By the time he had come to, the charring was complete.
The wrecked skeleton of the house leaned in on its foundation on the hill against the fading light of the surrounding, remaining bits of inferno in the backyard. Chokes of smoke puked up brown from the flooded basement, becoming an intense, blood red in the sky that hung for a while like a thick ceiling.
He sat up and leaned on one elbow. At last, it was over, and there were only a few points of horror left to remind him of what had almost gone terribly wrong - the rusty 1986 F150 in the driveway with its windows sprayed in gore; flicked, gold casings from the shootout; the damned, dead dog, that loud, yipping bastard. What once looked like a calm house nestled in a hill by Rt. 12 now looked unbelievably like the cratered battlefield of some far-off military nightmare.
He adjusted himself and ran the side of his hand up his arm, blading some stinking mud off his soaked shirt. He winced and bit down hard as the ball of his palm bounced out and on past a bad bullet graze. He grabbed at it hard, surprised at the warmth that spread over his hand as fresh blood poured through the gaps in his grip. His eyes closed hard on themselves as his mouth formed an unnatural grimace that almost resembled an insane smile. He jumped to his feet and starting punching his head and chest while bringing his body into a tight clench. Beads of sweat and mud and blood ran down his forehead and into his eyes and he was furious.
"They almost got me! They almost got me! They almost got me! They almost got me! They almost got me! They almost got me! They almost got me! They almost got me! They almost got me! They almost got me! They almost got me!..."
At once, he froze in a snap, silent, hunched over, impossibly solid. His eyed popped open somewhere in the dark and widened into something terribly calm. His grimace seemed to melt downward in slow motion to form something horrible and insanely dangerous.
In a voice that almost resembled that of a raspy little girl, he whispered something demonic into the black treeline and sprinted quietly into the night.
Hours later, a faint and ungodly giggling could be heard somewhere horrible.
"Dave Andrews, abduction escapee"
"You look up into the night sky and you see...what? What do you see?
People do that, right? They look up into the sky and they watch for their favorite shapes, right? Look, there's the Big Dipper or that lion shit-for-brains, whatever his name is. Yeah, they do that. They do it, because they don't know what's gliding between those dots, the horribly silent minds that travel in straight lines to do horrible things with their sick lights. Hell, I used to do it, too. Won't catch me doing that anymore, though, not without a gun and a bullet.
Won't take me alive, again. Can't. They just can't.
Hit me again?"
"I...I don't know what you're asking, here..."
Mark adjusted his tie and gulped hard on the dry air of the train car. He was sweating. Looking around, he realized that no one else appeared to notice the small, chattering man to his right. Heads down. Earbuds pressed firmly into place. Heavy bestsellers resting pages-up in laps of people looking blandly across the cab into the windows at the attractive people sitting next to them.
Moments ago, the old woman in the seat had gotten up to wander out into the night, leaving this odd being with its strange fade and calm, ancient, red eyes.
Later, Mark would recall that it wasn't the insanity of the situation but the odd way the thing's lips seemed to jump around into crazy smiles and grins that had disquieted him the most. That odd way, of course, and the rows of horrible, horrible teeth.
He never had a chance.
"The Back Room"
After closing, the small shop, in the city of life, in the by-day-busy market now darkened and slicked with dew, swirled with hot twirls of the multicolored smokes of things that had been dried centuries ago and brought to burn in front of the future pictured in the orb. Nimble hands sliced quiet through the air around the radiant thing as entranced eyes stared into the humming red of the back room's decoration.
"Oh yes, I see it now. I seeeeeeeeee."
Outside in the sky, the moon, full and bright, seemed to intensify as it rose slowly into the night.
The hands of the wild soothsayer continued for much time before stopping abruptly. All light ran quickly from the room through the front door, and a room that had once been organic and alive with magic exhaled in the dark, empty and whistling with dust.
October 27th, 2010 -- "row eight, seat six"
The spotty rain of that Sunday morning sprayed the window of the train in broken, diagonal streaks against the green-gray sky that smelled like lightning. It was a tired ten in the morning, and her legs were pressed up in sharp, numb bends against the squeaky dark blue of the seat in front of her. Tinny music came from the white buds leading in hoops to her ears. Next to her, a brown, leather bag hung open across the seat, showing books and a phone.
The train rolled in jerks to a slight stop, and she left, leaving a squeezed coffee cup in between the seat and the wall.
October 26th, 2010 -- "GET INSIDE!"
Agnes squeezed her head through the curtains at the last, possible second and pressed her head to the wall by the small, slot window in the green iron. She grabbed the handle of the slide and slammed it to the left with a clank. Outside, the event had begun.
"Please, Matthew! Quick! Quick!"
You know, the scraping sensation that arrives when tearing through space, the tingling waves of bits of bright light that run lines down your body like white spit. They press in at high speed in a freckled sheet between you and the black of space to make the sharp form of a man from nothing, a zooming, traveling shadow in the night sky, silent, breathing, sparkling at its edges where small suns meet oil black along the razor side of a plain line.
It had been a small explosion, something that had a foundation in some cold, tank air - nothing fiery or lethal like a hydrogen spit or a chemical wash. It had been small and it had been just enough to shoot him out through the hatch door and into space with a cosmic pop!
The first few minutes were madness, a silent scream in slow motion that hung in the air like a dropped plate seconds before detonating into countless little things that no one ever wants to pick up. There was a cringe, a hunch, the gut-wrenching tingle at the ends of fingertips as hands reaching out for a purchase find nothing but nothing in nothing. In the night, far away from the unmanned station to properly give up, he brought his legs to his chest snugly and rolled in a straight line like an infant for miles while passing out slowly.
He awoke by Saturn and did his best to decide on some kind of "up" for himself. Calm or defeated or both, he closed his eyes and rubbed the soft of his suit with his rubbery gloves, making a noise that sounded like cleaning an empty tub. His stomach grumbled. It reminded him that dinner had been at 1900, whenever that had been, whichever day that had been, however long ago that was that would decide how much longer he had left to go in the starry slick.
The radio in his suit's helmet sizzled without much change for hours, and the sound reminded him of sleep.
Scarf sat at the table in the corner of the club and twirled a salt shaker between his hand and the hardwood. The light from the lantern in front of him was cut in half by his head on its way to the wall where it splashed in warm red on brightly leafed wallpaper. Inside, the salt looked like hot pink. By the lamp on the wall, menus rested in gooey piles of laminated paper stained and wrinkled by syrupy, brown alcohol and fruit juice. Packets of sugar and bits of coffee grounds pressed in a group in slots by the napkins. By those, a few bic pens ground up by teeth on the end.
By his hand, the check. "Thanks!"
The plan was simple.
Wendy opened the shitty pantry. A breeze led on by the opening door came running in through the window on the adjacent wall. Tufts of fine hair fluttered in wind like white feathers on small forehead as fragile hands let go of the door. The jars glassed and clinked on shelves that lined up along the wall like a storefront.
Her eyes scanned the room, worried. This was all she had.
Zipping his bag up, he thought about what noise it would make, the tying up of all the ends of his life like fat shoelaces long left untied. The headphones went on, and it came to him.
"The Creep's Admirable Statement of Purpose"
Sliding and smiling out of the dark with an unnatural rapidity, The Creep, at a speed, tempo, and intensity comparable to his emergence, said it.
I wake up in the morning wishing for the decimation of my mortal enemies.
As if sucked down a sick drain like the last bit of dirty liquid in a bunk, basement sink, he was gone into the murk doing God knew what, he stink of murder gone with him.
The Crass Ass ended up being able to offend three waiters and a customer by the bar before offering a buck to The Jerk for the check.
She looked up, shocked.
Six months later, they were married.
"Sar For Sil Map Boff Hos"
The ancient's eye flicked open with a sound faintly reminiscent of swordmetal.
Spinning around at once in the road, the young girl saw nothing in the spot where the noise came from, which was almost worse, because something is something, and you have to deal with it, but nothing seems like nothing and could be something unseen, something that needs to be found out or run from!
The girl chose to run.
At the lip of the cliff near the coast, the granite arched up into the sky on tiers of its own thick rock before passing off into nothing to drop to the sea.
William kept his hands at his sides and enjoyed the air, the dry and cold ocean gusts mixed with breaks of intense, direct warmth from the sun. Underfoot were broken and bent strands of coarse dune grass that broke through the rocks turned to sand to grab the light by the ocean. They poked and tickled the rough of his soles like hay.
Today was his birthday. His present to himself was to be naked.
Crap, he said, as the fruit tumbled into the gravel by the road.
The ink black of the desert landscape burned cold in the arid night of the third moon. The purple of the sky pressed flat against the line of the horizon with a weight that pushed the rocks into deep holes in the dry dirt. Added was a silence in the atmosphere that could be brought down in hands like wet cloth and balled up into a massive thing, a heavy thing worth holding and noting and measured.
It was his night, his rite. Staring off into the east, the older man breathed slow and regular. His eyes fixed on a point and watched the gentle shift of light sift upward as sugary purple gave way to blood red. Gold leaked up and through the air in streams as the nearest star tickled the edge of the world.
Hot white exploded in the east, giving way to a tremendous pop of light!