Sunday, February 17, 2013

Happy Thoughts

 Slivers of light filtered in through slits in Marissa's eyelids, and she was suddenly aware that she could move her body.  She didn't know how long she'd been asleep, and it had been that sort of sleep where one forgets they even exist.  Slowly floating back to her own body, Marissa tried to fully open her eyes.  The light was unforgiving. Confusion rushed over her in waves as she realized her eyes were crusted closed.  Reaching up to rub the crust from her eyelashes, her arms felt tired and immensely sore. None of this made sense, and flashes of things that didn't quite connect kept shooting in and out of her head.  Fully opening her eyes, she could see that she was laying on the tile floor of her bathroom; no, a bathroom. She didn't know whose bathroom it was, but the tile pattern was unfamiliar. Trying to lift her head, the skin on the left side of her face made an ominous peeling sound, and she realized her head had been stuck to the floor by her own blood.
            Marissa's heart started pounding. The flashes of memory came faster, more in sync with one another. Lifting up her hands, she could see they were covered in blood, bruised, cut to ribbons. She started shaking as she looked around the room.  The bathroom was dirty and cockroaches flittered in and out of wall cracks and near the sink and toilet. Blood was everywhere, smeared on the walls, in splatters over the sink, and in a puddle under where her head had solemnly laid itself to die.  Marissa looked down, noticing she was completely naked, stabbed several times in her thighs, arms, and torso. She looked around for clues, crawling on all fours like a drugged cat. 
            And there she was, tucked halfway behind the toilet. Marissa's four-year-old daughter, Melanie, lay dead, stripped naked, legs wide open. Marissa hastily crawled to her baby, feeling the tears press against the back of her eyes like fire, shaking in an almost epileptic fashion. She pulled her baby out from her hiding spot and cradled her, tears creating soft rivulets through the blood on her face. It was only when she looked down that she realized that Melanie's eyes had been plucked out, her eyelids removed, and her mouth carved into a look of eternal confusion and sadness.
            Marissa shook with horror, her head darting around for something familiar or concrete to hold on to. She felt dizzy, nauseous. Something caught her eye suddenly; it was Melanie's eyes, bobbing absent mindedly in a toilet full of blood.  Marissa wanted to cry out, but instead dropped her daughter and crawled through the mess of blood to the shower stall, stained with rust and crawling with spiders and roaches.  She vomited into the shower and the roaches rushed to it like it had been their only meal in months.
            Every horror movie that Marissa had ever seen came back to her. She knew not to try to crawl out the door. Looking up, she could see there was no handle on the inside anyway. No windows, no means of escape. Should she scream? Would that alert someone? Maybe the wrong people.  As she lay there, sobbing to herself, trying to keep as quiet as possible, her daughter's body started to convulse, vibrate. Marissa recoiled in horror as she heard the Spongebob Squarepants ringtone her daughter had downloaded onto her phone the day before echo through Melanie's abdomen.  Marissa rushed over to her daughter, and for the first time noticed that her cell phone was sticking out of the toddler's belly. Sobbing wildly, she pulled it out and wiped the screen. A blocked number, but better than nothing, she thought, and she pressed the button to answer.
            "Hello?" Marissa said, half whispering, half pleading.  There was static and the person sounded far away. It was garbled and she tried hard to understand. "Hello?!  I can't understand you! The reception here isn't…"
            Hoarse distorted laughter erupted from the phone.  "Do you remember this?" the voice rumbled.  He was playing a recording, and Marissa recognized at once the little voice on the other end.
            "Mommy, why is the man driving us into the woods?"

House Salad

"House Salad"
            Sashmita was a Planet Jumper, a planetary government auditor for the Universal Governance.  Her job was tedious, and most days made her feel like she'd taken a flaming brick straight to the eyes.  Today had been no different, and she contemplated exactly what her future with the Universal Governance was as she ducked across a narrow alleyway into her favorite dive bar on Planet 770. Formerly known as Earth, it was the universe's well-known half asylum, half mutant colony. The No Exit bar was about as seedy as you could get, but Sashmita always found its patrons interesting to watch.  Pulling open the rusty door, the smell of vomit and fried meat permeated her senses.
            "Sashmita!" cried Perny the bartender.  "Been forever, right?"
            "Two years at least," Sashmita replied, slipping onto a barstool. Just as she sank in, Perny slammed down a mug of the local delicacy, a Cranberry-Fudge Meatball Sparkler.  It jiggled, frothed, and then settled down, the meatballs glaring up at her in a pleading manner. Something about the drink always set off some sort of religious battle in her lower intestines, but she took it gratefully, tipped her head back, and let the chunks slide in.
            "Any new regulars?" Sashmita asked, eyes watering from the grog.
            "One. Some vampire from Planet 88.  Word is he's allergic to blood."
            "So why's he here on 770?" Sashmita asked, only half interested.
            "Planet 88 ain't like the other vampire planets. Yuppies, every one, and no girl's family is going to have a vegan at their dinner table."
            As if on cue, a very large, pale man in a black latex suit yanked open the door. He oozed into the bar the way a seven foot long sofa oozes sideways into a three foot wide hallway.  Even before freeing his girth from the clutches of the unforgiving doorway, the vampire cried out to Perny. "Starving! Bring me your best house salad!"

            "Sure you don't want a steak? Extra rare tonight," Perny joked.
            Sashmita laughed as the idea planted a seed into the vampire's brain, made its way to the backs of his eyes, and pushed them outward, making them bug out like a cheap old lady's at a seafood buffet.
            "You know better!" the vampire snapped, thunderously making his way to a back table.
            "Holy rollers! Why's he so…big?" Sashmita exclaimed.
            "No blood and the vampire body goes all fat, I guess," Perny replied, then called to the waitress in the back. "Hey, Laquisha!  Salad for the fat vampire!"
            Laquisha emerged minutes later, a zombie with one eyeball and half of a leg missing, mumbling to herself about how vampires have the easy life, and how he should get up and serve himself.
            Sashmita went silent in her own thoughts until she heard a loud gurgling sound, followed by a what sounded like a deflated basketball hitting the floor. Everyone looked to the back of the bar to find the vampire frothing at the mouth, dead.
            "Well, knew it would happen eventually," Perny said stoically. A large leper with one arm came by with a push-broom and swept the vampire into a back-room incinerator.
            "So, what's going to happen to the government here now that you've audited us again?" Perny asked Sashmita.
            "Your politicians are a bunch of stoners who hang out behind a Taco Bell playing hackey sack and smoking joints all day. We're probably going to blow you up and put a casino planet here instead."
            Perny looked shocked, raising his one enormous eyebrow.  "Its for the best," Sashmita replied, slamming a fiver on the counter and walking back out into the putrid night air.



            "Newspapers! Got 'em cheap and hot off the press! Newspapers!"  The malnourished street urchin stood by the hackney wagon hocking his wares, which consisted of a hodgepodge of whatever the local garbage served up that day.  He suddenly felt a poke in his back and reeled around. A bony, frail finger retreated into the hull of the hackney wagon, and was replaced by a bulging eye reeking of insanity.
            "What year?" the eyeball said in a crackly voice of one who has not spoken in ages.
            "N-n-n-nineteen-o-four," the urchin replied, stuttering in horror.
            "Oh dear," creaked the voice. "Seven years, seven years."  The eyeball surveyed the landscape, becoming particularly fixated on the way the rain glistened on the cobblestone street. 
            "S-s-seven years of what?" the urchin replied tentatively.
            "Man. False bottom in the hackney, keeps me down here. He thinks I've gone mad."  The voice stuck its long finger out, catching a rain drop, then pulling it back. "Oooh…fresh water is so good." The voice sounded pained and frail.
            The eyeball appeared again and realized the urchin had gone. She was alone again, and knew the hackney would move at any moment.  Retreating back into the darkness, she attempted to sleep, the only thing there was room to do in her tiny space.
            She didn't know how long she slept, but awoke to hear a scuffle. Men fighting. Her husband's voice, angry, defensive. She peered out the hole she had scratched for herself over many months, and pulled back just in time for a crowbar to come plowing through, ripping the side of the carriage apart. The rain had stopped and sunlight streamed in, burning her white, paper-thin skin. She tried to shield her eyes from the sun as the policemen pulled her out.
            "Good god!" one policeman said, choking back from the stench of examining the undercarriage of the hackney. "How long have you made her live like this?"
            "It was for her own good," her husband scoffed. "Gone mad going 'round and telling everyone she's a countess. Now what am I to do with a wife like that while I'm out making an honest living?" 
            "Well," sighed one of the bobbys, "We can take her upstate. They have wonderful new facilities."
            "No!" the woman shrieked. "Take me home! I'm Countess Janene of Monaco! Please, I must go home! He is not my husband, I have no idea who this man is!"
            "Right, miss," the bobby said rather harshly. "We'll send you up and get you fixed."
            It was only when they peeled back the blanket that had shrouded the woman that the true horror of her ordeal became bare.  Hair and skin were bone-white, fingernails overgrown, curling, splitting. Her ribs so apparent that a beating heart could faintly be seen underneath. And there in her gnarled, frozen left hand, was a crumpled picture of Countess Janene of Monaco. 
            The policemen stared from one to the other, trying to figure out what and who to believe. The woman in the photo looked like a younger version of the woman laying before them. But Boston was an Irish town, not a place for lost countesses of French rule to wander into.  Gently they gathered up the frail woman, put her in the back of another wagon, and hauled her upstate to the asylum. It was for her own good, they convinced themselves. Softly, almost mutely, the woman sang songs in French, huddled into herself in fear of what would come next.
            Across an ocean, a mother and two sisters lit candles under a large, regal painting. The Countess had been missing for seven years. The last time anyone saw her, she had hopped into the back of a hackney, smiling and laughing as if the sun would always shine on her tanned face.