Desperate for the pinch that would bring her escape, she sought refuge in a dilapidated house slightly hidden by an overgrown yard. Squeezing through a paint-chipped opening, she entered a once loved home; now a desolate shell. She tiptoed through the crumbling building; fitting, however ironic it may have been, to have found a location almost as decayed as her. A few rodents scurried past and a disillusioned smirk crossed her chapped lips. A wave of cold sweat coated her from head to toe and the cramps in her muscles became too strong to ignore. Illness coursed through her brittle body; the remedy within her grasp.
Empty glassines scatter amongst the debris; almost instantly her vacant eyes glazed over. Collapsing into her surroundings, her back slid against exposed drywall. She stared through the broken window before her. The skewed view of an unkempt backyard swirled with gray matter. A memory washed through sullen eyes as salty tears trickled down battle-scarred cheeks. The enormous oak tree cast shade upon the little ones as they giggled in the grass; a time almost entirely forgotten. In that second she could feel the sun’s gentle warming on her skin. Pigtails and lemonade seemed so far away, droplets of melted mascara and misery spilled onto her tattered shirt faster than they could be caught. A swift jolt of pain deep beneath the flesh followed by a surge of pure bliss wrenched her into the present.
Despondent and motionless, she slumped over, barely propped up against the wall. Truths that could never have been told, let alone forgiven, silenced without warning. If she called out, would anyone even care? The gruesome truth beneath the surface of burned bridges and voluntary exile were all around her. The only company to be expected now were the rats to clean up her mess.
That haunting memory grew stronger; a skinned knee and the scent of antibiotic ointment permeated the air. Her pain was gone, then and now. Ghosts of her past pranced through her brain and banged against her skull. The sun beamed upon her face a final time as she welcomed its familiar burn. Her deep inhales grew shorter and more shallow until a stillness resonated through not just the decrepit shelter, but her ever wasting body. The withered land she’d hidden in would swallow her whole before she could be found. Iced coffee and nicotine lingered in her mouth — the last flavor of a life willingly let go. An accepting smile rested on the corpse who had no other home. Her once beautiful pale face now a brilliant blue.
Tranquility filled the darkness as hours passed, followed by weeks, until the months began to pile on. A skeleton picked clean by vermin, intertwined for eternity with an abandoned home. The idea of redemption dissolved; though her tomb was secret more would surely come. They’d follow in her footsteps and dwell on their misguided past; lives just as lonely and hearts concealed by frost.
∼ Lydia Prime
© Copyright Lydia Prime. All Rights Reserved.
Jeremy promised he would never leave me. He’d be the only person in my life never to do so. I didn’t know whether I believed him or not, not really, but I liked to think he meant it at the time.
Once he told me he was born with a darkness inside him and didn’t know how to make it go away. He wanted to hurt things. He wanted to squeeze necks and break legs. Slash at throats. He told me how he watched the pulse in my neck and kept time with its beating. After he mentioned this, I noticed his eyes would wander to my throat and his breathing would change. I knew he was waiting for something, for my heart to stop or my blood to coagulate inside my veins, if it didn’t spill out of them first. He wanted to press his thumb down on my artery to see what would happen.
It wasn’t ill-feeling. Not really. It wasn’t that he hated. He just wanted to make everybody sorry.
“Sorry for what?” I asked him once. We were just kids, sitting on the rocks and staring into the ocean. I had my crying doll with me, back before Jeremy pulled off her head to see what kind of sound she made. I was never able to put her back together, but that was all right. I still had Jeremy.
“I don’t know. Just sorry.”
He wasn’t dark all the time, and that’s what made the difference. The shadow would come in waves, nearly crushing him under the weight of despair, and then it would ebb out. He’d be charming and funny. Happy. This was the Jeremy I knew, the one I enjoyed. It didn’t surprise anybody when we grew up and fell in love. Jeremy and Kat. It’s just how it was always meant to be. That, and nobody else on the island would have anything to do with either of us.
We’d sneak up to the old lighthouse some nights, play tricks on the tourists and plan our future. We picked out a day to get married, not too far off but far enough, and made lists of the songs that we wanted to dance to after our wedding.
“Hey, Kat. You know I’ll never leave you, right?”
I didn’t say anything.
“We’ll be together always. I promise.”
I smiled, and I swear, it almost felt natural. “I believe you, Jeremy. Really.”
He knew better than that, I could see it in his eyes. But he also knew I was trying, and that’s what mattered.
“I’ll prove it to you. Just wait and see.”
His smile was a beautiful thing. It filled me with hope. Sometimes with terror, deep down, but mostly something that I think was happiness.
“Jer? I love you. I do.”
“I know you do. I love you, too.”
And then Jeremy went dark. It was worse than usual, worse than I’d ever seen. He wouldn’t talk to me. Wouldn’t let me touch him.
A little boy went missing from town and I was too terrified to ask him about it. Jeremy simply stared at the sea. It lasted for weeks this time.
“Please tell me what’s wrong,” I begged him the last time that I saw him. “Why won’t you let me help you?”
“Nobody can help me,” he said. He wouldn’t even look at me. I pulled my coat closer, the wind grabbing at my hair and trying to push me from the rocks.
“But we’re getting married in eight days,” I said. “Can’t you at least try to act happy? Pretend it matters to you?”
He didn’t answer. I turned and ran, tripping over rocks and shells. He’d already left me, just like I was afraid he would.
This is what true loneliness is.
The Coast Guard found Jeremy’s body wedged underneath rocks not far from shore. He was bloated and discolored but I kissed him anyway. We buried him on what was supposed to be our wedding day. I sat in the church, surrounded by people and flowers, and thought this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
That night, I went dark as well. The feelings overwhelm me: despair, anger, hatred; and I know they aren’t mine. I’ll see a couple walking together, looking like they belong with each other, and I want to kill them, rend them apart because they’re happy, and I will never be.
Jeremy won’t let me. He follows me everywhere now. He’s always prowling for somebody new to hurt. He smoothes my hair back when I sleep, and threatens everyone around me. My sister came to visit after his death, and he pushed her from the rocks. He appeared once in front of my father and caused him to have a heart attack. I dared to date a man, just once, and my date was killed in a car crash on the way home. Anybody I talk to becomes his victim.
“We’ll be together always. I promise.” Jeremy had said, and I realize now that he truly meant it. He’s cutting me off from everybody that I know, from everybody that can help me. He wants me to jump from the same rocks that he did and join him, and I’m afraid that it won’t be much longer before I do. There’s nothing to stay for.
He promised he would never leave me. I should have believed him. For the first time, I truly wish to be left alone.
~ Mercedes M. Yardley
© Copyright Mercedes M. Yardley. All Rights Reserved.
Wishes Do Come True
All I wanted was the shiny new tricycle with the ribbons on the handlebars. Just like the one Bobby next door had. So I wished it. At the scary place in woods where I’m not supposed to go. Where the growls and the bad words came out of the ground. Where the trees whispered about blood and mean things. I shouldn’t have done it, but I did.
I wished for that tricycle. Just like the one Bobby had. And they answered me. Said they’d get me that trike if I did something for them. So I brought them Bobby like they asked. I didn’t know what would happen. He just—just—there was a lot of blood and laughter. Then I ran.
But I swear I didn’t know.
I got my tricycle, though. Bobby’s parents gave me his, after the funeral.
A Little More Red
Isn’t it magnificent? This is the tricycle I had as a child. Sadly it didn’t always look this good. Much like me it was beaten up… passed around… misused. Unlike me though, this was fixable; a chance to restore my lost childhood. Once all the dents were fixed and rust sanded down, I knew a fresh coat of red would do it wonders. But as I held the brush it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t restore innocence with paint… it needed something else… something special to bring it back. The first one was difficult, not going as smoothly as I had hoped. I was too emotional. Fear, excitement and inexperience will do that. Regardless, with the first brushstroke, the tricycle came alive like never before. The blood breathed new life into it. Too quickly though, my initial supply ran out. I went out, visiting different playgrounds, killing my catch as fast as I could. My remorse faded each time, replaced by building passion to bring back what I had lost. I mean, just look at it… isn’t it magnificent? A little more red and it’ll be done.
I sit here alone waiting, luring them with the glimmer of carnelian shine and faded tassels. I was a boy once; it was a gift given to celebrate my birth – but why celebrate the unwanted Papa reminded me with strap and fist. When it spoke to me, offering escape for a mere favor, how could I resist? The last to feel my pull was a young girl; her screams still echo my mind. It drank with wanton lust, this keeper of my soul; I wept knowing my part.
A glance upward tells me the tenement is mostly asleep, but I see them, eyes that barely clear the sill as they gaze down; a man’s voice in the background slurred and harsh. I pray the child does not come, but they always do. They seek the same escape I once did; they feed the beast which masks its evil in the plaything that keeps me captive. A crescent of light seeps through the darkness as the back door cracks open. The young one stares at me, eyes full of wonder. I cringe knowing the lie I keep; the falsehood of joy I represent.
I set him down, releasing his torso when he reestablishes balance in his tiny gray sneakers. He accepts the rag from me and wipes down his tricycle: seat, frame, spokes, basket, tassels, like I instructed. A boy and his tricycle, innocence personified. Smiling, I rub my eye to dam the tear threatening to form. Not long ago, he could barely pedal. Now he’s outgrown it.
Outgrown his innocence.
How cruel of us, bringing him into this world. We never meant to, of course, but we did. He’s far too aware now. Voicing questions no child should ask.
His mother hopes things will go back to how they were before The Night.
He hugs my leg and scampers toward his mother in the house. Gravel crunches under those tiny sneakers, the last time I’ll ever hear it. I can’t stop the tears now, cursing the god who allowed this. We’ve decided. He won’t live in this hell. We won’t abide it. The wind gives a final lethargic sigh. The tassels hang motionless from the handlebars, fitting for what’s coming.
Here Comes the Sun
Heavy pattering of rain against the plastic roof stopped. Emerging from her pink and yellow playhouse ready to run, her shadow hesitated but quickly raced after her. As she lurked along the edge of the verdure, gleeful squeals and light splashing caught her ear. Her shadow swiftly moved through the tall grass, leading her closer.
A small boy sat on his tiny red tricycle, his feet stomping through puddles as he giggled. Her shadow appeared in front of him, unphased, he continued. The five-year-old girl nodded and crept silently behind him. Her loose curls and pastel colored dress crusty with brown stains; her petite pale face coated in flakey red blotches. The boy shivered and looked back; a wide smile parted her lips revealing a mouth full of pointed teeth. He cried and screeched for his mother. Without missing a beat she clamped her shark-like jaws tightly around his neck while her shadow held him down. Devouring his tender meat, she left nothing but bones.
His copper infused juice swirled into murky puddles. Her shadow guided her back into the field. Before disappearing into the weedy cover she licked her lips and whispered, “More.”
Mercedes M. Yardly
Jasper was allergic to peanuts and lies and cruelty. As a baby, he waved fat, starfish hands. His mom would dress him in blue and white striped overalls like a tiny conductor.
He had a teddy bear hand puppet with a fireman’s hat. I thought he loved the thing, but he would scream and shake his fists at it, yelling and biting until the fur came off and threads came loose.
“He loved it to death,” his mom exclaimed.
“Yes,” I said, but really I knew that it was the only thing he hated. Whenever I came to babysit, I tucked my long hair behind my ear and hid the puppet.
“All gone?” I’d say, and Jasper would smile.
He played on the driveway between our houses. I always made sure to walk behind my truck before pulling out, except for one time.
He lived, if you could call it that. There’s no laughter or hate or anything at all. I dance that puppet in front of his face hoping he’ll scream at it, at me, just one time, because we all know one time is all it takes.
Scarlet R. Algee
The Patient Guise
Lee A. Forman
Alone, it waited. Silent, still, it swallowed patience one lingering moment after another. With each passerby its senses hummed with anticipation—a growing hunger still unsated. Each gave a curious look, but none were tempted. Uncertainty lingered along the paths of its ancient mind as it questioned how well it understood its prey. The form it chose proved effective in the past. Eager younglings once rushed into its deceptive grasp. They’d pedal away from their elders and satisfy its appetite. But the scarcity of its preferred fare imposed a decision—its old hunting ground had to be abandoned. With a tired squeak, its wheels turned in search of a fresh source to nourish its everlasting appetite.
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