Various Short Stories

 

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Living Death

Author's Note: This is meant to the beginning of a larger piece but I think the first part could stand by itself.

Living Death

October 31, 201-

I've always enjoyed a cold beer after a long day, either with friends or alone. It's just one of those things that you take for granted when you’re alive. I mean, I can still enjoy a cold one after work, but I can't get drunk from it. Well, I can drink it. The drink would run right through me within the hour with no effect. Whatever. I drink to feel normal, to feel human again, like I used to be, even for a second. That's another reason why I keep coming to this bar, sitting here, in the wee morning hours on a Friday night. It makes me feel alive, in one way or another.

I've decided to start writing these things down so I won't lose my mind. All those self help things I've read on the Internet say writing down things help. And in my personal opinion, hanging out in bars is one the few things that makes me feel alive, maybe this will help too. When I awoke from my death, I remember the smell. Decaying flesh, latex gloves, and that staleness in doctors' offices and hospitals. It burned, it hurt, like I had never breathed before. Then the coldness. It was so painful. And then I opened my eyes to find a world of darkness.

Yeah, waking up from the dead in one of those little freezers they put bodies in is never fun. The darkness and claustrophobic nature of the whole thing is really unpleasant. While no one will ever read this, it feels good just to get it off my chest and rake through these memories.

When I awoke, I remember trying to scream after the pain, but nothing came out. I tried to move, and I couldn't. Not at first. It was like trying to relearn my entire body again from breathing to what I needed to do, move. I eventually freed myself from the tomb.

God, that seems so cliché. I climbed out of that freezer in the morgue completely naked with a toe tag. I managed to find some old scrubs. I didn’t remember how I go there, nor did I really want to know, especially about these scars all over my chest and on my back. A part of me hoped it was a joke. I remember finding a note, as I took in my surroundings; I found a note sitting on a medical record. My medical record.

That note, that god forsaken fucking note that would be a pain in my ass for the rest of my life. The handwriting was rushed. ‘Welcome back from the dead, Seth! I hope you slept well for the past few days, but now it’s time for you to get back to work. Read up on your death, and we’ll be in touch!’

My death? Death? That little word sparked a wave of memories. I remembered someone sneaking into my apartment, stabbing me first in the chest and then in the back, something about getting my kidneys? Someone tried to steal my organ, that’s what the police decided. The scars on my chest not from the initial attack were from the stupid autopsy. But at that moment, none of that made any sense. I panicked and raced through the file. I had died, but yet I was alive. How?

That’s the million dollar question. In sum, it is complicated. And long. The point is, I came back from the dead. Someone tried to rob me and ended up killing me. Seth Cole died on August 31, 2015, (that’s my name by the way). Then I awoke in the morgue five days later. As far as the world is concerned, I’m still dead. But someone brought me back and put me into a hell of an existence.

I’m tired of writing tonight. I have to work the midnight shift soon at the morgue. Ironic, isn’t it? The living dead works among the dead? I’ll write more later, if the mood strikes me. Maybe this entire thing is a waste of time.

 

November 5, 201-

The thing that sucks is that life seems so boring now. The point of this writing is that I needed an outlet to express my frustration. Being a member of the living dead is a living hell, and I mean that quite literally. I never really explained my condition. I awoke from the dead, but it wasn’t so simple as being brought back to life. I was clinically dead for five days. They cut me open and sewed me back up. The whole autospy thing. I wondered in the beginning if they had put all my organs back in the right place. I'm pretty sure they did or whoever brought me back did. But I hadn't dead for a second and brought back to life. The thought was terrifying. I was dead for five days.

Now let me back up. When I describe myself as the living dead, the image instantly conjures up zombies with decaying flesh and craving for brains. I’m not that. I promise. My flesh is not decaying, I don't smell that terrible (I actually bathe quite regularly), nor do I crave brains. I am not undead. I’m just... in between.

I awoke in a morgue, with scars from my initial death and the autopsy still gruesomely visible in all their jagged and disgusting glory. But the note telling me to read up on my death gave me a pretty basic picture of my last moments. I died from the stabbing wounds, bleeding out on an operating table in a hospital. I have no memory of this personally. But I died quickly before I could have suffered. I laugh because I suffer right now. Regardless of my death, I’m alive again, albeit with a few concessions with this second chance. This is why I am in a living hell. Would you even call this a second chance?

First off, I can barely feel my own heartbeat, and trust me, I have one. It’s like a leaky faucet you can’t turn off that slowly drips. That’s my heat beat. And I'm cold. I'm cold all the damn time. I guess that comes from having an almost nonexistent heartbeat. I have other downsides to my condition as well: the inability to sleep, digest food—well partially, I can’t get sick or die. But I scar. Oh boy, I will scar up if I get hurt. I guess that makes me immortal? I won’t age if I stay exactly the same, right?

I remember, shortly after coming back to life and regaining some clarity, if this was hell. The small little freezer they put my body in was suffocating. If I wasn’t claustrophobic to begin with, I was afterwards. The first breaths and movements were agony. Even reclaiming my voice took hours and was next to impossible. Reclaiming my body was the one of the most painful experiences I had to go through.

But you would think that after all that, a second chance of life would seem like a miracle. It would be if I could live a normal life and see my parents again. But this isn’t living. Seth died the night I was stabbed to death. Shortly after I was brought back, I quickly learned I was still dead in my parents eyes through yet another note. The note quickly explained I was dead to the world and I need to reinvent myself. A second chance my ass. Whoever did this has a very perverse, sick sense of humor.

I watched, from a distance, my parents bury my supposed ashes. If only they knew the truth, but I could not do such a things to them. I can never forget the look in my mother’s teared-stained eyes…even now I can’t shake it. Whoever brought me back took great lengths to keep me isolated from the world.

 

November 21, 201-

I woke up from my sleep with my alarm clock going off. My equivalent of sleep is daydreaming with my eyes closed, laying in bed, listening to music. I can manage that for a few horus at a time. Tonight, I was listening to Nine Inch Nails “Everyday is Exactly the Same.” I remember when that song came out. I was in college. I just never thought I would reach a point in my life that I would feel that way. Everyday is exactly the fucking same.

And once I get up, it's the same routine. Get up, turn the music up, shower, get dressed, grab my street clothes, stuff those in my bag, double check everything, head out and lock up. It's so boring. Tonight was no different. But I like to work the graveyard shift at work. Not only am I unable to sleep, I don't have to interact with idiots. A double win. With me dressed in my navy scrubs, everything in my bag, I headed out, double checking everything, locking my door. I put back on my earbuds, turned up the volume, and began my nightly commute.

 

A bus, walking, a train, and more walking. That's the nightly commute. It's been almost two since I was brought back. While I work at the morgue and pay my rent, I haven't found out why I was brought back. Aside from those couple of notes that I was given in the beginning, nothing has brought me closer to learning the truth. Why resurrect a dead man? What good is man that's already dead?

I got off my train, walked down to the morgue, put my things away, clocked in, and went to work. It was a late Friday night. It would be quiet. Mind you, I'm not a mortician or doctor. I'm a medical orderly that works with the dead. It pays the rent. Most of the time, I just sit there, make sure the files are in order, move bodies, surf mindless on the Internet, etc. It's really more like an administrative assistant. But I get to read a lot too during the graveyard shifts.

But, and I know this sounds cliché, it was quieter than usual. I was the only one there. I sat at my usual desk and let the music echo off the sterile walls. I hate taking off my fingerless gloves but I do value my job. My bosses hate when I hate I where my gloves. I sighed, thinking that this was going to be an ordinary night.

 

It was one a.m, officially Saturday morning. I'm barely into my shift, but I let my mind wander as I read. Daydreaming has become my equivalent of sleep. Music played in the background, the dead were still dead. Then I heard a door slam where the newer bodies were kept. It was strange because I was supposed to be the only one here and I heard no footsteps. But the door slammed again and I heard no more footsteps. It was just the door slamming. I hate to cause trouble, and I like to keep it like that. I got up and went down the hall to where the door had slammed. There was a note on the door, in the same handwriting with the notes that I'd found when I was original resurrected.

The note read: 'Seth—See you're doing well in the world! All will be revealed soon enough. But in the meantime, help her get the hang of things. She shares the same condition you do.'

I crumpled the note in my fist as I felt rage overwhelming rage. I knew they were gone but I still screamed, “Who the fuck are you? Come out and face me!”

I didn't expect anything but from one of the freezers where bodies were kept, bone chilling scream came from within. Dead bodies were supposed to that, dead. They never bring in living people. The scream was louder a second time and I rushed to the cooler and opened the door. Pulling out the metal sheet bodies were kept on, there was a woman with black hair and blue eyes, staring wildly at me. She tried to talk but her lips moved uselessly. Was she the one I was supposed to help?

I put a finger to my lips trying to hush her. “You scream at random, hm? For now, blink once for yes, twice for no. Okay?”

One blink.

“I'm not going to hurt you,” I said. “My name is Seth and I work here, as a medical orderly. Stay still.”

I reached for her pulse. I didn't know exactly what I was looking for but I prayed not to find what I expected. The note laid heavily on the back of my mind. Was she like me? As I searched for a pulse, I waited. Then one beat. A long pause. Another beat. I sighed.

“Are you listening?”

She blinked once.

“You're reclaiming your body. Rigor mortis is a bitch but you have to stay calm. Yes, I said rigor mortis. You've been dead for I guess, a bit. Just hang in there. Let me get your file.”

I heard muffled from the screaming from the woman as I dashed away to find the file. It was under a bunch of other files and was labled with another note: ‘This one.’ I pulled it and took a deep breath before flipping it open. In the background, I could still hear her struggling to scream again.

To summarize the file, this woman’s name was Delilah Zoë Jones. She was a college student, twenty-one, and while she had yet to have an autopsy, the speculated cause of death was alcohol poisoning. She’d only been dead for 48 hours. (How cliché). I turned to her, sighing inwardly at the sight. I didn’t want this. I didn’t need this. But what choice did I have? If she was inflicted as the same condition of me, what kind of man would I be if I left her to her fate?

I cleared my throat and walked back over to her. “Delilah,” I called.

She blinked twice.

“You don’t like being called Delilah? Zoë then?”

“One blink.”

“Okay then. I need you to stop panicking right now. That doesn’t help us. You will regain control over your body in the next few hours. Don’t rush it. That’s the worst thing you can do right now.”

Her eyes widened.

“Chill out,” I said. “Don’t worry. The last thing I need is you panicking.”

If only I knew.

 

Once she regained control of her body, just like I had, I dressed her in scrubs and got us the hell of out the morgue, using my sick leave as an excuse. She was still having difficulty regaining control her body still. Getting her back to my place was a pain in the ass. We had to take a cab. God, I wish I could expel all that from my memory. But lucky for me, what happens in New York stays in New York. Or is that the Las Vegas motto? Regardless, I managed by some miracle to get her back to my apartment.

She was talking now, able to talk in full sentences. From there, I got her full story. While her name was Delilah Zoë Jones (which sounds like some cliché name), she went by Zoë. She had just turned 21. Her friends had taken out partying and she had too much. But as soon as she admitted that to me, she started to cough violently, throwing up the remains of old drinks. She had been resurrected before they could perform the autopsy. While alcohol poision was the cause of her death, it didn't want to stay in her system. But only did I know that my troubles were beginning.

 

December 21, 201-

Deliah Jones is dead. She threw herself in front of a train, effectively ending her resurrected existence. Police said there was nothing left of the body. Nothing. She is effectively wiped clean from this Earth. All of this in two weeks. She fought me every step of the way, and by the second week, she was threatening to end her own life. I showed her my own scars from own botched attempts. Nothing could dissuade her. And when I wasn't paying attention, she managed to sneak out and take her life. A part of me felt guilty, but deep down, I'm glad she was spared. But that was two weeks ago. I've since moved on, and while this makes me seem like a bastard but I don't care. I'm a dead man walking with no soul. Why should I care about the living?

It's been a month since her death and I feel no remorse. I know my hands are clean and that's all that seems to matter. When I came home from work the other note, I found a note on the door, just like the ones leading me to Delilah, just like the ones telling me of my own death. The note read: 'It's not your fault, Seth. It's time we meet. Bowery. Tomorrow. Noon. At that little second bookshop you favor on your days off.' I had no idea what I was getting myself into by going to that meeting.

I went there on a Thursday. It was snowing again and cold. I went to my favorite second-hand bookshop, where among books, is a small intimate cafe. The crowd there was usually nonexistent, but that day, aside from the barista/bookseller, was an old man with a chess set up in front of him. I thought nothing of him until he called out, in a soft Hungarian accent,” Seth, my boy, come join me for a game of chess!”

I turned to him. “And who are you?”

The old man was wrinkled, wearing mismatched socks, with a cane, clothes that looked ancient. He looked up and pushed up his glasses, smiling happily. “The one who gave a second chance,” he said in a Hungarian accent.

“What second chance,” I said slowly, trying to play dumb.

“Don’t treat me like an idiot, Seth. Do you play chess? It’s a lovely game. Sit!”

I slid into the seat as the old man began to set up the chest board. “I don’t really play,” I said.

“You understand the basics, don’t you, my boy?”

“Enough.”

“Then let’s play.” He said. He moved a pawn forward. “I figured it was the time we met.”

“You did this to me,” I asked slowly, moving a chess piece. “You brought me back from the dead and made me a monster.”

“Not a monster,” the old man corrected. “A second chance.”

“A second chance?” I asked angrily, leaning forward. I lowered my voice. “I can’t sleep, eat, feel. I walk a line between the living and dead!”

“You can’t die,” he said.

“I know. My own suicide attempts demonstrated that,” I said, revealing the scars on my wrists. “Poor thing that Delilah found a way around it. The police said the train left nothing.”

“Some can handle it, others can’t,” the old man shrugged. “It’s your turn, Seth.”

“Why did you subject her to that?”

“An experiment,” he said slowly.

“Experiment?” I asked tensely. “Who are you to make such decisions?”

The old man pushed up his glasses. “This isn’t my only form, Seth. I prefer this one because people let me do whatever I want, and they’re usually kinder.”

“Only form,” I mumbled wearily. “So, what, you’re God?”

“No,” he laughed. “Consider me a servant, sort of an angel of death, if you will.”

“I don’t believe you,” I said.

“You are living proof of my work.”

“What did you make me?”

“I didn’t make you anything,” he said, leaning forward, examining the chest board. “You’re still very much you, complete with EMT knowledge and philosophy and religion, and now medical orderly. You work in the morgue, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I admitted.

“Hm.” He moved a chess piece. “I call it a second chance for a reason. While I had a make few concessions in bringing you back, you have a greater purpose.”

“Greater purpose,” I scoffed. “I was murdered by people trying to steal my kidney. I still have those scars. I died on the operating table as the people tried to save my life. I have the scars on my chest from the autopsy. How can I have a greater purpose? I was no one.”

“Revenge,” the old man smiled widely.

“I’m not a killer. I don’t want to kill anyone.”

“Think about it, boy,” he snapped, “of what you can do. You barely have a heartbeat or warmth: you’re undetectable. You don’t sleep. You have no need to eat or drink. You can’t die! Always aware of the world, always a part of history, moving forward through time!”

“The scars,” I said angrily.

“I’m not perfect. That was one of the concessions. The scars are nothing, merely marks of your experience. You won’t ever get sick, age, or die. You are an immortal now, boy! Show some humility.”

“I never wanted this,” I said, leaning back in disgust.

The old man sighed and pushed up his glasses again. “Maybe you just need time. We’ll talk again soon. I’m giving you a chance for revenge.” He pushed a folded newspaper towards me. “This should give you the lead you need. I’m sure you’re smart enough to use police computers to find the rest.”

“What if I don’t do it?” I questioned.

He shrugged. “You’ll have your uses, boy. I brought you back for a reason.”

“And what’s that?”

He grinned, taking out his dentures, flashing a toothless smile. I grimaced. “That’s for me to know and you to find out,” he taunted in a sing-song voice. He got up unsteadily and grasped the cane that rested by the chess table. “Enjoy your reading, Seth.”

I watched the old man leave, leaning on his cane for support as he left the bookstore. I bit my lip, reflecting on what I had just learned. What was I? I dreamed of this moment, this moment of realization, of truth. It was such a let down, disappointment. Was I doomed to live a meaningless existence.

 

December 24, 201-

Bloody Christmas eve. I bet I sound like Ebeneezer Scrooge. I personally don’t see the reason in celebrating it. It’s the supposed birth of Jesus Christ, who just died to come back as a zombie if you think about it. So Christians worship a zombie? What am I? Another version of a zombie? I don’t know. Zombies are hoodoo or voodoo. I really don’t know. I read somewhere that zombies aren’t really decaying flesh. It’s a person without a soul. But I have my soul. It’s my body that’s not a 100 percent; it’s more like 95 percent. Or 70 percent. I was never really good at math.

Recently, something's been happening. I really don't know how to go about explaining it. I've become more...human. Well, not more human but something's changing. I am changing. I slept. I slept. For the first time in two years. At first, I was unsure. But the second time, I slept. I am certain of it. Whatever magic brought me back...is this something attributed to it? I don't know. But I fucking slept. I could escape from the world for a few hours. I'm not religious but this is the best Christmas present ever. I don't care about my heartbeat, eating or drinking, or just being cold all the time. Being able to sleep was the greatest gift I could get again.

 

January 1, 201-

Somehow, I got the night off New Year's Eve. I was certain I was scheduled to work but somehow, the schedule at the morgue got screwed and I found myself in my local dive bar. It was 11:30, a half hour before midnight and the ball dropping in Times Square. I had only moved to New York City shortly before my actual death and since my resurrection, it's amazing how people look the other way. I don't necessarily pay taxes nor am I on a regular payroll with the morgue...I died after all. My small place I can pay cash. This dive bar is one I love to frequent because they never ID me and never ask questions, and they're cheap.

I opted for something stronger tonight for some reason, scotch on the rocks. Normally, alcohol had no effect on me. I enjoyed the taste and the memories it invoked with the music. But tonight, dare I say, I felt at the very least extremely buzzed. I was knocking them back without realizing I was feeling the effects. I looked across the bar towards the pool tables and saw a gorgeous woman wearing an olive tank top, skinny jeans, and black boots. She had a tattoo on her right forearm: an owl with an olive branch in its talons. She had stunning grey eyes. She shot an impossible shot, shamming a group of bikers in the process. She gazed at me and smiled. I felt a shiver overtake me. She wasn't human.

She smiled and laughed. “Better luck next time, boys!”

I quickly averted my gaze back into my glass as I heard her make her way to my side. “I'll have a shot.”

“What of?” the bartender asked.

“What's he having?” she nodded towards Seth.

“Johnny Walker Red.”

“Got Johnny Walker Blue?”

The bartender arched an eyebrow. “That's the best we got, miss.”

She looked at Seth and he suddenly felt a burning sensation on his right forearm. “Do you have Fireball?”

The bartender laughed and nodded. The woman held up two fingers to indicate two shots. “One for me and my friend here.”

The bartender poured the two shots and replied, “Ten dollars.”

The woman's grey eyes glared at the barkeeper for a moment and like magic, the bartender turned away. The air was heavy and it reminded me of the night I came back from the death. She pushed the shot in front of me and said, “Bottoms up.”

“I'm good.”

“Seth, I've been looking for you long enough. How have you been sleeping lately?”

“Who are you?” I whispered nervously.

She pushed the shot into my hand and like magic, my hand chinked the shot glass against hers and forced me to drink it. She smiled satisfied and I put the glass down mortified. “First off, do not make me force you to drink with me. Second, you're welcome.”

“Who the hell are you?”

She laughed and rested her chin on her right hand, purposely displaying the tattoo owl carrying the olive branch. The pattern looked ancient. Her gray eyes glittered. “Use your brain, Seth.”

“You're not human.”

Her grey eyes shined with amusement. “Very good. Neither are you. For the most part. Not anymore. You are...well unique. Use your head, Seth. I know you're smarter than that.”

I was quiet and looked at the intricate owl tattoo on her forearm holding the olive branch. “That tattoo is very...obvious,” I guessed. “Athena.”

She held out her hand to shake mine and my hand, as if forced by magic again, shot into hers “Goddess of war, wisdom, and overall badass, at your service. And your patron god too.”

I pulled away and flexed my hand. “So, you here to blow my mind about religion and how everything I've known about heaven, hell, the devil, and angels has all been one big lie?”

She laughed. “I knew I would like you.”

“So what do you want with me? I had some old guy the other week telling me he was the cause of all this,” I said gesturing to myself.

“Told you,” she said, taking my drink and downing it herself. “I am your patron god, as in, I have a vested interest in you.”

“Kind of like Odysseus?”

“I liked him because he was clever. I like you because you have potential.”

“You sound like the other guy,” I muttered into my drink. “Last time I read, you don't affiliate with zombies like myself.”

“An immortal. Not a zombie. That's the whole voodoo thing,” she said with a wave of her hand. “Complicated. You know, there is no wrong religion or belief. We all coexist...me, Visnu, your Christian god and Jesus. Ever religion humans have thought up, we exist and watch you all like reality television. What holds us is people's beliefs in us. My kind, the Greek gods, have not gone weak at all. You can thank human society's interests in ancient mythology and what not. But you, sir, are not a zombie. You are different.”

“I was dead.”

“True,” she said thoughtfully, “and you were brought back, but the magic was rushed, uncultured, and armature.”

“The old man.”

“He's nothing. Understood? Compared to me, he is a pawn in some greater scheme. I don't know why you were brought back but I am formerly claiming you as one of mine now.” She took my right hand and a surge of power burned on my right arm. I tried to pull away but she helf fast. I winced. She let go of my hand and pushed up the sleeve and revealed a tattoo on my right forearm identical to hers, an owl and olive branch. “And everyone will know it now. No more hiding, Seth Gray.”

“That's not my name,” I answered, confused.

“It is now. You aren't a zombie.” She said the word with such distaste. “Voodoo has it's place and human pop culture. But you aren't a zombie. You're just different.”

“Human. I'm human. Why don't you affiliate me with them?”

“Because you aren't human. Not anymore. The world is a much complicated place.”

“What am I?” I asked.

She regarded me warily. “Well, you certainly weren't educated. That's little demon is a piece of shit. He brought you back without explaining anything. You're immortal and I think very useful to me.”

“Immortal?”

She sighed. “Even though I am the goddess of wisdom, I think I have my work cut out for me. You're kind of in between. You can't die, age, or get sick. The magic that brought you back was unfinished.”

“I've already learned that,” I said, revealing one of my scars from my botched suicide.

“That was an aspect of your resurrection that was rushed. An immortal won't scar. I've been reworking the magic. Hm. It's been difficult and I have needed a little help. That shouldn't be a problem anymore. In addition, things like the sleeping and what not are given as an Immortal.”

She finished my drink. “Wait, so it's because of you I can sleep again?”

“And get drunk tonight. There are a few minor tweaks I need to work on but we're getting there.”

We're?”

“You've been alone far too long.”

I glanced at the new mark on my forearm as I rolled my sleeve down. “You're mine, Seth. Understand? You were brought back for a reason to fulfill a destiny that you have yet to comprehend. That even I have yet to understand. You are not a monster or alone. Happy New Year. Get drunk and go to sleep. I will be seeing you soon.”

She vanished instantly. I blinked, either from the alcohol or the magic I felt burning in the air. I must be losing my mind.

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Circus

Author's Note: Written for a Quick Write Competition for Narrating Neighborhood (http://www.narratorneighborhood.com/)

It was unusually warm for January. Instead of the cooler temperatures and the normal snow showers that would have plagued the area in the past, the weather decided to rain and follow with uncomfortably mild and humid temperatures, which left the city enshrouded with fog and a chilling drizzle despite semi warm temperatures. He was young, just gotten off work an hour before midnight. He had has hood pulled over his head, walking with his shoulders hunched as if to ward the cold and rain away. In reality, his head was spinning. Right before he had left work, he had partook in some less than questionable mushrooms and now he felt incredibly lightheaded. The best way to cure that was a drink. He was heading for his favorite local watering hole to follow his nightly tradition of having more than a few drinks, getting drunk, stumbling home, and passing out on the couch in his small miserable apartment.

 

He kicked unconsciously at the small pebbles and debris on the sidewalk. Sticks, acorns, broken glasses, peanuts? He stopped midstep suddenly to bend down and pick up a peanut shell. He studied the broken shell, confused, wondering if he was tripping. He squinted his eyes, remembering the few hits he had taken off a blunt with a coworker while they had done a trash run a few hours earlier. He wondered if he was still feeling the effects of the drug he had partaken in earlier. Shaking his head, he tossed the peanut shell aside and continued on, kicking another random peanut shell. He stopped again.

 

What were with the fucking peanuts?

 

He bent down and picked up the second peanut shell and examined it. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a young man dressed in a suit dash across the early morning traffic. There was a briefcase left by a fire hydrant. His first gut instinct was to shout for the stranger that he had left something, but then he briefly considered calling the local police. He shook his head and jogged to the briefcase. “Hey, you forgot your bag!”

 

He grabbed the briefcase and jogged across the street to where the man had disappeared. In front of him was a local downtown arena that serviced various venus from concerts to hockey games and even traveling circuses. For some reason, his mind briefly remembered something he had read, either a newspaper, a Facebook post, or something on the local news stations. There was circus who was in its last running performance. He shook his head, wondering if it was the drugs. He just wanted to get drunk and pass out from his world. However, something else was driving him, his internal sense to do some good. Shit.

 

He grabbed the briefcase and jogged across the street, doging traffic as he went. He stopped on the other side, bending over to gather his breath, and at the same time, watching the stranger jog into the local arena. What the hell, he wondered weakly.

 

He wanted to give up but his desire to the right thing drove him forward. Fuck doing the right thing, he thougt miserably. He placed his hands on his upper legs and gasped for air. Despite being slim, he was so out of shape. Too many damn cigrettes and alcohol. He looked up again, grabbing the briefcase again, and jogged up the steps to the arena. He stopped suddenly as if held back by an invisible force.

 

In front him was a small man, almost considered a dwarf, wearing a smart tux that looked to date back from the 1920s. He frowned, squinting, and rubbed his eyes. Whatever drugs he had partook earlier was really screwing him up. It reminded him of some old time film he had saw in community college...what was it? Tom Brown...Browning? No. Browning. Tom Browning's Freaks.

 

He barely remembered anything about the black and white film except that some woman who thought herself superior to the freaks and turned into a duck. The effects had been crappy. But it had been in the 1920s.

 

Again, he shook his head in a vain attempt to clear his thoughts and visions. He picked up the briefcase and walked reluctantly to the miniature front man. The well dressed man eyed him critically. “About time you showed up,” he sighed. He fished a bag of peanuts from his pocket. “Here you go. Briefcase for peanuts. A fair trade I'll say.”

 

He looked confused and narrowed his eyes at the bag of peanuts. “Are you kidding me?”

 

The small front man smiled and grabbed the briefcase faster than the other could follow. The confused man found a bag of peanuts shoved into his jacket's pocket and the words echoing, “Go forward! Enjoy the show!”

 

Against his better judgment, he ventured forward towards the entrance that looked absolutely normal. One step, he was here. The next step, he wasn't.

 

He couldn't breathe. In his vision, it reminded him of that god awful movie from college. Fucking freaks were everywhere. It was like he had stepped out of the 21st cnetury and right into a 1920s sideshow. Except he couldn't move. He was tied up. He pulled at the ropes. His head twisted in alarm, struggling against the restraints. He was tied up like the medieval times as if he was about to disembowel. He stared up at what he thought would be a ceiling but the sky was a bright blue, the noon sun shining on his face, blinding him. He blinked, trying to clear his vision and began to struggle at the ropes more. Where the hell was he? Then he noticed he wasn't alone.

 

They were everywhere...

 

He had not seen Browning's film in years. But he could remember that scene were all the freaks. Somebody started chanting. “We accept him, one of us, one of us. We accept him, one of us, one of us.”

 

He screamed, struggling against the restraints. But a small child appeared before him. A child? He looked familiar. He blinked and the child mirrored his blinking. The child giggled and titled his head quizzically. And then the child smiled, touched his nose, and touched his own. “We're all the same. No different. You aren't a freak. We're all a freaks.”

 

What was this? A hallucination? A mirage? Was he going crazy? He didn't know. But the child stood beside him like a sentinel while he was restrained as the the 1920s side show performers and clowns danced around him mockingly. They began to blur, changing to shadows, shapes. The sun was growing dimmer. He shut his eyes, thinking, this isn't real, none of this is real....

 

The laughter, the chanting, the screaming...

 

It all stopped. It all disappeared.

 

He opened his eyes to the drizzle, rain wetting his face, feeling the cold, wet concrete in front of the arena. A face came into view. A cop was nudging his ribs gently. “You okay?”

 

He moaned, holding his head and sitting up. The rain continued to pelt his face as he wiped his eyes. He blinked, noticing the rope burns on his wrists beneath his jacket. He grimaced and closed his eyes. The cop knelt down and looked at him. “Do you want me to call you an ambulance?” he asked.

 

He shook his head. “I'm good.”

 

“Are you sure, kid?”

 

He nodded to the cop. “I'm good. Just worked too much,” he replied, praying the cop wouldn't ask much more. God forbid he get arrested on a drug charge, much less think anything else. “I'm okay. It's just been a long night.”

 

The cop looked at him like a weirdo. “Better get that checked out.”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

And then the cop left, without question. He clutched his head, rolling it side to side, chalking up his hallucination to a really bad trip. Those must've been some really bad shrooms he had eaten. He reached into his pockets, searching for wallet and phone, in case he had been robbed. While he found his things, he also found a bag of peanuts still shoved awkwardly into his jacket's pocket. He took out the bag and glanced at it before tossing the bag into the trash can. He inspected his wrists, still seeing the rope burns. It must have been one hell of a trip, he grimaced. Eager to get out of his own head and to forget the entire thing, he drew his hood up around his head again and jogged back across the street and continued onward to his original destination, the bar.

 

Some things were best left forgotten and unexplained, he thought grimly, still feeling the sting of the rope burns on his wrists.

 

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Last Night

Author's Note: Written for a June writing prompt for a Facebook writer's group "Writing Prompts and Critques."

It started when you went to check your bank statements on your smartphone like you did every other day. Except you felt half drunk still as you closed your left eye wearily, trying to focus your right eye. Because when you were still drunk, doing everything with the right side of your body was easier. As you typed in the little four digit code you set up for your phone. 1013 seemed harder than normal. Shit. You must have gotten fucked up big time last night. You remember mixing pot somewhere in the mix. What was the last thing you had to drink? You couldn't remember. So you check your charges. Where the hell did you get off to anyways? It only seems natural. A night of heavy drinking leads to mystery.

Nothing stand out except from $1.20 from some toll booth from three days ago in some city listed 100 miles away. At 2:38 am. It must be a fluke. You dismiss it. Nothing else seems out of the ordinary. That charge is from days ago and you remember clearly being at home, sleeping. Because you had work the next day.

Whatever.

You check your bank statement a week later, to see if your direct deposit has hit. You have to pay your student loan bill this week and groceries to buy. It hasn't but you see two new random charges from a few days ago. It's from the same damn city, 100 miles away, this time for a bar tab for $25 and a laundromat for $20. Your scrunch your nose in frustration. Probably identity theft. You make a mental note to bring a credit card out with you tonight and call your bank the next business day. But fuck it.

It's a three day weekend. You don't have work tomorrow. It's time to party and get drunk.

The next morning, you wake up in the drunk tank, chained to the bar cell door, alone from everyone else. You can hear some guy puking his guts up down the way. But you're cold. You're head is pounding. What the fuck happened last night?

You think back to those 'Hangover' movies you saw once on basic cable. At least there is no tiger in the cell.

You push yourself up awkwardly. Being cuffed to the cell door makes it more than difficult and with your head swimming from drinking too much the night before does not help either. Shit. You're head is pounding and you want nothing more than your bed, Alkalizer, and ginger ale.

You pull uselessly at the cuffs, trying to make as much noise possible.

"Hey! Hey!"

Your voice sounds alien, harsh, and dulled by the massive amounts of alcohol you properly partook in last night. 

"Hello!"

You hear footsteps. It is enough to try and make yourself look presentable, without a mirror, despite the raging hangover. You see a uniform cop and someone who looks like a detective. Stereotypical at that. He is old and bald. Nothing stands out about him.

He says your name. You really don't hear him.

"Well," the detective begins. He says your name again. You don't comprehend it. "It's a good thing you were watching the news."

"What are you talking about?" you asked. You pull at the cuffs uselessly. "Don't you think this is a bit extreme for a drunk and disorderly?"

The detective laughs at you. Why is he laughing? You're still drunk minds doesn't comprehend anything. At least not linearly. Like it's supposed to. He tilts his head. "You turned yourself in last night."

"What do you mean?"

He tosses a photo towards me. It glides to the floor and you make no effort to grab it. Despite the drunken vision you may still have, you can make out the grainy photo. It's your car. At least it looks like your car. And maybe...is it you? You can't remember. Is it you?

"We found the blood on the clothes at your home," the detective began absently. "Apparently the local laundromat doesn't do the trick. We also found traces of bleach, in both your apartment and car."

Do you remember the smell of bleach? You remember the bathroom reminded you of a swimming pool vaguely when you woke up the morning, still drunk or high, with the first phantom toll charge. 

"You managed to hide from us. The murder was perfect. Perfect," the detective continued. He rolls his hand in the air like a maestro. You find it annoying and condescending. "But your conscience couldn't."

What the hell, you think, this is a bad dream. Nothing but a bad dream. You hide your face in your hands, suddenly wishing you were five and mom were here to get you out of trouble. This had to be a bad dream...

"It's only murder."

"Murder," you whisper. You need to escape. You need to drink or get high again. Something to numb the pain. "Only a murder?"

"I suggest a good lawyer," the detective replies good-naturedly before walking away, leaving you chained to your cell.

Shit, you think, burying your face in your hands. You try to curl into a small ball. Oh, god, shit. But you can't. Face it. They got you for murder. And the funny thing. You don't remember anything. You never blacked out before until the weird $1.20 toll charge. You can't remember anyways. But honestly, isn't that the point of blacking out? You don't want to remember. Or do you? 

That's where I come in.

I'm your savior. I'm your absolver. I'm your defender. I'm the guy who is gonna help you figure out what the hell has happened. I'm your lawyer. 
Let's get down to business.

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