Chapter Three: Scars of the Dead (Fishnets and Black Rainbows)
“I heard a word from ‘on high’
Glare like a light in the sky. It said,
‘Quit blowing each other up.’
A voicing so crystalline clear so
Something’s unclean in your ear
When only blood will fill your cup…”
Incubus . Made for TV Movie
The door jingled as the bells attached to it swayed back and forth, a faceless patron entering the small diner in town, giving the lot of them a repugnant glance as he was led off to the non-smoking section. With a snicker and a puff of his cigarette, Josh returned his gaze across the table, eyeing David questioningly. Everyone had decided to steer clear of the current holiday, knowing that he didn’t want to be reminded of the day of hearts, flowers, Hallmark and Whitman’s glory in marketing. No, they all stuck together, and took care of their own keep, even if tonight, the table was one soul short of a full deck.
The table was littered with half empty glasses, assorted appetizers and nearly full ashtrays screaming ‘Children – come one, come all – smoke us and be cool. Be accepted. I’m a Camel in sunglasses! Be like me!’, or so the deluded soccer mom’s and politicians wanted the nation to think. It was all part of the scheme to keep the nation in fear, Josh always said.
“If it weren’t for cigarettes, language, stalkers, snipers, God, kidnappers, or towel-heads; the leaders in the country wouldn’t know what to do. They’d be making up shit… like ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’. Oh wait, they are.” Again he snickered, in the way that only he could, without it being annoying and took a noisy sip of his Coke, stealing a glance at the waitress with the four missing front teeth, to see if she was planning on handing him a refill anytime soon. Shaking his head in mild agitation, he lit another cigarette and removed a pen from his pocket, scratching in the deep blue ink a bevy of obscure sketches, just to pass the time as he listened to the conversation surrounding him, like the hum of a warm engine.
Leaning back and closing his burning eyes, he heard the hard click of a fresh glass being set in front of him, a soft word of thanks escaping his lips before he realized she had probably set the damned glass on the napkin he had been drawing on. It may have been inane, but he enjoyed collecting his “works of art”, no matter how worthless they were. He always found that a deeper perfection lay in the imperfect and flawed; the botched and the bungled.
Lightening licked the window outside, another storm was brewing.
“God! It always fucking rains here!” Bruce said, staring out the window in irritation.
“When it rains, it pours.” Josh said, stubbing his cigarette out in the closest ashtray, and collapsing on the table, his head looking out across the diner over Beth’s and Jami’s arms. He was becoming bored and disenchanted with the evening, and everyone was taking notice. “We need to get out of here. Maybe head over to the apartment… watch a movie or something. Shit. What is there to do in this podunk town except mate, feed, kill and repeat?”
“Nothing, that’s why we need to make something to do.” Beth answered, looking through the strawberry blond bangs hanging in front of her eyes.
“I have a thought… Follow me, lady’s and germs.” Jami thought, dropping ten dollars on the table and getting up, readjusting her skirt over her fishnet stockings. “C’mon, let’s go. Fun stuff awaits us all at the proper location. Move it! Move it!” her eyes darting suspiciously like a villain in some bad cartoon.
A caravan of three cars headed through town, minutes ticking closer to midnight, rain streaking across their vision in red brake-light blurs, a murder on the blacktop. Looking out the driver side window, a shadow crossed the moon. A murder of crows. With blankets of velvety night against the milk-pale moon, casting the iridescence of a saint, such beautiful contrast, such a beautiful moment for this night of hearts and flowers in a downtrodden world.
The lead car turned right, and slipped quietly into the small drive, followed by the others. For a second, Josh wondered where the hell they were, but then he remembered the jungle gym hanging lower than he remembered to be so monolithic. Hyde Park. The place where he and Beth had been on his sixteenth birthday, with the whole jolly wrecking ball crew, floating high on the synthetic chemical compound of acid. Thinking harder, trying to remember the details of the trip, he felt a deep pinch in his mind, and quickly dropped the thread of thought. Outside of the car, he flipped the cigarette under his arm and onto the street behind him, listening to the quiet sizzle as it died its smoky death.
Crawling up and atop the jungle gym, laying back feeling the rain pelt him through his t-shirt, he stared up and watched the moonlight reflecting inside the raindrops like a never ending sea of prisms. When he felt the electrical charge leading up to a flash of lightening, he closed his eyes and let it explode against his eyelids, a sea of fire swallowing him whole. Every few seconds, he thought to himself, he wished that he had a good hit of blotter under his tongue, turning this beautiful scene into utter euphoria. But, that was always followed by the eternal line: What does it feel like to want?
The rest of them were milling about, playing hide and go seek and other games from their childhood, and the occasional burst of laughter from Beth sent his mind reeling, reminding him how well he had it, and that nothing could destroy their decade of being together. Lacing his fingers on the top of his head, feeling the saturated hair unable to even cling to his hands, his eyes shot open and his body rose stiff and upright, everyone seeming to have vanished. Slipping down the blood soaked jungle gym, he began searching for his friends. First, in the concrete tubes, and a short ways into the surrounding woods, followed by, in a last ditch effort, to where they had all parked. The cars were gone, even his. He was alone.
Tearing his shirt over his head, exposing his deeply scarred chest, and the small, yet ever growing collection of tattoos across his upper extremities, he returned to the playground and sat atop the particular concrete pipe that he and Beth had made love in, a cigarette pursed between his lips, and his hair hanging down, away from his face, dripping water in streams. The rain was rolling down on him like a shower faucet. Thunder rolled in the distance, a deep and lonely growl. If this were merely a practical joke, it wasn’t funny, and it was beginning to piss him off.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a shadow flicker in the woods, his heart skipped a beat. Turning to face the darkness, he waited for his friends to pop their heads out and shriek “BOO!” or something equally as juvenile, but no such thing happened. Instead, a drifter wandered up to him. A surprisingly clean drifter, he thought, surveying the man from head to toe, not finding a speck of filth. Only the scent wafting under his nose of a French whore.
“Hi.” Josh said, his agitation obvious.
“Hello, Josh. I’ve come to tell you something.”
“How the fuck do you know my name?” the drifter now had his attention, his body turned full towards the strange man.
“That’s neither here nor there. But what I do know is who you are.”
“Oh really, and who is that?”
“Alright, Morpheus. Go back and hit your crack pipe some more, I’m done with this.” Josh interrupted, growing ever more irritated at this disturbance, and that his supposed friends had ditched him so quickly. It figures, he thought, everything good comes to an end.
“The killer of kings. You are he, the one. You’re next, boy. You are next.” And without a word of warning, or farewell, the man left and ventured off back into the woods, and Josh noticed for the first time, that the mans gray suit hadn’t a drop of water on it, even as he stood there in the pouring rain, it remained perfectly crisp and dry.
“Rich fuckers, have clothes that don’t get wet. How sick is this world?” he asked himself as he lay back against the cold concrete, kissing his flesh with dead lips.
A crack and a pop of breaking twigs, another began to approach him. Hoping it was someone he knew, he returned to an upright position and stared out into the woods, his eyes transfixed by a glowing patch of shadow – glowing black, and moving towards him, an iridescent figure of a woman. No features other than the shining, onyx outline, even as it drew nearer. “Jesus Christ, what is this? The fucking Christmas Carol? What’s next? The ghost of Valentines Day future?” he mumbled under his breath, his heart beating loudly in his chest, threatening to start cracking ribs.
Without a word, the woman slipped up next to him, and he saw that she was as black as night, as if she were made of onyx. Her lips soft and full, her breasts the same. Removing her long sleeve, button down blouse she exposed her torso, white as alabaster, her nipples, a pale pink, were puckered in the full moon light. The short skirt, black as midnight followed, with her fishnet stockings, revealing her lower half, equally as pale. Running her hands up her face, she was exposed entirely before him, her lips were nearly as pale as her nipples, and her big, round eyes as blue as heaven, stared down at him. Without speaking a word, she trailed a finger down his body and slowly undid his jeans. As she slowly straddled him, and took him inside her warmth, his brain split open, spilling memories like marbles. Glass and pinging down the slick concrete…
No, not concrete – steel. He was on the jungle gym, and the weight of her had vanished, the lively laughter of his friends ringing loudly over the thunder. Shooting upright, he stared at them, his eyes wild and open, his shirt clinging to his torso, dripping rain down to the puddles below, and his heart pounding so hard in his chest, he knew it was, in fact, cracking his ribs.
The apartment was warm, but Josh and Beth were still frigid. Their fingers wrinkled as they traced each others bare curves under the comforter, lips brushing lightly together, tasting of sweetness and rain, candles flickering against their chilled, pale flesh.
“So, how was your Valentine’s Day, love?”
“It was okay, I suppose. Had a weird experience at the park, though…” his sentence drifted off to nothingness, a derailed train heading into space.
“What happened?” She sat up, a hand lightly on his chest, her eyes full of concern, staring into his.
“Nothing, just an acid flash back, I think, not sure though. I’ve never had a trip like that, it was so damned real; I could feel it. I don’t know, let’s not think too deeply on it. No, there are more important things to contemplate.” He smiled softly, and leaned up to kiss her. There lips brushed once again, the sweet taste of winter rain and a shower of sparks flying, igniting the room. Flames burning around them as they shared their eternal moment – only themselves, and no other – this was their love for each other, their hearts and flowers.
The candles burned down and faded out as they faded into sleep; to the world of dreams.
Stepping out of the bedroom as the sun charred across the earth, bathing him in the pink hues of dawn, Josh made his way down the hall and into the kitchen, popping open the fridge, a cold can of Mountain Dew in his hand, his hair protruding from his skull at impossible angles, and his eyes still half-shut. Letting the door fall closed on its own volition, he pulled the tab and turned towards the opening into the living room, where stood the deepest shadow he had ever seen; his mind spun, bewildered, as he noticed the shadow was glowing, and the long hair blowing as if there were a hurricane cycling through the small apartment.
He reached out and touched the shadow, the color of night shifting into the milky alabaster of an angel, the round, milky blue eyes staring at him enticingly. He felt a finger reach in and caress the folds of his brain, tracing along each crevice, telling him exactly what to do – a puppet meeting the puppeteer. His hands searched every inch of her body, freeing her from the onyx shell in which she resided.
Pressed hard against the refrigerator, she wrapped her legs wildly around his waist and her fingernails clawed at his back, leaving shallow lacerations in their wake. He penetrated her deeply, deeper than he could, his hands tangled in her chestnut hair, and the muscles of her insides gripping him so tightly, he wondered how he could be moving as freely as he could. She smiled, her teeth as perfect and white as bathroom tiles, her nails digging into the base of his neck, caressing the nerves of his spine.
Josh’s face grew tense, his eyes squeezed shut and his mouth pried open as his body tightened around the central organ, releasing a funeral bouquet inside of her, this nameless vision. Collapsing like a rag doll in a heap on the floor, his mistress exiting again without a word, returning to the shapeless shadow.
His eyes reopened a few moments later, the soft scent of Beth’s hair caressing his nose, and his body smelling of her, not the creation who had controlled him like a marionette. Sighing deeply, he lay on his back feeling Beth shift, and resting her head lightly on his shoulder, breathing the shallow, soft breaths of sleep.
The deep feeling sat in his groin, deeper than he could possibly be.