My mind has wandered to that place where my dreams flee, replaced with vaporous intruders and penetrating horrors. My body twitched and jerked, struggling to find consciousness as the misty form of a woman drifted into my room. Not again.
She wore a floral, summer dress. One strap was torn and hung loose from her shoulder, and dark bruises circled her neck. Reaching out her hand, she wrapped it around my foot. My body stilled. Inside my chest, my heart froze while my stomach threatened to prolapse. She pulled on my foot, imploring me to listen. I knew she couldn’t really drag me away, but I felt the icy touch, the drag of her fingers on my terrified flesh. I wondered if I would somehow disappear. My hands reached desperately for the pillow.
“Stop,” I pleaded.
“You have to help me. You have to stop him.”
My whimpers turned into sobs. “Please… g-go away.”
I felt another presence. Heard the shaky rumble of his voice as he told the lady to leave.
“Daddy,” I whispered, relieved. He smiled at me with sad eyes.
But the spirit refused to budge.
“I’m sorry, honey bunch. I love you,” my father’s voice whispered, heavy with regret.
The wretched fingers of loss clawed their way into my chest, pulling apart my ribcage as if just learning of his death.
I dropped the pillow, and reached out to him. “Nooo! Daddy!” My screams were useless. He was gone.
Wrenching my sweat-soaked body upright, my throat ached as the scream continued to escape the depths of my chest. I pressed my lips together to cut off the sound, but that only lasted a second. My mouth opened wide again as I gasped for much needed air.
A hammering sound filled the room. My muddled brain mistook it for the pulse in my ears, but it was the beating of a fist on my bedroom door.
“SHUT UP!” My housemate screeched as she continued to pound.
I was definitely awake now. My hand circled my throat. I needed to check for myself if my screams had stopped.
Yup. All good. “YEAH, KEEP YOUR SKIN ON!” I tried to shout back, but my voice came out hoarse.
“Fucking freak,” she mumbled before I heard the shuffle of her feet on the tiles.
Again, frozen fingers grasped my toes and pulled. I snapped my foot back, leaving her hand suspended and empty. I watched my stubborn, unwanted visitor through narrowed eyes, and a whole lot of false bravado.
“He’s coming. He’s going to take another.”
“Okay got it. You can go now. You’re not wanted here. Leave.” My voice was low, but firm.
Her face went blank, and her hand dropped from its raised position. The holographic image of her faded, but the chill running up and down my body remained.
I liked to think I could run from this, but there’s no hiding from things unbound to time or matter. My stupid sixth sense was telling me the proverbial shit was going to hit the proverbial fan… soon.
Fuck my life.
Whoever coined the phrase ‘good things come for those who wait’ has obviously never been chronically ill. Annie and I have been sitting here in Dr. Guice’s office for over an hour waiting for the latest results of our blood test. Typically results are discussed in private, but Annie and I have been joined at the hip for the past 10 years.
We were sitting in front of his dark mahogany desk that used to intimidate the hell outta me when I used to sit in here with my parents. After they died and Annie and I started hanging out, Dr. Guice actually let us place our initials on the front side of his desk. Kinda hard to be scared of a huge thousand dollar desk with initials carved on it. I tried to distract myself by looking around his office. It was kind of comforting to know that not much had changed.
On the side walls he had pictures patients drew and even some framed diplomas from teens like Annie and me that received our GED while in the hospital. Other doctor offices I’d been in were decorated with the doctor’s own degrees on the wall with art they likely spent thousands of dollars on.
That’s the reason I loved Dr. Guice. He takes the clinical vibe out of his personal space, which is especially useful when he has patients waiting forever for results.
“I think he forgot we were in here. Maybe I should go out and check.” I started to get up but Annie grabbed my hand.
“Sit down, Jazz. He knows we’re in here. He’s either making a celebratory cocktail or sympathetic smoothie. Both take time, so be patient”.
Ugh! I never understood how she could always remain so calm. I got up to grab a magazine off the table in front of the couch and sat back down next to her. “Thank you dah-ling! Anything interesting in the fabulous world of entertainment?”
“I wouldn’t know. These magazines haven’t changed in years. Look at this cover, ‘Eminem wins Best Rap Album’! Either he’s won every year for the past decade, or our good ol’ Dr. Michael Guice is a hoarder.”
Despite the fact that I appreciated him keeping things consistent and comfortable, it wouldn’t hurt to have some up to date things in his office. Especially if he was going to have people waiting on him for long periods of time. I tossed the magazine back on the table and started playing the drums on my legs with my hands.
Annie reached over and placed her hand over mine. “Please try to relax sweetie. It can only go one of two ways, remission or treatment, either way we’ll still be together.”
I looked over at my best friend. She has been my rock since Dr. Guice enrolled us both in a research study to try to treat and cure our cancer. Since enrolled, we have both experienced 3 bouts of remission. The first one was just after the first year in the program, but it only lasted 6 months. The second time was 5 years later on our 16th birthday, and that lasted for an awesome 2 years. We had just put a deposit down on our apartment when I was informed my last blood work came back abnormal and back into the hospital I went, with Annie following 2 months later. This last time has been only 8 months and I wouldn’t have been concerned had the fatigue and decreased appetite not kicked in about 2 weeks ago. That’s what brings us in this office now; we’re waiting to see if the cancer has indeed returned or we’ve just been partying too hard. Annie’s sure it’s the latter, but I’m not as confident. I sometimes wondered if Annie was as positive as she claimed. On the outside she seemed so calm and collected, but like I said, we’ve been friends and roommates for over 10 years and I hear the silent sniffles coming from her hospital bed and noticed the light on in her bedroom all night while she’s drawing or listing to music because she can’t sleep. I was about to ask her when the doctor finally came in.
“Thank you for being so patient ladies. I apologize for keeping you waiting so long”. Dr. Guice is about 60 years old, 5’6, chubby, dark skinned, and bald.
He had the kind of personality that made it impossible to hate; and believe me, I’ve tried, especially after he ordered back-to-back rounds of chemo-radiation! He never sat behind his desk when talking to either me or Annie.
Zoe and Tristan Sullivan were rudely awakened by the sound of knocking on their bedroom doors. It was three in the morning. The incessant knocking rang loudly inside of Tristan’s skull as if someone was banging his head against a wall. Tristan had barely fallen asleep from a night of drinking when the knock came. In anger, he picked up the cell phone on his nightstand and threw it against the door. The phone created a gaping hole in the door.
Nervously, the old Sullivan family butler, Vin, poked his head near the hole and spoke, “Young Master Tristan, there is an urgent call from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. Something has happened to your parents!”
Still annoyed, but pressing down his anger, Tristan combed his hand through his black hair. He answered, “Vin, you’ve worked for our family, for how long now? You should know better. What could have possibly happened to my parents?”
From down the hall, Tristan heard the yelling of his twin sister, Zoe, as she stomped from her bedroom. “How many times must I tell you losers? Don’t wake me up for anything!”
A loud crash sounded near Tristan’s bed. Apparently, Zoe had ripped a sconce off the wall and thrown it at Vin. Luckily, Vin had dodged the incoming projectile, which penetrated through the door and ended up in Tristan’s room.
Stammering, Vin uttered, “Mah … mah … Miss Zoe, please forgive me, but it is urgent. It’s a phone call from the Florida Police. Your parents were found … found …”
Zoe impatiently shouted, “Well, spit it out! What? Are you getting senile? What are you hesitating for? You’ve already woken up the entire household. Come on now! Stop wasting my time.”
Tristan calmed himself as he exited his room and into the hallway. “Come on Vinny, you can do it …”
Vin shielded himself and prepared for any type of injury the two young masters might inflict on him and said morosely, “Dead. The police believe that they might have found your parents’ bodies, and they request that you go down to Orlando to identify them. I am terribly sorry. I cannot believe how this could be possible, but apparently the bodies they found had your parents’ identification and belongings on them. And I tried calling them, but received no answer.”
The blood drained out of Zoe’s face and her demeanor completely changed. The look of anger and menace disappeared as worry consumed her.
“Why are you telling me these lies, Vin?” asked Tristan as he looked at the change in Zoe’s demeanor. The anger he was trying to hold back overwhelmed him. “Are you and Zoe playing a trick on me? If you are, know that it’s not funny and that I’m not very forgiving,” he demanded as he approached the old butler.
He grabbed Vin by the arms that were shielding his face.
“Please master Tristan, please don’t. I’m just the messenger. That’s what the police told me, please don’t,” cried Vin before he screamed in pain.
Zoe looked up from her phone after a failed attempt of reaching her parents and yelled at Tristan, “Stop it, Trist. Nobody’s playing any tricks. Let’s just take a trip to Orlando and see what this is about.”
This is just not possible. I won’t believe it until I see it, he thought.
Three days ago, Julie Easter, age seven, went missing. The bus took her to school in the morning, it didn’t bring her home. The school had no idea what happened to her, and when the local authorities couldn’t do anything, Frank and Judy Easter, hired me. I didn’t normally take missing persons cases, but was getting more calls for disappearances and runaways than I could turn down. I was a father once. I guess Julie just reminded me of Anna. So I did what I do: tracked down some leads, followed some clues. I talked to bus drivers, teachers, little kids. When that turned up nothing, I squeezed some informants, got something out of a Satyr that owed me a solid and got a bead on an old, condemned Colonial house.
With the flaking paint, the loosely dangling shutters, and the sagging shingles of the roof, the place couldn’t have looked worse had it weathered a zombie apocalypse. Ape and I had circled the block and approached from the rear, hopped the fence from the neighbor’s yard, and dodged the rusted swing set built for four-year-olds. There was a broken wagon nearby, once red, now more of a rusty brown, sitting next to a flimsy metal shed that had apparently been kicked in by an angry pack mule. The overgrown lawn was littered with trash and debris, used fast-food cartons, and piles of dog shit.
We were on the other side of town from the Easter home, and there was no way a young girl would wander into a place like this. She’d been taken, that was for sure. By what, I had no fucking idea, and the not knowing made me nervous. In my trade, knowledge was the number one weapon, and the difference between success and failure, most of the time, was in knowing what kind of ammunition to take. Iron burned the fairy kind. Rock salt was a purifier, used to dispel the undead. For the rest, silver – it didn’t always kill, but it at least burned like fuck. I hated going in blind. I did my homework to learn what I was up against and how best to take it down.
“I’d feel better if you hadn’t made me leave Glory in the car,” I said.
“We’re in a neighborhood,” Ape replied. Ape was Terry Towers, my roommate and partner, but not in that San Francisco, Harvey Milk kind of way. Affectionately, I called him Ape because, well, his physique was wrought with that tight sinewy muscle of a white rapper and the coarse, head-to-toe brown fur of a Teen Wolf.
“And it would be great if, just this once, you didn’t attract any unnecessary attention.”
“I don’t even know what that means.”
“Glory is a military-grade assault rifle. Besides,” he added, “Don’t you think you have enough guns?”
Daryl k Russ
I’VE BEEN TOLD I GOT a lot of demons. I can’t argue with that much. I definitely got more demons than most normal folks.
It was one of those demons that brought me to the Oasis Saloon in Blackwater, Kansas. I’d been followin’ the snivelin’ weasel for days. He looked human enough, called himself Lucas Van Dorn. Had himself a wagon and a horse and pretended to be a travelin’ salesman. But I knew he was more than that. He was a wicked demon lookin’ to steal a few human souls. Tonight he’d found a friendly game of Poker and I managed to wrangle myself a seat at the table.
Van Dorn didn’t have much trouble findin’ a dupe for his game either. Julius Drake was a stupid gambler. He was young and couldn’t help himself. Came from money. Never learned how to do without. But he couldn’t gamble worth a damn. That’s how he lost his business, his wife and his land. But he still couldn’t walk away from a card game. That’s why I was playin’. I knew what was gonna happen.
The table was quiet as Drake studied his cards. I scratched my beard and waited. Poor stupid bastard; he had no clue he was bein’ played the whole time.
“I’ll raise you.” Drake finally tossed a chip into the pile in the middle of the table. The saloon was nearly empty. A bartender toiled away somewhere in the darkness behind us. A few drunks huddled around tables. But for the most part, it was just the four of us and a bottle of Whiskey.
I grunted and pitched my chip into the pile without sayin’ much.
Van Dorn looked over his cards, his dark eyes dancin’ with glee. He was clean. I mean, really clean. In a filthy hole like Blackwater, no man walked around with a clean white shirt and dress slacks. Well, not for long. Van Dorn, however, looked like he just stepped off the train and hadn’t been greeted by the dirt yet.
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