Here’s a recommendation for anyone with a love of poetry. I read it, and was impressed with its powerful language and the depth of feeling within the works.

http://bit.ly/HJtcjj

Criminal Front and Back Cover

Posted: March 26, 2012 in Fiction

This is the working cover for my current project.

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Table of Contents (as it stands now):

Hollow Points

Anne’s Ride

In The Company Of Ghosts

The Wet Grave

Crazy Train

A Man Of Respect

The Byrnes Manifesto

Mean Time

First Class

 

Comments, thoughts, and encouraging  words are always appreciated.

 

Copyright 2012 held by Christopher Floyd

This essay won first place in the fiction category of the 2007 Eastern Oklahoma Writers Contest

 

 

“Oh spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.”

-Psalm 39:13

The beginning of the end. Waking up is hard to do. Sleep is peaceful, its one validating quality. Artificial sleep – chemical sleep – is not peaceful. It is disconnected, confusing. Illusory. You wake up, but you’re not really awake. You are someone else. You are a prisoner to the molecules flowing through your blood and the numbness clutching your brain. You are an addict, and your monkey has four paws around your spine. Dance, marionette!

When you wake up, you wish you hadn’t. You can’t see. Something is crawling up your nose. Something else has plunged down your throat. Someone’s hand has three fingers stuck inside your gut. Someone corked a stopper on your ______. Monkeys. People appear and disappear, but never when you want them to. Your mouth is a southern Arkansas cotton field. Your taste buds are Nebraska corn, five weeks past harvest. Breath you can chew.

Whee!

You’re alive! You might be happy about that. The Loved Ones are. Being Loved Ones, they have obligingly ceased to float in and out of existence. They come bearing questions. Answer wisely, you’ll hear about it later. Oh, they love you so much!

Then you hit a wall. Alertness. Some kind soul turned the TV on to stimulate you. Fox News. Hurricane Katrina. Sharks in the water and AKs in the street. A rectangular box that sounds like a fish tank is sucking poison and rot from your chest cavity. You dream about swimming in Hawaii. You’ve been stimulated witless.

To the informed, the stalwart AK-47 Kalishnakov assault rifle – and all its myriad knock offs – are referred to as the AK. The news media loves this rifle because it is easy to vilify. The poor militant loves this rifle because it is cheap, sturdy, and available in bulk. The American thug loves this rifle for its image, which is usually seen on the news in the hands of poor militants. Now you know.

I digress. I’ve earned the right. Life is one big fat digression after another after another. So is reading this.

They extubate you. Cherish it while it lasts. You won’t remember it later. You have to be an old pro to think you remember it. I’ve been extubated at least eleven times. But I don’t want to brag.

The nursing staff is glad to see that spark in your eyes. They hope now you’ll stop trying to pull your tubes out. On the other hand, they just lost control of the television. Monkeys. They’re perfectly willing to talk to you as if you were cutting teeth and filling your diaper. They’ll make you swallow suicide capsules. They’ll shove slimy bubble gum flavored nerf-on-a-toothpick around your gums. And they will absolutely, positively, under no circumstances give you water after midnight.

Monkeys in pastel hearts and LSD inspired animal prints. They are some of the best people in the world.

“^ Apo-ca-lypse / e’pakelips / n 1. [c] revelation, esp. about the future of the world. 2 the apocalypse [sing] the last book of the Bible, recording the revelation of St. John about the end of the world. 3. [sing] event of great significance or violence similar to events in the Apocalypse.” -Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, Fourth Edition.

Or so they say.

Fast forward. The Doctors officially declare you graced with a new heart. Born again. Someone died, mostly. Then they cut out your heart. You submitted to this willingly. In the back of your mind this DEATH + DEATH = LIFE equation doesn’t make sense, but you go with it anyway.

Whee!

Cough, Doctor’s orders. Now suck on a tube. What is the medical profession’s obsession with tubes, anyway? Got a headache? Here’s a tube. Infected toenail? Have three tubes. Got a spare inch of skin? Ram a tube through it! Constipated? Guess what…? I think that modern medicine is a front for the tube industry.

Now they command you to walk. This is so they can snicker like Dr. Frankenstein, slapping each other on the back and giggling, “Its alive!” They’ve earned their joy. Your feet sting when they touch the floor. Suddenly you are drunk and don’t remember the party.

Ah, walking. An exercise in pain. It tires you. It keeps you awake. You look for a distraction and discover your neighbors. Kids getting their first intravenous. Death in the form of a three-year-old woman waiting on a heart, accessorized with mommy and IV pole in tow. Some of the cutest little babies polka-dotted with electrodes. Always a fresh supply. You go back to your room.

The word Apocalypse is not found in the Bible. At least not in mine.

On the subject of my donor and that individual’s family, my words fail me. Silence is used the world over to show respect.

I hate crack heads. They are a lowbrow, punk, worthless class of subhuman. There once was this little guy, we’ll call him Ian – although that was the name of our nurse. Ian was premature. Born addicted. You are reading his legacy. He coded while I was searching for a urinal. An AK for every crack head. Two for every crack head mother. No quarter. Unworthy organ donors, every one.

One of the worst things you can be in this world is innocent. In the next it’s a prerequisite. That is irony. I digress.

They transfer you from CVICU to Step down. There is no physical drop in altitude.

The medical profession holds great reverence for its acronyms. It’s a secret language. CHF, CVICU, ECMO, MUGA. Why speak English when you can bill more for just the initials?

They bring you pills. Tubes, Pills, and Acronyms. The Hippocratic Trinity. Pills to make your head spin and stop spinning. Pills governed by the ticks of the clock. My pills keep me safe from rejection. I have a hard time with rejection. I prefer acceptance. In exchange, my pills give me:

Hot flashes. Nausea. Headaches.

Inability to sleep. Hair growth. Diabetes.

Overgrown gums. Fast heart rate at rest. High blood pressure.

Hair loss. Acne. Weak joints.

Slow heart rate with activity. Anxiety. Mood swings.

Low white blood count. Tremors. Delusions of grandeur.

This is my deal with the devil.

Eighty percent of heart transplant recipients live for a full year. Twenty percent do not. I myself have lived three days shy of a month. I hope to take online classes in the spring.

Post-transplant, your body steps out of its mind. Prednisone gives you a full torso rash. You develop what science refers to as a moon face, but what in actuality is the surgical implantation via chemicals of a large biker mama’s boob under your jaw. This will make reading difficult, eating obscene, and snoozing with your chin on your chest surprisingly comfortable. For the longest time your nose, fingers and toes tingle and hum as oxygenated blood forces its way into unexplored territory.

Apocalypse means revelation.

Your biggest enemy in a hospital is boredom. Boredom will emphasize your every pain. Your bed wears thin after a week. You feel each bar and spring. You anticipate your meals overmuch and are disappointed when they finally arrive. The television becomes a hated necessity. There will be nothing on, but silence will magnify your discomfort. When something interesting does come on it will be time to leave the room for a test. You are lucky to have such problems. Late night music video channels can be pretty distracting in combination with morphine, valium, and hydrocodone. Good luck staying awake.

In Step Down you meet a new neighbor. Apathy in the fortunate (read: physically normal) is something you are used to. Apathy in the initiated is inconceivable. Your new neighbor’s name is Mr. Three Hearts. Born with one and transplanted twice, this guy can’t figure it out. He’s gotta have a motorcycle, gotta swim in creeks, gotta eat like there’s no tomorrow. Two people have already died to contribute to his “gotta’s.” He’s waiting on a third. Sure, he’s only 16 and his parents are absent at best, but damn you were never that young. Everybody has to come from somewhere. You start thinking about where Ian came from. You think about where the three year old beyond her years across the hall is going. You think about what beats in your chest. You get angry. Anger can help keep you alive in the short term, but does harm in the long run. You don’t care. You got a little bit of something inside you that ain’t you. Something from someone that won’t be seen here again, and maybe they’d be a little angry too. You go back to your room. Blame it on the meds and survivor’s guilt. Mr. Three Hearts goes wherever he goes.

Every trial can be burned into the fight. You believe this. It’s your war cry. You gotta have one.

I digress. I recommend digression as a form of therapy. A one-track mind is incapable of entertaining. If your mind can’t entertain you, you’re dead. Med Students should not digress. Focus focus focus! We’re people, not tube reliquaries. Do good. We like you; you’re as scared as we are. To us in our beds, you look like buzzards. What does that make the Doctor you follow? Your future.

Twelve days after the transplant they kick you loose. “Into the open air and sunshine with you!” Into the hepatitis. Into the bird flu sharpening its talons. Into the punk spitting on your burger. Wash your veggies. Stay at home for a year. Go to the Doctor once a week. Have a heart cath every two weeks. Pill salad for breakfast and supper. Live three months. Live six. Live a year and the yoke loosens. Live ten and all bets are off. This is your fight. Remember the past, it’s your best weapon. Forget the past, it doesn’t matter. Fight like hell. Live.

Whee!

“See then that ye walk…as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

-Ephesians 5:15,16.

This is my apocalypse. It is all I’ve ever known. All I’ll ever know. It has made me what I am. Others have been dealt worse. I don’t doubt that I have a purpose, whatever that may be. In that, I have been blessed. I hope I never acclimate to feeling this good. I don’t want to lose my edge. I believe in a Something greater than myself. Something more than life or death. My whole life has pointed to the existence of God. I’ve lived miracles. I’ve seen children and surgeons fight alongside angels. I’ve seen enough. And in that I am blessed as well. To you I say life comes in many forms, most of which you won’t find occasion to consider. Living is the important thing. The only thing. This is my apocalypse. This is my tale.

Take from it what you will.

 

Copyright 2007 held by Christopher Floyd.

 

 

My America

Posted: March 9, 2012 in Creative Prose
Tags: , , ,

This all just kinda came out. I haven’t done much in the way of editing it. I wanted to keep it raw.

Disclaimer: This reads almost like a rap song. I hate rap, so we’ll call it creative non-fiction. Too much Eminem as a kid, I guess. May occasionally make easily offended or overly anti-American ears bleed.

 

My Country. My United States of America…

Heh.

Fought for, unrivaled, forgotten, unknown. Through the progression of time, generations gone by. Generations changed. Generational apathy gave way to generational ignorance and identity crisis. We don’t teach ourselves. How can this be? This is the land of the free. No one can take that from me. The home of the brave. we cannot wind up in history’s grave. This new city on a hill, do any remember still? If they won’t teach it we’ll preach it. Hills. Breeds back to Bunker. Champion, Kettle, Sugar Loaf, Hamburger forward to Safwan and The Whale. What’s that? Empire? Hell! We fight against it. We help end it. Six down since we started. Seven, I forgot about Japan. Now its fashionable to talk about the death of ours. Forget it. We’re fighters. How you gonna take down all Fifty Stars? United. A democratic republic with an inviolate Constitution. You call that empire? You shoulda paid more tuition.

Cities. States of mind. Strutting, sprawling, brawling Los Angelos. High Smoky Denver. Dirty OKC’s been brave. Her classy little sister Tulsa still lives like Oklahoma. Lincoln is football surrounded by corn and fine with it. Sunny, skinny Daytona. Kansas City’s fast for a slow paced place. What happens in Vegas? New York ain’t changed, just keeps one fist balled tighter now. 1am Dallas traffic like cruising the Death Star’s canyons. Me, I prefer the Southlands. Mississippi anywhere. Atlanta in blooming transition. Memphis, can you hear her? Saved the best for last. Nola Forever. My city. The city of my bride. My family. Can’t wait to move in Jackson Square. Watch a rising sunset. The land of Ol’ Hickory and Huey Long. New Orleans rising? Risen. Saints. Pirates got their own alley. Look at the steeples of St Louis to see Madam Laveau. (And indulge me when I say; F— FEMA, Katrina, Nagin, and Blanco!)

Turn on, tune in, and drop the pretense. Give the Hippies one last go. Look who’s coming up. I don’t care who you voted for. Change is coming, but not on a platform. Not what they hoped, either. Turns out we’re all sick of it. Insulted by the news, even. Call me a Tea Bagger, then. Just keep your drink close at hand. Some of us carry guns. Stare down the Union knockaround like we used to do lobsterbacks. Still ain’t with me? Just wait and see. When you try to lead we the people on, of, by – you best look out for the people. We own this! We run this! We know this! We are this!

We got problems. Economic conundrums. Ethnic pot melting over. Forget race, that’s a misnomer. Just like every other country. Messed up and determined to be. What’s the difference? We don’t implode. We don’t collapse. We stand. We live. Nine times out of ten, we’re better off. That’s why we welcome you. Legally, thank you. And we’re not done yet. More often right than wrong. The list of countries we built is long. We do what we can, even when it gets hot. We’d do more, but in New York there’s a rented lot. We get shut down by self-serving complaints. Who else is gonna do it? You ain’t!

 

Flash Fiction Story

One of my favorite magazines has a monthly contest which includes a picture as a writing prompt and a 250 word limit. The best story received gets published in the back of the magazine. I entered the story below into this contest. The picture I had as a prompt was a shot of a graveyard through a wrought iron fence. Prominent in the picture was an obelisk-like tombstone. The photo seemed to have sort of a mid-west or plains feel to it. The story below did not win, so I thought I’d put it here.

Close To The Bones

Matt slammed his car door. He glared at the two men straining to ease a large monument out of the bed of a pickup. Two Nevada State Troopers approached him.

“Mr. Hall. Sorry to trouble you. I’m Sgt. Hood. This is Trooper Witt. This must be hard for you.”

Matt pushed past them to the wrought iron fence. The gate hung crooked on its hinges. In the scrub grass he could see a four foot hole beside his mother’s tombstone. He faced the officers.

“We caught them driving up highway 95 with your father’s tombstone,” Trooper Witt spoke. “They worked all night to dig it out.”

“You know about the rumor that your father found a large vein of gold?” Sgt. Hood asked.

“Used to say he’d make a monument of gold to himself,” Matt said. “They usually bring chisels.”

“These two got creative,” Trooper Witt said.

“There’s nothing there. He drank every dime he earned,” Matt snapped.

“You and your father didn’t get along?” asked the Trooper.

“He hated us,” Matt said. “I left the day Mom died.”

“We’ll see everything is put back the way it was,” the Sergeant said. “You want to press charges?”

“Just fix it and get out of here!”

“Sir–” The Sergeant started. The gravestone fell sideways. It crashed into the front of the cruiser. The officers ran at the men shouting.

Matt forced the gate. He knelt by his mother’s grave.

The inscription read:

Joy Hall

1948-1996

My Beloved Treasure.

Copyright 2010 held by Christopher Floyd.

What follows is a scene I cut from a story called “The Byrnes Manifesto.” In a very small nutshell, the story is about a criminal conspiracy involving certain persons posing as U.S. Marshals, among other things. The finished project is being sent out for submission. It will not appear on Hubpages. It’s too violent, et cetera. Regardless, I liked this scene. I figured, since I couldn’t use it in the story, I would post it here. The foul language has been represented by lines after the fashion of Hemingway, but it is there and you will get the meaning if you read it. This serves as DISCLAIMER.

Bragging time. I wrote this story by hand and hit 94 pages, excluding what is presented here. I’m feeling pretty good about that. On the other hand, typing 94 pages of scribble is proving to be very obnoxious.

 

From The Byrnes Manifesto.

I was taken to an interrogation room. They handcuffed my wrist to a table sunk solidly into the floor. After an hour or so, my friend and a U.S. Marshal came in.

“This is what you told me on the ride in,” my friend said, a deadly look in his eyes. “Go ahead and sign.”

I looked at the papers, curious to see what he had prepared. I hadn’t said a word, and he knew it. I sat up straight and addressed the Marshal, laying the respect on heavy.

“Sir, I never said a word of this.”

The Marshal put his fists on the table and glared at me. He was the real deal, I was sure. He had cop superiority written all over him. He would probably get credit for my arrest. My friend sat down across from me.

“Coffee?” He asked me.

“Black.”

My friend waved to the other man, who was visibly surprised at being sent on an errand in his own building. He left anyway.

“Who does that man think you are?” I asked my friend.

Ignoring me, he collected the typed sheets from in front of me and replaced them with several blank ones and a pen.

“Time to confess your crimes, Byrnes,” he commanded. “Tell them why you killed the girl. Tell them where they can find her. Come on.”

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“It’s still Marshal.” He grinned condescendingly.

“I’m going to kill you.” I said.

My friend sighed. “There’s no point in that now, Byrnes. It didn’t work. Let it go.”

“I’m here for killing a girl. That girl was killed by U.S. Marshals. Why aren’t you charging me for their deaths?”

“Well, there are Marshals, and then there are Marshals,” my friend said.

“So they think you brought me in alone? They think there weren’t five others with you?” I chided. “What will happen to your friends’ bodies?”

“Enough!” He shouted. “You know we can have you shot in transit to court in the morning. Hell, we can just ask anyone in this building to do it. After what happened to that girl and her family, none of them would hesitate. You better start writing something. Now.”

The U.S. Marshal walked in with two cups of coffee. He handed one to me and conspicuously kept the other for himself.

“What’s your name, officer?” I asked.

“____ you. I’m Marshal Hodge.” He growled. My friend gave me a pointed look.

“Thank you, sir.” I nodded. “And what’s his name?”

“What’s his name?” Hodge yelled. “Don’t play mind games, boy. No one has the patience, believe me.”

My friend stood and reached over the table and took my coffee. He blew on it, trying to stare me down.

“Alright,” I said. “I’ll start at the beginning. It was just getting dark in Atlanta when that bit of nastiness happened. That shootout occurred in pitch black night. How do you know I was there? For that matter, how do you know who I am?”

Hodge turned to my friend. “Marshal Bradley?” He said, and I got my name.

My friend Bradley pulled a card out of his back pocket and slammed it on the table. He pulled his hand away and I smiled. My driver’s license.

“You dropped your wallet,” Bradley said smugly.

I pulled my wallet from my coat pocket and handed it to Marshal Hodge. He opened it and pulled out my license.

“Do they make yours two at a time, too, Marshal Bradley?” I asked. For a second I thought he was going to shoot me.

Marshal Hodge grabbed the license from the table.

“This isn’t fake. Neither of these is fake,” he glared at Bradley. “What the hell?”

“I can tell you I’ve had mine for three years now, and I’ve never been in a position to drop my wallet at a crime scene,” I said.

 

Copyright 2011 held by Christopher Floyd.

A Dead Story.

Posted: March 9, 2012 in Fiction
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This story hung on in my mind for so long I had to get it out. The problem is, well… it has a lot of problems. The continuity of the Haitian accents, for one. The switch in tone from the first part of the story to the second, for another. The ending is ill-formed as well. Its biggest problem is that it is just plain schlock. Cheesy, campy, B grade, really not very good. You get the point. It also happens to need an edit or three. I’m posting it anyway, so I can have done with it.

On the Tombstone it reads… Devouring Books.

Detective MacDonald buried the break, jerking the car to a skidding stop. Feathers flew as noise-some chickens scattered. Beside him, Detective Haggis’ belly wobbled with his harsh laughter.

Outside the car, the Miami heat pressed down on them, wrapping around their necks and licking at their faces. They swung the gate latch on a wood-slatted fence that should have looked out of place in front of the brick tenement building. Haitian thugs, most shirtless, stared at them with motionless violence as they walked past. More chickens peppered the slum’s dirt yard. Little wire coups were piled around the cracked sidewalk. A three legged cat hissed at them on the building’s steps.

The air inside was close and stale. A few more roughs crowded the hall, glaring. Dark skinned women in brightly intricate dresses and head rags eyed them with the same unblinking stillness as the men. The Detectives climbed four flights of dark mote-filled stairs slowly. They reached the top basted in sweat. Three patrolmen huddled near a door at the far end of the corridor An aging Haitian woman stood with them.

“What’s the story?” Detective Haggis asked the oldest of the three officers.

“Missing person, signs of foul play. Elderly woman, lived alone. No evidence of forced entry. Neighbors knew her as…” the patrolman consulted his notes. “Old Lady Beignet. Neighbor here says she liked to take in strays.”

Detectives Haggis and MacDonald studied the woman a moment. Her clothes were bright even in the darkened hallway. Gold hoops hung in her ears. Her hair poked through the colorful wrap on her head. Her hands fumbled convulsively with a gold colored rosary.

“What do you know about – ” Detective MacDonald began.

“I known her all my life! I tell her to mind them! I tol’ her! I did! She stuck in her ways. Don’ want to listen to anybody.” The woman motioned wildly with her hands.

Detective Haggis opened the door to the apartment. He followed his partner in. The neighbor followed, still blustering.

“What was your name?” MacDonald interrupted her.

“My name is Madam Roux.” She announced with a rosary clutching hand to her chest.

“Mrs. Roux – ”

“Madam Roux.”

“Madam Roux. Did you hear or see anything out of the ordinary over the last few days?” MacDonald asked.

Madam Roux laughed. “In this building? Listen, Old Lady Beignet been gone since about supper time yesterday.”

MacDonald touched Haggis on the arm and motioned to the crime scene.

The small apartment mirrored the age of it’s occupant. A scratched rocking chair and foot stool were pushed close to the room’s only window. Sepia toned photographs of varied sizes and faces hung around the window. A television with fake wooden sides collected dust on a pair of upside down milk crates. Stacks of Readers Digest magazines lay ruffled next to the TV. A cheap dining tray table stood beside the chair. A wall of book shelves ran from the door to the opposite corner. The rest of the room was open space on top of creaking wood floors.

“I told her! I said you gotta mind them. You gotta give them what they want.” Madam Roux started again.

Haggis turned to her. “Who?”

“All of them,” Madam Roux fanned her hand in front of her, taking the entire room with he gesture. Her rosary rattled.

Nearly in the center of the floor lay a paperback novel. MacDonald approached it. The wood around it was caked with dried blood. Looking over the area, MacDonald found a thin spritz of blood dried on the side of the television and the wall behind it.

“Liked to take in strays. I don’t see any cats.” MacDonald commented.

“‘Course you don’t see no cats!” Madam Roux said.

MacDonald glanced at his partner. Haggis nodded and took the woman by the arm.

“Why don’t we go out in the hall. I have a few questions. Maybe you can help me. Haggis shut the door behind them.

Alone in the apartment, Detective MacDonald walked around taking mental notes. The windows were locked. No sign of a struggle. No narcotics. A wand lighter on the table by the rocking chair, but no ash tray or candles…

The book cases caught his eye. Stepping gingerly over the bloody floor, he examined the book bindings. There was no order to the books. Cookbooks stood next to automotive manuals. Romance novels crammed against Westerns. Dusty books crowded scuffed books into singed books. His eyes rested on a title he remembered from his semester in college. He took it down.

“A Movable Feast,” he said to himself. He hadn’t finished it and had failed the class.

He fanned the worn pages with his thumb. The book settled into his hand.

It flipped open.

MacDonald stared at it, doubting his eyes. The pages turned over rapidly, rustling a wild animal’s warning. The book stopped moving, resting open at its center pages. The sheets began to dog-ear themselves, top and bottom. A wave of folded corners spread page by page to the covers. The book fluffed itself, turned down corners pointing at MacDonald.

MacDonald turned his head to the apartment door.

The book hurled itself upward. Dog-eared pages caught MacDonald’s head and bit in. He let out a small yell. The binding bulged, constricting itself by slow degrees around MacDonald’s head and down his neck. There was a muffled snap.

At his shoulders the paperback cover unhinged itself from the binding and stretched over his chest and back. The rest of the book settled slowly into its natural shape where the Detective’s head had been.

Blood pooled around the man’s boots, rushing over the dried blood already on the floor. The book worked itself contentedly down midriff, thighs, calves, and on until its pages brushed the floor. It flipped itself over onto its spine and gnawed the soles of MacDonald’s boots inward until they disappeared. The pages folded flat in one smooth motion.

The book shut with a loud snap and lay on the floor.

Haggis walked into the room. He stopped moving with his hand still on the door knob. He spotted the fresh blood and the pair of books on the floor. Haggis called weakly to his partner. His eyes darted around the room. Slowly, he backed out of the room, pulling the door shut behind him.

~

It was after 3am when the police called off their search. Countless patrolmen, detectives, and forensics personnel had entered and exited the apartment without incident. Detective Haggis and Madam Roux had a plan in place long before the last officer drove away. Haggis entered the apartment with his weapon drawn. Madam Roux trotted in, rosary swinging in her hand, and grabbed the wand lighter from the tray table. Facing the books, she flicked it to life.

Haggis found his way into the small kitchen. He knelt beside the stove with a crescent wrench. Looking up from his work, he saw a small stack of magazines on the counter.

“Ah shit,” he muttered.

“Hurry up in there!” Madam Roux yelled from the front room.

“I’m hurrying!” He spat back.

Eyeing the magazines, he cranked away with the wrench.

“They’re moving!” Madam Roux shrieked.

The pipe fell free. Haggis stood. The magazine on the top of the stack fluttered as if blown by a slight breeze. Haggis tossed the wrench on top of the stack. The magazine rattled its pages in frustration. He holstered his weapon and ran from the room.

In the living room, he swept Madam Roux’ head scarf off and covered her face with it.

“Don’t breathe. Close your eyes,” he commanded.

He pulled a mace can from his pocket and sprayed the shelves as he moved, not really believing it would have any effect.

The pair of books on the floor nipped at their feet. He rushed Madam Roux out of the apartment and pulled the door shut hard. Madam Roux fell to the floor opposite him. He slipped down the door frame and sat on the floor. Something hit the other side of the door with a dull slap. A moment later a second object hit.

The Detective looked at the woman. “Remind me to tear up my library card.”

A three-legged cat pranced up the hall and rubbed against Detective Haggis’ hand, meowing. Behind it stood a crowd of Haitian men. Most carried machetes. A few had torches.

Haggis waved them off. “I broke the gas line. No torches.”

A young man in the front drew on a cigarette. “G’on out the building now.” He looked at Madam Roux. “And take the cat with you.”

Madam Roux scooped up the cat and ran down the hall. Haggis stood watching the men. The man who spoke tugged the filter off his cigarette. Another man handed him a bottle rocket. He fit the burning cigarette over the fuse gently and pushed past Haggis.

“Let’s hope it is not a dud, huh?” he grinned.

He knelt at the corner of the door. Another man moved to grasp the door knob. Two more men with machetes positioned themselves on either side of the man on the floor.

“Quickly now… NOW!” the Haitian yelled.

The door was opened a few inches. Rustling echoed inside the apartment. The man set the bottle rocket on the floor with it’s stick laying outside the apartment.

“Shut it!”

The door slammed. Haggis released breath he didn’t know he had been holding.

The man on the floor positioned the bottle rocket gently, making sure the cigarette could still get air from under the door. Satisfied, he stood.

“Three minutes, I think.” He put his arms out and ushered everyone to the stairs.

Outside, Haggis gasped for breath. The whole neighborhood crowded the street around him. Time passed slowly. Faces grew worried.

The man who had set the firework approached him, the three-legged cat crowding his ankles.

“Sorry about your friend,” he said. “We have wanted to be rid of this for a long time.”

Madam Roux stood apart from the crowd, crying.

The Haitian looked up.

The ground shook. Haggis heard a whoosh followed quickly by a bang that made his ears ring. Flame shot out a window on the back side of the building.

“Now what?” Haggis asked.

“Now go home. We ended it.” The Haitian man said, turning away.

“What was it?” Haggis said to the man’s back.

The man faced him, grinning. He shrugged and disappeared into the crowd.

Detective Haggis stood a moment longer before running to his car and driving off. Sirens resounded in the night behind him.

Copyright December 2010 held by Christopher Floyd

Copyright 2010 held by Alayne Floyd.

Hollis felt himself being watched. It hit him while washing his supper dishes. He held his rough, arthritic hands beneath a sheen of soap bubble rainbows floating on the dish water, bracing for the adrenal flush building inside him. His blood warmed. The skin on the back of his neck prickled. His hearing and eyesight sharpened minutely. He breathed slow and deep. He felt the thinness of his strapped T-shirt against his skin. The familiar, surging need to move fell upon him.

“Been awhile,” he spoke softly.

Taking his time, he dried his hands with a frayed brown towel on the counter. He stared out the window above the sink. The sun fell below the horizon. The small patch of grass between his house and the next gave ground to the night.

Hollis walked slowly through his dining room and into the living room. His bent shoulders ached. Eyeing the front door before turning his back to it, he settled painfully to his knees beside an old cedar chest. He hefted the solid lid.

He grabbed his old bayonet and wedged it into the wood to hold the lid up. He shuffled the chest’s contents around.

He placed several small cardboard boxes onto the floor, then withdrew his service pistol and tucked it into his web belt. Next was a hand-held spotlight with an extension cord attached. After a pause and a sigh he gently set his father’s old scatter gun next to the boxes. The M 14 Hollis had bought at a gun show followed. He yanked his bayonet free. The lid slammed shut.

He walked into his kitchen with the rifle, spotlight, and ammo boxes. He leaned the rifle against the back door, piled the boxes on the counter, and plugged the spotlight’s cord into an outlet over the sink. He turned out the porch light and went back for the shotgun.

The screen door slammed behind him. He sat down in his lawn chair and stared for a moment into the shadows between the houses surrounding him. The house behind his was a conflagration of strung lights, people, and loud Norteῆa music.

“Yep,” he said. “Welcome back, Teddy Bear.”

He dropped the bayonet blade down into the wooden floor of his porch.

To the right of his chair he kept a small icebox. On top of it lay a pair of thick prescription glasses. Laying the shotgun across his lap and juggling the rifle, he leaned over and put on the glasses. Grabbing a Coke from the icebox, he popped the top and settled in for a long night.

Hollis waited in silence for an hour or so. The shadows shifted under the moon. The party showed no sign of ending. The noise was a distraction. The bastard might use it to sneak up close. The moonlight helped, but Hollis’ eyes had grown old. Even with the glasses, his vision was limited.

Hollis leaned the barrel of his rifle over the narrow porch railing. He switched on the spotlight and began to dance its powerful ray against houses and under small trees, panning the rifle. Nothing moved, but he knew the thing was out there. He had never seen it, but felt it every time it watched him. The neighbors at the party were looking at his porch. He flipped off the light.

“We’re going on thirty years, Teddy Bear,” Hollis spoke. “I ain’t gonna be around forever. I think you should come on out and introduce yourself, you son of a bitch.”

Hollis placed the light on the porch and took the Coke from between his legs. He took a long drink. His eyes scanned his surroundings.

“We both know what happens if I come off this porch. You run away again. You’re scared of me, ain’tcha Teddy Bear!” His voice was rising.

He sat back and spoke to himself, “Ain’tcha Teddy Bear.”

Only the music and voices answered Hollis. He thought in silent stillness for awhile.

“Or are you curious?” He asked the night. “Is it just because I’m not afraid of you? I’ve given up hunting you, you coward. Though God knows, I have a right to. I guess you’ll just have to work up your nerve and come for me.”

Another pause. Another sip.

“Teddy Bear, are you waiting until I’m too old to fight you? Here I am, sixty-four years old. Got guns now instead of fists. No matter how feeble I become, I still won’t fear you. That’s what brings you back, isn’t it? I’m not afraid of you. That’s why you can’t come for me like you do the others.” Hollis laughed.

“You need to get your nerve up. Mine is.” His voice grew louder.

He stood, slinging the rifle over his shoulder. He held the scatter gun by the barrel with its stock on the floor.

“Hey!” he yelled. “You hear me, Teddy Bear? Do you hear me, you black bastard? Quit wasting my time! Get your shadowy ass over here!”

The tone of the party shifted. Four men hopped the low fence separating the yards. Shouts of encouragement and derision followed them. They advanced on Hollis, hollering in Spanish.

Hollis held up his shaking hand. The sense of being watched intensified.

The man in the lead switched to English.

“What the hell did you say, man?” He asked angrily. “Did you call us black? What are you doing out here in the dark? You crazy, or just lookin’ to get hurt?”

They were near enough now to see him. He could feel Teddy Bear approaching, sniffing for his fear. Hollis didn’t feel any. Yet.

“Shit, man. You’re black! What the hell is wrong wit’choo?” The first man shouted. The others were forming a circle around his porch. The lights and noise from their party had affected their senses. They were blind in the dark.

The scatter gun barked rapidly. Sparks burst from both barrels. The two slugs punched up dirt and grass in front of the man who had threatened him.

All four broke into a run, cursing and stumbling their way back over the fence. The party music stopped. Hollis was aware of people scrambling to get inside the house, but was busy scanning the shadows. He stepped off the porch in instinctive pursuit.

Teddy Bear retreated too.

Hollis stretched. His neck cracked. He’d been sitting for longer than he realized. His spine ached and his toes tingled. He turned his back to the night and slowly returned to his chair. The thing had drawn back, but was watching. Hollis could still sense him.

“Got too close, didn’t you?” he said to the night. Flipping the shotgun open, he removed the spent shells and replaced them with live ones.

The staring contest continued. Hollis reached for another Coke. He needed the caffeine. If he had to relieve himself he would make sure Teddy Bear saw that too.

A few minutes passed. A flash caught Hollis’ attention. A strobe light pierced the darkness in the neighbor’s back yard. Hollis could hear a car crawling along the street in front of his house. The beam lit up his yard.

Three uniformed officers appeared around the corner of his house before he could gather his supplies and duck back inside. One yelled “Gun.” All three aimed their pistols at him, shouting commands. Hollis sat frozen, Coke in one hand and rifle balanced on his railing with the other. The spotlight flashed out as the police cruiser reached his house.

The officers moved around his porch, spreading out. One climbed his steps, eyeballing the barrel of the M 14 as he did.

“Don’t be afraid,” Hollis kept his voice calm and low.

“What?” the officer in front of him asked. “Put down the gun!”

The officer saw the shotgun in his lap.

“Shotgun too,” he hollered over his shoulder.

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid,” Hollis repeated. “You can’t be hurt if you’re not afraid. Don’t be afraid.”

A cop to his left hopped his porch rail and leveled his pistol at Hollis’ head. The third officer stayed back and spoke into his shoulder mike.

Hollis remained still, his eyes straight ahead.

The strobe stabbed through the dark on his right, making the shadows run. It continued its slide into the next yard before disappearing.

Four more policemen rounded the right side of his home. Four more guns pointed at him.

This time he shouted. “Don’t be afraid! Don’t none of you be afraid. I ain’t afraid!”

One officer holstered his pistol and pulled a stun gun from his side, aiming carefully at Hollis’ chest.

“What are you, crazy?” Hollis said to the man. “Look at my finger.”

His finger was snug against the rifle’s trigger. The barrel faced the house across the yard. The officer closest to him holstered his weapon and motioned for the man to wait.

“You’re not afraid.” said Hollis to the closest cop, still staring into the yard.

“Why are you pointing that rifle at your neighbor’s house?”

“I ain’t pointing this rifle at my neighbor’s house.”

“What are you doing with the shotgun?” The cop asked.

“Got me a pistol too, sir.”

The patrolman glanced at another officer before speaking. “What is your name?”

“Hollis Dwayne Watts, sir.” He anticipated the next question. “This is my house.”

“Mr. Watts, you don’t need to be scared. Tell me what is happening. Did you discharge a firearm?”

“Sir, I ain’t been scared since My Lai.” Hollis’ eyes flicked for a moment into the officer’s. “And I had to get rid of a distraction just now.”

“For me it was Tora Bora. You seeing Charlie out here?” The officer probed.

Hollis laughed hoarsely. “You run my name yet?”

“You have priors?”

“Teddy Bear’s gotta be loving this. I can feel him close again.”

“Who’s Teddy Bear?”

“Nine-teen-Seventy-Eight.” Hollis enunciated determination in his voice.

“Alright. Who’s Teddy Bear?”

“It’s a term of endearment,” Hollis eyed the man. “Like pig.”

The officer ignored the slight. “You got a beef with this Teddy Bear?”

Hollis grunted. “Yeah, you could say that.”

“He in that house over there?”

“No way. That house still has people partying in it,” Hollis shook his head.

The patrolman who had hung back stepped up onto the porch.

“Hollis Dwayne Watts,” he recited. “Sixty-four years of age. This is his residence. Prior convictions: three counts residential trespassing, one count public disturbance, one count harassment. Diagnosed Paranoid Schizo-Affective by court psychologist. Wife and daughter disappeared in the fall of 1978. No arrests were made. No Teddy Bear in the system either.”

“Does that sound about right, Mr. Watts?” The first officer asked him.

“Mostly.”

“Have you been taking your medications?”

“Damn pills only blur the edges. Make me hear things too.” Hollis mumbled.

“Want to put the guns down?”

“Hell no.”

“Want to tell me about your wife? Where do you think she took your daughter?”

“My girls? Ask Teddy Bear.”

“How do you want this to end, Mr. Watts?” asked the first officer.

“I’d like to see Teddy Bear. Bastard runs away every time I show up. I’d like to know what it is that chases him away. I ain’t always had to have these guns. I want to know why he wasn’t chased away from my girls. Then I want to kill his black ass.”

“Mr. Watts, put the rifle down right now.” The officer’s voice grew stern.

Hollis caught a stirring of shadows in the neighboring yard, something smooth and wispy.

The officer placed his hand on his pistol.

“Mr. Watts, put the rifle down.”

The shadows blinked longer, stretching toward the house.

“Hollis. I know that look. Don’t be scared…” The officer commanded.

“Scared gets you killed, sir.” Hollis snarled, leaning into the stock of his weapon. He pivoted the barrel a few degrees.

A large patch of flickering shadow broke away from the darkness. It was visible to him for a second before it latched onto the blackness alongside the house full of people.

Hollis shot three rounds. Each slammed into brick. The police around him fired. He heard the noise and felt the flaming hammer strikes as bullets punctured his body. He slumped out of his chair, his father’s scatter gun dropped to the porch. His head sagged against the wooden floor.

The talkative officer shouted for the others to stop. The rifle clattered over the porch rail. The night felt very still. Hollis could sense Teddy Bear. Worse, he could feel its glee, its anticipation. He had seen the beast at last, but the beast had tricked him. He created fear for Teddy Bear. He spoke the names of his daughter and his wife softly to himself. Heartbroken, He lifted his eyes and stared at the dark until his vision failed him. He pitched forward.

The officer closest to Hollis stood staring down at his body. His pistol remained in its holster. The look that settled into Hollis’ eyes had tugged at an instinct in him. The dead, fierce eyes of a soldier committed to action.

The officer turned around and stomped down the porch step, his eyes reflexively hunting for movement.

Across the yard and past many shadows, the lights in the neighbor’s house blinked out.

“All right then, girls. Simmer down, simmer down. Come over here in front of the camera. Stop pushing, Cali.” Thus begins the good father’s campaign to photograph his daughters.

“Girls, this is Mr. Hugabug. Come on and sit – Eva let go of your sister’s hair. Eva let go of your sister’s hair. Eva you’re mussing her- that’s better. Thank you sweet heart. Come on and sit here on the floor. Ready? Ready, Mr. Hugabug? Smile sweet girls.”

Cali’s eyes cross. Lizzy Bee’s tongue slides out like a mouse. Eva picks her nose with every ounce of her being.

KerrrrCHICK!!!

A plume of smoke wafts from the top of the mechanism. Mr. Hugabug appears from under the black sheet and shakes his head at Father.

“Girls, Mr. Hugabug’s time is precious. Lets try it again, all right? Lizzy Bee, please leave your dress on. Everyone smile. Three sweet smiles pleeeeeeze.

KerrrrCHICK!!!

‘Lizzy Bee!!!” The girls giggle. Mr. Hugabug dances a surprised jig into his camera. Father’s well-honed reflexes arrest its fall.

‘All right. All right. Lets be pretty young ladies now, all right? Oh my God. Mr. Hugabug, are you all right? Girls, simmer down. Lets see how pretty we are, shall we? Everyone sit up. Eva sweetie, can I have those matches? Please? Please? All right, put that out. Eva! CAI NO!’

SLAM!!!

‘Thank you Cali, dear.’

Mr. Hugabug seeks refuge under his black sheet once more. Lizzy Bee waves like a queen. Eva snarls like a bear. Cali pretends to pass out.

KerrrrCHICK!!!

Mr. Hugabug stands reluctantly and eyes the severely locked liquor cabinet on the far wall.

Father exhales sharply to ease the heavy throb in his chest. “One more time, sir. Please. They’re just a little riled up this evening.’

Mr. Hugabug shakes his head in disbelief and hides under his sheet.

Kerrrr- “CALIGULA MAY BRAUN YOU PUT THAT MOUSE TRAP DOWN LIZZY BEE CLOSE YOUR MOUTH EVA LOOK AT THE CAMERA SIMMER THE BLOODY HELL DOWN RIGHT NOW!!!” -CHICK!!!

The smoke from the mechanism floats around Father’s ears. Mr. Hugabug tilts his head at Father.

“I think we’ll take the first one, sir.” Father’s voice is timid and beseeching. His hand grips the front of his shirt tightly “How much do I owe you?”

The Believers

Posted: September 2, 2011 in Fiction
Tags: , , ,

“…as with sundogs, which are not so rare, and St. Elmo’s fire – which is also not so rare but we are seldom in the right place to witness it. Both act as mobile networks for mapping or spying on us or whatever it is they wish to do with their meteorological computer. But the Aurora Borealis, with its backdrop of snow making it highly visible from up there, is both the mainframe and navigational beacon for UFO’s in deep orbit around earth.”

“And what about rainbows, Doctor?” Eddie asked into his mic. “Do they pose a threat?”

“Huh? Oh no, they’re just pretty.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Eddie said. “It’s forty-two minutes after midnight and you’re listening to Shore To Shore 83.1 on your AM dial. I’m Eddie Skinner and with me in the studio tonight is Berkeley University Professor of Meteorology, Dr. Eugene B. Esterly; author of Santa Claus is Not Alone. Let’s take a call. Mike, who do we have?”

Mike turned his bulk from the switchboard. “We have Alex on line one.”

Eddie nodded to Mike, who flipped a switch.

“Good morning, Alex. You’re on the air live Shore to Shore. Where are you calling from?”

Rapid breathing came across the line. “You gotta help me! I’ve been abducted,” Alex said.

“Abducted, you say?” Dr. Esterly leaned forward in his chair.

“Okay Alex, take a second to catch your breath.” Eddie said. “Where are you?”

“I don’t know. Some road. There’s forest on both sides.” Alex was nearing hysteria. “I can’t stop long. I think they’re after me.”

“Are we talking about people, or…” Eddie asked, leading the caller.

“People! The only people I’ve seen in years have been other abductees.” Alex gasped.

“How many other people, would you say?” The doctor produced a pen and pad from his suit pocket.

“Hundreds!”

“Alright, wait,” Eddie interjected. “How is it you called us? Are you at a gas station or a rest stop?”

“No!” Alex cried. “I- I don’t know. I grabbed what I thought was a molecular scrambler and ran when the ship landed. I thought I could defend myself with it. I pushed a button and there you were. They’ve been listening to you!”

The doctor’s face paled. He dropped his pen.

“You gotta help me, man!” Alex sobbed. “You gotta help me. The needles! The needles…!”

“Alright Alex, here’s what I want you to do. Stay on the line with us, but walk at a quick pace away from the landing site. Don’t stop moving, and don’t hang up,” Eddie ordered.

“Okay,” Alex’s voice fell. “I can hear them behind me. They’re in the woods.”

“Just keep moving. We’re going to help you.” Eddie reassured him.

“I can see the lights! They’re here. Oh no. Oh no!” Alex began to scream. “No! No more. Oh Nyaaaah! No!”

Several hard footfalls echoed over the phone line. A moment later a high pitched squealing rhythm was heard. Alex’s screaming was muffled. The line broadcast an audible rush of air. There was an impact that made the three men in the sound booth jump.

“Alex?” Eddie tried to maintain his professional tone.

Silent moments passed. Something scuffled in the speaker.

“Alex?”

“Who is this?” a stern voice demanded.

“What have you done with Alex?” Eddie fought the urge to be quiet and hide in the silence. “Are you a Man In Black?”

“Are you a weatherman?” Dr. Esterly added eagerly.

The line went dead.

The three men looked at each other, stunned. Almost a minute later Mike mouthed to Eddie, “Dead air!”

“Uh, ladies and gentlemen,” Eddie paused, fumbling for the words. “I’m not sure what we’ve just heard. We’re going to alert the authorities and keep this line open in the hopes of making further contact with Alex. Please, if you’re on the roads tonight keep an eye out for anything strange. And be safe. Alex – wherever you are – good luck. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Five minutes later the switchboard lit up. The rest of the night Eddie tried to make sense of scores of conflicting calls from across the nation. Earnest callers reported U.F.O. sightings and misidentified hitchhikers until well after sunrise.

___

Malcolm slipped his cell phone into the pocket of his gray scrubs. Policy is policy, but Dr. Gibson shouldn’t have thrown my phone into the ditch, he thought.

The medical staff were several yards away, pushing the patient strapped tightly to an old gurney. Malcolm ran to catch up, his flashlight beam bouncing off the mist hanging low over the road. Fox Gully State Mental Hospital was at least a half mile away, and Malcolm didn’t want to be left behind in the dark woods.