Catch-All

 

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I: Extreme Confusion

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Andrew Fishers

That summery day went with a friend's painful absence; I was at some fast-food grazing on a burger alone. The day was hot but the restaurant had air-conditioning much colder than the present's fluttering breeze. I had waited, waited, long for Peter to come along. He'd promised we'd hang today.

Since Peter still wasn't around after minutes had passed, I had settled with leaving after taking a mindful visit to the bathroom.

Inside, the fragrance itself painted a picture of a pristine CR, a baggy-clothed man being the only thing that was peculiar. He had dark tendril-like hair and a shaggy beard. I imagined calling him Frank, no idea why. His front faced a pedestal so I payed no mind to him and settled deeds with a spare stall just beside him. My legs were noodles when I leaked.

A fist lunged onto the back of my skull when I had finished and prepped for the sink. I quickly turned but tumbled from another, blasting my face and my nose especially.

Epiphany struck me when I regained my stupor: Frank. I demanded what he wanted but not even a cultivated converse would do good for me.

He sent a right cross, but I swiftly ducked and returned with a hook, this one connecting to his chest. A fist met my chin, and I stumbled onto the sink, coppery taste dripping from my mouth. Frank had a profound bruise on his pecs, and I realised the discarded shirt on the floor, his upper body exposed with bulkiness.

With a cry, he launched himself onto me and latched my neck in a chokehold. I frolic jammed my elbows onto his sides as I wheezed and trashed. I forced him back and threw him off onto a wall. He reached for something, thus giving me an opening—I swung a heel that blasted his crotch. He cried out and lost his balance. I capitalized by turning and slamming him. His back smacked loudly. Frank got up and I drew near, but he backhanded me quickly.

I whipped around and hooked him. His face was a painful red. He wailed as he clutched the ache on his jaw and dribbling nose.

Tunnel-visioned by my attack, I stepped forward and blew a fist at the same spot. That wasn't enough. A right uppercut finally sent him limp onto the grey floor, my knuckles stained with sinful blood.

My breath was ragged as I sought to catch it and my chest heaved quickly. I wheezed as my knuckles tightened, and it was then had I realised that they were stained with my blood, and when the cracked mirror drew my attention I saw bruises on my torso, and one on my chin. An eery silence had already fallen and my unexpected opponent was stuporous; other than my own bursts of breath, the only distinct sound was the humming of the ventilation, though that was subtle enough to be of no one's matter.

I barely registered Frank's breath when I had knelt beside him with reaching hands. His pulse was my first concern: nothing.

My knuckles tightened painfully, but when I hurriedly dragged the body into an empty toilet compartment the pain was was easily comparable. I locked the compartment, left the bathroom with an eyeful of visitors, and exited the fast-food. I hoped no one would eventually figure. But how long until now? I grimaced.

What had I done?

 

...

 

I sprung awake with a ragged breath, but it was dark. Ringing. My instinct sought for the source—my nightstand. I gave the topmost a hard whack, but the infuriating noise prevailed. Desperately trying to hike off my stupor, one elbow against the furniture, I balled my fist and slammed it down onto the digital clock—the ringing stopped. Finally. I gave a hefty stretch and yawn. My eyes were groggy and tired, but I checked the clock nonetheless. 4:30AM, it screamed.

I naturally woke up early, and I never abhor about it. Some people I know sought to woke up early without having the case of Monday blues, a general predicament, especially those who aren't lark. I wasn't lark, nor an owl, either way I was thankful that I woke up early without loathing or something.

But on a side-note, I wanted nothing more but to let slumber retake me. So, with a heavy groan I decided to lay back on my bed. A few minutes passed... with my eyes still scanning the room. I considered my attempt of rest unfruitful, so I settled with starting the day.

I felt alacritous and natural when I exited my bedroom and started down the hallway into the bathroom. Inside, I tended to my hygiene; taking a hasty leak in the morning was always splendid—the steaming shower even more so. Slowly drifting me off of my stupor. I exited and dressed.

I had just remembered that today was a Saturday. Likewise my parents wouldn't be awake until 6:00AM something, give or take, and they still have work to do.

I donned my yellow raglan hoodie and stepped into the outdoors, passing by our pad's lawn where a bright yellow bike laid on the grass. I figured a stroll outdoors would help me alleviate. Early daybreak has yet to come, therefore the sky was dark and the atmosphere was brisk. I sauntered down the empty boulevard with no destination in mind, the little moonlight cascading and the shadows of tall pine trees being my only company.

I embraced myself when a chilly wind had passed. Today was serene and peaceful otherwise, this I took as an opportunity to replay yesterday's event.

It had been noon when it occurred.

I began questioning the man's intentions, but most essentially his profile. Who was Frank? Well... He was Frank, but that alias merely came from my imagination. Otherwise, I would've known him personally or had acquainted him at some point that would mean I've possibly... No, that's unlikely. But... maybe I had known him and he could have mistook me for someone else.

If that was the case, I could very well be a present target to his associates, very likely oblivious to my true profile. My stomach tightened from the prospect: I'm a target. But who's targeting me?

My caution heightened, my eyes now darted swiftly, and I was suddenly more aware of other early-birds roaming the streets. I hoped they were merely early-birds and just that. The sun began to rose, and so I tried to distract myself.

I admired the vibrant yellows and purple on the sky, the dark clouds less. Painting is really hard, how do painters replicate that? I arrived with wholesome activity partaking at Quinnton Park: early-birds ambled and children began to play, lamps still illuminating to brighten the scenery.

The park was a mile westward from my pad beyond a wide strand of forest. I decided not to think why I was here.

Nature greeted me when I entered the park, it smelled like Saturday morning—what does Saturday morning smell like? The question stuck like glue as I ambled towards a bench. I spectated the playground as I sat. Nothing was out of the ordinary.

Spotting him skipping along a cobble path, Peter Redwood met me at the park with enthusiasm.

As always, he displayed the slackness, foolishness, and posture of a teenager who has yet to achieve, as said by Mrs. Redwood: "the right and proper course for his academics". Peter said his mother showed reluctance and complacency towards his prodigal feat in electrical engineering, and Technology and Livelihood Education. Though, otherwise, Mrs. Redwood would praise herself when he'd get a perfect score in Mathematics, which she would essentially take full-advantage of priding herself. He never appeared to care greatly.

Peter and I stumbled upon each other at the Quinnton Park, two years after its announced opening, and we've been the closest friends ever since. His father's profession in software engineering was Peter's great source of inspiration. Peter bore a striking resemblance to him. I always was comfortable with his presence, his boisterous chatter designed to gain the upper hand in any company and, as he would assuredly remark: "to get the chicks, man". Peter had always been a slack, a contrary characteristic to his love and devotion towards electronics. It baffled me sometimes.

Peter always dressed casually, his auburn tucked meticulously under a beanie, the sideburns making his only visible hair, other than the grey-shave on his chiseled jaw. His usual outfit, one avidly worn today, was a white raglan tee, tucked under a cyan button-up; dark jeans, a belt tightening it; and sports shoes. My outfit reflected his, omitting his upper with a dark sleeveless and the hoodie.

He sat on the space beside me when I returned his greet, but he hadn't noticed when I tensed slightly: my superstitions vulgarly pointed Peter out but I quickly dismissed that. Peter wouldn't come here to hunt me down, and the chance of his likeliness towards Frank was just too far-fetched.

Peter explained how he had to depart when I still wasn't around that essentially meant I came yesterday after his departure. I hadn't anticipated myself to be frank with Peter: but he was a friend after all.

Therefore, when he inquired about my absence, I admitted the yesterday punch-up with Frank with a bit of tentativeness. Peter's horrid face took on its highest peak. I felt disgraceful for admitting that to him. He could have very well noticed my downcast, because following up my admission, he stated how he should have been there earlier to my aid.

I reassured him how unnecessary that was, but I thanked his concern and inclination nonetheless. We performed our sacred hand-shake that I made up.

It was so damn secret I'd probably make NASA blush.

We eventually found ourselves sauntering the park, conversing on dorky topics with cautious backs, his being my more prominent worry. 

"So, like, after heading out of that damn fast-food I decided to hang. Guys'n their skateboards made a freakin' hassle—hope you don't mind. Just a few blocks from here."

I blurted.

"Well, you weren't around, but since I know your little dilemma now I personally don't mind anyways."

This put me at ease slightly. I decided to ask if the Guys hadn't minded my absence.

"Honestly no, in fact they didn't give a single damn if you were hookin' with some chick or not."

Suggesting something to fill us up, Peter skidded towards a vendor selling ice-cream, a few clamorous children starting to crowd. I was left to my own thoughts.

Peter and I had joined a group-of-three, because they rode skateboards: we both loved skateboards. We joined them when we were five years younger. In our gang, there was Elisia, Martin, and Kippur. Peter and I weren't considerably close with the trio, heck we were very distant with them and barely knew their names at first, but we befriended them in the long run. I assumed it was because of our similar intellects.

For us five together, our infatuation for anything vigorous and wheel-driving grew with us, and we'd often find ourselves in illicit mischiefs with other skaters or bikers. We hoped we wouldn't yet to stumble upon actual gangsters: the ones who'd wield guns and intimidate anyone with their striking suits. Do you call them mafias?

I hummed in consideration. Elisia, Martin, and Kippur to be confident with their beliefs sounded superficial, they loved to ramble on each other but merely accepting my absence was an odd gall.

My superstitions quickly connected the three of them to Frank. No! The guys would never turn traitor to me, more so with Peter. I let that frankly subside as Peter and I started walking. Less worrying, less trouble.

I stopped short, stooped and picked a baseball up, running my fingers over the red stitches. It had rolled to my feet from somewhere, or someone. For a moment Peter and I exchanged critical looks.

"Hey, you lost the ball, dumbass!"

A skinny guy, no more than seventeen, stood a few feet away with a few other teens, and they were quarreling. They were denim-clad in jackets, but the silvery dog tags and the hand-wraps made him distinguishable. He was not amiable.

Some of them were clutching baseball bats and were more well-built. I immediately disliked all of them, and I thought of hiding the ball that they had lost—

"Hey, fellas!," Peter had yanked the baseball from me and I gasped, "'s this yours?"

God damn it.

The guy quickly turned to us, his boys following suit, from their quarrel and grinned. He stretched a 'give-me' gesture and nodded before saying loudly: "Toss it, arsehole!"

"Woah, woah! A'least show some damn courtesy." Peter scowled.

"Sure. Right when you hand us the freakin' ball, then I'll give you the damn courtesy-beating."

His boys obliged fight-stances, balled fists radiating with hunger, the deep furrows on their brows revealing, nose scrunched taut. This warning was enough for Peter to give me a critical glance—I shot him a much anxious one. There was without a doubt a fight ensuing sooner, and I hated to have caused it. Sure, Peter did the talk but I felt self-centered with my own blame. All because of trivial conundrums: us not handing their 'precious' ball. Who knew.

I decided to step in.

"Fellas! Fellas!," I took a tentative step, "A fight really isn't necessary."

"Why don't you ask Mr. B—tch-face beanie there, see how his damn fists would answer." The guy retorted.

Surely, Peter huffed when I had glanced over my shoulder. I looked back at the guy and added: "Look, we'll give you the ball, no need for this dramatic fight-thing, all right? We can be civil, come on guys."

But his boys only drew closer, and I half-flinched. For a moment birds sang light-heartedly and the wind prowled the black pall of the situation.

Sweating, I was fixated on one of the boys in particular: one of them was blatantly trying to put closure between him and I. Flashes of yesterday's occurrence struck me. Not again. A man's blood would never have had a sterling taste. No. But with every jab, every cross, every knuckle stabbing skin and clothe, blood seemed to be what my hunger sought. No No No. As deafening wails and grunts began to muffle, and the dark grey sky rippled with droplets, I was soaked in both rain... and red. Oh God.

One voice, not of any peculiarity and dimness, rang: Peter. "I said, get the hell off!"

I regained my consciousness. It was raining. When did that happen? Limp bodies spotted the park-grass. When did that happen?... Not again!

"Dude, Peter!," I apprehended a raging boy, rescuing Peter from a vice choke, "What the hell happened!?"

Jabbing a foot on the boy's face, the foe instantly out of breath, Peter sought his own. He spoke between gasps: "You did it again man... You did it again."

Mrs. Redwood disregard seeing our condition with her lack of hospitality, heck even our arrival was ignored. The day was cut short when we were at Peter's pad. I was drenched in bruises, blood-splats, rain, and a sore eye; Peter unfortunately wore identical battle-scars, and he had sunk on his workspace—I had settled on his bed, bent, elbows on knees. I stared in consideration at the matted floor. Likewise Peter, with his fingers pinching his nose, gazed at the monitor breathing life.

Thunder grazed the window, which momentarily caused me to flinch, and Peter began his work. He scrutinised the web, his fingers pounding on the high-end keyboard.

I payed no mind nor attention to his research.

Roughly three minutes of silenced finally broke after Peter turned to me—I shot him back. "Andrew... I... Do you want something to drink? Some Gatorade or somethin'?" A tentative conclusion to a callous fight. My only complaints towards this ordeal were short: one, how were my parents doing back at home?; and two, this Gatorade tastes like crap.

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Jessica Collins

August was rather placid, I considered. The view of the beach from my balcony made it more evident: there were no tourists nor locals sauntering yet, therefore the sand was unblemished and picturesque; gulls and terns, as well as scarce pelicans, controlled the sky and land; and the waves sent vibrant splashes, dampening the shoreline. There was a lighthouse perched on a bluff, where the waves tickled the structure. The imperious beauty, however, couldn't compare to the ghastly cold of early morning; I had practically bundled myself in an oversized blanket.

The sun beamed a happy gleam, one I shot back a happy tender smile. Was I here to admire the scenery? Maybe I enjoyed the way nature took course?

I don't think so, but whatever it was that motivated me into the balcony I only took the view as breath-taking, nothing less. Yet, I thought about what had driven me as I reentered the humble abode.

Yanking off the blanket I entered my bedroom. I had forgotten to tidy it up, therefore it was littered with clothes here and there. I closed my bedroom and headed off to the kitchen. It was the smell of sizzling yolk and basted butter that persuaded me—my stomach quivered, and I forgot about my recent thought.

Mother, Faith was slipping a spatula into a pan and I could faintly hear the scraping. I approached her.

"Hey there, kiddo!" Father, Bernard stepped into the space between and swiftly latched me into a noogie. I grumbled comically, which earned dad a scolding remark from mom.

Dad impeded mom's cooking when his caressing hands locked on her and their passionate kissing ensued—I gagged out of instinct.

I headed off towards the dining room to distance myself from... yeah. I felt contented with the lack of smack and mwah. I also enjoyed the solitude.

Breakfast arrived. Mom and dad sat and we ate half-heartedly like dad's assault had never transpired. I finished first and brought my plate over to the sink where I gave it a hasty wash. Then, after a trip to the bathroom, I donned my morning outfit and waited for mom and dad by the doorway. I wore my luggage bag behind, tight in my grip. They kissed one more time, which earned me another gag. We stepped out and descended the set of stairs before exiting the apartment. The receptionist waved farewell, I waved him back. The cold has settled and there was no more wind; I was thankful.

Mom, dad, and I walked the streets of Quinnton amongst the morning crowd with hefty and hurried strides before eventually arriving at a large pad. Up until now my superstitions that mom and dad were going to pick-up an acquaintance of theirs fell unrequited.

My parents waited beyond the garden, behind wooden fences, and I took liberty to follow suit. Dad cried out when someone yanked the doorway open and approached us. Mom and dad avidly greeted him with their usual bravado to which the boy gave them a hand-shake with an eager grin.

He was lanky, probably a year above my age. I couldn't pry my eyes off of his flamboyant outfit: he was dressed casually, with a button-up denim grabbing me. And I couldn't stop admiring his sleek groomed hair. And the smooth tanned skin embellished on his defined jawline. And his cute cheekbones.

He was surely something; he looked menacing initially.

The attention was drawn to him as they gave on a short talk, one I ignored.

We called upon a taxi afterwards and rode for minutes northward from the boy's flat. Dad sat by the driver and mom hung at the back. Silence was rather prominent and it bore me.

A pall of nervousness having enveloped me, I sent quick glances at the boy now and then—until now I had never been aware of a stranger's... closeness... let alone an acquaintance of my parents.

I yanked off my superstitions as the boy suddenly attempted to start a conversation on me with an open hand-shake, greeting eloquently: "The name's Fidel Redwood, nice to meet you." I had been begrudging to return the hand-shake, once twitching out of nervousness. But my begrudgery fell short as I indulged myself into his upper-hand clamour. I listened, smiled even, and laughed, seemingly drawn nearer to this fellow, acquainting him much than I had suspect.

We arrived sooner, and a strange sound woke me up from my admiration towards my newfound acquaintance: it was the sound of crashing waves.

After dad had payed the taxi-driver, I and company made our way pass the pavement and onto the beach. We took a nifty spot and camped there where we settled our essentials down—two umbrellas, a cooler, our luggage bags, blankets, and two recliners.

Mom laid on one of the recliners, with her bikini-clad figure tanned by the sun. After years of toiling in gymnastics as a fitness trainer her figure had essentially trimmed, making her more voluptuous and stunning than I could remember.

Her assets, especially her bossom, were what my mother expected me of as I was bare and flat as the savannahs. But the sight of my mother, partially nude, with only a bikini concealing her, was literally unbearable (or unbareable, ha ha). I gagged out of instinct.

Dad was beside her, shaded by the umbrella with his hands rummaging through the cooler. He popped a can and chugged. He wore only trunks.

Dad held the position of store employee at some retail, and although the low status deemed his recognition low he was awfully merited with extreme heavy-lifting as often as he'd partake in, just to reach that maximum wage. Because of this his lankiness had grown to a well-built physique, with well-defined pecs and shoulders, a faint six-pack, and broad arms and legs. Nonetheless, he still looks fairly thin, give or take.

He had also obliged to help me exercise, something I still don't often enjoy.

Dad left for the nearby bar, leaving mom to sun-tan.

Fidel offered to accompany in our swim. His trunks clung tightly and his taut packs were well tanned, and for a moment I thought of morbid lust towards him.

I (tentatively) stripped my outfit off, exposing the one-piece bather underneath, and raced towards the sea hoping to cool off the heat on my cheeks. Tourists and locals gave way to their summery activities with the place fully crowded. Gulls were chanting as well. I crashed under an incoming wave and dove into the deep. There I swam along the seafloor bed, my cheeks puffed requisitely to hold in air.

For a moment I was immersed fully captivated by the cool sea. I wasn't an experienced swimmer but years of visiting the beach from time to time had taught me a few things. I treaded after resurfacing a breaker, the waves were calmer now.

Joining me Fidel dared a giant leap and slammed rump-first into the sea, and he quickly ascended with his hair wooing me with its flamboyant sparkling. I giggled, which caught his attention. For the remainder of that period we swam, treaded, and challenged the waves all of which were facile for us both; at some point I had asked if he were under athletics and he straightly told me that his profound swimming skills were apparently natural. Well, that makes the two of us I guess.

I quickly grew weary from the treading and diving, my limbs tiresome. Fidel considered my condition, reflecting his own, and we prompted to stop.

I forcibly yanked myself up as I pressed into the shoreline with a clamour of children skipping forth and building sand castles. Fidel followed. A pale had sunk and I wheeled and tripped over it, my rump tumbling onto a plump dune of sand. I felt heavy on my chest and it was then I had realised Fidel had the same unfortunate fate of tripping over the pale—he was on top of me.

I was a deer in headlights, staring back at his emerald eyes, and we were in the worst, awkward position: his grip tightened on my flat bossom and his groin pressed against the band of my onesie; on the other hand, my legs wrapped his and I breathed heavily on his face.

Not the both of us knew who screamed louder from that embarrassing accident, but nevertheless the day cut short when we dried, changed, and rode a taxi to our designated abodes.

My mom and dad chortled non-stop, having seen our intermingle themselves.

When we stopped for Fidel's pad I saw a few members: a stout woman, a dapper man, and a slackened guy his age. I did not recognise them though I suspected that they were Fidel's parents, and brother. My mom and dad quickly seized the opportunity to mingle with the parents and brother, an impatient taxi-driver tapping on his wheel.

Fidel and I gave each other an ear-to-ear grin as we stood inches away, the only thing between us being their pad's fence-gate. He remarked the fun we had at the beach, although short-lived, and I couldn't help but approve of that.

His farewell was a hand-shake. I took it. I yanked his collar.

We kissed profusely afterwards but it was I who stopped it, otherwise I'd melt on his face. And a face as irresistible and cute as his does not deserved to be spoiled.

Night dawned. My bed-sheets warmed me and I dreamt of Fidel.

 

...

 

I enjoyed staring at the pattern on the walls, my head reclined onto pillowy sheets. There was something about the line dribbled onto the walls that felt intrinsic to the overall architecture, and it was a rather pleasant aesthetic.

The door to our bedroom slammed open to a bathed Peter and the pungent shampoo wafted the air, his hair bundled greasy-like from the trip to the bathroom. His grin beamed, and I arched a brow.

“What?” I asked.

Peter prompted beside his workspace, a broad range of computers partially disassembled behind him.

“Don’t what me man,” he sat down, “How was it?”

I pressured him, though I knew what he meant. “How’s what, what?”

“Bro! You got yourself a girlfriend, holy crap!,” he dragged me into a noggie, “You’re my little bro!”

“Pete’! For the last time Jessica isn’t my girlfriend!”

“Yet,” he stood and pulled out a contact from his phone. I felt heavy on my shoulders, and my eyes shot.

“What the hell, don’t call her!”

“Don’t worry man, I’m not calling her.”

I wasn’t convinced. “Really?”

For Peter himself, the picture of a boy in a vibrant yellow hoodie popped into his phone’s screen. The text below gave way to the name of the person: Andrew.

“On second thought… Maybe I’ll be the one to give you dating advice.”

Fidel grumbled.

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II: Woes & Comfort

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Troy Williams

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