Ji-Ji.Guerrera

Posts Tagged ‘short story

Monika stared at me with a taut grin stretched from ear to ear, her lips looking as if they were carved into her face. She was sprawled on a queen size bed, her body curled snake-like around the silky blood-colored sheets. She had on short jeans and a tube top, but they were hidden beneath the exorbitant cover. So she looked naked, practically, with only her pale skin revealed, her bare legs peaking out the side of the bed, the silk tucked underneath her white arms. White on red. Like a painting of a Grecian tragedy. Aphrodite on a bed of roses. The queen of thorns, the thorned queen.

“Come lay beside me,” she beamed.

I could hear the ripples gently tap the base of the yacht, the cool breeze and the silence that often accompanied dusk coming through. No one was manning the thing, it stood dead on the water, undulating with the current.

“Shouldn’t we get back now?” I queried.

I didn’t like that we were so far from shore. What if we got attacked by sharks or worse, a storm hit and we drowned. That was the thing I hated most about water. No matter how powerful of a swimmer you were, there was always a threat of drowning. I swallowed. My throat felt parched and leathery.

“Sit and relax,” she ordered. “Have a drink. Talk to me. You saw Mari at the harbor?”

I laughed and scooted onto the bed beside her, instantly forgetting my fears.

“She kept talking. I didn’t know how to shut her up.”

“What theorist was she on about—wait wait, let me guess—Bahktin.”

Monika said Bahktin with an exaggerated accent—emphasizing the “h” in this really guttural way, as if she were hoarking out the sound—all the while flipping her long red hair behind her shoulders with her chest perked out.

Maybe it was her accurate imitation of the pretentious arts student or that she seemed so comfortable and confident at that moment, all traces of any worry in her life eliminated from her features, her grin so effortless and smooth. Whatever it was, her blasé attitude, her calm, collected milieu made me feel at ease, careless, relaxed. I forgot my name then, forgot my shame at what I looked like and who I was. That was her effect: she made you feel important, singled out from the hoards of Torontonians. When she looked at me, I felt normal, human, de-shelled, unravelled, understood. I bent to her side and took her glass, downing her fruity wine, feeling a warmth spread through my nerves.

“Actually, uh, ‘The—Angel of—Progress’?”

She snapped her fingers. “Walter Benjamin. I should have known, she’s obsessed with that guy.”

“She wouldn’t stop talking ‘bout it.”

“Probably cause she had nothing to say really. Oh, she thinks she’s so smart, always going on about this theory that theory. Joke’s on her though, everyone thinks she’s hiding behind big words and textbook men. Dead white men. She knows nothing.”

“It’s her thing,” I said, feeling as if I had to defend Mari. “Can’t fault her for it. She’s worked hard on that scholar identity. And anyway, everyone’s got their niche. Their trademark of some sort. The thing they’d like people to see them as. Their very own identity”

“Everyone needs something, eh.”

She placed her empty glass on the table beside her and sunk further into the plush mattress. At that moment, something about her changed. Or maybe, that something was revealed to me. It felt as if the room got larger and she shrunk. How little she appeared, how much she change from just moments ago. Her head impressed itself onto the pillow. She bit her lower lip, her forehead wrinkling. She seemed forlorn, withdrawn into herself, her eyes deep in thought, gazing into the ether.

I wanted to hold her, searching her for any indication of what was wrong.

“What?” I finally demanded. “Talk to me.”

She looked at me, folded her arms across her chest and grinned a derisive grin. “I’m just thinking how nice it’d be to not feel so used for once. Wouldn’t it be nice? To be able to carve your own future. To say I wanna be a scholar and do just that.”

It took me a while to figure out that she was talking about herself.

“I don’t know. No one ever has that control though, to choose what they want in life. I think—well, I feel like for a lot of people it’s about convenience.”

“Mari isn’t a puppet,” she snapped, her brows scrunching to the center of her forehead,  her lips pouting. “She doesn’t have her brother controlling her. Sometimes I wish he died with, with my parents. He’s not my real brother y’know. I overheard my parents talking this one time. Mom cheated on dad with this Jewish guy. That’s why Miles has that Jew fro. He’s part Jew.”

She looked around the room, first at the flat sixty inch screen mounted on the wall before us, then at the gold lined picture frame above the glass window, perpendicular to where we sat, a translucent veil from the cool evening scenery. Once again, I was reminded of how far from shore and security we were, planted on pure water, rooted into Danger’s mouth.

“What really bugs me though is how fake I am. About everything. How stupid and fake I am. Why don’t I just—leave?” she spat, speaking more to herself.

“Aren’t you running now?”

“Yes. And look how far I’ve gone—in my brother’s yacht.”

Will You Like To Play?

The Man sits with his pants undone and his underwear lowered to watch the bodies play out on screen. He knows how it will happen: the girl will lick her partner’s lips, her partner will slowly thrust his hips, and together their fluids will seep in anticipation for more than a touch, but that is the nature of their torture, and the Man prefers it this way—this is why he stays subscribed to the website.

The Man watches the online interaction with the desire to feel himself, to stroke his increasing pain in welcomed anxiety, but these rituals are his punishment.

He looks to the images of blonde women in news paper clippings on his wall; they had been deified beneath his wavering magician fingers, each part of them licked into eternity, at least this is what the Man has said to himself every night for ten years.

He looks to the picture frame above his bookshelf where a woman watches him with the sternness of authority. She taught him all he needed to know about his disease, how he should go about it, where his hunger should be directed. Most of all, she tried to teach him never to act on his impulses, but those lessons are the hardest to learn, her image knows best. Still, her words form a pervasive alarm clock that jolts him into safe reality when situations become too dire to be contained.

All his curtains and windows are barred to prevent the curiosity of onlookers. The color of the woman in the frame—her hair and pale skin—provides the only sunlight he needs; the coldness from his fan is his oxygen supply; his artificial plants are real; he imagines his bird cages with actual birds, not journals from ten years ago, but he is content with everything, the security brings him comfort at night.

He watches the couple on screen lick each other as their hearts violently pulsate beneath their translucent skins. He imagines them licking their bodies until they become hungry and begin to eat away at one another. They would reach their hearts, transforming into hybrids of vampires and cannibalistic wolves as they gnaw the remains of their humanity. This thought brings a smile to his face. And yet he cannot touch himself. This is the punishment, he remembers, remaining still before the motion on screen.

He wishes he is Dexter; he wishes he is innocent; he wishes he is not sick. Of course, he does not want to think this, so he hides his rising emotions behind the guise of a rigid composure.

The couple online finish their long escapade of sexual torture and the Man hurriedly switches onto a website saved in his favourites. It says will you like to play on the very first page, and his fingers react widely as if to stab the yes into oblivion. He will like to play, he always wants to play—it is his favourite thing to do. Why the webpage must always ask is beyond his comprehension.

The chat-rooms are filled except one. The one is almost empty. There is a name he does not recognize in it. The name is happy to see him; it blurts hi in capitalized letters.

“Are you female? Blonde?” The Man vomits words on the page; he realizes thankfully that they are coherent after he reads them a second time.

“Yes. Will you like to have some fun dear,” she says.

It is an unwritten rule that phone numbers and personal emails are not to be exchanged on the website, so the two leave the conversation after agreeing on a time and place to meet.

The Man turns to the picture glaring at him. The woman’s eyes fiercely burn layers off his face and the lines etched into her skin make as if escaping the confines of the frame to strangle him into compliance. He realizes this sun must be too bright and places the frame down forward. This is what he likes about controlling the elements in his home: he can shut them off when they become unbearable. In his apartment, he is the only god that exists.

He says a little prayer to the woman in the picture frame now hidden from his view. He apologizes for their relationship, for his mistakes. He coaxes her ghost with promises to be better. He will follow her code, like Dexter follows Harry’s.

So he prepares his equipments slowly at first, with patience unknown to him, but in anticipation of his upcoming encounter, begins bundling them with desperation.

He shoves a case of chloroform in his black satchel. This time no one will change their mind as the women were apt to do; he will see this to a peaceful end—this promise he intends on keeping.  

The phone call came around eight o’clock am. It woke Mr. Death with a terrifying start, notifying him that he was needed at work for the day. It was a two-hour shift, but he would get paid for three hours, and the dispatcher promised it would be of relatively light duty.

“You’re heading to fifty-one Jubilant Avenue for three o’clock.” The dispatcher’s voice was cold and detached. He was solemn, short, and direct.

“Jubilant? Seriously? Is it the only place available?”

“Seriously, it is the only place available. Can you take it? You have little choice.”

A pervasive silence followed the dispatcher’s statement, lingering back and forth through the telephone line. It breached the walls of Mr. Death’s mind and threatened to mute the whispers of his thoughts. He could be heard swallowing a dry lump within his throat.

Upon regarding his limited say in the matter, he was reminded by the dispatcher that the day was a mandatory on-call duty day. Of course there was no arguing against Sunday mandatory on-call duties, he thought, I could never win.

He suddenly became aware of the monotonous drumming in his mind, an ache that whispered to him of the previous night’s endeavors. He licked his lips at the thought; although the memory was exciting—he had gambled the little he saved away on curvaceous dark skinned strippers and dozens of tequila shots—piled up bills on the kitchen’s counter top were a constant reminder for why he needed to attend every possible shift. So he prepared diligently, pairing a pressed white shirt and a black blazer with the newest tie he purchased from Tail-Mart, and looking as sharp as he did every morning.

By the time Mr. Death stepped out of his one-bedroom town-home on East Side Happenstance Lane, he noted that the sun was smiling broadly above the skies and birds were soaring freely through the clouds. It was a serene summer. He paused to watch the Little Kids jump over sprinklers in nothing more than their undergarments with the Bigger Kids happily hopping around them, playing games of catch the water-balloons.

His thin lips danced into a smile, highlighting his pale cheeks to a rosy pink. As he reminisced over his past childhood he wished he had the freedom to skip the work day for an indefinite vacation.

Mr. Death noted, however, that that wasn’t possible. At age thirty-two he needed to plan of days ahead: of car rides muffled by the sounds of children screaming over missing toys and of a beautiful wife who would sing the melody of summer in order to coax his exhaustion from work. He fanaticized of his future foundational home, aware that although he would ache and drown in his river of sweat during hard laborious work hours, he would happily build it nonetheless.

The town looked beautiful from where he stood. Summer scents swam through the air, enlightening his senses and tickling his nostrils. Today, he would break the usual routine of sitting stiff behind his wheel. I would rather walk to work, he thought,  and be showered in  the sun’s rays.

“Mr. D where are you off to? We’re barbecuing a large steak lunch in the back yard. Why don’t you join us?” Mrs. Richard Edders was the friendliest woman in East Side Happenstance Lane. She was short and stocky, waddled with every step she took. For her, there were always baked goods or large meals to be offered around to neighbors, and her backyard and kitchen were never free from cooking.

“Oh Mrs. Edders I really wish I could! On-call duty today!”

“Oh you poor thing… you’ll over work yourself one of these days. Well if you’re done early, do come join us. I’m sure we’ll have tons left over.”

As Mr. Death strolled past the smaller houses in the neighborhood and into the richer West Side Happenstance Lane he paused every two minutes to admire the beauty of some of the gardens.

Butterflies flew past him in colorful groups, graciously pausing on flowers of all sizes. Towering maple trees smiled gloriously as they shaded Victorian style homes away from the summer heat. Blankets of dark green grasses adorned the front of the houses and Chrysanthemums, Cosmos, and Casablanca lilies stretched their petals out like open palms reaching for the stars. Young and old couples alike strolled down the streets, children ran after one another, and Mr. Death paused to smile at the beauty of the neighborhood.

Miss Jane, a young nurse who inherited her grandfather’s property when he died, stepped out of her two story suburban house. “Oh, Mr. D, are you going to church this afternoon?” She called. Her lips curved into a smile and her skin, a perfect bronze, seemed to glow with every step she took. A short and tight silk dress hugged her small breasts and round hips. A single diamond pendant hung from a gold chain atop the nape of her neck.

“No Miss Jane, just on-call, heading to work!”

“Huh? On a Sunday?”

“You know how it is.”

She shook her head in dismay, shielding her eyes away from the sun as she stepped into her beige and white Camaro, then said: “do come by to see me some time and don’t let those people overwork you” as she drove off.

Mr. Death watched her long golden hair as it flew back with the wind, and listened to the sound of her light laugh trailing behind. He imagined her voice alone could embrace him in pure angelic warmth. If I worked harder I may be able to impress her into returning the love I’ve felt for years, he told himself. She would make a perfect wife.

He decided to quicken his pace; after work he would call dispatch for more hours. That way, his savings would grow and in no time he could acquire the things he longed for most in life, Miss Jane being one of them.

As Mr. Death walked, he mused over the list of things he promised himself to have accomplished in a few-years time. Occasionally, he would stop to observe nature’s infinite wonders and say hello to joggers—though as he pressed on, the roads became quieter.

Finally, he arrived at Jubilant Avenue, the location of the day’s job. The apartments on this side of town clustered together as if afraid of being singled out. The streets were barren and depressions dented paved roads, like empty mouths waiting to taste accidents, like hungry mouths waiting to be fed. The streets grew tighter and scents of decomposition fed the air, filling the atmosphere with dread.

A sense of horror washed over Mr. Death as he searched for apartment fifty-one. He hated being sent to Jubilant or areas surrounding the neighborhood. The cheerful feeling that lingered about east and west of Happenstance Lane could never be found in Jubilant. Yellow grasses replaced the luscious greenery found in the happier neighborhood, and even the sun hid from sight, leaving shadows to stretch out black tendrils, perpetually darkening the roads. People were never home in this part of town and if by some mistake they happened to be home, they were sitting gorged and fattened, idly engaging in banal conversations.

Not to mention, they hated him because he was always coming by on a job. He hated them too because they epitomized laziness. They had nothing to enjoy in life and therefore no reason to live. You would think these people would at least attempt to clean after themselves, Mr. Death thought as he came upon an army of flies feasting on dung. And they wonder why I’m always called to the area…insufferable people!

As he stepped onto the porch of apartment fifty-one, Mr. Death twisted his nose at the foul scent that seeped through the wall. He felt as if a slight step in the wrong direction would cause the whole structure to collapse in on itself. The wood beneath his feet was slowly decaying, and it creaked with every step he took. Rusted nails held on the door’s hinges, and a lose doorknob threatened to fall away any second. The house seemed to sway with the wind, as if it danced to the theme songs of a Freddy or Jason horror flick. I hate this place, he thought. Why? Why? Why Jubilant? Of all damn places!

He briskly walked into the apartment, intending to be out within a few minutes. Even though the dispatcher mentioned it was a two hour job he assumed it couldn’t take that long. The place already smelt of rotted corpses.

A woman in a bath robe walked into the kitchen. On her head were mattered strings of dull brown hair, her eyes were blood red and underneath them, bags of deep purple. She noticed Mr. Death and began to scream. ”NO Please go! Why ye here? I dun owe de law nutting! Please jes go! I beg yeeee, have mercy.”

Mr. Death felt his insides contort–as if worms swam freely, eating away at his intestines–and sighed heavily. At that instant he resented his job. It isn’t because I pity this woman or feel any sort of remorse for what I am about to do, he said to himself, but because with her around, I just know the job would take two hours, if not more.

“Please naw, ye jes go on! I dun owe nobody nutting! I dun owe de law nutting!” Her bathrobe slipped off her shoulders to reveal a fresh scar running from the base to the nape of her neck.

Mr. Death twisted his lips, tasting bile in his throat. He couldn’t grieve for the people of Jubilant or nearby areas, he wouldn’t allow himself. Why should I? They never took proper care of themselves and always cried for pity.

The woman began to grab at his new tie, screaming and kicking at him as he edged closer into the bedroom. His headache grew into a piercing scream of its own and caused him to grit his teeth in pain. He had to bite his lower lip to keep himself from yelling in irritation.

“Donnnnnn’t,” she screamed.

“Woman! Please, contain yourself. I need to leave quicker than I got in here, so let’s calm down and work together alright.” Putting on his best business-like voice he unraveled her claw fingers from his tie and made his way into the room. He found the area strangely familiar, as if he had conducted a job in the exact same place.

A little girl of about five years old with sunken cheeks lay on the bed, her teeth chattering violently. Her pale body was encrusted with flakes of dead skin and anemia discolored her lips to an ugly yellow. Her hair had thinned out completely, leaving patches of her scalp exposed. Mr. Death contorted his nose in an attempt to shield his nostrils away from the combination of scents that glided towards him.

The woman screamed louder in the background, pleading for Mr. Death to leave her child alone. He watched the little girl’s chest rise and fall in pain, too stunned to move. He had a weak spot for children and hated when the job called him to work on one. A putrid scent  clung onto the atmosphere, further irritating him. This was why he hated people of the Jubilant community. They were too lazy to take care of their children or seek medical care for their own.

“Why haven’t you taken her to the hospital?” The force by which he spun around caused the woman to fall backwards.

“Ah did,” she timidly responded. “Heart trensplent iss whuts needed! I cain’t afford it, dough I been workin’ harder fur more muney! I…dun all I cain’! Tax collectors com firss, n’ ihnsurence com nex, n’ ye still com! Douh ye took ma son last year, ye still com! I cain’ do it no more. Let her live douh, jes take me instead.” She began to cry out loud as she pulled on her hair in frustration.Oh, that’s right, I remember why this place is so familiar now.  ”Now Miss Jensen please, calm down!”

She grabbed at his tie again and screamed louder, as if her previous cries had fallen on deaf ears. Mr. Death clenched his fist, restraining himself from slamming his palms against the wall. He felt irritated, angry, and surprisingly a little sad. God! I don’t feel sorry for her, he repeated to himself. She had no reasonable job or stable income. He reasoned that she could, however, get a job if she really wanted to. This was her fault.

“I’ll go easy on her.” He attempted to smile but managed a curt nod, feeling exhausted from the day’s events.

“Pleaseeee,” Miss Jensen begged but Mr. Death lifted her out of the room and locked the door. He needed to get his work done without anymore disruptions and Miss Jensen’s presence would not allow for that. He inhaled deeply through his mouth replaying the scenes that passed. It was not as if he could have done anything to help Miss Jensen–this was his job, his life. To leave the work undone meant he consented to being terminated, and that was out of the question. Why, if he were to be terminated no employer would hire him with the little education and experience he had. With his current work of line he was guaranteed job security, and most importantly, benefits. Although he felt a little pity from time to time for women such as Miss Jensen he had to remember work was work and therefore disengage himself from what he did.

Mr. Death closed in on the little girl while Miss Jensen screamed in the background. They always made it difficult for him to complete his job and he couldn’t help but feel it was a little unfair. When the tax collectors came by nobody hassled them, so why him?

Work time! As he wrapped his sweaty palms around the girl’s neck, she flickered open her eyes which grew to sizes too large for her sockets to hold. Her translucent skin darkened to a bleeding red and tears slid freely, soaking her pillow.She raised taut fingers in an attempt to free her neck and spittle foamed at the corners of her mouth. “Please,” she croaked.

Mr. Death turned away to gaze at his watch. He felt his arms nervously twitching. Already two hours and five minutes, he thought, and wondered if that meant he would be paid over the three hours he was promised.

The hour struck five PM as multitudes of hungry men and women filed to collect their daily ration of dead-leaf soup. Religious priests stood yelling at the corners of Young street’s busy intersections. “Another 24 hours of misery,” one said, “but our time will soon come!”

A second priest pointed at the sun and raised his arms towards the burgundy sky. “Heaven despises our sins! It is no wonder! We have let heretics take over the earth and these men still try to play God! Look now! Look what has come of it! We must repent!”

Inside the Ministry of Saints, Florence and her younger brother Angus awaited Mr. Daystone, who, upon their eldest brother’s death, took them into his care. At the alter, a young priest kissed a man’s forehead, then loudly whispered “God has already forgiven your sins son.”

Indeed, this god is too quick to forgive, Florence thought.

The church had been accepting thousands of new converts daily, increasing the size of the institution by the minute.

They play on our vulnerability, growing their church while administering murder!  

“Are you waiting for someone children?” A stocky priest in a red coat and a red cap approached them wearily. “Can I help you with something?”

“We’re waiting for Mr. Daystone,” Florence responded shortly, fully exposing her disgust for the church and its priest.

“Have a seat. I’ll let him know.”

As the priest took his leave Florence and her brother hid themselves from sight, sitting in the darkest corner of the building. She noted the entrance of the church as large men in black walked in.

“Collectors!” Her anger was thick on each syllable.

“What are they doing here?” Angus asked.

“What does it look like? To cleanse themselves from sin! It was a bad idea to come here. Let’s get out!”

As Florence stood to leave, Mr. Daystone, a black man with eyes too far apart and shoulders slouched forward, appeared holding a bowl of soup and an apple soft enough to bleed like a tomato if held too tightly.

“Ah! Glad to have found you two! This is for you!” He handed the soft apple and taste-less dead-leaf soup to Florence as he reached for Angus. “Are you okay to walk?”

Angus nodded, and the siblings began their journey into the deserted crypts of a once forgotten church.

Mr. Daystone’s office was a dark cellar; though small, it was hollow and cold. It reflected the emptiness of a world that once vibrated with joy and laughter but was now built on fear and death. The corners seemed to whisper the loud agonies of an ancient nation, a people Florence once danced happily among. As she observed the inner workings of the room, the intricate details of jagged carvings on the walls, she thought the room reflected the faces of the millions already dead on earth. The world had once been a vibrant place but science, human hubris, conquered and imprisoned the planet in a black hole. Every once in a while Florence thought she saw the burgundy sky turn blue, yet no sooner did the red swallow her back into despair and the reality that time itself was frozen drowned her momentary happiness.

Angus laid on a damp mattress squeezed between the edge of Mr. Daystone’s work desk and the shallow wall. He felt suffocated as he attempted to stretch into comfort.

“You can stay here for as long as you’d like,” Mr. Daystone explained to Florence, “but your brother needs food or he’ll–” When he noticed her distress at Angus’s sickness and discomfort, he let his words linger unfinished.

“Why are you helping us?” Florence asked as irritation for the priest snaked its way into her voice, her jaws tightened and fist clenched in response.

“This is a home for everyone. We help–”

“No! When you accept those cannibal Collectors you sanction the death of hundreds everyday!” She cut the old priest off and grew angrier as he fidgeted about nervously. He couldn’t be as ignorant as he was putting off. The food shortage consistently threw human corpses into the black market. Death meant life for starved men and women, and since no one could stand the idea of collecting the dead, the Collectors were born. The job description was simple: be the middle man between mankind and savagery. “They say they’re forcing women to abort their fetuses now, selling infant corpses in the black market. Do you really condone that?!”

“These are hard times child.”

“Forced abortions!”

“So lives can be saved.”

“You really believe eating babies is alright? Funny, I thought I was in a church!”

Grieved as he was, the Priest sighed and further slouched his shoulders. “No. I don’t think eating other human beings is alright.  Neither do I agree with abortions, much less forced ones! We’ve all sinned against God. But I do not judge anyone. I sit here, like you and your brother will, and wait for my time. We’re all victims! Science has thrown us into the depths of sin, and God is angry–”

“Don’t talk to me about your god!”

Mr. Daystone resigned in defeat and unlatched the doors to exit, “feel free to stay here for as long as you please. I’ll be upstairs praying.”

Florence watched the priest go. She didn’t trust the church, didn’t trust mankind, and knew loneliness that minute more than she’d ever known it before. Angus was dying from hunger and dead-leaf soup couldn’t sustain him any further. The knots in her stomach tightened reminding her of the peril she also faced. She looked at Angus’s still frame. He would have seemed serene, even dead, if not for his furrowed brow and twisted lips which indicated the pain he was in. She felt lost, helpless.

“You shouldn’t worry so much about me.” Her brother was almost inaudible, and his weak voice sounded thin, almost lifeless.

“I need to get you food.”

“I don’t need anything else. I’m fine right here with you.”

“And I can’t lose you too Angus! I’ll find you something good to eat.”

“Please!” He stared at her with a hunger in his eyes that pleaded not for a meal but for her company. They both feared isolation. The thought of losing each other was unbearable.

“Try to eat this apple, I’ll be right back.” With that Florence rushed out of the room; her footsteps echoed within the quiet hall, and the sound of loneliness shattered the monotonous rhythm of her heart beat.

The walk to the market was brief and regretful. Florence hated the stench that seemed to cling to its atmosphere. The smell of boiled meat was followed by the fowl scent of rotted corpses. Hungry people lined up to claim their ration of body parts.

Florence gazed up at the sky’s usual red which never grew darker or brighter. The sun stayed illuminated behind the burgundy shield; it gave the false hope that someday mankind would be able to reach further to escape the darkness of the black hole. She looked across the market to the wall which separated the rich from the poor, and wondered how they were fairing on the other side. The thought of it replaced the loneliness she felt with a renewed wave of anger. In the middle of the market sat the Democratic Council of Elders who deliberated on what age group to target next. Their aristocracy was hidden behind the veil of poverty and democracy. Despots, Florence thought, each one of them.

 She began to regret her decision to come into the market as savages pushed their way to the front of the line. What other choice did she have when her only family was in danger but to come here. She had already lost her younger sister Shae and her older brother Brindon. The thought of Angus dying was unbearable for her.

“What do you want?” The woman behind the counter slouched forward and stared down.

“Sorry?”

“Thigh? Arm? Breast?”

Florence felt nauseous as she bit her lower lip contemplating. She began to fidget, nervously stepping onto one foot then the other.

“Thigh? Arm? Breast?” The woman raised her voice in irritation though she kept her eyes locked to the ground.

Something in the woman’s tone and gesture caused Florence to look up. As she stared closer at everyone in the market she was once again hit with an intense wave of nausea. People who had lined up to collect a body part and those selling body parts had their heads bowed in sorrow. She noticed a large man dressed in all black as he fidgeted back and forth with his head buried beneath his shoulders. She wasn’t alone. No one wanted to be there, not even a Collector. The thought filled her with a renewed strength she didn’t know existed within her. As she stared at the sky its burgundy seemed to lighten to a pink and the sun glowed even brighter, as if the world were being sucked out of the black hole.

“Thigh? Arm? Breast?” The woman’s voice raised in anger yet she kept her head still buried.

“No! None! Never!” With that, Florence ran out of the market. She needed to be with her brother now more than ever. Forcing a body part down his throat was not going to solve their problem. One arm would eventually equal one leg and finally one raw human being. She didn’t want that. They would make it through these perilous times together because they weren’t alone.

As she neared the Ministry of Saints she could here the priests yell about the end of times. The line to collect daily rations of dead-leaf soup was as long as ever, nothing had changed. She could see the infinite wall that demarcated the earth, and her new found strength filled her with courage. Before she could stop herself she climbed above the platform to the people serving the soup. This is what needs to be done, she thought.

Florence pushed a server off the platform and stared down at the surprised faces. Each person looked as dead and lonely as the people in the market did, yet no one was truly alone. As she gazed beyond the scorched earth, she noticed that the market people had followed her. She became stronger looking at each individual in the crowd, and felt sure that her hope and optimism would inspire them all.

“People,” she began, “please listen to me! We are not yet dead! We have each other and we’re all going through the same problems! We can’t be reduced to hate and feel loneliness while surrounded by comrades, families, friends! We are all alike!”

Some people in the crowd stirred uncomfortably as if afraid to be confronted by the truth.

“We are not our enemies! They are our enemies!” Not letting the crowd’s discomfort deter her, she continued, pointing at the wall behind. “Not only have they imprisoned us within this black hole, but they’re living comfortably on the other side of that wall while we suffer! They are the savages! Cruel human beings!”

“How do you even know they’re comfortable?” An old man asked.

“They have all scientific resources–”

“Science is what got us here in the first place! Are you suggesting we knock down that wall to submit ourselves to sin again?” A priest followed by other clergymen stepped out of the ministry. The crowd nodded in approval to his question.

“I say we take over our lives!”

“We’ve heard that before!” People began to shift around irritated. Some talked among themselves while others yelled at Florence in response. “Get off the platform!”

“How long has it been? We have no concept of time! We have a right to know what is happening on the other side of the wall! We have a right to–” A rock hit Florence square in the face, right on her forehead.

Behind the large crowd, the priest in the red coat and red cap got ready to throw a second one. “Shut up you stupid girl!”

Blood rushed into Florence’s eyes, blinding her. The crowd seemed to surge above her as she toppled to the ground. Her hearing was muffled by the sounds of feet scuttling across hard dirt. As Florence began to pick up distinct noises, she heard someone scream.

“Florence! Get up! Get up!” Angus yelled at her from the entrance of the church.

She opened her eyes as people made way for the priest in the red. I won’t give up! I can’t give up, she thought.

“The wall! The other side of the wall! They are our enemies!” As Florence stood up, the priest in the red hit her across the temple with a rock. She toppled back down to the ground as she bled from all sides of her head. In the background she could hear her brother screaming her name. She opened her eyes expecting to see Collectors above her almost dead body. When she was confronted with the bleeding sky she found the strength to twist herself upright, leaning on one arm. As she looked around she saw the crowd disseminate and the Collectors loom above Angus.

No, she thought. Although they couldn’t afford to kill her, it was alright to kill the children because they could never grow or contribute to society. There were no more dead bodies and no more pregnant women, so the society needed to target a different group. She mustered all the strength she could and screamed.

“Angus! Run! Run!” But the red consumed Florence as her head toppled to the ground and her body laid still.

It is an unreasonably cold winter night. I’ve waited over half an hour for a bus that promised to come but has yet to show. Sitting in the shelter, I realize why I bought a car and vowed never to catch a bus, even if my location for the day would be downtown, which is a ways away from my home.

Millia’s doll slips from her hand to be drowned in winter boots’ scum and snow puddles. “Eww,” she says, “but at least she’s not broken. She’ll be fine. Cause I rescued her.” Indeed this toy had been rescued, and thank goodness for it. She had broken her dolly two days ago and cried about it for an hour. This replacement doll was temporary while initial dolly gets fixed.

“Geez, the bus is sure taking a long time. Isn’t it?” Millia asks.

In the far right corner of the shelter a man coughs like he has been struck in the gut by a hyena, a hyena; Christ I can’t believe I just fancied the thought of a man being hit in the gut by a hyena. My imagination is beginning to drift off again– it’s seriously been going wild these days. Hell. I often catch myself dreaming about sex, which is normal, but lately I’ve been consumed by fairy tales, stories, elaborate ideas. Damn, I’ve been constructing tales and creating detailed empires in my head. Seriously. Ideas. Stories. I should start writing again.

It starts to snow; first lightly, then harder. I watch what had promised to be a beautiful night–curled by the fireside with my family–turn horrible, and there was nothing I could do. Everyone in the shelter begin to get restless, hissing their teeths like vampires waiting to suck blood.

A woman in her early twenties picks up her phone to begin cursing loudly. “It’s been over half an hour Jeremy! The idiot will not move anytime soon and I need to be back home at seven o’clock. Do you know what time it is? Come and pick me up, my time is of the essence!”

Indeed, time is of the essence. At least it is the most important thing to anyone alive, in this bus stop, at the moment. Everyone’s attention is geared at killing the bus driver, possibly hijacking the bus until they’ve reached their destinations. Millia looks up at me and asks, “why is it taking so long?”

The child is bored, it is definitely time to go.

Then a loud noise grasps all attention in the shelter. Outside, what seems to be a man holding a gun has a woman by the hair. My god he is holding a gun. In a split second he is joined by two other gentlemen, each holding their belt and a blade.

What in the devil is this?

The woman screams. In all my life I have never heard a sound so fierce and intimidating. So loud! She keeps screaming, and my ears tremble from the vibrations. It seems as if the world has stop and the walls within this shelter echo her cries.

It hurts to take my eyes off the scene but I do anyway, just for a split second, to make sure i’m not crazy and this is indeed happening before my eyes. Everyone stands still, dumbfounded.

I guess the fact none in the room made a sound took me off my guard. Still, I couldn’t make a sound. I couldn’t move. My eyes shifted from side to side to observe my surrounding.

One of the men rips the woman’s skirt off her waste, then proceeded to rip off her tights. Her screams, oh her screams. Christ. Even though the door to the shelter is closed and the damn heater wails like a cat in heat, I hear her scream and silently beg for them to stop.

But I still couldn’t open my mouth, could not utter a sound.

Then, I notice from my peripheral vision that a boy, must be in his early twenties, had began recording the event happening before us. His eyes are wide open as if his lids have been sewed that way. His mouth is also drawn apart as if he would have screamed if he could. The scene trudges on like the world has stopped, and everything unfolds in slow motion.

One of the men begin to rape her,  while the others pass around her skirt as if it was a toy. Her screams intensify, it hurts to listen.

“What are they doing to her? Why is she screaming like that?” Millia screams. Looking around, she begins to cry. I stare into her eyes and find staring back an innocence that has just been defiled by the truth of what she might someday face. She can see it too, must have, because she starts screaming, “tell them to stop please.” Her cries intensify, simultaneously with the sounds of the woman being raped outside. I feel as if I’ve just stepped into the Gorgon’s hell. I begin to silently cry for her lost innocence and for the dolls that can never be fixed.

“Please make them stop! Make them stop! Make them stop!” Millia cries, and it must have affected all fifteen people or so standing in the shelter; we must have all felt the same way; saw the same thing; witnessed the same event. Like a choir responding to the conductor, everyone begins to dial at their handsets.

I try to console Millia as best as I could. But it is too late. The woman outside lays still. Blood flows from between her thighs like a sea parting land.

Finally, cop cars arrive on scene, and officers begin questioning everyone. “Did you see any faces?” “What were they wearing?” “Do you have a description of the guy?” “guys?”

We are flooded with questions but nobody seems to remember anything vital to their investigation. I don’t think I actually saw a face. Nobody remembers their faces. The recording remembers the rape, but not vividly. It all happened in the dark, so not even technology can capture the culprits.

But we know the victim, or at least what she looks like.

Some mixed girl, must be. Her skin tone is a brownish hue; her hair, a tint of blonde.

It is what it is.

After fifteen minutes, we are all sent home.

It was a sunny afternoon, disgustingly hot and humid, yet I felt like a million bucks. It might have had something to do with the fact that I had just received free money from the bank or the fact that for the first time in years I used my own money to purchase what my sister calls an ‘eye sore’, as in tempting but too expensive to buy; either or, I felt rich today. So like every moron who feels rich on a given day, I squabbled just about every cent I had, purchasing this and that and anything fanciful or anything slightly gleaming and catching to the eye with the right tilt to an angle.

I must have started off with a hundred dollars at precisely 2:30PM in the afternoon. An hour later I was down to ten dollars exactly, which was pleading and waiting to be used; it was simply pleading and patiently waiting to leave my pocket. For what seemed like hours I galloped down the narrow streets of downtown like a stray dog in heat. With every stride taken I craned my neck just a little bit further, exhaling in ecstasy with eyes twitching in alert of the gleaming bitch potentially lurking at the side. Then I spotted her; fifteen feet on a forty five degree angle to the right of me with just the right hint of sparkle and the precise touch of gleaming silver, burning bright from the sun’s heat but no doubt from her interest in me. I made my way to her taking lengthy strides longer than my short stubby legs could handle. I breathed the air to swallow her scent, tickling and exciting my senses even more. Then I got to her; interesting and mysterious as she seemed, she beamed at me. The beautiful and breath taking hotdog stand that she was, cooking what seemed like a dozen of her babies for hungry suitors on the go.

“I knew you’d come” I thought I heard her say.

“How much for a spicy sausage?” I asked the short, chubby, sweaty cook.

“Five dollars and twenty five cents for one of these fat beauties. I have spicy ones too. I’m sure you like the spicy. Your exotic beauty tells me your family eats the spicy.”

My exotic beauty? “Maybe you are lost in the extra layer of skin hanging from my protruding belly or maybe the sun is really blinding and thus deluding your perception of me” I wanted to respond, but I bit my tongue. Then again, I recall he had added “fat” into his sentence. Had it really been necessary? Was he calling me fat? Damn! And had he truly said “fat beauty’? Quite the oxymoron. Anyway, I rather not think on it. And for five twenty five, these sausages better be friggin’ good.

“Haha. Thank you. The spicier the better.”

In no time I had my fat, spicy sausage ready made; and off I skipped with my freshly fried, spicy tasting sausage. With every stride I took I bit into the delicious delicacy, leaving a trail of grease snaking down my chin. Step, step, step, and skip. NOM, NOM, NOM, and grease. It was a beautiful rhythm of creativity. It was a happy rhythm; a rhythm of joy and bliss. But it was in this rhythm of blissful ecstasy that I missed her staring at me. Wide eyed and gaping like a surprised idiot. She was literally the bitch that I had been waiting to pounce on but not in a good way; I harbored no love for her whatsoever. She was the bitch I had been preparing for by practicing insults and excellent comebacks on a daily basis. She was just that bitch. Everybody knows such a bitch; the bitch who embarrasses them most in fourth grade or the bitch who bullies and pants them continuously in ninth grade and she was my bitch. But there I was, ill prepared, certainly caught in the wrong moment and looking lost with grease streaking down my face. See it wasn’t supposed to happen like this; If only I could just think of something brilliant to say, think-

And then she spoke.

“Well if it isn’t Jessica Tonson. It’s been a while Jess.” She snickered, with most malicious intent in every word.

My face grew hot. Why had my dog senses escaped me? For a whole hour and a half I had been on the prowl. Where had my hunting senses vanished to? Why had I noticed the greasy, fattening, hotdog stand a whole fifteen feet away from me and not the skinny bitch, standing five feet to my left, who had forever plagued my very dreams, let alone my reality, with her taunting insults?  Maybe my senses hadn’t escaped me. She did after all have that reputation of being a slippery snake slithering to and fro. Yet it doesn’t matter if I am the dog and she is the snake for at that moment I could feel my moronic level escalating beyond my control, taking me to a new and unprecedented height of idiocy. My mouth made a slight twitch in an attempt to close or possibly to let out sound but my jaws weighed down heavy in shock. I looked like an idiot and that could have been because I was wholly aware of the dried up grease glued to my face and the irony in the piece of meat stuck in between my supposedly vegetarian teeth. So I attempted to speak a second time.

“Meh. Ehh. PFH. SPS. FH”

“Shh Jess, try not to speak while eating. You’re spitting everywhere. Anyway lunch is over. See ya soon.” She laughed, then left me dumbstruck.

DAMN! DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMN! BITCH! She got me. FRACK!

But had I been a little bit more prepared and a little more aware I would have noticed how atrociously fat she had become. If only my brain can think faster. I could have said something witty like, “why, I didn’t recognize you over the new extra chin.” I had been in such shock that I was so confused. In my confusion I mistakenly saw my old skinny bitch and not the recent version of her. Feeling flushed, angry, embarrassed, and sad I vowed again, for the hundredth time to lose weight. I starred at my half eaten spicy sausage feeling quite guilty. I should throw it away and I will throw it away. Then I thought about it again and decided otherwise because a pig did die and it would be cruel to mindlessly discard of the remains. I will lose weight! But starting the next day.

So angrily, while taking small steps at a time, I finished my sausage.

With my hands in my pocket as I stumbled towards home, I practiced the insults I would have for my bitch when next I bumped into her. This time, I swear I will be prepared.

I stepped out into light from the musty scented, body-clustered train and with a will of their own my legs took enormous strides, fighting to beat each other, fighting to beat me. My brain had given the command. “WALK FAST” it screamed. “FASTER!” I could hear the thudding of my heart as if it weren’t my own; as if it  belonged to a seven foot athlete with his bulky chest pressed right against my ear. But it was mine, I could feel it and so I  knew I was in trouble. ”ACT, FASTER”, my brained screamed and my heart beat ever so loudly pushing my legs to race quicker, and with a mind of their  own my eyes gave a command to the rest of my body alerting them that the entrance was near. But I felt it was too late for the battle was soon to be over and the winner soon to take the glory. I could hear my stomach whisper sweet nothings to my asshole, conspiring to take me right then, right there. As my bowels raced against the thudding of my heart, the quickening of my legs, and the electrifying commands of my brain, I perspired, while my eyes scanned the scene ensuring no one was around. “Prepare yourself, this will be brutal” whispered a voice so nervously that it sounded as mine but it was so far away from me that it could have belonged to a ghost. “There; THE DOOR!” were the final words passed down to my feet, pleading to my legs to quicken their pace. I got through it but you see, I fear it was a little too late for next I knew my bowels had taken control of me and my body racked so violently from the stench of the fart that escaped my asshole quite thuderously; I was mortified. I think it was at that moment it dawned on me, on all of me, that I was in shit. No quite literally, I was going to shit. Not the dot of shit you push out of your system or beg to leave your over indulged and sickly protruding stomach, but the sort of shit that comes to you early morning in which you can’t control. Yes, it was 8am and I was in the entrance of my school standing like a lost puppy and looking constipated. I wish I was constipated for next it all came out at once. It was atrocious, boisterous, rude, and quite belligerent.  It came out wanting to breathe; it came out looking to see. A shit so arrogant and with a life force of its own that it shocked the breath right out of me. It came out heavy!
“SQUEEZE, SQUEEZE!” said my asshole excitedly.
“RUMBLE RUMBLE!”
I could hear my stomach threatening as it prepared for the second round of explosions!
And then it came. BOOM, BAM, RUM, SLASH, POW! A shit so powerful that it shook the building! But it wasn’t the building I was worried about; it was my pants. I feared for my pants. The shit had oozed and splashed out of my asshole in such a way that vibrated my whole ass and I could feel it snaking down my thighs, leaking through my undies, warming my whole bottom half, and illustrating images so hideous and deformed on my pants. My precious white pants. My eyes scanned the scene once more and I could feel my face grow hot. There, far above me on the stairs, left to me in the book store and right to me sitting by the corner, were students who had grown so cold and silent it was hard to believe that they were truly there. Their faces contorted; each mirroring each others’ bewildered, surprised and mortified look.
“Forever! This will make the news” whispered my brain, and I knew it was right.
It wouldn’t matter what time of the day it is or where I am and who I am with. Even if some people forget, I will forever be ‘the shit girl’.


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