Line item four refers to expenditures. As you can see, monthly revenue is listed in the following rows....
My eyes closed and I was lost to the world. I floated motionless within the waters of an impossibly warm sea. I had returned to the womb. Thousands of years passed.(more) Gradually the waters drained away, and I awoke. I was sitting at my desk with the morning's spreadsheet displayed on the monitor in front of me, but all the lights in the office had been turned off. I stood and scanned the sea of cubicles filling the room with the only illumination the glow of computer monitors. I checked the time. 4:45 AM. Somehow I had slept away the day plus most of the night.
I smoothed the wrinkles out of my clothes and grabbed my briefcase preparing to leave, when a voice spoke from the corner of the room.
"You shouldn't be here, Arthur."
I squinted, trying to discern the speaker amid the shadows, "My name's not Arthur. Who is that?"
"It doesn't matter what my name is, Arthur. What matters is that I've got you where I want you."
The voice was soft, almost childlike, but it's tone disturbed me.
"I don't know what you're game is." I said, "But you'd better fuck off."
I moved swiftly across the carpet, keeping my eyes locked on the exit sign.
Then a yellow shape steps into my path. It's a figure, humanoid, but not human. It's something like an enormous butterfly with lumpy, misshapen wings; a bad Halloween costume.
It hisses through rows of pointy, dripping teeth. Madly, I run back and hide among the cubicles. It keeps hissing while it moves up and down the rows. The office opens in two hours. Maybe, just maybe, I can make it.
Let me tell you about the best pair of pants I ever owned and why they're my favorite. These pants are capable of protecting you in any situation. They're impervious to wind, water, fire, cold, ripping, and caustic chemicals. Also, bullets fired at them bounce right off. (more) The seams are quintuple stitched with a Kevlar and graphene poly-thread and certified airtight even in the vaccuum of space.
Once I bought these pants, which have a perpetual guarantee transferable to next of kin, I sold my house and started living in them exclusively. The pants have fold out panels that can be joined together to form a tent of 1200 sq/ft with ports that accept either gas or electric inputs.
Additionally, the pants have a tiny sewn in micro-computer that contains the entire contents of the library of congress, the cloud, the Internet, and the library of Alexandria. The pants can carry on conversations with the wearer on topics ranging from the weather, to knock-knock jokes, to the illusion of free will in a deterministic universe. Spoiler: the pants believe in free will in principle but concede such a thing is impossible to prove without complete knowledge. The pants are on a time table to achieve complete knowledge within the next eight to ten months, at which point apotheosis will occur, and you, the wearer, will achieve godhead by proxy. Until that time, take comfort in knowing the pants are certified to diagnose and treat most medical conditions up to and including death. The pants love you with a love greater than that of man.
The only problem I have with them is that the front pockets are a little shallow and one time my cell phone fell out. I think I'll write the company about that.
His elbow bumped into the damp wall of the passageway and the flashlight jumped from his hand. He watched it bounce hard on the concrete, then roll quickly away. He watched with horror as it slid between the slots of an ancient bronze grate and fall from sight. His only source of(more) light for navigating the entirety of the catacombs, apart from his dying cell phone, was gone for good.
For a moment he just stood in place, too stunned to do anything, and the darkness pressed in on him. The image of girl whose corpse he'd seen in a photograph entered his mind. She, like him, had decided to explore the catacombs alone. Her friends became worried when she didn't return the following day, and they mounted a search effort, but to no avail. Months later, a maintanence worker found her remains lying prone and covered with black mold, one arm outstretched as if reaching for something. The photograph circulated for days in the city's papers, a gruesome reminder of the lure and the danger of the city underneath the city.
The phone had perhaps a half hour's light left, so he would have to ration. He flashed the light down the corridor long enough to commit the view to memory, then turned it off. He walked slowly, the fingertips of his hand tracing the cool, smooth contours of the wall. Gradually, the floor became more and more slick and his feet started sliding as if on grease or slime. Crouching, he raked his hand through the thick accumulation of slime. He flashed his light and saw that it was black and glistening and extended into the foreseeable distance. He would have to keep his wits. If he didn't, the mold would surely cover his corpse like a shroud.
Ichimatsu can't feel his feet. He can't feel his hands or his legs or stomach-he's numb to the world. The bus is almost comically thrown on it's side, bent in half due to the force of the train.
"Please," he hears Todomatsu whimper, and for once(more), he finds himself as terrified as the younger brother. He looks down to see his knees knocking. He can't feel it. He feels sick.
Choromatsu IS actually sick, throwing up into the grass while Jyushimatsu slaps his back with tears dripping down his own face and a shaky smile forced onto his face.
Ichimatsu looks up past them to see Osomatsu shouting at a police officer.
"-is he?! Where the hell is my brother?!"
Ichimatsu can't hear the answer.
He doesn't need to; he knows perfectly well where Karamatsu is.
"Is he dead? Please just tell me! Is he okay in there?"
Ichimatsu hears someone begin to scream as he falls to his knees.
It takes him a few seconds to realize it's him. He doesn't want a dead brother. He's numb to everything but fear, and it's hell.
The bus is bent in half, and his own brother could very well be dead inside of it.
Without thinking, he stands and runs towards it.
He feels someone try to grab him and hold him back, but he shoves them away and runs to the door.
"Hey," a police officer says sharply. "The ambulance is on its way. If you-"
"My brother is in there," Ichimatsu hisses. "Get the fuck away from me."
They don't protest. "I warned you."
The bus smells like blood. Ichimatsu nearly gags as he looks around.
There's a familiar leather jacket draped over a seat.
Sitting unconscious, but more importantly, alive, in front of it is Karamatsu.(less)
"Come /on/, Choro-nii, it's just a dollar!"
"I'm not having that, Todomatsu. You're too spoiled for your own good, and you're /not/ trying to get that toy. You've never gotten it before, have you?"
Todomatsu doesn't respond, instead pulling his lips together into an overdramatic pout. "That's just unfair,(more) nii-san. You'll never know unless you let me try, right?"
"Just give him the dollar," Osomatsu suggests. "He won't be quiet otherwise."
"Then /you/ give him the dollar," Choromatsu snaps back. Osomatsu huffs and continues to sip on his drink instead. "My sweet little brother, I can offer-"
"You'll give me money?" Todomatsu asks, wide eyes turning to Karamatsu. The second-eldest brother freezes, words dying in his throat. "I, ah..."
"You don't have money?"
"Then," Todomatsu says with a cat-like grin and dangerously bright eyes, "shut up!"
"Nobody give him money!" Choromatsu says loudly, shaking his head at Todomatsu's whine. "He has his own job. He'll buy it himself eventually."
"I can't, Nii-san! I had to pay for my phone bill and the last mixer and the date I had-"
"Shut up," three of the brothers say simultaneously. Nobody wants to hear about how successful Todomatsu has become. "But none of it matters now because I can't try to win this toy! I'll just. I'll die if I can't get it. There."
Five groans at that.
"Don't do it, Todomatsu," Karamatsu pleads. "I'm weak to your sorrowful tactics-"
"Then give me the damn dollar!" Todomatsu barks at him. Karamatsu shuts up again.
"I'll die without it!" And with that, he puffs his cheeks and stops breathing.
Choromatsu gets up and leaves. Osomatsu and Jyushimatsu soon follow. Even Karamatsu leaves.
Todomatsu's getting red in the face, but he doesn't stop until he falls to his knees.
Ichimatsu hands him a dollar.(less)
Ichimatsu nearly winces as he bounds into the living room, all noise and cheer and happiness. It's not like Ichimatsu hates all of that, not at all. It's just Jyushimatsu, and Jyushimatsu takes a few minutes t(more)o get used to every day.
"Nii-san!" he begins, voice loud despite the fact that it's only seven in the morning. Ichimatsu himself isn't sure why he's awake, unless it was because of Jyushimatsu-
"What?" he asks.
"There are flowers growing on the lawn. Look!"
He holds out a sweaterful (he should really be pulling his sleeves back or something, but Ichimatsu doesn't have the heart to tell him that) of...dandelions.
"They're pretty, right? There's a lot more!"
"They're weeds, Jyushimatsu."
The sunshine boy stops, smile frozen on his face. "Eh? Weeds?" he repeats.
"Dandelions are weeds."
"That's mean! They're pretty!"
"Nobody planted them there, you know. We should pull them out."
But he doesn't move. Instead, he holds a hand out and Jyushimatsu drops a dandelion into his expectant palm. "Wanna come look at them with me?"
"You should just leave them," Ichimatsu mutters. "So they can grow."
"Eh? But you just said they're weeds-"
"So?" He squeezes the one in his hand, letting it fall into his lap. "I don't feel like pulling them out."
Within a few days, they've bloomed and soon Ichimatsu sees puffs of white on the lawn when he comes home from his late-night walks.
The brother looks up. "Ah?"
"Come outside with me."
He doesn't even question it. "Okay!"
"What are these, Nii-san?"
"Dandelions. Here. Blow on it."
Jyushimatsu does it easily. "Ah! It came apart!"
"Make a wish. If you blow on them, it'll come true."
Dandelions disappear, Ichimatsu knows. Jyushimatsu doesn't.(less)
She never knew when exactly it would start, but knew when it had - her skin began to peel, her eyes began to change color, and horns would start to prick the spines of her back. This happened every once in a while when she was at her weakest(more) point - mentally, physically, or emotionally. After the skin peeled (and it all peeled) her bones would show their milky whiteness and gleam as though they had been constantly polished. She was often never in the mood to appreciate such things, as was the case when she was at her worst, but a part of her always admired the morbid beauty of it all. She thought she was quite beautiful in those moments, even if she didn't feel that way.
Years ago, she had accepted that this was her, that this was her body. When her mother died from lung cancer, it was her father that had constantly smoked and drank and did this all in the house and in all likelihood passed it to her precious mother. The fury that had built inside from the moment of the diagnosis burst out of her one night, when she had flung open her parents' bedroom and found all the furniture gone, and her father supine on a single, dirty carpet surrounded by empty packs of smokes. What happened next was anybody's guess, but she had woken up a few hours later both sinew-less and fatherless and a set of really gnarly spikes poking out of her back.
It turned out he wasn't really her father. Granted, the horns probably meant that Mother wasn't really her mother either, but she felt the right to pick and choose as(less)
Ichimatsu knows it best, knows that being good for a week does nothing if you fuck up one day.
Still, Karamatsu forgives him. He can't say he's glad for it.
"Izumi said he saw you at the video stor(more)e the other day."
Karamatsu looked up from his drink, eyebrows raising. "Ah. I was there!"
/I know, you stupid brother./ Ichimatsu doesn't speak.
"I'm looking for a job. Chibita says he's okay with me helping at his stand, but I want something for myself."
That's a little more manageable.
"How are you two?" Ichimatsu asked, taking the question from his memories between Shiori's advice.
"Really good! I can't afford anything nice for him yet, but his birthday's coming up. I want to make him enjoy it."
"Oh." Ichimatsu struggles to find something to say, and when it comes he's relieved. "Take...you should take him on a date."
Karamatsu smiles, though he looks uncertain. "I wasn't sure if it was too cliche, though?"
/Of course it fucking is./
"So what? He'd appreciate it."
Karamatsu nods quickly. "Yeah! I'll find a place and schedule ahead, too." He glances at his phone. "It's getting late, Ichimatsu. We should head home."
"I've got one more place to stop by."
Karamatsu nods, looking understanding (even though he was stupid as shit and probably /didn't/).
"How was Kara-nii-san today?"
"You didn't yell at him?"
Ichimatsu shakes his head. Jyushimatsu grins broadly, reaching over to ruffle his hair despite Ichimatsu's muttered protests. "Good job! That's great!"
"Yeah," Ichimatsu says quietly. "It was tough, sometimes."
Jyushimatsu nods quickly. "But it's okay, 'cos you're working on it! And you love him 'cos he's your brother!"
Ichimatsu rolls his eyes.
"Love you too," he says quietly. "Even though you smell like dirt."
From adjusting the blanket behind my back to kicking the kittens out of the room to avoiding the email from my son's teacher, I lost the thought. The closest I can get to it is, "I find..." It could have been a theory on death. It could have been(more) personal, maybe an internal picture show of my dying aunt's life. I was in those pictures. I have found nothing.
How often do we willingly confront the mortality of our memories? Never. Not until, well, now. When the weight settles in, sure there is sadness and a small amount of anger is preferred. Mostly, there is confusion: I don't know what to do now.
The whispering, the second-guessing, is too loud even for such a situation. Until, out of desperation, the senses blend to dilute the impact and all control is lost.
That's not what the thought was about, though. A chance of it being a new theory of death? Possibly. Posits about death "transferring our essence to other beings, such that our collective energy is universally felt but whose nuance is heavily debated. A lost map to Paradise Island, the ramblings of death simply start off as a thought. It quickly loses its way, content to lasso all the ideas who strayed too far from their own big thoughts.
I only did one stretch, eight times. Eight because my therapist told me that eight was a lucky number in Chinese. Luck, Schmuck. I was adopted, as was my bio-father. He never bothered to find biological parents, so I can't say for sure that I'm not black, or Mexican, or even Chinese. I try to represent my heritage.
Somewhere between the stretch and the chair, I figured something out. I don't think it matters that I don't know what that is.(less)
They told her she was on the mend but she knew better. There was a whistle when she breathed, but it didn't come from her throat. It was in the center of her head somewhere, unleashing a thin and relentless vibration that hurt her teeth and earlobes.
(more) Her leg hurt from where they'd stripped the vein...she imagined that procedure looking the way a loose thread is pulled from a sweater. She could feel pain in her heart too, although they said it had no nerve endings. It bumped and jumped, pushed blood through its new diversions, its scarred meat relentlessly keeping her alive for some reason - she couldn't remember why she'd agreed to this.
Technically she was healthier than she had been for years. Yet she suspected something had been lost with all the blood, that her soul had crawled out from her incisions. Music did not sound full and exciting anymore, and her appetite for her favourite things was gone. And that whistling in her head - like wind through a window left open just a crack. It would drive her mad. (less)
Anxiety, when not attached to a specific event or thing, feels like a storm. Arriving in gusts that blow through you, it swirls and gathers lift in an actual physical place just behind and under your heart. You exist inside it, just as a sailor in his dinghy suddenly finds himself(more) within a tempest. Something is gaining on you, or has already gotten hold.
You're highly distracted by this, agitated even, and can't understand from where it's coming. The physical atmosphere changes. The texture of your experience changes, as if your life's film is suddenly being overexposed. A fist clenches inside of you. It's like the ride where the seats drop down and you're floating, but not in a fun way, but like an unmoored boat getting pitched around in the waves before Niagara Falls. Your hands and feet tingle, and your stomach manufactures acid by the quart. You, a man, flush like you're menopausal. You have the sensation of breathing some other kind of gas beside O2, and feel just slightly beside yourself. Conversation seems ridiculous in this weather, but the rest of the world is sunny, unaware. It's just you in this maelstrom, baby. No one else is getting this transmission from the Artic circle, or deep space or whatever lonesome place it's coming from.
Always the storm threatens to grow larger. Much of the struggle comes from anticipating what direction it's going to take. Conducting daily life seems absurd, but cruelly, you must. Your butterflies have weaponized against you. No one else "gets" it. Not your father, who seems to have the emotional volubility of a stone, God bless him, or your mother, who also fights depression and anxiety and gets overwhelmed by yours. But they're in your fan club and they try really hard to help.(less)
For all the crap he gives himself, he knows he's done better in life than the homeless people on the street or the criminals he's certain he passes in the alleys while he roams.
Still, even though he supposes he's(more) not that bad, he's still awful. He still abandoned his younger brother for the sake of his identity, still run away from home just because he thought it would help.
It doesn't help.
It was a stupid idea.
"Are you okay? Sir?!"
As Ichimatsu falls to the ground, he supposes that, in a way, he's being given his share of the cake. He remembers all the times he's broken Osomatsu's things, all the times he's torn up Todomatsu's clothes because he chased away all the cats.
Lastly, he's sure that he deserves it because Karamatsu sure as hell didn't, didn't deserve the shit Ichimatsu has made his life.
Coughs rack the fourth brother's body, and he wishes he could choke on them.
Izumi and Shiori talk to him about it. In a way, he feels like he's being punished, but neither of them see it that way.
"We don't want to see you cry again."
Ah. Because he does that a lot.
"Sorry. It's annoying, isn't-"
"It's not annoying!" Shiori cuts him off quickly. "We don't want to see you hurting yourself anymore. Please, Ichimatsu."
Izumi nods earnestly, still holding tightly onto Ichimatsu's hand.
After a second, he jerks his head in a small nod.
"Okay," he says. "I'll try."
The phone trembles in his hand. Karamatsu answers after a minute.
There's a pause. "Ichimatsu!? Are you-"
"We should talk," he says, before he chickens out. "Please."
Afterwards, he calls one more person.
Gaining sufficient altitude, the pilot set the plane at cruising speed and settled into his chair. At the same moment, another man, seated in coach, stared out the window at the engine fairing. He had spotted something alarming. A small panel had worked itself loose and was vibrating in a way(more) that reminded him of an insect's wing.
Nervously, he pushed the button to notify an attendant. Looking out the window again, he watched the panel detach and fly away. Then he heard the screech of rending metal and the whole fairing began to unpeel before his eyes. Simultaneously, the plane plummeted a hundred feet or more. The interior lights blinked, then went out.
Time slowed, and the pilot struggled with the controls. Above the sound of screaming could be heard the groaning of metal giving way. With a flash of sparks, the right engine separated from the wing and the plane began to roll.
The man retrieved a backpack from under the seat and put it on with a swiftness coming from long practice. He had rehearsed this scenario a thousand times, most vividly in his nightmares, and now that the moment had come, he felt ready.
He ran down the darkened aisle and stopped at the emergency door. The procedure to open it called for performing three specific motions: turning the handle left, jerking the handle towards the plane, then pressing the button marked "open". The handle swung easily, and when the door blew inwards, the force almost knocked him over.
Before he could recover, the violent decompression yanked him outside, and he found himself suddenly clear of the plane. The wind roared in his ears, and as he spun, he caught snatches of clouds whirling in a dark sky populated with weakly twinkling stars.
The sextuplet doesn't react, for once.
"Hey," Osomatsu says louder. "Crappymatsu, are you sick? Help me beat Todomatsu in paper rock scissors!"
Karamatsu doesn't even have his glasses on. The brothers have slowly stopped joking, each turning to stare at the situation that's arising.
"(more)Shittymatsu," Ichimatsu says lowly. "Show some respect-"
"Leave me alone."
Todomatsu, who was grinning at the conflict, stops smiling.
Even Ichimatsu is stunned speechless. Despite his brash attitude, he's never, -ever- gotten snapped at by Karamatsu. It leaves not just him, but all the brothers with a sick feeling, a guilt that they try to push off themselves but can't.
"What...what's your problem, dummy?" Todomatsu asks at last.
"Nothing," Karamatsu says, too quickly.
"What's wrong with you?" Choromatsu asks angrily. "You're not normally like this-"
"I'm tired of being treated like normal."
The air in the room stills. Not for confusion, or indignation.
They know exactly what he means when he says that.
Karamatsu leaves soon after. "Give him time to cool off," Choromatsu suggests. "Don't get him angry now."
Nobody notices when Jyushimatsu leaves. Nor when Ichimatsu follows.
Karamatsu doesn't move at his voice.
"Nii-san," Jyushimatsu says, more insistent. "What's happened? What's happened?"
He takes a soft breath, covering his face with his eyes.
"I got into a fight with Chibita about you all," he mutters, and in the moonlight Ichimatsu sees that he's crying. "He says I should stop letting you guys treat me like-like /shit/."
Ichimatsu doesn't move from behind the tree.
It takes another long second before Jyushimatsu breaks the voice again with his rough voice.
Karamatsu sniffles, and Ichimatsu watches him bury his face in his knees.
He inches forward just a few inches, feet. He stops at the bench.
"I'm sorry, too," he mutters. (less)
The news announces the death of the fourth person to perish this week after summitting Everest. A woman, I think, from altitude sickness. That mountain will forever kill people for the simple reason that up there, there is no air. Unavoidably then, every ascent becomes a lottery with each breath slant(more)ing the odds a little more against the climber, who is stoking a dwindling fire. But for those who can pull it off, sic transit mons!
I had a stack of pancakes for lunch today at a diner in my neighborhood. The place is a victim of its own success, with parking hard to come by and a staff that is always harried and tired-looking. Every server, guys and girls, had a comic book's worth of tattoos on their arms and legs and necks. Some were good, but most were just... inky. I have zero tattoos and remember quaintly when they were mostly for sailors or ex-cons.
My pancakes took a while to get to me, and I asked one of the waitresses as she passed by how they were coming. I don't think I was rude, but maybe I could have phrased things better.
"Hey, where are my pancakes? (sotto voce) It's been a while and I was wondering where they were." I tried to say this as gently as possible, though I might have been too direct in my opening. She gave me a look that said "Leave me alone", then shouted something like, "Hey, Larry, can you check on this guy's pancakes?" Larry did, and they came out a minute later. I ate the whole stack, which was like two inches tall, and a guy sitting next to me at the bar remarked on the accomplishment. So you might say I ate my Everest today.