The Blues is set to appear as an upcoming episode of the Pseudopod Podcast, on Friday, September 13, 2013. I am beyond thrilled to have made a sale to the very market that got me interested in writing short horror.
The first wave hits me as I stand on the old bridge, looking down into the green and still waters. It’s like an army of fingertips, starting in my scalp and tracing down my skin and I shudder involuntarily. Familiar fog takes shape in my mind, a cotton candy spiderweb, snaring thoughts and vibrating in time with the wind through the trees. In the distance I can hear King hollering, followed by the tinkling sounds of shattered glass, and then Leif’s laughter.
I shut them out, make my world the rusting footbridge, the warm air, and the dark water below. An untouched bubble of space that I alone inhabit. On the worn concrete abutment beneath me, someone has scrawled in white paint the words LOOK UP, and I do so, without thinking, the command bypassing conscious thought. The sky is perfectly blue, cerulean above me and cornflower in the distance. I tumble the words through my hands, adding to them: azure, cobalt, bondi, indigo, ultramarine. The blues merge and swirl, dripping through my hands leaving long streaming trails of letters.
I shake my head and laugh loud, listening to the sound travel on the warm breeze. Happy. For the first time in many months, I am free, in control. My life is my own again.
I try to ignore the voice, but I know Alex is already walking down the bridge toward me. The brief surge of freedom is already starting to fade. I try to hold tight to the moment, leaning out and surveying the debris choked creek beneath. What I had taken for a filthy styrofoam beer cooler catches my eye, and I look closer and see a green and mossy haunch. A rotting human thigh, the remaining skin greenish white, the rest of the body vanishing into the algae choked water.
My mother is crying so loud that at first I can’t make out what she’s saying, her voice made tinny and small in the phone. Finally I pick his name from the sine wave of her wailing, and I know my brother Lev is dead. My guts constrict, wrapping into a knot, and I feel the air rush out of me, and then I am no longer quite standing. I let her go on for a while as I struggle to control my breathing, eyes tilted skyward to stem the tears, back pressed to the cool cracked plastic of the refrigerator. When she’s out of breath I hear my father, his low baritone cracked with hurt, muttering, to me or my mother or both. After a while I start to hear his words, hear ‘shiva’, and my guts twist again, counterclockwise this time. He is talking to me.
They want me to come home.
I land just in time for the funeral, crossing the continent in a few bleary eyed hours, and I arrive at the cemetery still wearing the sweaty reek of the plane’s cabin on my clothes. The coffin is almost into the ground before I can fully grasp what it means. That this is my brother’s body, and that he is dead, and this is forever. I’m still mulling this over, spinning it in my head like a smooth stone, when we arrive at the home we grew up in. I place my bags onto a familiar bed that looks smaller than it should, and then I return to the ground floor where I shake hands, and nod politely to a swirling fog of strange and aged faces from my childhood.
I answer the same questions over and over again, my job, my life, the past 20 years. There’s a rhythm to the answers I soon nail, and then I no longer have to think about the responses. The faces drift away with the daylight, and when the house is dark and empty, everything sharpens and solidifies. Every where I twist my eyes, something triggers a tiny explosion of images and memories. A dented baseboard. Dull silver on a salt shaker. View full article »
The night before I lost her, my wife and I fought about something I cannot remember. I remember the yelling, the sweat on her brow as she spat sharp words, I remember the welling frustration inside as I tried to remain calm, until I snapped, and began to fight back, only resisting for the sake of resisting. I remember the uneasy stubborn silence as we prepared for bed, opening all the upstairs windows, pulling all but the last sheet from the bed. I remember the heat of the night, cruelly unfaltering even into the small hours. I remember wanting so badly to touch her in the dark, to begin that small reconciliation, and I remember Linda pushing me away, gently. The argument was forgotten, I have to believe, and it was only the heat that kept us apart, that pushed me away.
She was gone when I awoke, the sun already hanging, bloated in the white and opalescent sky. She had taken the car, gone to work, leaving me a small pot of oatmeal simmering on the electric stove. Next to it, on the marble countertop was a glass of orange juice and a little yellow post-it, cheery and bright, with a quick pencil sketched heart, and a single word: ‘Sorry.’ Like that, the unrest was gone, and I remembered how in love we were.
I spent the day avoiding my contracts and my studio entirely, and instead began to clean and dust the house, running a series of damp cloths over every flat surface. My allergies were already flaring as the early summer heat coaxed a thousand weeds and flowers to disgorge a miasma of pollen into the air, drifting in through every loose fitting window pane. No matter how hard the anemic air conditioner chugged, the heat never dissipated, and my sinuses flared in the thick dusty air.
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