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Leaving Town

leaving town


Estimated reading time — 24 minutes

My body floated through space. I was weightless, drifting towards the moon. As I got closer, I began to feel. First normal sensations. Then deep, extreme pain.

With a loud crack, my eyes opened. A screaming metal grinding noise twisted my ear drums. The brightness of a glaring full moon pulled at the threads that held my eyes in their sockets.

I wanted to move but I couldn’t. My stomach wanted to purge everything in it’s lame sack, but couldn’t. My brain tried to reason and rationalize this situation, but it couldn’t.

Within seconds, my eyes were forced shut by the weight of the intruding stimuli. And I remembered something from earlier. A bus stop.

It was late at night. Or early in the morning, I suppose. It didn’t matter really – what mattered was it was dark. A cool breeze swept past, and even though it was summer, when your tired and hungry, even the slightest chill bites harder than it usually would.

I felt alone, and was alone for the most part. As I sat on a bench, I pondered my journey ahead. My tailbone was injected with Novocain by the hardwood planks of the bench upon which I sat, My mind drifted off to the image of a girl. It wasn’t her smile, nor her figure, it was her eyes that I reminisced the most. Usually dawned with thin streaks of eye shadow. Sometimes her eyes themselves would vary in color. Sometimes a deep purple that matched her hair, sometimes green or blue. But when they were natural brown and free of a plastic sheath, I could barely look away.

Despite the hour, the bus stop had a few other travelers. I faced nothingness, but to my left two women spoke softly under a lamp post. It was one of two lamp posts that actually had a working bulb – I didn’t blame them for claiming that territory. To my right a hooded figure. I passed judgement that this person was up to no good, until I realized that I too was donned in the hood of my sweatshirt.

The bus was due soon, and I had made a choice to put in my earbuds and zone out a little. A choice that I would regret. My periphery was blocked by the shroud of my hood, and my eardrums were masked by a favorite riff from a punk-rock guitar.

Minutes passed. The breeze picked up. A waning crescent peak at me from just over a tree line.

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I remember a feeling that came over me, a feeling that was telling me to check my surroundings. To my left, and to my surprise, the two woman seemed to be just staring in my direction. I remember a feeling of confusion and also being self conscious. But it wasn’t until they started backing away that I was overcome with fear. Backing away from me? Or something… behind me…

In an eternal instant I flipped my hands to my ears and yanked out the buds, allowing a free flow of cool air and noise to flood my psyche. My head snapped to back to the right and my eyes widened.

The hooded figure.

Just over an arms reach away, but it didn’t matter. The Louisville Slugger knockoff was already alert, and cranked back. This person’s torso was a compressed spring, holding tension and eager to return to normal… and then, it released. I never would have guess that getting hit in the head with a baseball bat made a noise, but it was a noise I could never forget. Like a train whooshing passed and catching you off guard.

That thought was enough to bring me back to the reality that I was in. A slight rumble shook my body and a rhythmic squeal of metal plagued me. A few blinks and I realized it wasn’t a bright moon, it was a lamp that fried my cornea. It was directly overhead, but quickly left my view. Then another appeared and passed overhead. It was like a reel that played a repeating scene. Endless darkness, followed by a deafening brightness, then endless darkness once again.

I still couldn’t move, but I heard something else. Talking. People talking to each other. Mumbling. Speaking a foreign language. I couldn’t tell.

From where I lay frozen, I could make out someone. A man with dark skin. Bald. He looked like he had a kind face, a distinguished mustache. A doctor.

But he didn’t wear scrubs. No… not a doctor. He wore a dark green plaid button-up, and dark tan slacks that swallowed the base of his shirt.

What the fuck was going on – this was the thought that played in my head on scratched vinyl. Over and over. A thousands time in a fearful, ADHD ridden mind, all in a single second.

He walked, and I moved – not by my own doing. Seemingly floating through space trailing behind him. Slight rumbles on my body, I must have been on a gurney. But at shin-level. It didn’t make sense.

All of a sudden my motion stopped. And soon after, so did he.

I could make out something beyond where he stood. In the dim lighting, and as my consciousness started to revive, I better understood more of my surroundings. I was in a city. But I wasn’t outside. I was sure if it. I saw buildings… sort of.

The man stood with his hands on his hips, and seemed like he was waiting for something. He faced a structure that I struggled to define.

“Alright, big guy! What’ll it be?”

His voice was deep, and energized, but calm.

From the darkness beyond where he stood, a muffled squark came back.

“Who’s there?”

This voice sounded a bit nasally, I remember picturing a geeky, balding man with thick glasses and a breast pocket full of pens.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My heart almost jumped out of my chest when my eyes gazed upon the figure that appeared. Rising out of the structure was no man. Not even close.

It was a ginormous and lanky shadow. It paused and faced our direction. Then it stepped into the light. I couldn’t look away. I wanted to close my eyes but fear stapled my lids ajar.

It had massive eyes. Long, gangly legs, and talons that made my guts wrench.

But despite those features, it was the razor like beak that will forever linger in the background of my thoughts.

“Gee.. I wonder.” replied the man.

“Ya? Well, your fucking late.” It’s bulbous eyes narrowed in on the man.

“Hey, cool it with that shit.” The man didn’t seemed phased.

“Oh you want me to be cool?” The feathers that donned it’s body from it’s head to it’s extremities ruffled. I could hear the sound that I fondly listened to in the height of autumn as a breeze swept through aging leaves.

“Easy, easy.” A softer voice interjected. I couldn’t see where it came from.

The creature twisted it’s neck in order to face the speaker. He looked annoyed, then turned back to the man.

“Your boyfriend wants me to go easy on you.”

It gave a nasally cackle as it turned and stomped back to where it came from.

“What’s taking you both so long.” It barely gave enough time to do anything but breath, before it talked again. I was reminded of my aunt, she hardly ever took a breath between sentences. Always loading questions into a magazine and squeezing the trigger, seldomly allowing an answer to be given.

The man disappeared out of my sight and joined his companion in doing something that I couldn’t see. The platform I was on jiggled, and rattled, as the two man grunted and mumbled to each other with shortened breath.

It sounded like they were lifting something heavy. I heard feet shuffling. And short, fast, nose huffs. And finally I could see the man again. And whatever he was carrying was loose, and flexible and swayed freely. Now both men were in my view and together they half-carried half-dragged something up to the creatures structure.

They slipped into a shadow and with a heave from both of them they dropped the item. With a loud thud I finally saw what it was. But surely I was mistaken.

It couldn’t be.

It wasn’t.

My eyes must have been lying to me.

Out of the shadow, and propped onto the edge of the structure where shadow met the light of an overhead lamp… the face of a middle aged man stared off into the abyss above. His mouth gaped open, and his eyes were wide. He possessed no soul. No emotion. No life at all.

“Goodie, goodie, goodie!” the creature gleefully shouted.

The two men sort of skipped out of the shadow and back towards me. I got a glimpse of the other man. He was shorter, but built similarly to the first man. His complexion was lighter, and his face was that of someone who hails from Hawaii or the southern pacific. He wore a dark purple argyle sweater.

The creature stood with a smile that formed at the edge of its knife-like beak. But that glee quickly turned into a look of worry.

“But hey, what about my friend?”

The man in green plaid instantly looked annoyed. After the cookie, comes thirst.

“Listen, we gotta keep moving. We got a lot of stops left to make.”

The creature’s visage went from a look of worry to irate.

“No, you listen you fat fuck.” It boomed with a nasally twang.

“Hey!” The man shouted back, now pointing a hand at the creature. “No, you listen!” He fired back. “I’m getting tired of this shit. Now you got your meal, kindly enjoy so we can get a move on.” His tone lightened a little at the end, the way a wits-end parent reasons with a child.

“Oh ya?” The creature replied.

“Ya.” insisted the man.

Then the creature’s eyes started to become streaked with red. And it slowly made its way off it’s structure. As it did, I realized that its structure was a massive nest.

It quietly spoke as it looked down at the man. “How about I peck your fucking face off, bitch.”

“Alright- alright- alright” the other man got between the two. “We will bring you up another.”

The showdown continued between the creature and the man in plaid. Both with eyes locked on each other. Both with a face of stone. Finally, the creature smirked. “Why, thank you.” It broke it’s stare with the man and turned and hopped back up into the nest.

“Girl.” came from the shadow of the nest.

I heard a groan come from the man in plaid.

The platform rattled and shook again. The two men hauled a thinner, smaller-framed, heap of shadowy mass up into the nest and it landed with a plop.

They returned once again, and the platform I was on started to move. My view was quickly changing, but not before I saw the massive beak plunge into the forehead of the middle aged man that was laid to waste up in that nest. I heard what sounded like a lawn dart hitting the dirt, over and over, accompanied by the ruffling of its feathers. Its beak quickly became covered in red juice with pink bits, the majority of which it swallowed as it tilted it’s head back and snapped it’s upper and lower jaws a few times. Snapped like a empty wooden box. Years ago, on Halloween night, a friend of mine went around to every pumpkin he could find, and rather than smashing it to pieces, made golf ball sized holes in them with the claw of a hammer. I saw those pumpkins when I looked at this man’s head. Once was an engine for rich thought and consideration, now was food for a creature of nightmares.

As I continued to float through space, I heard the sounds of that man’s body becoming a meal, and one last thing… ” when you see the can man, tell that jerk to smile once in a while” and the creature’s nasally cackle rang out and danced in the darkness.

The rumbling of my platform continued. I felt sick. But was frozen stiff. I was sweating and holding back a gag reflex that continued to try and seize control of my throat and stomach muscles. I had come to the realization of what was happening. I was on some kind of wheeled cart… pinned down by a pile of corpses, a pile of food for… these things.

These fucking monsters.

At least I had thought there was more than one. There sure as shit was more food.

And these.. people must work here as… slaves. I couldn’t wrap my mind around that part. They seemed like normal people.

I could remain frozen, but to do so, I had focused all of my energy on preventing major muscle movements that I forgot the minor. I felt a warm sensation around my crotch. I emptied my bladder and couldn’t stop.

How did I get here- I remember thinking to myself. I wanted more than anything to get away from where I was… for all those years. But now, I would give anything to be back there. Maybe it wasn’t so bad after all… not being loved.

I grew up in a small town, and at one point had a mother and a father. Over time though, it seemed my dad just … kind of stopped being there. I remember that I was excited when he would be there. And he would tell me about his trips. But then that changed too, overtime. My feelings changed, I was less excited each time. I remember telling myself to be excited, but I was too exhausted to really force it. And then I would spend my nights shamefully thinking about how I didn’t show enough enthusiasm for him… thinking he must have felt it, and must have been upset… thinking that I wasn’t doing enough for my own father. And maybe the reason why he wasn’t around as much was because I didn’t give him enough. And then the thought reset – a loop that ran until my brain shut off.

All of my friends’ parents were divorced. Well, all but one. So therefore my time growing up in this small town was normal. Although, we never had a television set. My mom said that the TV was a tool made by the devil, which was ironic coming from her – I could probably count the number of times on both of my hands that that woman stepped foot into a church… and still have a few digits left over.

My mom remarried when I was about 14. The guy was nice, but I remember always thinking he was a dweeb. His name was Phil, and he had a decent house that I got decently comfortable in. But that marriage didn’t last.

My mom could only afford a studio apartment above the bar that she worked, or at least that’s what I assumed. So I remained, the majority of the time at Phil’s house. It was kind of awkward at first, because I was originally brought into this man’s life as baggage, but now I’m there because… well I didn’t really comprehend it at the time.

Phil and I stayed out of each other’s way for the most part. I slept in the basement. I didn’t have a TV down there, but I did have a computer with internet access. We didn’t eat dinners together, but he would, for the most part, always have a plate for me. Or if he ordered out, he would get me something. A chicken-parm sub from Dom’s always hit the spot. And I never had to ask, or remind him… it just magically appeared from time to time.

So I spent my days rotating between houses. Majority at Phil’s, occasionally at my mom’s, and then seldomly with my dad. The holidays always seemed to jumpstart the cycle of house hopping, and then it would slowly peter-out and I would be in Phil’s basement for weeks on end, sometimes months.

Forth of July… start again. Thanksgiving… reset. Christmas… you get the idea.

Over time, that started to fade. As I got older it seemed like everyone cared… less. I wasn’t a bad kid. I got into mischief, but never trouble. Why didn’t they love me? I thought to myself, over and over as I drifted to sleep each night. Alcohol helped speed up the process, but never silenced it. Phil must have noticed missing booze from his stash, but probably didn’t care, or in fact, he probably understood why. I was 16 then, and he wasn’t blind to my situation.

And then… one day… I left.

The scream of the metal wheel continued. But through the noise the men were talking. I left my own head and listened.

“You catch the game last night?” The man in dark green plaid asked.

“Ffffff… no” the other replied with a long exhale, like letting the air out of a balloon. “Cynth wanted to have a meaningful talk last night, and ‘get to know each other better’ “. I couldn’t see him but I could tell he worked his index and middle finger up and down for that last part.

“Heh, too late for that. I mean you’ve been married longer than me.”

“Yeeeeep… but I couldn’t be that asshole last night”.

“Oh I would’ve been that asshole… Phillies swept, man.”

“Sure.. rub it in. It’s all good, yanks tomorrow night.”

“At sox, right?”

“No, home advantage, not that they need it” argyle chuckled under his breath.

“I just don’t know how you can be a Yankees fan. It’s sad. It’s a shame, that’s what it is.”

“You don’t like teams that win?”

“Oh so now you wanna be that asshole,” the man in plaid laughed as he spoke.

“Ya ya… and uh… speaking of assholes… I’ll take this one.”

“Ya you friggin owe me after the last one.”

The cart stopped.

“Chow time!” The man in argyle announced.

“SHUT UP!” Was almost immediately returned with the loud metallic slam. It was something metal that sounded heavy, yet flimsy and rattled the air around me. My body convulsed at the shock of the sudden rackit and I was yanked out of the droll conversation these two were having.

“Ok, what can the chef cook up for you?” The argyle man’s sarcasm was dense, and he rolled his arm over and over as he bowed.

More rattling from somewhere in the dark, and finally… it emerged.

This thing didn’t have a beak, nor feathers like the freakshow from before. No, it had gnarly and twisted dark green fur from head to toe. It too, had big bulging eyes, but its mouth was an empty black void as it spoke.

“Errrrrrr, what’s this pile of crap! Are you kidding me? This is the worst looking, sorry sack of…”

“Hey, hey, hey” the man in argyle interrupted. “I’m sure we have something you might like.”

“Hrrmph… got any diggers?”

“What did you just say?!” The man in green plaid jumped in with a scowl.

“Diggers! With a d- d- D! You nincompoop.”

The man in green plaid put his hands on his hips and turned around in frustration.

“No.. we didn’t have time to dig any up tonight.. sorry”

The creature looked very disappointed and folded it’s long, thin arms.

“Well I want something rotten… really, really, ROTTEN!” it continued.

“Hmmmmmm…..” I could tell the man in argyle was looking over this pile of has-beens.

“Get me… a soiled one.” the beast added.

Shit. I was laying there in jeans that were freshly soaked with urine. I began to panic in silence and closed my eyes and prayed it wasn’t me.

“Damn! This one definitely shit himself!” Said the man in plaid. He has been sniffing around the pile above me.

“Yes! Yes! The more rotten the better!” It shouted.

I felt the pressure release above me as the two men heaved and struggled to remove a corpse that had been one of the ones that weighed me down.

I opened my eyes again but wished I hadn’t. The green creature gazed upon the corpse of a heavy set, elderly man that was belly up in front of him. Its smile widened and needle-like teeth unfolded from inside its mouth. It was no longer a dark void, but rather a spiny flesh-hungry trap.

“Bon appetit,” the man in argyle said with a half-assed French accent.

The cart started moving and I watched as the monster leaned in and sunk it’s teeth into the man’s abdomen. I closed my eyes and heard a wet plop. Then a long slurp. And finally a deep gulp.

And the rumbling continued. So did the squeeky fucking wheel.

I shook my head slightly back and forth, and closed my eyes tight. The tears pooled and filled my eye sockets. I was facing up, and they had nowhere to go. I tried my hardest to hold my mouth from curling upward into a sob.

Then I thought of her again.

Maybe if I had stayed I could be with her, instead of here. Maybe I could be having dinner with her, instead of being something’s.

I was lying to myself though. Even if I had stayed she would have been with him. Or at least wanting to be with him. I wished for paying attention to me, rather than just putting up with me. But still… this false reality in my mind was better than the real brutality that was happening before my eyes.

I had fallen for her in recent years. Despite growing up together, my heart came alive with a jolt on Halloween night of ’03. But that was the extent of it. Daily, I relived the agonizing self-loathing of never making it into something more.

I must have started to drift off. And semi-dream rumination kicked in. A poem that I had written but never had the guts to show her.

Moon dust, radiant beams
Reflecting to earthly dreams
Through space and cosmic seams
You illuminate me

But, the next phase is clear
Your distance is near
Forever my hopes are fears
And the cycle continues, my dear

It was stupid and pathetic, I know. And honestly it probably would have scared her off. So it was best that I never shared it with her.

My tears had turned to salt flats. And I remember rattling back into the moment. The two men continued to chat. And then we stopped. And my anxiety rose once again. I knew by now the routine.

“Hey, hey, hey” the man in plaid announced. He seemed jovial, this time.

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From off in the distance, there were no words… there were only noises. Animal, primal noises. Grunts and pants, and phrases spoken in tongue. Incomplete gibberish emitted from a deep set of vocal chords.

From my vantage point I could see only a part of this one. It appeared to be covered in blue fur, and moved very sporadically.

The cart rattled and shifted as the two men went to work.

“Ugh I’m getting too old for this shit,” the man in plaid mumbled under his breath. And once again the pile got lighter.

A middle aged woman’s former self was plopped on the ground.

“Woah, stand back” said the man in argyle.

And before I could prepare myself, the blue creature let out a roar, its mouth became filled with short, razor blades that unevenly, and without pattern, lined its top and bottom jaw. It quickly began shredding the body to pieces. Bits of flesh shot through the air. Blood splattered all around. An arm, from the elbow up, landed in front of me. I could smell the iron from where I was. I could see gnarled bone protruding beyond the meat and skin casing. I think more of this woman landed on the floor than in the creature’s gullet.

The cart started moving. From the way these two were traversing it, this creature and it’s mangled pile of flesh came in full view. Blue and red clashed from head to toe. This thing’s jaws mashed and sawed through this poor woman’s former-self.

My body moved, boy I had made a huge mistake. My eyes fixated on the thing and locked into its eyes. It must have gotten that feeling – that whisper in the back of your brain that says someone was watching you. It’s stopped mashing and returned the stare. Now, as I was being hauled off I was making it know to this creature that I was alive.

The monster’s mouth turned into a huge smile and it began shaking its head up and down with excitement. And then we turned and I was no longer in its view.

“It wouldn’t be long,” I remember thinking to myself. What will happen when it’s my turn? Will I fight these two men and hope I can emerge the victor. But then what? These things may come after me. Maybe it’s better if I play dead and hope for a swift ending. What kind of sad sack of shit would I be then. I was still pinned down by dead weight. Gravity must have worked harder on the soulless – pulling them down absorbed into its outermost rim, its soil and flesh.

“You know… I’ve been thinking” said the argyle man.

“Ya..? It hurt?” replied the plaid man with a slight snicker.

“No, I mean it.” The other rebutted. “I’ve been doing some night classes and-“

“Woah… night classes, I didn’t know you were doing that,” plaid interrupted. “Good for you.”

“Thanks… thanks. No but really, I’ve been thinking.”
The hesitation in his speech allowed for another interruption

“What classes you been doing?”

“Uh. Sustainable Building Material-“

“Damn, alright,” plaid replied.

Argyle continued, “Ya I don’t know… something about this… this job. I’ve been doing a lot thinking. And you know I was watching the news, and these young kids going to the middle east, just getting send to die over there, being told it’s an honor to fight for your country, and I was thinking that… man they must be making like… like pennies to our dollar. And how messed up is that. Getting paid hardly anything… and then there are people like us.” He took a breath. “I mean are we really worthy of our pay checks? I just… and I don’t want you to take this the wrong way… but I mean c’mon man. Look at us. … Is this really what you wanted in your life back when you were starting out?” His rant was a bit incoherent at times, but he seemed to have a lot on his mind.

“For me… it pays the bills, and I am good with that. But listen Superman, you do you and save the planet.” plaid sad with a chuckle at the end.

“I just don’t think I can do this… much longer.” Argyle went on. “I’ve reached the end.”

“Uh huh… and what have these classes been teaching you?”

“Well… for one thing, there is so much waste in everything we do. And if everyone just chose to make a difference, we could start to turn this planet around. And… and even though that’s not the same as soldiers oversees, at least it’s something that I could look back on and say that I did what I could.”

“Hmmmm.” Plaid pondered on the words he was hearing.

“Take your roof for example.”

Plaid wasn’t satisfied yet. “…. And?”

“Well… and everyone should be roofing their homes with dirt and then planting grass.”

Plaid let out a sudden, nasally, snorting laugh.

“Oh ya? And how is that working out at your house?”

Argyle replied “Yeah… Cynthia isnt up for that…”

“Mmmmhmmmmm” plaid replied.

The buffet train stopped once again. This time we were at the foot of a house. I could see through the single window in the front. The interior lighting was somewhat bright, and it looked colorful inside. I remembered my kindergarten class, and started to match the vague similarities. I wasn’t surprised though. Nothing could have surprised me at this point.

“Let’s see… we are doing every-other, right?” The man in plaid suggested.

The argyle man took the cue, and started toward the front door with a “right-o”.

Moments later, he returned and had a disappointed look on his face.

“He wants one… warm,” the argyle man spoke.

“Well what does he think? We gonna microwave one of them? Jesus.” Plaid was annoyed.

The man in argyle just gave him a look. This next monster wanted a warm corpse. That wasn’t possible. It could only mean one thing. Oh God. “This was it,” I remember thinking.

“All right, you start checking that side,” the man in plaid said, in a defeated tone.

“What are the odds we find a pulse,” the argyle man asked.

“Well what choices do we have?”

The man in plaid held a skinny wrist in his hand. Almost instantly he dropped it. “Icy!” He announced.

It wouldn’t be long until he found I still had a heart rate. That my body was warm. So what would I do? I laid there, as still as I could be and contemplated my plan. I could roll and kick and punch as much and as hard as I could. And in reality this guy shouldn’t see it coming. As far as they both know, I’m just another lifeless body.

One away.

I was next, I was sure of it.

Oh God, here we go.

“Bingo!” argyle shouted.

“You’re messin” with me.”

“I’m serious! I got a pulse! And he feels pretty warm if you ask me.”

“Damn, alright.” A sense of relief mixed with disappointment. … Did this man feel bad?

The man in plaid disappeared from my view and the cart rattled as they started to get the offering prepared. During the shuffle, it must have knocked some consciousness into the poor man. I could here low groans. Mumbled moans. Incoherent drone.

“He isn’t going to like this,” said argyle.

“Alright… uh. Get the hammer.”

I heard the sound of a metal chest opening, and then some rattling of tools. I remember Phil had a tool chest in the basement and he would occasionally riffle around for tools, waking me up in the early morning.

“Wha- what do you suggest?”

The man in plaid responded, “just his jaw.”

I remember feeling tingly as a dull, fleshy thump stumbled through the air. The opened mouthed groans became muffled. But also more sporadic, chaotic, heightened as they smashed his jaw in an attempt to shut him up.

“Good enough'” plaid suggested.

I watched with a new sense of terror. I had almost come to peace with that fact that these men were serving up dead people. But now… everything changed.

In the window the two men were talking to someone outside of my view. They were gesturing to the thing in there. It looked like they were justifying the offering.

Then I saw it.

Crimson fur all over.

A mouth full of square, oversized human-like teeth.

It bent down out of sight. I couldn’t hear anything.

Then a muffled snap. Followed by a muffled high-pitched groan.

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The monster arose back into view, with an arm in hand that looked like it was torn at the elbow. He gestured it up to the two men… who both immediately shook their heads. Like pions respectfully denying a cannoli from the godfather.

The red creature raised it above his head and with his mouth open wide, he let the blood drip down. He lapped at it as he emptied out the appendage. And finally he lowered it into his mouth and wrapped it’s lips around it and pulled. The forearm looked like an empty tube flapping in front of him. I remembered watching my uncle suck the meat out of a crab leg one summer night.

And with that, the two men walked out and back to the cart. The rumbling vibrations started once again. But there was something different about this journey. The men didn’t speak to each other. Perhaps there was noting to say, no meaningless conversation to be had, after what they had witnessed during the red creature’s feast.

After a few minutes of rolling around, the world around me went very dark. And I got one last glimpse of the two men.

“What a night,” argyle said. And he reached up for something.

“You said it,” returned plaid. ” But look at the bright side, we have plenty for tomorrow… this never happens.” He gave the man in argyle a pat on the shoulder

All light disappeared as he pulled down on a flexible, accordion door. It shut with a bang. But I could still hear the two talking beyond the barrier.

“Aw damn, I left the lock in my dressing room,” plaid said.

“Alright, while you get that I gotta take a leak.”

And then.. silence.

I was in complete darkness. Along with at least a half dozen cadavers.

But I wasn’t going to wait any longer. I made my move, and I didn’t care any more about getting caught.

I had been completely still for… what seemed like hours. And to move again was liberating. I remember that my head started pounding and I almost tipped over when I first sat up. I shook myself loose from anything that had been laying on me for that whole ordeal and I lunged for the door.

I must have been in some kind of storage unit. I remember this type of door from when my mom moved to the studio apartment and we had to make several trips back and forth to the self-storage yard.

The handle was down at the ground and smack dab in the center. I gripped it and swung it up with vigor. My eagerness to survive pumped adrenaline though my bloodstream. My heart pounded and my muscles engaged with unlimited strength.

I oriented myself in a large hallway, and bolted in one direction. I remember thinking that it didn’t matter if I ran into one of these guys. I was so hopped up on the stuff that I probably would have tore his eyeballs from their sockets.

As I rounded the corner… no one.

An exit sign. I plowed through the door. I darted between two yellow berries with chipped paint. Ahead of me was a hill leading up to a tree line, and I felt like I was floating as my legs bounded me up the incline and out of sight beyond the trees and low shrubs.

I ran.

I ran as fast as I could. Each step triggered a beat, and each beat sent a wave to my head which bounced off of it like a drum. It hurt. It hurt more than anything I had ever experienced before. But I didn’t care.

I kept looking back to see if anyone was on my tail. But there wasn’t. No mob, human or creature, was running me down, trying to get me back into that hell hole.

In the distance, the sky was beginning to glow a faint blue. It was almost dawn. And I had cleared myself of the woods, and ran toward a road that ran perpendicular to my path.

To my left, nothing. To my right, the faint glow of… something. I was jogging at this point. Parallel to the road I traveled, but not alongside it just incase they came looking for me, I was set back enough.

As I drew nearer, I could make out a small building and a few structures. It was a bus stop.

No one was there.

I approached an old, wooden bench and panted as I stumbled onto it. The pain relieving endorphins were increasingly dwindling in my system, and that pain in my head escalated to agony. The last thing I remember was that the world around me began to shift, and spin. And then… nothing.

I blacked out. But I remember where my mind went while I was unconscious. When I left town I started on foot. But when my feet wore out, I grabbed the first bike I could find. And I pedaled. And pedaled until my calves burned and thighs quivered. I stopped at the first bus stop. It had a burger joint and convenience store. I grabbed a few snacks, stuffed my pack and made tracks to the burger counter. Unlike the store, I had to pay first and was out a few bucks. But that greasy double and Coke was worth it.

I hopped on the 4:35 to get as far away as I could. I made peace with never seeing her again. Phil died three weeks ago. My mom was doing… mom things. And my dad? It didn’t matter. I left saying farewell to… no one.

The first leg was boring, yet somewhat exciting. I remember feeling sick. Not from the burger, but from the change. I hated where I had been, but at least I knew it. What came after this first bus ride, I didn’t have a clue. And I was scared shitless. But I hadn’t felt fear in a long time. I remember it felt… good.

Off one bus, onto another. The cycle continued. I had this idea in my head that I would eventually step off a bus, and the warm sun would greet me as my feet sunk into sand. The waves would be crashing and seagulls would be flying off into the yellow hazy sky. It was a place where I could never feel cold again, and always have the sun’s embrace.

I hadn’t spoke more than a handful of words to anyone for my entire journey so far. Finally on the third bus ride, out of… well, as many as it took, I had a neighbor. The bus was jam-packed, must have been a popular commuter route.

A few miles went by before he said anything – I had no intentions of initiating.

“They ain’t never gonna finish that,” he said gesturing out the window. Cranes and excavators, dozers and rollers, were sprinkled amongst concrete blocks, piles of dirt, and massive pipes. The area was mostly flat except for occasional pools of water that had been collecting rain and the mounds of dirt that sat long enough to sprout grass.

“Been back and forth, five days a week, the past three years.” He continued. “Looks the damn same.”

I didn’t say anything, just raised my eyebrows as if I was interested.

“The trucks are in different spots though. They must be just shifting them around. Cycling through spots. Moving dirt from here to there. Makin’ it look like something’s happening. But it isn’t. And we all know that.”

He didn’t let up.

“Politicians wanna just blow through that money. They just burn it.”

Again, I said nothing.

“You want my advice?”

Not really, I thought but didn’t say.

“Stay clear of politics. Wherever your going.”

Maybe he was more entuned than I thought. Had he known I wasn’t an everyday commuter, doing the slog, day in and day out?

“That,… and show business. It’ll chew you up, but won’t ever spit you out.” He nodded his head to emphasize his point. And with that, he didn’t speak another word to me. He said what he needed to say and that was it.

My memory stopped playing back to me. I started to open my eyes. The bright overhead lights put a strain on me and I couldn’t keep them open for long.

A metal squeak softly tickled my ear drums. The first person I saw was a man. He had dark skin, and a goatee that gave him a distinguished look. When he noticed that I was looking at him, he smiled.

I spent the next several hours answering questions. The same dozen questions asked by a dozen different people. Eventually the person who seemed to be the doctor explained to me that I had a fractured skull and was very lucky that I was alive.

I was found at a bus stop, and soon after, picked up by EMTs. The hospital was comfy enough, and these people genuinely looked like they cared about my well being. Especially one nurse who seemed to pity me a little, but I didn’t really care. No one ever showed pity to me before. Maybe Phil did, but in a different way.

I had a bed and a TV. They brought me some chocolate pudding and apple juice cups. But I figured it wouldn’t be long until I was out of there. But before I left I figured why not scan the tube for something to escape my mind to. I really had never had control over a TV remote before. I knew how to use it and at a friend’s house would fiddle with it, but this time it was all mine.

As I flipped, I saw two middle aged men in a cramped apartment talking about nothing. One complained to the other about a woman with excessively large hands. The invisible audience was in stitches.

I flipped some more. A man was cutting leather shoes with a knife.

Kept flipping

Kept flipping.

Kept flipping.

Then I froze. My stomach twisted deep inside me. My throat went dry.

There they were. All of them.

The beaked creature with lanky legs. The green, angry monster whose needle-like teeth were retracted so that his mouth was an open void. The blue hulking ogre, and… the thing with red hair. That horrible beast that sucked out human meat between skin and bone. That disgusting creature that wanted to feast on living flesh. Then the two men. The two men that served up… people, like they were hotdogs on a cart.

What the fuck was I watching.

My eyes couldn’t look away. They were all there, singing a song.

As I laid in the hospital bed, and watched my nightmare be celebrated on the television set, my mind went to the last thing my bus companion said.

More creatures of all shapes and colors appeared. There was more… so many more. I could no longer watch – maybe my mom was right. I refocused my gaze to the window. The sun was starting to set. Soon, darkness would set in. Soon, the cool breeze of night would sweep across the land. Soon, the moon would rise again and cast its glow.

No warmth.

No embrace.

Nothing.

Repeat.

Credit: Dranek

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