Hungry Eyes, Part 1

Scary eyes

People had found Anna unsettling since she was a very small child. She was used to it. But you never got used to it. Very few adults are willing to tell a little girl that they find her creepy, and other kids didn’t talk that way to her. But she knew. She knew before she had words for it.

It wasn’t her fault that her long black hair hung in bedraggled strings that tended to cling to the pale skin of her face. It wasn’t her fault that her strangely shaped bones made whatever clothes she wore look ill fit upon her frame. And she certainly didn’t try to play so vigorously that all of her clothing existed in a perpetual state of raggedness.

None of that really mattered. She could wear a hat to cover up her hair. She could spent more time in the sun and try to get some color on her skin so she looked less like a corpse. She could be very careful with her clothing, only wearing the best materials and discarding them when they tore.

She had a photograph of herself from her second grade picture day, dolled up like a princess, and in one shot where the photographer caught her from a specific angle she looked perfectly normal. Even on that day, she remembered, everyone looked away. Adults and children alike. Even the photographer could barely keep his attention on her long enough to take the picture.

The others didn’t know what is was about her that unnerved them. But Anna knew. It was her eyes. Her eyes were hungry. They were always hungry. She asked her mother about that, once. Why her eyes were so hungry. Her mother just looked frightened, and told her not to talk like that.

It didn’t matter. Anna didn’t her mother’s help with her eyes. She could feed them herself. It had been agony when she was little, when she didn’t understand. All she knew was that her vision ached something awful and it kept her from sleeping. Sometimes it ached so much that she couldn’t eat, couldn’t concentrate on anything at all. Maybe that was why she was so skinny.

Her mother told Anna she had almost died as a baby because she wouldn’t feed on mother’s milk. Anna remembered. It was because her vision hurt. Hunger pains. It was her earliest memory, and it was sharp.

When she grew up a little she learned she could feed her eyes with colors and images. Not the normal kind. They liked red things, bright and runny and vibrant, in as many shades as possible. Streaked through blue and green, screaming their contrast. They liked sharp angles, pressed together. Twisted and broken shards and shreds of glass and metal and paper, strewn over empty tables so her eyes could drink in ever contour.

And they liked to look at flesh. Maimed, mangled, bleeding raw. She had learned that more recently. Anna didn’t like to look at these things, but her eyes did, and she had to keep them fed. They were so hungry.

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He Hates Ghosts

Old man on bus

 

I am feeling singularly uninspired today. At least, to write any stories. I’m feeling highly inspired to play video games. I tried a few things, and I looked at some prompts for writing various types of stories online, because sometimes those are helpful. When I ran into a list of horror prompts that included the following:

There is a priest who is a vampire

I decided that inspiration had gone to lunch, and I wouldn’t bother it. So here is a little poem about ghosts!*

He Hates Ghosts

We thought

we had a ghost

in the attic

with the noises

and the moaning

and the creaking of floorboards

at 3 in the morning

Finally, we got tired of it

and checked

and it turned out

it’s only Uncle Steve

and he hates ghosts

*It may not actually be about ghosts

The Scar

Scar

You’re staring.

Don’t worry. Everyone does. They can’t help it. You probably didn’t realize you stared. Even now, when I’ve caught you, you have no idea why you were doing it. You don’t know why you can’t look away.

And you can’t look away. The fact is, someone could hit you in the head with a fireplace poker, and you would still struggle to look away. You don’t know why. Just like you have no clue what’s causing that sick feeling in your gut, like your intestines are full of frightened parasites all scrambling to escape you, like rats from a sinking ship.

Don’t panic. I’ll tell you. It’s not a secret. I have no secrets. Not anymore. You’re staring at my scar.

Go ahead. Look for it. Search my face, my neck, my exposed arms. You won’t find it. Strange, because you’re looking right at it. Right now, if I asked you to close your eyes and describe my eye color you wouldn’t be able to do it. It’s true. You wouldn’t even be able to describe the color of my skin.

You can’t focus on anything, right now. Nothing but my scar. It’s gnawing away at you and you can barely remember why you came here and what you’re doing and it’s driving you insane that you can’t look at or think about anything else and you can’t even find it.

It’s there. It’s right here. You can’t see it because it’s in a place you’ve never paid attention to, even though you’ve look there thousands of times before. Every time you look at another person, or an animal, or a tree. Because they all have them.

You are staring at me not because of what you are seeing, but because of what’s missing. It’s as if someone stripped all of the color from their skin. You couldn’t help but stare at the colorlessness, because up until that moment you had assumed such a thing was impossible.

I thought so, too. I didn’t mean to do it. I was just bored. I was bored and curious and playing around with my knife. This knife. It’s very special. I don’t know if it was special before I used it to do what I did, or if using it made it so. But it’s special now.

This is the knife I used to reach in and gouge out my own soul. I didn’t know there was such a thing as souls. I still don’t, really. I don’t know what they are, or what they’re for. But I know what it means to lose one. I know what it feels like to rip it out.

Maybe I should have stopped after I started digging. It was like a sore on the inside of your mouth. You know you shouldn’t worry it, but you can’t stop. You can’t stop until you’ve ripped your essential essence from your being. It’s happened before.

You won’t remember. You people never do. I could stab this knife into you and slice off your finger and you would have no idea how it had happened. You’d make up a story. Or someone else would, and you’d believe them. Explanations are like souls. Your mind can’t stand when they’re missing.

I could stab this knife into you, deeper than your finger, deeper than your flesh, deeper than your heart. I could make you like me. You’d remember me, then. Then, only then, you would understand.

But I won’t. Not this time. Instead, I’m going to walk away, and only once I’m out of your sight, only once something mundane and fleshy and full of color blocks your vision will you forget me.

But you won’t. Not really. You people never do. You just pretend. You come up with stories that explain the wriggling in your stomach, the panic that nestles in the back of your mind. The stories amuse us, as we watch you. They’re all we have left.

You still amuse me. So I won’t cut you. I won’t make you like me. Not this time. Not just yet.

Sweet dreams.

The Whole Time

a Candle

7 and 3, Day 4

“Can we start?” Steve tried to keep the impatience out of his voice.

“Just a minute, Sillypants,” said Peri. “I’m checking to make sure you drew the circle right.”

Steve opened his eyes to look, and sure enough, there was Peri, crouched on the ground like a lizard, her eye an inch away from the chalk lines he drew on the cloor.

“I was super careful,” said Steve. “Plus, you already checked it twice.”

“Yeah, but it’s important that you don’t screw this up. You’re kind of a screwup.”

Steve sighed. He couldn’t deny it, but did she have to be so blunt.

“While we’re at it, I really need a better magical name,” he said. “Sillypants is just so…silly.”

Peri grinned her wicked grin up at him. “You’ll get a better name when you’ve progressed in your awakening, Sillypants. And when you get better pants.”

“What wrong with my…”

Peri held up her hand, and Steve fell silent. Something was about to happen.

She sniffed the air. She leaned up on her haunches, and her head darted around liked a meerkat. Excitement welled up from Steve’s root, and he took a deep breath to stop from shaking. He always wondered what she was sensing when she did those kinds of things. He would know soon. She had promised him that, and he believed.

Steve had been undergoing magical training under the tutelage of the strange girl for almost a year now, ever since they met at the anime convention. It had been…transformative.

He started out skeptical. Everyone did, he thought, whether they admitted it to themselves or not. Steve had always known that there was more to the world than what science textbooks presented, but society sent so many messages. There is no magic. There is no wonder. What you see is what you get. Never-mind quantum mechanics and tribal shamans and the little things that every single person in the world experiences that just don’t make sense.

His skepticism didn’t last. Under Peri, Steve had made a candle flame dance, changed the weather, and seen the future in his dreams. This was real. He knew it was real. He just knew it, inside of him. And it was amazing.

“The time is right,” said Peri. She turned to him, her eyes half closed. “Are you ready to meet your spirit guide?”

“Hell yes,” he said before he caught himself. “I mean, yes.”

She laughed. Then her expression turned serious, and she nodded. “Let’s begin.”

Steve flicked on his lighter and lit the charcoal block. He poured on the custom incense—jasmine and thyme and pine resin—and it’s aroma filled the air. He set each candle alight, one after the other. He closed his eyes again, and let the scent, the smoke, the red that filtered into his vision, carry his mind away.

“To they that listen,” he said, “here is one who calls.” From the first word his voice sounded strange in his ears. Distant, barely like his own. This was happening.

“I have begun, taken these first tentative steps, into the Veil that touches lightly upon the world of clay, and into the vastness beyond.” The syllables echoed. He did this in a tiny basement room. There shouldn’t be an echo. Were they somewhere else? He could almost believe it. He fought the temptation to open his eyes and look.

“I have felt your presence in the moment between waking and sleep. I have seen you dance in my dreams. You, who are of me, and above me. Who are a part of me, as I am a part of you. My impossible twin, from impossible places. I call you.” A sound, like a single footstep, resounded in Steve’s ears.

“I lay gifts at your feet,” he gestured to where he knew the silver tray of Madeline cookies lay. They were Peri’s favorite, and she told him the spirits loved them, too.

“I implore you to take what is offered, and, if the time be right, if my offering be worthy, reveal yourself to me.”

A giggle echoed from the distance. From a dozen different points all around him, but in a single voice.

“Reveal yourself to me.”

More footsteps. Another sound, faint, melodious. Flute music, scattered, as if carried by the wind.

“Reveal yourself to me.”

The air changed. It was a cold day outside, and the space heater in Steve’s basement did little to alleviate the chill. Now, there was no chill. The air felt warm, a spring breeze. Warm, and electric. It charged his ever nerve.

“Reveal yourself to me!”

A gust of apple-scented air.
“Reveal yourself to me!”

Another sound, like a giggle and like the note of a flute, all at once.

“Reveal yourself to me!”

“I’m here!”

Steve’s eyes burst open. For a stretched second, his mind reeled. It had worked! She had answered. He was about to meet an otherworldly being, a guardian and guide from an unimaginable and alien place, that would take him to realms undreamed. He held his breath, his vision focused, and he saw…

Peri.

“Hi Steve!”

She said it an inch from his face, and he leapt back. She fell over laughing, clutching her sides like a cartoon character.

“You should see yourself right now!” she cried between giggles.

“What?”

“Oh man, that is priceless.”

Steve’s stomach sank. “That was…that voice was…you?”

“Of course it was, Sillypants. Who else would it be?”

“So…” his jaw clenched. “So it was all bullshit?” Anger filled every blood vessel in his body. His fingernails dug into his palm. He wanted to punch something. “What the fuck, Peri? Have you just been messing with me this whole time?”

She stopped laughing, and looked him, wounded. “What? No, of course not.”

He furrowed his brow. “Then why the hell did you do that?”

“Because it was hilarious,” she said, shrugging.

“But what about the ritual? I mean, you stopped it. Why didn’t you let it work?”

Peri looked confused. “I didn’t stop anything. It did work.”

Steve scratched his head. He hadn’t realized people actually scratched their heads in confusion, but here he was.

“Don’t you get it?”

He said nothing. She stared at him as if he was missing something obvious. He didn’t know what to say.

“I’m your spirit guide,” she said at last.

“Huh.” He paused. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It means exactly what I said. I’m your spirit guide.”

“But…you’re not a spirit.”

She laughed. “Of course I am.”

“I’ve been to your house. I’ve met your mom.”

Peri shrugged again. “I’m adopted.”

Steve shook his head again. “No, no, no. The ritual, the ritual was supposed to summon my spirit guide. How can it have summoned you if you’re already here?”

“I came a little early,” she admitted. “Come on, Sillypants. You think magic is bound by a dumb little think like time?”

“Huh.” He thought. She had sort of come into his life out of nowhere and started teaching him magic. And she never seemed quite…normal. But then neither had his babysitter when he was little, and she certainly wasn’t a spirit.

“You weren’t my baby sitter, were you?”

“Huh?”

“Nevermind. Listen, Peri, I’ve seen some amazing things with you, but I’m just…this is hard to swallow. You’re a spirit? You’re in my life to guide me to…whatever it is you’re going to guide me to?”

“That’s right.”

“So why do you work at Starbucks?”

“I like coffee,” she said. “And it’s run by a mermaid.”

He blinked.

“I just don’t…”

Peri sighed with her entire body, like a five year old. “Okay, fine. You need some proof?”

“Yes please,” he said, with his best sheepish grin.

“Fine.” She pranced forward and knocked the candle off the altar. It landed on the rug, which immediately burst into flame as if it had been soaked in accelerant.

“What the fuck!”

“Calm down,” said Peri. She stepped over to the flame, reached down, and picked up a large chunk of it in her hands. Then she stuffed it in her mouth.

Steve’s jaw dropped open.

Peri grabbed another handful, and downed that one, too. Within a minute she had eaten the whole thing, and the fire was gone.

“My rug!” Steve cried.

“Oh,” Peri put her hand over her mouth and giggled. “Yeah. I guess I’ll have to get you a new rug.”

“That was incredible!” Steve stared at her. “You’re…you’re a spirit!”

“Well duh. You really are silly, you know that?”

He nodded. “So…what now?”

She look his hand, smiled, and fixed him with a gaze that hid all of the mystery there had ever been in the world.

“Close your eyes, Sillypants. You’re about to find out.”

otherside

Projet365CouleursMotifsSujets-argent-12

Yma sometimes thought she saw a person on the other side of the Mirror. A little girl, like her. Only strange. Distorted, like she was composed out of warped glass. All of the glass on Yma’s side was smooth.

She told Amam, but her mother only smiled, said, “That’s silly,” and continued her favorite game of pulling silver ribbons from the air and tying them into Yma’s hair.

Yma knew it was silly. More than silly. It was impossible. How could anyone live outside of the Mirror?

Hungry

Trou noir / Black Hole

I’m hungry.

It’s funny, that’s the one thing, I think, you can never get used to. I got used to being lonely, a long time ago. I got used to being bored. I got used to that weird feeling that we never had any reason to come up with a word for when it’s been so long since you’ve spoken to someone that, no matter how much passion or rage or lust you once had for them, you can no longer remember their name.

I can’t remember anyone’s name. I don’t even really remember what that means. Name. It’s like playing racquetball, or having blood. I remember that those were things and that once I care about them, but I have no sense of what they actually were.

I’m used to all of that, now. If it bothers me in moments, I don’t recognize it for what it is. It has dissolved into the slurry of what remains of my existence. But the hunger. I don’t think you can get used to that. If I haven’t, no one can.

When I was a small child of whatever sex I was—whatever that means—there was a picture about people who were trapped together in the mountains. Mountains were big and cold. I remember that. That’s what I remember about mountains.

These people were trapped in the mountains and they had no food, and nothing to hunt. Eventually, the living decided to eat the dead. It was a big controversy among people. Would you do that? Would you eat the dead flesh of your own species to survive.

It’s funny. Some people thought they wouldn’t. That’s funny. I think about that sometimes, and it makes me laugh.

Continue reading

One Last Time

Light in a Dark Room

“We’re going to die,” she said, her voice flat. “They’re not going to let us go.”

He looked at her, at her face. His dying phone barely lit the closet the two of them were squeezed in, but he knew those features too well. They were blank. She said the words in perfectly matter-of-fact tone, like she was telling him the local Quizno’s was closed for St. Patrick’s day. She, who got emotional over socks.

He knew what that meant.

“Damn,” he said.

“Damn?” she raised an eyebrow. “I say we’re going to die, and what you come back with is…damn?”

“Well what the fuck am I supposed to say?”

“You’re supposed to argue with me!” She tried to throw her arms in the air in indignation, but the space was too cramped. It almost made him laugh. Almost.

“You always argue with me,” she said. “Last week I bought a Powerball ticket and you wouldn’t shut up about the fact that I should have gone for the Mega Millions. You argue with me over every…” she fell silent. “You’re not arguing.” She looked into his eyes. They were tender, curious, bewildered. Her eyes. “Why aren’t you arguing?”

He shrugged. “Because you’re right. When you talk like that—all flat like a golf announcer–it’s because you’re right. It’s always because you’re right.”

“You…you believe me?”

“Of course I believe you. You’re the smartest woman I’ve ever met.”

She fell silent again. He wondered what was going through her mind. If she was about to break down. He wouldn’t blame her.

He wondered if he should hold her, wrap his arms around her so tightly that she might break. That’s what he did when her mother died. It was the only thing that calmed her down.

“I didn’t know that,” she said.

“What?”

“That I…that you thought I was smart. I didn’t know that.”

“I…what? Of course you are. You know, like, practically everything about everything. That’s why I fell for you in the first damn place.” He kicked the wall in frustration. For a moment he worried that the people outside would hear them. Then he realized it didn’t matter.

“You never told me that,” she said.

“Of course I did,” he snapped. Wait, had he? Had he ever actually uttered those words? “I didn’t think I need to. I thought it was obvious. I mean, how could anyone know you for more than five minutes and not realize how brilliant you are?”

“Then why are you always arguing with me? Telling me I’m wrong?”

“About what?”

She rolled her eyes. “About everything. You tell me I’m wearing the wrong lipstick to go with my dress, or that I hold my chopsticks wrong when we go for sushi. Or that I use Google wrong when I’m trying to find the names of they guy who wasn’t in the Beatles.”

“Almost everyone who has ever lived wasn’t in the Beatles,” he said. “I think you mean the Beatle who was replaced.”

“See! You’re doing it now.”

“No I’m not,” he said. “Okay, maybe I am.” He wrapped his fingers around themselves and clenched tight. “I argue about…about stupid things. Little things. It’s not you. It’s just…I do that to everybody.”

She shakes her head. “You do it to me more.”

“But…not about real things. Not about things that matter. On those…I mean, you…” He took a deep breath. “I let you figure that stuff out. Because I’m not…smart enough.”

The silence hung heavy between them.

“Damn,” she said at last.

He laughed. He couldn’t help it. She looked at him like he’d just tried to eat a tire iron. Then she started to laugh, too.

“You really mean that, don’t you?” she said. “You think I’m brilliant.”

“Of course I do.”

She fell silent again.

“I wanted you to argue with me.”

“Huh?”

“When I said it, that we’re going to die, I…I knew it was true. But I wanted you to argue with me.”

He nodded. It made sense.

“I…I like when you argue with me.”

He started. “What do you mean?”

“You heard me.”

“But all you ever do is complain about it.”

“I know,” she said. “I’m sorry. I don’t…I don’t know anything.”

“Yes you do.”

“I don’t feel like I know anything. Not until, not until I’ve said it to you. Not until I’ve made you shut up about it.”

He laughed again.

“Always happy to help.”

“I need you,” she said. “You know that, right?”

He looked at her. “You’re the most important thing in my life. You know that, right.”

She grabbed his hand and squeezed. “I didn’t.”

He shook his head. “Neither did I.”

She smiled. “We actually had something here, didn’t we?”

The past tense gripped at his chest, but it was strange. He felt calm. Scared, yes. Even terrified. But calm.

“I guess we did,” he said. “I wish we had…”

“No,” she cut him off. “Don’t do that. Don’t go that way.” He nodded. She was right.

It’s good to know,” he said. “Before it ends. I mean, I don’t want it to…”

“It’s horrible,” she agreed. “But yeah. It’s good to know.”

A creaking sound echoed through the corridor. Light spilled in. Whoever was out there was coming.

They squeezed each others hands tightly, then they looked at each other. For the first time. One last time.