The driver's side door on my work vehicle won't open from the outside any more. Supposedly some latch inside the door-panel is broken, and the whole thing has to come off in order to fix it. I wanted to do it myself, but the screws they use to attach(more) the panel are neither flat nor phillips-head, but some custom screw head that requires its own special $50 tool to open.
So I'm borrowing a different car for work right now. It rattles when you hit seventy on the highway, and doesn't have a fob.
My tablet computer's GPS wouldn't work today. I tried to fix it for about thirty minutes before accepting that I just need to use it broken. I should be grateful that we live in a world where handheld devices can connect to a magical network of satellites orbiting the planet, but instead I was just grumpy about it.
I bought a new pair of boots just a couple months ago. There's a tiny leak somewhere in the right one that I can't find. Just enough of a trickle for my sock to be soaked with foul-smelling water after an 8-hour day in the swamp.
I clogged the toilet in our apartment twice this week. I think the cardboard our landlord used to prop it at just the right angle to work is finally starting to give way. There's also wetness in the cabinet under the kitchen sink. The landlord acted as if it was new. The linoleum stains I found buried under a couple year's worth of hoarded plastic shopping bags suggest otherwise.
None of these things ruined my day. It's nice to vent about it all the same.
Joey ducked his head, glaring at Susie through the eyes of his mask. "Go away."
"But you got hurt in there."
"So what, Susie? Go away, stop bothering me."
"But Frank said-"
(more) "Shut up!" Joey snapped, glaring at her through the eyes of his mask. She shrank back from him. "Frank doesn't know anything, he just saw some blood. It's from one of those stupid idiots I was chasing around earlier."
Susie sighed, watching Joey rise from his seat and head into the chilly outdoors.
He passed by Julie and Frank as they walked in but spoke to neither of them.
"Well," Julie said, lifting her mask and setting it on the top of her head as she sat beside Susie. "Someone's grouchy."
"Frank, you said he was hurt! But he said he wasn't."
"Joey's a liar," he said simply, sitting down and slinging his arm over Julie's shoulders. "I'm serious, he doesn't wanna look stupid. I guess if he says he's fine we can just leave him."
Susie shivered as she followed the fresh prints in the snow, making her way to the small cabin where they ended. Joey was sitting inside, curled up with a hand stuck under his mask.
"Joey! Come on, I won't tell Frank or Julie. Promise. Was it one of those survivors?"
He was silent for a long minute.
"...she had some kind of shank," he muttered. "Cut me badly with it."
He finally lifted his mask.
The cut stretched all the way from below his jaw to just under his eye. It had already stopped bleeding but the pink skin was a sign that he would have a scar by the time it healed.
"Don't laugh," he muttered.
"I'm not laughing," Susie insisted, offering a wobbly smile instead.(less)
"This sucks," Quentin hissed, sucking in a heavy breath through his teeth. His lips were a light purple and his hands a bright pink thanks to the cold. "I didn't think the Entity even knew WHAT snow was."
"Tell me about it," Jake mumbled, swearing under his breath when(more) the generator exploded thanks to his numbing fingers. "Shit. We should move."
The hid just in time to see the Legion rushing towards the generator. It was a girl this time, and after a second she cried out, covering her face with a hand before turning and running towards another noise in the distance. "She looks so small," Quentin murmured, a strange ache in his chest as he watched her sprint, vaulting over a pallet in her hurry. "There's no way she belongs here."
"No point dwelling on it, okay?" Jake asked. "We're almost done here. Be prepared to run."
Quentin nodded, shaking his head to dislodge the snow that had fallen on his eyelashes as he'd been working.
By the time they arrived back at the campfire, with only Jake and Quentin alive, both were shivering and their teeth were clattering. "Bloody hell," David said in quiet wonder. "Is that snow on ya' both?!"
"Sure is," Jake muttered, brushing some off his shoulder onto the ground. "There's a new place. Some old resort."
"It's cold," Quentin said, rubbing his hands together and plopping himself a foot away from the campfire to relish in its heat. "The whole place is freezing. Kate and Dwight couldn't get any work done because of it."
"Aw, hell," David said, taking a seat close to Quentin but farther from the fire. "You're shaking like a leaf. C'mere."
Confused but too tired to protest, Quentin reluctantly inched away from the fire to sit beside David instead. (less)
In grade 2 we learned about Sadako and her 1000 paper cranes. Sick with leukemia, she'd become obsessed with folding. Accomplishing 1000 paper cranes would buy her life back. Her atom bomb disease would reverse itself and she'd get to leave her hospital bed and walk back into everyday(more) life and live normally. If only she folded enough origami birds to flap their paper wings and peck the air when their paper tales were pulled.
It was a Catholic school and we were steeped in superstition. We believed in good luck charms, the Stations of the Cross, and patron saints. We believed we were always under observation from Jesus himself. It was not a far stretch to believe in the restorative power of paper birds. Perhaps with enough paper cranes we could reverse history. Fold an impossibility of cranes and the atom bomb would not fall at all. Through such innocence it became our fault. If we could fix it, it meant we could stop it. This is the way of believers. It is the way of the ignorant. We folded cranes feverishly, never knowing how to locate Japan on the map, ignorant of geopolitics but certain we might rewrite history somehow. (less)
The old hotel by the ocean is being gutted, its walls torn off like wings from an insect, the skeleton left open to wind and roosting birds. The concrete-and-rebar spine has been left to support whatever expensive, reimagined new condos will be bolted on. Soon the vintage holiday rooms(more) will feature floor-to-ceiling glass walls, quarrystone countertops, the inevitable Subzero fridge, dully gleaming and as roomy as a morgue drawer.
The view of the sea was wasted on a hotel where the rooms were too small and ill-fitted to ever command the sort of prices commensurate with a view of the sea that leaves your heart feeling both crowded and lost at the same time. And meanwhile on the street below the falafel places are folding up. The barbers are being evicted, as are the stores selling cigarettes, cat food, and oranges. The neighborhood is transitioning to wealth: pricey coffee to linger over, small and costly lunches, cheaply-made summerwear at stiff prices.
That hotel is where I had my first anniversary. The room was white and tan and when you were inside it you were conscious of the thickness of years and visitors and secrets. The bourbon in the bottle on the table matched the carpeting and the sea surged 17 stories below, silent behind windows that didn't open. This was our city but we didn't belong here; our own basement apartment was across town. This was a "staycation." The building seemed to sway in the wind and rain sheeted down outside. It felt like an eagle's perch, precarious. the bed seemed damp and grainy, as with blown beach sand.
Years later when I observed the renovations, the husk seemed appropriate to my memory. The weather could blow in. There had never been safety, and I'd known it on that holiday.(less)
Susie sniffled as she sat up from the grass. Her throat and her eyes hurt after she had run away from Frank and the others. She didn't want to see them.
Who knew this would have happened to them? If she could go back, she would have abandoned(more) her friends. Forget Frank. Forget Julie and Joey.
Susie remembered Frank shoving her towards the fog, pointing and refusing to explain why she needed to go alone. It was only when she was in there had she realized why he picked her.
She was weak. And he knew it.
Another bout of sobs welled up in Susie as she recollected the awful memories. The other people's screams still pounded in her head, and she couldn't even speak to them. It was as if her voice simply stopped working.
Still, she didn't need to be able to talk to understand their situation. There was no translation needed for it.
She was their murderer.
A twig broke in the distance. She stilled immediately, listening to see if Frank or Julie would call for her, but there was nothing like that. Instead, the lumbering giant from their initial meeting was staring down at her. If she focused hard enough, she could see his mouth set in a frown behind his mask.
"Well," he said, sitting down a few feet away from her. "It's shit, isn't it." It didn't sound like a question. More like a fact he was simply aware of as well. Susie hiccuped and he sighed. "You don't belong here, do you, kid?"
She shook her head. "I'm-I didn't wanna-but Frank-and we all-"
He put a hand up to stop her. "You aren't the only one," he muttered. "But the Entity's greedy. You'll learn that fact soon enough."
"Hold still," Dwight said, unlocking the medkit and pushing Quentin until he was kneeling. "We'll just handle this quickly."
"It's not the best time for this," Quentin insisted, glaring at the ground as Dwight did his best to patch up the gaping hole in his chest. "We're fine!(more) Myers was on the other side of the map. He can't get here in time." As Dwight rambled on, somewhat carelessly, Quentin lifted his eyes to the house in front of him.
There was a tall shape in the distance, and for a second he wondered if it was Bill, before the sudden realization made him stiffen.
The other two people in the trial were Feng and Nea.
Neither of them were tall enough to be the stranger.
He opened his mouth but no words came out. Dwight suddenly clapped a hand on his back. "You're good! We should leave now," he said. Quentin nodded, but he didn't get up. He was praying that he was just hallucinating. Because if he wasn't-
"Quentin? I'm going to work on the generator in that basement, okay?"
He nodded, but he didn't move. What would happen if he blinked? Would Michael Myers even move? Would he disappear, only to come back another way and get Quentin a second time?
The thoughts in his head made him feel ill. The killer had been watching them. If it was anyone else, Dwight would have killed both of them.
It took a few seconds for Quentin to realize the Shape was somehow getting closer. He hadn't noticed, but as soon as he did he was back on his feet, heart rate picking up as Myers came towards him. He raised the knife over his head in.
Quentin didn't wait for more. He screamed and began to run.(less)
"Nea," Dwight whispered, staring over the stones as the Trapper hoisted Ace over its shoulder. "Pass me the flashlight."
She gave him a look full of doubt. "Yeah, no way," she said, peeking over the stone wall they were currently sitting behind. "Not after last time."
'Last time(more)' was a reference to when she had handed Dwight her fancy toolbox and he had accidentally used all the wires and components in it instead of letting her take it back. At least if the box held something inside it before they left the trial, the entire container would be replenished. It was one of the few blessings the Entity gave to the survivors.
"Hurry!" he insisted, glancing towards Ace. He was barely even struggling. Great. Nea rolled her eyes but handed it to him. "I swear to God, if you break it-"
Dwight stood up, rushing towards the hook. He aimed the flashlight at the Trapper, who stopped walking to simply stare at him. Dwight's hand was shaking. He couldn't get the beam onto the Trapper's face for the life of him. From behind, he could hear Nea sigh and Ace do the same until-
There was a heavy cough and suddenly the Trapper's head went forward before Dwight was startled by a rusty laugh. The flashlight fell to the ground as the Trapper howled, and Ace didn't even need to struggle. The killer simply dropped him, still laughing, and turned around. The three of them didn't waste any time. They turned and ran.
"Flashlight?" Nea asked, stopping Dwight before he left the trial. He hesitated. "I dropped it. You saw what had happened there-"
"Go. Get it."
The look in her eyes told Dwight he had no choice.
With a resigned sigh, Dwight turned and hurried back into the cornfield. (less)
"Have you noticed it, too?" Claudette asked, her voice just above a whisper.
Jake raised an eyebrow at her, then shook his head. The generator sparked under his fingers but didn't explode. This time. "What are you talking about?" he murmured, glancing backwards to catch sight of anything(more).
When Jake simply stared uncomprehendingly at Claudette, she bit at her lip and closed her eyes, fingers still inside the machine. It exploded with a bang. Jake shot up, grabbing her by the wrist and tugging her behind a bush.
"Wait," she said, motioning for him to stop moving. "Listen."
He did. And just then he realized what she meant. There were no footsteps. No screams. No heartbeat.
The only sounds were his and Claudette's breathing.
For once, it seemed even the crows had disappeared.
"How uncharacteristic," Claudette said. She stood up, brushing dirt off her knees and looking around. "Be careful," Jake said. "They might be nearby, just hiding. Waiting."
Footsteps arrived soon after. But it was just Bill, and Nea right behind him. "Have either of you heard anything?" Bill asked. "The Killer. We don't even know who it is. We finished three generators already."
"Neither do we," Jake said.
However, even as Claudette and Bill left, Jake couldn't bring himself to leave the trial. Not yet.
"Good luck, and run like hell if you see them move," Nea said, giving him a final salute before leaving as well.
He found the Trapper in a corner, facing the brick wall without moving. Occasionally the grip on his weapon was readjusted, but beyond that, he was silent.
Jake swallowed nervously before stepping closer-
At least until the Trapper's head snapped to him.
"You should go, kid," he growled.
Jake didn't respond. He simply turned and ran to the exit.(less)
In the end, we're all strangers to each other. Travelers coming, lingering, and leaving again. Our journey is a slow one. Here and there we find joy, dam the river, and linger awhile. But the motion just below the surface is constant, and it all snaps back eventually.
When he moved through the house, the tags on his collar tinkled like falling ice. His was a nervous energy. Almost like the heart of our house beating.
It's quiet now.
When he was young, I saw the life flood into him day by day. I knew that it was only borrowed, that it would drain again before too long. But we're very good at forgetting hard truths.
I bore witness to the joy he took in simple pleasures. As if somehow a part of him knew better than any of us just how fleeting it all really is.
To know that all that life and all that joy is just gone now is a thought that's hard to bear. Both for his sake, and for mine. A large part of my time, my energy, and my love, inevitably goes with him. We like to perceive these things as inexhaustible, and most of us are lucky enough to have a great wealth of them to give away. But another part of us knows the truth. These things are finite. It's hard to see that truth coming.
The tags he wore tarnished quickly. Cheap metal that bled into his white fur, turning a small blossom of curls on his chest grey.
I picture him sitting outside. He squints a little as he looks up toward the sky. They clink together gently as his nose twitches, snatching at a stray scent on a passing summer breeze.
"Look at this," Jake said with a snort, lifting the neon-pink jacket up to inspect it. "It's even my size. Should I try it on?"
Meg laughed, nodding at him. "Check this one out," she said, holding up two separate pieces of clothing, equally red. "Holy crap. I should(more) wear this in one of the trials."
"And get yourself killed?" Nea asked, rolling her eyes but kneeling beside Meg to inspect the clothes. "Yikes."
"It's like my old track uniform!" Meg said. "Reminds me of...before this."
The silence was quickly broken by Ace shouting wordlessly. He turned around, holding out a fancy red robe. "Not like my old one, but wow! The quality's not too bad, either." He tugged it on over his current shirt, flashing finger guns and a wink towards Bill. The older man scoffed. "Anything in these chests isn't worth my time," he said, turning back to the campfire.
While most of the campers found a few clothes they enjoyed, others didn't trust the 'gifts' the Entity had bestowed upon them.
"When has it ever done /anything/ nice for us?" Quentin asked, having taken a seat beside Bill. Laurie nodded, though even she cast a longing look at a shirt Claudette picked up off the ground.
"Hey," Quentin said suddenly, rising from his seat. He headed towards Claudette and took hold of the shirt in her hands before pulling something from the back of it.
"They have the tags on," he said, squinting at it. "This-this IS from the outside world."
"Was it taunting us?" Meg asked, staring up at the night sky. "Giving us that stuff?"
"I wish I knew," Tapp muttered, having looked through every piece of clothing and see if there was more to them.
"Maybe it's just trying to make us remember."
"Nea, wait," Meg gasped, as the other girl was about to pull her off the hook. Her voice was muffled behind the bear trap, and her hands were trembling as she reached out for Nea. "I'm scared," she mumbled, tears in her eyes. "Of what's going to happen when-when(more) you pull me off. It's going to start."
Nea swallowed back the deep-set anger that crawled up her throat. It wasn't Meg's first time against the Pig, but it was the first time she'd been caught and trapped. Nea could feel the ghost of the trap on her own head, and shuddered when she remembered just what Meg would have to do to take it off.
"Just tell me what to do before it begins," Meg whispered. "Where do I go?"
"The cages. There...you have to put your hands in there. One of them has a key," Nea said. She heard a squeal off in the distance and turned back to Meg, reaching up to take hold of one of her hands and squeeze as tight as she could. "You're a lucky girl. It'll come off in the first or second trap for you."
It had taken four for Nea. She hoped Meg couldn't see there was dried blood on her hands. "I'm going to unhook you now," Nea said. "As soon as I do, run like hell for those cages. Don't stop until you find the key."
Meg only nodded this time.
Nea closed her eyes for a second. As soon as she pulled Meg off, the timer would begin and then the Pig would know, because she always somehow knew when a person was pulled off the hook no matter how far away they were.
It wasn't fair.
Nea set her hands underneath Meg's arms and lifted her up.(less)
"You're a riot," the Pig said, staring at Ace over the top of the crates. "Absolutely hilarious."
"Thanks," he said smoothly, glancing back just once to see Laurie hurrying to the generator he'd been working on. "I try."
(more) The Pig snarled, slapping her hand against the boxes separating her and her current target. "Quit screwing around!"
"I know how you work," he said. "You'll set that trap on my head. Where do you even hold those things?"
"The Entity holds them for me!" she snapped, before rushing to make her way around the pallet. Ace moved almost as fast as she did and when her knife clanged against the metal container where he had just been standing she squealed in frustration. "Just die!" she snapped. Ace only laughed as Laurie finished the generator behind them.
Whirling around, the Pig growled and Ace felt his confident smirk twitch as she began to run after Laurie. "Hey! We aren't done here!"
"I'll save the best for last," he heard her growl, before suddenly the racing of his heart quieted. He looked around, but she had disappeared.
Seconds later, Laurie screamed.
Ace glared at the Pig through his shades, offering a wry smile as she jerked a thumb back towards Nea.
"You gonna get her or not?"
"Depends on if you're going to let me."
She growled, banging her fist on the decrepit blue truck in between them. "I'll get you, you know that!" she shouted. "This last trap's reserved just for your annoying head!"
Ace shrugged. "I'd like to see that," he said, as Adam pulled Nea off the hook and she ran before the Pig noticed.
Ace laughed as she finally caught up to him at the exit.
"You leaving?" she asked.
He nodded, the beeping growing faster. "'bout to."(less)
Nea was panting as she looked over her shoulder. Dwight had simply disappeared, probably hiding in one locker or another. Laurie and Tapp hadn't made it.
She saw the air tremble as the Wraith unveiled itself meters behind her. (more) "Fuck off!" she screamed, tears welling in her eyes as the door jammed. It took a step back. Nea bit back a sob and continued her verbal assault. "Exactly, you freak! Go away! Get away from me! Shoo!"
Every word she shouted made him slink further and further away, and even with the odds stacked up to the ceiling against her, Nea felt just a little better knowing her sharp tongue was helping her even here.
"Go find someone else to kill, since you're so good at it!"
At that, the Wraith lifted its weapon in warning. Nea tugged on the door handle as if it would open any faster. Five.
"Dwight!" she screamed. "Where are you-"
His last desperate wail pierced the night.
One second left. But her hand no longer touched the bar.
Yet again, Nea had messed up. The others had died, maybe not because of her, but if she'd helped, if she could do more like Claudette or David, not just slink around-
In what was probably a single second the Wraith had stepped towards her. Already injured, Nea fell to her knees, lifted her head to the sky (or perhaps to make it easier for the Wraith to finish her off), and began to cry.
Yet no attack came.
She struggled against his hand when it closed around her wrist, tugging her up to her feet. He set her fingers on the bar and, confused but not stupid, she pulled the lever down.