, and eventually the giant rectangle of sunlight on the carpet from the window crossed the room and disappeared. The room was completely black. My body stiff, I lowered my arms to my sides and relaxed my pectoral and abdominal and leg muscles. My little dog was curled at my feet and I squatted down and picked him up. I fell back onto the couch, by a dead woman I didn’t know.

I put my hand on her knee and then moved it higher to her thigh, and I squeezed the muscles. Mine were bigger so that was good at least. I pulled out my phone and again dialed my mother. This time she answered. I told her what happened and asked if it was too late to go to law school—to become an attorney-at-law—and she said no, that I still could. She was smiling, I could tell just by the sound of her voice. She smiled because she was right, and had been all along, and being right was her favorite thing.

Eventually, I fell asleep. I dreamed of mountains and the mountains were made of muscles. I was at the top of the tallest and my muscles were somehow even bigger than its. I was wearing nothing but small black briefs. I was tan, and shaven, and oiled. My little dog sat on my shoulder. At the bottom of the mountain were women. Thousands and millions of them. I flexed my bicep, and in a roar that echoed across the world, they at once gasped, then in unison they swooned, “Ooh, my.”

Swarms of Me (and Her Swollen Lazy Eye)

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By Todd Mayhew

1.

Every now and again, I burst into bugs. There will be a dry pop sound and all that will be left where I stood will be a small curl of smoke that smells like sulfur. By the ceiling there’ll be a black swirling cloud of flies and gnats and mosquitoes, and the ground will be covered by an undulating carpet of beetles and ants.

I never know when this is going to happen, and it’s taken its toll on my social life. I’ve gone out with a total of three girls, and all of the relationships have ended when I burst into bugs at inappropriate times. Tonight, I have a blind date and I’m not expecting it to go well.

2.

The first time I burst into bugs, I was thirteen, in the shower of the boys’ locker room. I always waited till last when the other kids were done and at their lockers drying, or putting on deodorant with towels wrapped around their waists. Then I would sneak in so no one could watch me—I had a bit of a belly then and was afraid of being made fun of.

That day, after rinsing off, I made my way to the edge of the shower where there was a dryer. Like a hand dryer from a bathroom, but mounted high so you could get your hair and body. I hit the big silver button with my palm and right as the hot air began to rush out—pop! I burst into bugs. The air from the blower sent me in a black swarm out into the locker room. I watched through my thousands of eyes as the other boys, in a panic, stomped with bare feet and swatted with towels and ran half-dressed out onto the gym floor.

I woke up in my bed, my mom by my side. “Today you are a man,” she said proudly placing a hand on my shoulder. When I asked what she meant, she explained that when girls reach my age they begin having their monthly cycles. “This,” she said, “must be the equivalent for boys.”

That didn’t seem right then, and still doesn’t to this day.

3.

I can’t keep friends, because I burst into bugs. Once, I was at the zoo with a group of friends from a club I belonged to that discussed and researched grizzly bears. I don’t know why I was so obsessed with bears at the time—in my whole life, I have only once burst into bears—but there we were.

As we left the grizzly exhibit, my friend Adam said, “Hey, we should go to the insectarium and break the glass with a fire extinguisher!”

“That sounds fun,” I said, completely forgetting that I sometimes turn into insects.

When Adam struck the glass, a crack began to form and spread into a spider web. Then at once all the shards fell. I turned to the security guard, giving him two middle fingers, when again, pop! My bugs swarmed in, mixing with the zoo bugs. I woke up in the hospital having gained 75 pounds and requiring surgery to remove the glass shards from my stomach.

4.

I make my way up the apartment stairs to my blind date. My dad set me up with her—a girl from work with a lazy eye but a strong work ethic. She opens the door, one green eye meeting mine, the other staring off to the side somewhere.

“Hi,” she says.

“Hi,” I say.

5.

We’ve been dating for six months. I finally tell her about my situation. I stand up, ready to be asked to leave, but her face brightens and she smiles my favorite smile that makes her look a little like a horse and takes my hand.

She leads me to the roof of her building, into a summer night so humid it seems like I’m breathing through a wet wash cloth, and takes her clothes off, leaving on only a blue tank top and white cotton underwear.

Throwing back her head, she whispers, “Do it.”

“You don’t understand,” I say, “I can’t control it. It just happens when it wants to.”

From this point she becomes obsessed. Every night, she brings me to the roof and stands there in her underwear, arms spread, fingers splayed, chin in the air. For six months, in the smoggiest of days, in the rainiest and the snowiest, until it finally happens—pop! I burst into bugs.

“Bite me! Bite me now! Eat me!” She cries.

I circle and circle her—a black tornado moving ever closer, until every part of her is covered with me. I bite and chew and suck her arms and face and hands and toes and anywhere I can find bare flesh. She screams in agony and delight as crimson dots began to form all over her.

This time, when I wake up in the hospital, I am upright in a chair. She is lying in bed, a clear oxygen tube under her nose. Her arms and face are swollen beyond recognition. Shiny red lumps the size of grapefruit cover every inch of her. Her eyelids are mostly swollen shut—only a bit of her lazy green eye peeks through.

I jump up. “You’re allergic? How could you not know you were allergic?” I shout.

“I knew,” she says softly. “I knew.”

“Then why? Why would you let me bite you?”

She pauses and thinks. Eventually, she exhales. “I lied to you before. When your dad set us up, I knew you. Or at least knew who you were. You dated my sister years ago and she told me what happens to you. She was afraid, but I had to meet you. To see it. To have you bite and chew and devour me.”

“But why would you want me to bite you if you’re allergic? What if you die?”

She pauses again, then sighs. “I will. I know I will—it’s what I want. I’ve never fit in. No matter how much I’ve tried. I didn’t fit in in Girl Scouts, or the swim team, or softball, or the chess club. It’s all I’ve ever wanted—to be part of something and now I am—I’m part of you. My flesh is in you. In your stomach and guts and nails and between your teeth.  I will die being part of something and I am so, so happy and grateful. I love you. I love your bugs.”

I put my hand on her forehead and stroke her hair. For hours I sit at the edge of the bed until her equipment beeps and a doctor bursts in, pronouncing her dead. I walk away, down a long white hall, into the elevator, and then out into the night.

Halfway home, I burst into bugs.

Sweet Dreams

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By Dustin Tyler

 

“Testing, testing, is this thing on?”

The guests smile and some even chuckle as my now brother-in-law delivers the first line of his best man speech. At about nine this morning, while I was shaving and hoping the bender I went on last night wouldn’t effect how my suit fit, Jonathan sat in the corner of my hotel room pressed up against the window which overlooked a parking lot, finishing up the speech. He chuckled to himself the entire time as he moved the pencil from the paper to his mouth and back again.

It was almost like he was picturing himself in a film, playing the lovable but constantly-getting-in-trouble brother of the bride. Truthfully though, he’s not that type of character. He’s a great guy, handsome and well spoken with a degree in economics and a green belt in children’s karate.

Hours before his speech started, I married his sister. I knew I shouldn’t, but I did it anyway, feeling guilty the entire time. She sits to my right and has a smile on her face so large, you’d think she just found her Prince Charming; in her eyes, maybe she did.

When we took our wedding pictures outside the church and reception hall, the photographer had to keep reminding me to smile. She doesn’t deserve this. She deserves someone who isn’t hiding half of himself from her. Someone who wasn’t always deceiving her and taking advantage of her kindness.

“Sleep over tonight,” I hear her say in a memory. “I work early tomorrow,” I say, hoping there won’t be a followup question. That was about three months into what is now a four year relationship. The longest I’ve ever had. Two weeks ago, following a particularly engrossing Mel Gibson film, she asked for the four hundredth time in our relationship: “Stay over?” I can’t think of another excuse, so I stay up the entire night, watching her as she sleeps peacefully, wondering if our whole marriage will feature me as an insomniac. I haven’t had a good nights sleep since then. My conscience is an alarm clock with no snooze button.

The crowd of guests roar, as Jonathan makes another joke, one I didn’t even hear. “But seriously, I can’t remember the last time I saw my sister this happy,” he continues.

I can’t take it anymore.

“I hope your marriage is as great as the…”

“Stop!” I yell. I stand and grab the mic as Jonathan looks at me, my wife looks at me, the flower girl looks at me. I make eye contact with none of them but feel each of their stares. “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve been living a lie. Deceiving all of you.”

My wife is standing by me now, already crying as she asks me what I’m doing. I still don’t look at her.

“I didn’t want to lie. I wanted a kind of life you see in the movies, a wife, kids, friends, all of it.” I sip from a cup of water. “But not this way.” I finally look my wife in the eye—the woman I’ve been lying to for four years—and confess. “I’ve been sleeping…with a sleep mask. It’s black like a blindfold with a strap in back. It keeps light out of my eyes. I’ve used since I was ten years old. I need it to fall asleep at night!” I admit it and for the first time all day, I feel like I can breathe.

It’s short lived. Suddenly a metal serving tray is hurled in my direction. I deflect it with my hand and as I do, I spot the waiter who threw it. He’s an older man, grimacing and running at me full speed from across the room. I hear a loud thump. It’s my wife fainting, and before I can assist her, Jonathan begins throwing his children’s karate moves at me. A kick, followed by a punch. I wonder why they both hit my hip, then remember he stopped training as a 4’0 eight year old. He only ever practiced his moves on an instructor, who stood 6’4. He is now unable to throw anything higher than what he could when he was a child. He’s grunting as he attacks me, using as much force as he can. I grab the chair I was sitting on when he began his speech and use it as a shield, deflecting his blows and eventually knocking him off balance.

The waiter is still charging me, but he’s not the only one. The women in the crowd are split; half running to my wife, the rest using their purses as bows and dining rolls as arrows. I hop over the the table and try to run through them. I don’t want to hurt anyone else, emotionally or physically. I spin like a football running back, making it about ten feet from the table when I’m caught and overpowered. A pile forms on top of me. Women, children, men, staff from the hall, all jump in. Overhead, I must look like I’m buried under a mountain of people. I feel pain on every part of my body. I can’t breathe. But suddenly I realize, it’s pitch black. I can’t see anything under the mound of people. It’s as dark as when I’m wearing my sleep mask and without the burden of being a liar, without feeling like I’m hiding who I am, I calmly fall asleep.

 

Body Part Bags (and the Parts That Come in Them)

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By Todd Mayhew

My chair is pulled out a little from my desk and there’s a brain on it. It’s lumpy and dark red—so dark it’s almost black, and its curves have white worms of light reflecting on them from the lamp above. It’s been there ever since last month when I called the police and told them that Ellie the elderly lady next door was cutting people up into little meat cubes and hiding them in her kitchen cabinets, and the police came and yelled at me because that turned out not to be true.I told them it was an honest mistake, that it was dark and shadowy when I saw her moving around in there and maybe she was just chopping up the zucchini for the bread she baked for me and brought over right before I called them. I said that I was very sorry and that it’d never happen again. I started to explain why I was so sure I wouldn’t do it again, but the cop started fidgeting, stepping side to side, playing with his belt buckle then cut me off and said, “Fine, fine,” and shook his head muttering something and turned away.

What I was trying to tell him was that I was gonna put the little brain there on my desk chair so that if I saw her chopping again and wanted to go dial 911 again I would run over there and see the brain in the chair and not want to sit down to dial and then go do something else.

I learned how to do this from my mom who used to live here with me before retiring to Florida. She had gotten very paranoid about my father cheating on her with his Asian receptionist. He’d never said anything about her in particular, but once had mentioned that a similar looking woman on an eyeglass commercial had lovely eyes. (I thought that was a little weird since it was hard to see them with the glasses on that they were advertising, but my mom said at the end she took them off and that’s when my father perked up in his recliner, making the comment.)

My mom spoke to the assistant eventually at the company picnic. She was wearing a bright yellow sun dress and sitting cross-legged under a pavilion, at a picnic table. As soon as my mom caught sight of her, she pushed past my father, and face bright bright pink, stormed over and screamed, “Is that ice in your drink or lovely EYES in your drink?” Nobody understood except me what that meant, but I grinned and nodded proudly.

After her third uneventful bicycle trip downtown to peek in my dad’s office window, though, she and I both agreed it was time to stop. If he wanted to mount some slut on his desk that isn’t even in an eyeglass commercial, let him.

“Help me,” she said later, dragging a giant plastic bucket up the driveway. Together we lifted it and spilled the ten gallons of blood inside it all over the bike. It was pretty the way it ran over the handlebars and made a red waterfall, but I was afraid if I said anything, any time I saw a bicycle with blood on it, my mom would get paranoid that I was gawking at it like my dad did with the eyeglass lady.

“There,” she said. “Next time I want to spy on your lousy cheat father, I’ll run over to the bike and see the blood on the seat and won’t want to sit down to ride, and then I’ll go do something else.”

It was the most valuable lesson anyone has ever taught me.

I push the thick black bag that the brain came in out the window above the sink and onto the pile of others outside in my backyard. I’ve been putting off doing this for weeks because the bags are so gross and sticky. All the parts come in them. The doctors in the teaching hospital behind our house throw them into the blue Dumpster with the bio-hazard logo on it. I never asked if I could take them, I just assumed I was doing a good deed. Whoever donated those parts wanted them to go to good use. And though I’m sure they’d be glad they were helping teach medical students, I bet they’d be really delighted to know they got even more use around my house!

I rinse the blood and grime and what I assume is some kind of spinal fluid off my forearms and down the drain then turn off the faucet and sit down on the couch (my recliner has lungs on it to prevent me from sitting there and tipping backwards against the ground causing a concussion again). I turn the TV on to Mr. Pat Sajak with a warm smile asking a fat teacher what she does in her spare time. (The volume is off, but I’ve seen this one before and remember it), and I say the words along with the lady, “I’m really interested in genealogy, and I love cats!” I pause and rewind and double check my response with the volume up. Genealogy and cats! I was right!

It is at this point that I smell something smokey. I stand and move around, nose up in the air sniffing till I come to the stairs and see a big black cloud hanging near the ceiling. An orange glow emanates from behind it, somewhere down the hall by my bedroom.

Oh no!

There is a fire extinguisher at the top of the stairs. I can see it from where I stand, but the intestines tacked to the walls of the stairwell block me (I made a web of them there the one time I tripped climbing the steps). I whirl around and dash toward the front door. I suddenly stop as I reach out for the knob, though. A pair of eyeballs hangs there that I put up after opening the door and getting stuck talking to a Jehovah’s Witness yesterday.

And that just leaves the phone and the little red brain. If I’d only Ellie my elderly neighbor had been more careful not to look like a murderer, I could have sat down on my chair and dialed the fire department right now. But no, some people in life are selfish and now there is a brain in my chair and I have no choice but to die here in an electrical fire.

With a distressed sigh, I sit back down on the couch. I only hope and pray that my parts can be used in someone else’s house to prevent them from tripping, or tipping back in their recliner, or answering the door for people they don’t want to talk to.

Chiromancy

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By Dustin Tyler

I had a dream last night about red balloons rising over a beautiful skyline. I didn’t see them get released—they were just in-mid air and I was a silent observer, slowly following them higher and higher until we were past the tallest buildings and the sounds from the street below went silent. It was the most peaceful dream of my life, the most peaceful moment, and it was fake. Before I woke up, I tried to reach out as far as I could and grab just one balloon, but somehow, someway I knew I couldn’t. That’s how I knew that you would be gone when I woke up.

.You’re always leaving me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a warm summer night filled with lightning bugs and hope, or amid a bitter snowfall that blankets desire. I use only my elbows to get out of bed. The sheets are disheveled and my alarm clock is in pieces on the dusty wooden floor, the alarm silenced; you’ve had quite the head start.

I put my feet in my slippers and head to the door, which is thankfully ajar. As I sneak downstairs I can’t help but hate you for a minute. This disappearing act is old and because of it I’m on high doses of antidepressants and seeing a shrink weekly. He tells me it’s not the end of the world. He tells me maybe it’s time I let you go. He tells me how I’m to blame as well. For not taking good care of you.

And I know he’s right. But I’ve done so much better lately. I’ve smoothed over the rough edges and tried to heal you from your worst.

I search the bottom level of the house and see signs of where you’ve already been. There’s an open newspaper sitting on the kitchen table and plates covered with lingering crumbs. In the living room, the television is on, set to a channel where a pale-skinned old man sits at a piano hitting the keys with pristine timing and a speed that seems faster than light. Amusing, really.

It’s here that I see the jelly stains on the window sill. I move closer and realize this is where you crept out. This is the exit that you used to leave me. And this time you aren’t coming back. My therapist told me this would happen. He said so after the first time he saw you. Said you were easy to read.

I look out the window and it’s raining. Tiny drops falling on a sad house, contrary to my dream of balloons rising over wishful clouds.

In the dream, I couldn’t grab the balloons and I now can’t cup the raindrops because my hands have left me and now I am alone.