.........MUTANT RAIN FOREST ISSUE........JUNE, 2016
Illustrations above by Shasta Lawton.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

THE SOFTEST PILLOW

by John Shirley












     Digging his own grave gave Brian a feeling that was cold and warm at once. It was a feeling he liked. But his arms were tired, his hands sore and the shovel, laden with black soil, was getting heavy. The place he was trying to get to, down in the original grave, was farther than he'd thought it would be. And he had to do his digging in a nice rectangular grave shape. He owed himself that much respect.

     He glanced around at the graveyard. Flat stones, flush with the grass. Wasn't that picturesque. But it was pleasingly lonely out here. Windy, too. Surprisingly chilly for the time of the year. And his hands were getting blistered on the shovel.

     He was going to have to chance the Ditch Witch, after all. Use the grave-digging machine. Risky, though, to use it this time of night. Cops might come.

     Keno needed to come. To do his part...

     Keno was probably too cautious a person to follow through, even without much chance of getting caught. But maybe he could be induced to do it. Pressured into it.

     Were they best friends, really? By default maybe. There were things he had told Keno he'd told no one else. Just last week.




                                     

     Brian Worliss squinted at Keno, eyes half closed against the California sunlight bouncing off the white-painted table. “You heard me. They were dead.  Are dead.”

     “You saying you’ve seen some real-life living dead, Brian?” Keno asked, blinking.  

     Brian rolled his eyes. “No, dumbass. No, you’re not listening. What I saw, is that living people are dead. It's a paradoxbut they are. In a couple of ways. But the most important way...has to do with time.”

     Keno sucked thoughtfully at the dregs of his double-caramel-mocha-with-a-triple-shot-of-espresso. His bony knee thumped a patchy drum roll against the bottom of the cafe's table. “Please explain.”

     “If you’ll stop thumping the stupid table.” Sighing, Brian put on his yellow tinted sunglasses. It cut the glare and made everything look sepia, like in those old Wisconsin Death Trip photos of dead children.

     He drank some more of his second Red Bull, and got out his pencil. He tapped its eraser on the table, as Keno started thumping his knee again. 

     Brian murmured, “See those kids getting out of the mommy van?”

     They both looked at the small Hispanic kids, three of them, two boys and a girl, each wearing miniature martial arts outfits, karategi togs with white belts. The children ran in their sandals up toward the Kiddy Karate Training Center, farther down the strip mall, their phlegmatic mother following, talking on her cell phone as she trailed behind them.

     “What about ‘em?” Keno asked.

     Brian lowered his voice even more, and leaned toward Keno. “They’re dead, or as good as—and the mom is already dead. She’ll get there first—halfway there already.”

     Keno looked after the little family. “Those kids look pretty damn lively dude. They’re racing each other. And their mom’s all happy-yappin’ on the cell phone.”

     “Sure. But I can see all four in their coffins—or being cremated. I can see one of those kids, when he’s about 50, dying of a heart attack and being shoved in the oven and burned up. The other two I see in their coffins. The girl I see dead on a table in a funeral home—and she’s a real old lady. Their mom will be killed by her husband when she tries to leave him and she’ll be in a closed coffin because he’ll...” His voice trailed off.

     “Ohhhh-kay, so now you’re a megalomaniac imagining you’re a psychic, dude?”

     Keno’s pale, pouchy face somehow disgusted Brian in that moment. Not that it was the first time he’d had the feeling. “I’m not trying to say I have psychic powers. I’m saying I see the inevitability of what will happen to them in my mind real, real, real clearly. It is my imagination, ‘cause I don’t know exactly for real how they’re going to die and what’ll be done with their bodies...but it’s pretty much right. Sure, they could all die together in a car accident, that’s not the point...”

     “So, we’re all mortal and shit? What are you, twelve, you just figured that out? Wait—is this about what happened with your dad dying?”

     Brian picked up his Red Bulland put it back down again. “When you drink coffee you get mean, Keno. ‘Mean on caffeine’. The point is that I can see it so crystal clear, in my mindthat I’ve lost the ability to not see it. And I mean everyone I see...I see them dead.”

     Keno nodded, smirking. “Yeah? I got a nice coffin?”

     “Sure. Because you’re going to law school like about two minutes after you graduate from State, and your dad has money, and you always worked during summer. You’re the only guy I know under forty who actually saves money. You'll have a hella sweet coffin.”

     Uh huh. This is about your old man. Keno picked up his big cup, shook it to confirm it was empty. “Dude, you are even more messed up than I thought.”

     Brian suddenly stood up, his chair falling back with a clatter—surprising himself at the suddenness of the decision to leave; at the quickness of his own motion. He was husky and didn’t usually move that quickly. Automatically, he gathered up his books. “I can’t look at you anymore, Keno. Not because I see you dead—I’ve seen you that way for a long time, with those big lips dried out and pasted on your big teeth. No, dude. I can’t look at you because you’re mean on caffeine. And I can see that’s the real you.”

     Brian walked away, feeling a rush of released anger, as he did. He liked the feeling. Cold and hot and vibrating.

     “Okay whatever!” Keno said, behind him. Calling out, more loudly, “Whatever, douchebag!”




                                             

     Now, Brian hugged himself against the cold, and rocked in place, making the little seat in the digger creak. His stomach growled. He had some snacks, under the tarp to give him energy to work.

     Don’t eat it now. Timing. This night is all about timing.

     This was, of course, the anniversary of the night with his dad. So—timing.

     Finishing the grave, at least the digging part, wasn’t going to take that long, because of the Ditch Witch brand “Bellhole Bucket” grave digger. But waiting till it was safe to use the digging machine was going to take a while.

     He glanced out the window of the digger, peering past the graveyard fence, toward the golf course. When the lights at the clubhouse bar went out, he’d still had another half hour to wait, to make sure. After that, he figured no one would be close enough to hear the machine start up.

     He wondered if the golfers playing past the edge of the cemetery ever looked past the row of shrubs and thought about the graves over here.

     Probably not. People played golf, stuff like that, so they wouldn’t have to think about death. That was the point of golf, far as Brian could tell. They’d never look past those shrubs, not on purpose.

     But Brian didn’t have a choicehe thought about death because he saw everyone’s death. In his mind’s eye he saw humanity through time, millennia after millennia, as a great big sea of human heads, billions, stretching off in the horizon; they came up to the surface of the sea like babies “crowning”; their heads and shoulders raised up to the tops of waves, and wriggled about, blinking stupidly as they aged, growing old in seconds; then they sank back into the waves of people, vanished, as other  babies rose up, almost instantly becoming adults and dying elders: people popping into and out of existence, like bubbles in sea foam.

     He remembered the scrap book. Dad’s old Civil War Reenactment scrap book.

     About twenty pages into the scrap book were three snapshots of Dad and Brian together, smiling, at a reenactment camp, both in Confederate uniforms—Brian’s uniform was a little too big and Dad’s a little too small. They held dummies of long, early Civil War rifles in their hands. The earliest photo was with Brian as a ten year old, first reenactment his dad had taken him to, both of them offering the same toothy smile. They were both having a good time, in those pictures. First time Brian had been anything like camping with his dad.

     The man in that photo was somehow also the one who’d lain in bed, barely moving for days, staring at the bedroom wall. It started when he got laid off. And maybe he got laid off, mom said, because he gave up the antidepressant.

     Dad started freelance I.T. work, but didn’t get invited back twice, probably because he was so sullen—that’s just what mom said, talking to Brian after she’d had two stiff vodka gimlets. But she was probably right.

     The freelance I.T. work dried up and Dad took to bed. Except to visit the toilet, Dad would lay in for days; lying there in his ironic gym pants and sweatshirt, curled up, staring at the wall...

     Brian’s stomach clenched, thinking about it now. He wanted to start the Ditch Witch. Get this done.  But he waited. A night bird called. Beyond the golf course, a truck gave out a screech with its brakes.

     A flicker at the edge of Brian’s vision made him turn his head. The clubhouse lights were going out; one, two, threeout.

     Wait a little while more, then you can get started.

     He looked at his watch, and decided to see if Keno would take his call. He’d sent him a text message, earlier, but there’d been no reply. Maybe a direct call would work. Keno stayed up late on Fridays, drinking mochas and playing online video games on his computer, sometimes all night.

     Brian got his cell phone out and hit the speed dial for Keno.

     Two rings. “I can’t talk now, I’m all up in Call of Duty and I’m about to get...shit!

     “You got killed, right? So you might as well talk to me.”

     “I couldn’t believe you sent me that stuff by text. What if my folks saw that? They’ve been known to check my texts.”

     “Say it was a joke. Butit’s not. I need you out here in an hour. Come on. You owe me. I gave you a whole bunch of games and—”

     “I am not coming out to the cemetery in the middle of the night and watch you break the law because you gave me some videogames. Couple of years, I’m going to be applying for law school. If we get caught doing that shit at the cemetery, I’d be screwed.”

     “Seriouslyone hour.  It’s going to be really revealing—you don’t realize what my dad was buried with.” Brian hesitated and then said something he’d never said to Keno before: that he was sorry. “I’m sorry.  About the...about being a bitch at the coffee shop.”  Then he hesitated again, and said something he’d never said to anyone before. “You’re my best friend, dude.”

     Then he hung up the phone.

     That should work. He’ll come to talk me out of digging up the coffin. And out of curiosity. That’s so Keno—pretending to care, but it’s about curiosity. About watching and watching.

     Brian got up, opened the little door of the digger’s cab and got out into the chilly night air. Coldor maybe he could feel those bodies under the sod. They were exactly a coffin’s room temperature. It was cold down there.

     He looked across the cemetery, with its endless white and gray and red granite rectangles stretched in perfect spacing across the green lawns. The occasional small willow tree genuflected droopy branches to the dead.

     As he watched, he saw long narrow windows slide open in the grass; hundreds of non-existent windows, all at once opening, revealing the coffins, and then the dead awkwardly sprawled on their backs, exquisitely motionless.  Some withered, some fairly new but sunken-eyed; some in rags and some in nice clothing; some only clothed from the waist up.

     It’s given to me to see it...because of that afternoon alone with Dad...

     He turned away from the endless dead, and went to the shrubs, glancing around for the watchman’s light. But Brian had worked here himself, not quite three months, doing landscaping, sometimes using the digger, and he knew where Gary the night watchman was: Jeff’s Parklands Bar and Grill. Collecting an hourly rate and drinking it up and laughing about it.

     Brian switched on his cell phone’s “flashlight app”, and pointed the screen at the ground, used the feeble beam to pick his way through the bushes to his tarp. He squatted, reached into the tarp folds, found the snacks, tore a  bag open with his teeth, worked the pull tab on the honey nuts can, and gorged, pausing now and then to drink from a can of Red Bull.

     Then he set up his gear, and climbed into the Ditch Witch grave digger; he looked around once more, started the machine up with the key he’d copied in the summer. The digger rumbled, and vibrated; the almost robotic hydraulic arm straightened out, and its bucket swiveled.

     He moved the digger more precisely into position, and made sure the stabilizers were in place. The digger vibrated around him, like it was excited. He chuckled to himself, feeling a chill, like something you feel before you get the flu. The chill was a nudge from a companion. But after a while he turned on the heat in the cab of the digger.

     He gripped the controls and worked the mechanism. The mechanical arm reached stiffly out and dug in, clawing into the earth; he shifted the controls and the digger scooped, dragging the grassy soil back, making it wrinkle like green fabric.

     He kept expecting a cop to come around, and then it’d be all over, but they never showed. This spot was a long way from any house, from anyone who’d call.

     But maybe that was cops, after allthere were double lights sweeping into the parking lot.

     Brian turned off the gravedigger and gazed off across the cemetery, until he was sure: it was Keno’s worn-out old Honda Prelude, parking neatly in a slot of the empty parking lot.

     Brian smiled, chuckled, felt another laughing chill, and restarted the digger, moving it around to the last position. When he switched it off and climbed out, Keno was just trotting up, breathless, stumbling a little.

     “Dude you run like a badly trained extra in a zombie movie,” Brian said.

     Panting, his breath streaming in the light of his cell phone, Keno came to a stop by the newly dug grave. He stared. “I totally cannot believe you did this.”

     “I did. And you don’t have to do anythingexcept one last thing. A little thing.”

     Keno stared at the ground. “Is that really your dad’s coffin down there?”

     Brian looked into the grave. You could see part of the coffin in the silvery-yellow moonlight. Most of the metal box was covered in red-brown dirt. “Yeah, that’s it.”

     Keno blinked down at the partly exposed coffin.  “Oh my God, Brian.” He noticed the crude mechanism at the foot of the grave. “What’s that? You put that stuff there?”

     “Yeah. Everything’s ready. Now, I have to tell you something...” He went to the tarp, tugged out the body bag, unzipped it. “I got this online. Did you know you can order body bags online?”

     “That’s what you wanted to tell me?” Keno’s voice was hoarse.

     “No, dude. Listen. I’m about to tell you.” Brian went to the grave, and tossed the body bag in, so it fell roughly along the line of the coffin lid. “The last day my dad was alive, my mom was asleep downstairs. She was like all up in her valium. And I was in my room, looking at a youtube video. And I heard my dad go from his bedroom and down the hall and down the stairs. I thought, wow, maybe he’s finally coming out of it.

     “Sothen I heard him come back up, like walking real softly on the stairs, and he went back into his bedroom. I had to know if he was thinking of getting up, right?” Brian checked the ropes on the ramp. Looked good. “So then, I go in his room and on the table there’s this prescription bottle of valium, mom’s valium, and an empty fifth of vodka. He’s lying back on the bed, and he’s got my grandma’s silk pillow, like holding it on his chest.” Brian mimed how Dad had held the pillow. “The pillow’s usually in the closet to kinda save it from getting all worn because it’s really old. But it’s the softest pillow we have. And he smiles at me and says that he’s figured something out.” Brian used both hands to heap some more dirt onto the plywood ramp. The digger’s bucket had been sloppy. “That the universe is like a clock that runs down, and people are little clockworks inside it, and they all run down, first living things run down and then the whole thing. And it was better to just get it all done, because that’s peace. Because being alive isn’t peaceful.”

     “What, you think you’re going to bring him back to life?”

     “No, dammit, no. Listenhe said if you looked around you’d see everyone was already dead, even babies were in a waiting room for death. It's all a waiting room. So hellrush the waiting room door and get some peace’. That’s what he said! Said he had lost in life and failed and failed again and couldn’t stand failing anymore. Now the choice was, blow his brains out or hang himselfor use pills and stuff. And if he died, he said, Mom wouldn’t mind too much. ‘She’s fed up with me’. But if he died in a messy way, it’d be ugly and everyone would be way more upset. So, he tells me, he’s swallowed a whole bottle of her valium and washed it down with half a bottle of vodka. And that’s when I saw the pill bottle next to him was empty.”

     “So why didn’t you call an ambulance?”

     “He said if I did, he’d cut his own throat. And right then he pulled this big ol’ steak knife from under the pillow and waved it at me. He said, do me a solid, just one favor for your old Dad, and hold that pillow over my face, because it’ll make it all faster and easier and I won’t have to go through as much when the valium and stuff kill me. And afterwards, he said, you put the pillow under my head. It’s the softest pillow we have. ‘And dying is really the softest pillow, Brian, you remember that. You’ll know when it’s right for you.’ And...”

     “And...?” Keno gaped at him. “You did what?”

     Brian straightened thoughtfully up, brushing dirt from his hands. “I was feeling really numb and strange and I was worried about my mom and he put the knife to one side, and put the pillow over his face with one hand, sort of half-assed pressing it down on his mouth and nose and then he gestured to me with his other hand, like, Come here. And then he put that hand on the knife like to say, Or I cut my throat for your mom to find.  I just felt like I wasn’t even there, really. I sort of saw myself do what he wanted:  I went and pressed grandma’s pillow over his face. I held it down really hard. Put all my weight on it. He wiggled around some but he didn’t really fight it. I was crying and shit, I was sobbing, but I remembered the knife, and that dying from an overdose might be better if I helped him along, and...”

     “You’re telling me...you smothered your dad to death.” Keno stepped back from the grave—back from Brian. “You said you wanted me to help you do some stuff at your dad’s grave but...you gotta know I came here to stop you from whatever you were planning.”

     “Maybe you think that. I know you, though. You came here out of boredom and curiosity and so you wouldn’t have to think about your shit, Keno.”

     “You are so hostile sometimes.” Keno’s eyes widened as a thought struck him.  “Oh wait. If you think you’re gonna kill me for some warped reason and put me in there...”

     Brian turned toward him. He smiled.

     And then Brian reached into the tarp, took out grandma’s silk pillow, with the needlework that said “Family First” on it. He tossed it down onto the dirt of the grave, and then jumped down after it, landing hard atop his father’s coffin. It thumped under his feet, and the sound was not quite hollow.

     “You feel safer, Keno?” Brian moved the body bag out of the way, picked it up, and sat down on the coffin, his head toward the gravestone end. He unzipped the bag, and put his feet into it, worming in one leg at a time.

     “Brian! Get the hell out of there!”

     When he had wriggled far enough into the bag, Brian sat up, reached out, and got hold of the ropes he’d knotted together, and then lay back. Then he started to tug on them. “Yeah. I smothered my old Sarge in the Confederate Army.” Dirt started to slip down into the grave, onto the body bag. “I killed my Dad! Didn’t think I was doing that. I thought it was the valium that really killed him but my mom said, No, she said there was only two valium left and the vodka was almost gone. She hadn’t refilled the prescription yet.

     SoDad was lying. Mom didn’t tell the police that. She didn’t seem to care that much.” More dirt slipped into the grave. He tugged harder on the rope—the dirt was heavy but the angle of the ramp helped, and he had it fixed at bottom so it wouldn’t slip off, soon. Dirt slid heavily on the bagon his feet, his legs and thighs. “He didn’t take enough valium to kill him. He justwanted me to do it. He hesitated, and then decided it didn't matter, now, if Keno thought he was crazy. I’ve heard him talking in my ear, saying Look around, they're all dead.  And death is the softest pillow. 

      “You've heard your dad...

      “Yeah. So...I’m going. And I want to do it here, my grave with his, and I don’t want anybody to know what happened to me. Because if they do, they'll dig up my body. I want this done my way, Keno. It's likeI’m going to the reenactment camp with my old man. And you,  Keno are going to help me fill this in! You’re gonna smooth it over!” A lot more dirt came whispering in now.    

      This is getting real.  

      Brian could feel his heart pounding in his chest. He couldn’t back out of this, not in front of Keno; not in front of his dad. “My mom will think I ran off and became a homeless drunk or some shit and she won’t care about that much, either.”

     Keno swore under his breath and called down to Brian, “Okay, if you don’t get out in sixty seconds I’m calling the cops!”

     “No you won’t, Keno! Because if they get me out of here alive I’ll tell them you helped me with all this, and then you won’t get into a law school and I’ll lie my ass off about you forever. I’m not pranking you, man, that is a promise! I got it all written out, folded up in my wallet with my I.D., and if the paramedics and cops come I’ll hand it to them if I’m conscious and if I’m not they’ll find it! AndI’m going to say you helped me kill my dad, too.”

     “You shit-bird little creep!”

     “I swear right now that’s what I’ll do. I swear it! On my soul! On my dad’s soul!” Brian pulled harder at the ropes, trying to get it to tilt its big load of dirt on him. He ground his teeth with the effort, the skin on his hands starting to bleed, his back aching—but he tilted the plywood at last, dumping a big heap of dirt down on him. Now it was pretty deep at one end, almost covering him, leaving only his face. There was more space left in the grave than he’d counted on, though. But that was up to Keno.

     Keno let out a bark of sad laughter. “Brian you do realize you’ll smother to death, right? You think about how that’s going to feel?”

     Brian hesitated—for maybe two seconds. Yeah I know! Seems right to me.”

     Keno snorted. “No chance, no way I’m going to do it.”

     But it didn’t matter. Dirt was still slipping in, more and more, a lot of it was falling on his face, and the board had fallen over that—he’d be buried soon enough.

     Inhale! Take it in! Don’t wimp out! Inhale the dirt! Make it part of you!

     Was that his dad’s voice telling him to inhale? Sounded like it.

     The dirt was going into his mouth. The taste of it. The choking...

     That’s when Brian changed his mind.

     He could still get out of the grave. There was a good possibility...

     He heard Keno’s voice, faintly. Was he calling the cops? Was he yelling?

     His cell phone. He could call Keno...

     Brian scrabbled at his clothing...

     He couldn’t reach it. It was in his back pants pocket, weighted under his body, under grave dirt.

                                            




     Keno was yelling at the open grave. “You are stoned or stupid or both, Brian! I’m not playing this game anymore! I’ve got the cops on the line!”

     Anyway he had the 911 operator—but she’d put him on hold, almost instantly after she’d picked up. Sounded busy. He’d heard the city had laid off some people.

     Cell phone pressed to his ear, Keno started back toward his car. No reason he had to be here.  He was just going to tell 911 that Brian had threatened suicide here, said he was going to kill himself at his dad’s grave. So it wasn’t going to be his fault, no matter what.

     “911, can you repeat your emergency now sir?”

     “Uh, yes ma’am...A friend of mine says he’s committing suicide in the cemetery. At his dad’s grave.”

     They'd get there on time. Brian would be fine. The asshole.




                                             

     Walking kind of crookedly between the graves, Gary combed his fingers through his beard, something he did so much his beard hair was divided into three parts. Lights in the cemetery, go check on it, Gary. Should have turned off his cell phone. Ten minutes after his shift. Almost his turn to play pool, too. Wondered if the boss knew he’d been in the bar and not out here watching the grounds.

     He lit a Marlboro, breathed the smoke into his lungs, and coughed a little. He was 66, too old to give up smoking. That’s how he looked at it.

     Got to check that one spot over by the golf course. His supervisor, on the phone, had said something about those lots by the birds of paradise bushes.

     Gary blew smoke at the skyand tripped over a vase of silk flowers. But he  managed to not quite fall over. He got his footing and went on.

     Hell with this. Too damn drunk to be stumbling around out here.

     As it was, he almost fell in a grave. A raw, open grave.

     “What the je-beezus,” Gary muttered, combing his beard with one hand, flicking ash in the grave with another. This grave had been filled in. Somebody had been fooling with the Ditch Witch, it looked like. The machine was lined up by the grave. Vandals. Souvenir hunting Goths maybe. Little shits. 

     He couldn’t leave the grave like this. Supervisor would blame him for not being out here. Know he hadn’t been on the job.

     Gary sighed and climbed up into the Ditch Witch.




                           

     Brian spat some more dirt from his mouth—and managed to get his arms up past the soil—he could get a little air now. He could live. Keno would send the police...

     Then he heard something that made him go rigid, like he’d been hit by a big electric current.

     Someone had started the grave digger. The rumble of the machine was in the ground, around him. Fresh dirt fell onto him. Was it Keno? Gary? 

     He opened his mouth to scream at them—and soil filled his mouth again.

     He spat dirt. Most of it came back down into his mouth, a plug, blocking off his shout. Keno! Gary! Someone!

     He couldn’t quite get it out. Wait!

     More dirt came down, from above. A lot of it. I’ve changed my mind! Don’t finish it! Turn off the machine! Call the police!

     Brian used all his strength, then, and pushed, forced his arms up through soil, working against the weight of the board, against the mass of dirt and debris. He got his hands clear—he could feel cool air on them.

     He waved, trying to signal, Wait! I want to live!

     He wanted to live now more than he ever remembered wanting it before—he wanted to live more than he had since he was a little kid waking up on Christmas morning. More than that.

     Hey Keno! I want to live! Hey Dad, I want to live! Everyone up there! Listen to me!

     Brian almost managed to sit up but the grave dirt was coming in heavier, and heavier, and whoever was operating the Ditch Witch couldn’t see him from where he was.

     The weight of the grave dirt was pressing Brian down—and he was suddenly aware of the metallic, rigid resistance of his own father’s coffin under his back, hard against his shoulder blades, pressing him up into the soil that, at the same time, was crushing down. He thought he felt something else. Yeah.

      Arms. Hands. Tugging from below. A clutch as soft as mist, but relentless. Pulling him down.

                                  


  

     Gary had just put the Ditch Witch away when he heard the sirens, saw the two cop cars, their lights whirling. Shit. Had the boss called the cops?

     Well it didn’t matter. All the cops knew who he was.

     “Hey guys,” Gary told the first two patrolmen, trudging toward him with flashlights in their hands. “It’s me!”

     “Gary?” It was that black cop, what’s his name. Officer Dewey. Young gaping punk of a rookie with him.

     “Hey Officer Dewey.”

     “You see a kid out here? A teenager?”

     “Naw! I saw a flashlight or something, went to check. Probably somebody at the golf course. Nothing going on out there.”

     “Got a call that some kid was committing suicide.”

     “I’d have seen ‘em. Prank call, man. You guys been pranked.”

     “Somebody’s going to get his ass in trouble, then. Nothing happening out that way, by the golf course?”

     “Nope. We had some repair work on a grave there. Did that shit earlier.” He started to toss his cigarette butt away, then remembered he was with cops, and kept it. “Got dirt tracked all over the place, is all.”

     Dewey nodded, flashing his light over the cemetery, and turned away. “Goddamn kids. Pain in the ass.” He shined his light on Gary’s face. “You been drinking, Gary?”

     “Me? Naw!”

     “I can smell it, Gary. You don’t drive, hear me? You walk home.”

     “Whatever, Officer. Hell I can walk. Nice night.”

     Smoke a bowl and walk home. Look at the stars, be glad you're alive, anyhow, unlike all these decomposing bodies out here, under the sod.

                                   




     It was taking a lot longer to choke to death than he’d thought. Maybe it only seemed like a long time. But he was still here. He still had time...

     Want. To. Live.

     He pushed up again, but the pressure holding him down was so heavy. So insistent. He couldn’t make any headway against it...

     He'd rejected the world. So it was rejecting him too. He could feel the weight of the whole world, pushing down.

     Dad’s coffin was hard, under Brian's back.

     But that old pillow...

     The pillow was soft.

  


       
            ~ end  ~                      







Click Moon Above for
The Compleat 2014
featuring All 5 Stories
bundled together
with the editor's
commentary
thanking 
authors
& artists
here on the
FREEZINE
of Fantasy and
Science Fiction




                                                                   

1 comment:

  1. No comments? No one hated it?

    Sometimes I wonder if people reach the little section markers for the stories and think the story is over.

    ReplyDelete

Archive of Stories
and Authors

Sanford Meschkow's
INEVITABLE

Sanford Meschkow is a retired former
NYer who married a Philly suburban
Main Line girl. Sanford has been pub-
lished in a 1970s issue of AMAZING.
We welcome him here on the FREE-
ZINE of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's
THE RECIDIVIST



Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's
THE MEMORY SECTOR

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking currently
resides in the high desert of Phoenix,
Arizona where he enjoys campy horror
movies within the comfort of an Insane
Asylum. Search for his science fiction
stories at The Intestinal Fortitude in
the Flesheater's World section.
The Memory Sector is his first
appearance in the Freezine of
Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Owen R. Powell's
NOETIC VACATIONS

Little is known of the mysterious
Owen R. Powell (oftentimes referred
to as Orp online). That is because he
usually keeps moving. The story
Noetic Vacations marks his first
appearance in the Freezine.

Edward Morris's
MERCY STREET

Edward Morris is a 2011 nominee for
the Pushcart Prize in literature, has
also been nominated for the 2009
Rhysling Award and the 2005 British
Science Fiction Association Award.
His short stories have been published
over a hundred and twenty times in
four languages, most recently at
PerhihelionSF, the Red Penny Papers'
SUPERPOW! anthology, and The
Magazine of Bizarro Fiction. He lives
and works in Portland as a writer,
editor, spoken word MC and bouncer,
and is also a regular guest author at
the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.

Gene Stewart
(writing as Art Wester)
GROUND PORK


Gene Stewart's
CRYPTID'S LAIR

Gene Stewart is a writer and artist.
He currently lives in the Midwest
American Wilderness where he is
researching tales of mystical realism,
writing ficta mystica, and exploring
the dark by casting a little light into
the shadows. Follow this link to his
website where there are many samples
of his writing and much else; come
explore.

Adam Bolivar's
SERVITORS OF THE
OUTER DARKNESS


Adam Bolivar's
THE DEVIL & SIR
FRANCIS DRAKE



Adam Bolivar's
THE TIME-EATER


Adam Bolivar is an expatriate Bostonian
who has lived in New Orleans and Berkeley,
and currently resides in Portland, Oregon
with his beloved wife and fluffy gray cat
Dahlia. Adam wears round, antique glasses
and has a fondness for hats. His greatest
inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft,
Jack tales and coffee.


David Agranoff's
A PLANET OF YOUR OWN


David Agranoff's
THE FALLEN GUARDIAN'S MANDATE


David Agranoff is the author of the
short story collection Screams From
A Dying World, just published by
Afterbirth Books. David is a hardcore
vegan and tireless environmentalist.
His contributions to the punk horror
scene and the planet in general have
already established him as a bright
new writer and activist to watch out
for. The Freezine of Fantasy and
Science Fiction welcomes him and
his defiant vision open-heartedly.

David is a busy man, usually at work
on several different novels or projects
at once. He is sure to leave his mark on
a world teetering over the edge of
ecological imbalance. David's latest
books include the Wuxia -Pan
(martial arts fantasy) horror
novel called Hunting The Moon Tribe,
already out from Afterbirth Books.;
The Vegan Revolution...with Zombies,
[Deadite Press, 2010]; and
[Deadite Press, 2014]

Daniel José Older's
GRAVEYARD WALTZ


Daniel José Older's
THE COLLECTOR


Daniel José Older's spiritually driven,
urban storytelling takes root at the
crossroads of myth and history.
With sardonic, uplifting and often
hilarious prose, Older draws from
his work as an overnight 911 paramedic,
a teaching artist & an antiracist/antisexist
organizer to weave fast-moving, emotionally
engaging plots that speak whispers and
shouts about power and privilege in
modern day New York City. His work
has appeared in the Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, The ShadowCast
the collection Sunshine/Noir, and is
featured in Sheree Renee Thomas'
Black Pot Mojo Reading Series in Harlem.

When he's not writing, teaching or
riding around in an ambulance,
Daniel can be found performing with
his Brooklyn-based soul quartet
Ghost Star. His blog about the
ridiculous and disturbing world
of EMS can be found here.


Johnny Strike's
AS YOU WISH



Johnny Strike's
NIGHT FLAMERS



Johnny Strike's
THE HOMELESS MUTANTS



Johnny Strike will beat you with his guitar
and leave you lying in the gutter wishing you
had never dared enter his under ground world
of fake passports, lucky amulets, rain soaked
hotels, and occult mystique. If you don't leave
nice comments under his story, he's sure to sic
his band CRIME on you. He also wrote the novel
Ports Of Hell (Headpress), recommended by
William S. Burroughs. You don't receive kudos
from William Lee himself unless you are the
epitome of cool. Besides, have you listened to
CRIME's album Exalted Masters? It was
released in 2007 on the Crime Music label,
on vinyl only, featuring a slew of their old
rare hits. Its real punk music from seasoned
veterans. Now go track yourself down a copy
before its out of print. The Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction is proud to host the story
that contains the line which titles his first
From Above (Rudos and Rubes).


Paul Stuart's
SEA?TV!


Paul Stuart is the author of numerous
biographical blurbs written in the third
person. His previously published fiction
appears in The Vault of Punk Horror and
His non-fiction financial pieces can be found
in a shiny, west-coast magazine that features
pictures of expensive homes, as well as images
of women in casual poses and their accessories.
Consider writing him at paul@twilightlane.com,
if you'd like some thing from his garage. In fall
2010, look for Grade 12 Trigonometry and
Pre-Calculus -With Zombies.


Rain Grave's
MAU BAST


Rain Graves is an award winning
author of horror, science fiction and
poetry. She is best known for the 2002
Poetry Collection, The Gossamer Eye
(along with Mark McLaughlin and
David Niall Wilson). Her most
recent book, Barfodder: Poetry
Written in Dark Bars and Questionable
Cafes, has been hailed by Publisher's
Weekly as "Bukowski meets Lovecraft..."
in January of 2009. She lives and
writes in San Francisco, performing
spoken word at events around the
country. 877-DRK-POEM -



Icy Sedgwick's
THE PORCELAIN WOMAN


Icy Sedgwick is part writer and part
trainee supervillain. She lives in the UK
but dreams of the Old West. Her current
works include a ghost story about a Cavalier
and a Western tale of retribution. Find her
ebooks, free weekly fiction and other
shenanigans at Icy’s Cabinet of Curiosities.


Blag Dahlia's
armed to the teeth
with LIPSTICK



BLAG DAHLIA is a Rock Legend.
Singer, Songwriter, producer &
founder of the notorious DWARVES.
He has written two novels, ‘NINA’ and
‘ARMED to the TEETH with LIPSTICK’.


G. Alden Davis's
THE FOLD


G. Alden Davis wrote his first short story
in high school, and received a creative
writing scholarship for the effort. Soon
afterward he discovered that words were
not enough, and left for art school. He was
awarded the Emeritus Fellowship along
with his BFA from Memphis College of Art
in '94, and entered the videogame industry
as a team leader and 3D artist. He has over
25 published games to his credit. Mr. Davis
is a Burningman participant of 14 years,
and he swings a mean sword in the SCA.


Shae Sveniker's
A NEW METAPHYSICAL STUDY
REGARDING THE BEHAVIOR
OF PLANT LIFE


Shae is a poet/artist/student and former
resident of the Salt Pit, UT, currently living
in Simi Valley, CA. His short stories are on
Blogger and his poetry is hosted on Livejournal.



Nigel Strange's
PLASTIC CHILDREN


Nigel Strange lives with his wife and
daughter, cats, and tiny dog-like thing
in their home in California where he
occasionally experiments recreationally
with lucidity. PLASTIC CHILDREN
is his first publication.


J.R. Torina's
THE HOUSE IN THE PORT


J.R. Torina was DJ for Sonic Slaughter-
house ('90-'97), runs Sutekh Productions
(an industrial-ambient music label) and
Slaughterhouse Records (metal record
label), and was proprietor of The Abyss
(a metal-gothic-industrial c.d. shop in
SLC, now closed). He is the dark force
behind Scapegoat (an ambient-tribal-
noise-experimental unit). THE HOUSE
IN THE PORT is his first publication.


K.B. Updike, Jr's
THE GOLDEN THIRD EYE


K.B. Updike, Jr. is a young virgin
Virginia writer. KB's life work,
published 100% for free:
(We are not certain if K.B. Updike, Jr.
has lost his Virginian virginity yet.)