"This is my favorite table, hands down - hands down, lady. Know what I'm saying? They cook the food over there, see? See that? They come through that door with the tray, and I don't even have to wait long for it. They come through the door and they bring the tray and I'm just happy.
It's what I got going for me, you know?
Take the place down the street, right? You go to a place like that and you wait, what, forty minutes? You wait all that time and you get crap. You get less than crap. You order chicken and they bring you more dinner rolls with shit gravy on them. You order clam chowder and you get shark's blood. You want a steak? Get the hell out. 'Get the hell out, right now,' is what they'd say; and they wouldn't have to say that shit to me. I'd be out before they could kill the damn cat.
I'm good with this. They know me here. This is good.
You know what you want?"
September 26th, 2010 -- "Hank"
The cave's entrance had barely allowed for the many slabs of crude iron strapped to his back and arms.
Hank did not mind. Many dragons. Little time.
He stood in the relative dim of the half busted vanity mirror and stared. The cobwebs by the ceiling , long since abandoned by their previous inhabitants and covered by time in gray and stagnant particles, had taken to waving lightly in the air like ghost cloth.
It had been years, he thought, since he had stopped off after work to do anything. Visit a friend. Watch a movie. His life hadn't become work, but it hadn't become anything else, either. His days were filled with moments like these, these times of pause and bland wonderment. Look at the dust collected in sheets like lint. Watch the food in the fridge. Make sure that dish is clean. Grocery shop and like it.
The neon sign out in the night by his window flickered with a zapping sound in the hot night, and George felt a sweaty calm as he made his way through the room to his chair. He slapped the top of the tv on the way by to shoo the gremlins, a procedure that he had more faith in than God.
September 23rd, 2010 -- "Night Buzzard"
Timothy turned the heavy key in the lock and lifted the latch on his front door. The ocean salt from the sea had entered the air enough to do a number on the metal hardware. The latch groaned to a click and left the door floating outward into the night.
His arm went out first, guided by the bright square of light in his great uncle's lantern. The sea fog collected in slow, thin sheets on the flake glass and brass of the box lantern as Timothy brought his head and shoulders past the door's threshold. Bravely, he brought a step out onto the dirt and looked around. The smell of ocean rain permeated the soupy black of his front lawn. It was strangely still.
The sounds had been horrible, the loud slapping of soft wings on air, guided by a voiceless and bald wrinkle of a head. He could imagine, worried and from his study, the black beads for eyes, the plain hook beak, the terrible disarray of mottled feathers. What is dead enough on the beach to bring such a blighted bird, he thought, is dead enough to cause any man a substantial and warranted amount squeamishness.
The word blanched the corners of his mind as he stood still as a cricket stirred by noise in the night - "death"!
September 24th, 2010 -- "Sitter"
Carl pulled his sleeves up to his shoulders to let the sun in and pressed his back against the tarred brick of the building's back. His break would end in a minute or two. He'd be back to work in the air conditioning and the bright lights. For now, the slow burn of the sun worked well enough.
She held the glass with ice with both hands and stayed in place for what seemed like an eternity before grabbing her leather purse and car keys from the table and going.
September 20th, 2010 -- "Spider's Tale, as told by candlelight and hours past closing at Callahan's Lost Pub."
Spider sat at the head of the table and spoke softly. His eyes twinkled like fresh water next to the flame of the nearest candle. His speech was uninterrupted and spoke of spectacular marvels, epically proportioned accounts of near-death adventures and glamorous heroism. The crescendos of his sentences would climax with a slap or sweep of the table, maybe some pantomiming, all of which resulting in the combined gasping of the captivated audience. Tipped mugs would end up replaced lazily by their distracted owners.
From outside, the din of the story was held back by thick, wood walls; the glow of the candles a faint orange square from a distance. The woods by the edge of the field were dark and cool in the blue night. Above, the moon moved.
The cold air of autumn caved in through the high window by the banister, pushing the curtains into the room to cast horrible shadows in the dying light of the fall. Louise, in her fright, had flown the coop through the door by the pantry, her loose day shoes clapping with panicked rhythm on the uneven linoleum tile in the kitchen. The screen door, with its rough, plank frame, swung shut with a wobbly bounce at the end, a loud smack against the molding and the creaking of old, gray hinges.
He stood eying the thing, for he dared not touch it! Where it had come from wasn't important, because it was there. Although, Hank had figured that it had somehow made its way in through the window from lord knows where.
It was there, then, in the cold, this thing with its many dark, thick feathers and its chattering beak, its voracious and horrifyingly unknown hunger. The eyes of it were beady and curious in nature. Hank wondered, days later, how something so hideous could be so calm of eye and frantic of body. It wasn't tall. That is to say: the thing wasn't standing tall. It was huddled into a bunch of wiry limbs that indicated just as well as its freakish nature the actual height of the thing. If it stood, it would be a man's height. In a ball and guarding itself and its true height, it hobbled around on the landing in the dark corner.
Much to Hank's dismay after gathering so much courage to exclaim basic, panicked rubric, the thing caught his eye with a cold blaze. Hank felt uncomfortable in his skin. Cold, empty. He felt the power of his self-encouraged expounding leave him like liquid through tight cloth. He brought his arms down from his head and let them hang by his hip. The thing barked and lunged forward threateningly as Hank took a step backward. He tripped on his own heel and fell two steps to the ground, hitting his head as he fell against the hard wood with a "BUKK!" sound. He noted, on the way down, the violent flapping of the curtains as the autumn came in.
He awoke at dawn in a cold sweat and with a large goose egg at the base of his skull. The window that had, before, been wide open to let the pre-winter chill in was closed tightly and locked firm. Lights had been turned down. The sun, which had been setting behind the house hours previous, was now coming back around and up above the trees past the front door. Light was spilling in and long over the hard cobblestone of the atrium like bright milk.
The house was still, stuffy. The air was hot and wet and thick, as if a large meal were being prepared busily in the kitchen. There was even the smell of food. Although, Hank could neither place it as any specific kind nor make any argument for it being a pleasant aroma.
The silence, which he had upon waking not given much mind to, was buzzing; or was it buzzing? It was peculiar. The floorboards that he had given much consideration to over the years as being loud and creaky creaked no more. Neither that, nor did the hard leather of his shoes' heels crack and stick against the floor. There seemed to be an audible and blocking tone that he couldn't quite make out, something thick for the ear that was previously absent.
He made his groggy way through the dark back hall toward his room. Though he was oddly calm, he had not forgotten the event that had brought him to this daze. He remembered that thing, that servant of hell, whatever it was. He remembered its eyes and shut himself in his bed chamber. It was much cooler in his room, and thank heavens for that, he remarked quietly.
He pulled the lock closed. He donned his warm robe. He pulled the shades open to allow for more light. He thought more on it and brought a chair over to the knob of the door. He secured the bright maple back under the shining gleam of the brass knob and froze.
He could see the stiff drift of dark shadow cast from nearby on the other side of the door. He could feel a slight weight, a slight shift of air as something mimicked his slow movements from the other side of things. He could hear it, whatever it was. He could hear it through the thin pine of the door, its careful movement and its blinking eyes. He could hear it.
It was breathing.
Ben recalled, later, after waking up, the conversation of the people around him as being light and fair. Two women to his top right sat eating tiny club sandwiches while talking about car insurance, the sweat on their cups of seltzer rolling slowly into pools on the table. A man behind him sat at a half-eaten pile of salad, occupied mostly by the soothing quality of a good phone conversation with his father. The mixed sounds of lighthearted chatter melted into a pleasant buzz, accented only by the singing noises of plates being stacked, silverware being clinked.
He looked out above the intersection to the light and the sky above it. For some minutes he sat for lack of something more pressing to do. He watched the lights change. He watched the clouds form and dissipate behind them in a constant play with the ever-changing shade of light blue behind them. Ben sat and watched and breathed in some clean air before getting up to go.
September 16th, 2010 -- "Ghost Walk"
The warm night bent across the world to meet with the sharp line of the white hot sand in the distance. For the cat, the night was like most others, where bits of ground gave way to padded feet with the soft swishing of dry dirt. Off in the distance and all around her, bands of faint color raked the dark sky for miles before reaching semblances of light.
September 15th, 2010 -- "The Soldiers of the 54th Ocean Regiment"
It was often suggested that the men and women of the 54th Ocean Regiment were, in the pointed absence of war previous to 2132, ill-prepared for the horrors besieging humanity. Some would claim laziness, others naivete or greed or cowardice. The soldiers were seen as inept. They were seen as nothing more than a nominal security task force hellbent on fulfilling contracts to keep up with life. Some would say that they had no idea, that they were clueless and doomed, that the sum of their combined merit would stand only as an armed formality in place of empty space on a battlefield.
They were expecting a humiliating defeat.
September 14th, 2010 -- "The TV Guide"
The low light of the den snapped off with the broken bulb, and Bob sat indifferent in the blue glow of the tube. The flat, square buttons on his control were rubbed round from years of use.
It wasn't always this way.
One walked ahead of the other for the sake of making some kind of move to pass by the pause.
They had both sat for some time, watching, deciding for themselves which was closer. Which of the two was closer? Was one larger than the other? Were they looking at the dawn of one with the lingering of the other?
Beyond the quiet blank of intense heat could be heard the faintly interfering noise of much light, the shrouded sound of exploding fire brought to the volume a pin's drop dropping over and over again for the two's ears.
They stood and wondered and burned lightly over the course of the day.
I need this, man. I ******* need it."
September 11th, 2010 -- "Twins of Steel"
The warm air of the summer had done them both well, Jarvis thought. Edward had a slight tan from the extended periods of time spent outside. They both seemed taller, thinner maybe. Jarvis could breathe easier and deeper for reasons he couldn't place with any kind of certainty. Soon would come the fall, the autumn, bringing with it bright colors leading into a cold snap. This was his favorite time of year, he thought as he smiled.
September 10th, 2010 -- "The Best is Yet to Come"
The long hallways of the monastery glowed as the hot white of the sun came in through small escapes in the stone facade of the building. David blinked along the slate footpath at a quick pace, reflecting off his robes with a kind of steady rhythm the lines of sunlight otherwise hitting the wall to his left. This was an important day for him, an important day for anyone dealing with the well in the courtyard. For weeks, it had been doing fantastic thing, remarkable things, things that deserved the kinds of attention that it was receiving.
He walked quickly with a calm mood, leaving behind him a swirling crowd of floating dust that lingered long in the warmth of the day.
September 9th, 2010 -- "Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Mississippi, Nebraska"
Mable fumbled with a Camel Blue and a lighter as she turned to her older sister in the passenger seat. Flakes of black nail polish stuck in spots on her fingers and scraped away in blinks as she squeezed her hand down between the seats to grab the bright red thing. Her many bracelets made efforts to get stuck on the seatbelt housing, but were shaken into place with quick wrist movements.
"You asked me if this was going to be fun and I said 'I don't know', but this is pretty damn fun."
She lit the cigarette and cracked the shaky window of the Ford in one motion. Her sister turned away to look out at the landscape to the right and agreed. Months ago, this all seemed impossible. The books, the money, their family, school - fucking school. Nothing made sense until they got in the car. Once they were in, they were in. They were in.
The car backfired as they passed the state line.
By late afternoon, all but some of the straggler party-goers had left quickly and in unison for home, their cars filing quietly onto the highway with the gentle roll of the fading sun casting oblong blocks of shadowy warm to the roadside treeline. Glinting reflections of orange light darted off the sidewalls of their coupes, acting from a distance as a final reminder of the day's excitement.
Michael stood with a stick. The last, best hope he had for keeping the peace of the daytime sat in the seven feet of petrified maple in his left hand. His taming rod.
At about half past noon, the lizard had arrived, largely impressive without wings, covered in many scales akin more to an adult pickerel than a large, dry reptile. With a heave, the dragon landed in the sunny dust and mud by the grill. She rested her head inches above the ground and nosed the air and dirt with the slow, rolling force of heavy lung air.
The arch of her back was graceful. Yet, it implied great weight, like that of a beached whale, where the slow arch plays a tense game with the space around it. The slow rise and fall of her breathing could make one think of water drops clinging to the top of a coin - the surface tension, immense.
By two, Michael had made the appropriate decision to keep his guests happy with the dark drake kept at bay. He stood dutifully near the belly of the thing and kept watch.
Staring always ahead, Michael paid mind to the thing's eyes. Never moving. Always forward. Michael paid mind to these, knowing that the shallow, split, yellow beads, never blinking, seemingly made from a very clear glass, were detached from the real meat of the beast. Behind those eyes was a smile that stared alone and needed nothing from the seen world. Behind those eyes was a seasoned spirit that enjoyed smiling more than anything.
Michael paid mind and, by dusk, he remained by the thing. He remained with his stick in place by the grill and waited for the next thing.