By Jeremy Arias
There was a light wind pushing the leaves on the moon-soaked streets. The street lights dripped their light down to the pavement above parked cars, reflecting its light as far as it could.
I sat in the darkness of my porch looking at the lawn before me. Four trees sprouted out of the ground and let their branches reach for the sky. The wind began to whistle and the leaves rustled in synch like a tune from the earth. Do I dare contribute to this music? Would whatever rhythm I make add to the tranquility of the night?
I sat in silence listening to the world do as it does. I don’t deserve this. No, I don’t. Not tonight. Not any night. Not even the day. Not even as a punishment.
I took another deep breath to stifle a sigh.
Just as I was about to call it a night and give another shot at trying to sleep, I noticed movement on the street. Something moved swift and low as if trying to sneak between the cars. There was almost no sound to the steps taken. I ran my hand down my face and rubbed my eyes to see if I was seeing what I thought I was seeing, or maybe my tireless mind was getting the better of me.
There was the sound of the breeze again hitting the wind chimes and rustling leaves on trees. The figure held impossibly still in the gap between the parked cars. I couldn’t make out what it was or what it was doing, if anything at all. Maybe I shouldn’t care. Maybe this is something I’d rather not see and hear about on the news or something. Whatever it was, it shouldn’t be disturbed.
Silently, I rose from the stoop I sat on and creaked the screen door open slowly, letting myself back in. As I swung the door closed, it squeaked loud enough to end my heartbeat with a bang. I grit my teeth as my grip tightened on the knob, trying to suppress the closing squeal. That’s when I saw the figure rise up on a pair of feet.
The figure was dark. It almost seemed like staring at a silhouette from the bottom of an abyss. It’s shape barely seemed human. It had two barely-spaced legs, a fat, rectangular body, and an oval shaped head. Slowly, one leg dragged itself in front of the other and carried its body over to my side of the street. It’s legs moved like tentacles in cartoons with a slick motion that barely moved the top half of its body as it walked.
I locked the deadbolt on the door which clicked like a shotgun. I backed up into my room and searched frantically for my phone. The gate clinked and the fence ruffled, mocking the familiar sound of someone jumping over the fence. There was a crash and thudding sound that could only be compared to dropping a bag of meat. There was no bounce or reaction of pain of any type. It was just a plop as it fell.
Without turning on any lights, I felt my way around the bed looking for my phone, which was discovered only a few inches away from my pillow. I unlocked it and dialed the police as fast as my trembling fingers allowed.
The line began to ring.
“911 emergency, what’s your emergency?” the dispatch officer asked.
“Hello,” I whispered. “There’s something outside my-”
“911 emergency, is there anyone there?” she asked again.
“Yes, hello?” I called.
“911 emergency, is there someone there?” she repeated.
“Yes! I’m speaking!” I checked the phone to make sure my microphone wasn’t muted, but it seemed fine.
“Hello?” I called again into the speaker. “Hello?”
It sounded like nails on a chalkboard from the other side of my window.
“Hello?” I whispered into the microphone as I backed away from the bedroom window.
I hung up the phone. I figured they’d send a patrol car if there wasn’t a response, but how long from now until it got here? Would I last the minutes or hours until the police got here?
But there wasn’t anything that followed. Not a sound came from the window. I tiptoed my way to the window and placed my palm on the curtain, pinching my fingers against the cloth, delicately pulling a slit for my eye. There didn’t seem to be anything outside, which seemed cliche, but this made me believe it was time to go to sleep.
I spent an hour crouched by the window staring out into the emptiness. As every second went by, so did the thought that I was crazy and needed to sleep.
Look at me, I thought. Two in the morning, staring out the window in red shorts and a black shirt. If anyone with half a brain saw me, I’d look like a total creep.
My mind wandered to the thought of the police call. Perhaps I should call back and say nothing happened. I should still wait and see if they show up so they can check if anything was stolen. I adjusted my legs from the tireless crouch and rested my back against the wall, resting my head and closing my eyes.
All the sounds of the night combined with a sudden dragging sound. It sounded as if someone was dragging a bag of dirt across the cement little by little. Someone small, like a toddler too weak to pick it up or drag it a long distance, having to take sudden breaks to regain the strength to pull it some more.
I rose up again feeling tension all across my head. There was a pressure behind my eyes that felt as if my brain was being mangled into knots. I gripped my forehead and got to my feet pulling myself to the window. I peeled back the curtains and saw the figure now standing directly outside, peering into the window through the slit.
I jerked back releasing the grip on the curtain, stumbling to regain control of my feet. It had what looked like a disfigured face. There was a sole green spot that glowed like radiation in place of eyes. The rest of its face was charred black as well as what was visible of its body.
It’s raspy voice said.
“What the fuck are you?” I exclaimed as I searched and stumbled looking for anything to defend myself with in case it broke through my window.
Whyat the fook arrr yooooo?
It’s voice was clearing up and sounding awkwardly distinguished.
What the fuck arrrrr yooooo?
It began to push the window, which slowly cracked from the epicenter of where it pressed its dark, stubby arms.
My hands managed to find my swiss army knife from behind my pencil case. I drew the knife out as I watched it crack my window into tiny, brittle shards.
The figure leaned on the window sill, and like a ball of clay, began to ooze inside and tumbled onto my floor. I made out the shape of the figure in the darkness and found what appeared to be the head. I gripped my knife tightly, bracing my trembling hand, to go for a jab in the head.
I grit my teeth and sent my arm soaring to its head, jabbing across. It was like stabbing a pile of mashed potatoes. The knife went through, so I slid it back and tried again, but by now, the knife got stuck and began to sink into it’s head like quicksand.
I stepped back against the door and swallowed hard in shock. The figure was rising to its feet. It was only about my size and slowly produced arms, legs, and the rest of a face. I opened the door and ran out, into the living room, tripping over the coffee table. I rushed to my feet, cursing the cliche of tripping. I didn’t think I’d ever be that stupid, but in the darkness, anything can happen.
I turned on the light and ran to the kitchen looking for another knife. As I reached the knife rack, my eyes fixed onto the fire extinguisher mounted on the wall. I pulled it off and got ready to bash it against the figure.
The figure came out of my room, upright and standing, stepping into the light of the living room. When I saw it in full light, I dropped the fire extinguisher and my jaw. The figure was now wearing a black T-shirt and red shorts, had semi-combed, frizzy bed-hair, dark hazel eyes, a two-day beard, and light-brown skin with a swiss army knife in its hand. I was staring into a reflection of myself that moved all on its own.
“Oh fuck,” I muttered.
My heart raced, pounded as the figure got closer and closer. With every step, each detail of my own became clearer and appeared. The moles, the looser strands of hair, the scar on my arm, and even the size of its nails became much like my own.
My mind was racing and screaming, telling me to run, but my eyes were fixed on the figure, hypnotized in what felt like a trance. Any moment now, I’ll wake up. I’ll wake up.
Oh fuck, the figure said.
The figure got closer to my frozen body and slashed the knife across my forehead, then jabbing it into the side of my head where it became too weak to retract it. My eyes couldn’t widen any more than they already had, my body crashing to the floor like a bag of meat, a pool of blood spawning from my head.
I’ll wake up.
I’ll wake up.
By Jeremy Arias
The crow cawed as the morning rose. I could see his shadow spilling over the curtain with the sunlight. He hopped around and danced as he chippered a honking sound.
Cawnk Cawnk Cawnk!
If I’d leave him alone he’d start knocking on the door with his beak. By now he’d learned that I had a love for such birds, and I would give him crumbs of bread, seeds, or whatever other bird food items I had lying around. It was typical that he’d show up in the morning and impatiently wait for his serving of whatever surprise I had left over from last night’s dinner.
A few weeks ago was when he started showing up. You feed a bird once and they keep coming back. With crows, this trend is a bit different. When you feed a bird as smart as a crow or raven, they return the favor and give you things in return. The first morning I saw Atticus, which is what I named the crow, he was dancing around eating the chocolate candies I left out during a drunken escapade of mine and thought he was cute. He managed to open the packaging and helped himself to my snacks. If I saw a person eating it, I would’ve flipped out and kicked them out, but I figured if he’d opened it and helped himself, he deserved them for the trouble.
Atticus was dancing around at the sweetness of the chocolate and saw me peeking through the window. He cawed a couple times and danced back toward the edge of the porch. He flew away with the rest of the chocolates and came back the next morning. I hadn’t left anything out, but I managed to wake up early enough to hear him show up and scavenge the porch.
He’s back, I thought as I frantically searched for something to feed him. I went through my pantry and pulled out some nuts I had laying for a few months that I convinced myself I wasn’t going to eat after the first week they were hoarded in there, but I felt bad throwing them away. He took some time to get close to me, at first I had to lay down the nuts on the porch railing and allowed him to approach them. After a couple days he began to look for me and caw and honk on my porch until I came out.
Hawnk Hawnk Hawnk!
When I came out one morning with a cup of water and seeds, I noticed something lodged in his beak. It was a glossy brown button. He laid it down on the railing and took a step back stooping his head as if presenting it to me. I thanked him kindly although I knew he couldn’t understand, but he danced around happily as I put down his usual snack. I took the button and smiled at him as he finished up. He cawed twice and flew away.
Now he’s at my porch pecking his beak against my door. I don’t want to open the door again. I tried to shoo him away yesterday but he came back. I was hoping he didn’t come back today. Yesterday he brought a ring. It was golden with a diamond plastered on top of it. I was wondering what poor bastard he took the ring from or where he found it, but I’m not asking questions anymore, because today’s returning gift was an index finger with a shiny, red nail.
By Jeremy Arias
The birds hadn’t started singing yet and the moon had not yet been tucked away. The sun was still getting the last of it’s sleep, and I was trying to get the last of mine. I tossed and turned trying to fall into a trance, but it’s no use in this heat. My pillow was a sponge full of sweat that dripped from my forehead and I was almost able to smell myself.
Disgusted, I got up and went for my shower. It was almost that time of the month to clean up my sheets, so I figured it should come a little sooner if it caused me this much trouble. The laundry would be free soon enough if I did everyone’s laundry later, then they’d have no reason to need it.
The shower thoughts kept pouring into my head as I rinsed myself. I scrubbed my foot with the loofa and felt a tingling sensation on my ankle joint right on the part that feels like a ball is sort of sticking out of it. There were a bunch of bumps and red spots all around it. Something had a feeding frenzy on me.
The more I scrubbed it, the better it felt. As soon as I stopped, it began to itch and bother me. Was this the work of a mosquito? It couldn’t be, mosquitos leave behind a pyramid-like structure, this was the work of a spider. I investigated the spots and checked online as soon as I could of what spider bites looked like, and sure enough, it matched up. By now my foot was irritating me and I wanted to do something, but what could I do? How do you kill a spider you can’t find?
While I was online, I also checked what spiders hate. The internet is full of hate and you can find practically any kind of hate no matter who or what you hate, and apparently hating spiders is widely accepted. I found that spiders hate high pitched noises, smoke, and tree oils.
That’s perfect, I thought, I’ll just use these all until it leaves.
I cleaned my sheets later that day and sprayed the bed with tea tree oil. I replaced the sheets to the lovely sound of a high pitched screeching sound on an endless loop that I found online. It was pretty annoying and I could see why spiders hate it, and since I knew it would drive the spider out, I decided to sing along with it. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeee… It was annoying, but it was music to my ears.
Once I finished, I burned some palo santo and turned on the fan to spread it all around the room. The same concept works with just about any other insect too, not because of what you’re burning, but because insects don’t know the concept of incense. They assume the smoke is coming from something nearby burning and that they could burn with it if they don’t move out fast enough.
Once my room was an awkward smell of smoke and oil, I turned off the noise and kept going about my day. Once night rolled around I took twenty milligrams of melatonin and knocked myself out. In the morning, before everything else woke up, I woke up scratching my foot which now burned to the bone.
I grabbed my phone to shine a light on it, and what I saw I was not expecting. There were several other bite marks on my foot. The spider had not only not gone away, but he was pissed and took it personal.
Somewhere during the day he must have thought “Holy crap, he’s doing everything I hate and singing along to it! What the hell?” And at night while I slept he struck his revenge and took out all his anger on my foot. This meant war. But how do you declare war with a spider you can’t find?
I plotted. I was going to set this spider up. I paced back and forth all day thinking about how to get revenge on the spider. I thought about doubling the smoke and oil, perhaps playing the high-pitched sound louder and longer. I thought about everything spiders hated. I thought about how annoying the itch and burn in my foot was and what I could do. I wanted to bite the spider’s foot and leave him with a burning itch all day where he’d be spinning webs thinking about how he’s going to bite me and piss me off.
Finally, after hours of pacing, I got the idea. I shouldn’t fight this spider with hate. I should show this spider some love. Find the things that spiders like. Maybe I’ll sacrifice a fly and leave it near the bed so at night he would take the fly instead of my foot. I’d leave a fly with a few grains of sugar and a cap of water so he can see that I’m not worthy of biting. He’d see the fly, sugar, and water as a peace offering.
My next mission was to find a fly. I went outside to look for one and found them almost immediately. I killed one and decided to keep it in a sealed bag to preserve the freshness. If I was going to make an offering, this was going to have to be a good deal for everyone. I placed the fly beside the bed and threw a packet of sugar right next to it and a small bottle cap full of water. And then I waited…
The moon rose and I laid in bed waiting. Waiting. Waiting…
It’s hard to fall asleep with not only an itchy foot and sacrifice beside your foot, especially if you know that if you move too much you’ll spill the water on the fly and then the whole plan fails. I lit up a candle and kept it near so that I could see at least a tiny bit in case the spider came around or if the fly came back to life. Either one would be pleasing.
Hours went by and the only thing that had happened was that I sneezed. It wasn’t until around two in the morning that I saw something dark slowly float down from the ceiling. It was the spider fixing his web to drip down to the bed. It landed on the sheet and made its way for my foot, when it stopped and looked over at the sacrifice. It was a daddy long legs, I could see that once it got closer to the sacrifice where the candle lit up a bit more. It was confused and hadn’t known what to do. It grabbed the fly and hovered over the water for a tiny bit.
It scanned the fly and eventually spun it into a web and picked it up. I watched it climb back up the web and head back to the ceiling. He strutted to a corner of the wall where there was a bit more web gathered up and he left the fly there and began to relax.
That’s when I struck. I sprayed tea tree oil on a sock and stuffed it into another sock with a stick of palo santo and swung that sock straight to the corner where the spider resided. I screeched the high pitched sound as I swung some more and turned on the light. The spider’s body was nowhere to be found. I hoped it was dead, or I was in some deeper shit that I was before.
By Jeremy Arias
The six dollar book sat on a shelf. It stood there watching customers and readers and people trying to look cool and people taking pictures while it sat there. All it could do was watch and look pretty. Maybe it’s cover wasn’t all that great. Maybe it should have chosen a different shelf or different story.
Look your best, it thought. The better you look, the better your chances.
Every book wanted to sell. It was an honor for a book to be bought and paid for and signed and displayed on a shelf or rented at a library or recycled into a work of art. All the six dollar book wanted was a sale. What it got was a discount. It couldn’t sell, so it sold its soul and took a dollar off.
What irony this was. A six dollar book for the cost of five. Was it really that bad? Maybe it wasn’t the cover as much as it thought. Maybe it was what was inside that people didn’t want. Maybe the cover was fine. No. Maybe it was both. Maybe it just wasn’t good enough for anything. It couldn’t sell at it’s cover price so now a sticker dictated its worth.
Somewhere, it thought, there’s a vendor that couldn’t sell me. There’s a gang of customers looking to read that wouldn’t fork out six little bills or a handful of quarters or a sack of nickels and dimes and pennies and lint and change, does nobody read these days? Everyone’s looking down at their phones wasting time, watching videos and playing games and posting pictures, doing this and that, or talking to him and her and them but they don’t care about you.
Learn something! Pick up a book and read! The price was dropped and still there’s a vendor stooped and slumped over a counter who gave up trying to sell and is just watching people go by and stare. They talk and flip a couple pages and set it down. Why doesn’t anyone want to read it? Is there so much going on outside that you can’t escape your world for another? There’s plenty to do if you sit and give your mind a treat that will help it.
And then came a lonely customer who asked this and that. The vendor answered and haggled prices. The customer looked down at the phone in their palm and glanced around. When the vendor looked away, the customer dashed like lightning and took The Six Dollar Book in hand and ran off.
What an honor this was. After a long time of trying to sell, it was stolen. And it felt great.
By Jeremy Arias
A man on fire walked into the office and sat in his seat. His computer took no more than a few attempts to turn on. It usually took two.
“Morning, Gabe,” a man with a bullet in his brain greeted. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” replied the man on fire. “I’m just a little tired. What about you, Fred?”
“I’m tired too,” replied the man with the bullet in his brain. “Seriously though, fuck work!”
“I hear you,” said the man engulfed in flames as he stood up from his desk. “I’m gonna grab a coffee.”
And so the man on fire walked through the aisle of cubes, computers, coffee cups, and Cool Craig, who just had half his face removed. In the break room was a woman with a wire wringed around her neck.
“Hey, Jan,” said Gabe as the flames began to dissipate into embers.
“What’s up, Gabe?” she said as she took off a sweater, revealing bruises and scrapes.
“Not much,” answered Gabe reaching for the pot of coffee. “How was your niece’s party?”
“It was really fun!” she said as she began to ooze blood from her neck. “I’m just really tired. Emily woke up twice last night and didn’t let me sleep. That’s going to be the last of sweets after sundown.”
The flames began to rise as Gabe began to panic.
“Are you okay, Jan?” asked the man on fire.
“Totally fine, why do you ask?”
The man on fire took a second to think. What was it about her that made him ask.
“I notice you had a bruise on your arm…” he mentioned.
“I fell picking up after Emily,” she lied as more blood leaked out of the wire, slowly turning her face pale. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” answered the man in flames. “It’s just a little hot in here.”
“Turn on the AC, or better yet,” Jan suggested, “just try not to think about the heat, like at all! Just tell yourself it’s really cold and you need a sweater, you’ll trick your mind into-”
“No,” screamed the man being swallowed by fire, “it’s REALLY hot!”
“You know what I do? I try to pretend I’m at the beach, just picture that! Or even a penguin at the zoo! The arctic circle isn’t as cold, so a zoo should do! Or even think about ice! Or Ice-man! Or you know what else I do? You should try-”
The crackling of his bones and pressure in his skull had built up far too much to even care what she does for minor heat.
He was on fire.
He was fine.
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