Category Archives: Writing

I Take You Everywhere

“Hey Thomas,
haven’t seen you in a while
and when I have
you’ve been really distant.”

Thomas gazed across the park
at an empty playground.
“Yeah…” He said.

“I know it’s been hard for you
since Michelle left,
but it’s been awhile now.”

Thomas envisioned Michelle on the swings,
long legs white in the sunlight,
soaring through the air.
A stubborn angel with her
hair back, laughing.
“I’m over it,” he said.

“Great, so come out and see your friends.”

Thomas watched as Michelle
lay back on blanket,
those ridiculously over-sized sunglasses
he always hated
gracing her Elvin face.
“I will,” he said.

“OK, so…when?”

Michelle was calling Thomas over.
There was an empty space
on the blanket
beside her.
“Soon,” Thomas said.

She had on his favorite
summer dress. The one that still
hung in the closet like a ghost.
The only thing she left
as though on purpose.

“Soon.”

Dream Phone

“I know it’s been a couple years since lockdown…but I heard and I’m so sorry about Beth, Man. I really am.”
“Yeah, so am I.”
“You still think about her?”
“Every single minute, Martin. Things like that don’t just go away.”
“Fuck cancer.”
“Yeah, fuck cancer,” I said without conviction, staring down at the table. Still the same Martin then. I never quite understood how someone as empathetic could be so socially tone-deaf. And why was I here? What did he want?

But really, what was I doing other than sitting in a room with the drapes drawn staring at a television that wasn’t turned on?

Someone at the other end of the coffee shop coughed. I looked over to see an old man in a checkered shirt frowning at me.
“Oh, check this out.” Martin reached inside his jacket. “Got this phone on Amazon. It lets you take pictures of your dreams.”
“Bullshit.”
“No, seriously. All you have to do is make a clicking motion with your finger –like this, and it’ll take a photo of what you’re doing right inside your dream. But you have to remember while you’re dreaming to do this. Harder than it sounds. Took me a while to get the hang of it.”

I drummed my fingers on the table.
“Bullshit,” I said again. I mean, believe this guy?

Martin laughed, “Okay, I get it. But tech these days? And this phone? I got it a week ago and you should see some of the shit that it can do. Unreal. I don’t know who made it, and I even looked.” Martin then leaned forward and whispered as though what he was telling me was a grave secret: “Listen, this is so much more than just a phone. It’s like a line to the other side of the universe; a bridge to beyond and back. Something happened soon after I got it…so…I had to show you it.”

“Okay, Martin,” I clasped my hands together and looked over at the old man again. He was still frowning at me. “First off, what the fuck? Why me? And what do you mean ‘other side?’” This was when I started to feel something begin to crawl around the inside of my stomach, something cold and unfriendly.

“Alright, alright…” Martin smiled. He has always been a decent enough guy, but this conversation made a quick right turn and went a little too far down the yellow brick road. Maybe Martin was a few gumdrops short of a gingerbread house. Who knows? Either way, I didn’t like where this was going.

“Don’t freak out. Okay? Promise?” Martin didn’t wait for an answer. He slid the phone over and I found myself staring at a pic.

It was me and Martin leaning back against a beach bar with Chinese lanterns filling the sky behind us. Somewhere tropical. Sailboats and gulls. Even though I was never there, it did look like an actual photo. But the only thing that I really saw was Beth, my dearly beloved and departed, standing on the other side of me in a white flowing dress with her arm around my waist.

“What?” Was all I could muster to say, and I could hear my own voice begin to choke. I didn’t know what I was looking at, at first. But it hit me, hard. My vision began to blur. I wasn’t expecting to see her today. It changed things. Memories came flooding back: watching her live, watching her die.

“You fucking photoshop this?” My hand started to shake, so did the phone. I felt tears begin. Fuck, I thought that I was getting better for a while, but obviously I wasn’t.

“Whoa, Man.” Martin looked around. “Let’s just chill for a sec. You’re not seeing the whole picture.”

I actually began to laugh, “I’m not…whew!” I wiped my eyes with my sleeve and looked at the pic again; brought it closer to my face.

Martin shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “You need to listen to me, I…”

“You Sick Fuck, you think this is funny?” I said it softly, my voice quivering. I could barely make out Martin sitting across from me. My face felt hot. Holding the phone anymore was no good so I lay it down on the table, gently.

Martin’s eyes widened. “Easy, Man, just give me one second to explain.” He seemed just as unnerved as I was. Maybe he wasn’t a complete asshole, just hopelessly misguided. But by now he had certainly realized that this was a mistake.

That’s when the phone lit up with an incoming call and I stared at it in disbelief.

Back in college, when we were starting off, Beth and I had made a pact. We made it because deep down inside we knew that we were meant to be together. We would always be in love; there was no question. And we would always find each other no matter what. That was the pact. There was a song that was part of that pact. It was playing when we made it. It was forever, just like us. We adopted it. Sang it to each other. Stupid shit. It was a silly, young romantic gesture. One that I had almost forgotten until now.

It was a collection of flat eight-bit tones, but the ringtone the phone was playing –it was mine and Beth’s song.

Nobody else knew that. When the song then began to play over the radio in the coffee shop it felt like somebody had just tapped me on the back in an empty, locked room. It brought back the nights I lay alone in our bed after she was gone, having conversations with her in my head, wishing to God that I could have went as well and not be left here, like this, grown-ass man crying in the dark like a lost little child. What I would have gave to speak to her again, if only for a minute.

What I would have gave.

Martin put both his hands up like he was under arrest –only to show me that he was non-threatening. He then slowly reached over and answered the phone.

“Hey. Yeah. Thank you. Here he is.” Martin handed it over across the table. As though in slow motion and like in a dream itself, I slowly reached out, grabbed the phone, and brought it to my ear.

“Hello?” I said.

Can You See Them Yet?

Sometimes I hear people
right behind me,
and I don’t know who they are.
All that I know is that
they’re not really there.

It all started with Alice.
That wasn’t her name.
It was what she was after…or who.
She wouldn’t shut up about it.

I take long walks, you see.
One day her voice caught up to me
and out of thin air came:
“Alice wasn’t home today.
I want to show you where she lives but
I follow you. You don’t follow me.
You can’t. That’s not the way it works.”

“What? Hello?” I turned around and saw no one.
“Is anybody there?”

“Don’t be a lunkhead. I was fucking telling you about Alice.”

From there it didn’t stop.
Next came James,
“Alice always wears green, but don’t tell her I told you that.”
Then Marcy,
“Alice isn’t as nice as she comes across. Her kindness is a charade.”
And Sean,
“Alice pretends that she doesn’t want me. But that’s all it is, pretend.”

I don’t know what they look like
because I can’t see them
but they are right there
and nowhere at the same time.

I started walking faster, but it didn’t help
because the voices were always
just behind me:

“Alice is being a real bitch.”
“Oooh, I just love your skin.”

It wasn’t just one place, one walk, one road.
It was at the mall, at the bank, the bakery,
on the street or in my shitty apartment
as I sat on the recliner watching TV.

“What’s he doing?”
“He’s just sitting there staring at that talking screen.”
“Does Alice know?”

I don’t know who they are
(who the fuck is Alice?)
or what they are or where or
how they can see me or if they only see me
or a million other things.

The only thing scarier than this being all in my head and that
I was going batshit crazy
was the possibility that this wasn’t
-that this was real and
what that implied.

Two weeks later I got my answer
from once again, the unlikeliest of places
because our expectations of life
and all that it entails
are meant to be smashed, obliterated,
run over and then set on fire
every single step of the way.

So, there I was on a Monday
at the shop when
Marcus (the mechanic)
nodded me over, wrench in hand.

He wasn’t working on my vehicle just yet
and I didn’t really know him so
I approached with caution
because humans were dangerous.

As Marcus went back to changing a tire he said,
“Alice’s friends have been telling me about you…”
in a happy, sing-song voice.

“Alice?” That sounded so familiar that it was painful.
It still took me a second to process because,
“you mean the voices in my head?”

I wanted to grab Marcus and shake him
and scream and cackle madly
but I just stood there staring at him…stunned,
because none of this seemed real.
I could smell the oil, the exhaust, the lubricants, the cold air outside.
The lighting was harsh and glaring as usual. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
But yet, everything had changed forever
in one casual conversation.

Marcus shook his head and laughed.
He slowly turned to me,
set his wrench down on the cart
and with excited eyes said,

“Can you see them yet?”

The Dealer’s Apartment

The text read: 122 Hamilton Street. Apt 42. Bring a flashlight. Get the stash and go home. Easy.

I arrived at a six-story apartment building that was completely dark. All windows were black squares. No lights in the parking lot. No cars.

Was this place completely empty?
It looked like a utilitarian tomb, but that was under closer scrutiny than I would have given any apartment building on any of these streets. Hidden in plain sight, there was something definitely wrong here. I could smell it.

Bring a flashlight. So, the dealer knew about this. Of course he did.

I opened the front door to silence. No dogs barking. No babies crying. No life. I pulled the flashlight app on in my phone and held it in front of me as I went up the stairwell to the fourth floor. All was still. Eerie. A night museum.

I shone my light upon each door until I came to the right one and knocked.

“Get your light off my door.” I heard someone say from behind it.
“What?”
“Put your fucking light down. Do you understand English?” The voice sounded gruff, tired, angry.

“Okay.” I complied. The door opened to an apartment I couldn’t see as it was pitch black except for the echoes of light my phone reflected off the linoleum floor.
“Keep your light down. Don’t shine it in my face, so help me God.”
“No problem.” My hand was shaking slightly, causing the light to bounce around. I steadied it, but everything about this situation made me extremely nervous.

“Wait here,” he went into the bedroom and slammed the door behind him.
I heard the distinct sound of somebody sucking up a rail of cocaine (or whatever) up their nose. I heard a female’s voice.
“Shut the fuck up,” he said, almost at a shout. “Nobody fucking asked you.”

The man came back out and put something on the table. I shone my light on it. Pills in a Ziploc bag. I could see his stained white shirt momentarily before pulling my phone back down. I thought that he was going to berate me for shining my light on the table but, “go on, take it.”

I stepped forward and shoved the bag into my inside pocket.

“Get the fuck out. Keep your light down. Don’t shine it on anyone. You’ll be sorry that you did. You Shitbags never fucking learn. Scram.”

I gladly got out. In the hallway, from the opposite end towards where I was going, I heard a door close and footsteps start to come my way –heavy, awkward ones. I did what my immediate instincts told me to, shut the light off and plastered myself back against the wall until they passed.

Once I was outside, I could really feel the cold in the air. I punched in an Uber and waited, thinking that my problem –my whole new fucking situation– might have been a little understated.

And I wasn’t sure about these pills anymore.

Billy’s Laura

Raining hard at the
mouth of the trail
where Shane was
waiting for his ex-wife
umbrella in hand.

“Nice day out. Isn’t it, Laura?”

Laura smiled, “Yes it is, Hon.”

She was already drunk
as usual.

Shane held out his umbrella
and walked holding it over her
letting himself get wet
until they reached Billy’s house.

No lights.
Billy wasn’t up yet.

“I’m sure Billy will be up soon.” He said.

Sometimes it was hours
before Billy got up
and Shane would hold his umbrella
over her as she lay her head in
his lap and slept.

“You still love me, Shane.”
She would say,
“You wouldn’t do this
if you didn’t love me.”

And when it was cold
Shane would put his warm jacket
over her
with nothing for himself
as they both waited until…

“Light’s on, Laura, Billy’s up.”

Billy would open the front door
without looking out and just
leave it open but
only when he had a fix ready for her.

Once Laura was inside
Shane would then go on
down the road to
Tim’s house to
drink himself to sleep.

Tim would see Shane
all wet and cold
and will give him shit
for the same old shit.

They used to be the
toughest around
in town back when it mattered
until there came along
fights that couldn’t be won
like plants shutting down
unpaid debts
miscarriages
divorce
and then there came the bottle
and other things that were worse.

“She’s Billy’s Laura now, Shane, Billy’s Laura!”

“You don’t understand, Tim.”

“I understand that you can’t let go.
That you’re killing yourself
just like she is and
I just can’t
watch it anymore.”

“Come on now, Tim.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Shane. It really wasn’t…”
Tim’s eyes were red, wet and he
slammed the door.

Shane grabbed his coat and
umbrella and headed back.

Maybe Tim finally had the
last of this
but for Shane it was
just another day to get through.

Just another day.

The Intervention

Mother stood up first.

“I know the divorce and your father’s passing has been difficult for you and you have your ways to cope…but we feel that we are losing you. You’re the only son I have and I pray everyday that you stop hurting yourself and that you find Jesus.”

She sat down.

Yeah, I found Jesus, Mother. He was hiding underneath my fucking bed right beside the crack pipe.

My uncle stood up next.

“This is all up to you, Peter. If you say (like you said before) that you are done then we’re all behind you. But you have to really be done this time. You have to. Nobody else can do it for you.”

Whatever, put down the doughnut.

After a couple more verbal lashings from the family, Cousin Timmy got up last. This ought to be good.

“You’re a fucking asshole.” He said. There were tears in his eyes.

He sat back down.

As adept as always in handling these kind of situations, Timmy, as adept as always.

I looked around the Tim Horton’s. Everyone was looking at me. I thought I was just coming here for a fucking coffee and a wrap.

That was Monday.

Friday back at it again. The beast needed feeding.

Dan rolled up in his Benz. He held up a bag of pills.

“Wanna get high with me and my girl?” Tina looked over. Smiled.

We made out last time. Felt her up. So hot.

Dan doesn’t know or he knows and doesn’t give a fuck.

“Hell yeah I do.” I got in the car.

THE PROBLEM WITH US

The problem is that
people have to have more
and more
in order to fill in the holes
in themselves
in each other
in the hours
in the empty spaces.

And so we dig
and gouge
and scrape
and burn until
there is nothing left
with no regard
or respect.

We don’t want to know
how things work
as long as it
works for us.

We don’t understand
how to appreciate
a world
that we do not
live in fear of.

We have made
things far too
easy
for and on
ourselves.

We have forgotten
the lion
the bayonet
the plague
the hunger
the fire the scars
the blood dripping from
a thousand crosses
the terrors the deaths
the darkness
at the end of every street.

But these things
don’t just
go away they are
still there
so far back and
just around the corner
sharpening their
knives
their teeth
their resolve
they are honing in and
approaching like a
thick blanket
a moonless night
a killer in a crowd.

They’re coming
-it’s coming.
-It’s here.

And it’s about time.

THE MARVEL SUPERHERO ON PARK STREET

I was walking by a large Victorian house on Park Street when from up on the top floor balcony I heard someone calling out. I turned to see a girl –maybe ten years old– leaning over the railing so that her long hair hung straight down.

“Hey Mister, do you want to see a trick?”
I shrugged. “Sure, why not?”

“Okay!” She shouted and clapped her hands excitedly. Smiling, she turned and went back into the house only to appear at the front door three floors down not even a second later. She opened it, came out onto the porch, spun around with her arms held out and went back in. Next thing I know there is a knock on the top floor window where she waves and turns away. Again, before I could formulate a thought she reappears out the front door and this time she walks down to where I stood on the sidewalk.

“What do you think?” She asked and folded her arms across her chest. I didn’t even have the do the math; there was just no way was she faster than my eyes could travel from the ground floor to three stories up and back down.

“You have a twin. Throw the same clothes on and have fun with unsuspecting strangers.”

“Nuh-uh! NUH-UH!” She whipped her head back and forth viciously enough that the ends of her hair threatened to blind me and then shot me a glare like I was the biggest dipshit ever.

“Okay, then you’re a Marvel superhero.” I returned.

Behind her, a lady opened the door. “Who are you talking to, Cadence?”

“Absolutely nobody, Mother.” The girl stuck her tongue out at me and crossed her eyes before running back inside. “Noooboooodddyyyyy!!!”

“Hey!” I called to the mother as she was closing the door. “She has a sister, right?” I asked, curious.

“What sister?” The lady looked at me like I was a meth-fueled derelict and when the door was half closed she held it there and scowled at me as though I were the world’s most active pedophile.

“Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have asked that.” I said to myself as I continued on down the sidewalk. “This is why I try not to go outside anymore.”

And this was the second house I couldn’t walk by in this neighbourhood. The first one? Now, that’s a strange story…

THE DEALER

“I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen if you go to the hospital in order to save you some time. First, they’ll take some tests, stick needles into you, give you some saline and sedatives, pump your stomach and slide a catheter into your dick. None of which will be pleasant under your current condition of duress. None of which will work.”

I got high with a couple friends eight days ago. Ecstasy and a little bit of coke, nothing crazy. But we haven’t been able to come down since. None of us. Drinking wouldn’t do anything. Sleeping pills? Forget it. Wasn’t able to sleep at all, barely could eat. Called into work. Couldn’t drive. And it was getting worse. Had to go back to the source, the source that was this voice over the phone.

“And when they don’t find anything physically wrong with you they’ll bring you to the next step: psychological evaluation. Welcome to the psyche ward. By this time you’ll be so aggravated that they might consider you a danger to yourself and others and that’s ninety days right off the hop. Either way, you keep up this ‘I’m high and I can’t come down’ story and they’ll keep you in for 72 hours at first for observation, then two weeks, then a month. Jesus, a month in the loony bin is enough to drive anyone insane, especially one who is already fucked up on what nobody else can see or detect and God knows what else they’ll make you swallow and how that’s going to react with what you’ve already ingested. The drug is a ghost. One that only you see. I made it that way.”

Went to Derek’s. He was way worse than I was. Kept shouting that he needed Christ. Yeah, got it. Sarah couldn’t even look at me; she was in some catatonic state. Kept pulling at her hair and clawing at her own face. Something had to be done. None of us wanted to go to the hospital and admit what we were on. Our episode would go on public record. Future employers would see it. Cops, family –it was a no go. But when it got to the point where that didn’t matter anymore that’s when the fucking phone rang. Guess who it was?

“Am I painting a somber picture here of how things are going to go? Because I can give you names of people just like you that are still there, wasting away in some hospital basement without the ability to even construct a sentence. Or what about the ones that saw it coming and decided to take things into their own hands not bearing the thought of eventually becoming a vegetable that nobody gives a fuck about. Nah, not them. Smart ones, you see?”

The dealer. Like he was reading my mind. Just like that. And things got worse the more he talked until it made the trip I was on the least of my fucking problems. But why? Derek and Sarah were already falling apart and would probably never recover. What was it worth to ruin people’s lives like this? The answer I got made me realize that my problems were just starting because if I was looking for empathy I was in the belly of the wrong beast.

“Why you guys? Motherfucker, why not? You got high off my shit and now I control you and that is the way it goes. I’ve built this. I’ve got designs. Nobody asks where it comes from anymore so this gets easier all the time and I’m aiming even higher. Ha, get it? Remember that I control you because I control how you feel now. I can make it good just like the very first time you ever dropped, or I can make it so bad that you’ll want to die. Just die. That’s all. We all know how lonely and final it can all be. Just one little tweak and your whole narrative will change.”

What do you want?

“Now we come to the point. What do I want? Well, that all depends on what you want, my new friend. You want out of this? You want to be able to go back to your job, your family, your girl or guy or whatever the fuck you’re into? I need you to do something for me and I’ll make it stop. Are you ready to listen? Do I have your full attention?”

Yes. I’m listening.

“Good, cause there’s this party coming up and you’re bringing the treats.”

 

Part 1 of 2. Catch Part 2 Here: The Party Drug

HORROR FLASH FICTION #11: ARACHNOPHOBIA

Jesse woke up and looked outside. The sky was filled with spiders lazily floating down as far as the eye could see.

“Daddy!” She cried, “There are spiders falling from the sky!”

“That’s okay, Honey, let them fall.” He replied.

Jesse looked back out. The window itself was now covered with spiders of all sizes shooting across the pane this way and that. And it was not just that one window but all of the windows –all over the house.

“Daddy!” She cried, “There are spiders crawling all over the windows!”

“That’s okay, Honey, let them crawl.” Daddy wasn’t one to become upset apparently over anything. He just sat alone at the kitchen table staring at the wall and sipping on a beer.

In one sweeping movement a multitude of spiders burst into the kitchen from under the front door and came scrambling out, legs clacking loudly against the linoleum.

“Daddy!” She cried, “There are spiders all over the floor!”

“That’s okay, Honey, I’ll sweep them up.”

Just then the front door banged open and the biggest spider Jesse had ever seen came in, plopped down at the kitchen table across from Daddy and opened up a small brown briefcase.

“Thanks for coming, Doc.” Daddy said.

“Is she getting any better?” The spider asked. Its eight billion black, bulging eyes stared at Jesse as multiple facial appendages danced wildly about in anticipation of ingesting her slowly.

Daddy finally turned and looked at her too. There were hordes of small spiders crawling all up his neck and exploding out all over his face.

“No, Doc.” He said, “In fact, I think she’s getting much worse.”