Part of the time I know exactly what I am doing. Unfortunately that part is usually when I’m sleeping. That is why I propose the building of the great machine. This invention will capture your dreams and put them into the world for all to see. It will allow you to put your imagination directly into your audiences’ heads. What is the price of such a miracle? Why only you forfeiting a small part of your soul. The soul is converted through self-doubt and torture into fairy dust to transform dreams into words on a page. Isn’t that a bargain?
“Trick or treat!” shouted little Billy for like the fiftieth time. Billy’s grandpa moaned, but his dad just smiled.
“Not yet tiger,” Dad said. “Wait till we go out tonight.” Dad roughed up Billy’s curls and gave him a quick kiss on the top of his head.
Grandpa was less impressed. “You going to let him out of the house looking like that?” Grandpa said. “In my day I wouldn’t get caught dead in a pirate costume without a sword and an eye patch.”
Dad placed the pirate hat he was holding onto Billy’s head. “Hey tiger, why don’t you go find a nice big bag to hold all the candy you’ll be getting tonight,” Dad said.
“Arrr!” yelled Billy as he tore out of the room.
Dad turned back to Grandpa. “What is wrong with you?” Dad asked.
“Like you need to ask,” Grandpa said. “Things should be pretty transparent to you, or did you suffer from brain damage recently?”
“Okay, point taken, but taking it out on Billy?” Dad said. “That’s low, even for you.”
“It wasn’t for the kid. It was directed at you. Billy didn’t even notice,” Grandpa said.
Dad shook his head. “Look, I said I was sorry. I didn’t realize the nursing home was going to be that bad.”
“Maybe if you ever came to visit every once in a while you might have noticed me slowly wasting away.”
“Sleeping in my own feeces.”
“Getting hit with a mop repeatedly.”
“Okay, stop right there. There was never anything said or shown about you being beaten with a mop,” Dad said.
Grandpa held his hands in front of himself. “It was when they were cleaning up the fecal matter on the floor that dripped from the bed.” Dad put his hands on his hips and Grandpa relented. “Okay, so it wasn’t hard, but the point is they didn’t care and neither did you.”
Dad walked right up to Grandpa and said, “Look, I let you come and live…” Dad stopped short at the grimace Grandpa was making and took a proverbial and real couple of steps back, “okay, come and stay with us.”
Grandpa smiled a bit at his small victory. “You got that one right because this is definitely not living. And let us get one more thing straight. You had to take me in, but I can come and go when I want to. The four walls of this house can’t keep me in. I am my own man.”
“Really, your own man?” asked Dad.
“Okay, you win that one,” Grandpa said. “Still if you had just visited a couple of times I might still be living in a nice nursing home, not…” Grandpa looked around for the right word. “existing here.”
Dad sighed. “I get it, trust me, I get it. Still, try to be nice to Billy. He didn’t do anything wrong,” Dad said.
“Like I said, Billy didn’t get a bag big enough for all the candy.” Grandpa changed course midsentence since Billy reentered the room.
“Really Grandpa?” asked Billy holding out his bag.
Dad laughed. “How about we go out and see how fast that one fills up? I’ll grab a spare bag though, just in case.”
“Whose going to hold the full bag?” asked Billy.
Grandpa shrugged. “I sure as hell can’t.”
“I will hold it,” said Dad giving Grandpa a dirty look. “Grandpa isn’t the man he used to be.”
Grandpa looked like he wanted to spit bullets. “You win that one, for now, but your day is coming.”
The streets were alive with ghosts, goblins, superheroes and of course, pirates. Billy showed Grandpa his half full sack. “See, it’s still pretty big,” Billy said.
Dad, checked out the sack. “Yep, you have plenty of room. Let’s see if we can change that,” Dad said.
“But I was showing Grandpa it,” Billy said.
“Yeah, he was showing it to me,” Grandpa said.
“Let’s pretend Grandpa doesn’t exist,” Dad said, shooting a pleading look at Grandpa.
Grandpa took the hint and rubbed his hands together in mock anticipation. “Yeah, pretend I don’t exist. It will be fun.”
Billy giggled and ran to another house. Grandpa continued, “Just like your old man.”
Dad kept watching Billy and muttered under his breath. “Dad, give it up or you’ll be dead to me.”
Grandpa fell into a pissed silence. Dad allowed himself a peek over his shoulder at Grandpa and smiled a bit sadly.
More trick-or-treaters walked past Dad and Grandpa. Grandpa whistled at one of the moms trailing behind. “What is she, like fifty? Isn’t she too old to be wearing that short of a skirt?” asked Grandpa.
The group didn’t seem to notice. Dad, wheeled around again and whispered, “Dad, stop it.”
That caught the attention of the woman Grandpa had been referring to. “Excuse me?” she asked.
“That’s what I was saying,” Grandpa said. “There is no excuse for what you are wearing.”
“Sorry about that,” Dad said. “I burped and was asking to be excused.”
The woman didn’t look like she believed the whole story, but decided to let it go and move on with the rest of her group.
Grandpa watched her go. “Sure treat me as if I’m not here,” he said.
Dad was about to reply, but at that moment Billy came back after another successful candy conquest. “Where should I go to next?” Billy asked.
Dad pointed at a blue house down a ways. “We can go there,” Dad said.
“Or we can go to old man Johnson’s,” replied Grandpa pointing at the creepiest house on the block. The light was on, daring trick or treaters to venture onto the porch, but old man Johnson had a reputation. No one went close.
Of course Billy didn’t know any of the stories, so he pounced on the idea of getting more candy from a door that wasn’t crowded. Before Dad could say anything, Billy was off like a rocket. Dad was about to yell at Grandpa, but then noticed that Grandpa was already on the way to old man Johnson’s house as well. “Damn,” Dad said before he started after the two of them.
Billy got to the door and rang the doorbell. He pulled open his sack and turned on his smile. Old man Johnson opened the door with a loud creek. “What do you want?” he practically yelled.
Billy was intimidated, but he really wanted that candy, so in a clear voice he yelled back, “Trick or treat.”
Old man Johnson was hardly impressed. He gave Billy quite the stare down. “What about if I decide I want a trick?” he asked.
Billy looked around. Grandpa was behind him and his dad had almost caught up. “I don’t have a trick.”
“Then nothing for you. No trick, no candy,” old man Johnson said smugly.
Grandpa held up his hand to stop Dad at the bottom of the steps. He mouthed the words I’ve got this. Dad shook his head, but held his position. This was going to get very interesting.
Billy was lost as to what to do. He was about to cry when Grandpa bent over and whispered something in his ear. Billy smiled and looked back at old man Johnson. “Okay. I’ve got a good trick. If I do it though, you need to give me all your candy.” He pointed at the large bowl of treats just behind the old man.
Old man Johnson smiled. “Son, if you can scare me you can have the whole damn thing, but I’ll warn you. I’ve been in a war. Nothing you can do will scare me.” He took the candy bowl from the chair in the hallway and put on the porch between himself and Billy. “Do your worst,” he said.
Billy smiled and looked at Grandpa, “Ready?” Billy asked. Grandpa nodded and so did old man Johnson. “I’m going to make a ghost appear,” Billy said. “Abracadabra, Grandpa appeara!”
Grandpa manifested himself right there, becoming as solid as he could in his present state, Old man Johnson recognized him right away. “Henry?” asked old man Johnson, “Is that you? I went to your funeral.”
Grandpa laughed. “Boo!” he said, frightening old man Johnson back into the house, leaving the bowl of candy unguarded.
Dad came up the stairs and smiled as Grandpa faded back to his more ethereal state. “Looks like the candy is all yours, tiger. Good thing Grandpa thought of bringing that extra bag.”
Billy began shoveling the candy into his sack. Grandpa smiled at his son and pointed towards Billy. “There are advantages for a man with my condition,” Grandpa said.
Dad tried to put his arm around Grandpa, but it went right through. “It’s good to still have you around.”
Billy held up his full sack and gave it to Dad. He then grabbed the empty sack and began running down the street yelling, “Trick or treat!” at the top of his lungs. Dad and Grandpa took off after the little guy laughing all the way.
The feeling of Lisa’s kiss echoed on Lucas’ cheek as he ripped her head off her shoulders, spraying blood everywhere. “I’m sorry about that,” he said. “It’s just easier this way.” The surprised look on Lisa’s face spoke volumes about how she felt about what had just happened.
A shout rang out somewhere from behind and to the left. Lucas tucked Lisa’s head into his belt by her long hair. He dropped her headless body and began to run. If he could just get to the swamp he would be home free.
Each running step slapped Lisa’s face into his thigh. Lucas felt bad, but knew he couldn’t stop and fix it. The villagers would catch up. Them and their dogs. Lucas hated dogs. They usually ruined more than one good night out.
A set of howls called out, probably from the spot Lucas had left Lisa’s body. “I thought I had more time,” he told Lisa’s head as he continued to run. “I hate being so slow.” Lucas almost hear Lisa criticize him for being so hard on himself. She would tell him how big and strong he was. Well, she would if she wasn’t just a head swinging on his belt. Looking down it seemed her facial expression was that of hope and determination. Still, Lucas was making the most out of a bad situation. If he hadn’t ripped Lisa’s head off and ran, he would have already been caught and more than likely turned to dog food.
The howls got louder. “Why do they always bring dogs?” Lucas asked, breathing heavily. Of course he knew why. Without them the humans would never be able to find him. Lucas knew these woods like the back of his hand. He lived in them and the swamp all his life. Hiding is something he prided himself in. But those dogs and their ability to smell. Those would always find him. That’s why he needed to get to the swamp. The dogs couldn’t move as fast as he could in there where he had his power. Lucas could go to ground and they would eventually go home.
Lucas could see the clearing at the edge of the swamp when he heard their feet trampling the undergrowth. The dogs were almost there, and they were going to catch him before he reached safety. Why did he venture so far out of his hiding spots? The slap of Lisa’s head reminded him of why. That’s right. Love. “You realize what I am going to have to do?” he asked Lisa’s head as he slowed down. “I’m going to have to deal with those damn dogs before we can get away.” Lisa had no response, but Lucas could tell she was afraid of what might happen next. He could see the fear in her eyes.
The dogs started to howl, sending a shiver down Lucas’ spine. They were so close now that Lucas could smell them now. He looked desperately for a weapon to keep them away from him, something that would give him some reach. To his left he saw a fallen tree. “I’m sorry my fallen brother, but I need your corpse,” he said.
Lucas picked up the tree from its cracked stump and held like one of those human swords he had seen. Just then eight hounds popped out of the underbrush. They began to circle while kicking up their howling to a more excited pitch. The humans would know they had cornered their quarry.
With the tree held out, Lucas spun while walked slowly towards the swamp. He just needed a small break. The dogs didn’t give him a chance. One by one they would break the circle and feint in. Lucas would swing his tree at them, but they would dodge to the side. Another would then make their run. Lucas kept swinging his tree, but eventually one was able to get close enough to bite at his legs. Lucas avoided most of the bite, but it did leave the back of his ankle bleeding. That emboldened the dogs and they began attacking and feinting faster and faster. The sounds of the humans were getting closer, their noise resolving into many voices, all seeking his blood.
Soon Lucas was bleeding from eight different bites, and the tree was getting heavy in his grasp. Still through it all he was almost to the swamp. From there he would be free. With one last thrust he threw the tree at the dogs between him and the edge of the fetid water, making them scatter, and allowing Lucas to make one last mad dash.
Just as he was about to hit the water a dog managed to grab Lisa’s head between its teeth and rip it out of Lucas’ belt. Lucas pulled up mid stride and lashed out with his hand, just catching the offending dog by its left hind leg. While he kept the dog from fleeing with its prize, it allowed its brethren to jump on Lucas and bring him to ground. Lucas could feel their jaws clenching, breaking his body, pouring his lifeblood on the ground, but he never let go. Slowly he pulled the dog back and wrestled Lisa’s head away from its jaws. Letting go of the dog he looked into her eyes one last time to see how beautiful she was, even as just a head. Lucas looked away as he heard the men come into the small clearing.
“There they are,” one of them said.
“Kill the monsters,” another one replied.
At some silent signal the dogs bounded off Lucas’ maimed body and retreated a safe distance. Shots rang out, tearing into Lucas’ body. He curled around Lisa’s head, trying to save her from the flying lead tainted with the accursed sliver that poisoned what was left of his blood. Lucas gave her cool cheek one last kiss, then he flung her head into the swamp. With that he sighed and went limp.
The men stopped firing their weapons and approached Lucas’ body. One of the braver souls kicked at his remains. “Looks like we got this one, but what about the girl?”
The waters roiled and a large shape arose from the waters. Its eyes glowed red and the creature screamed at the sight of the hunting party. The dogs fled and the men raced after them. They knew better than to mess with Lisa now that she was back in her home.
Lisa crashed back down into the water, trying to spray some of it on Lucas. A few drops splattered on his mangled corpse, but Lucas didn’t move. Lisa began to sob. “Father, I’m so sorry. Why did I ever leave the swamp to be with a human? I gave up being me, just so I could fall in love. I left my body behind and used the body you made for me so I could be human, like him. I thought his love would have been blind, instead he said he would always see me as a monster.”
Lisa looked back at the direction the human’s had come. Her lover had sent them to kill her. It was all a ruse to make her man feel more important. She had never mattered to him other than an opportunity. “You left your safety to bring me back, but now I’ve lost you,” Lisa continued. “It’s like some sick fairy tale. And without a body I could never tell you how much I loved you and was thankful for what you were doing, other than that last kiss.” With that Lisa left her father’s silver ravaged corpse and moved deeper into the swamp to mourn and live.
The room was dark except for the TV which was on an old version of Sabrina. Clarisse always thought that movie brought out the romantic side of Ken. Ken was quiet, having put down his Negroni a few minutes ago after he has told Clarisse he was getting so tired. She had made it special just for him using the most expensive gin she could find. Ken had asked her what tasted different and she had commented on the love she had added.
Now Clarisse held Ken in her arms as he drifted off. She brushed back the hair from his face. “I remember the day we met,” she said. “It was a beautiful summer day and we were at the beach. I invited you and Mark to have a burger since my brother Chuck had made a few too many and they weren’t going to make it home. You killed me with your ice blue eyes, your jet black hair, and that smile that never seemed to leave your face. I remember wishing I had worn the bikini instead of the one piece, but I didn’t know I was going to meet the man of my dreams. ”
Ken tried to mumble something, but Clarisse put her finger to his lips. “Shhh. It’s okay. You go to sleep.”
Ken seemed to struggle a bit more, but then settled back down. “That’s better,” Clarisse said. “You need to give in and rest. Just like the day we got married. Remember that? Of course you do. We agreed till death do us part. That is quite the commitment. I remember I was nervous about taking such a vow, but you told me how we were perfect for each other. You told me how you were the luckiest man in the world for getting to marry me. You said how you could never wanted to be with anyone else, ever. I had never loved you more than that moment. You made me feel like the luckiest woman in the world.”
Ken shifted again, but this time his mouth hung open and his breathing became slower. “That’s it,” Clarisse said. “Go ahead and rest.” Clarisse kissed Ken on his sweaty forehead. “I remember when you came home from that business trip to Toledo. I decided to surprise you by doing your laundry. I mean, I know how much you preferred to do it yourself. You didn’t want me to waste my time on something you actually enjoyed. But I thought with all the traveling you had been doing that I could ease your burden. You were my provider and I wanted to give something back. That’s why it was such a surprise to find Amanda’s little raunchy love letter in your suitcase, along with a pair of her panties. That wasn’t the Ken I knew and loved, was it Ken?”
Ken didn’t respond except to drool in Clarisse’s cleavage. Clarisse laid his head onto her lap. “And then you decided to come clean about the whole thing. How everything you told me was a lie. How you wanted to touch and kiss and screw Amanda and that you were leaving me to do it on a more regular basis. I reminded you that we said till death do us part. You told me that they were just words. Just words? What do you think now?” She slapped Ken across the face, but he didn’t respond. He kept breathing very slowly and drooling. Clarisse began to cry. “I believed in them then, and I believe in them now,” she said.
With that Clarisse picked up a knife from the tray next to her and stabbed Ken in the chest. She kept stabbing again and again, spraying blood everywhere. Soon Ken stopped breathing, but Clarisse continued until the knife fell out of her tired hand.
Clarisse then picked up the drink Ken had sipped from before becoming sleepy. She held it over Ken’s corpse. “Till death do us part,” she said. She chugged down the rest of the glass and kissed Ken’s blood spattered forehead and tried to get comfortable, waiting for the drugs to take her away. The Negroni left a bitter taste in her mouth, but that was fitting and somewhat comforting.
“I love you, Ken. I do.” were her last words said to nobody.
His sword cut through the goblin like butter, but that just left room for the next one to step up. Nathan had been hacking at these damn things for like the past fifteen minutes and his arms were getting tired. True he could hardly be hurt by the things, but if he stopped swinging they could hurt and maybe even kill him.
At last he saw their king walking to the fray. Nathan began swinging in wide arcs, ignoring his fingers complaining about their grip. He had to make it to the king and end this once and for all. Three more slashes and he was right there. He sized up the king and began a combo, but before it could work the internet went down. “Mom!” he complained, “Why did you turn on the microwave?”
“You said you wanted a Hot Pocket,” his mother said from the kitchen.
As the microwave beeped Nathan’s connection reestablished and he was able to witness the death stroke from the goblin king pierce Nathan’s character’s heart.
“No!” Nathan cried.
Nathan’s mom came into the room carrying a plate with the death dealing Hot Pocket. “Nathan deary, it’s only a game.”
Nathan looked at her like she had told him that she had personally killed Santa Claus because his reindeer pooped on the roof one too many times, AND threw away all the presents. “Mom, I was playing hardcore mode,” Nathan said. “I was almost to max level. My mage is now permadead. Do you know what that means?”
“I’m afraid not deary. You know that,” she said as she placed the plate on the tray next to Nathan.
Nathan swooped up the Hot Pocket, tearing into it like a medieval turkey leg. “It means about thirty hours wasted,” he said while chewing. “Thanks mom.”
His mom put her hands on her hips. “Don’t you dare use that sarcastic voice with me! All these hours you play seem like a waste.”
Nathan swallowed and picked back up the controller. “Mom, you just don’t understand.”
Nathan’s mom shook her head and walked out of the room, but after just a brief moment she returned. “I may not understand why you play that thing constantly, but I do know one thing,” she said.
Nathan didn’t even bother taking a look at her. He continued to load his next character. “What is that?” he asked.
“A thirty-eight year old should be able to heat his own damn Hot Pocket,” she said. With that she left the room in a huff.
Nathan sat there stunned by what his mother had just said. The idea of being thirty-eight and living in his mother’s basement made his mind explode. Then he shrugged his shoulders, took another huge bite of Hot Pocket, and dove back into the game. That goblin king was going to go down next time. Go down hard!
Wendy poked through the catalog, trying to waste some more time before going to bed. She was so filled with energy that she was practically vibrating. It must have been the magic still in the air after such an awesome workout. She circled a cute sundress that might just have to find a place in her wardrobe when she heard a crash from downstairs.
“Tiamat, is that you?” Wendy asked. Tiamat was her calico cat that sometimes roared like a dragon, hence her name. Tiamat liked to test if gravity still worked sometimes, but that seemed a bit too much noise for a cat.
Wendy got off the bed and pulled on her robe. She tied the robe tight and peered out of the room. There was no one to be seen, including Tiamat. “Tiamat, where are you?” she called out.
The silence that greeted her question had Wendy rechecking the tightness of her robe. Gone was the magical vibrating from just five minutes ago. Now it was serious mojo. Wendy kicked herself for leaving her phone in the kitchen. Most of the time she hated the thing, but right now it seemed like a bad idea to exile it so far away.
Wendy walked slowly down the hallway into her living room. She cursed herself inwardly for finding a house that wasn’t open concept. It would have been much better if she had proper sight lines. Then again, she didn’t know if she had an unwanted guest yet. Living room was clear, so she turned to head to the kitchen. That would give her access to her phone and a way to get out of the apartment. Both seemed like a good idea right about now.
A sounds from her office area stopped her in her tracks. “Tiamat?” Wendy asked. The sound went dead immediately. Wendy steeled herself for what was about to happen. She decided to surprise the intruder before they could surprise her.
Wendy ran the remaining steps to the office and spun around the corner, her left hand out. There were three individual in black wearing masks. Two were working on her safe while the third held a gun pointed at her. Two shots fired out. The first missed, but the second hit Wendy’s shoulder, spinning her around on the way to the floor.
The two intruders working on the safe never skipped a beat while the third one pushed Wendy back onto her back with his foot. “Dumb bitch,” he said.
Wendy’s eyes began to glow. “Eat it,” she yelled as she thrust her left hand at the man. A bolt of red light flashed between her hand and the man, blasting him off his feet. He landed bonelessly by the other two working on the safe. That finally broke their concentration. Two guns seemed to materialize out of thin air. Wendy felt a brush of fur as Tiamat jumped onto her chest and roared.
The two thieves looked at each other trying to figure out how such a little cat made such a big noise. Wendy smiled and released her binding spell. Tiamat leapt at the two invaders and seemed to transform in midair into a dragon that was way too big for the space everyone was in. Shots rang out, but it was like trying to stop a tank with a fly swatter. Tiamat swallowed whole the two invaders with a single bite before turning back to Wendy. “Are you alright?” Tiamat asked.
Wendy sat up and the bullet popped out of the already closing wound. “I’m going to be sore in the morning,” she said. “The real question is who were they?”
Tiamat somehow shrugged as she idly ate the last invader.
“Did you have to?” asked Wendy.
“Did you want to explain this to the authorities?” asked Tiamat. “The police will be here soon.”
Wendy could hear the sounds of sirens as well. “Okay, then time to pretend everything is normal,” she said. With that Wendy reactivated the binding and Tiamat shrunk back into the space of a small cat. “We can be good at pretending,” she said as she nuzzled with her cat.
The sky was dark and the full moon hadn’t peaked over the horizon yet. Harvey kept waiting for Janet to get home. She was late and Harvey needed out of his cage so badly. He paced the space over and over: four steps, then three, then four, then three. The time was coming, and if he didn’t get out he was just going to explode. When was Janet going to come home and get him out? She wouldn’t want to have him loose it here in her bedroom. Harvey let out a small whimper. He could feel a tremor in his legs. Pretty soon he was going to have to let go, and that wasn’t going to be pretty.
Just then twin lights speared the bedroom windows, illuminated the ceiling. Harvey yet out a yowl that had almost sounded like help. The garage door began to open at the same time as the moon started to peak over the horizon. Harvey could hear Janet running through the house. She burst through the door, her blonde hair trailing behind her. Harvey yowled a hello.
“Hurry,” she said in a very husky voice.
Janet opened the cage and Harvey bound out the way Janet came in. He had to go outside and do his business so badly. He made it out of the garage and into the sheltered backyard. Janet raced after him, ditching clothing as she did so.
The moon finally leapt over the horizon and Harvey couldn’t hold it any longer. His limbs elongated and he shifted to stand on his back legs. His nose contracted, his eyes blinked and became the bluest blue. Soon the transformation was complete. He was naked and human once again.
Something furry rubbed against his leg. He reached down and scratched Janet behind her ear. She growled and bit at his hand. “What’s wrong my love?” he asked. Looking down at her golden fur, Harvey noticed that Janet hadn’t gotten her bra completely unhooked before her transformation. He undid it and gave her a hug, nuzzling into her fur. “Baby, this werewolf, wolfwere thing makes our relationship tough at times. Janet whimpered. Harvey gave her another hug. “But at least we have each other.”
Emeril picked up some salt and threw it in theatrically. “Bam!” he yelled. He waited for applause, but none was forthcoming. “This is harder than the old days,” he said.
Dealing with offal hadn’t been one of his specialties at first, but after time he found he had a real knack for it. A few more snips and the heart was now set. Emeril masterfully tied a few surgeon’s knots with butcher’s twine and the cavity was sown back up.
Lightning struck the rods outside and a moan arose from the corpse lying in front of him. “Bam! It’s alive!”
The dumpsters behind the old warehouse were a perfect place to snag a mostly sheltered cigarette break. There was always a person or two hiding out from the constant wind blowing along the old canal. There might not be many jobs here anymore, but there wasn’t a shortage of people trying to dodge work for a quick nicotine hit.
Kennedy punched out for lunch and headed down to the dumpsters. He figured to catch a quick hit before getting a coffee and maybe one of those shawarma wraps from that funny smelling dude at the lunch cart. As he entered the unofficial smoking zone he noticed that Travis was already there. That dude had blown in on the winds a couple of weeks ago and worked in the warehouse next door. From what Kennedy had heard he was almost a ghost. He had no friends, and spoke even fewer words. He must have a crapload of stories though. The man was covered in tattoos that pictured faces distorted by screaming. Kennedy had a few tattoos of his own, but nothing that awesome.
Kennedy gave the mandatory head bob in recognition of Travis being there first and received a slight nod back, accepting Kennedy’s entry into the church of smoke. Travis was thumping a soft pack of some off brand of menthols. Kennedy hated the smell of menthols, but he noticed that what wind was there was coming from Kennedy’s side of the shelter. Kennedy wouldn’t have to worry about it.
Kennedy grabbed out his hard pack of unfiltered. He pulled one out with his lips and reached for his lighter. The problem was that his lighter wasn’t there.
“Damn,” Kennedy said through clenched lips. “Hey man, can I bum a light?”
Travis put his cigarette pack on the dumpster and pulled out his sapphire blue Zippo. With a very practiced flick of his wrist and thumb a flame appeared out of thin air. Kennedy leaned in close and drew the flame into the cigarette, bringing it to life. Kennedy breathed in deep and felt a small bit of satisfaction.
“Thanks man,” Kennedy said.
Travis flicked the lighter closed and placed it back into his overalls. He picked back up his unopened pack of cigarettes and began to thump it against his open palm. Kennedy notice and nodded towards the pack.
“You going to smoke one of those?” Kennedy asked.
Travis stopped thumping and turned back to Kennedy. “What nosiness is it of yours?” Travis asked. He began thumping his pack once again.
“You keep that up you won’t have anything left to smoke,” Kennedy said.
Travis paused mid hit. “Who said I wanted to smoke?”
Kennedy laughed. “Nobody is dumb enough to buy a pack for like twenty bucks and not smoke them,” Kennedy said.
Travis began tapping his pack again. “Maybe I’m trying to quit,” he said.
“Then throw them away man,” said Kennedy. “But I always say smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”
“When I smoke I worry about my smoke killing people,” Travis said.
That made Kennedy almost drop his cigarette as he laughed hard. “Now that is some funny shit,” Kennedy said. “You’re more worried about second hand smoke than what you do to your own lungs? Dude, you must be a saint.”
It was Travis’ turn to laugh. “No one has ever confused me with a saint.”
Kennedy took a long draw on his cigarette and watched Travis. Travis ignored him and focused on tapping his pack. Kennedy was curious. “Hey man, those are some awesome tatts. Where did you get them done?” Kennedy said.
“None of your concern,” replied Travis. The tapping became a bit more forceful.
“Look, I just want to get something like that myself. Your tattoo artist is like crazy good,” Kennedy said.
“Thanks,” Travis said.
Travis smiled a grin that made Kennedy shiver. “I did them all myself,” Travis said.
Kennedy let out a low whistle. “Man, you are one tough mother,” Travis said. “How much do you charge?”
“You wouldn’t want to pay that much,” said Travis. He looked straight into Kennedy’s eyes. “Trust me.”
Kennedy laughed a bit nervously. “Come on, give me a number. You might be surprised what I would pay for it,” Kennedy said. “I mean, your tatts are so lifelike. I love how the eyes scream as much as their mouths”
Travis stood there just staring at Kennedy. Kennedy let the lull in the conversation just sit there for a while, but it seemed Travis wasn’t going to respond. “Come on man,” Kennedy continued. “Don’t be a prick. Give me something to work with.”
“You want something to work with?” Travis asked as he unwrapped his soft pack.
Kennedy nodded. “Yeah man. I mean it. I want one,” Kennedy said.
Travis pulled out his zippo and set his lit his cigarette while facing away from the wind, taking a couple of quick puffs.
“Really, name your price,” Kennedy said.
The wind kicked up just as Travis muttered something. Kennedy moved closer. “What did you say?” Kennedy asked.
The wind died down to a calm as Travis turned back to face Kennedy with his eyes closed. “I said are you willing to be a subject for one of my tattoos first?” Travis asked.
Kennedy nodded, but realized Travis couldn’t see the action. “Yeah, I can do that. It would be pretty cool,” Kennedy said.
“Good,” said Travis. He sucked hard on his cigarette taking in quite the lungful and held it there for a second. Travis’ eyes snapped open as he blew out the smoke into Kennedy’s face. The last thing Kennedy saw was the red glow coming from Travis’ eyes. Kennedy began to scream as he could feel his body, his mind, and his soul being pulled apart by the smoke.
Travis sucked back in the smoke and the dissipating Travis. He held that smoke in his lungs for a moment, savoring the feel before blowing a bit of smoke back out. Travis undid one side of his overalls and pulled down the collar of his t-shirt underneath. There was the picture of Kennedy, screaming, face distorted by the smoke to something so lifelike, but so wrong.
“That’s why you should listen that my smoking kills,” Travis said to the last of the smoke drifting away on the winds by the canal.
‘What’s the last thing that goes through a bugs mind when it hits your windshield? Its butt!’
That was the joke that flashed through my mind as I jumped out of the airplane. The rush of air, adrenaline, and not a small dose of fear roared out the canned laughter that followed the joke. Of course all I could think of, well besides holy crap I’m falling, was the adjustment of that joke to what was the last thing that was going through my mind when my chute didn’t open? I was still working on the answer when the person I was riding pulled the cord and we seemed to go from falling to flying straight up. I know that I wasn’t zooming up into the sky, but it sure seemed it. As we came to a standup landing I finally came up with the answer to my joke.
Nothing, because the experience was mind blowing.