Purpose

Portia and Caldwell summon a demon. Well, one more than the other.

Caldwell lit the last candle. Everything was in place, exactly as it was meant to be.

The room we were in was completely devoid of furniture, and was lit only by candles. In the center was a rune and a circle. On the floor was a basket of tulip petals and a silver dagger.

“Portia, I think I’m done. You ready to follow through with this? I mean, I trust you, but I’ve never heard of a demon story that turned out well in the end.” Caldwell stood up from his crouch. “Maybe it’s media bias or something, I’ve never met a real demon, but still. Sometimes stereotypes hold a bit of truth?” He looked at me. If I couldn’t hear the concern in his voice, I could see it in his eyes.

“Yes, Caldwell. I’m sure. I’ve done as much studying on demons as I possibly could, and I know this ritual inside out. The demon will give us what we want, and and we only have to give it something small in return. Demons like knick-knacks.”

Caldwell laughed. “You going to give a demon your baby blanket?”

“Maybe. If it wants it. Kind of ironic how sentimental demons can be.” I shrugged. “You’d think souls of the damned wouldn’t want anything to do with earth, but whatever.”

“Yeah. It’s strange.”

We both stood silently, staring at the rune and circle we had etched into my floorboards. The rune would be the actual mechanism which would allow the demon entry- it literally translates into portal- while the circle would keep the demon from wreaking havoc. We carved the circle with the silver dagger and filled it with salt. It sounded like superstitious bullshit, but nearly every account said it worked, so I chose to trust the books.

“Well,” Caldwell clapped his hands, “The candles won’t burn forever. Should we start?”

“Yes. Let’s start.” I kneeled next to the circle and sprinkled tulip petals into the circle. They began to burn as the touched the wood, their form changing into rotted teeth.

“Oh. That’s what the petals are for?” Caldwell asked.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Honestly I just thought demons needed you to set the mood. Can’t get it up without the right atmosphere right?”

I didn’t bother responding, and instead threw on more petals. This handful turned into rusty nails.

Caldwell sighed. “Tough crowd tonight. Hopefully the demon likes my jokes a little.”

“Sorry if i’m a little dry tonight. I am trying to summon a demon.”

“Oh yeah, don’t mind me. I just figured you might need some more help from me.”

“I’ll let you know when it’s your turn to do something.” I tossed a last handful of petals into the circle.

This time they turned into polaroids. Each image was of a failure I had endured. My second spelling bee, failing in the second round. My junior high school valentine’s dance, where I was turned down by a girl I had a crush on. My high school graduation, where my uncle showed up drunk.

Each photo held places and objects that would mean basically nothing to anyone else looking at them, but I knew what they were. I could see all of them. The first time I tried to get into a sorority and they told me they didn’t accept lesbians. The first time I tried to join and fraternity, which I had almost forgotten about. There was even the first time I was fired from a job, some sushi place that decided I “didn’t fit in” because someone else outed me.

I could feel my hands shake. I let out a ragged breath, and pushed the remaining petals aside.

“Whoa, Portia. Are you alright? You look like you just- scratch that. What’s going on?” Caldwell kneeled next to me and put his hands on my shoulders.

I didn’t respond.

“What’s in the photos, Portia?”

I brushed his hands off. “Nothing. That just means the ceremony is working.”

“Okay…” Caldwell slowly stood up. “I believe you. Just let me know if something goes wrong. I’ll get you out of here.”

“Mhm.” With that, I stood up. “Okay. It’s your turn now. Stand where I was just standing and close your eyes.”

Caldwell shivered. “Hoo, yeah, okay, that gave me the chills. Close my eyes? This is a little too spooky for me.”

“It’s okay, I have everything under control,” I reassured him.

He sighed. “Alright. Okay. Yeah. I can do this. I trust you. This will be alright.” He stepped into the spot where I had been only a moment before. “I can do this,” he told himself one more time.

“Oh, and Portia?” He started. “In case anything bad happens, I just want you to know that I care about you a lot” He turned around to look at me. “I… I hope this demon thing gives you what you need.” He closed his eyes and turned back around.

I blinked a few times. “So do I, Caldwell.” I leaned over and picked up the dagger. “So do I.”

I thrust the knife between his ribs, then pushed him into the circle. He gasped as I did. The he fell to the ground, and his blood began to pool around him.

I pushed his feet into the circle. I didn’t need any demon getting out

There was nothing but quiet for a few moments. Then, the candles turned into a dark red light. The room hard a harsh wind, circling around Caldwell. His body floated in the center of the circle, turning until he was face up and his feet faced the ground. A bright spear of energy suddenly shot through his chest, and his eyes opened. They were bloodshot, and his pupils replaced his irises. He floated down, landing on his feet.

There it was. The demon I had spent so long attempting to summon was in front of me. It took a step toward me, stopping just a moment before the barrier that kept it from murdering me.

“So it’s you. I had heard about you.” The demon’s voice was just Caldwell’s voice. Nothing had changed. “Tell me. What is it your name?” The demon stared at me. The blood in its eyes receded back into white.

“My name doesn’t matter,” I told the demon.

“Oh, do you think giving me your name gives me some power over you?” The demon asked. “No, names mean nothing. They’re a human construct. Gods and demons know each by essences, and have no need for names. However, for dealings like this we tend to have one. You may call me Moniker. My pronouns are gi and gir.”

I laughed. “You know what moniker means, right?”

“Very,” gi responded. Gi didn’t laugh along.

I cleared my throat. “Very well. I am Portia.”

“Portia. Interesting. Now what would a Portia want with a demon?” gi asked.

“I want… I want a purpose,” I told it. “I want to feel like my life will make a difference on this earth. I want to prove that I’m worth something, and I want to-” I stopped myself from saying something I might regret. “I want to make the world a better place for me. And for others like me. I don’t want us to have to live in fear anymore.”

Moniker cocked gir head and smiled. “Interesting. And who are you, Portia? Who would you categorise as ‘like you?’”

“I’m- I’m a lesbian. And the people who I’d say are like me are other queer people.” I clenched my fists. “We deserve better.”

“Hm. I’m not usually one to mettle in human affairs.” Moniker clapped gir hands, much like Caldwell used to. “I will do this for you, however.”

“What’s your price?” I asked Moniker.

“Hmm. This room is rather empty.” Gi looked about the room, before scanning the floor. “I’ll take the photos in my circle. They feel charged with emotions. It’s been a long while since I’ve felt an energy like this.”

“Oh. Demons really do like knick-knacks,” I said.

“Who told you that? We keep that part of our deals secret. We like to surprise those we deal with,” gi said.

“I honestly made it up a few minutes ago,” I replied.

“Hm. Interesting.”

I and Moniker sat in silence for a few moments. I stared at the photos at gir feet.

“Well, I need you to do one more thing for me to enact my end of the bargain.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“Give me your hands,” the demon responded.

“Oh no, you aren’t fooling me,” I told gir. “I know how this works. I break the circle, you kill me, and then you kill everyone else in a mile radius. Not happening.”

“I have no intentions of killing you, Portia.” I winced when he said my name. Just like Caldwell. “I will change the fiber of your being, yes, but I will not kill you. You will do that much more effectively than I could. Your form will be suited to the job.”

“Hold on, I interrupted. “Will you run that by me just one more time?”

“I’m going to transform you. Your human life as you know it will end, but you will be reborn as something greater. You will be beyond humanity, and even beyond demonhood. You will roam the earth and be submerged in glorious purpose. I almost envy you.”

“I still don’t trust you,” I replied.

“Portia, I’m trapped in a human body with a knife sticking out of my back. Do you truly believe I pose a huge threat to anyone, save infants?” Moniker shook gir head. “No. I will give you what you crave and take the photos in return.”

I stole a glance at one last photo. It was of a leather recliner. A recliner I lost my virginity on. The recliner that my parents walked in and kicked me out of the house.

“Portia, time is running thin. The candles won’t burn forever. Shall we start?” The demon extended a hand, stopping just before the circle.

I sighed. “I trust you.” I put my hand in girs.

“Wonderful..” Moniker gripped my hand, holding on tightly. I felt nothing for a few moments. Then gi let go.

“Welcome to your new purpose. Welcome to your new life,” Moniker said.

“Nothing is happening,” I replied.

“Not yet,” Moniker said. Gi began picking up the polaroids. “They’ll happen soon. Farewell, Portia. I look forward to our next meeting.” Gi had picked up all of the polaroids. They all burned into ash, and then gi closed gir eyes. Caldwell’s body fell back down.

I knelt on the floor and began crying. Had I really killed someone for nothing? Was this really how this was going to happen?

In between sobs, I wiped my eyes. Looking at my hands, something was amiss.

My hands were covered in ink. I pressed them to my face again, and felt the cool liquid.

“Ink. Curious.”

I started laughing, but my breath failed me and never let a sound out. I dug my nails into my cheeks, and felt more of the ink fall out. I felt no pain.

Continuing my cold cackling, I grasped my shoulders. They were soaked. I ripped into my own flesh anyway, just to feel even more of my cursed blood leak. I danced around the room, leaving ink stains on the walls with my hands. Sometimes I dragged my hands across the walls, sometimes I threw ink off of them onto the walls.

I finally knew what it meant to be real. I knew exactly why I was on this earth. I could feel my reason to exist welling up in my chest.

I was born for this.

Suddenly my laughter could be heard. It was quiet. Private. Only I needed to hear myself laugh. No one else deserved to hear me. No one else had the same amount of purpose that I had, and no one ever would.

No Stops Tonight

Halloween night? Time for a fright…

“Fucking subway pass,” I mumbled, while attempting to reload it. “Damn thing got wet, and now it just refuses to work.” I threw the pass onto the ground. “Whatever, just forget about it, Tessa. You’re fine.” I had the printing machine print me another pass. That was three dollars out of my pocket I could’ve saved.

I hate New York’s subway system so much, but it’s much faster than trying to bus. I’m not even going to attempt to drive in this city.

The machine accepted my cash, then dispensed a thin slip of paper, with a magnetic stripe on the backside. That was why getting it wet was a problem, because the water would just seep into the paper and screw it up if it got too wet. I had ten dollars on my last slip, and that’s just gone, too. I need to move to a different city.

I took my new pass, swiped it at the gate, and waited for my next train. The station was practically empty, except for one guy waiting by the stairs to go up. I stood next to the tracks, and waited for my train.

It didn’t help that it was gross down here, either. The tracks for the trains always seemed to have water pooled in them, and I’ve seen plenty of rats taking drinks from the damn puddles. The walls were often tiled, and that looked good, but the tiling was pretty negligible when the wall just above was nothing but rusty metal, same with the ceiling. Hanging from the ceiling were plenty of light fixtures, which hung on by thin and similarly-rusty tubes. I was always worried a light might just come crashing down one day. Oh, and the ground is often just a dingy and browned concrete. Seriously, it’s disgusting, and probably has never been cleaned since it was installed.

Then, as if to make today worse than it was already was, the lights all went out. I screamed, and ducked down. Shit shit shit!

Only a couple moments later, the lights turned back on. I stood up and looked around. Nothing had changed, except the guy by the stairs had left. It was just me now. “Damn it. I got scared for nothing.”

I pulled out my phone just to look at it. I didn’t have any service. Figures, that’s what happens when I’m underground.

I heard some strange noise coming from down the tracks. It sounded like some sort of quiet chanting. I looked down the dark tunnel, but couldn’t see anything. I lifted my phone and turned on its light. I still didn’t see anything new coming from the tunnel, but I stared for a moment.

Suddenly appearing in my light was the shape of a person. Well, sort of? It looked absolutely like a shadow, but also shimmered a lot and looked blurry. It looked like it was expending a lot of effort to hold itself together.

“Oh FUCK!” I shouted as I realised what was shambling out of the tunnel. It wasn’t human, that’s for damn sure.

I quickly looked back and forth, trying to decide what I should do. Was running a good choice of action? What about my train? Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit!

Then, I heard a rumbling from the distance. The train was approaching. I smiled at the thing and stuck my tongue out at it. It was going to get hit by a train, because it was so slow it couldn’t move out of the way. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t be my problem.

Just as I expected, the train rammed through the shadow-thing and stopped. I stepped onto the last train car, and sat down on a bench. I just beat a weird monster by literally waiting for a train.

“Wow, I should probably be reacting to that more, shouldn’t I? Fuck it, I’m way too tired for this bullshit anyway.” I leaned back in my seat, and got nice and comfortable. “Not. My. Problem.”

The train car was empty besides me. Honestly, the whole train was probably empty except for maybe a homeless person somewhere in the train. I didn’t need to worry about anyone bothering me, I just needed to worry about getting off at my stop.

Then, the conductor of the train spoke over the speaker. “We will be skipping the next stop due to unforeseen technical difficulties. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Yeah, whatever. The most inconvenient thing is how impossible it is to hear you. Damn, speak up.” Seriously, I hated how impossible it was to hear that speaker, even in an empty car.

Another minute passed before the man spoke up again. “The issues are continuing, so we will be unable to stop at any stations until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Are the brakes not working or something? Jesus. There is literally no other reason for us to not stop.” I stopped and thought about it. “Actually, maybe this is a good thing. No one will bother me on my car.” Smug, I snuggled into the chair.

A few more moments pass, then the loudspeaker started up again. I waited for the voice, but there was nothing. All I heard was that quiet static from the speaker. I sighed. “You knocked the speaker switch on, buddy. Turn it off or something.” I think this conductor didn’t know how to do his job. I’ll be furious if I die on this train.

The static just kept going for a while. I was angry. “Why is the conductor having such issues just running a train?”

I looked at the door connecting the cars. There was a large red sign that made it very clear that you shouldn’t be crossing between cars while the train is moving. Probably for the best, but I might just have to go find that conductor and give him a piece of my mind. He can’t drive a train and he can’t even keep the intercom from turning on. Seriously, who hired this guy?

I got out of my seat, and stepped toward the door. “Yeah, someone needs to go figure out what’s going on. It’s probably just me one this train anyway.” I shoved the door open, and a furious wind started blowing into the train car. I pushed against it, and tried to hold my breath. Not only was the harsh wind making it hard to breath, but the subway never smelled that great.

I stepped between the cars, trying so carefully to keep from flying off the side. Lights from the tunnel were soaring past me, blinking in and out faster than I could think to use them. I pulled the door closed behind me, and got into the next car. With great effort, I shut that door, too. I was relieved once the wind was no longer tugging on me and trying to pull me to my death.

I turned and looked at the car. All of the seats were empty, of course, and there was an empty energy drink can rolling back and forth on a seat. The car also smelled pretty badly of alcohol, so I was in no mood to rest. I went straight for the next door.

Again, a harsh wind blew into the car once the door was open. However, the usual gross smell of the subway was not as bad as the smell of the car I was just in. I almost welcomed it, but the gusts from the train’s speed were still too much to breath.

I covered my face with my arm as moved, this time. I could breath a bit better through my nose this way. I took careful and small steps to cross the short distance from one car to another. I pulled on the door, stepped through, and then pulled it shut. The wind stopped, and the smell went away a bit. I breathed a sigh of relief as I looked into the next car. There was a paper bag that was floating down to the ground and settling, probably because of the door I opened. Once it landed, it rocked back and forth with the movement of the train.

“Wow, you just can’t escape trash in the subway, can you?” I said. Maybe I had too much of a habit of talking to myself. “Yeah, whatever, it’s not like anyone else is affected.”

I started walking to next door when I heard the static suddenly rise in volume. I had forgotten that was even playing for a while. I stopped in my tracks and looked for the nearest speaker. It was up on the ceiling of the car, in a corner. “Oh, yeah, that’s lovely. So atmospheric and nice.”

I stomped over to the next door and pushed it open. After doing this twice, I felt much more confident in myself and got through much quicker and steadier.

The next car looked worse than the previous cars. There were plastic shopping bags fluttering about, and the contents of the bags were too. There were unlabeled cans rolling around, a broken and cracked carton of eggs making a huge mess, wrappers and other sorts of paper trash flying about, and even an empty and spilled milk carton was bouncing around. It took a couple of moments, but everything eventually settled in place.

I sighed again. “Seriously, who just brings a carton of eggs onto the train? And how do you get a carton of milk to open and spill like that?”

The lights went out, and the car was dark. The only source of lights were the quickly passing ones out in the tunnel. I looked out the window and saw us blast past a station. There were a few people waiting for a train, but they clearly didn’t get to catch this one. Something was more off than just an incompetent conductor.

I pulled my phone out and turned on its light. I flashed it around the train car. Nothing looked different than when the lights were on, but now the trash caused bigger shadows in the car. I quickly stepped onto the seats and walked over the trash. “I really didn’t sign up for this shit.”

I hopped off of the seats and in front of the door that led to the next car. I grabbed the handle, ready to turn it and shove the door forward. Then, I heard a noise behind me. It sounded like chanting, again. “Fuck no.”

Without letting go of the door, I turned around and shined my light back into the car. Walking through the door behind me was a blurry and dark figure. It opened what had to be its mouth, and I heard more whispers float from it and toward me. Its mouth-thing connected one side of its head to the other, but certainly wasn’t quite grinning. It lifted one hand, a hand previously resting near its knee, and reached out to me.

“What the fuck!” I shouted. I pulled on the door handle and used my entire body to shove it open. I stumbled out into the between-car section, and tried as quickly as I could to tug the next one open. I slid open as quickly as I could make it, and I stepped onto the next empty train car.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. What the fuck?” I realised my phone was in my hand. “Oh shit, no no no no.” I patted myself down, and touched a large shape in my pocket. “Oh, fuck. Okay, I’m good, I still have my phone. I never even realised that I stuffed it in my pocket while trying to move from one car to another. Fuck, dude.” I pulled the phone out of my pocket. Its light was still one, so I shined it into the car. The seats of the car were covered in a blurry, shadowy mess. The shadows were slowly moving onto the floor of the car. I ran past them all and to the next door. I pocketed my phone again, pulled on the handle of the door, and shoved the bastard open. It easily let me out, and I moved over to the next car.

“Please let there be one more, please let there only be one more,” I whispered. My light illuminated the car. For a moment I thought the light wasn’t working, because I still only saw darkness. I turned the light to my face. It was definitely still on. The static from the speakers was suddenly more apparent in the dark. “Fuck me, is this really happening?”

I put my left hand in front of me, and tried to use it to help me figure out what was in front of me. My legs bumped into what had to be the seats often, but my hand didn’t touch anything. All of my steps were slow. And agonising. I was already sick of this train car. Then, my hand touched a pole.

“Shit!” I shouted, and stumbled backward in pain. I looked at my hand. The dark stuff was a little stuck to it. “No!” I tried to shake it off. Luckily for me, I was successful. My hand was reddened from where the shadows had been. It stung.

Eventually, I stumbled to the other side of the train, and found the other door. I guessed at where the handle was. I grabbed it, grunted from the pain, and tugged the door open. The lights from the tunnel were still flashing by. I stepped through the doorway, and tugged the door closed behind me.

“Aah!” I screamed as I let go of the door. I felt relief from the pain, but then a stinging followed. I shook my hand vigorously. I pulled out my light and shined it at the other door. That same darkness covered it. “Fuck. Fuck!”

I stood in place for a few moments, thinking of what to do. An idea crossed my mind. “Hell, I might as well give it a shot.”

I pulled my shirt off, and the winds were even colder on my bare skin. I used the shirt to keep the shadow-stuff off of my hand as I pushed the next door open. It worked, and I didn’t feel the same pain from touching the darkness. Yet, the stinging sensation was still there.

I entered the train car and put my shirt back on. “How the hell can this thing cause me so many problems, yet not even be here?” Shining my light into the train car revealed everything as it was supposed to be, and I sighed in relief. “At least I can see again.”

I crossed my fingers as I approached the next car. “Please be the last one, please be the last one, please be the last one!” I pulled on the handle, and the door opened. From the side of the train, I saw a really bright light. I looked over, and saw a stop approaching. “Yeah, great, I bet we’re missing this one, too.”

No one was at the stop as we flew by. I wish there had been at least someone. How many of the other stops had people at them that I just missed? How many times had I lost the chance to call for help?

The light from the stop disappeared in the distance. I was only illuminated by the tunnel again.

Suddenly, I realised I didn’t really remember why I was trying to move to the front of the train. What was my goal?

“Right. I should probably stop the train. Hit the brakes or something.” I sighed. “Fuck, how did this happen?” I turned over to the other door and pulled it open. Inside was just another passenger car.

“Why the fuck does this just not end? I’m done wasting time.” I stomped over to the other door, and ripped it open. I shut it, and broke into the next car.

My phone light illuminated seats. I lifted it up to the other wall. “Oh thank god.” The door was closer to me than any of the other ones had been. “The fucking cockpit or whatever you call it. Jesus, finally.”

I ran to the door, and pulled it open. I gasped.

The conductor’s face was covered in pitch black. The speaker microphone was hanging, just above the ground. I was reminded of the static playing behind me. I pushed past the man in the chair, and started looking for an emergency brake. “Fucking fuck, there’s gotta be something somewhere!”

Behind me, I heard the whispers again. “You’re fucking with me.” I flashed the light back into the train. The shadow was stepping through the door, and toward me. “You’re fucking with me.”

I stood in place. There was literally nothing I could do to stop it. I flashed my light at it, constantly flicking it off and on, but it didn’t change anything. It just kept chanting and stepping towards me.

I stopped flicking the light, and just kept it on. “What the hell do you want?” I could feel a lump welling up in my throat. It was halfway through the car at that point.

I felt a tear slide down my face. Am I crying?

Its chants got louder and louder, and I saw it open its mouth. It was as wide as my face, and split the head greatly. Shadowy strings connected the two halves. Its body shuddered.

I regained control of myself, and immediately started hitting buttons on the control panel. One of them had to be a brake or something. Right?”

Nothing was happening when I hit the buttons. They all just kind stayed dim.

“Won’t… Work…” I heard from between the chants. I looked back, and the thing was maybe two feet away from me. I tried to scramble away, shining my light at it. The area behind it was suddenly covered in pitch blackness.

“Turn… Off…” Were the only understandable words that came through its mouth. Maybe its mouth? It was making noise, and it was still chanting. “Off… Light…”

I breathed quickly, and my vision was blurry. I wiped my eyes with my arm. The creature was inches away from me. I still held my phone at it. Its body quivered more and more the closer it got to my light. It grabbed the phone in my hand. The light turned out, and the screen itself powered down. The sound of static was loud again. The chanting disappeared.

I covered my head in my arms, and I sobbed. It was so dark.

Shopping

I stood outside of our house, waiting for my husband. He always took a while to actually get out of the house once I tell him ‘I’m ready.’ He’s the kind of guy who thinks he can get ready in a couple minutes, so he puts it off until he’s either late or almost late. Either way, it gave me the chance to smoke before we went grocery shopping.

It was only early afternoon, but the evening fog had set in early today. I could only see about 40 feet away from myself in any direction, but it’d be enough. The grocery store wasn’t too far away.

“Alright, let’s go,” Brett said, walking down our porch stairs to our car.

“Wow, I only smoked half a cigarette this time,” I replied, laughing.

Brett scowled. “You really should quit smoking.”

“I know, I know. I’m working on it. No need to remind me.” I kneeled down rubbed the cigarette out on the ground

“I’ll stop reminding you once you have completely quit,” He replied.

“Not even a rare social smoke?” I asked as I put the cigarette away.

“Not even that.”

Either way,I got into the driver’s seat and drove us to the closest superstore. Really, it was just a Walmart, but I hated admitting I shopped at Walmart.

“You’ve got a list, right sweetheart?” I asked.

“Of course I do, Arthur. Why wouldn’t I?” He replied.

I laughed. “Ah, well, I just like double checking. You know how I am.”

“I know, sweetie. It’s probably a good thing you’re so insistent on keeping me up on things.”

“You’re welcome,” I replied, smugly.

“Oh, I see how it is, Mr. Marlboro,” Arthur laughed.

“Okay, fine. Thanks for pushing me to better myself too.”

“I can live without a shopping list,” he said, “but you aren’t living if you’re missing a lung.”

“I know, I know,” I wave him off. “Gee, you’re worse than my mom.”

“I feel like your mom,” he started to laugh, “Old and crotchety!”

We both laughed, and let the quiet hang in the air afterwards. It was nice.

“Fog’s out early today, huh,” I mentioned.

“We’re probably in the thick of it right now. It should pass in a few days.”

“I hope you’re right. It’s pretty dreary, and we have to drive at 20 miles-per-hour everywhere we go.”

“It could be worse. We could just be not shopping at all.”

“Oh, you know that isn’t really an option. We should have just gone last week,” I piped in.

“Oh well,” he said. He pulled down the sun blocker, so that he could look at himself in the mirror.

Within a few more moments, we arrived at the superstore. We both found a parking spot near the back of the lot– so that we wouldn’t lose our car among other cars– and walked toward the store.

Once we entered, I was relieved to see my breaths stop leaving a huge cloud of steam everywhere I went. I grabbed a shopping cart, and caught up with Arthur. “Alright, where to first?”

“We should left and get cereal first,” he told me.

“The freezer section is closer, though,” I replied.

“We’ll get frozen goods on the way back,” he said.

I started walking toward the dry foods anyway. “You know, this isn’t summertime down in Georgia anymore, Arthy-dear.”

“I lived in Wyoming. Georgia is nowhere near Wyoming.”

“Eh, they’re both just as conservative to me,” I chuckled.

“S’why I left,” Arthur replied. We reached the cereal aisle, and he grabbed some off-brand cheerios. I grabbed a box of Cookie Crisp, and we put them into the cart.

“I can’t believe you can still stand eating that stuff,” Arthur chided me.

“Come on! It’s like desserts, but in the morning! That’s awesome!”

“Whatever, you can have your kid’s cereal,” he said, waving his hand farewell to me as he walked forward.

I followed him. “I will have my children’s breakfast item, thank you very much,” I said.

The rest of our shopping went rather similarly, with Arthur grabbing foods you actually have to cook, while I grabbed pizza rolls and burritos.

At check-out, I ribbed into him a little bit. “I know you have to be incredibly jealous of how I live?”

“And how is that?” He demanded.

“Oh, allI have to do is go to work for a few hours every week, and then I get to come home to a lovely hubby who cooks all my meals for me while I just laze around the house,” I bragged.

“Oh yeah? Well, I can’t help but wonder who enables your lifestyle,” He said, with dignity.

“You know who that is,” I said through a smile. I grabbed him from behind and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

The counter girl laughed. “Get a room, you two.”

I gasped. “Is not a superstore just one giant room?”

She laughed, along with Arthur.

“Your total will be $127.34,” she told us.

I took out my wallet, paid, and we left the store with groceries in tow. The moment we walked out of the door, though, it was incredibly apparent that things weren’t right.

“Where are the cars?”I asked.

“I have got no idea. Did we come through the wrong doors?”

“Even if we did, there should still be cars on the opposite side. What the hell?”

I left the cart on the sidewalk, and I stepped toward the parking lot.

“Maybe-”

I jumped. “Jesus, I didn’t know you followed me, Arthur. Warn me next time.

“Sorry,” he said.” “Was there was some emergency alert you and I missed?”

“I doubt it. Our phones would have been buzzing and going haywire and shit.”

“Um,” Arthur mumbled. “Hell. I don’t know.”

“Let’s just see if we can find our car, alright?” I reassured Arthur. At least, I thought I was. I didn’t really know how scared Arthur was.

“I was about to suggest that myself.”

The two of us continued to walk into the parking lot. Of course,since we parked so far away from the the store, we lost sight of it due to the fog. Scouring the parking lot yielded no car.

“This is either terrifying or a really good prank.” I reached into my pockets to make sure I still that the keys. I felt them, and pulled them out.

“What do you make of this?” I asked.

Arthur shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe you’re just dreaming. Pinch yourself.”

“Real nice of dream-you to tell me the secret of the dream, don’t you think.” I sighed.

“Maybe we should just head back to the store,” he suggested.

“Sure. Let’s just do that.”

The two of us walked back toward the store.

“Hey, we forgot to grab our cart,” I mentioned.

“I left it on purpose. Not much use dragging a cart around when we don’t even have a car,” he reasoned.

“Yeah, okay, that’s fair,” I said.

I stopped walking. “Does it seem weird to you that we haven’t seen the building yet?” I asked. “Like, we went the right way. All I see is more parking lot all around.”

“I didn’t want to say anything,” Arthur admitted.

“Hell,” I said. “What do we do now?”

“I don’t know,” he sighed. “Like, this is some kind of bullshit you see happening in one of your b-films.”

“Or one of your video games,” I said.

“Yeah, but in the video game you find a way out. There are usually clues or something,” he said.

“Nothing out here but unlit street lamps. It’s still daylight out.”

We both stood still, without saying a word for a few moments. That was when the alarm sounded.

Arthur and I refused to make a sound, instead opting to look about wildly for the source of the sound. It sounded like it was coming from everywhere and nowhere at once. It hurt my head to think about it.

I grabbed the sides of my head in recoil, trying to block out the sound. It didn’t work.

Then, almost as suddenly as it began, it stopped. It was just over.

I looked up at Arthur. My head was throbbing from the sudden end of the alarms.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Arthur said nothing, but he pointed past and behind me. I craned my head back to see what he was pointing at.

There were silhouettes in the fog shambling toward us. There were dozens of them.

“Holy shit,” I whispered.

“So you see them too. That’s- that’s good,” Arthur said.

I squinted to try and see them a bit better. “Oh fuck, I think those things have holes instead of faces.”

“Don’t you try telling me those are the goddamned pirori!” Arthur shouted

“I don’t know what the hell that means,” I said, “But you can look for yourself.”

Arthur squinted at the figures, much like I had, and gasped. “Okay, what the hell are we still doing here, Brett?”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “We already tried to leave.” I was desperately trying to stay calm, but I wasn’t sure how long my bravado would last me.

“No, I mean right now!” Arthur grabbed my hand, and started to run away from the figures emerging from the mist. Not really able to choose, I kept up with him.

Despite our clear goal being to get as far away from the figures as we could, I couldn’t help but look back at them. Which, of course, is when what was behind became even worse.

Standing far behind the now-miniscule figures was something huge. I looked vaguely like a giant human, but it’s stomach was facing upwards, and it’s back was arched back terribly. It’s limbs didn’t look quite right either, with more than one joint bending in each one, suspending it. I saw its mouth open before it receded into the fog and out of my vision again.

“Arthur, run faster!”

There was a curdling scream. Unlike the alarm, it clearly came from one direction.

Arthur took my advice after hearing that. I only wish he hadn’t looked back.

Crumbling

A wretched thing was found tonight
In a weald not far from here
An item which held a life of its own
But lacked a shape to show its life

It was green and minuscule, but the finder knew something
About the way that it held no mouth, no teeth to speak
But still told him that it hungered
He had heard of this and knew it should be left
Yet he took it home to study

“The thing should feed,” He told himself
“It won’t last long if it doesn’t.”
Yet he knew it was wrong
The formless creature shouldn’t have an eye
and the eye shouldn’t have fangs

The item grew to the size of a toddler, at least
Its eye was wide and bared its teeth
Another eye wasw growing on its back, behind the first
The man could tell the more it grew, the more that it would feast
With or withour his help, the thing would grow
The thing would hunt and consume

It ate his cat whole with a single look
The kitten was gone, the man saw it all
He held his head in shame. He couldn’t face the town
The man must have known what he was doing
For a crumbling could be heard coming from behind the eye

Ghost Bridge

A fire crackled in the center of our circle. Four of us were here: Grey, Red, and Jack. Grey’s name was actually Greg, and Red’s was really Fred. Grey really hated the name Greg, and Fred just thought that being called a color was cool after Grey started doing it.

“Hey, we should tell some ghost stories around the campfire. You know, for old time’s sake.” Red suggested. He smiled eagerly.

“Yeah, no. Ghosts don’t exist, Red.” I crossed my arms at him.

“I don’t know, there’s some weird shit out there,” Jack said. I shook my head at him.

“Okay, but that doesn’t just magically mean ‘ghosts.’ It means that you’re desperate for an explanation for something that isn’t real. You just watch too many fake ghost videos online,” I replied.

“Okay, sure, whatever. I’ve found some reputable sources. Real ghost hunters, not those TV show pricks. Tell them they’re wrong.”

“Gladly,” I said, “As soon as you can bring them to me.”

“Shut up,” Grey interjected. “Ghost exist. I’ve fucking seen one. The banshee of Ghost Bridge.”

“Fuck off, dude,” I said.

“Keep going,” Red responded. He smiled, obviously pleased he was getting a ghost story.

“I’m listening,” Jack responded.

“Alright, so here’s the deal. You try crossing that bridge, and there’s this ghost that appears. They call her a banshee. You know, because banshee’s scream and then they die. No big deal. Alright, but here’s the kicker: I crossed Ghost Bridge. About halfway through, I see this fucking girl crying. She’s got stupid long red hair, and you can’t much else of her. Her back’s turned to you. So, I fucking asked her if she needed help. She’s just fucking alone on a bridge, crying. I didn’t know what to think. So, she hears me; she stops crying. Next thing I know, she’s standing straight up, and her hair is blowing away in the wind. She’s got this fucking tattered dress, it goes to just a little above her knees. It would be cute and all, if her skin wasn’t fucking white as snow. She looks like a ghost. She’s fucking is a ghost. I panic, and shove past her. She sees me, and she screams. I fucking lose it, and start running faster. I didn’t look back until I was across the bridge. There wasn’t shit there when I looked back.” Grey leaned back in his seat. He closed his eyes and scowled. He didn’t seem to like his own story very much.

“Damn, man,” Jack said.

“Seriously,” Red followed up.

“Alright, sure, a god damned ghost. How can you prove this thing is real?” I demanded.

“I can’t,” Grey admitted. “I saw what I saw, and that’s that. I don’t really want to try and see the banshee a second time.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” I said. Grey shrugged in response.

“Hey asshole,” Jack said to me, “I’m pretty sure that’s some real proof of a ghost. A firsthand encounter? He totally saw her and everything. She’s a full blown ghost, man.”

“Did you see her?” I asked in response.

“Well, no,” Jack said.

“My point exactly.”

The circle was quiet. Red poked the fire with a stick, and I tossed on another log.

“I’ve got an idea,” Red started, “If you want proof of the ghost, why don’t you try crossing Ghost Bridge?”

“Okay, sure, whatever, I’ll prove there’s no ghost. Let’s all go to ghost bridge and waltz across like some ballerinas,” I replied.

“I’m not crossing ghost bridge,” Jack said, “I believe Grey, and I’m in no mood to see a banshee.”

“Fine, I’ll go alone.”

“No, you’ll need a witness,” Red said, “Someone else to know that you actually crossed the bridge, and didn’t just say you did.”

I sighed. “Fine. You and me, Red, tomorrow I’ll cross ghost bridge.”

Red shook his head. “I got family photos tomorrow. Mom’ll be pissed if I miss them.”

I shook my head. “Alright, who’s going to go with me, then?”

No one spoke up for a few seconds. “Come on,” I said, “You want to prove this ghost? Someone has to come with me.”

Again, no one spoke for a couple moments.

Finally, Grey spoke up. “Alright, fine. I’ll come with you. Damn it, I didn’t want to go back to that damned bridge.”

“So it’s settled?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure,” Grey responded.

Red and Jack high fived each other.

“The two of you are a couple of pussies,” Grey said.

“Yeah, duh,” Jack responded.

“Family photos, dude,” Red said.

“My ass,” I said, before laughing, “OoooooOOOoohh, I’m a terrifying ghost who’ll eat you alive!”

Jack and Red laughed. Grey gave me a very solemn look.

*****

“Come on, Tucker. Go cross Ghost Bridge. There’s nothing there but a measly ghost.” Grey egged me on.

“Yeah, whatever, Greg,” I snapped back.

Grey winced. “Hey man, I’m just fucking around. Please don’t call me Greg.”

“Don’t worry,” I reassured him, “No one else is here. Only the ghosts.”

“Yeah, and I’ve got a reputation to keep up with the ghost. Help me out, man.” He started staring down the long bridge.

“What’s the time, Grey?” I asked.

“11:53.”

“Seven minutes. Great. The wait is going to kill me before the ghost has the chance.” I sat down, and looked up at the sky. There weren’t a lot of stars I could see.

“You can just go. That midnight thing is bullshit. The ghost comes around at any time of day.” Grey kept his eyes fixed on the other side of the bridge.

“Whatever dude, fuck off. There isn’t a ghost there. I’m crossing now.”

“You’d better fucking run across that bridge, Tuck,” Grey told me as I got up and walked away. I flipped him off in response.

The bridge was empty. There were old railroad tracks on either side, and some tall, iron railings. I walked between both. I looked back at Grey. “Let me know if you see any spooks!” I called to him.

“You’ll see the bastard before I do!” He shouted back. I laughed, and waved him away. He wasn’t actually going to leave, but you get it.

I kept strolling along, and I looked off of the bridge while I went. The bridge looked over the whole city. It would actually be kind of romantic if I brought someone here. Me and a girl, just watching the sunset over the city. Or me and a guy; I have options.

I took some slow and deliberate steps, stepping from railroad board to railroad board. All the while, My eyes tracked the small glints in the distance. This would totally get me laid. Tonight wasn’t a total waste.

After a few moments of watching the city, I turned back to my boards. They were evenly spaced, and they kept the rusted lines of metal upright. I kind of wanted to kick a broken piece of the railroad aside, but I chose not to. There might have been a dog or something hanging around that I didn’t want to kill.

I counted the boards to myself. The bridge was much longer than it really needed to be. Well, maybe not for trains. I looked off to the side. There wasn’t a river below me. I looked back and forth between the two ends of the bridge. The mountains were pretty steep, I guess. Grey still waited for me back at his side of the bridge.

Once I was about halfway across, I was thinking about just going back. There was clearly nothing on the bridge.

I looked back to Grey and shook my head. I turned back around to take a few steps, when I saw a girl on the bridge.

She was crouching and crying. Her back was turned to me, so I mostly saw an incredible amount of red hair. It was matted and kind of a mess on her. It must have been one solid wig. The girl was crying, and I could see her hair shudder as she gasped and sobbed.

“Alright, you did pretty good. Did Grey put you up to this? Fred? Jack? It doesn’t matter, just get up and let’s go.” The girl was about 9 steps away. I started to walk towards her.

Once she was around 6 steps away from me, she stood up. Her hair fell to her knees. If it were brushed, it probably would have landed around her ankles. That wasn’t the case, though.

“Seriously, that wig is impressive. Like, how would you even get that much hair? Someone was really dedicated in making that thing.

4 steps away, and she turned to me. Her eyes were sunken in her face, and her lips were chapped and scabbed. Her nose was dry, and flakes of skin were scraping off.

“Jesus. That’s good makeup-”

She screamed. It was earsplitting and terrible. The whole town had to have heard that awful screech. I covered my ears and closed my eyes. “FUCK!”

I opened my eyes to see small blue lights floating around the girl. Wait, they were flames. Shit!

She screamed again, and suddenly the balls of fire were rushing toward me. I fell backwards, and some of the flames flew over where I was standing.

“Shit, shit, shit!” I shouted. I scrambled to my feet, then ran away from the ghost. She screamed again. I looked back, and saw more blew flames coming at me. I dived to the ground again.

“FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!” I was hit in the back by fire. I could feel the awful burns, and I could feel a sudden cold on my back in spots where my shirt was missing.

She screamed again. I stood up, and kept running. Then, I turned and small the fire close to me. I stepped to the side, and avoided more flames hitting me. Yet, they kept coming at me. I took another step, and more fire missed me.

The ghost was floating above the bridge now, and was flying towards me, flames all around her. She was probably twenty feet away when she screamed again.

Fire approached me, quicker than it should have.

“No, no, no!” I shouted. The flames were almost upon me. I looked over the side of the bridge. I had only a moment to react.

“I looked back at the flames. They were only feet away. I dived to the side, only a little bit away from edge of the bridge. I felt a wave of heat pass over me.

I was on my side, and rolled to my back to see the ghost.

“Fuck!” The burns on my back stung when they touched the rusted railroad track. Instinctively, I rolled back onto my side.

I rolled too fast. The bridge was no longer beneath me. I grabbed the edge, and held on for all I had. I started to try and pull myself up when I heard one last screech.

I glanced toward where the banshee was. I couldn’t see her through the bridge. The only thing I could see over the bridge were the flames that struck my hands.

I didn’t shout in pain as I let go. It hurt, but I knew that the fall would hurt much more.

Grey, you were right. Hell, you were right.

I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to know how close the ground really was.

*****

Grey watched in horror as the banshee threw me over the edge of the bridge. He knew the moment he saw the flames that I wouldn’t make it. He ran away from the bridge after I fell, shouting and screaming about how dumb he was to let me do this. I saw him cry over me. I didn’t know he cared that much.

After he finally pulled himself together, he called the police. A few moments passed, and I heard him speak. “Yeah, hello, um, I have a problem. My friend just, um, jumped off of the old bridge. Yeah, the one that’s no longer in use.”

Oh. Grey was lying to 911. That’s good. He certainly won’t get framed for murder that way. Although, I guess if he told them I was killed by a ghost, that wouldn’t be much better. Hell. Grey was going to go to prison.

“No, no,” I heard him say after a moment, “I didn’t push him. He sent a very concerning text. I knew he liked to be here sometimes, so I tried to save him.” He listened for a moment. “Yeah, his name is Tucker Gold.”

I stopped listening. He was just going to go through the motions of a report to the police. It didn’t matter, because the police would come, Grey would be arrested, and he’d be stuck in prison. I died, Grey would go to jail, and Red and Jack wouldn’t have any idea what really happened. They might believe Grey killed me, or they might not. They might be angry that a ghost killed me, and nobody could do anything. They might come and try to get revenge on the ghost.

“I can’t let that happen!” I shouted. I needed to keep anyone from crossing the bridge!

Grey jumped. He looked back at me. I heard a loud voice from the phone: “Is something wrong?” he asked.

“No, sorry, I thought I heard something,” Grey said.

I walked back up to the bridge. I sat down at the entrance, and laid my head against the tall rail, the rail that was supposed to help keep trains from falling off. Too bad I’m not- I wasn’t- a train.

*****

Thirty minutes passed. Police arrived at the bridge, on foot. There were too many trees for any vehicles to show up to the bridge itself. I saw flashlights appear, and I saw the officers arrive. I stood up, ready to tell them to leave. They had no chance at this bridge, and I needed to stop them.

Casually, they walked up to the bridge. I heard them speak. “So, you think that kid killed the other one?”

“Well, the body had burns. There’s no way that he just died from the fall. I think the other kid must have done something to him,” the second officer replied.

“Sure, but Greg didn’t have any sort of hot items on him, and we haven’t found anything else. There isn’t enough evidence right now,” the first retorted.

“Innocent until proven guilty. Yeah, you sure do believe that.”

I took in a deep breath. At least, it felt like I did. “You two! Don’t cross this bridge! You aren’t going to make it over alive!” I shouted at them. Hopefully they would listen.

“We should look for signs of fire on the bridge, though. That might give us some evidence. Maybe there will be a lighter there. Who knows?” The first officer said, walking straight through me.

I turned to look at them. They had walked straight through me, without any hesitation. They didn’t even notice me. God damn it.

“Those burns were way too big, and way to bad to be lighter burns. Your skin doesn’t turn black from lighter burns,” I heard the second say.

I followed the officers. At first, I took steps to keep up with them, but at one point I noticed my feet weren’t even moving. I started trying to slap the back of the officer’s heads, to get their attention.

“You feel a breeze?” the first officer said.

“A little. It’s no big deal,” the second replied.

“You’re fucking with me, right?” I said. “Neither of you asshats are noticing me? Come on, I’m not that hard to fucking see, dude!”

One officer flashed his light back at me. “I thought I heard something. The night must be psyching me out.”

“Yeah, it happens to the best of us,” the other said. “It doesn’t help that the kid might have been killed by his own friend.”

“I already told you, innocent until proven guilty,” the first said again.

The two officers weren’t moving down the bridge at the moment. They were just standing still and arguing. Maybe if I kept shouting, they would eventually hear me.

“DEATH! RUIN! OTHER WORDS THAT MEAN THAT KIND OF STUFF!”

The cops didn’t make any motion that they heard me, and continued to walk down the bridge.

“No, no no!” I shouted, before rushing over to the cops. For a second I ran, before letting my feet drag beneath me.

I caught up to the officers within moments, and shouted at them. “You can’t keep crossing this bridge! There’s this fucking banshee in the middle! She killed me, and she’ll kill you!” The words left my mouth, and they felt kind of odd. I was dead, and it seemed strange to keep talking like when I was alive.

“Something seems off about all this. The kid probably wasn’t killed, but he certainly didn’t burn himself in multiple places before jumping off of the bridge. There are just a few details we’re missing here,” the officer said. This was the same one who had said ‘innocent until proven guilty’ multiple times.

“You think this will become one of those weird urban legends nobody knows how to explain properly?” the other cop asked.

“Maybe. I don’t know, what with the internet and stuff, things spread really quickly. This might become something big.”

“You tried to stop them, didn’t you?” I heard a voice behind me. I turned, and saw the banshee. She was quiet, and floating.

“They won’t be as lucky as you,” she continued, “You had the mercy of falling. These men are going to just be burnt until they die. Maybe one will fall off, but the other will be seen here.”

“Um, okay,” I replied. “I don’t really understand what’s going on.”

“You’ll forget everything you knew, soon enough. All that you’ll do is the same thing, for eternity.” The banshee looked off in the distance. She looked sad. “I get angry whenever people cross my bridge. I was thrown off of it by a terrible man years ago. Pretty soon, I’ll look back at those two, and I’ll become angry again. There’s nothing you can do.” She still seemed rather sad, and looked like she was going to cry.

“Um, miss, if you know that you feel that way, then why don’t you just keep looking away from them? If you never see them cross your bridge, you won’t get mad. Right?”

Tears started to form in the banshee’s sunken eyes. She shook her head, and her knotted hair flew around her knees and back.

“It- it doesn’t work like that…” She said. She started sobbing.

“Oh hell,” I muttered to myself. “Look, uh, I’m here now. I can be your friend or something, right?” I gave her a desperate look. I promised myself I wouldn’t let anyone die on this bridge.

The banshee let out a wail, and flew past me, to the middle of the bridge. I tried to follow her. “Wait!”

The ghost floated down to the ground of the bridge. “Hold on!” I shouted.

The officers looked back to me. One of them spoke, “Don’t you dare try telling me you didn’t hear that shit.”

“I heard it,” the other said, “but that doesn’t mean I believe it.”

In front of them both, the banshee suddenly become solid. I could see through her before, but now I couldn’t. I hadn’t really thought about until just now. Her cries were very easy to hear.

“What the hell?” The officers swung the flashlights back and saw the banshee crouching on the ground, sobbing.

“Oh no,” I mumbled.

“Ma’am, how did you get here? What are you doing here?” The same officer asked.

The banshee didn’t reply. She just kept crying. One officer nodded to the other, and the second drew his gun.

“Hey now, what’s wrong?” The unarmed officer asked. He stepped toward her, and reached out to her.

She screamed. Furious.

The flames started to appear around her, and the second officer fired at her. She bled, but it was very clear that it made no difference to her. She was still angry. Another scream, and the flames began to charge the officers. The first cried out in pain as the flames licked his flesh. The second ducked, and managed to avoid any fire. He shot at the banshee twice more, and hit both shots. One must have hit her heart, and the other was nearby. She bled from both spots, but that was it. All it did was stain her dress in the spots, and spread outward. The officer who was hit by the flames held his face and stumbled backward. He fell onto his ass, and shouted. The second officer fired once more, hitting the banshee in the head. She only shrieked in response, and more flames appeared, and chased the officers. The one who writhed on the ground caught a lot of the flames, and simply continued to scream in anguish.The other officer fell onto his back, but still caught some of the flames. He also screamed.

Behind me, I heard footsteps crunching up the path. Other officers were coming to help. They didn’t stand a chance, and they wouldn’t notice me.

I didn’t look back. I continued to watch the officers on the bridge be totally lit aflame on the bridge. Gunshots rang out behind me, and I felt bullets soar through me. More red spots appeared on the pale banshee.

After a short while, the banshee stopped screaming. Instead, she fell back down to her knees, and cried some more. The officers behind me had fled after seeing their bullets have no effect. The ones who were burning and dying stopped squirming and shouting shortly after. I walked back over to the banshee.

“Lady, what the fuck is up with all of that! You just killed two people!” I demanded to know what she was doing.

She didn’t lift her head up. Instead, she simply shook her head and showed me three fingers.

“God damn it! Okay, three people. Why?”

The banshee shook her head again. “You’ll forget soon. Then you’ll leave. It doesn’t matter.”

I didn’t understand what she was saying. “That doesn’t make sense. I don’t see how I’ll just forget everything. I’m still me, just,” I paused. “Well, dead. That’s so fucking weird to say.”

I sat down next to the banshee. “My name’s Tucker. Tucker Gold. Do you know your name?” After everything she had said about forgetting, I wasn’t sure if she knew anything about herself.

She shakes her head at me. “This is my bridge. A man pushed me off of it. Now no one is allowed to cross it.” The banshee wasn’t crying anymore, but she certainly wasn’t calm.

I floated away from the banshee. I went back to the entrance of the bridge. The officers were only a short distance away, so I floated toward them.

“There was an unknown entity on the bridge. Two officers approached it, and it burned them to death with some strange flames it created,” one officer said to another. “Besides that, we don’t know anything. We think that thing might have also killed the Gold child.”

The officer who was spoken to grunted. “Go check on the bridge again, and give me a status report on the,” he put up finger quotes, “unknown entity.”

The reporting officer nodded, and jogged off to check the bridge.

“Gregory, do you know anything about that ghost?” I heard an officer ask. I turned to face the sound. Grey was sitting, arms cuffed behind his back, in front of a female officer. The only one I had seen tonight.

“Yeah, I did. I didn’t know it made fucking fire!” he said. “I crossed bridge as a dare once. I ran away too quickly from the ghost to get hit by any fire. Tucker was crossing the bridge to prove there were no ghosts. I really wish he was right.”

I took a few real steps toward Grey. He was staring at the ground. His face lacked any emotion.

“Grey, it’s not your fault,” I said to him.

He looked up at where I was. “I know,” he replied, “but it was so fucking dumb of me.”

The officer turned around. “Who are you talking to?”

Grey shook his head and looked back down. “I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.”

“Son, we just found out tonight that ghosts can exist. If you just spoke to one, I think it’s relevant.” The officer bent over to look at Grey’s face. He didn’t move.

“Maybe I spoke to a ghost. I don’t know. It’s gone now, anyway.”

I wasn’t gone, though. I was still exactly where I was last. I hadn’t moved. What was up with this shit?

The only person who I knew might tell me anything was insane, and could go off on me at any point.

The officer who was questioning Grey walked away. She went and started talking to another officer. They were probably talking about Grey. Either way, I moved closer to him.

Grey kept his head down. He seemed just so… Defeated. I had never seen him like this before. “Grey,” I began, “You’re going to be alright, right man? Nothing’s gonna keep you down. Come on, Grey, listen to me.”

Grey made no motion he had heard me. What did I do before that let him hear me? What do I have to do now to get others to hear me?

Hours passed. Grey was sent home after a short while. After even more time, most of the officers went home. A few others came to take their place, but there were certainly less than at first. The were instructed to simply keep people away from the bridge, and not to touch the bridge itself. That was supposed to be my job.

I sat down at the bridge, and let my head down. Would I be able to sleep, if I wanted to? Do I even need sleep? Hell, what do we even do in our spare time? Nothing good, I imagine.

“Hello,” a female voice spoke into my ear. My head shot up, and I turned to face the sound. It was the banshee again, sitting next to me on the bridge.

“Oh, hey. You scared me for a second.” I scooted away from her just a little bit. She was incredibly close to me.

“I’m sorry. I just noticed you were alone. I’ve been alone for so long.” The banshee looked out past the bridge, and at the town. I followed her gaze.

“I’m sorry. But, I mean, at least I’m here now. We can just be friends here on your bridge, right? You and me, until time itself withers away.” I looked over at the girl, and smiled. She had closed the distance between us again while I wasn’t looking.

“We can be friends,” She agreed. “I would like to have a friend.”

Looking at her, she must have been around 15 years old. That was two years younger than me.

“Well, if we’re friends, we should know each other’s names. I’m Tucker, but you can call me Tuck if you want.”

The banshee didn’t move her face, her eyes, or anything else. “I don’t know my name. I lost it a long time ago.”

Oh, boy. I really didn’t like this ordeal. Just forgetting your name? She must have been on this bridge for much longer than I can think. If she doesn’t know her own name, she probably doesn’t know much else about herself.

“I have to call you something, right? What would you like?” I asked her. She just shook her head.

“Okay,” I said, “Then what if I just gave you a nickname? Something new?”

The banshee smiled and nodded, her eyes still fixed on the town. “I would like that.”

Okay, think quick. We’ve gotta name the girl. Um, banshee is all I’ve been calling her so far, but that probably isn’t very nice. Shit, think. B, B, B… Banshee, bitch, uh, blank, blanca? I’m not very good at this, am I?

“Alright, how about I call you Bianca?” I asked.

“You can call me Bianca,” she answered. “It’s nice to have a friend, Tucker.” She leaned her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes. “It’s nice.”

*****

Bianca and I simply sat in place until the morning came. We talked during the whole night. Bianca had a lot of questions about and for me, and I had an equal amount of answers. She found out that Grey was last the person I had talked to before dying. When I asked her a question of the same manner, she told me it was the same bad man who threw her off of the bridge. She nuzzled closer to me after saying that. We could both feel each other, in a sense, but we really didn’t have any physical ability beyond that.

“So have you ever fallen asleep while you were here?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “Sleeping isn’t something we can do. We just lay still, with nothing but angry thoughts to bide the time. I don’t like being alone.”

I could see that. I kind of did the same thing when I was alone, too. I don’t think I festered my anger over a couple hundred years, however.

“I see. So we’ll just sit here and talk. Man, it would have been nice to not need sleep while I was alive.”

Bianca giggled at that. It’s weird how your humor changes after you die, I think.

“What kind of things would you do instead of sleep?” Bianca asked.

“Well, I would play a lot more video games. I would just stay up all night and play, then go to school in the morning. I could just do my homework before I left, too, and that would save me time as well. I would love that.”

“I don’t know what a video game is,” Bianca informed me.

“Oh. Well, did you ever see films or movies or anything like that?” I looked to her for an answer. She shook her head.

“You had to have seen a photo, though, right?” I really needed something she knew.

“I have seen photos, yes. They don’t have any color, though. They look like dead versions of reality.”

“Okay, a film is like a moving picture,” I began to tell her.

“You mean like a zoetrope?” She cut me off.

I hadn’t seen a zoetrope since I was six. “Yeah, kind of. Except the image doesn’t just repeat, it does different. Like, imagine a train running down this bridge, and some people on horses chasing after it. That would be more like a film. For a long while, they were just black and white. But after some time, they became color.”

“That sounds interesting. That’s something I might like to see,” Bianca said.

“Movies are cool, but video games are cooler. Video games are like a film, except you get to control a person and tell them where to go.”

Bianca sat up straight. “That’s impossible. That can’t exist.”

I shrugged. “It does. I’ve lived with them all of my life. There were people before who couldn’t believe trains existed, but you know they do.”

Bianca leaned back onto me. “I guess you’re right. It just seems so crazy.”

“It probably is,” I replied. “They didn’t exist thirty years ago. In the span of time, they only became a thing recently.”

Bianca nodded.

“Did you have any siblings at home?” She asked me.

“No, not really. I was an only child. Though, I guess my parents don’t have a child anymore.”

“No. But now I have a friend. I’m sorry I killed you.”

I didn’t say anything for a while. I didn’t know what Bianca was. I knew she couldn’t hurt me anymore, but she could still hurt others. All I would be able to is watch, most likely. I wasn’t sure I wanted any of this.

In the end, I decided on what I should say. “I’m sorry I tried crossing your bridge. I didn’t even think you existed when I was crossing.

In the distance, I heard engines growl. I could tell they were HUGE engines. It seemed strange to have them coming so quickly. What kind of trucks would you need here?

“Hey Bianca, I hear something. I’m going to check it out. I’ll be back.”

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll think about some of the things you’ve told me.”

I floated through the woods, until I eventually found the source of the rumbling. There was one incredibly loud truck, with a large trailer behind it. The truck was filled with men.

“The mayor declared this a state of emergency. We’re taking down the bridge tonight, before anyone else can cross,” The driver of the truck said to an officer.

“Alright, you can tear this bridge down once my boss tells me it’s safe,” replied the woman who talked to Grey last night. “We’re under strict orders to keep everyone away from this bridge. It’s a matter of life and death, and the mayor can kiss my ass if he thinks he’s overriding orders.”

Oh god. They planned on destroying the bridge. I had no idea how much time I had until it was to be torn down, but I couldn’t let it happen. I had to do something.

But what could I do? I didn’t know what I should do to stop this. I couldn’t even stop two men from walking to their own dooms. There was nothing here that I could actually affect. The officers wouldn’t listen, the construction men wouldn’t listen, and if I could get to the mayor, he couldn’t listen either.

There was only one person here who could listen to me. Bianca. She was the only one with any sort of agency with me. I needed to talk with her.

I rushed back to the bridge. I needed to do something to handle Bianca and get us away from the bridge. There had to be something I could do.

“Hey, Bianca, you haven’t heard of airplanes, have you?” I asked once she was in range. Still seated, she shook her head at me.

“Well, airplanes are kind of like flying trains. Imagine the engine of a train, but with big and stiff metal wings that poke out of the side. It’s a bit like that, but they fly through the air,” I said.

“That sounds incredible!” She stood and shouted.

“Would you like to see one? You and I could just get out of here, and go get on an airplane. We could see the world, right?” I moved to her, and grabbed her shoulders. “There is so much to see, and we have all the time in the world.”

Bianca looked away from me. “My bridge…”

I waited for her to say more. She didn’t. “The bridge will be waiting here when we get back. You can come back to this home.”

Bianca shook her head. “I think I need to think about this more. I haven’t ever left my bridge.” Bianca shrugged my hands off, and walked down her bridge. “I’ve never left this bridge.”

I followed her at a slight distance. “You had to have gone places besides the bridge when you were alive. Right?”

Bianca stood at looked out at the town. “That was so long ago. I haven’t left in so long.”

I stood next to her. “It hasn’t been that long for me. I can show you the way. Please, Bianca. Let’s go.”

Bianca doesn’t reply. She continues to stare out at the town. She didn’t speak. I didn’t attempt to say anything either. I didn’t know how she worked. I didn’t know how I worked.

“I was thrown over the edge of this bridge. I died, then remembered waking up again on the bridge. I was scared and confused. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I didn’t know how to go back to town. I was lost out on this bridge. So, I never left. Trains would pass me by, but at one point they stopped. All I could do was wait. Then, someone tried to walk across. I was angry at them. I had been alone for so long, and I didn’t want anyone to intrude on that. He died- I killed him!

“I had never before in my life thought that I could do what that terrible man did to me. Yet, I did. He fell off of the bridge. I didn’t remember doing anything but screaming at him to go away. Yet, he was gone. I heard him shout as he fell. Then he stopped.”

Bianca continued to stare out in the distance. I heard the engines again. They were driving, and I think they were driving to the bridge.

“I don’t know anymore, Tucker. I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know if I should be glad for that or angry. I don’t know if that makes it harder to leave or not. I feel as if staying here is the only option I had.” Bianca turned to look at me.

I opened my mouth. The engine stuttered at the base of the bridge, then turned off. I heard faint voices below.

“Bianca, you don’t have any happy memories at this bridge,” I said.

“I have you. The bridge gave you to me,” Bianca replied.

I don’t think that’s how the bridge works. “I suppose that’s true. But I’ll still be with you, bridge or no bridge.”

Bianca was silent for a moment. She was probably thinking.

I didn’t know how much time I had left to get away from the bridge.

“Maybe I’m a parting gift from the bridge. It could be telling you to go ahead and live your life. Well, ironically.”

Bianca giggled. She knew a lot more than I would have expected some young girl from over a hundred years ago to know.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe it is time I left the bridge. But where would we go? All I’ve known is that I need to keep this bridge as my own.”

“You’ve let me onto your bridge now, haven’t you?”

She said nothing. She sat down on the bridge. “I think I’ll miss the bridge. I’ve been here for so long, I find it hard to imagine anything else.”

I squatted down next to her. “It’s okay to miss things. We’ll come back and visit if you feel too homesick.” Below us, the engine roared to life once more. Were they just looking at the bridge or something?

“So are you ready to go?” I asked Bianca. It seemed like she had made up her mind.

“Yeah. We can go now. I just want to bid the bridge farewell. You go on ahead.”

“Alright. I’ll wait for you just at that end over there.” I walked to wear I had motioned, and did what I said I would. I watched Bianca as she did what she felt she needed to do with her bridge.

“It’s too bad I didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone. I hope nobody misses me too much.”

Then, an explosion. The bottom of the bridge suddenly flashed a bright white color. I looked at the bridge. It was falling. Bianca simply floated above it as it crumbled.

“BIANCA!” I flew to her. “Bianca, the bridge doesn’t matter. I’m right here. Come on, let’s go. Let’s leave the bridge. We have so many other things that we could do. Have you ever been to Italy? I heard Italy is amazing.”

Bianca simply stared below her. She made no motion she had heard me.

“Bianca?” I put my hand on her shoulder. It slipped through her. “Oh no.”

She shrieked, and color began to appear around us. She dove down. She was looking for the people who ruined her bridge.

I only watched. It was too late. There was nothing else I could. I was wrong about everything. I was wrong about ghosts, I was wrong about Bianca being an angry banshee, and I was wrong to think I could help her get away from the bridge.

I slowly sank down. I was wrong. I was wrong. I was WRONG.

I roared in agony as I fell. I held my head in my hands. I was wrong I was wrong I WAS WRONG!

Flames crackled around me, from the decimated bridge. I stood up and wiped my face. I don’t know if I actually cried, but I know I shouted again. The flames around me grew bigger and brighter as I yelled. I looked toward the town and saw blue explosions.

Prerecorded For Your Viewing Pleasure

“Come to the kitchen, come look at what I brought home today!”

I saw Ethan carrying a small box into the house.

“What’s in it, Honey?” I always sat in the kitchen while waiting for my husband to come home, so I was already there. It didn’t stop him from calling to me, anyway.

“I’ll tell you when William is here. William! Come here!” Ethan placed the box on the table, and sat down. William, our son, came in following that statement.

Ethan got straight to opening the box once William was present. “I got a DVR! I know how excited you guys were about TiVo, so I got this one!”

“No way, Dad! That wasn’t supposed to come out until March!” William was eyeing the box as harshly as his little nine-year-old body would let him.

“This isn’t a TiVo, Will. This is something different. We got early access to a different companies DVR. That’s why this box isn’t labeled.” Ethan lifted the DVR out of the box. He beamed with pride.

“A different company? Is that why the box is unlabeled?” I said. William examined the box closely, and even lifted it up to look underneath it.

“Okay, so we have a DVR. How are we going to contact this random company if there’s something wrong with it? How do we know this DVR even came from a trustworthy source?” I drilled Ethan. He clearly didn’t think this through.

“Well, um, I guess we don’t have any real way to take this back to the company. Either way, we still have a DVR. If it doesn’t work, we can just throw it away and get the TiVo later. It isn’t any sort of big deal.” Ethan picked up the box, and took it into the front room. William followed him excitedly. I wasn’t on board with a mysterious DVR.

“Let’s see, I just have to plug this into here, and that into there,” I heard Ethan say. William just giggled with glee. Eventually, I got up from the table to see what Ethan was doing. Much to my surprise, he was already done.

“That was much easier than I expected. Well, let’s test this thing out.” Ethan sat on the couch, and turned on the TV. Then, he used the DVR remote to power it on.

“Was there even an instruction manual for this?” I asked. I leaned in the doorway between the kitchen and the front room.

Ethan shook his head. “If the menu is good enough, we shouldn’t need an instruction manual.”

On the TV was simply some news station. However, Ethan hit his remote, and then there was a simple blue menu sitting over the face of some anchorman. Well, half of his face. The menu took up the top portion of the screen.

“See, this is easy to get, Lu. There are options for record, watch, and schedule recording. Well, besides settings and exit. That’s really easy, right?” Ethan moved his little hand-thing between the options. “Look, there are even buttons for pausing and fast forwarding the show. Isn’t that cool?”

“Dad! Let’s watch something that’s been recorded! Let’s do it!” William shouted.

“There isn’t anything to watch yet, sport. We haven’t recorded anything yet.” Ethan tousled William’s hair. I looked back at the screen, and stared at it. None of us had ever seen a DVR before, but Ethan heard about it a few months back at some technology demonstration. He told us about it, and we got pretty excited too. It wasn’t until a while after that I realised that I really wouldn’t use it often.

“Try it anyway, Dad! Maybe they recorded something for us to watch! Try it,” William said. He got slowly quieter then. He probably realised how loud he was being.

“Alright, lil’ Will. I’ll try it for you. But don’t expect any shows to be there.” Ethan moved his screen hand over the option that said ‘watch.’ When he hit enter, the blue menu at the top suddenly took up the whole screen. You could still hear the audio from the news, but you couldn’t see anyone.

“Huh. You were right, Will. There are some shows recorded. They mostly look like cartoons, though. Maybe they were recorded as a test before I got it?” Ethan looked up at me, and I shook my head.

“Well, I guess you can watch one of these cartoons, sport. I think your mom wants to beat me.” He laughed, and William laughed to.

“Alright, Dad. I’ll wait for you to get back.” Ethan handed Will the remote, then stood up and came into the kitchen with me.

“Okay, dear. What do you want to say? I know you seem really bothered by this whole thing.” Ethan pulled me near him, and kissed my forehead.

I pushed him off. “You can’t sweep me off my feet right now, Ethan. Seriously, how do we know that William isn’t going to find something deranged recorded on that thing? How do you know the only shows on there right now are cartoons?”

Ethan shook his head. “Well, I looked at the shows, for one. And still, we can just check everything tonight. If there is something bad on there, we’ll just delete it before William looks at it.”

“What if he’s already found something, though? We can’t risk that!”

As if just to prove me wrong, the Pokemon theme song started up. “That doesn’t sound terrible and messed up to me, Luanne. Just relax. We’ll be fine, and we saved money on this. And if it ends up being bad for everyone, I’ll be sure to make it up to you. Is it okay if I kiss you now?”

I looked towards the living room. The TV simply showed regular old Pokemon.

“Alright, Ethan. You can kiss me now.”

***

William came home from school the next, and was still just as excited about the DVR.

“Hey mom! Can I watch the DVR?” William asked.

I shook my head. “You still have to do your chores first. This is still just like when we had regular TV.” William nodded.

“Alright, I’ll do my homework and then sweep in the bathroom, then can I watch the DVR?”

“Well, those are your chores, so yes. You can watch the DVR after you do those.” I replied. William jumped in joy, then rushed toward his room. I smiled at him, then returned to reading. I always read in the kitchen once William got home, so that he could watch cartoons once his chores were done. It also let me make dinner easily.

After a little while, I heard the TV start in the front room. It wasn’t much of a big deal, because that was what often happened when William finished his chores. He was very good at finishing his chores properly.

Some more time passed, and I cooked dinner. Ethan was home from work a little bit before I was done with dinner. He was spending a bit of extra time at his job, so he came home later than he normally would. Times were a bit rough, but we tried to spend little on things we didn’t need, so that we wouldn’t end up in poverty like so many of mine and Ethan’s friends from high school fell into.

Either, Ethan talked with me while I cooked dinner. Once it was done, I called William into the kitchen for dinner. We all ate and talked, and it was nice.

Afterward, Ethan went over William’s homework with him. I cleaned up in the kitchen. Once they were done, Ethan motioned for me to sit at the table with him.

“Honey, I wish you had checked William’s homework before I came home. He had done so many of the problems wrong. I mean, I understand a mistake or two, but William is really good at math. That DVR distracted him.”

“Well, I’m sure he’s just excited. Give him a day or two, he’ll probably get over it by that time. He’ll fall into a regular schedule, and it’ll be just fine. It’ll be like before, and we won’t have to worry about him slacking off on his chores. I’ll pick up after his sweeping for tomorrow, and you can just go over his homework like always. It’ll be alright.” I kissed Ethan on the cheek to reassure him.

“You’re probably right. Yeah, okay, I’ll do that for you. I shouldn’t worry about Will so much.”

***

The day after, William came home school at the time he always does.

“Hey Mom, I’m going to go watch the DVR,” William said as he walked past.

“Make sure you do your chores first, William,” I replied. William nodded and walked into the front room. He turned the TV on, but I didn’t hear him change the show. He must have just prepared the TV for later.

After some amount of minutes, I went and checked on him. He was sitting in front of the TV while doing his homework. “William, you know you aren’t supposed to watch TV while you do your homework.”

William nodded. “I know. But I like the background noise. I just want it to play while I do my homework. I’m not even really watching it.” It was believable, because he was focusing very harshly on his homework.

“Okay, William. I’ll let you sit in front of the TV while you do your homework if you can get 100% on your homework today. Then, if you can keep up that scoring, you can keep watching TV with your homework.”

“Okay Mom. Dad will check it when he gets home.”

“Actually, I think we’re both going to check it today. Your dad saw a lot of mistakes last night when you were doing your homework with him.”

William shrugged. “Okay. But Dad’s better at math then you.”

I didn’t say anything to that. He was in the third grade, I knew for a fact that whatever he was doing I could do just as well. But, there was no need to argue.

“Either way, I’ll be checking your homework as well as Dad. Besides, whatever you’re doing I can do easily. I still handle the house’s money.” William shrugged again.

I went back to the kitchen to keep reading. A few minutes passed by, and then I heard a rise in static coming from the TV. It was small at first, but it grew louder after just a moment before quickly cutting off into silence. Then, a regular theme song started playing.

I got up and walked over to the front room to find out what had happened. “William, what was that I just heard?”

William shook his head. “It was just some static. I changed the channel to one we didn’t have on accident. It’s no big deal.”

“Is your homework done?” I asked. William pointed to the floor, not taking his eyes of the television. I picked it up and took it into the kitchen. Half of the problems weren’t even done.

“William, you haven’t done half of your homework,” I informed him after walking back to the front room.

“I know, I was going to do the other half after one episode.”

“William, if you just did all of your homework, you wouldn’t have to split up your time watching TV at all. What’s gotten into you?”

“Don’t worry, mom. I’ll get it done just after this episode. I promise. It’ll be really good, too.”

***

“William, did you finish your chores that you needed to today?” I called from the kitchen.

“Yeah, Mom. They’re all done. I swept and did my homework.” William replied.

I couldn’t really believe that.

“Bring me your homework so that I can check it, William.” I laid down the magazine I was reading and looked toward the door into the living room.

“Alright, just let me get to a commercial break.” William said.

“Will, you can pause the TV because it’s on the DVR. Just pause it and bring me your homework.” Will knew he could pause the TV, because he had been told he could do that the first day we got it.

“Yeah, but I don’t want to miss anything! This is really important!” William called.

“You can rewind it, William.” He was really starting to get on my nerves at this point.

“Then I have to watch it all again!” Hearing that, I began to tap my fingers on the table.

“William, what could you be watching that’s so important?” I got up from my chair. I knew I could’ve have done this already, but I was trying to give William a chance to police himself. I didn’t think this would happen.

“It’s just cartoons mom, but I really need to watch it,” William said.

I shook my head, and walked into the living room. I learned then why William was being so defensive.

The TV was showing only in black and white. The image on the screen was also very blocky, as if they turned the person on TV into a video game character or something. Despite the blocky shades of grey, black, and white, I could still tell what was going on. A woman was being brutally murdered in greyscale, but the sounds were still of just regular Tom and Jerry. I even heard Tom’s iconic scream while in the kitchen.

“William! We need to turn this off right now!” I marched over to the TV, and did just that.

“Mom! No!” William shouted at me. He grabbed my arm and tried to pull me away from the TV. I let him hang onto my arm, because I could still use my other to unplug the DVR.

“Mom! What are you doing! I was watching that!” William hopped up, and tried to use his whole weight to pull me down.

“William, stop that this instant!” I shouted. His little nine-year-old body wasn’t heavy enough to stop me.

“He grunted with effort as he tried to pull me down.”

“William, do you have any idea what you were just watching? Whoever sold us that damned DVR is a maniac!” I pushed William off of my arm, and he fell down to the ground. He laid there for a second.

“William, we have to get rid of this thing. That was terrible. We aren’t going to test things like this ever again. We should have just waited for a proper TiVo, and not gotten this thing.” I turned away from William, and started to take the DVR off of our TV and unplugged all of its wires.

I heard William start to run away. I turned back, and saw a blur dash into the kitchen. “William, what are you doing? Your dad is still at work.” I left the DVR there, and then followed him into the kitchen. I heard a drawer open followed by clinking metal.

“William, what are you doing?” I turned into the kitchen, and saw William holding a small kitchen knife. He screamed and jumped at me. I lifted my arm to protect myself from the assault, and so that I could try to take the knife from him. There would be no way for him to really injure me. He only grabbed a steak knife.

I felt the small knife cut my left arm, then I used my right to grab him. I took the arm that held the knife, then used my cut arm to take it out of his hand. I saw my blood fall onto the floor as I moved it. Maybe he cut me just a bit worse than I thought.

“William! What has gotten into you! Why are you behaving this way?” William struggled to get out of my grip. I looked over at my cut arm. It was bleeding an amount, but didn’t really hurt. I think that the cut was long rather than deep.

William didn’t say anything, but instead stared away from me while he tried to get away.

“William, we’re going to just wait right here for Dad to get home, and then we’ll see what happens afterward. Does that sound proper?” Again, William said nothing.

So, we waited for his father. It had to have been at least fifteen minutes of me holding him, because the blood on my arm had dried and scabbed over by the time he opened the door.

“Good. You’re home. Hold onto William for me,” I said. He looked at the two of us, confused.

“I haven’t got all day. Come on now.” I motioned with my cut arm for Ethan to hold on to William. His eyebrows rose in surprise for a moment, but then he came over and held onto William. William was tired out, and so he had essentially stopped struggling.

I walked over to the sink and washed my arm clean. I was right about the cut not being very deep. It cleaned up really fast, and the scab looked like a very long cat scratch.

“Come on, William. You’re going to your room. Your mother and I have things to talk about.” Ethan carried William into the hallway door that connected to the kitchen, and presumably to his room.

Only a couple moments later, Ethan was back in the kitchen with me. “Jesus, Luanne. What happened?”

“You’re damned DVR happened! William was obsessed with it! Worse yet, he was watching some women get murdered on it! You told me that all of the prerecorded things were just cartoons, and that I didn’t need to worry! You were wrong!” I shouted at him.

“Oh. That’s awful. Alright, honey, I’m sorry. You were right. We’ll get rid of the DVR immediately. I’m so sorry about this. Next time, I’ll talk to you before I get something like this.” Ethan stood up and stretched. “I still feel so stiff from sitting at a desk all day, though.”

Then, we heard glass crash. The window had broken in the front room. We both froze.

We heard a grunt, something heavy fall, and then soft patting. I snapped out of the terror, and ran the front room.

The window for our front room had been broken. There was blood on one of the shards. I ran over, and threw the curtains aside. William was running away, with the DVR in hand. Carefully, I climbed out of the window after him.

“WILLIAM! GET BACK HERE!”

A car horn rang through the quiet evening. William stopped in the middle of the street, and looked over. A car swerved away from him.

It swerved straight towards me.

Buried Deep

Off in the distance, I heard a door open. Oscar had finally gotten home. He worked in a warehouse, so his job was to just move boxes around, usually off of shelves and into trucks. Sometimes he moves them from one shelf to another, when he wants to spice things up.

“Hey, Persy. Do you know if we have a socket wrench?” Oscar asked.

“No idea. I haven’t used our tools in a few months, at least. You checked the garage and the shed thoroughly, right?” I replied.

“Yeah, about as thoroughly as I could manage without lying down and crying. I’ll go check the attic next, maybe it’s up there. Damn it, man.” With that, Oscar walked away from me.

I returned to simply reading. I had to write a report for a local paper, and I needed it down fast. They hadn’t given me a very good time frame, but they thought that I’d be perfect for it. My study was on how to properly handle domestic abuse and abusive relationships of various sorts. I’ve only ever had one such relationship, so I really wasn’t a font of knowledge in that field. But alas.

A few minutes later, Oscar came back downstairs. “Hey Persy, did you know that we had a to scale model of medieval armor? It’s tiny as all hell, but it’s all the dimensions are perfect. I think.”

“I’m pretty sure that armor is yours. I’ve never cared about the dark ages past childhood.”

Oscar squinted at me. “Fair point. I’m putting it in my room.” Oscar walked away once more.

I kept at my project. An abusive relationship can often be seen by the victim attempting to isolate themselves from others, or they’ll have signs of physical abuse. They may attempt to avoid eye contact. At times when they are confronted about their abuser, they will get defensive and angry about it, or they will try to avoid the topic altogether. There are many ways to tell if someone is in an abusive relationship, but most of them are incredibly subtle and can easily be missed by-

“Persy, you know that old news article you were trying to find, from when you were in the high school marching band? I found it!” Oscar proudly held up a newspaper, and waved it around.

“Good for you, Oscar. But I’m busy. I really need you to leave me be for a while so I can keep reading. This project has to be written by Thursday of next week, and I don’t even have a first draft,” I calmly spoke. Oscar placed the newspaper on the kitchen table across from me.

“Right. Sorry about that. I’ll let you be now, and I won’t bother you unless it’s important.” Oscar left me alone again. I hoped he’d keep up on his word.

A little while longer went by, before I decided to stop reading and cook dinner. As much as I wanted to keep reading and get things done, I wanted even more to just take a damned break. I had been sitting around and reading all day, and dinner time was time to stop. Finally.

I had taken out some chicken and some frozen vegetables, and I put them into pans to fry them both. I also set the table while I was at it. This went on for only a few minutes before Oscar came back down. He had let me be for at least an hour.

“Hey, Persy, what’s up with this photo?” Oscar asked me, holding out a photo for me.

I took it from him, and examined it. It was a photo of my dad holding a shotgun. He stared at the camera intensely. I didn’t remember the man for his smile.

“Where did you get this? What were you doing going through my shit?” I stuffed the photo in my pocket.

“You didn’t get mad about the newspaper. Look, it doesn’t matter. Seriously, this photo is kind of weird. Why do you have it?” Oscar took a seat at our kitchen table.

“It doesn’t matter. Just don’t go through my shit again, you get it? Things are put away for good reason,” I turned back to the stove and the dinner I was cooking.

“Sure dude. Usually that’s because you don’t have space for it but don’t want to throw it away. Like, for memories or something. You don’t seem to like that photo. Why didn’t you throw it away?” Oscar absently scraped a fork against a plate.

“I- it- why does it matter to you so much?” I flipped a chicken breast over in the pan.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry so much. I was just confused as to why you’d even keep something you hate around.”

“Whatever, man. Didn’t you need some tools to fix a thing?” I gave him a glance.

“I did, but I couldn’t find what I needed. I’ll have to just buy it tomorrow.” Oscar tapped a beat out on the table. “I found some other things up there, too. That wasn’t the only photo in the box, it was just the first really weird one I found.”

“I’ll go mark which boxes are mine, and then you can leave them alone. Some things don’t need to be remembered.” I threw some seasonings into the pan.

“Hey man, I’ll throw the stuff away for you if your conscious can’t handle the stress. You know, as a favor from one friend to another.” Oscar changed the beat he was tapping to one that was simpler and easier to follow. 1, 2, ah-3 and 4. 1, 2, ah-3 and 4.

“Don’t throw it away. It’s my stuff. I wouldn’t throw away your stuff.” I stirred the pan with fried vegetables around.

“Well, unless I asked you to. At least, I would hope you would. As a friend.” Oscar leaned back in his seat, tossing and catching his fork.

“Okay, fine, except in that case. Why are you pushing this so hard? Can’t we just change the topic?” I turned down the stove.

“Yeah, we can. That was just where the conversation was. Sorry to bother you so much.” Oscar may seem like a dick, but he did have good intentions.

“Look, I know that you’re trying to be nice in the best way you know how, but fuck off about it. It doesn’t matter, let’s just forget about it.” I sighed, and brought the pans to the table.

“I’m sorry, man, but this isn’t something you should brush past. I will, because I care about you, but this is just getting to me, man.” Oscar motioned for me to serve myself first. I did.

“It’s fine. How was work today for you, Oscar?” I sat down with my plate, and began to eat.

“Eh, same old bland stuff. I just moved boxes and listened to some podcasts and music and stuff. You?”

“I had today off, so I just cleaned and worked on my report. Cleaning’s gotta get done sometime.”

Oscar coughed and leaned forward. “Shit, right, I forgot it was my turn. Damn it, man. Well, thanks for that. I’ll have to cover you some other time.” He mumbled a few more expletives under his breath before stuffing a bite of food into his face.

“It’s fine, Oscar,” I smiled a shit-eating grin, “I’ll just go through your shit while you’re sleeping.” I started guffawing.

“Fuck, hell. Whatever, man, that’s fair. You win.” Oscar laughed, and we continued with our meal.

***

The next day, I got up and found an old journal out on the kitchen table. Oscar was asleep in the chair in front of it. I went to the table, quietly. There was a page that he had dog-eared. I picked up the journal and opened it.

XX/XX/200X

I took a secret photo of dad today. He was smiling for just a moment before I took the photo, and I was hoping to capture it. He noticed, though, just before the flash. All I got from him was an intense glare. And I got in big trouble. My back really hurts now, and I can’t go to sleep very well. I guess that means I shouldn’t try taking any more photos of him. I don’t get it, though. It’s like he wants me to forget him. Or maybe he wants me to remember him from pain. I don’t know, I guess it’s just who he is. I shouldn’t take anymore photos of him.

I stopped reading and closed the book. Oscar. He had gone through more of my stuff while I was asleep. I’m going to have his head when he gets home today.

I took the journal and put it back in the attic. This time I took my box with all of those old photos and journals and I placed them underneath other boxes, more recent ones that had been packed. Oscar wouldn’t go through boxes that had been put away by himself only a couple of weeks prior.

Either way, Oscar wouldn’t be home for a few hours, so I had time to keep reading and getting things done. I needed information for this report, and I think I was finally getting to a decent point to begin writing. I just wanted to read one more chapter of my book before going forward. Thus, I went to my office to do just that.

There are many warning signs for whether or not someone is abusive or not. One of the most telling signs I’ve found tends to be if someone was abused in their childhood. Children tend to pick up the behaviors of their parents/parent, and thus might go into adulthood believing that the behavior is proper, even if it really isn’t.

Now, while that might be one of the most common causes in my studies, it does not make it the only sign. Some other signs are: Cruelty to children/animals, jealousy, isolates others, blames others for their problems/feelings, and sudden mood swings. Commonly, these are some of the swiftest signs that a person is abusive.

The rest of this chapter will detail warning signs in greater detail, and a greater amount of them from here. However, you must remember that every circumstance is different and not every abusive individual will show these warning signs. However, they very likely will, and so you must watch out for them.

I continued reading that chapter until the very end. After about an hour and thirty sticky notes later, I was ready to begin a draft. Just the rough draft, though. It would still need refining after the fact. I wasn’t looking forward to that.

Either way, I took to it. It needed to get done, and I didn’t have all the time in the world to get this done.

I wrote for a few more hours, before Oscar finally returned. I heard the front door open off in the distance. I finished my sentence, then went out to greet Oscar. “Good to see you’re back, Oscar. I couldn’t help but notice that you still went through my stuff last night. You left an old journal on the kitchen table.”

Oscar swore. “Yeah, I did leave it there. I was reading it this morning, actually. I should’ve just taken it with me. Fuck.” He stepped inside, and put his stuff down in his room. He came back out. “Look, I’m really sorry, but you had me super worried. I couldn’t just let you keep hidden away like this. I’m not here to let you keep sitting on terrible memories like that. I’m here for you, and I just want to help.” Oscar’s arms were at his sides, palms facing towards me.

“Oscar. I did NOT ask for your help. I don’t need you help and I don’t need you to keep acting like you’re my keeper! Fuck off about this already! Jesus christ, it’s almost like you don’t fucking listen! If you think I’m emotionally compromised, it’s because YOU keep running around and fucking with me!” I shouted at Oscar. He took a step back from me.

“Alright, I’ll stop. Look, you have the notebook. I can’t do anything else. I read the journal, and that’s all I know. You probably saw the page I bookmarked. I didn’t read anything past that.” Oscar’s eyes darted away for a second, before returning to me. “You just keep working on your project. I’m going to order some food in about an hour, and we can eat. No harm, no foul, right?”

I shook my head. “Get out of here, Oscar. I find you in my shit one more time, you’ll be homeless. You understand?” I turned my back towards Oscar, and walked away. He didn’t say anything else as he walked away.

I went into my office. I could try to keep writing, but I was too furious to do so. Instead, I picked the book back up and continued to read.

My advice to you, if you find yourself to be a victim in an abusive relationship, is to get help and get out. Talk to someone who you know can help you. If you don’t know of anyone who can do so, then contact the police. They are guaranteed to help you out and they will ensure that you can get back to a safe and healthy place, to their best ability.

If you have found yourself to be an abuser in an abusive relationship, then you should also get help. There is a solid chance that the person you are abusing still loves you, and you still love them. I doubt you want to cut the relationship off, but that might be the best option for both of you. I highly recommend you see a counselor to help you through these issues, and I would hope that your future holds more joy than it does now.

I continued the read the closing statements of the book. It was mostly just advice for how to get out and get help, along with some closing statements that made it known that nobody enjoys an abusive relationship.

Only moments later, I heard a scream. From below me. I leapt out of my seat, and rushed to the backyard. There was a hole dug in the ground. Fucking damn it.

Furious, I raced back into the house. I ran into my own bedroom, and tore my da- my shotgun out of its case. I placed one shot into each of its barrels. I took a few extra shells and pocketed them.

I then walked back outside and clambered into the hole. Inside, I saw a flashlight shining over a skeleton. Oscar held the light tightly in his hands. I couldn’t see his face, but he was staring at that skeleton for longer than I would have given him credit.

“I see you’ve found him, Oscar. It seems you skipped to the end of the notebook. I’m going to regret this,” I said.

Oscar spun around to face me. “PERSY!” He saw my shotgun. “Persy, you don’t have to do this. Please, Persy. Just think this through.”

I cocked the shotgun.

“Is that your dad, Persy? Did you shoot him and bury him in this crawlspace?” Oscar eyed my gun, but shook his head and looked up at me. He kept eye contact.

“Yes. It is. I didn’t think it had to be said.”

“Look, Persy, he was one of the worst people in your life. I get it. I know why you did it. I-” He faltered, “I still want to help you. Please, just put the gun away, and let’s get some food.” Oscar held one his hands out to me. He still kept his gaze in mine.

I said nothing.

“Look, I’ve learned my lesson. My curiosity is sated. We don’t have to talk about this again. Please, Persy.”

I raised the gun, and pointed it at him.

“Oh. This is happening, isn’t it. Oh god.”

Oscar fell to his knees and covered his face.

“Get up. Let’s go.”

Oscar pulled his hands off of his faces. His eyes were red and moist.

“You’re buying dinner. Come on, let’s go.”