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A JOB FOR THE BOYS -by Linda Angel

int_room

The interview scene was typical: one besuited man, one potentially impressive woman, one office.

“You know there’s an easy way to – let’s say … fastpath this whole process, right?”

“What are you suggesting?” 

“Well, I find you rather … endearing.

“Are you serious? What year is this?” 

“I’m just saying, that’s all. Letting you know how it is around here. We are more likely to accommodate those who are prepared to grant certain – liberties. Favours.”

With the birdflip of a finger, and without a further word, Andrew followed his you-can-shove-your-fucking-job-up-your-arse face out the door. 

 

UNDERWEAR AND RESPONSIBILITIES – by Linda Angel

gossip-3315530-57ad4d47104eb

Millie was doing the usual morning autopsy of the previous night’s antics. It was simple really: get the poor guy on a gossip slab and dissect him with chavtastic chatter for girlie enjoyment.

Graham’s just … too … well, sexual.”

Yeah, coz that’s the last thing ya want, innit.” Alice was a sarcastic bitch.

You know what I mean. He’s too much.”

How? How can a person be too sexual?”

Well – he sorta studies it, I reckon. He must do – he knows everything about everything. Makes me a virgin by comparison. He’s probably into all that tantric stuff – all I ever wanna do is just enjoy it and let shit happen”.

Can we not talk about shit and sex in the same conversation please? Unless, of course, that’s one of his things-”

Oh frig OFF! Ewww!”

So, go on – what was it this time? What put ya off?”

Millie tried to explain. “He was all intense, right? I couldn’t figure out if he was bein’ creepy or wha’. He looked like he was takin’ mental notes or something . Nothin’ spontaneous – rehearsed, almost.” She paused for breath and took a swig of 10AM Prosecco; it was never too early.

He stood there, right, and just stripped – before we’d even kissed. He was just stood there in the buff, tackle out – hard as anythin’, an’ there it was, pointin’ right at me”.

And this was a problem because?”

It was just weird, that’s all. It was like he didn’t even wanna come close, but was happy to stay over there, getting’ on with it by himself.”

You mean …”

Yeah. He had a wank. Standing up. Asked me to lie on the bed, and – well, perform.”

So did ya?”

Well, yeah. He was all hypnotic and stuff, I just sorta did what he said.”

And then what?”

Well, he shot his load all over the floor. And you shoulda seen his FACE as it dripped – it was like he was on drugs”.

Alice tried to hide her what-the-fuck face. “Maybe he was, Millie. How d’ya know he wasn’t?”

She didn’t, so she took a long gulp of the fizzy shit before advising Alice that she had no frame of reference when it came to druggery: “I don’t know about any of that. I’m a good girl.”

Projectile booze from Alice’s gob interrupted the conversation. She dabbed at the soggy coffee table with an entire kitchen roll, too unarsed to unravel the thing.

Good girl my arse. Hahahah!” She threw the damp wad of paper the bin’s way, and missed. She watched it as it floomped onto the floor with a heavy splat, and continued: “… so, Millz, there was one thing I was meaning to ask ya…”

Go on…”

Is it true what they say about black fellas?”

Fucksake. Why does EVERYONE think that? That’s SO out of order, that is. It’s really fuckin’ racist to assume that just because a person has black sk- ”

Is it not true then?”

Well, yeah. Totes.”

Laughter. Swigs. The opening of a second bottle.

What happened next? After the – erm – dripping, I mean …”

It wasn’t so much a drip as an explosion, really. Landed ten feet away. Nearly took me eye out.”

I can see Smearly Now that Graham has come …” sang Alice.

Very funny.” Millie wiped her left peeper with the memory of last night’s cumsplat. “Aaanyway …” she continued, “… after that, he came over, still as hard as my fuckin’ arm – and started the next round”

Jeez – ya mean he wasn’t all floppy by then, like?”

GOD no.”

Ya reckon he’d taken a little purple pill then?”

I dunno – I mean, is it even HUMAN to be in that condition for so long?”

Yeah, I heard you the first time, you said it was long already.”

Alice sniggered at her own crap joke and stood up to pour another glass. “So, Millz, did you ever actually get to – well, did you actually get fucked?”

I’m getting to that. Sit down – you’re gonna love this.”

She sat.

Get comfy.”

She got.

OK, when we finally got to – well, when we were about to … I mean we did, but we kinda didn’t.”

Erm…”

He was THAT big that he was fully in me and there were still like six inches that weren’t.”

Fuckin’ ‘ell!”

Yeah – so it was almost like he wasn’t – because he was so fucking far away! I’m all about the closeness, me.”

Ha! Jesus, girl. You’re fucking killing me here!” Alice spat the words out along with the cheap booze.

Don’t be laughin’! What about poor little me! I’m startin’ to dry up over here! It’s been a whole WEEK – an entire bastard WEEK – and I still didn’t get any.”

Well, ya DID … but maybe it just wasn’t how ya planned.”

Ya got that right.”

If she’d been smarter, Millie might’ve entertained the notion that perhaps it’d been Schrodinger’s sex – where you simultaneously got some and didn’t. Being either fucked or unfucked, your true state was only revealed once the sheets were peeled back. But she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box – nah, fuck that – she wasn’t even IN the box.

Alice, fifteen years older, had had enough – it was time to piss off home anyway. As she gathered her crap up into her overnight bag, Millie thanked her for having babysat the previous night and told her “you SO fucking owe me a bottle, you do – spluttering that all over the place. Big waste.”

Oh, shut it, you. Stop your whining. I get enough of that from your father,” said Alice, on her way out the door.

All right, all right. See ya next Friday, Ma.”

MY BEST FRIEND – by Ivan Zoric

blood

I will always be your best friend.

Ghosts are back with first dark. The blizzard is a drunken sailor, throwing fists at my windows in white rage. The walls of my bedroom protest this violence with a shriek of wood, making me miss my childhood brick home. I’m sitting, propped up in my bed for going on the third night with no sleep, and staring at my tormentors. They occupy every corner of the room, their eyes unblinking pools of darkness, following my every move.

At first, I wondered why I always see them in the corners, never straying away further than arms’ length. Then I remembered. I killed every single one of them from behind. Even in the afterlife they are afraid to turn their backs on me. But you wouldn’t know anything about it, right? Because you’re a fucking saint.

I still remember the day we first met. We were what, three?

You came pedaling down the street on that new tricycle of yours, all sunshine and smiles. I was nursing gashes in skin, an imprint of parental love, too afraid to cry. One look at you, and envy came pouring of me like a toxic wave. It is not fair, you know? Three year olds should not be able to feel stuff like that, not even as a primal instinct. Then again, things have a way of playing out different around you, don’t they?

Not even after I swung at you with my jacket, pockets filled with rocks, did you stop smiling.

“ Look, we both bleed now!”, you laughed. “ Want to ride my bike?”

Funny how kids start friendships with a transaction. I should have never climbed into that seat. Not at this price. You bought me, just like everyone else, with a handful of kindness.

I have loved you throughout – for all these years. I never questioned that. It was a simple truth of my existence, just like my dad’s drinking or my mom’s misdiagnosed bipolar disorder. Every time I was sent to the store for beer, or to the floor for mouthing off, I would hold on to that smile of yours in my head, and I would manage. Even as the country descended into the madness of civil war, I knew that as long I was around you, things would somehow be okay. You knew how to heal broken spirits and broken bones with a single word. It was your Gift showing, even that early on.

Oddly enough, you could never recognize jealousy or hate. Whatever was the thing that made you who you are, a beacon of hope for many, also made you blind to all emotions that were like flashing neon signs to me. You only saw the best in people. I only saw the worst. So, I did the only thing I could.

I protected you from it.

Remember the kid who went missing in senior year? Sasha, the basketball player, driving the red Mazda around, making fun of kids for wearing cheap knock-off Nikes and Levi’s? The one whose dad owned a tombstone business, and eventually had to make one for his kid’s empty grave? Life size statue, no less. Yeah?

I split his head open with an axe.

You never noticed his girlfriend falling for you. How could you? You were lost in books, talking about Däniken’s theories and Nazca Lines while helping her to pass English class.

It was never more than tutoring for you. Oh, but it was so much more for her. The way her cheeks turned red every time she would pass by us in the hallway, the way she played with her hair as you tried to explain her indirect speech during the breaks, it was all so clear. And not just to me.

Sasha could see it too – and he hated your guts, man. There was a storm brewing, I could sense it. One too many times I could hear him whispering to his buddies how he would end you, if anything happened with you and Ana.

There are no coincidences. Things happen for a reason, even though it seems as we are just swimming in primordial soup of randomness.

The night he disappeared, I was getting shitfaced at Talia’s. I was so drunk, in fact, that I fell asleep on the toilet, unaware and unwiped. I woke up when Sasha entered the stall next to mine and started talking to someone on the phone. He was going to beat you up that night. Bloody-up that pretty boy face, was the way he put it. Make sure you never came close to Ana again. He knew you were tutoring her and was going to jump you on your walk home. Baseball bat and brass knuckles.

I tiptoed outside while he was still on the phone and found his car running. Without thinking I hid in the back between the seats and grabbed the first thing I could find.

He whistled as he drove. I waited until we parked in the dark of Memorial Cemetery, where he was planning on jumping you. I hit him with the axe right as he was lighting a cigarette, the skull making a wet, egg-cracking sound. Dead on target.

I wish I could say it made me nauseous. I wish I was more like you and that taking a life did not make me calm and centred, as if I had just found my life’s purpose.

But I was not.

I was not like you.

I was me, and I always had been.

I whistled the same song Sasha did as I drove the car to my dad’s pig farm. I whistled it still as I chopped the body and ran it through steel burr mill and mixed it with ground corn. Damn pigs, man, they’ll eat anything. Funny, but months later, after they gave up searching for him and finally decided to bury an empty casket, sausages made from those same pigs were served at the wake.

I will always be your best friend.

Your first wife? She hated you, you know? She might have loved you once, but yours is a cold shadow to live under. You don’t love selfishly as we do, you don’t turn love into an us-against-the-world fairytale.

It is always us AND the world. The whole fucking world. It’s the Gift running through you, making everyone who loves you resent you in time. They can’t keep up, they can’t be the lighthouse you are, always weathering other people’s storms. Saints are not meant to be loved, just worshipped.

She fucked my brains out that night. It was revenge sex, of course, a middle finger to your reputation as a philanthropist and peacemaker. The one who brought peace could not bring his wife to climax. Or, at least that’s what she said as she was pumping my cock, not looking at me, but somewhere beyond the walls, to wherever in the world you were at that moment.

“You know what the worst thing is?”, she said. “He actually really is that nice. Not a mean bone in him. I fucking hate it. The whole world puts him on the pedestal and I am supposed to be there, right next to him, just as holly. I can’t even…I just can’t. He won’t fuck me the way you do. He’s always gentle. It’s sickening”.

I kept silent and thrust away. I did not love her, it was just friction. Something else, too.

I knew what her plan was. There was a camera hidden in the wall, recording our session, every embarrassing detail displayed in full 4K resolution. She was planning on going to the tabloids with it. She loathed you so much she’d rather crash and burn than be married to a saint.

I strangled her before she came. I wasn’t going to give her even that much of a satisfaction.

She died cursing your name. I was nothing more than a tool for her, and I was OK with that. I understood it. I had already mastered the art of the cover up, by that point. She was just one of the many who had tried to bring you down, and had the misfortune of running into me first. A self-appointed watchdog. It took two phone calls to turn it into a robbery and sexual assault. The world cried with you the next day.

They are both here tonight, with all the others, clustered around the corners, waiting. There is glee on their faces, even with those dark holes instead of eyes. A welcome committee.

I am not afraid. Not of them, not of dying. The cancer is eating me from the inside, but I refuse the painkillers. I welcome the agony. One is not suppose to leave this world peacefully. At least not one like me.

This is your world now and I have no place in it anymore. You have succeeded in your mission. Humans are better now. Kind, empathetic, understanding. The Gift has spread across the globe like a virus, reaching even the most distant regions. They had prospered and they are about to reach for the stars. I suppose, in a way, you really are a saint, even if you deflect the notion every chance you get.

I am the only leftover piece of the old days. I do not belong and I do not approve. Mankind is not supposed to be this docile, this perfect, but this was never my decision to make. I was just here to keep you safe and you will never even know it. Maybe it’s for the best. At least this way someone will mourn me.

I hate you. I love you.

You will always be my best friend.

 

NEEDS MUST – by A.S. Chambers

well

It was a nice well: roomy, dank and dark. There was just a glimmer of hurtful sunlight from the small aperture high above. This suited Odd Bod, suited him fine. As he sat in the noxious gloop that constituted the well’s floor he scratched the infrequent tufts of hair on his scabrous scalp and decided that, overall, life had been very good to him. He had a safe place to live and there had been no hordes of angry villagers chasing him with pitchforks or other horticultural accoutrements.

The food, however, was becoming a problem.

Odd Bod tugged at a small bone that was lodged in the sticky floor and it parted company from the clinging substance with a wet pop. He blew at it and a piece of green slime dripped onto his knee. Absentmindedly rubbing at the slime with one hand, his other used the bone as an impromptu toothpick between his blackened incisors whilst he contemplated the issue of supplies.

There used to be plenty of food. It would come to the well, drop the wooden thing down to scoop up the wet stuff and, if he was hungry, Odd Bod would give the wooden thing a big tug causing the food to come crashing down into his awaiting lap. True, it was a noisy experience when the food fell and sometimes it needed convincing that it really was food but on the whole it worked to Odd Bod’s satisfaction.

Recently, though, the food had stopped dropping the wooden thing down. Odd Bod thought that this must be down to one of two reasons. It was either because the horrid wet stuff that the wooden thing used to scoop up had finally vanished or, and this possibility troubled Odd Bod more, that he had eaten all the food and there was none left.

Yes, that troubled Odd Bod a great deal. The thought of a world with no food was not a pleasant prospect at all even if he did live in a very nice dark, dank well with very little sunlight.

He hoped that it was the lack of the wet stuff that had caused the food to go away, he truly did because if the wet stuff came back then the food would, too. If, however, he had eaten all the food…

Odd Bod sadly shook his head. He had never been a fan of the wet stuff. It had always gotten everywhere and had made him feel as icky as the wet stuff itself. Odd Bod had fashioned himself small ledges between the crumbling bricks which had provided places for him to perch on when the wet stuff had risen up at certain times of the year. Then over the last few years the wet stuff had stopped rising. Instead, it had gotten lower and lower until all that was left was the gloop and the bits of broken bone that Odd Bod had discarded during his time in the well.

Odd Bod liked the gloop. It stuck nicely to his bony fingers and made his nose wrinkle when he sniffed it. Much more pleasant than the wet stuff.

However, if the wet stuff going away had caused his food to disappear then that was a bad thing, whether Odd Bod liked the wet stuff or not, and something had to be done about it. The melancholy creature looked up to the small hole high above and sighed. There was only one way to find out what had happened to his food. Had it gone away or had it all been eaten? He had to find out or he would starve. It would not be the easiest of jobs, but one that had to be undertaken, nonetheless. His stomach rumbled and he whimpered disconsolately, his shaggy whiskers quivering around his mouth.

Odd Bod transferred the small bone from his hand to between his freshly picked teeth and placed a bare foot onto the lowest of the perches. He reached up with his hands – his cracked and broken nails searching out the tiniest of nooks and crannies with which to heave himself up. A foot edged up to another perch and his hands started to seek out more holes where he could cling securely between the bricks. After he had reached the same number of perches as he had fingers on his left hand he had to start work with the bone. Whilst clinging on with one set of fingers, the others used the bone to dig out handholds and footholds for him to utilise.

So it went on, time after time, transferring his weight onto newly excavated holes whilst digging out more and more spaces for his hands and feet. As he ascended the side of the well Odd Bod realised that the work was becoming harder and harder. Down below, the wall had been soft and easier to excavate. Up higher, it was tough and the bricks were much more firmly cemented together, but Odd Bod knew there could be no turning back. He peered down between his legs at his comfortable home and whimpered plaintively. What he would give to be settled down there once more with some fresh food, happily enjoying the knobbly, gristly bits that spurted goo all down his front as his teeth chomped into them. Instead, his muscles ached and his throat was dry. Moreover, to make matters worse, he was starting to feel very warm.

Odd Bod looked up and saw the reason for the increased heat: the hole at the top of the well was getting much larger! He had thought it was starting to increase in width when he had reached about half way but he had dismissed the notion as silliness. Now, however, here he was, much higher up and the round hole was definitely letting in more of the hated sunlight. Odd Bod blinked as the brightness hurt his eyes and he focussed yet again on the task at hand, digging furiously between two stubborn bricks. Even the bricks seemed to be suffering from the sunshine. Down below, they had been beautifully dark and shiny; up here, they were dry and much paler in colour. Odd Bod shuddered as he dreaded what the evil sunshine would do to him when he eventually emerged from the well.

He carried on climbing.

In time, his breathing became somewhat laboured as his throat felt parched. Odd Bod started to whimper as he began to fear that he was not going to make it to the top of the well. Despair started to wash over him.

What if he slipped and fell? Would he make the same noises that the food normally made when it jumped down to him?

What if he got to the top and discovered that he had eaten all the food? His stomach roared and he shook his head. No, he must not think such things. Food had to be out there. It had just gone away when the wet stuff had disappeared!

He glanced up and squeaked in both fear and excitement. Fear because the hole was now so wide that he could not see all the way around it. Excitement because he was only about an arm’s length from the top. A broad grin of blackened teeth spread across his face and he clambered towards the rim of the well.

Odd Bod’s stomach lurched as his foot slipped and his arm swung free. Screaming loudly he gripped with one hand on the bone that was currently dug between two bricks.

Silly Odd Bod!

Silly Odd Bod!

He had let his excitement get the better of him and had lost his concentration. With one firm tug on the bone, he swung his loose arm up and grabbed at the tiniest of gaps in the unforgiving brickwork. His nails prised themselves in and he hissed in pain as the rough surface dug into his grey flesh. Desperately, his feet scrambled at the sheer wall below him, propelling his weight up towards the rim of the well. He discarded the bone, ignoring the tool as it tumbled down towards the dark, comforting gloop. Instead, he hauled his hand up to the precipice above him. His fingers flailed around crumbling material on the rim until they found sound purchase and the rest of his withered body scurried up the last little distance. With one, firm lunge he heaved himself up and over the edge of the well. He rolled head over heels and landed with a thump on something that was most definitely not gloop.

Odd Bod bent over onto all fours and peered closely at the stuff. It covered the floor around the well. It felt strange to his gloop-accustomed touch and consisted of a multitude of little strands of near identical material that stood together in the near vicinity.

He sniffed it. It wobbled as he did so.

Carefully he picked some out and stuck it in his mouth before chewing.

Pah!” He spat the disgusting substance out and wiped spittle from his face with the back of his dirt-encrusted hand.

Why are you eating grass?”

Odd Bod’s head snapped up and his eyes located the source of the noise. It was food; a small morsel, but food nonetheless. He grinned.

The food giggled as it clasped its hands over its mouth. “You look funny,” it laughed.

Odd Bod sat down on the horrid-tasting stuff and scratched his threadbare scalp. This food was strange. Food normally made noises like, “Oh, God! No! No!” or “Please no! I have children!” This one sounded different. In addition, it was not covered in delicious icky stuff.

He pointed with a chipped and broken fingernail. “Food?” his gravelly voice enquired.

Sure,” said the little red-haired girl. “I’ve got lots. Teddy and I are having a tea party on the blanket over there.”

Odd Bod’s eyes followed her small finger as it pointed over to a small furry thing sat on the thing called a blanket. “Food?” he asked again.

The little girl walked over to him and took his warty hand in hers. “Come on. We have plenty.”

Odd Bod clambered to his feet and slowly lurched along behind her as she led him over to the blanket where the small, inanimate furry thing was propped up against a grey stone. In front of it were a number of round receptacles of different sizes along with an object that had a handle on one side and a pointy bit on the other. The girl patted the blanket next to her and Odd Bod seated himself down, tucking his gangly legs beneath him. He frowned as his brain used to years of peaceful solitude tried to make sense of the situation. As his grey cells bumped together in confusion, the little girl handed him one of the round things. “Here you go,” she said. “Cake.”

The very perplexed diner took the object in both his hands and stared at it. It was flat and about the size of one of his hands. It was decorated around the edge with pink flowers. Not sure what to do, he shoved it in his mouth and started to chew.

No!” exclaimed the girl, leaning over and dragging the thing out of his mouth. “Don’t eat the plate. Eat the cake.” She proceeded to hold her own plate and apparently feasted on thin air.

Odd Bod did likewise. The air did not taste of anything. He frowned.

It is only make-believe, you know,” the girl whispered into his ear. “There isn’t really any cake. Just don’t tell Teddy. He’ll get upset.”

Odd Bod looked over at Teddy. The small, furry thing was making no apparent effort to eat the make-believe cake. Whatever cake was. Odd Bod sighed and glanced longingly over his shoulder to his well.

Are you thirsty?”

Thirsty?” Odd Bod asked.

The girl was now placing a different receptacle in front of him. This one was also decorated in flowers but was somewhat deeper in shape. “I’ll pour some nice tea in the cups.” She picked up the odd-looking thing with the handle and poured a clear liquid into the cups before offering one to her guest. “Here you go.”

Odd Bod took the little cup awkwardly in his misshapen fingers and raised it to his mouth. His nose caught a whiff of its smell and wrinkled in disgust. He snapped his head back and grimaced.

Now, don’t be rude,” the little redhead scowled. “Drink it all up.”

Odd Bod looked across the rim of the cup to this strange piece of food that was not acting as it should then peered down into the cup unsure as to what he should do. Part of him wanted to reach over and gobble her up but part of him felt he really ought to do as he was told. It was only polite.

He placed the cup to his lips.

The girl smiled and nodded for him to continue. “Down in one,” she said.

Odd Bod did as he was instructed and gulped the liquid down.

He immediately regretted the decision.

Emily carefully tidied up the blanket and the tea set. She cautiously poured the remains of the so-called tea down the dry, foul-smelling well – the well in which her mummy had died. She had no idea what she had put in the teapot but it seemed to have done the trick. It had been a concoction of all sorts of liquids from tins in the cellar, the labels of which had borne loud warning symbols.

It had worked a treat.

She had been terribly scared when the monster had climbed out of the well, but it had saved her the job of climbing down to do what had needed doing. Besides, Teddy had been there for moral support.

The thing that had eaten her mummy and so many other villagers lay dead at her feet.

She bundled Teddy and the tea set into the blanket, swung the improvised bag over her shoulder and skipped merrily home.

***

Needs Must first appeared in A.S.Chambers’ collection of short horror stories All Things Dark And Dangerous published in 2015.

Links for this book and all his other works (including the Sam Spallucci series) can be found on his website www.aschambers.co.uk.

ATTACK OF THE KILLER BANANA SPIDER! – a one-act play by John Moorhouse

banana20spider

CHARACTERS:

JOSH: Nineteen. Student.

SOL: Nineteen. Student.

A quiet day in a student house until Josh brings home a bunch of bananas from the supermarket. Trapped in the bananas is an extremely irritated and extremely poisonous spider.

(The present day. A room with two dining chairs and a table. There is a fruit bowl on the table. In the kitchen: a plastic bucket, magazine and long-handled brush.)

(JOSH walks in talking to SOL who is upstairs. He is wearing jeans, a hoodie and trainers and carrying a supermarket carrier bag.)

JOSH: No, no, It’s OK, Sol. You stay where you are. I can manage. You finish your essay or your FIFA tournament or whatever it is you’re doing that’s so important. I’m fine. I’ll go shopping. I’ll carry all the stuff home and I’ll put it all away. Don’t you worry yourself.

(He tips a bunch of bananas from the carrier bag into the fruit bowl and reaches for one. He

snatches his hand back.)

JOSH: Yaaaaaaarrrgh!
(He jumps onto a chair.)

JOSH: Shit!

(SOL wanders in, in bathrobe and slippers, carrying a toothbrush.)

SOL: What’s up?

JOSH: Fruit bowl! Bananas! Spider!!

SOL: Spider? You big girl.

(He looks into the fruit bowl.)

SOL: Yaaaarrrgh!

(He jumps onto the second chair.)

SOL: We had a dog smaller than that. It’s a monster! Shit.

JOSH: What is it?

SOL: It’s a spider!

JOSH: Yes. But what? Tarantula? Black Widow?

SOL: I don’t know, do I? (PAUSE) I’m going to have a look.

JOSH: Don’t annoy it.

(SOL gets down and goes to the table. He looks.)

SOL: I think it might be dead.

(JOSH gets down and stands behind SOL at the table.)

JOSH: Is it? Please, please let it be dead.

SOL: Or it might just be sleeping.

JOSH: Poke it.

SOL: You poke it.

JOSH: I’m not poking it.

SOL: You want it poking – you poke it.

(JOSH looks.)

JOSH: It’s trapped. See? Its leg’s stuck between two bananas.

SOL: Oh yeah.

(SOL pokes it with his toothbrush. Pause.)

BOTH: Yaaaaaaarrrrgh!

(They scramble back onto the chairs.)

SOL: (PAUSE) Not dead then.

(They stare at the fruit bowl.)

JOSH: What’s it doing?

SOL: It’s going mad!

JOSH: It’s trying to get free.

(Pause.)

BOTH: Eeyuw!

JOSH: Did it just do what I think it did?

SOL: It did.

JOSH: It did, didn’t it?

SOL: It’s a beast.

JOSH: Hardcore.

SOL: Yep. You’ve got to be pretty hardcore to rip your own leg off.

JOSH: Shit.

(SOL takes his phone from his pocket.)

JOSH: Good thinking. Phone someone – fire brigade, International Rescue.

SOL: Hang on.

JOSH: What?

SOL: I want to find out what it is first. It might be harmless.

JOSH: It just tore its own leg off!

SOL: We don’t want to look stupid.

JOSH: We don’t want to look dead either.

SOL: Wait.

JOSH: How are you going to identify it anyway?

SOL: I’m googling it.

JOSH: What are you googling? Banana…Spider?

SOL: Yes. Actually. (PAUSE) Here we are.

(He shows JOSH the screen.)

SOL: That’s it, isn’t it?

JOSH: I reckon. What is it? Tarantula?

SOL: Sadly, no.

JOSH: What then?

SOL: According to this, it’s a Brazilian Wandering Spider.

JOSH: That doesn’t sound too bad.

SOL: (READS) ‘Also known by its Greek name – phoneutria – which translates as…’murderess’.’

JOSH: I take it back.

(Silence. SOL reads.)

JOSH: What is it?

(Silence.)

SOL: Shit.

JOSH: What?!

SOL: (READS) ‘The Brazilian Wandering Spider also known as The Banana Spider…’ See? ‘…is probably the most venomous spider in the world.’

JOSH: Shit.

SOL: (READS) ‘Its fangs inject a neurotoxin which causes intense pain, loss of muscle control leading to paralysis, breathing problems and death by asphyxiation.’ Shit. (READS) ‘In men, its bite can cause an erection that lasts for four hours.’

JOSH: (PAUSE) Four hours?

SOL: Four hours.

JOSH: (PAUSE) A four hour erection followed by death by asphyxiation.

SOL: Sounds like a Consevative MP’s dream, doesn’t it?

JOSH: (LAUGHING) They’d never get the coffin lid down.

SOL: (LAUGHING) Ahhh. Stop it.

(They force their laughter down. Thoughtful silence.)

JOSH: What’s it doing now?

(SOL leans forward to look. The chair topples and he lands on his knees by the table. He

cautiously brings his eyes up level with the fruit bowl. He freezes.)

SOL: Yaaaaarrrgh!

(He grabs the chair, rights it and springs back up.)

JOSH: What? What?!

SOL: It reared up.

JOSH: What do you mean?

SOL: Reared up! Reared up! On its back legs! It reared up! Fangs…

JOSH: Shit.

SOL: Two…massive…fangs. Oh God. And it swayed. From side to side.

JOSH: Swayed?

SOL: Yes! Yes! Swayed! Like this. (DEMONSTRATES) It stood on its hind legs and bared its fangs at me and…swayed. And it…it reached out its front legs…well…leg towards me. I feel sick.

JOSH: Then what?

SOL: It ran off.

JOSH: What? Where? Where did it go?

SOL: I don’t know, do I?! I was too busy escaping a four-hour erection and a hideously painful death!

(Silence.)

JOSH: So, it could be anywhere.

SOL: Yes.

JOSH: OK. (PAUSE) We should find it.

SOL: (AWESTRUCK) It’s as big as my hand…

(Silence.)

JOSH: These…er…fangs…

(SOL demonstrates with two fingers.)

SOL: Huge.

(Silence.)

JOSH: It’s probably more scared of us than we are of…it.

SOL: Well, in that case, it must be bloody petrified. And that’s just what we need, isn’t it? A killer spider from Hell that’s feeling a bit hysterical!

(Silence.)

JOSH: We should catch it.

SOL: (PAUSE) Google said…

JOSH: Yes?

SOL: It said that…when it bites, it doesn’t always use its venom. Sometimes…it just bites.

JOSH: Sorry?

SOL: Only one bite in three is venomous.

JOSH: And this makes me feel better how?

SOL: I’m just saying. The odds – you know?

JOSH: Well, that’s a relief. Let’s get after it then and hope we’re not the unfortunate one-in-three. Ah! There’s two of us, so we could both get lucky!

SOL: (PAUSE) We’ve got to do this.

JOSH: Have we?

SOL: Can’t stand up here forever.

JOSH: (PAUSE) OK. After three; we’ll carefully get down, find it and catch it. One…

SOL: Or kill it.

JOSH: Won’t that just piss it off?

SOL: How can it be pissed off if it’s dead?

JOSH: But if we try to kill it and miss – it’ll be pissed off.

SOL: Actually, I would imagine it’s pretty pissed off already. I mean, you would be, wouldn’t you? One minute you’re wandering around Brazil deciding whether to give someone a playful nip or a four hour erection and an agonizing death. And next minute you wake up in a fruit bowl in a student house in Leeds with your leg stuck in a bunch of bananas. Pissed off? Yep. I reckon. (PAUSE) We need a plan.

(SOL looks around then gets down from the chair.)

SOL: Cover me.

JOSH: Eh?

SOL: Cover me! I’m going to the kitchen.

(JOSH gets down. He holds the chair in front of him as SOL backs out of the room. SOL returns

with a magazine, a plastic bucket and a brush. They get back on the chairs.)

SOL: Here.

(He hands JOSH the brush.)

SOL: Right. This is the plan. First we locate the creature then you use the brush to maneuver it onto the magazine then I slam the bucket over it.

JOSH: OK. Got it. (PAUSE) Just a minute. What if it runs up the handle? Sod that!

SOL: It’s only got seven…six…(CHECKS PHONE) seven legs. It’s disabled, isn’t it? Anyway, the cold will slow it down. It’s used to a hot climate.

JOSH: Didn’t look very slow to me.

SOL: No, it’ll be lethargic.

JOSH: Lethargic? It just ripped its own leg off!

SOL: Swap then. I’ll have the brush – you have the bucket and mag.

JOSH: We’ll stick to Plan A.

SOL: Ready?

JOSH: Ready.

(They slowly dismount and search.)

JOSH: Where is it?

SOL: Must be here somewhere.

(They search.)

JOSH: (WHISPERS) Sol…Sol.

SOL: What?

JOSH: Shhh! It’ll hear you.

SOL: Do they even have ears?

JOSH: Sh. Look.

(JOSH is staring at the corner of the room. SOL looks.)

SOL: (QUIET) Right.

(He places the magazine on the floor and holds the bucket ready.)

SOL: Go on then.

JOSH: I’m doing it!

(He slowly pokes the brush handle into the corner.)

SOL: Is it moving?

JOSH: Shut up, Sol. (POKES) Yaaaarrrgh!

SOL: What?!

JOSH: It’s got hold of the brush!

SOL: Shake it off.

(JOSH flails the brush around in the air.)

JOSH: Get off! Get off!

SOL: What are you doing?! On the magazine! On the magazine!

(JOSH swoops the brush down over the magazine and shakes.)

JOSH: Get off!

(SOL slams the bucket down. Pause.)

JOSH: Did you get it?

SOL: Most of it.

JOSH: What does that mean?

SOL: Well it’s got an even number of legs again.

(JOSH slumps into a chair.)

JOSH: Oh God. I think I’ve just had a heart attack.

(SOL carefully picks up the bucket and magazine.)

JOSH: What are you doing?

SOL: Throwing it out.

(He approaches the audience.)

JOSH: No!!

(He stops.)

SOL: Why not?

JOSH: It’s a Brazilian Wandering Spider. What if it decides to wander back in?!

SOL: Good point.

(He places the bucket and magazine back on the floor.)

SOL: So…What now? (PAUSE) I’ll call someone.

JOSH: RSPCA?

SOL: Could do. (PAUSE) Wait.

JOSH: Problem?

SOL: What if they think we pulled its legs off, you know, deliberately.

JOSH: Who, in their right minds, would do that?!

SOL: I’ll phone them.

(He does.)

SOL: Hello. Yes. We’ve caught a spider. No…I’m not taking the…Listen. Hang on! It’s venomous. It was in the bananas. Yes, I’m sure. We looked it up…

JOSH: The bucket!

SOL: Shush!

JOSH: It moved!

(SOL puts his foot on top of the bucket.)

SOL: Sorry about that. It’s a Brazilian Wandering Spider. (PAUSE) Yes. That’s right. Four hours. What? Why not? Right. Thanks for nothing, pal!

(He ends the call.)

JOSH: What did they say?

SOL: Phone the police.

(He does.)

SOL: Police. Yes, it’s an emergency. Yes. We bought some bananas and there’s a venomous spider in them. Yes, I’m sure. We looked it up on Google. It’s a Brazilian Wandering Spider. (PAUSE) That’s the one – four hours. Yes. I know. That’s what we said. We trapped it under a bucket. Really? Brilliant! Thanks! 62 Claremont Street. OK. Cheers. (ENDS CALL) they’re on their way. With… ‘a team’.

JOSH: Oh thank God.

(Silence.)

JOSH: Sol?

SOL: Mm?

JOSH: (PAUSE) When did you kick the bucket over?

(Silence. He looks.)

BOTH: Yaaaaaaaarrrrgh!

(They run off. The front door slams. Silence. The spider is still in the room.)

THE END

SPEED – by Mark Cassell

speed

I like to floor the accelerator on a straight, feel the speed pushing me into my seat. Only ever in the countryside though, and with no one else on the road. I’m not a boy-racer. Damn it, I’m a thirty-five year old man with a great family, a steady job and a promotion on the way; you know the type. It’s just I enjoy the odd hit of speed. So on a straight, I open it up…then brake firmly towards the bend. Never on the bend. We’ve all seen bunches of flowers at the bole of a tree somewhere, with a rain-smudged picture of someone, often a teenager, pinned to the trunk. Sometimes police tape flaps in the wind, but always the bark has been stripped by the impact.

Wood versus metal. Physics versus flesh. Don’t brake on a bend, kiddies.

Right now, sunlight flickers in my peripheral vision but not in that annoying way to make me angle the visor. I hope I don’t get stuck behind anyone who’ll deny me my fun, someone thoughtlessly turning my homebound stretch into a journey much slower because they don’t appreciate the engine connected to their toes. Tarmac spears into the summer countryside and my playground spreads out. The road is mine. I thumb the front window buttons and the air rushes in. I’ve never been one for air-con. The freshness fills me and I taste the sunshine, the foliage, the woodland.

The speedometer needle creeps up, hovering at 40 mph. I take a gradual bend at almost 50, and it straightens out. Clear ahead, open tarmac hemmed in by bushes, and the needle pushes 60. Engine revving, clean air howling. Now pushing 70…

80.

And then I brake. Hard.

Branches and leaves and hefty chunks of earth litter the tarmac. Beyond that, a fallen tree.

Tyres rumble, the steering vibrates, and my knuckles whiten as I squint over them. The car jerks to a halt, my breath heavy. Seconds drag as I stare ahead.

I’ve no idea if those seconds turn to minutes…

My mouth is dry and I find it difficult to swallow. I want to say something, anything, but…but it’s what is on the tree that has frozen me in my seat. Even my hands remain clamped to the steering wheel. They’re now cold, clammy.

The felled oak is one of many, twisted and splintered and flattening the hedgerows either side of the road. Roots tangled in brambles and ivy and great upheavals of earth. In the midst of branches, a bloated creature straddles the great trunk. As grey and wrinkled as an elephant and equally as large, its immense torso glistens. Folded leathery wings hang down its flank to curl beside clawed feet. Bristles cover its bulk, and a collar of longer hair circles its neck, giving way to a horned head—six or is that seven horns? Each, chipped and gnarly, of differing lengths. Its lidless eyes, black, wide, piercing, gaze down a twisted snout and in its mouth, a branch dangles. Saliva drips from wet lips.

The fingers on my left hand peel from the steering wheel and drop to the gearstick. My jellied leg pushes downward, foot dumping the clutch pedal. Finally, the car crunches into reverse as my heartbeat crashes between my ears.

I watch the branch slip from the creature’s mouth. Head thrown back, it bellows. Deep, throaty. Neck stretching, torso slimming, those great wings extend. They reach out, wider and wider.

My neck clicks as I whip my head round for a view behind me. I accelerate, hard, and the car shoots backwards. I steer one-handed down the lane. I hear rather than see the wings beating, sounding like a sledgehammer whacking a mattress. Over and over. Getting louder. Approaching…

Metal shrieks, glass implodes. Pain flares across my face and I look round into a shattered windscreen and bodywork buckled by yellow claws. The car is lifted up. Up. The engine revs; such a shrill sound and I spy the rev-counter blasting into the red. My arse comes off the seat, then harsh into the cushion again, shaken left and right, forward and back. Blue sky fills every window.

I fumble the seatbelt release and my shoulder smacks the door.

Up higher, blue sky, blinding sunshine, clouds, wings beating…

The patchwork of English countryside spreads out too far below. I can even see the coast…and is that Hastings pier over there? Cold air whistles all the while there’s that continuous thump of immense wings. More tearing of metal, glass shattering. The windscreen breaks free and spins off. Higher we go. The car tilts.

I slam into the dashboard and slide over it. Metal and plastic tears my forearms, my palms. Heart in mouth, my ears roar from the wind, the fear, the madness. My fingers scrape and scratch as I slide out over the bonnet, blood smearing a handprint over the bodywork. The creature’s body blocks out the sunshine, great wings punching the air. For a moment—only for a moment—my slippery fingers clutch the front grill, legs dangling. Far below, there’s the country lane and those fallen trees.

Gravity.

I fall. Now weightless. A cold speed snatches the Earth closer.

My arms cartwheel and I’m aware that I scream the word “Fuck” louder than I’ve ever needed to; one dragged out expletive. The ground, this creature’s nest, gets larger, closer.

Such speed.

Curled around one another are a pair of smaller creatures. Marginally smaller. Bald, skinny, evidently the offspring of the nightmare that now flies somewhere above me. Closer to Earth, I see their mouths agape, forked tongues whipping to and fro, flicking saliva.

Closer…

Something cracks. Loud. Pain explodes and white light blends with the raging agony. My body has landed half in, half out of one creature’s mouth. The other grabs my useless legs. No more pain as I’m torn in two. Through the mad rush of white and black, of blurred and focused, there’s a pressure on my head and upper-torso. The creature’s jaws squeezing…

I see my intestines stretch in a dark red mess, and—

*

 

Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in numerous anthologies and ezines. His best-selling debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is closely followed by the popular short story collection, Sinister Stitches, and are both only a fraction of an expanding mythos. His most recent release, Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill, is in association with Future Chronicles Photography.

For more about Mark and his work, or to contact him directly:

Free stories: www.markcassell.com

The Shadow Fabric mythos: www.theshadowfabric.co.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Mark_Cassell

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorMarkCassell

BLUE KARI – by Martin Reaves

blue_old_book_wallpaper_by_davidjrc-d3blpac

Kari is gone. It’s the only thing Rebekah knows for sure and the only thing that really matters; because the world absent of Kari is Rebekah absent of cause, devoid of sensation and the basic human need to feel…anything.

Rebekah’s eyes attempt to blink away the dryness of staring long at nothing and she wonders again if she killed her love, if the paintbrush in her hand might be the murder weapon. There is small comfort in the realization that it does not matter what device stole Kari from the present; be it sickness or madness, she is simply not here.

Rebekah blinks again, focuses on the empty canvas before her, and questions whether she has what it takes to conjure her friend. This easel—holding a different canvas, filled with liquid blue longing—is the last place she saw Kari. That canvas is gone now, but she remembers its detail: Kari’s lips wanting to smile for her, and that awful resigned sadness in her eyes; a rendering of a blue Kari standing in a blue field under a blue sky, painted while Kari lay on the futon in the living room of the apartment they’d shared, two months past the date when her wasted legs decided they could no longer carry her.

If Rebekah is able to bring her back, what will she say? Will she be able to say anything at all? What could possibly be appropriate? 

She looks at the palette with its swirls of blue and darker blue and wonders again if she might be losing her mind.

Kari died of a disease, she thinks. It had nothing to do with me.

If only she could believe that. If only she’d been able to talk to her after that last long sigh.

If only she had never learned to paint. Her skill is something she doesn’t understand. The ability to reproduce images is a product of long practice and detailed instruction, but it is her use of color that sets the images apart. Maybe it’s because she uses so little color, but to such great effect, working primarily with blue and purple, although rarely in the same picture. Her paintings are technically of one color, though with many different hues. Her purples always dark but never depressing; there is somehow an upbeat tone when she paints with purple. Her blues seem to whisper a quiet melancholy, but rarely fail to inspire calm. Whether purple or blue, she uses only black and white to mix and create the variations. She doesn’t know how she achieves her ends, merely that the color is right when it’s right.

And the color was right the day she decided to paint Kari, nearly ten years after the day they first met.

Rebekah was nine, Kari eight, both struggling with watercolors at summer camp. Kari had a way of slinging paint that may have ensured a career in modern art if the disease hadn’t begun that same year to eat away at her muscle tissue. Rebekah loved Kari from that first summer, the progressive illness only intensifying her desire to protect and nurture her younger friend.

Later, when Kari’s walking became limited to short stretches at a time, Rebekah broke her piggy bank and purchased a wagon to pull her in. They managed adolescence together, dated together, and—after a singularly unpleasant double-date—broke up with their boyfriends only minutes apart, flipping a coin to see who would go first. After that, boys had seemed pointless.

For a while Kari’s deterioration seemed to slow, not enough to hope for recovery, but enough to pretend. But it was merely hiatus, and one short year later they were attempting to hold each other’s tears at bay, Kari somehow the stronger of the two, as the doctor gently explained that Rebekah should take her home and try to make her comfortable. Make her comfortable—a benign phrase and yet…final.

The days ran together; seamless stretches of time defined only by shifting patterns of light at the windows. Rebekah quit her job. The living room became Kari’s dying room. They played every card game they knew, making up variations on old games as that limited knowledge played out; finally the cards were set aside when Kari’s fingers could no longer manage the burden. So it was television and music, and a kind of dreamy conversation that diminished with Kari’s decreasing ability to draw breath. Then it was simply waiting…Rebekah watching Kari fade and begging time to stop.

Until the night when an emaciated whisper caused Rebekah to look up from the blurred page of a magazine.

She laid the magazine aside and gently sat next to Kari on the day bed. “What was that, sweetie?”

Kari took Rebekah’s hand and pressed the fingertips against her dry lips. “You haven’t painted in a long time. I miss watching you paint.”

* * *

Rebekah lifts the brush, thick with paint, from the palette and holds it before her eyes. She makes a small stroke in the bottom corner of the canvas and feels the familiar calm settle over her—the color is right. It is the only thing that has ever mattered in her art, getting the color right, this moment always a little unnerving because she lacks a formula for her colors, has no recipe for her shades. She wonders if the day will come when the color balance eludes her. It might; she has no way of knowing. But this time it’s right, and this time it must be right. This is to be the final and enduring Kari. She begins to paint, calling not on her fingers and hands to create the image, but her heart; and the sense memory of how Kari felt and smelled and sounded. The image after all is already there, in the color. Blue on blue on blue.

* * *

That night, not so long ago, Rebekah picked up her brushes, her paints and palette, and settled before the canvas. She looked at her precious friend and said, “What should I paint?”

“Paint,” Kari said, pausing to draw a breath that seemed a long time in coming. “Paint something you love.”

Rebekah smiled, remembering. It was what Kari used to say when Rebekah was stuck for an idea, when the blank canvas mocked any attempt she made. Paint what you love, sweetie, it’s the only thing that matters.

She began mixing blues. “I’m going to paint you, girl.”

Kari’s lips formed the tiniest of smiles. “That will be nice.” Her voice was almost gone.

Rebekah’s paintings usually took a couple hours to complete. Blue Kari took two days. She became hypnotized by the process of glancing to Kari on the futon and back to the canvas, to Kari, to the canvas. It was automatic and the brush never stopped moving. She did not stop to eat, although there was a dim memory of feeding Kari and helping her with the indignity of the bedpan.

From the first couple brush strokes she knew something was different. Despite the intuitive method of mixing color, she was a literal painter. If her subject sat in a chair, she painted a picture of that person sitting in a chair. It was the striking, sometimes alarming use of a single, multi-hued color that set her work apart. But this time something odd was happening. Kari lay on the futon, mostly asleep, but Rebekah’s brush revealed her as she would be if she were standing in a cerulean field with a light breeze lifting her hair. The memory of a smile disturbed her pale lips, her eyes round and leaking a cobalt sadness so profound Rebekah could not look on them for more than a few seconds at a time.

As Rebekah glanced from canvas to couch, the figure lying there began to seem insubstantial, a shade of the sapphire Kari coming to life at her hands. She felt as though she were racing time, overwhelmed with the sense that she would lose Kari before the portrait was done. As the hours passed, the world became a dark azure swirl, no sound save the whisper of brush on canvas and the occasional whispered moan from Kari.

And then, the painting nearly complete, Rebekah did something she’d never done before: she got too much paint on the brush and touched it to the canvas where she had almost finished the shading around Kari’s haunted eyes. The thick glob began to run in a slow rivulet.

From the futon, Kari cried out softly.

Rebekah couldn’t believe what she’d done. She could fix it, but it would change the picture—an altered painting was not a true painting.

From a hundred miles away: “Bekah?”

Rebekah began to cry. She’d ruined it.

“Bekah, are you there?”

Something in Kari’s withered voice broke through and Rebekah looked to her friend. Her eyes were wide and staring.

Kari’s voice fluttered like the wings of dying moth. “Bekah…please answer me…I’m scared. Why…is it so dark?”

No. Please, God.

Full daylight streamed through the windows of the tiny apartment. Rebekah lowered herself to Kari’s side and tenderly stroked her forehead. “I’m right here, baby.”

Kari shifted her vacant gaze as Rebekah sat next to her. Her voice was rice paper-thin. “I so…wanted to see my painting.” The corner of her mouth twitched in what might have been an imitation of the smile on canvas had she been able to see it. “Thank you…for being my friend.” Then she frowned and her sightless eyes closed. “I don’t…”

Rebekah waited, her breath stalled and useless, her eyes filling with the truth of the moment. “What, baby? You don’t what?”

Kari’s eye’s shifted slowly beneath the lids, as if at the end of a dream. “I…don’t…think I’m much here…anymore,” she whispered, and Rebekah watched as a single indigo tear rolled down her cheek. “…miss you,” Kari said, and released a sigh that seemed to go on and on. Rebekah wasn’t sure when it stopped because her own cry of anguish overlapped and carried her into unconsciousness.

* * *

She stops before beginning the eye detail on the new Kari. She remembers the blue tear and doesn’t want to make the same mistake again. But she knows it is not within her power to deny it if the tear belongs there. She dips her brush again and watches her wrist twist of its own accord, dabbing the excess. She smiles. Maybe this Kari is done with sadness. She takes a slow breath, her hand poised, and waits for the eyes to come to her.

* * *

When Rebekah awoke, her mother was there. She was in the hospital.

“Where’s Kari?” It hurt to speak, as though her vocal chords had been long unused.

Her mother ran the pad of a thumb across Rebekah’s forehead. “She’s gone, darlin’.”

Rebekah knew that. She’d known from the moment the blue tear ran down Kari’s cheek. “I killed her,” she said.

“No, Bek. She probably lasted longer because of you. There’s nothing you could have done.”

Rebekah explained about the painting, and the blue tear.

“Darlin’, you’re just confused. Kari was lying very peaceful. There was no paint on her face.”

“It wasn’t paint. It was a tear.”

Her mother tried to explain how Rebekah, malnourished and sleep-deprived, had gone into a shock-induced coma after finding Kari dead. The coma had held her for the better part of a week. She’d missed the funeral. Her mother offered to take her to the cemetery to see where she lay. But Rebekah didn’t want to go. There was no point. Kari was gone.

Under strict instructions to rest and eat her way slowly back to strength, the doctor allowed her to go home. It was two days before Rebekah was able to convince her mother that what she need more than anything was to be alone.

The apartment’s living area was dominated by a sense of loss, the feeling intensified by the weeping Kari on canvas. Rebekah’s legs led her to the futon, where she sat to study the painting from what had been Kari’s final perspective before her eyes gave up.

“Why are you so sad,” she whispered.

Blue Kari just watched her, crying her single tear. The image became watery and indistinct as tears filled Rebekah’s eyes. She drew her legs up onto the small couch and laid her head on the pillow that had so long held that of her dear friend. She buried her face into the pillow, inhaling the last vestiges of Kari’s sickness, and watched the picture until she began to drift off.

I miss you, sweet Bekah.”

She started awake and found herself staring, not at the painting, but at the small blue dot on the pillow. She touched it with the tip of her finger. It was dry, but felt almost…alive. It seemed she could feel a light breeze as she touched the dried tear.

And from the painting: a soft voice singing.

Kari was watching her.

And then the only thing she could hear was her own tired wailing and the tearing of the canvas.

* * *

She is finished. And it is better than before. She smiles as she remembers shredding the old Kari. She was afraid then; she is not afraid now.

That Kari is dead anyway.

She steps back for a fuller perspective, looking away then looking back. So much better. No tears. This Kari is not sad.

She leans nearer, closes her eyes and inhales the fragrance of her lost friend. She hears the faintest whisper: “Thank you.”

She opens her eyes and settles back in the chair. To the palette she adds just the tiniest bit of white. Kari is finished, but there is so much empty space next to her on the canvas. Rebekah shifts slightly to better view the full-length mirror she has placed next to the easel. Her reflection is smiling. A finger guides the hair on the left side of her face behind the ear—Kari likes it better that way.

Rebekah adjusts the mirror, locks the final image in her mind. “I’ll see you soon, sweet Kari,” she says and touches brush to canvas.

The End

 

 

Martin “Mott” Reaves

Amazon: amazon.com/author/martinreaves

Blog: http://mottsruminations.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Mottlee