Fiction · unedited

Gravekeeper

It wasn’t the first funeral service Willie was to take part in; it was just the first in a long while that he’d attended in a suit. Everything was still leading up to the burial, even the air. Willie clenched his arms, painfully aware of the sweat slowly pervading the button down under his black sports coat.  

 

On one hand, the good weather a blessing. Today was the first day the sun managed to break through the rolling May clouds, but it did so with a white-hot fury. The morning heat index read 95; unseasonably warm for northern Vermont, but, not unheard of. Nearing noon, the sun blazed overhead turning the grass a near-neon shade of green and leaving scarce patches of shade. The rows of stones, which Willie knew by heart, shone like beacons with their polished granite.

 

Willie dabbed his forehead with his hankie and matted down wisps of white hair along his forehead. He watched from the shade of the caretaker shack as Mike Ryrson and Ralph Foreman, two of the town employees, worked the small backhoe to bore into the earth.

 

Mike worked under Willie most days on the upkeep of the cemetery and was used to this type of work. Willie had called in Ralph as back up. Ralph was a superb operator and Willie knew that today, of all days, he should stay out of the dirt. He knew what his daughter, Karen, would say if she were to show up and see Willie working. She would be more concerned with his appearance than the fact that he was 73 and still romping around in holes.

 

Willie watched a few more minutes before throwing his daughter’s imminent criticism’s to the wind. Those boys look like they could use some water, he thought to himself to drown out Karen’s voice. Willie walked to the back of the shed, collected three bottles of water from the miniature fridge, and walked out into the light.

 

Mike and Ralph were in the process of tarping dirt and rolling up sod when they turned to the sound of crunching gravel under Willie’s dress loafers.

 

“Hey Willie,” Mike said brushing the dirt from his work shirt. “Sorry to hear about Beth. She was a wonderful woman.”

 

Ralph matched the sentiment. “Yeah Willie. Mary and I are praying for ya.”

 

Willie dipped his head and pursed his cracked lips against his teeth. “Thanks boys. Say, this looks like hot work. I brought you two some water.” Willie said, handing each a bottle.

 

Mike thanked him and Ralph nodded, unscrewing the top and gulping down half the bottle. Willie walked to the edge of the hole and looked over. He felt a small surge of pride in Mike; it was a nice site, and well cornered.

 

“Nice hole, eh? You boys hit any moisture?” Willie said turning, his face twisting into a squint against the sun.

 

Mike nodded. “Nope. No water. Real fortunate considering it’s been rainin’ like a bitch the last couple o’ days. You have a nice site here Willie. Elevated and overlooking the gardens. Real pretty.”

 

Willie sighed and scanned the cemetery, taking in the calm heat. “Yeah,” he said turning back to Mike. “Beth and I came out and picked out this site, oh, ‘bout 15 years back. Back then there was no gardens. Come to think of it, there weren’t half as many sites either.”

 

Ralph picked up a shovel off the ground. “Town up and got old on us.”

 

Willie nodded. “Ain’t that the truth.”

 

Wille took a gulp from his bottle and sat down on the edge of the hole. He swung his left leg over the edge first, then the right, then lowered himself into the grave. Mike and Ralph looked on half consumed with confusion and half morose. Willie stood and put his arms up, bracing himself against the cool earth. Loose dirt tumbled over his fingers and fell onto his loafers. Willie inhaled sharply, drowning himself in the scent of decaying wood. He felt as if he were about to take root there.   

 

After several moments Willie looked up to Mike and Ralph. “Good hole boys. Real good.” He sniffed back tears. “Now pull me out before Karen gets here and rips us all a new one.” He forced a laugh as Mike and Ralph each took a hand and hoisted him out of the deep grave.

Fiction · Prompt · unedited

Full Retreat

Sgt. Maple studied his bloody hands in the midst of the artillery crater. That’s strange, he thought, they’re not even shaking. His life-long relationship with the bottle left him with constant tremors. He wondered whether it was the sheer force with which he gutted that young german boy, or trying to catch and stuff Pvt. Miller’s intestines back in his shredded stomach that had set his hands straight.

 

The sky was weeping now, a dull gray had rolled overhead. Which side does He weep for, Maple wondered. Perhaps all of us, he decided as he patted his pockets for smokes. Where were they? Oh, that’s right. He’d finished them last night on watch.

 

The dirt felt cold and slick under Sgt. Maple’s palm. Cold made sense. This far down the ground ought to be cold. Wet made less sense, he pulled his hand up and noticed tinges of rust smeared on his palm. The sight between his splayed fingers now came into focus. It was Pvt. Charlie Santorini. He was dead. His legs below the knees were gone and his face was the shadow of pain. Maple patted Charlie’s breasts and found some cigarettes, took one, and lit it.

 

“Thanks Charlie,” he said, through the Marlborough filter. He stared at Charlie’s stumps and thought about how the army could save money on the casket. He was a good foot shorter now. A shell whistled overhead.  

 

Then there was a tumble of dirt on his neck and down his shirt. The skidding of boots on the slope behind Maple. He didn’t turn, he couldn’t. A cigarette had never tasted so good. And then it was gone– shaken out of his mouth by a frantic jerk of his shoulders. Time sped up. Shells whirred by more frantically. Tracer rounds soared through the graying sky.

 

“Sarge.” Pvt. Yancy’s boyish face was a few inches from his. “Sarge, we gotta go. Damn Nazi’s are all over. They’re rolling through the streets with tanks.” Another shake. “Sarge let’s go.”  

 

Sgt. Maple said nothing and stared at the Private. Flashes of awareness fired behind the Sgt.’s eyes. They were in France, in some god forsaken city far away from home. Too far. Maple blinked and one by one looked at the faces before him. Not like Charlie, distant and cold, but real live faces. Privates Yancy, Holloway, and Wishbone. Just kids; no older than boys. Just out of highschool most like. They should be in school right now, Maple thought, not here halfway across the world fighting somebody else’s war.

 

Maple shot awake. “Yancy, Holloway, Wishbone. Status report.”

 

Wishbone was nursing a hand, Maple saw, and was rifle-less. Yancy’s eyes mimicked dinner plates as he frantically surveyed what he could from down in the crater. Holloway spoke up, his southern drawl the only sweet thing for miles around.

 

“Well Sarge, we’re retreatin’. We need to go four blocks a-thataway.” He nodded back. “The only way out of this fuckin’ town is over a got-damn bridge.” Another shell whirred into the building across the street and showed the boys with rubble and dust. “We should get goin’.”

 

Maple heard Holloway out and felt a spark of pride in his chest. They’d come far since he laid eyes on their sorry asses a few months ago. Wishbone, he remembered, hadn’t even known how to shave when they first got to Europe. Maple had to show him late one morning, stooped over a candle and makeshift polished silver mirror. He’d cut himself twice.

 

Maple reached for another smoke and lit it. The sounds of treads and crunching rubble started gaining, shaking the pebbles lining the crater.

 

“Sarge, we gotta go. C’mon,” Holloway said, reaching for Maple’s arm.

 

Maple shook him off. “No, you boys go. I’m gonna stay right here. You go.”

 

Each looked at him as if he’d sprouted another set of legs, Charlie’s legs. He puffed from the cigarette and thought about his own son. The folded flag and silver star. Send it home, he’d said, send it to his mother. Maple just realized he hadn’t cried for his son yet. He didn’t have the time.

 

He took another look at the boys around him, patted his side arm, and spotted the smoke grenade on Yancy’s belt. “Yancy, gimme that,” Maple said, pointing a ragged finger. “I’ll need it, if y’all are going to make it out of here.”

 

With the smoke grenade in his left hand, a pistol in his right, and another full cigarette, Maple stood. “When I say run, you boys make a mad dash for that bridge.” He half turned and stopped. “Make sure you go back to school when you get back stateside.”

 

Sgt. Maple vaulted over the edge of the crater towards the rumble of the approaching war machine. The huddled privates heard the pop of the smoke grenade then a frantic “Run.” They did and didn’t look back.

 

Prompt:

In the midst of a full retreat, one soldier decides to do the unexpected, and charge the enemy, giving comrades time to escape.

Fiction · Prompt · unedited

Russian Connection

“Hey,” Stan, the other closer, said looking up from the espresso machine. “I need you to go tell the guys on the patio to beat it and bring in the tables.”

 

I hunched over my broom and cocked an eyebrow. “Uh, you sure you can’t do it. Or can we get, like, a supervisor to do that.”

 

He sighed and turned to the hulking stainless steel machine. “Can you just do it? It’s part of the closing tasks.” He yawned and flicked the hot water switch, sending steam up.  

 

I put the broom to the side, untied my apron and tossed it over the counter. I could feel layers of sweat caked on my forehead. My day of learning designer latte’s and avoiding eye contact with indifferent customers came down to this: the good ol’ heave ho.

 

I pushed my way through the double glass doors into the dry night air. It felt good on the undersides of my arms. The air smelt like, well air, instead of grinding dark roast and heat. I saw the group at the end of the patio, flanked by the shrubs, illuminated by a single floodlight. Multiple coffee stirrers, espresso mugs, and a half-finished pack of cigarettes splayed out on the table. Only one looked up from his phone.

 

I tried to avoid confrontation, often stealing glances while I noisely dragged the metal furniture across the pavement. Several trips later, all that was left to collect were already occupied.  

 

I cleared my throat. “Er, hey guys, sorry about this but I need to put these chairs up. You’ve got to go.” It was the first time they all looked up at me. Who dared intrude on their night of chain smoking and fidgeting with plastic coffee stirrers?

 

The eldest of the three looked up and grinned. “No,” he said with a Russian inflection. “Is okay, I know the owner.” He waved me off as one would dismiss a ball boy.

 

I headed back inside to my broom to pick up where I had left off. Stan looked up from the register and peered outside. His tired eyes swept from the window to me. “Did you tell them they need to leave?”

 

“Yeah, but one guy said that they know the owner.”

 

“And?” Stan’s gaze fell back to the stack of ones he was thumbing his way through. “They, need to leave.”

 

I mechanically put the broom down unable to fathom why this responsibility fell to the new guy. Wasn’t this a manager’s job? I pushed my way through and approached the table. All three looked up once again. The eldest was still grinning, but the other two looked annoyed. “Sorry guys, but you really got to go. I just got word from my supervisor.” Perfect, I thought, diffuse responsibility. Go have a word with him if you want and leave me out of this.

 

“Listen, er…” The grinner said with a heavy inflection.

 

“Tom.”

 

“Listen Tom, the owner is a good friend of mine. We’re business partners. We go way back. You do what you’re told, and I like that. You go far this way. But, please. We finish our espresso then go, okay? I tell owner you took good care of us.” He turned to the two flanking scowls and said something in Russian and they softened, turning back to their cellphones. I internally shrugged and headed back inside.

 

Stan was waiting with his arms crossed. “Dude, what’s so hard about getting them out of here. Tell them you’ll call the cops.”

 

I thought of the two scowls flanking that devilish grin. “I don’t think that’s a great idea. Let’s just finish our stuff and leave them alone for now.”

 

Stan sighed, clearly disgusted with my lack of spine. We finished up and closed half an hour later. Outside, tucked under the corner of one of the espresso cups was a note for me. Thanks for the hospitality Tom, –Marco. I didn’t think much of it, tired as I was from my first full day.

 

I woke up the next morning to a buzz of my phone. Shit, I’m gonna be late, I thought. Nope. A message from the owner? My stomach dropped.

 

Hey Tom, I heard you met Marco last night. Thanks for taking care of him. Him and I go way back. He said that you have a good head on your shoulders. I know you’re new here, but I wanted to bump you up another dollar in pay. We’ll do that today.

 

I could feel the tension leave my shoulders. Weights upon weights had been lifted. Looks like the world was coming up Tom for once.  

 

Prompt: You just got hired at a hipster coffee shop, that just so happens to be a laundering front for the russian mafia.

Fiction · Prompt · unedited

Gin Nap.

Photo Prompt: courtesy of redditor u/boravsbora

 

The time for kid gloves had come and gone. Mary refused to see me, John Straker had bested me once again, and the bottle had kicked me to the curb once again. The city was wide awake, hopped up on speed and nightlife, when I came to behind the dumpster in that little alley. A small chinese man, dressed in white and a smeared apron prodded me awake.

 

“Must go,” he said, motioning with his hands. “You,” his index finger jabbed at my chest. “Must leave,” his arm swept around towards the rift in the buildings.

 

I nodded, stood, and steadied myself against the slick brick wall behind me. A chilly breeze blew against my bare chest as I staggered towards the lights and sounds. I wondered what had happened to my jacket and wallet; probably up and walked away during my gin nap.

 

First things first, I thought, where am I? I looked right then left, seeing nothing but the fleeting floods of headlights against the wet sidewalks of passing taxis. I decided to head left and started pounding pavement. A pain shot up my leg. Another reminder of my meeting with Straker and his boys. Best not let me catch you snooping around this club again Dale. Next time you won’t be leaving.

 

Twenty feet ahead, a man was hailing a cab. I tried projecting myself before he could be whisked away; another shadow in the night.

 

“Say, pal” I said. “What street is this?”

 

I must have been worse for ware. He looked at me like one looks at spoiled meat. Had he not had his hand up he might have pinched his nose. “38th and 17.” He said stepping off the curb.

 

I thanked him, still staggering forward. He nodded and vanished into the steady traffic. 38th and 17th, I thought, half a kilometer ‘till the office. I crossed my arms in front of my chest trying to fend off some the colder gusts. I would be no use to Mary if I got pneumonia. One foot then the other, I started to retrace the money, the lies, the rumors. Synapses started firing like the neon lights reflecting off billowing manhole steam. Straker and Mary, the poor girl. There was no time to waste, Straker knew I was on to him. The trail was hot. White hot.   

Fiction · flash fiction · unedited

A story about a man.

This is a story about a man. An ordinary man. Non-confrontational in nature, and by all accounts wholly ordinary. And then one day, he snapped.  

 

Let’s set the scene: It’s a warm June night– unseasonably warm at that. This man, let’s call him Paul, Paul is behind the wheel of a minivan, with his eight year old daughter and his six year old son in the back seat. Unfortunately, Paul hasn’t had time to get his AC charged yet this year and the car is warm too. The windows are rolled down. Wind is whipping through the van.

 

Nevertheless, Paul’s back is sticking to the seat. He’s sweat straight through his button down and hasn’t had time to change since work. He headed straight to school, collected his children, and took them to sport practices. His daughter has always had an affinity for horses and is enrolled in an equestrian class. His son has recently become enamoured with old Bruce Lee movies, much to Paul’s delight and to his mother’s chagrin. After talking it over one night, they decided to enroll their son in a Taekwondo class.

 

Paul has been on the run between work, school, the stables, and finally the Taekwondo class for hours now. He stays with his son, who is still too young to be there by himself. It’s fine, Paul decides as he pulls out his laptop and tries to finish some work. The dojo is close enough to a Starbucks that Paul connects to the wifi. The connection is spotty. Several times, to his growing agitation, the connection drops derailing Paul’s train of thought.

 

After 45 minutes of increasingly furious keystrokes and being called by his son to watch him, it’s time to leave and pick up his daughter. When Paul and his son disembark to the stables, his son complains that the car is too hot. Paul says their is nothing he can do. The drive is slow going. There was an accident up ahead and traffic is crawling, making Paul anxious that his daughter is probably going to anxious with his tardiness. His eyes dart back and forth between the road, the clock, and his son in the rearview mirror who is growing more restless with each passing sweltering second.

 

Paul finally gets himself out of the traffic jam to realize that he is twenty minutes behind. He accelerates a little harder, takes corners a little faster, and drives more aggressively. There’s still a number of things he has to attend to at home: dinner, dishes, chores, helping the kids with homework, putting them to bed, and finishing the email that is currently sitting in his draft folder thanks to Starbucks wifi. Suddenly from the backseat, his youngest, enamoured by fleeting golden arches, asks that they stop at a McDonald’s because he’s starving; look dad, he’s wasting away. Paul would’ve laughed had his jaw not been clenched from the growing to-do list he was reviewing in the recesses of his mind.

 

Paul turns into the parking lot next to the stables to find his daughter the last one there. Her instructor is hovering over her shoulder. They both shoot Paul a look when he pulls in and then ask in rapid succession why he was late. “Traffic” doesn’t seem to appease the teacher who also promptly reminds Paul: that stable fees are do soon, and to not be late with the payment again. Paul loads his daughter into the hellishly hot van and discusses the fees with the teacher, inquiring about arranging an ad hoc payment plan. The teacher flat out refuses the offer and turns in a huff.

 

Back in the van, Paul’s shirt is stuck to his back, the wind is drowning out the radio, and his children are now both set on McDonald’s, even chanting the name in an effort to sway Paul. Another car is driving extremely close to Paul’s bumper. So close that he can see the driver emoting emphatically with his left hand. Paul barely possess the capacity to think about scratching together the necessary funds for the stable fees on top of the other bills: electricity, the mortgage, water,

 

McDonalds!

 

….Groceries, new clothes for the kids, the dog’s vet bill,

 

McDonalds!

 

Paul is nearly home now. He’s tries to get out of the other drivers way by turning into the suburban sprawl.

 

….Health insurance, more groceries,

 

McDonalds!

 

He’s still there. Still riding Paul’s ass. Paul throws on his right blinker and pulls over to the right of a relatively narrow residential road. The other driver doesn’t pass.

 

….Gas, retirement fund

 

McDonalds!

 

car payments on this van…

 

The other driver lays on his horn and throws up another middle finger. Paul stomps on the brakes throwing himself and his children forward into their seatbelts. With his right hand he puts the van into park and with his left reaches for the glove box. At his wife’s insistence, they kept a tire iron in the door. For emergencies. Paul swings his door open and marches to the other car with the tire iron concealed behind his back, insisting the other driver step out. The children have fallen silent. The other driver opens his door, yelling a slew of profanities. He stretches his neck to put his face closer to Paul’s. Paul smells his breath: Coffee and something with garlic.

 

Blackness.

 

A thud. A bone-cracking thud. The other driver falls into the hood of his car, disoriented. He put his hands up. Paul swings again. Another thud. The driver’s face and shirt is shines a slick red. His hands go to his face as the he slumps over completely. Paul swings again. And again. Thud. Thud. Followed by a sickly sick sound of suction. Paul has blood on himself now. His hands and forearms are covered. He stares at the bloody pulp of bone, gray matter, and excessive pools of blood where the head had been.  

 

Paul was later found and detained in the drive thru line at a McDonald’s. His children were unharmed. Paul himself was unaware of the blood on his person until hours later. He still insists he does not remember committing any crime. Several eyewitnesses directly contradict Paul’s story.  

Fiction · Long · unedited

This one’s not so bad.

This one’s not so bad, Officer Prill thought. Curious thing with the jumpers; either they would explode on impact, or just bounce of the ground and look fine. This one looks like he’s sleeping, except for that bit of blood smeared next to his head.  But even that could be a nosebleed. I used to get those some nights. Wanda would always get angry the next morning. I ruined another set of sheets, she would yell. As if it was something I could control. Then one day they just stopped. Still don’t know what caused ‘em but they’re done now.

 

“Sir,” Officer Rick Richter softly shook Prill’s shoulder. “Y’alright?”

 

Prill blinked once then twice, clearing his throat. He again saw the body at his feet. Sleeping– sure. He crouched down, his knees fighting the effort on the way down. Were they real joints, Prill could just hit ‘em with the ol’ WD-40. He imagined himself with another holster on his belt for WD-40 cans.

 

“Rick can you get the sheet out of the back of the cruiser. Eyes are piling up.”

 

Rick nodded and walked back to the cruiser. The lights were still on, grabbing the attention of everyone driving by. They always did; necks would turn to rubber, cars would slow. Prill had taken to calling the lights his magnets. When Rick asked why, Prill said because flashing red and blue’s attract the steely gaze of everyone around. When Rick said that certain types of steel wasn’t magnetic, Prill dismissed him, laughing.

 

Snapping a pair of latex gloves on, Prill examined the body. First, he closed the left eye and after offering the dead stranger a prayer, he reached into the bloke’s pockets. Prill named each item as he pulled them out– just like the detectives did in the crime shows he and Wanda watched.

 

“Phone, screen heavily damaged. Keyring. Pair of headphones, tangled. Ah, wallet.”

 

Rick was behind Prill ready with the sheet. Prill stood up as Rick snapped the sheet open. He held the corners as it floated down in folds over the body. The top took to the pooling blood, bursting into a rusty nova. Prill flipped the wallet open and instinctively looked for cash.

 

“Just three bucks,” Prill said into the wallet. “Not even enough to buy a happy meal.”

 

Rick grunted. “Can get something off the dollar menu though.”

 

Prill didn’t respond. He was trying to lose himself in thought. “Couple of credit cards, gift card, ah, here we go. Poor bloke’s name is, er, was Percival Yandy. Really poor bloke.” He chuckled, waiting for Rick to join in on the laugh. When he did, Prill stopped and scanned over the details. “38. Lived in Soho. Rick, get on the horn and find out who the next of kin is.” He said handing over Mr. Yandy’s identification card.

 

Prill began to pace around the body, crunching glass underfoot as he went. He looked up. That’s a bingo, Prill thought spotting the missing high-rise window. He would go there next he decided. He waved over at the paramedics and gave the thumbs up to move the body.

 

“Find anything?” Prill said, leaning against the open door of the cruiser.

 

“Yeah, we tracked down the fella’s wife. Gonna give her a call when we get back. I found him on facebook too,” Rick said, handing over his phone.

 

Prill swiped through a few photos. Each featured a smiling Yandy, a wife, and sometimes two smiling girls, presumably daughters. “Looks like a great family.” Prill said, handing the phone back. “Alright, let’s head in there and ask around.” Prill said, thumbing at the high rise.

 

The two officers entered the building and at the direction of the receptionist hailed the elevator and told to go to floor 22. They rode the spacious, well-lit elevator up, all the while talking about elegance of the elevator and about what they thought Mr. Yandy’s occupation was. Prill said insurance and Rick said that he thought he was probably an ad man– he’d been watching a program with his wife, Linda, about ad men working and riding in elevators in high rises just like these.

 

The doors opened to rows upon rows of cubicles. The two heard telephones ringing somewhere, and a faint breeze brushed against Prill’s ankles. They entered, looking for their shattered window and were given no notice. Following the breeze, Prill and Rick found the hole next to the floor’s glass-walled corner office. Prill knocked on the glass. The man inside looked up from his stack of papers with utter contempt.

 

“Excuse me,” Prill said, fogging up the glass. “Mind if we have a word?”

 

The man inside nodded and exited the office. “What can I do for you today, officers?”

 

Rick turned and thumbed towards the hole in the wall. “You know you’re missing a window?”

 

“Yes.” The man said. His matter-of-factness took Prill by surprise.

 

“There’s also a fellow dead down there y’know? Name’s Yandy. Know him?” Prill said.

 

“Percival. Of course I know him. Been working here for, oh, ten years now. I watched him hurl himself out of said window earlier.”

 

“He’s dead.”

 

“Yes sir. You said that already. Yandy’s dead.” The man said throwing his hands out. “This isn’t the first time he’s done it.”

 

Prill turned to Rick who shrugged and then back to the man. He placed both hands on his hips, to brace himself and to give the appearance that he was still in control of the conversation. He always felt more in control with his gun close at hand. He thought again about having a can of WD-40 near his left.

 

“Excuse me?” Prill said unamused. “Did you say he’s done this before?”

 

The man crossed his arms and leaned against the glass wall. “Yes, that’s what I said. He does this about once a month or so. He starts ranting and raving. First it was about his existence being boiled down to a desk and his phone. Lately though, it’s gotten worse. When he has his flare up’s he says he’s already dead.”

 

Prill leaned forward and gestured with his hand for the man to continue.

 

“I don’t know what else you want me to say officer. He gets on everyone’s nerves with such talk. All anyone wants to do here is their job, in peace. Percival made that difficult at times. It’s hard to concentrate when every few weeks someone goes on benders like these. I’ve had to talk to him countless times, but it hasn’t gotten better. I’m probably going to have to fire him.”

 

Rick huffed. “I think he’s beaten you to the punch, bub.”

 

The man looked over Prill’s shoulder and gave Rick a confused look. “Actually he hasn’t.” He looked back to Prill. “He’ll be back. You watch. Now is there anything else I can do for you officers?”

 

Prill thumbed his belt and paused. “Uh, we may need you to, uh, come down to the station and give a statement.” He looked around the office ceiling and noticed the small darkened domes in the corners. “I’m also going to need to look at the security footage from the time of the accident.”

 

The man pushed himself off the glass and yawned. “That’s it?”

 

Prill nodded.

 

“Done. Just head back down to reception and she’ll show you to security. Good day.” The man said bowing.

 

Prill turned to Rick. “I’m going to see those tapes. I want you to take pictures of the window and talk to people.”

 

At the end of the room the elevator dinged and the doors slid open with a low mechanical hum. A man entered. He looked in rough shape. The left side of his head crusted over with blood and he walked with a limp.

 

The man from the corner office turned and put his hands on his hips. “Ah, Percival. Back already? Feeling any better?”

 

Mr. Yandy didn’t look up from the floor. “A bit, Henry. But not much. Back to work I suppose.”

 

“You’ve missed lunch by the way, and about 20 minutes on top of that, so I’m going to need you to stay ‘till 5. Alright?”

 

Mr. Yandy didn’t respond as he limped up to Prill and Rick. He looked at them thoughtfully for a moment. “Are you the ones with my wallet? The boys downstairs gave me everything else back, but the wallet.” He extended a malformed hand. “Can I have that back?”

 

Prill shrugged. “Sure,” he said handing it over gingerly. He nodded to Rick and the two headed for the elevator, confused. Prill stopped, turned back, and addressed the man, Henry. “On second thought,  I don’t need a statement. You’re all set.”

 

The man responded by raising a thumbs up.
Prill and Rick entered the elevator afterwhich Prill asked which program Rick was referring to earlier with the ad men and that he and Wanda might very much like that program. Rick nodded and agreed that they would. Back in the lobby the two made plans to grab a hotdog from the stand on the corner before calling this one in.

Fiction · Short · unedited

Alex Drowns and Danny Laughs

Alex was always told that his fear of pool filters were irrational, and yet, the last thing he remembered was slowly sinking further into deep blue chlorine-shocked water. He couldn’t recall if he had been wearing trunks or not. Not that it mattered anymore. The sinking feeling quickly gave way to falling. Then, violent pulling.

 

His body was cold when he awoke. He gasped and vomited water on the floor. He pushed up to all fours and then laid his forehead back on the ground. Dry. Weird, he thought. He opened his eyes and looked about: whiteness. No walls, no horizon, just white.

 

Am I dead?

 

Clicking heels behind Alex startled him. “No.”

 

Alex turned and stood. “No what?” He said, looking down to notice himself fully clothed in a dry suit.

 

“You’re not dead.” The approaching stranger said. There was something unsettling about him. He looked like Alex’s father. Alex had only seen the old pictures that his mom tucked away in her photobooks. She’d taken them when they were a family; before she escaped his regular drunken wraths.

 

Who–

 

Who are you?” The stranger said, finishing Alex’s sentence. “A good question Alex, but I’m sure you know the answer.”

 

“I’m sorry. I’m sure that I’ve never met you before.” Alex said. “You must have me mistaken.”

 

The stranger chuckled. “Mistaken? No. How could I? This is your mind. This blank whiteness is your canvas. One that I’ve seen many times– and, frankly Alex, it’s getting bit boring. So how about you spruce it up a bit.”

 

Creases formed on Alex’s forehead. He cocked his head to the side.

 

“Remember your Great Aunt Mae’s beachhouse? We haven’t been there in a while.”

 

As the stranger spoke, the whiteness slowly faded into the livingroom of Aunt Mae’s vacation house. Right down to the salty air and the dog hair on the furniture. Alex stopped to inspect the couch before sitting down. The stranger had already taken a seat opposite.

 

“Amazing how vivid memories can be.” The stranger said, studying a photo of his Aunt’s dogs. He looked up from the frame to Alex. “You look confused my friend. Unburden yourself and ask.”

 

“Who are you?”

 

“Oh, Alex,” the stranger shook his head. “You’ve already asked me that.” He paused. “But if you must, I guess you could refer to me as Danny.”

 

Danny smiled and put the picture back on the end table. He looked relaxed. Too relaxed for Alex, who was still trying to comprehend not only where he was, but how he was.

 

Alex looked at his hands. “How did I, we, get here?”

 

“At Aunt Mae’s?”

 

“No. Sorry. You said, this is… my mind. How are we having this conversation in my mind? I thought I was dead. I was drowning and then I was here.” Alex said, his gesticulations frantic.

 

“Oh no Alex,” Danny leaned forward. “First off, you’re not dead. That bit with the pool. You dream that every night. And, every night you drown. It’s quite tragic to watch actually. You flail a lot and nobody ever comes to your rescue.” Danny looked up and inspected the ceiling. “This,” he said unfurling his arms, “is your mind, as to the conversation part– you conjure me into existence every night to talk.”

 

“Every night?”

 

“Every night.” Danny said, nodding.

 

Alex pushed himself out of his chair and began to pace around the room. He stared at his feet, concentrating on each step, the feel of it. The weight of each leg. Then he stopped and turned towards Danny. “So. If this is my mind. And if, as you say, I willed you into existence, then you have to tell me everything I want to know. Right?.”

 

“Not exactly, my friend. I like to think I’m my own man. You did will me into existence, but not consciously. I’m part of your subconscious. I don’t have to tell you anything, I operate however I want and you have to come along for the ride. I’m your fears, your anxieties, your kinks, and your instincts. I might be more you than you,” Danny said, jabbing a finger at Alex. “You try and think over me, but it never works. Though I commend the effort.”

 

Alex watched as the man calling himself Danny further transformed into a version of himself; heavier, hunched over, deadened eyes, and a receding hairline.

 

Danny laughed. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost, Alex.”

 

Alex paused and sat down. “I have: You. I know who I am, and you’re not it. I’m–.”

 

Danny interrupted with an evil cackle and transformed back into the father-like form once again. “Just keep telling yourself that, Alex. It’s time for you to wake up. I’ll see you tomorrow night.” Danny said, winking.

 

It was still dark when he awoke drenched in sweat. He ran fingers through his hair and vaguely remembered a drowning sensation.