liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-29 01:09 am

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 16

Author's note: Now that I feel marginally caught-up with school and a little less panicked, here's some more words for you about our heroes. The last time we saw them, they were sitting inside somewhere, saying important things, and looking very serious.

Corey (continued)

It took a while, but with great patience I was finally able to coax a coherent explanation out of him. When I finally got it, I coughed to cover the laugh that bubbled up from my chest. It was an absurd concept. So, half joking, I asked him to show me what he meant.

He did.

Let me tell you, it was weird.

He made us leave the bar first. We walked a little ways down the street. At some point, clouds had covered the sky, and the sun cast a diluted grey tone over everything. They weren’t your normal grey clouds either, but deep, dangerous blue, the kind that presaged heavy storms back in the old Midwest. Gutters lined the streets here, newly installed less than a year ago to cope with the rain that made it past the weather controller (which, incidentally, brought the rain in the first place). Installed in the proverbial nick of time, the first rainstorm had come three days later. The precipitation, while not catastrophic by any means, still overflowed a sewer system not tested holding that volume of water. Nobody wanted a repeat of that. Still, when the rain clouds came in—scheduled weekly, every Saturday—pedestrians still edged away from the absorption drains, the memory of ankle-deep water in the desert apparently a hard memory to shake completely.

He led me to the alley in which we’d met—the alley outside our apartment. I thought he would go inside, maybe for the familiarity of home or whatever, but he stopped outside the door and turned to me. And as soon as he did that, I realized that he had… well, he had done it.

“You don’t have to be nervous,” Jamie told me.

“I’m not,” I lied.

Jamie was smiling again, but it was his predatory smile, the one with all the teeth in it. Not a nice smile. My first impression, right then, was that he was about to go for my jugular. But as the seconds ticked by—and he just stared at me, our mutual silence exposing my lie—I began to realize that it wasn’t necessarily a dangerous smile. It was less threat and more amusement, as though what he saw was something pathetically funny, and he wasn’t pouncing yet because it was amusing him, like a cat watching a damaged mouse.

“Huh,” he said.

“So,” I said, not sure what I was supposed to be saying or doing now that he had done exactly what I asked him to do.

“I suppose,” said Jamie, “you want to talk about it.” I nodded. “That’s fine. Why don’t we go inside?”

“Why?” I asked a bit too quickly. The thought of being in an enclosed space with this wolf and his hyena grin gave me pause.

In response, Jamie simply pointed up. It was a dismissive gesture, the kind that you use when you want to convey that the guy you’re talking about, you know, the one who dumped your best friend by email… yeah, that guy. Except it was the sky that he indicated, and it was still just as dismissive.

And at that moment, the rain started.

I nodded curtly, and we went inside.


His name was James (he said), and he was born when he took the tasp for the first time.

The tasp is a drug that induces physiological changes. In a way, it was like a reset button, in that it read your genetic code—the original one, the copy contained in each of your cells—and worked with that as part of its blueprint. The result was that the changes it made were basically based on how your body thought it should be, and not how it actually was. After his body mended, Jamie somehow got it into his head that he was also emotionally damaged, and that, given enough time, the drug would be able to fix that as well.

“Self-fulfilling prophecy,” Jamie—James—told me, “is a wonderful thing.”

Most likely, the tasp wasn’t actually capable of inducing multiple personalities. But if the user was already trending that way anyway, the drug apparently did nothing to curb that trend.

Little Jamie had been a quiet kid, the kind that you usually forgot was there. He wouldn’t be at your party, but he’d listen to you talk about it in class, and you’d get the feeling he wished you would just invite him, so he could show you he wasn’t as weird as everyone said he was.

And then, he starts to think that he should maybe dress a little differently. Perhaps he should just bluff his way through uncomfortable situations. He did, and realized that he gained confidence as a result—not because he always knew the right thing to say, but because how he said it became just as important as whatever it was. He found his charisma. At the same time, he felt himself losing his grip, becoming someone other than how he thought of himself. He wrapped a panicked trickle of thought around that, tethering his old self to his new, but not incorporating it. He continued to worry that whatever came out of his mouth would be wrong, but he would occasionally realize that he knew how to fake it anyway. Eventually, part of him thought he should give himself a more grown-up name.

“Ah,” I said, staring into the face of a sentient creature that was, in some small way, more alien than any person with whom I have ever interacted.

“I don’t want you to be nervous around me,” James said, tapping the coffee table with his bare, furred foot. “I am not going to hurt you.”

“I know,” I lied. “I figured you’re still, you know, you or whatever. I’m just, uh, learning a new side to you.”

He chuckled, and I was struck by how normal sounding it was. Just a chuckle, like I’d told him a joke. “It’s amusing,” he said, seeing that I didn’t get it, “because in a very, supremely metaphorical sense, you literally are.”

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-21 11:40 pm

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Parts 14 & 15

Author's note: I missed yesterday's posting because Dreamwidth didn't want to let me post anything. 24 hours later and they have apparently fixed whatever was keeping me from posting. So, here you go, just over 2000 words from two days. Enjoy.


I like this place. It is peaceful and serene.

Drop on the palm, rub into my inner ear, and a rush like lightning.

I think. Kind of. Not really in words. Colors. The ceiling is the sky, the crack in the paint is the contrail of an airplane. Are we humans incapable of leaving nature alone? Must we stain her with our machines?

I want to live in a world where bad things are foreign.

The tasp is on the nightstand.

Another drop on my hands, another rub on my ears, and I sink into the world more.

Someone knocks on my door. Am I in my room? A voice floats over past me, swipes at my attention but I ignore it. Light from the window…. Things have become fuzzy.



I didn’t know exactly what to make of Jamie. My memory said it was normal. He had been in Jamie’s room for I don’t know how long while I wallowed in self-pity in the bathroom, avoiding looking at my face in the mirror. I just knew there would be an ugly bruise above my right eye. I could feel it when I woke up, and I might have caught a glimpse of it when I rushed past the mirror to vomit in the general vicinity of the toilet. I spent the next five minutes cleaning, disinfecting, and practicing my aim, and trying to remember what stupid thing I had done last night to earn what was happening. When I did finally look, I realized two things: it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be when I was feeling it with my fingertips; and I had never gotten a black eye before. I had been in fights—other rich kids were as dirty as non-rich kids—but the boys I fought were stupidly reluctant to hit a girl, and the girls I fought never fought boys.

When I stepped into Jamie’s room, Tamlin looked up from beside the prone Jamie and said, “Don’t worry, it looks worse than it is. This is normal.”

Jamie lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling, his mouth working slowly and no sound coming out. A wet washcloth lay across his forehead, and another across his wrists. More clothes were piled in a bowl with water next to Tamlin’s legs. Another bowl sat next to it, and it was into this that Tamlin put the wet cloths he removed from Jamie’s forehead. The fact that Jamie looked like a wolf—or, in this moment, like a large dog—somehow altered the scene, made him look even more pathetic.

“What’s happening to him?”

I stayed in the doorway, not comfortable being in the same room as whatever was happening. The window was wide open, sunlight doing the best it could to stream through when there was almost no direct line of sight to the sky anyway, and all we got was reflected off another building. It was still strong enough to stab right through my eyes into the back of my skull. I didn’t really need to ask the question; I had seen my fair share of tasp use when I lived with my parents. I remembered the vacant stares

“He’s on the tasp. Must have been a tough night.”

“Yeah, no shit.”

“Yeah,” Tamlin echoed me, “no shit.” I finally looked at him properly. He had a bandage on the right side of his neck, one of those wrap-around kinds for people with fur or feathers, and another wrap on his arm.

“What happened to you?”

“Probably the same thing that happened to your face.”

I winced. “That bad?”

“Nah.” He took the cloth from Jamie’s head and gingerly replaced it with another from the bowl. “And anyway, I think we were hit by different people. Mine was someone I’ve never met before. What about you?”

“I knew mine. He comes into work. Or I think that was him. Last night was… stupid.”

Tamlin grinned. “I’m glad you came.”

“Haha. Yeah. ’Cause I love getting punched in the face. Highlight of my day.”

“See? You had a good night.”


I took over when Tamlin left to get food. The dino was acting weird, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It didn’t fit his M.O. I would have thought he’d be doing his dominance thing, but the whole time he was there he was nothing but helpful, even conciliatory. When Jamie woke up, briefly, just long enough to mutter incoherently and stretch a pathetic hand over the floor, Tamlin shushed him and handed him his tasp. I watched Jamie apply it to the inside of his ear, then drop back to his mat. Tamlin gently took the dropper and set it back on the floor.

“Isn’t that bad for him?” I asked? He looked like he’d had enough, but Tamlin shook his head and assured me that he wasn’t in danger of dying, not yet.

So now I sat beside a prone Jamie, still staring at the ceiling, and wondered, not for the first time, if he would eventually get up to use the restroom, or if I would have to carry him. I wasn’t looking forward to that.

Luckily, he seemed to have the same thought. With a strangled yell he pushed himself up, and I, startled and thinking something was wrong, moved in to keep him from falling back on his head. His temperature, which I’d noticed while replacing bandages, was even more searing with my whole arm across his back. I knew Tamlin was bullshitting me about Jamie being safe with this much drug in his system. Stupid dino. And stupid girl. I should have known better than to take Tamlin’s word for it. “What’s wrong?” I asked, then repeated the question several times.

Jamie stared straight ahead, eyes half closed, and I was just beginning to worry that he had done some permanent damage to himself when he muttered, “Bthn.” Then he tried again: “Bathroom. And water. Not dying stupid.” In his head I’m sure that made sense. At least I understood the gist of the first two parts. I helped him up—he was heavy—and to the bathroom. I let him have his privacy while I poured some cold water from the tap and dropped in a couple of cubes from the freezer, glad that the icemaker was one of the appliances in the apartment that still functioned as it was designed to. Then I sat in his room and waited for him to come in. He did, fifteen minutes or so later, looking a tiny bit more awake and a little less haggard. He stared at me for a moment, and I just looked up at him. Finally he said, “We. I mean I. I should talk. To you.”


Imagine my surprise when he chose a bar for our “talk.” I had not pictured bars as anyplace Jamie would go on purpose, especially when there was a nice, dark, somewhat messy, totally out-of-the-way apartment available. But then, I reasoned, I had also not pictured him as a crazy dancing person, nor a person who got into fights, nor as a person who won those fights.

I was beginning to realize that I still really didn’t know anything about him.

The bar was one of those bars that caters to a particular crowd. They eschewed the jeans and t-shirts in favor of more dapper apparel, and I felt strangely out-of-place without a tophat as we sat in the back corner of the Golden Beagle. I ordered whatever the waiter recommended, and Jamie got an IPA seasonal that he could name without looking at the menu. Yep. Didn’t really know a thing.

We sat in awkward silence for a while. At least, I felt awkward, but I wasn’t at all sure that Jamie did. He just stared at the table with no expression, no movement except for the occasional flick of his ears. He didn’t look up when our drinks came, though he thanked the waiter. When we were alone again and I had tried the whatever beer I had asked for—it was bitter, which I know means hoppy, which means ick—he finally spoke. He didn’t look up from his hands wrapped around his pint glass.

“Corey… I don’t like myself sometimes.”

I waited. It seemed like the thing to do.

“Sometimes I wish I could say things and do things. I don’t do these things because they scare me. Like talk to people.” He paused, and I expected him to give me a significant look, or make some kind of joke, or even just continue talking. Instead, he just kept staring at the pint glass.

So I cleared my throat. “You’re doing a not-terrible job of talking to someone right now.”

“Well.” He took a delicate sip. I caught a brief flash of his elongated canines, distorted by the light beer and the glass, a long tongue. “You’re different.”


He shrugged.

“How am I different?” I pressed. I don’t know why I did that, except, maybe, I wanted to hear him say something specific. Or maybe just something general. Or maybe just anything at all.

He shrugged.

I took a bigger pull of my drink, operating on the logic that if I drank it quickly, I wouldn’t have to drink it for as long. “What did you want to talk to me about? Let’s start there.”

“I’m sorry you got hit.”

My turn to shrug. “I’ve been hit before. Was that it?”

“No.” Another long pause. I nearly managed to finish my beer before he resumed. “I don’t like lots of things about myself. When I was little, I hurt myself. I also didn’t like myself being hurt.”

“What happened?”

“I broke my finger. Bad. It was bad.” He showed me a perfectly healthy finger. When I told him it looked good, he said, “The tasp fixed it.” I nodded to show that I understood. He shook his head. “You don’t understand. The tasp fixed me. There was something wrong with me and the tasp fixed that thing.”

“I know it alters you. That’s why people use it, isn’t it?”

He nodded. “But if there was something else wrong with me. Something about myself that I didn’t like. Something broken.” Yet another pause. “You know how sometimes I act… different?”

“Yeah.” That one was easy.

“I think that’s the tasp.”

We sat for long enough for him to polish off his beer before I felt compelled to ask, “What?”

“It fixes things that are wrong. So when I thought something was wrong with me, it fixed that something. Made me act different than myself.”

I thought about this. “Are you telling me you were high last night?”

“No. I was, but that is not what I am telling you.” He finally looked at me, and I gave myself a mental kick. This was obviously taxing him. Maybe I should just shut up and let him talk. “I mean that because of the tasp, I act different. I… think different. I feel like a different person.”

The waiter took our empty glasses and our order for another round with aloof disapproval, a gentle, almost fatherly reminder that a short girl and her giant wolf boy probably really didn’t belong in that bar, especially not dressed as we were. “Are you telling me that you got into a fight because the tasp makes you think you’re a different person?”

“I mean that I think I sometimes am a different person, with or without the tasp.”

The waiter brought our next drinks, and I resigned myself to a long, very circular conversation.


It took a while, but with great patience I was finally able to coax a coherent explanation out of him. When I finally got it, I coughed to cover the laugh that bubbled up from my chest. It was an absurd concept. So, half joking, I asked him to show me what he meant.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-20 12:38 am

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 14

Author's note: I don't really have an excuse this time. I wasn't sick or anything. I just reached a point where I realized that I needed to rework how the story was getting where I wanted it to get. So that's what I spent last night doing.

Apologies to someone for using the word "featherbutt." It just fit so well! And it makes Tamlin
so angry! I couldn't resist.

Tamlin (continued)

“That’s bullshit,” he says.

I shrug.

He takes one look around the club, doing his best to make it look dismissive, and turns and stalks through a parting crowd. The bouncers follow him. I look at Jamie, who leers back at me. “Well,” I say, because for once I cannot think of exactly how to broach the subject that’s on my mind. “Wherefore the face, puppy boy?” Maybe that was the wrong way. He grins wider, showing off his bloody teeth, and that has exactly the wrong effect on me. By which I mean, exactly the right effect at the wrong time. I look him up and down, noticing for maybe the first time just how massive he is. I bet it’s the way he’s carrying himself now, like he owns the world, like it’s the most natural thing ever to nearly bite someone’s throat off in the middle of a dance club. Which reminds me, we’re still surrounded by a crowd. Right. Not a good idea to keep this freak show standing around. It would have been bad enough had it been two regular guys got into it, but now it’s one dino and one wolf, the latter stained from his attack. “Hey, why not let’s take this elsewhere, yah?”

“So, what, you run this place?” this new Jamie asks when we’ve made our way across the floor. I shrug, as close to an unconcerned motion as I can make. “Ah, I see,” he says. Then he stops, and I make it a full three more before I realize that he’s not coming with me. I was going to take him to the bar, buy him a drink—no, maybe the bathroom first, to wash his mouth out—the blood, I mean, to wash the blood from his mouth—

No, no, this is getting me all bothered again.

—I could wash his mouth out—

“You just like to pretend you’re in charge.”

If I wasn’t already looking at him, I would have spun on the spot. What the hell was that supposed to mean? “Explain,” I say. This time, he shrugs and walks past me, but I grab his shoulder before he can. “Explain.”

Another shrug. “You like to walk all big and talk all tough, but you’re really just a fluffy bird with an attitude problem.”

It’s an effort to keep my feathers from rising. “I’m the one with the attitude problem?”

“Uh huh.” He grins.

“You know I saved your ass back there, right, dog boy?”

“Whatever, featherbutt.”

I bristle, and he laughs, which is exactly the wrong fucking response. “Why don’t you get the fuck out?”

“Of the club you don’t own? Nah. I like it here. It’s exciting.” He says it casually, over his shoulder, but the people around us have picked up on the vibe of the conversation and are steering clear and watching with interest, and I imagine that the news of the fight has circulated already. Before I can respond, he says, “You don’t care about Corey, do you?”


“You left her there.” He indicated first the doorway with a nod of his massive head, then the bar. “She’s still over there somewhere, drunk and hurt, and you were taking me here for a drink. Right?” Bigger grin. “How romantic. I’d say I don’t bite, but I bet you like that.”

“Get out.” I can barely contain it. I want to hit him.

And he just grins, and stares right at me, and says, “No.”

And I ask you, what am I supposed to do now?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I learned how to snarl real good with my tribe. We’re not really a tribe, but we like calling ourselves a tribe because it makes other people uncomfortable. Anyway, we act sort of like I imagine a real tribe would act, by which I mean Indians, or Native Americans, or whatever they were. By which I mean there are lots of drugs, and lots of sex, and lots of dancing. (You caught me; it’s why I like clubbing.) We used to get into these great big fights about anything really, but I learned real young that sometimes you don’t have to fight to win. Sometimes, you just have to look like you’d win in a fight. This usually works with normal people, especially when it’s a dino who looks like he’s gonna win. I didn’t really expect it to work with a wolf man, though. Besides, snarling has multiple uses, and only one of those uses involves not fighting. My favorite other use involves throwing your opponent off-balance for long enough to get in a solid first hit.

What I learn today is this: Jamie is better at snarling than I am. And legitimately scarier.

I’m on my back before I can even gurgle in surprise, and Jamie has both of my hands pinned, and his teeth fly at my throat. I kick up at him, and am rewarded with an “oof” as my foot connects with his stomach. I roll back, but he grabs my foot and pulls me back, and I find myself frustratingly in exactly the same position as before. This time, he blocks my kick with his knee and pins my leg to my stomach. And this time, I can’t stop his mouth from finding my throat.

Good thing I’m friends with the bouncers, innit?

It takes four of them to pull him from me, but not before we both get some good hits in on the other: a fist in my snout, teeth in my throat, and another solid kick, this time to his solar plexus, and what I sincerely hope is a painful scratch across his muzzle. They drag him away, kicking and snarling, through a crowd parting like the Red Sea.

And I swear—though I wouldn’t tell many people this—I swear, I couldn’t move. The look in his eyes was… I don’t know. When I got kicked out of school, the reason the principal gave my tribe was I didn’t act “civilized.” My father reacted predictably, and declared that I shan’t be attending a school that defines civilization so narrowly—this was obviously before we moved to Paradise—and I was homeschooled from then on. The reason for my dismissal was that I attacked another third grader who had stolen my pencil, and he ended up in the hospital with whining parents and doctors who complained about having to actually do their jobs for once. I met that kid ten years later, and he told me he remembered being scared, not because I was attacking him, but because I “didn’t look right.” I had no idea what that meant.

Watching Jamie get dragged across the floor by four burly men, still spitting and cursing, surging so hard he almost topples them over, I finally have an inkling of what that kid meant. I think if they let him go, he might actually kill me. That snarling thing staring at me predatorily resembles a human in its general appearance, its clothing, but that’s it.

And I realize, with a combination of admiration, fascination, and disgust, that he baited me into attacking him. Dear Science, am I really that easy to predict?

I turn back to the bar, ignoring everyone’s concerned looks—like I’m going to admit to them that he scared me almost to shaking—and begin ordering shots.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-17 10:14 pm

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 13

Author's note: I'm in the middle of a nervous breakdown at school. Thank god I have my stories!


I heard they were leaving, and cut a quick path through my friends, ignoring most of them, to say goodnight to my roommates. I was honestly surprised they came at all. And I was dancing with this adorable chick about half my size who has been petting my feathers all night the way you pet someone you’re about to enter. I arrive in time to see Jamie smash into some tall kid’s chest, bringing them both crashing to the ground. The kid ignores the impact and punches upward, connecting solidly with Jamie’s jaw. Or I think it’s solid, anyway, except that Jamie doesn’t react. Like he wasn’t even hit he brings his own hand down onto the kid’s face. He does it again, and again. The kid manages to shove Jamie off, but the wolf boy bounces off the floor,  his arms turned to springs, ducks his head and smashes into the kid’s chin. The kid’s head snaps back, and Jamie does exactly what I don’t expect and closes in on the kid’s throat.

That’s so totally my cue to break it up. I rush in—three or so bouncers are coming in behind me—and drop low to put a hand on Jamie’s shoulder. A quick glance down at the random kid—gurgling as Jamie’s nose closed in over his ear, hands clawing at the wolf’s face and neck—“Jamie! Up!”—he doesn’t listen, and with my hands on his shoulder I actually feel his teeth puncture skin, and I shudder. Oh. This would be a terrible time to get an erection. “Need to,” I say, and I know I should be saying something… it doesn’t come, for a moment, then oh yeah, “Need to stop.” I add, “Stop,” even as my sight is coopted by my imagination, images of Jamie’s teeth in his neck, tasting blood on my own tongue… “Stop,” I say, more to myself this time. Really, really bad time for an erection.

Others arrive in seconds, and together we are all able to pry the wolf’s jaws apart. One bouncer—Vincent, and yes, that’s his real name—loops his meaty arms under Jamie’s, and I realize that there is no way I would be that stupid. If Jamie was eating a baby, I wouldn’t be that stupid.

Jamie whips his head around, jaws agape, and snaps them together less than an inch from Vincint’s nose. Vince grunts in alarm and loosens his grip, and Jamie tears out of it and heads straight back to the boy, bleeding on the floor. He stops above him, points one massive, lethal claw down at him and says, “Don’t fuck with my friend.” Then Vincent and two of his buddies grab him again, one to each arm and one keeping a hold on the back of his shirt. They hold him steady, though I don’t think he’s fighting anymore. Mostly he’s just staring a hole through the guy on the floor.

I find Corey maybe ten feet from the action, a huge bruise over her eye. She looks at me, defiant, innit. And just like that, I divine what happened.

I keep my motions deliberate as, in full view of everyone, I step up to the boy on the floor. At second glance, he’s not bleeding nearly as bad as he should have been. I thought the wolf boy had ripped his throat out, but it was only a love-bite. Delicious red flows from four small punctures, but none of them are serious. I squat down next to him. He takes a moment to notice me, and jumps when he does.

“You all right?” I ask. The crowd around us is quiet, but I still speak up to be heard over the music.

“No!” he bleeds petulantly. “That fucking asshole fucking tackled me!”

I glance at Jamie, who ignores me completely and continues flaying the kid slowly with his eyes. “Who, that guy?”


“Was that before or after you punched the girl?”

I count: One. Two. Then click. His eyes widen. “You gotta be fucking kidding me.”

I shake my head. “I should probably explain,” I say, offering him a hand. He regards it suspiciously for a moment, then takes it. I hoist him to his feet. “We should probably call CitySec and have wolf boy here arrested for dangerous stuff.” I pause, wait for him to agree.

“Fuckin’ A right you should! This is a god damned disgrace of a club. Letting fucking mod freaks in here. What the fuck did you think was gonna happen?”

“Yesssss,” I drawl, just long enough to get him to look at my toothy muzzle. “Those mod freaks sssssure are a pain, ain’t they?”

His mouth works, but his throat doesn’t. Ha.

“Well. Anyway, my point is, I’m not calling City Security on him. Go ahead. Ask me why.”

I must admit to a certain pedantic weakness: I really enjoy watching people figure out things that I already know. All it usually takes is context clues. Like, for instance, the two bouncers standing just behind me, arms crossed and staring at the kid. They don’t need to know what he did wrong to have picked up on my irritation. My feathers stand up when I get annoyed. I can’t help it. So I enjoy watching his eyes widen even more as he realizes that I am probably just a hair more important in this particular club than his rather unidirectional sense of justice.

“Aren’t you going to ask me why?”

“Why?” It sounded forced. I smiled pleasantly.

“Because you hit my friend first. If I called CitySec on Mister Woofie I’d have to call them on you.” And now, I wait. For a minor offense like this, the kid would probably get a very minor sentence, like a couple of hours in confinement, then a fine, and a warning, and a stamp on his record detailing that he got a stamp on his record. Of course, that assumes that he doesn’t already have a stamp. If he does, then he’ll be spending a little more than a few hours in lockup. And wouldn’t you know it, the kid just stares at me, holding his throat, all sorts of fire in his face, and it’s really all I can do to keep from jumping him right there and taking a long, slow lick at his neck wounds.

Down, boy.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-17 12:09 am

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 12

Author's note: This was fun to write. Every time I sit down to write these words I contemplate what I want to say, and then just sort of let it work itself out from there. For this section I was planning on doing one very specific thing. And at this, I have utterly failed. But I failed because the failure was necessary, or, more accurately, I wouldn't have succeeded anyway without explaining what is explained herein. As I write this story I can't help but feel that it's quickly growing into something unrecognizable, but exciting. I'm finally starting to really know these characters, and it's going to be interesting to see if I can get it all down on (virtual) paper before they move on from my head to greener pastures.


There is something immensely satisfying about my physiology. Years ago, I wasn’t really all that impressive to look at, and I knew it. When I walked I practiced looking at my shoes and pretending I was somewhere else, and I almost never smiled. There was nothing wrong, exactly, with my smile, except that I didn’t like it and didn’t think anyone else would, either. I learned my shoes really well in those days. And when someone smiled at me—someone like, say, Carl—I had a tendency to feel a bit like a mouse scuttling before a particularly happy cat. It was one of the reasons for the tasp, initially. Then, of course, the tasp did its thing, and suddenly my meek little smile was full of long, sharp teeth. I had to learn to do little half smiles, where the corners of my mouth went up but that was pretty much it. Full-on smiles made people uncomfortable, and occasionally excuse themselves so they could stand anywhere that wasn’t near the thing that looked like it was going to bite their throat out. I remember thinking that, were I a more aggressive person, that smile would be the perfect tool to cultivate. I dismissed it at the time. I was more worried about skipping school and making sure my parents didn’t find out. I walked neighborhoods that I normally wouldn’t have done, and found that people left me alone purely because of how I looked. Oh, they’d sometimes shoot me angry or haughty glances, but always from a safe distance. And that was when I truly realized the power that I had given myself. If I did nothing but act like my old meek self, people generally left me alone, even were deferential towards me—not a polite kind of deferential, but nonetheless an effective one that meant if I could endure abuse I could have pretty much whatever I wanted. And that was if I acted meek and submissive. But if I were to act strong…

I fired a full-on smile at Carl.

“What do you want?”

If I could have smiled any bigger, I would have. A small part of me had been hoping to avoid any confrontation by bluffing my way through it, what my societal upbringing had accidentally instilled in the old me to an alarming degree. But a not-so-small part of me wanted to punch him in the face. If my little smile had cowed him, I would have been obligated to let him go. It wouldn’t have been any fun.

“I think you should let Casey go,” I said.

“Yeah? You think that?” He took a step—not towards Casey, but towards me.

I was wrong. I could smile bigger.

“No need,” I said, with my voice pitched low so only he could hear us, “to get excited.” There, my social obligations were fulfilled. If little big man Carl advanced anymore it would be like click “I agree” whenever you install a program. And I knew that Carl, like most people, would not read the fine print because he thought he had it all figured out already, and it was just a formality. Look at me. I put it to you: would you attack me, a six-nine walking sentient carnivore who’s smiling like this at you?

Sometimes the fine print isn’t really all that fine. But people don’t read it anyhow.

I digress.

At this point, nobody had noticed the brewing confrontation. The place was packed, and I suppose he always looked angry, and I always looked scary, and, well, what a perfect pair of friends we made in the flash impressions of dozens of people in those few seconds: I with my arm around Corey’s shoulder, smiling and looking goddamn good and probably more than a little fabulous in my tight fishnet, invisible beneath my fur but sculpting it into reptilian shapes by density; Carl, approaching at a deceptive leisurely pace, pale shoulders thrown back; and Corey looking droopily at Carl, leaning into my arm. That part felt the best. As he came at me, hands balling into fists, I felt my grin stretch just a little bit wider: he was right-handed, and Corey was on my left.

“Bitch, I think you and me should step outside.”


“He wasn’t talking to you, Corey. And Carl, I didn’t know you thought of me that way.”

“Let go of her, ya fucking user.”

“If I’d known that, I would have worn my special clothes.”

“Motherfucker, I ain’t playing. Now I’m taking her home, and that’s how it’s gonna happen. You dig?” He stopped, his face within a foot of mine. His eyes never left mine. Like an alpha wolf challenging an alpha from another pack. In that moment I gained what some people would call respect for Carl. I call it anticipation. He could no longer claim to be ignorant of how the violence started, or what would come to pass. He had eliminated my last societal restraint. With that move he had effectively agreed to the terms and conditions. Good man.

“Oh I dig.” I winked. “How far you wanna get dug?”

He didn’t blink.

“And how hard?”

“You and I should step outside.”

“Come on, boys, le’s not do this, mkay?”

And that’s when I realized why Carl was going to play it smart. He honestly thought he would beat me, and he didn’t want to get in trouble for it. I had become a problem that needed to be dealt with quietly, like that unsavory bite of too-tough chicken that you endure until you think no one’s watching you spit it into your napkin. And, well, I didn’t really feel like quiet at that moment.

With a precision that honestly startled even me, I closed the ten inches between his face and mine, curled my lips back, and snapped my jaws together on either side of his nose. There was a slight tug as he jerked away, and I had just a moment to reflect on how strange that was; my meat was never moving on its own. It was not painful, but weird, the way being ticklish is weird, but not nearly that pleasant. “The fuck!” He shouted. And—oh, bless all that is holy—he looked straight at me. Not around, to see who else saw. Right. At. Me.

I couldn’t contain myself. I giggled.

He came at me silently, but like a thrown rock, right hand balled and raised, then propelled forward. And—

A small nudge in the shoulder blade, and Corey’s center of  gravity caromed forward, directly into the path of Carl’s fist. She didn’t have time to say anything before it cracked her in the side of the jaw and sent her tumbling into the crowd. Here by the door it was more sedate, and even though no one had really noticed our little dominance display, there was no way anyone could deny that this was happening. I spun to put myself between Carl and Corey, stood her up and made sure she was OK. I turned her chin to look. She just stared straight ahead, didn’t say anything.

“Are you all right?” I said loudly.

Her eyes snapped to mine. “Yes. I’m fine.” Then: “I’m fine!” She pulled herself to her feet and stared at Carl, then back at me. And then, remarkably, back to Carl. “What. The. Fuck,” she said.

I gave it a second or two. I wanted Carl to stew for a moment in the attention of several strangers who just saw him punch a drunk girl in the face. When I turned, his expression was caught somewhere between rage and horror. After a moment it settled on the former, and I was once again the target.

All the right moves, Carl.

I gave him my biggest, best smile: Let’s see what you’re made of. And I launched myself at him.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-15 11:05 pm

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 11

Author's note: Hey there, folks! This time I wanted to explore Corey a little more. I also wanted to show more of Carl, who (I hope) isn't quite what you expected. And what's this? Is shit about to get real? Why yes, it certainly does appear that way. Oh, I cannot wait until tomorrow....

Corey (continued)

I shrugged. “Working, I guess.”

“No shit? C’mon, C, you know what I mean.”

“No, what do you mean?” I was suddenly feeling kind of bitchy, and I honestly couldn’t have said exactly why. Maybe it was the alcohol pressing like a vise on my temples, and his words screwed it tighter, not until it was painful, but until it became an unnecessary distraction. It also could have been my latent altruism surfacing in response to his casual dismissal of someone who I disliked less and less every day.

Or, I know now, it was probably the more obvious thing.

Either way, I tossed back the rest of my drink while  he said, “Christ. What’s your fucking problem all of a sudden? Don’t tell me you’re getting all friendly with those furry fucks.” He leaned in again, and he was suddenly less a bad boy and more an ass, eyes squinting through the fog and strobe lights and lasers. His voice was pitched to cut between the beat and the synth laid over it. “You ain’t gone all liberal on me.”

“So what if I have?” I said, less because I actually had and more because I wanted to argue with him. “He’s not such a bad guy. He’s… I don’t know….”

“He’s a wolf, C.” He leaned back and crossed his arms, daring me to challenge that. He watched me until the waiter brought me another Long Island, and then started talking about his day job—system administrator at a high school—and I interpreted it as: conversation over. Now that the girl has stopped being silly we can get onto more pleasant things.

I surprised myself by having a better time than I thought I would. Carl regularly had to deal with asshole high school kids, their righteous parents, and the know-it-all teachers. He talked about it when he came into the head shop, and I enjoyed listening to him. In my alcohol-induced haze I forgot entirely that I was talking to someone I had only minutes ago decided that I wasn’t going to like anymore. Or maybe I hadn’t decided that. Maybe I only thought I had decided that. I couldn’t take stock of my own thoughts, and took a long gulp to compensate while I told him about the first time I saw Jamie standing pathetically outside in the rain, practically begging to be let in, and his antisocial behavior, and his general weirdness when I had taken him for the interview with Rian.

“Useless furry fuck,” Carl commented.

I shrugged. Drink. Mm.

“Guess that Rian guy will have to learn the hard way.”


“Not like it matters. I know when you work, so I don’t ever have to see that bitch again.” He grinned at me, black lights briefly illuminating his teeth. “And you know, I’ve got a feeling that he won’t be working there for too much longer, anyway. Call it a hunch.”

“Yeah, I guess.” I giggled. I wish I could say I don’t know what I was thinking. Unfortunately I remember exactly how everything he said made a sort of primal sense, how I thought, he’s right, I shouldn’t have to deal with this shit about nothing in particular. That, and his eyes stayed with mine, even when mine slipped accidentally to his broad shoulder or chest. By the time that drink was done I was almost too drunk to feel him lay his hand over mine. “Hey,” he said, peering at me. “You all right? Want me to take you home?”

I assured him that I most certainly would like that, and as I stood I caught a glimpse from the corner of my eye, a flash illumination caught in the congruence of gyrating lasers and a window through the billowing smoke, a white canine face staring straight at me, cutting through the atmosphere like a knife. Except it was like a knife flying at a drunk target, and it only brushed me peripherally. Enough to make me stumble.

Carl was right there, one steadying arm beneath mine, standing me upright while I played the part of the rope in a tug-of-war between my senses and my rationality—both of which, incredibly, were losing thanks to my underperforming sense of balance. I looked up into Carl’s concerned face and wondered what the hell I was doing. I pushed away, stumbled, and said, “What the hell am I doing?”

Carl just looked puzzled. We were somehow standing beside the coat check, and the door was right there, and I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea to look back at the dance floor, to look for Jamie, just to see if he was still there, or still watching me. I don’t know if I hoped he would see me leave, or if I wanted to make sure that he didn’t. But everything was too blurry and rocked from side to side, and Carl’s insistent grip on my shoulder brought me back to him in time to catch, “… home, okay?”

I pulled away from him and shook my head—a mistake, because I toppled and had to catch myself on a nearby wall. I hoped the bouncer hadn’t seen me. “No,” I managed, pushing the word out before it could stop to gather thought on its way out. “I’m not leaving yet.”

Carl frowned. “Yes, you are. You’re going home.”

I pointed a finger at him. “No,” I repeated, trying to convey, with that single syllable, that I understood his game, and that at any other time I might fall for it, and had he asked me just ten minutes earlier it almost definitely would have worked, but that right then I was not actually interested in going home with him. Weirdly, I think most of that message got through. He reached out for my arm, but I yanked it away before he could grab my hand and turned and stumbled back towards the music. Everything was blurry, but it wasn’t hard to find a direction that was away from Carl, and towards things that didn’t make me feel dirty for associating with them. Carl was a nice guy—mostly. But I think I was finally becoming sensitive to what he had said about Jamie. That Jamie was a burnout and a loser, I knew. But in my alcohol-addled memory, I saw him watch me from across the floor, and that was not the look of a burned-out individual. It was too—primal. Too much like Carl.

I didn’t want to deal with either of them right then. I was drunk, I was confused, and… and, I reasoned, I had told Tamlin that I would dance.

I pressed into the moving bodies, knowing I was falling and quite unable to do anything about that except for generally control the direction in which I fell. Other intoxicated dancers kept me upright, and music that was so loud I could barely hear filed my—

The world jerked and spun, and I was off the floor before I realized it was because Carl had grabbed my wrist and dragged me towards the door. “Hey!” I tugged back, but he didn’t let go.

“You’re going home, C.” He didn’t look at me as he said it. Conversation over.

“I’m not done yet.”

“Oh, yes you are. You’re way past done.”

I tugged again, this time successfully extricating my wrist from his vise-like grip. He whirled on me, annoyed anger cranking his eyebrows—but stopped before he spoke, mouth slightly open, staring over my head. The momentum of my liberation carried me backwards into something warm and tall, a something which put a protective hand on my shoulder and another on my other. Large, furry hands.

“Problem?” came Jamie’s voice from above me.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-14 10:52 pm

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 11

Author's note: Yeah, so... sorry about this weekend. My only excuse is I wasn't feeling well. Actually, I was feeling sick. It was stupid. I was feeling sick already when I decided I could afford to spend like 5 hours standing in the rain. Yeah. Not my proudest moment in the history of ever.

Anyway, I'm back now, and here is the next part.

Corey (continued)

“Yes,” I said.

Now he lolled his tongue at me, and I grimaced to show him just how much I appreciated it. “What are you, a participatory audience?”

“I prefer ‘voyeur.’”

“That’s illegal, hey?”

“Depends on whether I got a camera.”

He eyed my chest suspiciously. I wore a low-cut shirt that I thought was revealing until I got here. Tamlin’s parties tend to work that way. “Where you keeping it?”

I tapped next to my eye. He shrugged and walked off.

Ten minutes and one and a half drinks later Jamie slid into the seat across from me. He was grinning, an expression that I found a little too toothy to be comforting. He looked happy though, and tired, and I realized that even he had somehow known what to wear: a too-small t-shirt with some sort of fishnet arms, and jeans that worked in tandem with his shirt to show off just how difficult it was to force his muscled body into the clothes. He wasn’t panting, exactly, though I got the impression that the only thing keeping his tongue from lolling to the side was his sharp teeth, a number of which were facing me. “Hey! How come you’re here? You know, not there? Not dancing?”

I shrugged. How do you tell a seven-foot-something wolf man that you’re nervous about your appearance?

He extended his hand. “You should come out and dance.” For a moment it looked like he was about to say something else—with me, maybe?—but then he just closed his mouth and smiled again, canting his head.

And, yeah, okay, he had somewhat endeared himself to me by this point. I admit, when he first moved in I thought of him as a user, and that was, at least in my mind, his primary attribute. But then he went and got a job—well, okay, I got him a job, and I guess drug users have to pay for their habits somehow, but still. He and Tamlin got along. And here he was, at a party, getting the most out of being the center of attention; several of the other dancers, I saw, had watched him leave the dance floor.

So, basically, I couldn’t get a handle on him. He was sometimes really reserved, and occasionally outgoing. It was almost like he was two different people.

And, yeah, okay, I sort of liked the outgoing version. So I grabbed my glass and pulled it towards me. His smile faltered, but I tacked one of my own into place and said, “Let me finish this first. I already paid for it.”

His smile got bigger again—and his ears stood up. Cutely. Oh god. What was I thinking?

He stood slowly, and opened his mouth just a bit—just enough to let his tongue loll out in a lopsided grin. Then he turned ’round and escaped back to the floor.

“What’s up C?”

I groaned involuntarily, glad for the thick layer of music that hopefully drowned the sound out. Even over the beat I recognized Carl’s obnoxious preppy voice. He was approaching from my other side, and when I turned I saw his gaze trail off Jamie and onto me. “Hey Carl.”

“Mind if I join you?”

A quick look confirmed that he wasn’t joined by the twin travelling circus clowns. Just him, then. I wondered how he was connected to Tamlin, and why Tamlin was friends with anyone who thought it was OK to invite Carl to a party, and how fast I could finish my Long Island and get out onto the dance floor with Jamie. I didn’t reflect too much on that thought, just took a long pull that made my mouth feel poisoned.

Of course it wouldn’t be that easy. He hadn’t waited for an answer before slipping into the seat across from me. An awkward thirty seconds passed while he tried to signal the waiter and get a drink—“What she’s having”—and I tried to figure out how to tell him I wasn’t interested. I admit, I’ve a bit of a shy streak in me as well. But that’s no reason for him to take the initiative like that. If I wanted someone to take the initiative, I would have… I don’t know. Something. Anything other than sit there and let Carl order a drink, and start talking me up, and wink obnoxiously at me. He eventually settled into a reclined position with his arm behind over the back of the chair that made me think he was way too comfortable. I had almost finished my drink when he said, way too conversationally, “So what’s the deal with the new bitch?”

I let the glass containing the last inch or so of Long Island click to the glass table. “What?” I said. I was way too quiet for him to hear my tone, but I could tell he got it anyway.

He leaned forward conspiratorially. His eyes flicked to the dance floor. “Seriously C, I mean, what the fuck is that thing doing working with you?”

I make him sound like some kind of post-Hollywood villain or whatever, I know, but he was nothing like that. I mean, he was genuinely confused as to why I was allowing myself to work with someone like Jamie. When I first met him, I thought he was trying too hard to fit in with the wrong sorts of people when he told me of his contempt for users, and dinos, and pretty much every human that didn’t look exactly like him. I admit, in a way it was endearing. I suppose I liked that he was just a little bit of a bad boy, someone so utterly unlike my user parents. I… well, I don’t think I really flirted back, but I certainly didn’t stop his advances. I was a little socially awkward then—I had only been with one person, and between then and now I had managed to ignore or avoid people that might take a romantic interest in me. It hadn’t protected me from my customers, and so I found his roguishness appealing, and… I don’t know.

It took me about three weeks before I realized that he wasn’t trying to fit in with those people: he already did. I guess in my head, those people were guys that always talked about who they hated, and why, and made race-specific judgments when they got out of bed in the mornings, and went to work, and every time in between. Carl was someone who walked and talked like any normal cocky 20-whatever-year-old that I had been around. His ideal world just didn’t include people who debased humanity by becoming more like animals.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-10 10:02 pm

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 10

Author's note: Woo hoo. Have some words. Have some story. Have so, you know, dancing dinosaur at a club. Because why not?

Corey (continued)

One lesson learned that day: Jamie was not a lightweight. I mean, okay, he didn’t exactly drink a lot. But he did go through four Patrón margaritas without showing any signs whatsoever. By that point I was starting to focus on my own behavior, making sure I didn’t do or say stupid things. It only worked marginally well.

Over the course of a month I gradually came to like Jamie. Parsing his strange language had led to a deeper understanding of the precocious problem-solving mechanism operating in his drug-bathed brain. It was surprisingly efficient, not at all what had happened to my parents.

More than that, he was non-threatening. Despite his size, the fact that he looked like a wolf, I felt no more uncomfortable around him than I did around Tamlin. Less so, in fact. When I burned my hand frying mushrooms he was right there with a cool cloth and a first aid kit. And okay, so he had to pick his fur out of the wound, and the cloth was actually his bath towel, but it was the kind of thing Tamlin would have done after mocking or hitting me.

Don’t misunderstand: I know he’s abusive. But he’s also the closest thing I had to a brother or real father.


Tamlin invited us to a party. Jamie had to be persuaded, and then convinced that his jeans were good enough for this kind of party. Though I didn’t know exactly what kind of party it was. I had been to a Tamlin party in the past. It was… well, to be honest, I don’t remember how it was. The dino and his friends know how to party. I know how to drink. I’m sure we all had fun. I woke up on my own couch, with Tamlin snoring in the other one. A feather-covered dino rustling to hungover snores is one of the funniest things I have ever seen. I recall that whenever Tamlin pulls his alpha male bullshit.

Jamie had taken the tasp right before we left; it was obvious even though he said nothing about it. He got a faraway look, and walked a little like a zombie, keeping perfect pace with us without once looking at where we were going.

Where we were going was a club in the city center called DL. To get there we had to walk down Gate Avenue, past the crowd, past the holes in the ground that construction crews and their equipment crawled into and out of daily, like termites, digging away at the city’s foundation in an effort to accommodate the impressive amount of people that had seen the experimental city’s success and wanted in on it. Skyscrapers towered over us as we walked, reaching almost disturbingly high. It was a true wonder that they couldn’t even compete with the Tower, which, true to its name, lorded over the city. Twice we had to detour for construction.

DL was the kind of place I wouldn’t have gone without Tamlin: three stories, with an opening in the center that let you see all three levels at once. Sound nets strung across the openings in the floor damped the sound so much it would have been eerie had each floor not had its own DJ to compensate. The effect was still bizarre: the people on different levels were all dancing to different music. I thought it was a bit impractical. But there was no denying that it was cool.

Tamlin’s friends were a weird bunch of people. Whenever I asked what they did, they inevitably responded with “Tour guide, Corey!” I didn’t exactly know how they all knew my name, but that didn’t stop me from sliding a mean glance or two Tamlin’s way. They to a one looked athletic, like they spent their days doing whatever and their nights at the gym. I did not for a second believe that they were tour guides. Looking at Tamlin, I never once got an impression of innocence. He seemed like that guy that good parents told their children to avoid. You know, the one who seems all right, but might be into some heavy shit. Like they have a whole secret life, and that’s fine as long as it stays a secret. There’s a difference between knowing someone has a secret and knowing exactly what it is.

Tamlin was in his element, and it was a sight to see. Even among his other friends—that’s how I liked to think of them, his “other friends”—he was something of an oddity. With one exception, all the rest looked like pretty standard humans. The exception was a girl (I think) modified to look like a bird. She looked fragile, so thin she’d snap if you ran into her, and her feathered wings being tucked up under themselves didn’t seem practical for things like drinking. The latter problem she solved by simply not drinking anything at all, and the former problem didn’t seem to be a problem. I knew nothing about bird-humans, but I did know their bones were hollow, everything in their bodies tuned lighter. Apparently that didn’t make them weak. Tamlin tossed back his drink, then he and the bird girl cut their way through the club’s second level. Lasers and fog, artfully overdone, further separated our level from the ones below and above. The music pulsed through everything, and even I joined in. We danced nonstop for the better part of

“You should dance,” Tamlin suggested, pulling Jamie out of his seat by his hands. Jamie obliged, protesting the whole time, but eventually he started to get into it. He was very obviously unpracticed, but that didn’t make his haphazard gyrations any less fun to watch. In a sea of standard humans, Jamie towered above most of them. He was attracting attention, too, though I seriously doubt he noticed. He didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything that moved… and boy, could he move….

At some point I realized I was staring. Lucky for me, Tamlin sliding back into the booth provided something to draw my attention away from the gyrating wolf on the dance floor. “So,” he breathed, feathers puffing up and down. “Enjoying yourself so far?” He wasn’t able to sweat, so he got rid of excess heat the same way a dog did: panting. Thankfully, his tongue didn’t loll all over while he did. I found myself wondering if Jamie’s tongue lolled when he panted, then stopped wondering that immediately.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-09 04:30 am

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 9

Author's note: I'm really late posting this one. My excuse is I was at a friend's apartment losing at 2v2 Halo and scraping by at 2v2 Super Smash Bros (as in the N64 version, which is the only real version).



Big Bad Wolf Boy has no spine. He just sits in his room day after day and stares at the ceiling, and sometimes out the window right past me, eyes sliding off like my sky blue feathers are covered in oil. I wish I knew what he is seeing. Tasp gives us clarity, or more accurately gives us the impression of clarity. It’s a little like other drugs: it affects the way your brain processes information. The photons hitting the retina are not necessarily the photons that your brain registers.

When we first met I watched him, and he took the tasp and then sat there. Like he sits there now. His habits have not changed. This one time he came back in a new coat, this huge leather deal that made him look like he regularly got into fights with socs behind the local drugstore. It looked good on him, but he only wore it that one time. It’s remained in his closet, beneath the empty backpack.

“I have a secret,” I say to the closed window. Big Bad Wolf Boy doesn’t respond, or even acknowledge my presence. I slip away, up the fire escape.

I have six minutes to get to 7th and Gate. Arm over arm, up and onto the roof.

City streets are narrow pedestrian thoroughfares that flash beneath me as I leap from building to building. Sometimes I use the fire escapes or scaffolds, but those make too much noise, and the scaffolds aren’t particularly suited to jumping. Where I can, I grab brick and stone. One of the office buildings has a loose piece that nearly killed me the first time I leapt onto it. Would have crashed to the ground below, killed some people there, maybe. They should fix it before it falls off naturally or another runner takes it badly and boom, crash, there goes the neighborhood and one of my best shortcuts. I would leave them an anonymous note, but then they’d wonder and probably watch the roof. Top running is illegal. They’d be within their legal rights to shoot me. Me, I don’t carry a gun. Obvious reasons. If I get caught for anything, possession of a firearm can only make it worse.

My clients are one block over somewhere, I bet that’s them there: the touristy ones, with the backpack and the shirt that says Paraíso in big blocky letters. Nobody who lives here would be caught dead in a shirt blaring our city’s name all over. It’s just tacky.

I descend in an alley. I have found that people are generally uncomfortable with a dino descending on them from on high. It makes them all nervous and unhelpful. Sometimes that’s what I’m after. Sometimes not.

I stalk out of the alley and zero in on the visiting couple. They stand almost directly below the sign with “PARADISE TOURS” marching across its marquee, eyes on the tops of the buildings like they’ve never seen anything so tall before. The crowd is so great that I am able to get within a meter of the woman without her noticing. I say, “Enjoying the view?”

She jumps, then jumps again when she sees me. The man puts his arm protectively around her and says, “Can we help you?” with the kind of creasing of the eyebrows that indicates a rhetorical question.

I bow, letting my feathers ruffle. “I am Tamlin. I’m your guide to Paradise.”

It takes a moment to sink in. “Oh,” says the woman. “Oh. Really? Okay.” She looks to her husband, who clears his throat and says, “Well then.”

“If this is okay with you?” I say, sliding the “s” beneath the rest of the sentence. I lock eyes with the husband. He looks down, then at his wife. I grin. “Excellent. If you follow me, we’ll start down the historic Gate avenue. I trust you have already walked it at least partway? Of course, it is a famous part of our city, perhaps the most famous part, after the Tower. In fact, it was just down this road here—mind the construction there—no, this is actually an access hatch. We’re in the process of constructing a second level below the sewers, so it will be about thirty meters down. Yes, that’s right, it’s an incredible utilization of vertical space. If you look here, it was right there where—”



I guess he got along well enough. I mean, he was a nice guy. It was a little weird living with him, though. You’d hear strange things sometimes, moaning or crying to himself at night, I wasn’t sure which he was doing or why. Jamie got along really well at the shop. We never worked the same shifts; Rian said that would have defeated the purpose of hiring two employees. It was a small business, and he needed at least one person there at all times. The most our “professional” paths ever crossed was if he or I showed up five minutes early and the other was still there.

The tension I thought would arise between Jamie and Tamlin was still missing. On the rare occasion I found them in the same room they were amiable enough. So I suppose it didn’t quite surprise me when we all went drinking together. It was a bar called Ronin K., but don’t let the name fool you. It’s actually more pretentious than it sounds. And that’s why I liked it. Your usual post-class students were generally absent. In their place was a more art-conscious, socially-aware group of people who pretended a disdain for the majority of people that I quite frankly found endearing.

One lesson learned that day: Jamie was not a lightweight. I mean, okay, he didn’t exactly drink a lot. But he did go through four Patrón margaritas without showing any signs whatsoever. By that point I was starting to focus on my own behavior, making sure I didn’t do or say stupid things.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-07 11:15 pm

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 8

Author's note: More than a week has passed since I began writing this story. I was so young back then. I remember the days...


Jamie (continued)

When I step in Rian greets me with a simple nod and a “What’s up?” I tell him I am ready to begin, and he just looks at me for a moment, face a serious mask. “Are you sure? This job requires focus, and determination. There are a lot of intricacies to working in a head shop that most people don’t understand. They think it’s all fun and games, but it’s really not. You got to be on your A-game. You sure you’re ready for this kind of gig?” Then his mouth breaks into a grin. “I’m just messing with you. Come on back and grab a jay, and I’ll show you the ropes.”

I don’t laugh, but I don’t think he cares. I think I am going to like my job. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it. Now this here’s the credit register. You know how to use it?”

“Never have.”

“Well, let’s play for a bit.”

For the next hour he shows me the store. The extra pieces are stored in the back, the code to unlock the register. He gives me a key—“Hey, if you’re working here, I don’t gotta be, right?” He strides and sways through the store with a kind of familiarity that begets abandon, always with the terminal obscuring his eye. I think he looks like a pirate and I tell him so. “Nah, man. I think my great-great-grandfather might have been part Somalian, though. Me, I’m purebred, one-hundred-percent American-Irish.”

When the tour finishes he steps out back for a break. I still have the joint he offered me. It sits in my pocket. I brush my fingers along it, wondering how my life could have been different. In theory it is not hard to imagine. But I cannot seem to settle on particulars. The tasp affects physiology. Certain doors are now closed. Others have been unlocked. I can run farther and faster. I eat more than I used to—or I would if I had money. I am very hungry most of the time. Physically, I have changed as well. When I was thirteen, my finger got caught in the back side of a car door. My father was beside himself with shame, but did not have enough money to afford a replacement. My days of throwing curveballs were behind me.

Then a friend told me about the tasp, about what it did.

The first thing I did after the change—once I could stand on two feet again—was streak one around our building’s satellite dish. It broke a window.

So many things were available now that weren’t before. Rarely is the tasp not enough.

Three boys saunter through the door. They are dressed like the kids in myold school who used to—



—Well fuck me, it is them. It’s the very same ones. How delightful. I wonder what they’re doing here? Expanding their empire of misery, perhaps. I find it difficult to imagine that they came to the city looking for a better life than the one they had terrifying hapless high school kids in the middle of Joliet.

The tall one in front—Carl, orbited by twin moons Lasker and Baruda—looks around this shop like he’s seen better but it’ll do. The two behind him, his henchmen, two steps behind like always, are both larger ’round the waist and head area than their fearless leader.

Tall-and-Mighty gives me a look, and it’s so adorable, like a Chihuahua having a stare-down with a tornado.

“The fuck is this.” His henchmen leer. I stare at him. Hold eye contact. It’s not hard. All it requires is a change in perception. How you look at the world is shaped by a filter between what is there and what you think you are seeing. I remember this little stain from between classes, from the dumpsters out back, from the ice rink and the dumpster behind that. I remember looking up at him. Now I see him differently. He’s a piece of meat, like all of us. His bigness comes from his swagger and self-perception.

Which is funny. Because he’s such a little fucker now.

“Didn’t know they let bitches work here.” He swaggers in my direction, taking his time. Scoping the competition, innit? What if I jump across the counter and bite out his throat? But I probably won’t. “What say you, bitch?” he asks. “You humped all the pipes yet? Is there a single piece of glass in here your disgusting dog dick hasn’t touched? I don’t even want to know what’s in this carpet.”

Chuckles from the peanut gallery. Cue the laugh track. I grin. He stops, his own grin falters.



And there is no way that is happening. I don’t want James anymore.

Grinning used to be a reflex. I did it when I was nervous. I did it the first time he asked for my computer, so he could “do his homework.” Big mistake. I feel the grin start to loosen, and my face fall. What I feel now is… irrational. There is no way he recognizes me. But my question still comes out of a child’s mouth. “C-can I help you?”

“I don’t need no dog food.”

Nothing he says is important. None of it is relevant. But still, his two friends laugh at all of it. It confused me before, when I was first learning how bullies work, when I thought leaders had to be intelligent. But that is false. They just need to be persuasive.

Rian is out back, smoking or doing something else. I cannot leave the store with customers to go get him. And that would look weak. I cannot show weakness to these people.

And they came to a store. They must want to buy something. So I say again, “Can I help you?”

“What are you, autistic?” Carl looks to Lasker, the slightly larger one of his cohorts. “Isn’t your sister autistic?”

“No.” Lasker looks uncomfortable.

Carl shrugs. “Whatever. This place is fucked, ain’t got what we need. We don’t need no animals serving us. What happened to the American who used to work here? You eat him?” Somehow he’s come all the way up to the counter without me noticing. Now he’s right in front of me, leaning onto the countertop, staring up at me, head cocked to the side.

I take a half step back and immediately regret it.

His smile widens. “You did, didn’t you? Sick fuck. Come on, let’s blow.” He backs off, still swaggering, then turns. His cohorts follow him. Out the door. Away. Somewhere.

I jump at the hand that settles shakily on my shoulder. “You okay?” Rian asks. He looks concerned, the end of a roach still between his lips. And I realize his hand is not shaking. My shoulder is.

“I am fine,” I say. He just looks at me, and I know that he does not believe it. But he does not contradict me. Instead he simply drops the roach into the trash can and says, “I’m gonna go unpack the Tower Sixes. We just got four in. Figure they get the seat of honor, what do you think?”

The rest of my shift passes without incident. During my break, I step out back and make short work of the joint.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-07 12:03 am

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 7

Author's note: I am so tired I can't think of how to properly phrase this sentence.

Enjoy thez.z.zzzzzzzzzzz

Corey (continued)

I reached the apartment a full minute before Jamie. I shouted “Tam!” as I cut through the living room and went straight to his room. I don’t know what I was thinking. Was I going to “tell” on Jamie? Beg for protection? Somehow, even through my lingering trepidation I was able to think clearly enough to know, on some level, that he didn’t mean me harm. Then again, I was basing that judgment on who he was when I met him, and not this… whatever it was he had become since then. Alternate personality? Was I living with a clinically insane person? Would I wake up thirsty in the middle of the night, walk to the kitchen for a plastic cup of water and find him standing there with a knife, or perhaps some other evil intent? I was only assuming that the meek, pathetic person who walked in the door was the real Jamie… but then, wouldn’t the present personality make more sense? He was a giant fucking wolf, for fuck’s sake. How bad can your self esteem issues be if you can eat anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable?

“Tamlin! Come on, man, open up.” I banged on the door, stopping after a few seconds to make sure the outer door hadn’t opened, that there were no creaking footsteps on the stairs. Tamlin’s room was maddeningly silent. I didn’t really expect him to be there anyway. He rarely spends nights here. I don’t know where he goes, but….

I opened his door (it was locked, but it was the kind you can undo with a paperclip) and locked it behind me. I kept my back pressed against it as the front door opened and closed, and heavy footsteps thudded through the living room. To my utter horror they stopped before the door, but it didn’t buckle under a sudden onslaught. Instead, all I heard was a muted “I’m sorry,” almost inaudible even in the deathly silent apartment. Then the footsteps continued to room at the far end of the hall. The door shut. I left my post and fell onto Tamlin’s pristine bed—he must not have slept here in weeks—and curled into a little ball.







I avoid thinking where I can, because every moment is one I wish I could do over.

I think she hates me now.

Fuck you, James. Fuck him, I am done with him for good. He has ever brought me little more than promises: the promise of a better life, a more comfortable existence in which I am not the common bitch. I want to be aggressive. I want to take the things that I want. I want people to give them to me voluntarily.

I have my first user-related incident on Saturday. It’s my first day at my new job.

I arrive in the morning, the only thing in my pocket a half empty tasp bottle. I will run out soon. I should find someone who synthesizes or sells locally. I will do this after work. I should also obtain an apartment key.

I am reluctant to ask Corey. Perhaps I should just hope that the door is unlocked.

I arrive early to make a good impression. Or to repair the impression I already made. The two blocks pass in a tasp-induced haze. The drug, the tasp, was at one point a different thing. People had bio mesh grown in their brains, like human petri dishes. The mesh interfaced with an electrode. The electrode and mesh activated the pleasure receptors—simulated dopamine. The user experienced pleasure in a pure form, undiluted by thought. Imagine the thing that makes you happier than anything else. Now imagine the happiness you feel from that. Now imagine feeling that happy without doing the thing that makes you happy. Now multiply that by as much as your brain can handle.

People died. They failed to eat, sleep, or excrete. They died in their homes. Dangerous drugs were nothing new, but this drug was like Ebola. The effects were magnificent, but the transmission rate was low. Those on the tasp did not tell their friends how good it was. They really did not talk much at all. Then they died, usually without spreading the good word.

So the makers refined it. Which in this case means they cut it. Instead of electrocuting the brain, it became a gel that insinuated itself among your thoughts. The effects were muted, and other thoughts were allowed to flow through. It became more like other drugs: an enhancement rather than an escape.

As I walk I hear and see patterns, things that make me comfortable. Patterns imply history. I like history. Not the pedantic history taught in school, but the history of cement squares in the sidewalk, permanently caked with dirt, cracked by stress of the hot and cold seasons and decades of foot traffic, marked with stenciled letters; and storm drains, and trees punching slowly and inexorably through the sidewalk grates, and the missing gargoyle on the building across the street, and the—

I step into the shop still overflowing with observations and the calmness they provide. These things have been here for a while. They are not transient.

I have become uncomfortably transient lately.

Rian greets me with a smile and a handshake. I put on my most personable face, which feels to me like little more than a grimace. He shows me where to stand and how to work the register. Then he says if they have any questions to direct them to him. Then he leaves me so he can go to the bathroom.

I face a dilemma. It is a practical one. Rian hired James. But I do not think of myself that way. I am Jamie, not James. Will Rian be disappointed when he realizes that the person he hired has turned into a pathetic excuse for a person? Will I be forced to choose between my job and my identity?

I think my thinking is too dramatic.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-05 09:10 pm

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 6

Author's note: Part 6 is here. And hey, you know what? I'm still keeping up. Take THAT, procrastination!  This section sees more Corey, because, you know, she hasn't seen enough page time yet.



We had made it about a block when Jamie said, “Sorry you had to see that.”

My inclination was to comment on the likelihood of seeing a drug user break down in public and the irreparable shock it caused me, but for some reason I instead felt compelled to say, “Don’t worry about it.” And, “Are you all right?”

“Oh I’m fine.”  We had gone in early, so the morning rush of pedestrians clogged the sidewalk, and I knew it would be almost impossible to walk without running into at least every person between the head shop and home. I had resigned myself to a jostling journey, but Jamie had, somehow, managed to surprise me yet again. His posture had changed. Where before he had the appearance of a giant trying to look less imposing, he now stood at his full height and strode rather than shuffle. Before us people slid to the sides of the sidewalk, and I found that if I walked close to him, the crowd parted around me as well. His fur brushed my arm, but, to my surprise, I actually preferred that to the completely incidental, uncaring collisions of the working class of which I was a part. I felt more comfortable around the giant wolf than with normal people. “It’s like a perverted version of Little Red Riding Hood,” I said, without thinking.

A low rumble: “What big teeth have I.”

I turned and found him grinning at me, and a tingle of fear went up my spine—brief, very brief, and it was gone in an instant, the moment I was able to convince myself that the insanely sharp set of teeth didn’t belong to a wild animal that was about to bite my throat out. They looked bigger now than they had before. Jamie’s lip was curled back, his eyes piercing mine. Still he walked straight ahead, and still we miraculously avoided colliding with anyone. I turned back to the sidewalk, hoping he hadn’t seen my atavistic shiver.

Something had changed about him, somewhere around ten minutes ago, when Rian had asked him where he was from. I was expecting a shy, quiet answer, possibly misdirecting. Jamie had walked over, leaned on the counter like he owned it, and rumbled deeply about his life at home, his parents’ disaffection with his choices, and his decision to take on the world. “It was a sort of test,” he said, the corner of his muzzle quirked up in what was either a grin or a threat that Rian missed but I caught. “I had always assumed that I would make it in the world, but I had no verification.”

“So you ran away.” Rian nodded, a shallow motion that made me realize how little I actually knew about my employer. It surprised me that he could empathize with Jamie. Rian always seemed laid back, the kind of guy for whom the world was a matrix into which he could fit himself with relative ease, then sit back and watch with interest or disinterest, whatever was his whim. He didn’t look like someone who had run away from home. That I might have been reading too deeply into that one gesture crossed my mind, but Rian never explained his nod, and Jamie didn’t press, so I was left standing there, feeling strangely awkward around people who might have had a lot more in common with me than I had thought.

“I prefer to say I ran toward. I knew intellectually what I had only practically experienced in the most hypothetical sense: that it should not be difficult to survive on my own. So now, I’m testing my validity as a man.”

“How’s that going, Jamie?”

“I haven’t failed yet. And I won’t.” Jamie leaned in, but spoke with the same volume. “And call me James.”

Rian had hired him on the spot.

They talked for a few minutes more, then just as I was getting ready to suggest that we leave—all the camaraderie was edging dangerously close to territory with which I was not comfortable—Rian offered his hand, which Jamie took, and said, “Well, here’s hoping we get to see each other for a long time to come,” and the wolf boy froze up, then went back to talking like his old, meek self.

“What are you doing tonight?”

I took my time answering, making sure I got it right. “Nothing,” said I. My heart began to race for reasons that were, at the time, fuzzy. His arm brushed mine again.

“Want to try something fun?”

I laughed, and hoped that it didn’t sound forced. As I said, he was making me nervous. Not in a way that bespoke danger, but in an altogether more… insidious way. “Whoa there, wolf boy. Get too ahead of yourself and I don’t think Tamlin will be too happy. He’s kind of got a big brother-little sister thing going on as far as I’m concerned.” As I said it, I tried to imagine Tamlin meeting this version of our new bipolar roommate. I thought about my scraped arm, and Tamlin’s unbearably alpha-male reaction to weakness. Brother-sister may have been off; it was more hierarchical. I wasn’t sure that Tamlin actually would act like a big brother if some guy was looking to get intimate with me; I had never discerned that he was interested in me that way.

And anyway, I thought, why am I taking this so seriously? It was a joke—that I made!

As soon as I thought that, I felt more than saw Jamie’s arm withdraw, and then drape over my shoulder. Just like that! His forward motion propelled me when my feet would have planted themselves on the sidewalk, his elbow pressing just below the back of my neck, forcing me forward. It was by some miracle that I didn’t stumble. “Yeah,” he drawled, apparently oblivious to my sudden panic. “But I bet his bark is worse than his bite.”

And just like that, I snapped. I was confused his suddenly-shifted personality, and a little scared, and a little pissed, and like any good Homo sapien I seized on that last one, pumped it full of myself until it was big enough to temporarily eclipse the other two. I pulled away from him. “Okay, what the hell is going on with you? First you go from little quiet, kind of dorky kid to Mr. Smooth Talker, and then you collapse on the floor, then you do it again. What the hell is with you?”

He looked right at me, black eyes sucking me in. “What are you doing tonight?” he repeated. His voice was deep, practically a growl. I didn’t hear it so much as feel it. I felt caught by the lure of his gaze, and I didn’t even want to try to wiggle away. “Because I’ve got a few ideas….” I know I shivered. I must have. It’s like an earthquake, when he uses that voice, uses his full seven-foot-whatever body like an echo chamber deep underground. I don’t think anybody else heard him, but they were still giving us a wide berth. Partly this had to do with his size, but partly it was because we had stopped.

In the middle of the sidewalk.

With a giant wolf man staring at me with… hunger.

The city blared back to life around me. I wasn’t even aware I had been blocking it out, but it crashed into me nonetheless, a tidal wave of the noise that I called home. It wrapped me up, put a shield between me and the user in front of me. I backed up, shook my head in as close an emulation of disgust as I could manage, and stomped off, doing everything in my power to keep from sprinting back to the apartment, or down the street, or just away from Jamie in general.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-05 12:01 am

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 5

Author's note: What's this? A plot thingy on the horizon? Alert the sailors! Fire up the warplanes! Mobilize the hive! We will meet this head-on, and it will not die, but kneel before our might!

Anyway, enjoy.


The very first thing I did the next morning was find out where she works. It is a head shop. I tell her this is appropriate. She gives me a look with no expression in it. I think she is hiding her expression. But she does not object when I ask about working there. She tells me to put on nicer clothes and meet her in the living room when I am ready to leave. I experience a moment of panic. I did not bring nice clothes. That was why I wanted the job in the first place. So I go back to my room, take off my pants and flatten them with a book. I do the same with a different shirt. Then I return to the living room. Corey looks at me like this but says come on and walks through the door.

It is strange, this apartment’s location. I like it. The stairwells are plastered with graffiti, paintings of faces I do not know and words that are barely legible. As we descend the stairs creak beneath us, and I begin to fall back into that place I so love to go, where each crack of wooden stair vibrates up my feet, and I can feel every individual hair on my leg, and I look around and see a place with a history chiseled and written into its cracked old walls, all the things this place has witnessed hidden away from the prying eye of the world outside, safe from knowing. And through it I walk, and leading me is Corey, and she parts this elusive world like the prow of a ship, and I in her wake. Trying to keep up. Indescribable things are passing me on all sides. And I become filled with a brief dread of returning to how I normally am, so deep inside myself that the world appears through fragmented thoughts like cracks in a snow globe or an insect’s eye, so devoid. And then she opens the door, and light spills through, forcing me inexorably back into shape. I am myself again. I try not to let her see my inner turmoil when she holds the door for me.

The whole walk there she looks at me. We do not talk much, so I notice her glances. I am not convinced she is trying to be subtle, but I have only just met her. She seems strange to me. We walk for almost two blocks before she turns and says, “Here we are. Come on in.” She leads me through a weathered green wooden doorway.

The inside is a cozier version of the head shops I have visited. The ceiling is made to look lower than it actually is by cloth hung and draped all across it. Tall standalone shelves covered autumn colored cloth bear various pipes and devices. The external light is cut by thin curtains, and the interior lighting is a low amber. Corey walks to a desk with a man wearing a computer terminal behind it. The terminal is wrapped around the back of his ear, the emitter covering his right eye completely. He glances up and nods minimally at Corey, then says “Hey” to me.

Corey says, “This is my new roommate, Jamie. Jamie, this is Rian, my boss.”

Rian turns to Corey, one mildly amused eyebrow peaking over the other, and shrugs..

And that is how the entire meeting goes. I zone out. When I come to again I am standing with Rian’s hand in mine, and a pained expression on his face. Did I say something untoward just now? It takes Corey taking my rigid hand in her soft ones and prying them away for me to realize that I was its cause. I say, “I am sorry. For this. Your hand.”

“No, man, that’s OK.” He peers at me. Eyes move searchingly. And right then it hits me: I have to take another hit. I forgot to this morning. I was focused on getting work. I forgot to take a hit this morning. Shit. I don’t want this to happen here. Just go away James.



And James says, “The fuck I’ll just go away.”



I stumble backward, but no matter how far I go it will not be far enough. Rian and Corey stare at me, the one with mild horror, the other with horror and disgust. “I,” I say without thinking that through. “I. I. I am. Sorry. I will go. Sorry. Sorry.” I cannot stop saying it. “Sorry. Sorry. I’m sorry.” Then I am stumbling, and then

Corey is there, arms beneath me. Then Rian. I take a moment to stabilize. Then, with their help, I regain my balance enough to stand alone. I look at Corey, but look away. I don’t like what I see there. To Rian, then, I apologize. “I use the tasp,” I say. I cannot look at even his chin. “I have not used it in some time. So I sometimes do strange things in these cases. So I am sorry for what I said.”

To my relief, a look of understanding settles on his face. He says, “No pressure, James. If you need to decompress, you go right on ahead and do it.”

“Well, have him do it here,” Corey says invisibly behind me. “Otherwise he’ll put holes in my walls, and I can’t really afford drywall right now.”

Rian just looks at her. He’s got long dirty blond hair that seems to fall naturally over his eyes. Like he scrutinizes from a distance. He looks down at me, without the barrier of his hair. “Do you need to stay here for a while?”

It’s as he asks this that I realize, with absurd clarity, that I am attracted to Corey. It happens that quickly. I was entranced earlier, and I still recall what her hand feels like. And as soon as I realize this, I know the answer to that question. “No. I can walk. Thank you.”

Corey doesn’t look at my face, but at a nearby pipe. It is blown glass. Green and red spirals ascend, distended by the bowl near the bottom. I look at it too. She sort of glances at me, then walks out the door.

As I leave, Rian calls, “It was nice meeting you, James my man. Drink lots of water. See you later.”

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-04 02:07 am

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 4

Author's note: Once again, it's late. But this time I have an excuse. See, I was doing, you know, other things, like watching debates and studying insect parts (labrum, hypopharyns, mandible, maxilla, labium). And also I lost track of time.

So enjoy.

Corey (continued)

I was born in the wrong time. Had I been born, say, a hundred or so years earlier, I probably would have vehemently opposed the radical augmentation procedures that became possible with our advanced understanding of how the universe works. Utilizing processes that are far too complex for me to understand, humans became capable of changing our physiological shapes. Physical shape changing would have been bad enough, but these changes worked on the entire physical body: the skin, and all the other organs, including the brain. There was a famous trial about ninety-five years ago in which it was determined that an entity shall be considered a human being if it can identify as a human, understand what that identification means, and has a certain number of alleles in common. By that rationale, wolf boy here was probably an upstanding human being. Whether or not he was Homo sapien was up to his genetics, and since I supposed it was the tasp that changed him, I supposed his DNA was roughly like mine.

Tamlin, on the other hand, could barely be considered human. He sat as he usually did, legs folded under him, sharing a pot of warm water with Jessie. Everything about him was raptorial, which was only fitting. On our first meeting I assumed that he was also a user, but when I asked about it in a moment of passive-aggressive curiosity he struck that assumption down quickly. He was a lineage, someone whose parents or grandparents had made the decision for him. Born with tough skin and feathers, light bones covered with tight muscle, a muzzle that looked like it was made for shearing into the front of your abdomen and plucking out your liver; Tamlin was a scary sight when I first saw him. It surprised me that we had the same interest in music, and the same disaffection regarding physiological modification, and were the same age. We became close friends, and yeah, okay, maybe a bit closer than friends, but I figure like it’s not his fault he looks the way he does, so why should he suffer for it?

That he got along with Jamie surprised me. I went to my room to smoke some Mary J, and when I came back they had moved to the couches. I had nothing pressing to do, so I joined them. The discussion was on modifications. “The new tigers are impressive,” Tamlin was saying. He scratched at his nose with a claw on his foot, keys jingling in his jeans pocket. “Not sure I’m down with black, though. I mean, that seems like a bit much.”

Jamie had clocked me come in and sit down, and now his eyes were firmly on the small table before him. “Yeah. I know. It seems unnecessary. But you know. They look kind of cool. I might like to. Look like that I mean.”

“You want to look like you’ve been dipped in pitch?”

The wolf turned to me, but his eyes never rose above my chest. “I mean no. Just like the look. Is all.” His eyes finally rose. “What about you? Why don’t you like it? The mods I mean.”

I shrugged into the tetrahydrochloride-induced shift. “I just don’t. My parents were mod freaks. They put me through public school so they could afford it.” It had been too long since my last hit, maybe three hours or so. Things had become mildly unpleasant again. I still had my piece in my pocket. I reached for it. “They never gave a shit about me. They just wanted my money, and I just wanted a life. The law said they were more responsible than I was, so they got what they wanted.” I flicked the flame to life and inhaled, and my throat stung so sweetly. “I went to college, had my fair shot at life, and then…” I exhaled and shrugged. “My mother called me a hooligan, and a rebel, like they were bad words. But at least I still have my skin.”

“So your parents. Were mod freaks?” Jamie kept looking at me. Tamlin was right there, and I hoped his face was impassive so that if Jamie looked, he wouldn’t know I was keeping anything back. “That must have been rough. Sorry to hear it. I don’t want kids.” He tapped his mug. The porcelain sang under his claws. “They are a waste. Too many people. We can get along. Without kids.”

Tamlin let out a quick bark of a laugh, and I had suddenly had all I was going to take of this conversation. I stood quickly and announced that I was going for a walk. I left before I heard any more.

I leave, feeling an inconsolable rage burning the inside of my ribcage. Part of me knew I shouldn’t blame wolf boy, who had just arrived and had no way of knowing that this topic was off-limits. The other part of me knew he was a tasp addict and probably wouldn’t care anyway. Then there was Tamlin.

Tamlin was my friend—at least, I considered him my friend, though I am not at all sure that my definition of “friend” matched his. Being physiologically different from humans meant his brain was different, made different connections. His brain’s exact workings I don’t know. But certain things that make sense to me do not make sense to him, and vice versa. At least, that’s the way it sometimes seems. Case in point: a few months ago I scraped my arm on a sharp corner of a parking meter. I came home, Tamlin took one look at my arm and punched me in the face. He got real low first, then struck. Then when I got up he said Sorry, I don’t know what got into me, and asked if I was OK, but I knew better than to tell him the truth, which was that I was rattled. For the rest of the night I took extra special care to avoid bumping into him, but he still managed to jostle me no fewer than three times, “accidentally” shoving me into the counter, the back of a couch, and my own door.

(I looked it up, and this crazy competitive behavior is endemic to all dinos like him, based on the most aesthetically-exciting of the now-extinct raptors. For some reason, the humans they came from added almost comical amounts of masculine aggression, resulting in a very hierarchal society. Basically, I got hurt, and his response was to intimidate me into submission: he’s the top boss, I listen to him. And I am protected by him: after he threw me into my own door, I sat on the edge of my bed wondering what I had to do to dispel his new aggression, and in comes Tamlin with a med box to dress my wound.)

So I danced around my single most painful secret, the one I do my best to hide—spiked hair, long earrings and masculine clothes seemed to be the least maternal clothing I could find—and Tamlin, bless his shitty little heart, jumped on it like the passive aggressive loveable little fuck that he is. And I knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere good—and I didn’t feel like acquiring new bruises, physical or emotional—so I left.

When I returned to find Jamie sitting on a couch watching the door, I thought, Of course he’d tell Jamie. Let the dog boy know who’s in charge right up front. Jamie didn’t stand when I came in, but watched me walk to my water and take a slow drink. Finally he said, with an aura of intense concentration, “I’m sorry. I don’t think he has the right to talk about you like that.”

A brief, flaring anger, so sharp it was almost painful, but it was gone almost immediately. He’s my friend. Didn’t I deserve friends who didn’t openly talk shit about me? I could tell Jamie was thinking the same thing, so in a moment of embarrassed annoyance I said, “He’s not all bad. He’s always been there for me when I needed him. He’s just got his… quirks.” Which was one way of putting it. Another would be, he just can’t help that he’s an asshole because it’s genetic.

Jamie nodded slowly, as if he either understood fully or didn’t understand at all. “I still don’t want a kid. Messy things. They grow up to be rebels. Hooligans.” He was looking below my neck again, unable to make eye contact, but I was affected nonetheless. It was clumsy, it was almost laughable, and it was a kind of earnest that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around, and it made me smile involuntarily. He went on, “I ran away from home. Tamlin says he did. As well. Left from home without permission.” He spread his arms in a here we are gesture, or maybe a what can you do?

“Yeah,” I said, trying to keep the sudden mixed emotions from spilling into my voice. “We’re just a bunch of misfits, ain’t we?”

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-02 09:27 pm

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 3

Author's note: I originally thought this was going to be a short story (as in, <5000 words) but I don't think that's the case anymore. In fact, at this point I'm pretty sure I have written myself into a slightly larger story that needs telling. This will be interesting because of the other story I am supposed to have written by a week from Thursday. This is gonna be a challenge I can't wait to kick in the ass.

Anyway, enjoy part 3 of "Gateway Drug."

Jamie (continued)

I have surmised that another person lives here, but I do not know where that person is. My nose tells me it’s a male, and which room his, but I have yet to see or hear him. His smell is… interesting.

Corey returns while I’m still holding the glass of room-temperature water, imagining I can feel Brownian motion with my fingertips. I know immediately what I look like, standing in the semi-darkness, staring ahead at nothing. I have lost time again. The tasp has that effect sometimes.

She looks at me, and I realize that she was probably at work. That means what she is wearing now is probably what she wears to work—important because she is wearing jeans and a t-shirt. A place with a dress code that lax is less likely outright deny someone like me a job. I should ask her for a recommendation. She looks non-confrontational. Asking should work.

She says, “How was your day?”

I take a deep breath and focus on the full message I want to convey. It’s getting harder and harder to complete a thought aloud. Everything in my head is abbreviated. I follow lateral strands of thought like a bloodhound, but one that picks up a new trail each second. When I think I have the thought, I say, “It wasn’t bad.”

“Not bad is not bad.” She walks to the refrigerator and stands before the door. It is covered with magnets and menus. “I’m going to order Chinese. Want anything?”

“No. Thanks.” I shake my head for the sake of clarity. Though I am hungry, eating takes too much time. Each hit of the tasp only lasts for a finite amount of time. I must make use of every second by enjoying every second. I hardly have time to eat anymore. Then an image comes to mind: black and white wolf-boy found dead in his bedroom. Newspaper headline: Idiot Forgets To Eat. “Actually yes,” I add. “I would.” That does not make sense on its own. “Like to order Chinese food.” She’s probably just going to tell me to do it myself, but I won’t do it if I don’t do it now. “With you.”

She watches me for a moment, but instead of talking simply hands me a menu from the refrigerator. “Their shrimp fried rice is good,” she says. “But it’s hard to fuck up shrimp fried rice so I guess that’s not saying much.”

“No,” I agree. I stare at the menu, uncomprehending. My eyes keep falling out of focus. The menu needs to be redesigned to be catcher, to make you want to look. I shouldn’t have to work when I want to order food.

And it’s then, as I’m squinting at the menu, that a voice behind me whispers, “Helloooo,” and I feel a surge of adrenaline bursting through my extremities. I yell and drop the cup. The voice laughs, says, “Hey, hey. Chill man. Sorry for scaring you.”

When I see him, I stare. I know I do. I am trying to break the habit, but this is really too much to ask of anybody.

Standing before me is a creature that looks like it came from a dream crossed with a history lesson gone too far. He’s six-foot I bet, at least. Hunched over so I’m not sure. He has feathers where I have fur and Corey has skin. He’s some shade of dirty blue that reminds me of water back home, in the low dip of the east field when it was empty for rotation, reflecting the sky half covered with rain clouds, with mother calling out—

“You all right, dude?” The dinosaur’s snout is inches in front of mine. I smell his breath. It’s spicy, like some Asian noodles that I like. I blink it away.

“Yes. I am fine.” But he’s sorry for scaring me. “I am just jumpy.” I was actually spacing out, but I probably shouldn’t say so. “Apparently.”

“No worries.” The dinosaur looks from me to Corey, back and forth. “Introductions?”

Corey obliges. “Jamie,” she says, pointing first at me, then moving with a flourish to the dino, “this is Tamlin. Tamlin—” the arm comes back to me, “—Jamie.” I watch it complete its arc and then settle on the counter. I look up at her face, see her watching me.

The dino sticks out a clawed hand. “Nice to meet you. So you’re the guy, huh?”

I try to think of what guy he’s talking about. I cannot come up with anything. “What guy?” Then it hits me. “Oh. Yes, the room guy. I am.” The room guy sounds stupid. More accurately, “The new guy I mean. Nice to meet you.” We stand awkwardly for a moment, with him staring at me and Corey watching us both. Then I realize what is missing. I raise my hand and shake his. “Sorry,” I say.

“It’s cool, man. You finding cohesion with the place so far?”

“Yeah. It’s not bad.”

“You know what you want yet?” Corey taps the menu in my hands. I look down, just remembering it is there. “We were gonna order Chinese from Harry’s. You want anything?” I focus on the menu, trying to make the blurry shapes resolve themselves into words. They remain blurry.



Well, I don’t know what I was expecting from a user. Something a little less creepy, maybe. Tamlin shows up and says “hello” all creepy-like, and then the wolf dude just stares. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he wasn’t so damned big. He towered over me, was at least half a head taller than Tamlin, and he just stared for almost ten full seconds. When I finally got him back on track—I was really hungry—he just stared at the menu for so long I thought he’d forgotten how to read. Maybe he had. Eventually he just pointed at an item and handed it back to me.

I once introduced Tamlin to a friend of mine who was completely unprepared for the idea that I was rooming with a male—scandalous—but a male genie as well. I probably shouldn’t call them that, but the way I see it, once you do the drugs, you’re using with full knowledge of the consequences. You forfeit the right to have me feel sorry for you. Pity, maybe. Anyway, my friend about jumped out of his skin when Tamlin laid a claw on his shoulder. I suppose I was hoping for a similar reaction from our doped-up genie wolf, but the only thing that happened was he took that blank look that he wears everywhere and turned it on Tamlin until the raptor got uncomfortable. On some level, I had to admire the self-defense mechanism being employed, here. The tasp did its damage to the brain, and slowed reaction time was definitely a side-effect. But instead of being purely detrimental, Jamie had adapted it for a kind of self-defense. He stared down a raptor, and then was apparently fine with it. Case in point: two minutes later, he and that same raptor were talking, the raptor looking up at him with something akin to awe in his face.

By the time I was finished placing the order Jamie and Tamlin were leaning against the counter, both talking animatedly… well, Tamlin was animated. Jamie moved his head some more than I had seen him move it so far.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-10-02 12:07 am

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug - Part 2

Author's note: I swear I finished this yesterday. I just completely forgot to post it.


It’s a neat place. It’s got all sorts of neat things in it. These aren’t things that you’ll find in any kind of advertisement aimed at the well-to-do: walls painted white and patched in various shades of off-white, wire-frame bed and mattress with springs, broken window covered with a piece of wood—“It gives the room character,” Corey says when I walk in. She’s judging me, just like everyone else. She doesn’t say anything, but it’s obvious from her body language that she wasn’t expecting me to be me. This reaction is not at all uncommon. I am used to it. It no longer bothers me.

The bathroom has a sink with shaved hair in it. I take the towel from my bag. It was wrapped around other items to protect them from the rain. Now, already wet, it is difficult to dry my fur. A considerable amount of time passes as I move the damp cloth over wetter fur. A towel decorated with cartoons rests on a towel rod. I take it and finish drying off, replace it and leave. I will have to apologize later for doing that. Not to Corey though. It doesn’t smell like her. It smells like someone else.

My new room is small, broken, and livable. I am on my back, on the bed, when I hear Corey leave. I contemplate falling asleep, then find that I have. Whoops. Daylight has burned and I did not help myself. I searched for no jobs, produced no résumé. And now I will be unable to sleep at night. Through the window’s unbroken top half I see only a brick wall of another building, weathered and peppered with scars of decades of war with the elements, with human interaction. Rust flowed like rivers from the gutter, brachiating at random and creating a sort of dark masked effect against the brick, almost Gothic, creepy. Loud air conditioners whined somewhere above the picturesque damaged wall before me, and for a moment I am in the rivers of rust, watching them etch themselves into the wall through accelerated time, days and nights blending as the sky turns above me, stars then clouds then stars then blue sky. And then, suddenly, I am back in the room. On the bed. My brief sojourn into the waking world is over. I don’t even consciously track my hands anymore as they work the tasp into place in my left wrist. A cold buzz races like ice in my veins when I hit the plunger button. Except the ice isn’t in my veins, technically. It’s my nerves that carry the signal. My whole arm briefly becomes an icicle. Then the spike drives deeply, deliciously into my brain. The bottom of my skull splits. My identity falls through the new hole. I sigh. Probably I’m getting an erection.

Saying the tasp interacts with the pleasure center in the brain is disingenuous. It manipulates your nervous system so using criteria predefined by you. If your mind has a preferred mode for pleasure, set the tasp to that. It will twist the dials until you feel your quantifiable best. The device is named for a similar device in a science fiction book. It works nothing like that device, but the principle is the same.

The device is simple: size of an eye-drop bottle, metal tip on the tapered end. Press into your hand, it releases a drop of serum. I call it serum because I do not know what it is, and that is how it is marketed: serum. There are no guidelines on illegal drugs. Then all you do is rub the serum into your skin, and wait, and within moments your world shifts without changing at all. Important things are relegated. You can get carried away sitting in one spot, drooling. Some people use it so much they forget to eat, die on their beds and floors. I won’t do that.

The tasp is still going strong when I walk to the kitchen. I take some time to look through the cupboards for glasses, eventually realize I must wash one if I want to use it. This place is messy. Not dirty, exactly, but messy. I have to dig through dishes that have been rinsed and maybe washed, but not well. Everything my hand touches buzzes with electricity. My arm is on fire, a beacon of warmth and life. Ultrasensitive. I can feel tiny currents in the air. I spend ten minutes washing the glass, at peace with the warm water flowing through my fingers.

The tasp was once the source of turmoil in my life. Then it became the blanket I threw over the turmoil. The process was simple. At first, I spent more time off it than on it. When I was off, I felt guilty, and my family compounded the guilt. I began to spend more time on it. Now I am more or less always on the tasp. I don’t have bad days anymore. That’s one aspect of the tasp. The other is the physical change. A drug dealer with a sense of humor. The people who make the tasp are smart, mischievous and resourceful. The first time you try it, the random sequence embedded in every drop of the drug goes to work. From then on, it doesn’t matter what you do or how many times you use it. The change is irreversible. I got lucky and drew a wolf. I know someone who drew a platypus. At least I look imposing enough that people don’t mess with me. Not usually.

One problem: I need income to pay for the habit. It is difficult to work while on the tasp, so I haven’t found a job yet. I left my house when my parents announced I would be stopping the tasp or fending for myself. They dangled my freshman year tuition in front of my face like a carrot on a stick. I did not want to be treated like an animal. So I left. I have no money and very much hope that Corey doesn’t ask for the rent until I’ve had a job for at least long enough to have a paycheck delivered.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-09-30 10:35 pm

Fiction (1000 words) - Gateway Drug

Brief Explanation: I am going to post this story as I write it, to see if that will keep me on task. The task, in this case, is to write at least 1000 words per day, and post them online. This is part of a process to get me writing a substantial amount every day.

This is the first part of a short story called "Gateway Drug."

Gateway Drug


When Jamie showed up I almost didn’t let him in. He was one of them, a user. His body was covered with the evidence: black fur with white patches on his face, big ears that flopped when he looked side to side to see if anybody had followed him here, a tail—seriously, a tail—I could see claws in my peripheral vision, but I didn’t stare at his feet when his face was right in front of me. Black eyes darted under a white brow; he never seemed to be looking in the same direction his nose was pointing. Standing before the doorway, which was scratched out beneath a fire escape in an alley that regularly hosted tributes meant for the Porcelain Goddess on party nights, the effect was disconcerting. He was also big, maybe six-and-a- half feet tall, and hunched against the rain soaking his fur, holding his backpack—the only thing he brought—protectively under his chest. If the drugs and the physical changes they induced didn’t do him in, the elements might. Either way, the world might be improved by his absence.

I leaned against the door, resisting the urge to blink tiredly, and said, “Can I help you?”

Jamie introduced himself. When my silence made it obvious that his name meant nothing to me, he clarified. “I’m the one. Who called. About the room. Remember?”

What went through my head at that moment was, he sounded so normal on the phone. I should have used a video feed. But I couldn’t use a video feed, because the camera on my computer was broken, and I hadn’t bothered to get it fixed because I hardly ever used the camera when I called. Plus, nobody could commandeer it to remotely spy on me—that’s right, I’m one of those people, i.e. not a fan of H.R.3031 or the copycat bills that followed its implementation—and I like the idea that people who call me don’t know who they’re talking to. Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t work because the screen is cracked, and the screen acts as the lens for the camera, which really means that if you call me, be prepared for an old fashioned telecommunication conference that’s voice-only, like they used to do in the Wild West. They didn’t have video calls and they survived.

Until now, so had I survived adequately without it. But suddenly I was mentally deducting the cost of repair from my bank account. Even in my head the numbers turned red, and I was dipping into my retirement fund. This was exactly the reason we had rented out the last room; apart from my retirement account, neither of us were swimming in cash, and the empty living space was dragging us down.

Smash cut to the present: here’s a guy (me) standing in a doorway, staring at another guy caught out in the rain, an obvious user, and wondering if I’d be a bad person for turning away someone who looks like a wolf walking on two legs, wearing a Nickelback T-shirt (my grandfather’s band) and soaked through with rain. When I looked closer I saw he was shivering. I shouldn’t have looked closer, because the next thing out of my mouth was, “Oh yeah, I remember.”

And that’s how I came to live with a tasp junkie.

He moved into the unused bedroom next to mine. The walls here are thin enough that I could hear his bedsprings creaking even after I had shut the door, his pathetic cry as he threw himself into his life for the next however long it took him to get his feet back, or whatever he was doing here. I wasn’t exactly sure, and I hadn’t asked. Our apartment is actually on the third story of a three-story building, and access is by way of the aforementioned back door beneath the fire escape that doubles as stairs when Tamlin doesn’t feel like using our regular stairs like normal people. (Here, as everywhere else, “normal” is relative.) Jamie dripped all up the narrow staircase, and I was relieved when he didn’t shake the water out like I thought he would… well, half relieved, and half upset that I couldn’t use that as an excuse to bar him from living with us. Apparently using a tasp also housetrains you.

It was in the middle of this disingenuous thought that Jamie said, “Thank you for. Letting me stay. I don’t have, you know. Anywhere else to go. Really.”

And all of my self-righteous thoughts collapsed under the additional weight of the guilt suddenly climbing all over my skin, and I said, “Yeah man, it’s no problem.”

Jamie went straight through our living room without appearing to even notice the ratty couches gathered like vultures around the lone small coffee table. He went to the one full bathroom we shared and shut the door. I expected to hear him shower—the water heater hummed loudly whenever moderately warm water was used. But I heard nothing, and he emerged twenty minutes later with his fur looking fluffy but dry, a towel that had obviously come from his backpack rolled into a neat wet ball. I thought, thank god I don’t have fur.

Then he went to the room I showed him, shut the door, collapsed on his bed, and I stared into the wall and wondered just what hell I was doing with my life. Without crunching the numbers I knew exactly where I fell on the income totem pole: above people who live in cardboard boxes, and below people who don’t worry about living in cardboard boxes. My parents had told me ad nauseam about my potential. Teachers complained about my lack of discipline and focus and drive. To shut them up, I did what seemed logical: I graduated college, made about sixteen million dollars, and then invested heavily in several now-defunct companies, then salvaged what I could and moved into the cheapest place I could find downtown. My parents never understood that. My friends wouldn’t have, if I had told them. I found new people, met Tamlin and found, to my utter surprise, a spirit much like mine, and suddenly I had a roommate, and a friend in whom I would confide startlingly personal things. Tamlin probably knew more about me than any other person alive, other than me.

I found a job, too, one that worked me gently and with reasonable hours and chill clientele. And as that thought crossed my mind, I realized that I had to leave soon for that job, and so I would probably miss introducing Tamlin and Jamie. I had been looking forward to that with a kind of macabre fascination.

liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-08-23 08:21 pm

Fiction - Poetry in Death

When Micah didn’t wake up one day, his first thought was, without rancor, of the poets he had supervised since accepting his position as a teaching assistant in the poetry MFA program. His students were as close to biological children as he was ever going to get, and it was with a misguided paternal worry that he wished for their success, and cringed at their failures, of which the latter far outweighed the former. There was the girl who spent the semester convincing her class of the inferiority of all males (Micah had entertained her quivering boyfriend during office hour sessions, during which there were several pats on the back while Micah ran through boxes of tissues and every self-esteem booster he could think of); and the boy, Amal, who wrote exclusively in a rhyming meter—which would have been fine if his definition of rhyme had shared more commonalities with that of a dictionary; and, of course, Wendy, the lovely experimental poet who held the unique distinction of having singlehandedly convinced the Board of Trustees, at a public reading of her 7-page sonnet, to increase funding to the college of liberal arts on the condition that future poetry be at least mostly confined to sounds that don’t send humans into epileptic fits.

He got up and looked at his body on the bed. It was cold and stiff, like it had been there for hours before realizing that it should release him. A stack of papers sat imposingly on the bedside table, poetry submissions from his undergraduate students. Most of them, he realized, were as yet unmarked. He had started making comments, but had stopped when someone described a fish as somniferous, at which point he had started on his first bottle of beer and resolved to do the rest tomorrow.

He wondered if his was in any way his fault, if that was some god’s punishment for the scribbles he himself tried to pass as poetry (anyone who considers this a baseless thought has never had the pleasure/horror of meeting poetry’s muses, who are among the most pernicious in existence). He had at one point styled himself a poet, a fallacious notion of which he was definitively disabused when his assignment was returned with red ink in such quantities that it had probably necessitated the sacrifice of at least one small goat. It was that same paper that had piqued his stubbornness, and from that point he had been obsessed with the intricacy of crafting poems that elicited feelings, not just images. Every poem had become a labor of love; where he had once been propelled by a compulsory desire to create the perfect metaphor, he found his eye and hand drawn to the vacillations of imperfect lines and dissonant images.

And then he had got his degree and moved on to graduate school when he realized that, apart from his parents and one oddly supportive professor, nobody who read his carefully-nuanced bits of the human condition really gave a shit.

The papers fluttered, and the top one flew off the stack and glided gently to the floor, where it landed on a pen. Micah stared at it, then looked around for the source of the sudden breeze. His room was as he remembered it: door and window closed, air and fan off. He turned back and stared at the paper. It continued to lie there, without any more fluttering.

A great many people had told him, throughout his life, that he looked lost, as though he lacked a purpose. As a boy he had ignored this and chalked it up to not being a boring adult—didn’t they always say he could be whatever he wanted to be? When he finally began to worry about those things, he had lost himself in evocative lines of poetry and concluded that, for a poet anyway, being lost was more or less required; nobody wanted to read poems by somebody who had it all figured out.

The paper fluttered again, almost plaintively, so he picked it up, as well as the pen beneath it. It felt like regular paper, and the pen felt like a pen. He glanced back at the bed, just to be sure that his corpse hadn’t decided to take a stroll while he wasn’t looking. It hadn’t. He looked down at the objects in his hands.

He had spent the past few years dutifully avoiding purpose whenever it chanced to stroll by. Now, looking at the poem and pen, he came to a stunning realization, made all the more potent by its utter obviousness: he was dead. It didn’t really matter whether he had it all figured out anymore, because he had passed beyond the threshold at which people stop caring about your life and begin caring about how well you could elucidate its details. He sat on the edge of the bed and began to write. He made it through the entire stack—and most of the red pen—when he looked up and saw a tall ebony man leaning on the inside of his door.

“Death?” he said.

“Hm?” said Death, as though he hadn’t been paying attention. “Sorry.”

Micah shrugged. “It’s fine. That was you, wasn’t it? With the papers?”

Death wiggled his fingers like a jazz pianist sliding up through a minor chord, and the papers fluttered, briefly. “I thought it would work better than a grandiose apparition. Are you finished?”


“You know,” said Death as Micah arranged the graded poems to make them more obvious to whoever happened to find him, “now that you’re dead, why not keep writing?”

“Is that allowed?”

“Well. Exceptions can always be made.” When Micah didn’t answer, he continued, “It’s just that, I’ve visited many poets over the millennia, and none of them ever seemed to want to write anymore once I show up. They have so much to say about me before we meet, but when we finally do it’s almost as if they’re disappointed. It’s a little disheartening, you know? No pun intended. No, wait.” He poked himself in the chest, then looked at his hand as if in wonder. “I forgot I looked like this now. It used to be all bones.”

“What happened?”

Death shrugged. “I got bored. So. You want the gig?” He was peering at Micah expectantly, like he was waiting for a parent’s verdict on the quality of a watercolor of his house, family, and dog.

Micah tried to summon the inner fire that had propelled him when he was breathing, but found it missing. No, not missing: quenched. For the first time in his memory, he was utterly content. “No. Thanks, though,” he said, discovering the thought as he spoke. “I don’t think people want to know what death’s really like. They’d much rather imagine it for themselves.”

Death’s face fell. “Oh. Okay. Well, we should probably go.”

He walked through the closed door. Micah followed him into the messy living room and out into the musty hallway that seems to be the standard in all college apartments. Just before they reached the parking lot he said, “How come you, you know.” He made jazz piano motions with his fingers. “I mean, isn’t that just a waste of energy?”

“What’s to waste? You’re already dead.” Death stepped out into the sunlight and stretched. “And it usually helps people feel better.”

Micah thought about this, then nodded once and said, “Okay.” And then he was gone.
liesinwriting: (Default)
2012-08-02 12:52 am
Entry tags:

Fiction - In the Graveyard

The cold metal cemetery gates clicked and squeaked like the gears of a massive clock when Koda pushed through them. Damp leaves squelched as his bare feet pressed them into the mud. A wind from the lake brought the scents it had caught as it traversed the city and dropped them into the graveyard like liquids through a sieve. He smelled the thinnest first, exhaust and pavement, and then fried foods and rainwater, and brick, almost as an afterthought. Tires splashing through puddles, the gate swinging with the wind on its hinges, the trees whispering; and above him, the sky, occluded by the moon, bright and overbearing, washing out the stars but throwing the black clouds below into sharp relief. Had he a thesaurus he may very well have sat down right there to compose a scene. He didn’t, though.

He liked the word “occluded.” Saying it aloud made him feel like he’d unlocked some secret of the universe. Occluded. “Hidden” was so passé, after all. Nobody would occlude something on their own merit, but everybody has something to hide. To occlude something was to take it beyond hidden, to bring it to a place where most people wouldn’t even look, to the veiled heart of language that churned silently and efficiently beneath its banal, useful skin. Nobody at school would understand it, either, which just made it better. Koda had gotten over how he had no real friends, and how everyone his age seemed to treat him like he was carrying a social Ebola virus. When he talked, other kids looked at him like he was crazy, and when they talked it was never to him, even if he was their subject, as he felt he often was.

“I think you may be too sensitive, honey,” his mom said when he had mentioned feeling left out over dinner. They were eating leftover gumbo, which tasted like warm flavored water. She had the dark lines under her eyes that meant she wasn’t really paying attention to him right at that moment. She sighed, a sigh that resembled a sob, except she wasn’t crying. “Everyone doesn’t hate you. A first day at a new job is always hard, but everyone makes mistakes. They’ll open up eventually.” He remembered then that she had just taken work as a part-time assistant at a department store. That was probably why she was tired. Koda decided to drop it that night, and he spent the next two weeks vigorously ignoring everybody around him.

He didn’t really care much for anybody. He knew this and embraced it as part of his character. Maybe “misanthrope” was a good adjective to add to his collection. He also liked, and used, “nomadic.”

The gravel road ran a winding path from the back gate through which he had entered to the front, but Koda followed it only for a while before leaving it for a secluded grove of trees overlooking flat copper nameplates. He couldn’t see them in the dark but the metal was almost shockingly cold, and he quickly sidestepped back to the narrow strip of grass between them. His destination was a large flat rock that had only been partially sculpted before being set, the occupant of the grave below having opted for a more naturalistic style for his body’s permanent residence. As he clambered atop the stone slab he felt the cold void in the coffin below, and above that, the spiny interior of the rock itself. He sat down and crossed his legs, and closed his eyes.

He had read about meditation after watching a movie in which an old Chinese man was able to discover the world by closing his eyes and humming. In the movie the man lived alone in a hut in the middle of the woods. At one point he was surrounded by a pack of wolves, and instead of running, he held his ground and locked eyes with the leader wolf, who snarled and snapped but eventually lowered his head in submission. His student, the plucky Westerner, asked how he had done it, and the man replied that by becoming one with the world, all animals recognized him as their brother.

A handsome Native American face flashed through Koda’s mind, superimposed over the scene. It was familiar but half-remembered, like Koda thought he would look in many years. He blinked it away.

In the graveyard, a small animal watched him from the shadow of a tree. Koda realized his eyes were open and closed them again, humming and imagining he was reaching deep into the earth with a third hand, becoming one with everything. His perception slid like a tendril through the dirt, clacked against the insect carapaces and felt them wiggle. He brushed through the grass, feeling it whisper as he passed, and over the gravestones, tiptoeing like an ant so as not to wake their occupants. He reached out to the animal, sliding across its paws.

It recoiled.

The surprise was enough to shock Koda from his trance. He snapped back to his body on the rock. Everything was sharp and dull again.

Whatever the animal was, it was still there, just over his right shoulder. He hadn’t scared it off. Maybe it was a reflex, and the creature hadn’t consciously reacted to him. He took a deep breath and let it out, then gently grasped within himself. He tentatively reached out again, surprised, elated and scared that he had actually managed to achieve nirvana or whatever; his heart beat insistently against his sternum, his hairs stood on end. This time he moved specifically towards the animal, which he sensed through the ground was crouched behind a tree. It peered around the thick trunk. Koda’s perception brushed across its left foreleg.

It reacted again, this time raising the leg and shifting in mild agitation. After a moment it scratched at the spot with its tongue.

It was a wolf. Actually, it was a very weird wolf. As it moved over the soil, Koda, in his mind, felt its paws pressing down, felt how the digits of the forepaws pressed almost unnaturally into the soft soil, and how they tried to curl just before they came up. Now almost directly behind him, the wolf peeked around another tree to stare at him. Koda reached for the wolf’s current tree and felt one of its deformed forepaws gripping—gripping?—the trunk. He didn’t want to scare it off again so this time he confined himself to the bark.

Keeping a faint psychic hold on the earth around the wolf—just enough to tell whether or not it moved, really—he said, “You can come over here if you want. I won’t bite.”

Nothing happened. Koda stretched and then resituated himself so he was facing the tree behind which the wolf had now withdrawn its head. He waited for some sort of reaction, but his interloper was apparently content to remain, for the moment, out of sight.

Koda felt a twinge of doubt. Perhaps the wolf was simply a beast, and his entreaty was to it nothing more than a confusing series of animal noises? But no, it still didn’t make sense that it would be here, nor that it would act so distantly curious. It was almost childlike, he thought. He called to it again, to exactly the same effect.

Well then, he thought, and, after waiting for a moment but seeing no signs of movement, closed his eyes. As long as it stayed over there, he didn’t mind its presence. If it decided to attack him he’d know long before it reached him. He tried to resume but his heart was beating too fast and his palms were sweaty.

A while passed in silence, and Koda had given up expecting anything to happen, when the wolf finally crept from the shadow of the tree. It took two steps towards the rock and then stopped.

It said, “Go away.”

Koda, who had been wholly unprepared for this turn—a wolf that speaks? What is one to make of such a thing?—said, with barely-concealed annoyance, “I was here first.”

“Go away,” the wolf repeated. It bared its fangs for emphasis. Koda could see them in the reflected moonlight.

“I was here first,” he said again. Couldn’t the thing understand that? He had been coming to this graveyard for weeks. What right did this dog have to tell him what to do?

“Go away.”

“You go away.”

The wolf reacted as though he had been slapped, but it was delayed by almost a full second, as though it took that long for the words to resonate in its brain. Probably that was exactly the case, Koda thought ungraciously. The sight of the beast flinching away from nothing was comical, and exaggerated when it began scratching submissively at the ground before it.


Koda berated himself silently. Now the wolf was backtracking, tail down and head low, but staring straight at him with bright gold eyes. He felt a sudden inexplicable kinship with the thing. After all, he hadn’t really been trying to scare it off. “Wait. Don’t go. You don’t have to leave.”

The wolf paused.

“I’ve never seen a wolf like you before,” Koda continued coaxingly. Which was true enough, for he had not, not even in pictures of wolves. “Why don’t you come over here?” He put his hand on the rock beside him.

The wolf watched him intently, and Koda could almost feel its breath even as it stood so far away. “I won’t do that,” said the wolf. “You see, I’m a wolf.”

Koda frowned. “So?”

“So wolves aren’t domesticated. I won’t come when called, probably. And even if I did, there’s no guarantee that I won’t bite you. I might be hungry. I’m dangerous. Grrrr,” it growled for emphasis.

“You don’t look dangerous.”

“That’s what you’d like to think, isn’t it? I just look like a big husky until you get real close, when it becomes obvious that I’m something just a little different, a little more.” It scratched around at the ground. “What are you doing?”

“I’m meditating,” Koda said. Of course a wolf wouldn’t know what that meant, he thought, but didn’t say. “It’s just kind of like thinking a lot about something, and relaxing. And learning. I think it’s a lot of fun.” He hesitated. “Would you like to meditate with me?”

“Eh,” said the wolf.

“Well fine,” said Koda, a bit hurt. “It’s better if you do it alone, anyway. There’s less interference from other people’s chakra.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” the wolf said smugly.

“Whatever. I’m meditating. It’s rude to interrupt.”

“You want to talk to me, so you might as well talk while I’m here. Who knows when I’ll decide to traipse off because I smelled something interesting or found a smaller, less troublesome animal to hunt?”

“I don’t want to talk to you,” Koda lied. He closed his eyes and hummed, but the Native American man appeared again on the back of his eyelids. The man’s long braided hair hung over his shoulder, and there was a smile on his wrinkled, almond-colored face. Koda opened his eyes. “You know what my Dad called me?”


“He called me Little Lone Wolf. It’s appropriate,” Koda explained, trying to affect an air of nonchalance, “because his name, his real name, was Wolf Brother.”

“Is he dead?”

“Yes.” He shifted uneasily, suddenly aware of the cold stone beneath him once again.

“Well it was probably a wolf that killed him,” said the wolf more nonchalantly.

Koda bristled. “No. His name was Wolf Brother, didn’t you hear me?”

“I heard you,” the wolf yawned. “Any man who’s pretentious enough to think that he’s brother to wolves deserves to be eaten by wolves.”

“That’s not what his name means!”

“Yes it is. Maybe your affection is occluding his fault. And anyway, I’m a real wolf, not some fake wolf.”

“What are you doing here?” Koda asked, glad to be off the subject of his father, who he was almost certain had actually been named Brother Wolf, though he couldn’t say that now.

“I’m a lone wolf. My pack ostracized me for seeing things they don’t see. They don’t see the value in the things I caught, they were always too small, or too thin, or too something-that-isn’t-a-feast. I’m a good hunter, but they don’t think so. They only want to eat, to facilitate eating. So they got mad and I said I would leave, that I’d be better off on my own anyhow. So I left. You know what? It sucks, being a lone wolf. You should stop aspiring to be me.” The wolf peered keenly at him.

“You don’t know anything about me,” Koda informed it icily.

“I know you’re not a wolf.”

“I don’t even want to be a wolf.”

“You’re childish, child. What are you, nine years old?” A lolling yawn stifled with a furry paw. “Anyway, it’s good that you’re not a wolf. Wolves are sociable animals, very family-oriented. Do you have any friends? If you did, would you be here? So you have no friends, and your family is broken. And you think that braid on your head is a real tail? You would make a terrible wolf.”

The wolf moved casually towards him as it spoke, and Koda felt the first real thrill of fear creeping in at the edge of his body. What if this wolf really was wild? Would it try to eat him if it got too close? He didn’t think he could outrun it. Pretending calm he didn’t feel, he straightened up and stared unblinking at the approaching animal. A deep grounding breath, then reach out to touch it, entwine minds, convince it to slow down, stop, to see that the boy on the rock was Little Lone Wolf, a brother. We are the same, disaffected, alone, symbolic. We are family.

The wolf paused. It said, “There is something wrong with your face. Are you constipated? I don’t understand. Maybe you shouldn’t be eating solid foods yet. Knowing how to shit is an important biological function.”

“Whatever!” Koda picked up a small pebble lying beside the grave and hurled it at the wolf. It missed. “Go away.”

“You go away.”

“I was here first.”

“I have more teeth than you,” said the wolf, and it showed him.

Koda made a noise of annoyance and turned away, resituating himself so now the tall skyscrapers rose like dotted spikes out of the trees before him. He closed his eyes and tried to resume meditation, clenching and relaxing his fingers, trying to steady his breathing and keep his eyes dry at the same time. Even when he heard it approach to within arm’s reach, so close he could smell its meaty breath, he resolutely looked at nothing. But there was no deep drawing bite or rending of flesh. Minutes passed in silence, and when Koda finally peeked through one eyelid he saw the wolf, head resting on its forepaws, which were up on the rock, still facing him. Except now, its eyes were closed, too, and a faint rumbling hum thrummed from its chest.