I could hear my dog barking. It was raining and he wanted someone to let him in the house.
“Can someone let Rex in?” I mumbled.
“Rex is dead, Brian.”
Jenn was sitting across from me. She looked pissed.
“I know that,” I said, rubbing my eyes.
“You had to put him down a few years ago. Remember? You cried for days.”
“Yeah, I said I know. You don’t have to fucking remind me.”
“It was the last time we saw you show any emotion.”
I slowly sat up on the couch and stared at her. Neither one of us spoke. She hadn’t cleaned the black mascara stains running down from her eyes.
“You look like Alice Cooper,” I grunted as I lifted myself from the couch.
“You need to go talk to him.”
“The Coop? I tried when I was 15, but he wouldn’t answer my calls.”
“Not him, you smartass. John. He’s really upset. You said some mean things last night.”
“Why are we always coddling him? I’m tired of the 2 a.m. phone calls, Jenn. I’m tired of the attention-craving attempts at suicide. Same shit, different week.”
I walked over to the kitchen, opened the pantry and looked inside. “Most of all, I’m tired of having funyons and bean dip for breakfast. Don’t his parents ever go shopping before they skip town?”
Jenn walked up behind me and closed the pantry door. “I’ll go get us breakfast burritos if you’ll go talk to him.”
My stomach perked up at the sound of that. “Fine. Extra bacon.”
I trudged up the stairs and through the oak double doors marking the entrance to his parent’s room. There was John, propped up on their California King sized bed, his arms at his sides with his wrists outturned. Classic martyr pose. His left wrist had been wrapped in fresh gauze.
Andy was sitting in a chair at the foot of the bed, slumped over and asleep. I kicked the leg of the maple throne and he jolted.
“Wake up. Jenn is going to get food. You might want to put in an order before she leaves.”
He scowled at me as he got up and walked out.
“Brian? Is that you?” John croaked.
“Who else would it be, fucknuts.”
He laughed. Then coughed.
“How fitting. The Queen on her deathbed. ‘Oh, sire, do not make me laugh for it upsets my delicate innards!’” I mocked. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“I’m so cold,” he muttered as he patted the area on the bed next to him.
This was all part of the show. I rolled my eyes, climbed into the bed and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. His eyes filled with tears.
“My parents don’t love me,” he sobbed.
“Cut the shit, dude. You know that’s not true. I know that’s not true. EVERYONE knows that’s not true. What is going on with you?”
He stopped fake-crying. “Do you think Jenn could pick me up something?”
“You know she already is. Now spill it. What the fuck is this all about?”
His face got serious. “I can’t make them stop. The voices. I hear them all the time, man. And I’m starting to see shit now. Bad shit.”
I laughed. He punched my chest.
“I’m fucking serious. I think I’m losing it, and I don’t know how to make it stop.” His eyes welled up again, but it was different. He was terrified. “She keeps saying I’m next.”
He pointed to the corner of the room. “Her. The girl in the bloody dress.”
I followed his finger to the empty corner. “There’s no one there, John.”
He started shivering.
“I think I need sleep,” he said and shifted his body towards me. Resting his head on my chest, he closed his eyes and was snoring almost immediately.
I had just fallen asleep when my phone started ringing. I rolled over and looked at the screen. Jenn. I put the phone down and rolled back over. I’ll talk to her in the morning.
I had just gotten comfortable when it started ringing again. Must be important. I answered.
“Brian, it’s John. He tried to kill himself again. He’s asking for you.” She had been crying.
I hung up and stared at the ceiling before grabbing a shirt, jeans, wallet and car keys. Didn’t realize it was freezing outside until I was halfway to my car. A 1981 Jeep. Blue. The piece of shit was falling apart, but damn did I love her. It took 3 tries to get the engine to roar to life. I slipped it into reverse and headed to John’s.
I wonder if he did it this time.
His house was dark when I got there. No ambulance, no cops. I walked through the open front door and called out.
“We’re up here,” Jenn answered.
I walked up the stairs and turned towards John’s parent’s room. They were out of town again. They were always out of town.
Of course he would be in their room. He always did have a flair for the dramatic.
Jenn and Andy were both at the side of the bed, John laying there white as a ghost. He was asleep. The sheets were covered in blood. Jenn had bandaged up his wrist and was putting pressure on the bloody gauze.
“He’s going to be fine,” Andy whispered. John moaned.
“You know, I wish one of these times he would actually do it,” I said and left the room.
This was the fourth attempt. First were the sleeping pills that just knocked him out for a day and a half. They were non-narcotic. Then the noose that unraveled after he kicked the stool out from under his feet. He needed stitches on his forehead from falling forward and smacking his head on the corner of his desk. Third was the time he tried to jump from the roof of his parent’s two-story house. One broken collarbone later, he promised us that was his last one.
Now this pathetic attempt at wrist-cutting.
I flung myself down on the couch in the living room. Andy followed me in there and smacked me on the back of the head. Yeah, I guess I deserved that.
“He could have actually died this time,” he scolded.
“Did he cut across the wrist or down his arm?”
He sighed. “Across.”
“Remember, emo kid. It’s down the road, not across the street!” I yelled up the stairs. “How deep was it?”
“Not very deep. He tried to do it with his grandpa’s old hunting knife.”
“That piece of shit? It couldn’t even cut through butter. I bet he didn’t even nick an artery.”
“He didn’t. He cut it enough to bleed and just laid there for a while before texting Jenn and saying goodbye.”
I laughed. Uncontrollably. “I swear to god, Andy. I’m sick of these feeble cries for help. Especially when he won’t tell anyone what’s wrong. He won’t talk to any of us. I was serious before. I wish he would just do it.”
Andy jumped up from the chair across from me and glared. “You’re such an asshole.”
With that, he walked back upstairs. And I fell asleep.
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The lifeless eyes staring back at him in the mirror no longer affected him. It had been so long since he had seen anything that even remotely resembled a spark that he no longer gave a shit.
“Fuck you,” he mumbled at the shell of a person reflected back at him. This was now a part of his morning ritual. Brush teeth, shit, shower, swear at the useless lump that had ruined his life.
He glared extra hard this morning, trying to pinpoint the exact moment his soul just up and left. He had no one to blame but himself, and he knew it. Here he was, 28 years old, stuck in a dead end job and pissing his life away.
“I should just….leave,” he whispered. “Just get in the car and drive. No destination, no agenda. Just go.”
Even these words had become part of the ritual. But this time it was different. This time, for the first time in months (years, maybe) he saw the spark. His eyes lit up. He felt his soul, his essence, creeping back.
He knew what he needed to do. He quickly grabbed some essentials (clothes, laptop, iPod) and walked out to his car. After placing his cell phone behind one of his tires, he climbed in and started the engine of his avocado-green Mustang. He lit a cigarette, threw the car into reverse, rolled down the driver’s side window and hit the gas. The crunch sound of the phone as it was crushed by the car brought a smile to his face.
Driving east, away from the dead end job he would normally be on his way to, he started to laugh. He finally felt like he was taking control of his life. And he had never felt so free.
“The barometric pressure is dropping,” he said.
What a boring statement. Why would he think that would be a conversation starter? Neither one of us had said anything since we drove through Blythe. That was 2 hours ago. 2 hours of mundane talk radio and the same desert landscape rolling on and on and on.
“That might be the world’s worst super power,” I replied with a smirk, my eyes never leaving the window.
He doesn’t get it.
“Barometric pressure man. I don’t think he would ever be asked to join The Avengers,” I paused. “Do you think he would use his power for good or evil?”
“What are you talking about?”
Something about the level of annoyance in his voice grabbed me. I pried my gaze from the sprawling Mohave and glanced at him. His lip was twitching.
“Jesus, it was a joke.”
“You know I don’t understand your nerd speak.” He spat a little with that last word.
Why am I here? Why did I agree to continue with this charade and be his date for his sister’s wedding? Why didn’t I leave after walking in on him sucking off Evan in the pantry at his company’s Christmas dinner party?
I glared at him before returning my in-drive entertainment: Romeo and Juliette, with Joshua trees playing the parts of the Montagues and cacti as the Capulets.
“The barometric pressure fell a long time ago,” I sighed.
I can still feel the warmth of your breath
as you whispered in my ear
“You are the iron maiden surrounding my heart.”
There once was a hamster named Mortimer. All of his life, he had wanted someone to call him Morty.
“Please, call me Morty,” he would tell people, but to no avail.
They would turn up their nose and say things like:
“Morty is an old man’s name,” or
“That’s a name for slugs. You’re not a slug. You are a hamster,” or
“Mortimer, you are just so funny!”
And that would be the end of it.
Until he met Francis, that is. Francis was a big California black bear. Being a black bear, he really didn’t give a fuck about societal norms. Morty first met Francis outside of a bar called The Rabbit Hole. Francis was smoking a fancy French cigarette. Morty was a little intimidated by him, and was about to run back inside when Francis looked at him and said, “Hey. You. Little guy. What do they call you?”
Morty was terrified. He had never really seen a bear before, let alone talked to one.
“M-M-M-Mortimer,” he stammered.
“Harrumph!” Francis snorted. “I shall call you Morty. You look more like a Morty to me.”
Morty’s eyes welled up with tears. “I’ve always wanted someone to call me Morty!” he said. “What about you, bear? What’s your name?”
Francis glared at the hamster and, with a tinge of disgust, replied, “People call me Frank. I would prefer Francis, but everyone says that’s a girl’s name.”
“I will call you Francis!” Morty exclaimed.
Francis patted Morty on the head as he said “Kid, this could be the start of a wonderful friendship.
And you know what? It was.
I woke up shivering because of the cold, my body shaking so violently I thought I was in the midst of an earthquake. It took me a few moments to realize I was not laying in my bed, or even in my room for that matter. No, I was in some sort of ice cave. The floor was an amazing blue color only seen inside the crack of a glacier, the ceiling and walls the most blinding of whites. My body stopped shaking for a minute, but then started quaking again even more severely than before. My teeth were chattering so hard I thought they were going to shatter and explode out of my mouth. That’s when I heard the first growl.
It was deep, low and menacing. Fear slithered it’s way into my body. I pried myself off the ground and ran towards the mouth of the cave, but a giant hand cloaked in white fur grabbed me before i could reach the lip. As it gripped me tighter, i heard that growl again. This time it was right behind me. I could feel the source breathing down my neck. I won’t lie, the heat was a welcome change. Then there was pain. Blinding, searing, unadulterated pain. I closed my eyes and screamed as my arm was torn from my body. I was flung back to the spot where i first woke up. My head hit the ground hard. My vision started to blur as i looked up and saw the most hideous creature standing before me. Eyes as black as night, yellowing white hair covering it from head to toe. Blood, my blood, was smeared all over its abdomen. It raised my severed arm to its baboon-like mouth and began to chew. I could hear it crunching the bones, could see it ripping apart my muscles. I began to feel faint. I looked down and saw my shoulder spewing blood all over the icy floor. My eyes closed again. They wouldn’t open this time. The last thing i heard was the snow-beast chewing and crunching the remains of my arm.
Scan it. I dare you.
Where did it go? It was there 20 seconds ago, i swear. I put it down on the coffee table, looked up to see what the secret ingredient was on Iron Chef America and when i looked back down to grab it, it was gone. I think i needed it for something. It may have been important. It could have been the one thing to save humanity from the impending alien attack…or it could have stopped this horrible itch in my right ear. The problem is i can’t even remember what it was that I lost. Was it my phone? Because that’s still sitting there. Let me check……nope, no new notifications. Maybe it was that cup of water? No, that’s not water. Wait, where the hell am I? This isn’t my couch. And these aren’t my pants. Are those my car keys? No, those can’t be my car keys. Huh. This is weird. Wait, those ARE my keys. That’s still not water though. God damn it, now I can’t remember what the secret ingredient is. It looks like people. Are they cooking people? Oh my god, they are! Iron Chef Batali is making soylent green! this might be the greatest Iron Chef ever!
Wait, was i looking for something?