It was a beautiful day.
The sun shone down gently, and the wind through the trees was a sweet music to her ears.
She was lying on the towel in her swimsuit, working on her tan. Although, to be honest, there wasn't much left to work on. Her sk(more)in was a rich caramel color, the color of coffee, and it made her look delicious.
All this was running through Drummond's mind as he walked up the narrow bike path towards where she lay on the sand, near the beach.
The picnic basket rattled satisfyingly at his side as he swaggered over to her and laid down at her side with a contented sigh. She really was quite lovely, he reflected. A little vain, perhaps, and shallow, but that made no impact on her outward attractiveness.
He woke her with a soft kiss on her full lips, her stunning green eyes flashing open as she returned the kiss with gusto.
When they were done, he rolled over and grinned lazily at her.
It was, she thought, a carnivore's grin, a predator's grin. A wolfish snarl of a grin, pouring out a message of testosterone and attitude. She opened her mouth to say something, something witty perhaps, when she stopped, frozen, her mouth half open.
He glanced at her and froze as well, struck by her terrified expression.
Her eyes bored into something above his right shoulder, her mouth stretched open, and he could hear in it the first throaty beginnings of a woman's scream. He spun quick as lightning over to his other side and got an eyeful of what was causing her such distress and he didn't blame her for screaming. Shortly after that he wasn't in a condition to blame her for anything at all. (less)
He jolted awake as the pebble struck his window with a loud bang. Dismissing it as his imagination, he turned to gather the blankets over him, and nestle down into the pillow for a try at a hopefully more dreamless sleep, but an even louder bang from the window(more) startled him bolt upright and blinking.
"Open the window or I'll throw another one!"
He froze halfway down to pick up his alarm clock. That voice has driven all thoughts of sleep from his head and replaced them with an electrifying tension.
She was here. Throwing rocks at his window.
His eyes flicked down to the clock and back up again.
A minute ticked by. Another bang on the window.
With a groan, he flicked the latch and raised the window, shoving his face out into the cold night air and blinking owlishly down at the streetlights and the cars and...
God, she was beautiful.
It broke his heart seeing her cold and shivering out on the sidewalk, looking up at him. As she saw him looking down at her she shivered, even though she was trying so hard not to, and gave a feeble little attempt at a smile that made his heart ache even more. He wanted so badly to rush downstairs and let her in, but he knew what she wanted. And he also knew that he couldn't give her what she wanted.
She yelled up at him: "Why don't you love me?"
When he found his voice, he shouted down to her: "Give it up."
He shut his window and stared at the wall. When he looked out through the blinds, he saw her, crushed, not even bothering to stifle her tears as she slowly turned and retraced her steps in the dark and the rain. (less)
America is dying one soul at a time. We were promised something more, something better, we could be anything we wanted to be or so we were told, astronauts and journalists and doctors, and we were stupid enough to believe them.
(more) We don't know what to be excited about, and what to do with ourselves besides wait for an answer to come. And that doesn't mean shit. So we work retail, or we work service, we bow and we break, waiting for something, anything. Waiting. And the worst part is, we've heard it told back to us. Magazines, articles, fucking Brad Pitt in multi-million grossing movies have told us all we're doing is waiting, toiling, useless. It's like money's laughing at us, expecting us to be in on the joke that we're fucked with no hope for a better future. (less)
If she looked at it it wouldn't move.
If she just stared at it, kept her eyes on it, it wouldn't move, wouldn't do anything - right? That was how it worked, right?
She thought she'd seen that in a TV show one time. Maybe it was Doctor Who(more) or something. There was this statue and it was chasing people around but only - only when they blinked. Or took their eyes off of the statue for a second, or something like that.
The wall twitched.
It twitched again. Like a vein was running through it, it twitched, pulsed, jumped. Twitched so hard the picture of the dog hanging on it went askew, twitched so hard that the rough, wooden chair on the floor fell over.
She closed her eyes tightly, tightly.
This was a mistake.
Because eventually she would have to open her eyes. And she knew, instinctively, that what she would see when she opened them wouldn't be something she was prepared for.
From behind her tightly closed lids, she heard a loud crack, as though someone had broken a baseball bat over their knee, an odd sort of pushing sound, and silence.
She could see a light through her eyelids, a white-hot light that burned her cheeks with its nearness.
She knew it was too late at that point.
Whatever had happened had happened and it was there, waiting for her, staring at her, drooling with anticipation.
The light flickered once, slowly, and was steady again.
It had blinked.
Blinked lazily, even. It was savoring this, whatever it was.
She whimpered quietly.
A slight, almost noiseless sound, a tiny popping noise like what you sound like when you open your mouth.
Followed immediately afterward by the aroma of rotting meat.
She opened her eyes.
The patio was cold and wet, but he stayed out there anyways, staring out into the woods with his cup of coffee and his dressing gown and all the trappings of civilization, vain and ineffective and helpless against the primeval power embodied in the wood.
What a wood it(more) was! The cyclopean, monolithic redwoods, tall, tall, tall, covering the skies with green leaves and a green-tinted canopy. Life, life in all its glory was trudging along as usual.
As he watched, scanning carefully from tree to tree, he saw rabbits...a doe...numberless birds. The spiders and the unseen insects, and the stars above, still in that transitory phase from very late to very early.
The woods were alive, were life incarnate.
The million-dollar house with its finery, the job, - everything, essentially - that wasn't life. That wasn't nearly close to life.
He stood out there for a long time.
There is something hideously, paralyzingly melancholic in the final realization of the fact that everyone is essentially alone.
Sure, you might find companionship for a time, there might be people or places in which someone could pour their heart into, to cause to feel, but at the very root, he was alone.
Utterly, soul-wrenchingly alone.
The cloudy, overcast sky blew along indifferently.
He made his decision quickly.
The coffee was the first to go, tossed over the bannister. The dressing gown followed it, laid carelessly over a lawn chair.
He ran ran ran, sprinted into that forest like the devil was chasing him.
And when he got to the point where he could run no longer, he collapsed facefirst into the dirt and loam and grinned, grinned as the spiders and the squirrels and the nameless things in the forest swallowed him up, grinned because he was finally no longer alone. (less)
I am the wind;
I shall blow and rage, but I cannot break the willow.
I am the fire;
I shall burn and sear, but I cannot consume the stone.
I am the sand;
I shall shift and crumble, but I cannot hide the truth.
I am the journey;(more) Yet I am also the path upon which the journey lies.
Today I am one of the Lost.
-Hermetic Chant of Beginnings, from the time of the Lost. (less)
Why do we live after death?
So that what we start may be ended.
Why do we die after life?
So that what we end may be renewed again.
Why do we start what cannot be finished?
(more) So that they journey may continue.
Why do we finish what was not yet underway?
So that some things may be laid to rest.
-Ur-Fabricator Song of the Creatrix, from the time before the Schism. (less)
He didn't normally get seasick.
This, however, seemed to be the exception.
Months at sea seemed to have broken through his resistance and he had just finished heaving his guts over the side of the ship.
He ended up flat on his back, staring up at the pristine sky.(more) There was Orion, it looked like, and the Big Dipper.
As he laid there, starlight pouring down onto his face, the light of a million dead suns glinting in his eyes, a pair of hands covered his face and he felt a soft kiss, like a butterfly perching and then taking off.
"Why don't you love me?"
Always the same old line.
"I don't love you."
The hands vanished from his face and he looked up, and saw her standing over him.
She never looked hurt when he said that.
She repeated herself,
"Why don't you love me?"
Their eyes met, for a second.
The flash of bright blue shook him and he looked away, quickly, but not quickly enough to avoid the well-hidden anguish she felt.
She leaned casually against the side of the boat, the spray of the ocean creating a shining halo around her head.
"You still haven't told me why."
He picked himself up and looked away, up at the bright, uncaring stars, at anywhere but her.
"I've told you. I've made promises. I've given my heart to someone else and I can't get it back."
She bit her lip and gazed out at the ocean. He glanced over quickly and saw she was crying freely, the tears flowing off her face in the wind, melting into the sea.
"What's your greatest regret?"
He shut his eyes tightly, trying to hold back the tears that flowed out regardless.
"That I don't love you." (less)
Virago was coming.
He touched down in the middle of Stanley, Idaho, breaking open the general store with one gargantuan mauve tentacle.
The man inside ran out,screaming, and Virago impaled him on one of his feeder prongs and retracted him back into his gaping maw.
A crunch an(more)d a swallow, that's all he was in the end.
Inside, though, Virago was depressed.
He hadn't razed a world since Betelgeuze and that was many cycles ago.
Zoltron the Magnificent thought Virago was a wash-out, a failure. And Virago was starting to believe it.
Absentmindedly, he stuffed another school bus into his mouth and chewed distractedly. He'd lost his mojo, he had to find a way to-
And that's when he felt the tap on his toe.
It wasn't really a toe, it was a mass of spiky cartilage, but he still felt it, a gentle, insistent little poke in between two of the razor-sharp spines.
His thirty eyes, spaced evenly around his disklike head, panned down, down, down, and finally came to rest...
On a tiny female human.
Noticing that she'd caught his attention, she smiled, and waved, and spoke:
"Mister! What are you doing?"
Virago was taken aback.
Almost without thinking about it, he opened his mouth and his thunderous voice boomed out,
"Destroying this world."
Her eyes widened as she tried to comprehend this.
"Can I help?"
Virago didn't know what to say.
His eyes darted to the wreckage of the general store, and he extruded a delicate manipulator towards it.
And into her waiting hands he dropped a gigantic mallet almost as large as she was.
As he loomed there, towering to the stars, watching her pound ineffectually on the side of the school, he allowed himself a rare, very toothy grin. He was on a roll. (less)
The curious thing about identical twins is that each one always seems to have some idea of what the other is doing or thinking.
So when Emily first got the idea that she liked John a little bit more than just as a friend, her sister Jayne knew, of(more) course. And likewise, Emily knew that Jayne was absolutely infatuated with John but would never have done anything about it, would have been too mortified to speak to him about anything less meaningless than the weather.
So all the while Emily was going on dates with John, out to dinner or to a movie or to the pier or some other sterotypically love-saturated destination, Jayne would curl up under a blanket and read a book and allow herself to cry a little-not too much, not enough that anyone could tell.
But Emily could.
And naturally she didn't care.
And so when John would show up to pick up Emily, Jayne would open the door. And when John would grin and say 'Hi, Em!' in that rich baritone voice that she ached for, she'd look down shyly and correct him, "Jayne."
Once he was impetuous enough to not pause and wait for this correction, and drew Jayne into an embrace, dipped her down and kissed her.
She was shocked but she seized the moment and kissed him back, passionately.
She hardly knew what she was doing as she followed him out into the waiting, gently growling car.
When they arrived at his house she realized what was going to happen. And her features twisted into a lustful, anticipatory grin.
Later, while he was still bucking under her, moaning out 'Emily, Emily" and while she was gasping on top of him, she looked down and quietly, shyly corrected him:
"He was having an affair."
He was having an affair and that was why dad couldn't live with them any more.
She, being younger, didn't understand. Didn't he love them?
That was why she spent her whole adolescence without a father.
He was in a flat in the other(more) side of town, her mother said. Had his own family. Kids, even.
He slipped out of her mind eventually.
She went to college, got a job. Didn't think once about her father.
She got the phone call when she was sitting in her apartment watching TV.
It was one of those karmatic things, you know. Car crash. Drunk driver out of nowhere.
Her father was in critical condition in the hospital, and they wanted her to come down and be with him.
In the background, she could almost - almost - feel fate fixing its eye on her.
She got there. He was laid out on a bed, broken, shattered. They'd put his arm in a bucket next to the bed (it was a very low-budget hospital).
He didn't wake up.
She didn't cry.
And she left when the monitor's insistent, gentle beeping changed to a long, heartrending tone.
The next day, her mother stopped by her apartment and awkwardly dropped off a bag of letters.
She didn't understand until her mother mumbled something about them being from her father and how she hadn't had the heart to give them to her.
So she took them and didn't say a word.
And when she went to her father's apartment later that day to pick up any of his effects, she found it was a simple one-man flat. There was no family here. And on the table was a photograph.
Of her and her mother. (less)
When he caught her poised over his mouth at night clutching a yellow highlighter, it was the last straw.
He kicked her off of him, kicked her out of the room, kicked her out of the house.
She was crying through it all because she couldn't understand why he(more) couldn't take a joke, why he was treating her so poorly.
He was crying through it all because he couldn't understand why she felt a constant need to fuck with him, why she thought it was necessary to play these incessant little pranks on him.
It was cute at first, he'd thought, the jokes and things. She'd been clever and he'd been tolerant, and he'd sat through and chuckled at such events as the Exploding Puppy Incident and the Case of the Mysterious Talking Pillow.
But this was the last straw. Coloring his teeth yellow with a highlighter?
Where did she get off on that?
As she stood there outside the door in her pajamas, listening to something fragile smash inside as it was thrown across the room, with the tears streaming down her face and the highlighter still hanging loosely from her hand.
She spent the night in the garage, didn't say a word to him the next day, and left, for a more playful place, probably.
He never saw her again.
There's no story. No moral. It's what happened, it's a tiny pinpoint spark of light against the inky darkness of history and life.
He regretted it.
And when he was older and dying and reasonably dissatisfied with his life, he still looked back on the incident and wondered what he would have looked like with sickly, highlighter-yellow teeth.
It's not how long is the journey of life, but how wide and deep. (less)