Monday, February 11, 2013


Red Shoes

He took the same path he always took, down the cruddy alleyway. The air was ice-chilled and the long wisps of breath snaked around his head he exhaled. A rich film of frost covered the grasses in the backyards and the weeds that choked the pebbled ground. Broken glass, tattered clothes and gaping potholes littered the alley. Strolling along, Jack passed by dilapidated garages, broken down cars and weather worn back fences. He neared the large brown garbage bin sitting against the pale blue concrete of his favorite diner. The diner sat right in an intersection of the alley path and a main arterial street. The whole neighborhood was mostly a dead place filled with overgrown back yards of foreclosed homes. He walked around to the front  and checked his watch.
 10:30 a.m. 
He pushed open the door and slide into a booth. The waitress, the new one who had the unsettling gaze,  who reminded him of a poisonous insect, eyed him steadily as he came in and drifted slowly over to his table. 
"Coffee?" She asked. Her voice was flat. She was staring with those unreadable, unblinking eyes. They were pale gray and if you were looking at her from afar she looked blind.
"Black coffee. No sugar." He muttered. There was something that caught his eye just below. She was wearing red, red shoes. He'd never noticed that before. She went off to fetch the coffee. He couldn't remember if he had ever seen her wear red shoes before. They were flat and very pointy, like knives. The diner was nearly empty, save for a few customers and the old T.V. on the wall blaring across the room, showing an old film. The Stranger. He was pleasantly surprised by this. Usually it was a game show or the news. No one else in the place seemed to care or even notice. Out of  the corner of his eye he could see the red shoes coming back with the coffee pot. He turned his head so he didn't have to look at her weird eyes or her ugly shoes. She poured the coffee. He feel the gaze burning into him, like a sudden, sharp heat flash, as he imagined it. Then she left his table without a word to wait on another customer. 
Relieved, he sipped his coffee and started to watch the movie but found himself drifting, gazing out of the window. He still felt like things were off, like he was suppose to be doing something or remembering something. The kind of unpleasant thought that gnawed at him like a hungry rat. He watched the cars rattle down the street. A car, an old black Buick Monte Carlo approached, slowed down in front of the diner and then sped around the block. It had whitewall tires and the chrome shined like platinum. A beautiful, well kept  car. Looks  like a '73 or a '74 he thought appreciatively. It came around the block again. He couldn't see who was inside. The windows were tinted too dark. It slowed down and then stopped in front of the diner. He admired the paint job and the body. It looked powerful, built like a bull. Suddenly, red shoes went in the back of the kitchen. he watched and listened as he heard her open a door somewhere in the kitchen. The car suddenly went around the corner again. Jack suddenly got an odd, creepy feeling. He drained his cup, threw a couple of dollars on the table and headed out the door. Everything was off. He didn't know why and he suddenly felt like getting home instead of lingering. The waitress was leaning into one of the car windows. She straightened up and stared at him with that pale, unreadable, unblinking stare. She suddenly smiled at him. Unsmiling, ice cold eyes with bright white teeth. Teeth with tiny, unnaturally sharp canines. Startled, Jack breathed in sharply. What in the world? He whirled around on his heels and took off. He could hear the low growl of a powerful engine behind him. The car was coming down the alley behind him. He walked faster. Suddenly the engine roared like an angry grizzly bear. He jumped, his heart lept in panic. His ears were burning. He ran down the path trying to find a yard with an open gate to turn into as the car followed him, engine roaring. He ducked into a narrow passage between two small garages and waited for the car to pass. The engine died down to a purr. A purr that vibrated through his body and made his teeth rattle just a bit. It slowed down and stopped for a few seconds. He peeked out from his hiding place. The windows were black as night. There was something else. He had thought, back at the diner, that the car was black. It wasn't. It was a red so dark it seemed black. Jack stood there trembling, afraid of who might come out after him. After some seconds it sped away down the alley. 
He was bewildered. Who was that? What do they want? What's going on? How did I ever manage to wake up? Should I be dead? Dreadful thoughts flooded his mind all at once. Maybe that's what he was trying to remember and couldn't. Imminent death. An angry bookie, maybe? He thought of the waitress's grin. Werewolves? He hadn't done any betting recently. Was he just losing his mind? Even though the cold air bit his fingertips, he barely noticed it through the sweat pouring off of him. He'd thought to go to the store to get some groceries today but decided he'd had enough. He was ready to go home. He was almost relieved that some small clue had been revealed to him. He still didn't understand what had just happened or why but it was a start. Someone or something was after him. Like Red Shoes, for instance. He could work with that. Wouldn't be the first time.

And it was far better than wandering around in the dark, trying to recall things that wouldn't reveal themselves. 

Friday, February 1, 2013


The Sickness

It was always that feeling that made him think that he was both drunk and keenly alert. A hyper-sensitivity to everything around him, yet his limbs felt like flailing, boneless appendages. It usually struck at night and it was here again. Dan had taken to going for a short walk whenever the sickness came on him. He was making his way - slowly - down West Burnside. It was now a ritual. He passed by the same unnamed bar he always did, a mouldering building with filthy, blacked-out windows. The door suddenly swung open letting the wild laughter of the crowd escape. They were packed in every crevice like lice. He ambled across the street to escape the noise. Dan caught the scent of strong, dank smoke and alcohol and a mind-bending Tom Waits song blared from a radio somewhere inside. He was again being transported into that realm of mental distortion. Everything was real and not real. He leaned against a building to keep from falling over, to catch himself. Footsteps and cars rumbling over the street sounded like crashing drums. He felt disconnected from his body in that delightfully frightening feeling of flying forward with nothing to stop him. Just stop, please just stop. Oh, when will the black-out happen again? He lurched his way, painfully, towards the waterfront. The black waters of the river cast rippling images of the city lights from its surface. He heard the slapping of waves against the river wall below.
"Oh." He mumbled. He heard footfalls behind him. Slowly Dan turned. There were five men staring down at him. One of them, standing in front, was wearing a bright red rag tied around his head.
"What do you want?" Dan couldn't keep his tongue straight and the words came out slurred. None of the men answered him. Even in the dark and with his compromised vision their eyes looked  like boundless black holes sitting in their heads.
"Think anybody'll miss this one?" Murmured one of them.
"Nah. Throw him over."
"What. .  .what do you want from me? Please!" Dan said. Electric sparks of fear, which translated as pain radiated through his body. They surrounded him. He staggered trying to break through the circle. Unfortunately his plea sounded more like a whimper. He staggered through managing to push one of them away.
"Nothing man. Nothing." Said Red-Rag, grinning. "Hey! Where you goin'?" The others sniggered. They trailed him, pushing him along, kicking at him.
"I don't have anything!"
"We don't want anything from you." Said one of them.
"Look, we got things to do. Finish it." Said Red-Rag. Dan made an attempt to escape, half-leaping away. He started to run which turned out to be more of a clumsy gallop. Except for himself and his tormentors the waterfront was empty. They all converged on him like wolves on raw meat. He screamed and one of them began punching him savagely until his screams died into the whimpers of a tortured animal and he lost all sense. He felt the bones crack and break and his body sprang alive with new pain. He then felt himself flying through the air until he crashed into a wall of ice cold water.

. . .

 They dropped him on the ground and began punching and kicking him until he lost all sense. Then they threw him over the wall into the river. The freezing water filled every orifice; his nose, lungs, brain. He was falling and a kind of dreaminess overtook him as he drowned. Images and memories he did not understand flooded his mind and then it wasn't cold anymore. Beneath him he sensed there was light. Soft blue light but he couldn't hold on any longer and everything went black.