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When afraid you don't really think of your options. You just think of survival. I just think of holding him back long enough to live.
Ditch jumps over me immediately and the chard of glass comes forward. He weighs more then he did before. I wonder why? He is much more stronger. He is making an attempt to jab it in my eye! His hand moves towards my face and I grab it. I am screaming and panicking, but it doesn't seem to help. Why doesn't he come to his right frame of mind and stop this? Nothing is helping. The total emptiness of feeling in his eyes is become obvious. He only sees my death. I'm pushing at his hand, but its not helping, so I use all my energy to stop him from advancing further. I am praying that my presence returns to me and saves me. It is around me. I can see the wind lifting up his clothes, but it does not have enough force to move him.
Saccharine immediately comes to my aide and I see her trying to push him off of me. I use this as my chance. I focus all my intentions on taking this man off of me. I feel like I will lift my arm and push him off but instead it is the wind that comes. In a heroic swoop, the wind throws this man off of me like he weighs nothing at all.
"Stop it!" Saccharine says but he doesn't listen to her.
He is reaching out at me with his hand and I am crawling away. My mouth feels dry and I am struggling to get to my feet. Saccharine is barking at me to "Run away!" I am only half listening to her and half trying to come to terms with what is happening. I am struggling to get to my feet, but I don't try all the way because I am expecting Ditch to snap back into reality any time now. I struggle and make my way to the wall and then I start running. I run around the kitchen cabinet again and look back to see Ditch coming to his feet. He seems completely unaware of Saccharine as though this outrage has been plotted exclusively for me. He is making his way up and about to run after me. I finally get to the front door and look at him. I turn the door and throw my body out of it through the opening. My hands snap on the door clutching it and my body becomes a swing set as I clutch to the knob. I close the door behind me and I keep the door shut with my hands. I feel him turning the lock. He is trying to come out, but my hands won't let him. My hands have locked onto this door and I want to cry. I want to cry because of fear, but knowing my condition, I cannot bring myself to tears. I accept that my father is now trying to kill me. Then again...he isn't my father. Still, his intentions seem to be outside of his control. Why is he screaming with eagerness to hurt me? I hear Saccharine and I think about whether it is right to leave her with this madman. He isn't after her though.
Suddenly he stops trying to turn the knob. I still hold onto the door for fear but then in the corner of my eye I see the neighbor. He has come back with his children and they have groceries in his hands. All of their faces are full of wonder as they see me clutching to this door as though I am holding onto my life. They don't understand that I can't let it turn, but then they don't see the struggle that is on the other side of the door. He has stopped turning the door. Why am I still holding it? How could he have done this to me?
I stop holding the door and back to the wall behind me. My back hits the hard wall and I slide down it because my legs are heavy. The scar across my waist is still bleeding and I think the neighbors notice this as they look on. They are watching me as some kind of Broadway play.
I scream at them, "Move!"
They don't need to hear me say it again because all of a sudden they are afraid. They were always a little afraid of me. They leave without a second glance. I cross my hands and stand at the door. Why has he calmed down? I wonder if he has finally come to his right mind. It must have been something in him that has come out finally. It had to be the spirits somehow got into his head. Maybe Ditch died at work and the spirits got into him.
I get up and open the door. Saccharine is standing there looking at me. All the makeup that she wears is streaming down her face in tears right now. It washes off of her and I see a woman that I've never known before until now. She is beautiful underneath the paint and I always thought all those cosmetics were never really necessary. This beautiful woman holds a knife in her hand and I look to see that her hands are bloody. She has these black gloves in the other hand but when she sees me, she has paused. I walk into the room even though she seems to want to tell me to stop. As I walk in I see the body sitting there. He is squirming, still alive. My mouth drops open to think that gentle Saccharine is responsible for this. I am more likely to think that he has stabbed himself and she just happened to pick up the murder weapon afterwards. However, she has no regret when I am looking at her. She is not sad at all. She looks like a woman who has finally found something that she's been missing for a long time. I watch as she goes to the faucet and uses the black gloves to turn the water on. Saccharine rinses the blood from her hands under the stream of tab water. I am so surprised that she hasn't broken out into a feminine whining where it would be necessary for someone to come comfort her. It is not necessary to comfort Saccharine any longer.
"Are you ok?'
The way she states it I am shocked. She is a changed woman.
I nod, "Yes...I'm fine."
"I want you to go take my phone," Saccharine tells me as she wears the black gloves, "Its right there by the Rose of Sharon plant. Take it and go to your friend's house for the night. I'll call it to check up on you from time to time."
"What about him?"
"Don't worry about him!" she says with this quick anger that I've never seen her compile, "Just don't you worry. I'll call you when it's safe to come back."
I watch as she finishes wearing the gloves and all of a sudden, she becomes awfully impatient with me. She goes to the plant and points out the phone. I pick it up and continue looking at the man, who is still reaching out to me with cruel intentions in his eyes. He is helpless and I know this. I feel a pity for him, but Saccharine doesn't seem to see him any longer. She has had her moment of clarity and who would I be to steal it away from her? I allow her the moment and I walk out of the door, thinking that it is some kind of fate that all of this should happen.
I dial a number in my phone.
"Victor, what's wrong?" my cousin asks as I call him on the phone.
"Listen, where does Nick live."
"Victor...it's too late to be causing any trouble with that guy. If he did something, we'll deal with it tomorrow."
"Badger, its not that. I need to know where he is. If I could tell you why then it would probably make it easier for you to understand, but right now all I have to say is I need your help."
"Is that really all you have to say?"
"Yeah. It is."
He tells me where Nick lives and I don't tell him anything in return. I can't tell him anything because I know that he is sleeping. He thinks that his life is so complete and he has these dreams. I can't wake him up from that dreamy sleep because he won't like everything that he sees. He is too comfortable to face something like this. I am much more qualified to deal with this. I have nothing to lose.
I am knocking on Nick's door now. I knock four times before someone finally answers. The person is a guy who looks like he is in his early forties and he has on these square glasses. I wonder if it is Nick's father, but I don't think so. They don't look anything alike at all. This man's face doesn't have that same masculinity and purpose that Nick's face has. His face seems so different from Nick. The man seems to have forgotten about preserving any attractiveness at all. He seems to have let go of any pride or dignity. I ask him for Nick and he seems a little annoyed at first, but then goes to get him. Nick lives not too
. Nick lives not too far away from me at all. His house is one of those houses that is sitting on the corner and has a lot of traffic surrounding it. It's noisy really. I wonder how he gets any sleep at all. However, he seems like he has been sleeping. He is in his boxers and a t-shirt. He is scratching his eyes, but still manages to give a polite smile as he sees me standing at the doorstep.
"Victor?" he asks. He doesn't know why I am there. I guess he is the only one that I can go to. The only number I've memorized belonged Badger and Badger knew Nick.
I don't want to tell Nick that he is my only option and that is the only reason that I'm here. He is cocky enough. I allow him to think this is some kind of peace treaty between the two of us that I am showing up at his doorstep.
He steps aside and invites me in. I walk into the door and look around the house. It is everything that my house is not. The neatness is completely forgotten. I try to imagine how Saccharine would deal with something like this. She would be so excited to clean all of this up, but now I think Saccharine has changed. Maybe with her new confidence, she has also found the same forgetfulness that is in this house. Nick is looking around and he seems aware of how his house looks like. He quickly tries to fix a few of the worst things in the house and I don't blame him. I would be embarrassed if a former enemy walks into my house and sees underpants covering the couch as well. I see that he has a bar in his house and it seems like the only completely clean part of the entire area. I lounge around here, signaling this is where I want to be around.
"Have a seat," he says to me.
I want to sit and I make an attempt to do so. I feel the stunning pain against my waist though from where Ditch slashed me with the chard of glass. Nick immediately notices this. I watch as though the reality of things were finally coming alive in his eyes. He seems afraid to address it for a moment so he just stares at my wound.
I bear my face as though saying, "This is what you are hiding from." Sooner or later, he has to say something and he takes a step closer as though to make certain that he is seeing what I see.
"What happened to you?" he asks, but before I answer he continues, "Maybe I should get something to clean it. God, um...get up on the stool. I'll get some ice or something. Um...damn! Where is that goddamn ice, Dad?"
"No more ice!" The voice of his father calls out at the man appears in the room, "Why, what do you need it for?"
"My friend is injured. Damn! Its still bleeding isn't it?"
I nod and laugh a little bit. He probably thinks it's a little strange that I'm laughing, but he doesn't notice that he called me his friend. When did we become friends? I must have not noticed it.
"What's so funny?" Nick asks.
I look at his father who also begins to panic. Both of them begin to bark orders at one another. Suddenly, Nick disappears into the bathroom and I think he's given up trying to help because of frustration. His father remains watching me as though trying to talk the blood into stopping. He checks my head continuously. Nick returns and he has this towel that has been soaked with water. He presses it against my waist and I let out of a scream because of the amount of pressure he puts on it. Nick is an athlete and he has a strength that he doesn't even seem aware of. He continues to put force on it like this despite my whining. He puts so much force on it that his muscles and veins are revealed even through his shirt because of the mount of strain he applies.
"What's your name?" Nick's father asks me.
I tell it to him. I am uncomfortable saying it though.
"Ok Victor, everything is going to be fine," he tells me in this sentimental voice that makes me a little comforted, "My son is going to stay here and keep putting pressure on it. It should stop bleeding. It's just a flesh wound, ok? It's nothing serious. I am going to have to call an ambulance however, just to make sure that everything is fine."
"No...I don't want any of that..." I tell him.
There will be too many questions and one of them would be how this happened. I don't want them to find out what Ditch did to me because they would go try to find Ditch. What would they find instead? I am not sure if I am willing to risk any of that. I look at Nick as though wanting him to understand. I am so appreciative of how nice his dad is.
So has Nick though. Behind all of that bad boy camouflage he was hiding humanity. It is a little bit surprising, but then again I think that presence of goodness has always been in Nick. I think that is probably why I had that intense feeling of hate towards him. I hope I'm not jumping to conclusions.
"Dad...it'll be alright," Nick tells him and then adds, "I'll clean it with the first aid kit later on. You have to get up early in the morning. You should probably go to sleep."
"No...your friend is more important than work."
"No I'm not," I tell him and smile to show him that I was in a good mood, "Go on ahead."
"Ok ok," he says, "Just trying to help."
He staggers off to his bedroom. I want to tell Nick he should treat his father nicer. I don't though. Nick is looking at me. I can't believe how handsome he is up close. I wonder if my eyes are giving away how my attraction to him. It wasn't too long ago I found Auster attractive and now I was finding him attractive. The difference was Nick and I hated each other. Didn't we? We were supposed to. Here he was though gently tending to my wounds while I gazed back in some type of adoration!
"So what happened?" he asks in this silent voice as though afraid that I won't tell him.
I wonder if I should tell him. Is he really even worth telling?
"You won't believe me," I tell him and smile
I shake my head, "Why? It doesn't concern you. Why are you even worrying about it?"
He presses a cloth filled with alcohol directly on my wound. I cry out in pain and he hands me a small towel to bite on so that the pain can become less intense. I bite onto it harder then I've bitten onto anything. I want to scream at him. I want to bite onto him so that he can feel what I felt.
"Why the hell did you do that? Dumbass!"
"It's better that you didn't know when I put it there," he explains to me and then continues, "You're fine though. I bet it doesn't hurt that much."
He is speaking to me as though telling me to calm down. He probably thinks I'm some ungrateful piece of work and I think about it. I probably am. I look at him and notice that he is really interested about helping me. He is putting all of his attention into this. Has he forgotten the person that he is putting so much work into?
"I have to admit I'm only here because had no one else to go to."
He laughs, "Yeah, I know."
"That doesn't mean I owe you though. I helped you out once, you helped me out. We are even. We don't have to pretend to like each other anymore. "
He is continuing to laugh, "I am not asking you what happened because I am a nosy person. I am asking because I am concerned about your welfare. I think you came here because you needed someone to talk to."
"No, I came here because you are aware enough to be satisfied with no answers," I tell him and take his hands off of my wound, "I really don't need your help. You don't even believe what's going on."
"You are a piece of shit, you know that?"
gets up off of me.
"I was just trying to help you out. You think I help people out. Man that's what I get for trying to be nice."
There it was again. All the attraction I felt for him out the window. He was acting like a dick again. He rolled his eyes hard at me.
"Didn't you hear what Patra said, this isn't my body. You are helping Victor..."
"Victor isn't here...I'm helping you...whoever the hell you are. You can't see that though because you are that guy who always overthinks things. What if I was just trying to be nice? That is all. You always think I have some sort of hidden agenda. You want an explanation for everything. Come on man, I know you. Patra isn't here. Auster isn't here. I am here for you right now."
I feel something.
"I am here." He repeats.
I hadn't never seen Nick take himself so serious. He seemed vulnerable right now. For a moment he was showing off some indication that I had hurt him with what I said. I didn't know it was possible really.
"And I feel alone, but why do I have to feel alone when you are supposedly in the same boat as I," I ask him and I find that bitterness towards Nick that I hidden away, "Why should you be so damn comfortable at home while my father is trying to kill me? That is what he did. He was possessed by a spirit I believe. Either way he tried to kill me. He looked just like Ms. W. Hell has come to earth. Don't you see it? No, you are too busy thinking about yourself to see what threatens everyone else. Did you hear me? I've seen hell tonight and I am here to offer you proof that everything Patra said was real. You treated the wound. I am not going to convince you any further if you don't believe me. Why are you looking at the floor now? Shit, this is pointless...I'm leaving."
He is holding my hand.
He stops me and I am amazed. We are so close.
"You aren't alone. Ok...I did it today. I created fire. It just happened. I was actually thinking about you. Every time I think of you...look."
He opened his palm.
It wasn't exactly fire but it was sparks of something in his palm. It looked like as though it could become fire though. The light sparks in his palm could grow into a flame if pushed.
"You believe her now?"
I shake my head, "You should be careful. My father attacked me out of nowhere. Patra said people have to die but once they do a spirit can possess them."
"Yeah the fire will protect me..."
"Well I'm just offering advise. Even though we hate each other I think we are in this together."
"I don't hate you Victor..."
He steps forward, "I can prove it..."
Before I know it we are hugging. It is a strange thing and if it was any other situation but ours it would seem weird. It is perfect though. To have someone so close to you that is willing to share in all your trouble is amazing.
He allows me to stay the night. We sleep on opposite couches in his living room. The next morning I get a call from my mother saying that she wants to see me. Surprisingly Nick actually doesn't mind coming with me.
We are walking to the apartment and I lag behind. He isn't really saying anything but I think he wants to because he keeps looking back. He is also asking me for directions frequently because of how far back I begin to lag. We argue. It seems to be a reoccurring theme with Nick and I that we should argue. The unspeakable hatred that Nick continues to hide from me is not on my mind though. I am really just trying to think of everything that Patra said. If she was right about the spirits then she was right about everything else as well. So were we body snatchers?
"Victor, did you see that?" Nick asks me.
We have finally reached my building and we are walking towards the elevator. I look around to see what he is talking about. I see some people getting ready to go on their morning routes to work or school. I see the little boy who lives upstairs and has these chubby fingers. His expression is full of complete malice like he has done something wrong. Across from him is his mother and she is blinded to think that he is the best son in the world. She reminds me of Saccharine. She doesn't see her son, even though he is right there. If she could see him then she would know that he probably has stolen from her purse or something. I want to tell the little boy to wipe away his face of malice because whatever he did means nothing. In his world, he is so important. His little secret menacing actions perhaps have weighed him to thing he is the greatest sinner in the world. No, kid, wipe that pride off your face. You don't have a worry in the world. Is this what Nick is trying to warn me about?
"What do you see?"
"Over there. It was a woman and she was trying to call us. I was about to go, but you didn't seem to notice her."
I look over to where he was pointing. There is no woman there now. There is an old jacket that the old security guard always has. It shouldn't be hung there because anyone who enters the building has access to it, while he is chasing the little kids out of the laundry room (which is down the hall) for playing with people's carts. The old security guard is there.
"She's not there," I tell him and step into the elevator.
"I've been having dreams," Nick tells me as we get into the elevator.
We are on the way up and we are talking.
"Just the real Nicholas Podarge. I believe he died in his sleep. My dad didn't notice and there was no crazy death like the rest of you. It is the only thing that makes sense in my case. He used to have horrible aneurisms in his sleep when he was 6. He died and I took his place. That is why there is no big story to it. My dad and mom weren't aware."
"They didn't notice any personality change?" I ask him, just for the sake of continuing the conversation.
"I guess not...or maybe they liked the change so they didn't mention it," Nick says with this hint of egotism that is really rare with his character so it amuses me to laugh a little bit.
I quickly changed the subject so not to get annoyed with him.
"You think Ms. W is going to be in school today?"
"I hope not. I don't want to see her."
"I walk into the kitchen and find that everything is clean. The floor that was bloodied up the day before is completely clean. All the broken dishes are gone. Saccharine must have spent all night trying to clean it up. I walk into the next room and then find my way to the hallway that leads to my bedroom. I walk into my bedroom with caution because there is a cool breeze all around there. As I come into my room, I realize that Saccharine has cleaned up all glass pieces that I scattered the day before. She has not replaced the window. She wouldn't dare replace that window.
"We should get to school," Nick says as he walks into the room.
I don't turn to look at him. I am glancing at my piano. The brown wood is polished to the point that I can almost see my reflection through it. The keys are not white, but are a tan color that looks like mulatto skin that has become pale in the cold.
"There is no point," I tell him.
I sit down and begin to play on the piano. The notes run smoothly out of the piano when I begin to play. It is a song that I've never played but it seems so familiar. It is one of those melodies that have been stuck in your head for so long, but you can't remember where it came from. Maybe it was a dream. I can't really tell because I can't remember. It isn't important though. The song isn't a very nice song. I understand that, but my fingers are still playing it. It reminds me of running down a street and there is nothing worth running for but you can't slow down because you are afraid of being left behind. What if time passes you? What if you become so left behind that everything around you has become a dream? Maybe then you won't know the difference between a dream and reality. Then you will be playing a song that you thought was a dream, but was really the unknown anthem of your life.
"I like it," Nick tells me.
I look at him in wonder. He isn't supposed to like it. It isn't the songs that he is used to hearing. It isn't the peaceful serenades that you play when your entire life has been composed of morality. Maybe he listens to songs like this when no one is looking or maybe he is just pretending to like my song.
"Do you really?" I ask him, "I doubt it. You should stop trying to make me feel like I'm not some kind of nasty piece of trash. You already admitted it."
"Maybe I was wrong..."
"No you weren't. My life was in ruins. I don't see through the window that they've given me to see. I am completely free to see what I want now. You understand? I broke their glass. It was more than just a window. It was my life."
Nick looks down at his feet. He is being a weird person. The thing is Nick wasn't a "weird" person. I was a weird person. People like Nick were too cool not to make fun of moments like this.
People like him are supposed to laugh and say that I am being too dramatic. He should be saying that a window doesn't mean anything. He should say that I am an American, so I am already free. He should be showing his naivety. Nick doesn't speak though. He doesn't stare at the window anyway. He walks back out of the room as though overwhelmed by the moment. I want to laugh at how weird he is being...
He is being weird just like me.
"We should go back to school," he keeps saying.
He may be right. A part of me is afraid though. Knowing what happened at school isn't really the thing. I look over at Nick. He keeps saying we aren't in this together. I hope he's right. I nod to him agreeing with what he's saying. It probably isn't smart to go back to the school, but it is what we have right now. It is where we can meet Auster and Patra
My heart beats because I know something is going to go down at that school. Something big..