Thursday, July 11, 2019

That Fireball Incident

What if, I were to offer you tennis ball and some duct tape to play with? There is nothing suspicious or fascinating there. You could put some tape on stuff or bounce the ball around a little.
But, what if, we combined them? By wrapping, like, half the duct tape around the ball? I know. Not much more exciting than the first offer. Only thing you could do now is play a really stupid-ass game of tennis where keeping score is moot because everyone is automatically a loser for participating.

But, what if, that insanely wrapped tennis ball was drenched in lighter fluid? And that lighter fluid was lit? This is getting good. But it’s not done just yet!

What if, that fiery object was also attached to a thick rope? And that rope just so happens to be tethered to a big stick? Now we are going somewhere. Things are beginning to liven up. But... the ingredients feel incomplete. Such a bland concoction needs a little something extra.

I know! Now add one extremely excited, reckless boy swinging that amazing, flaming contraption all-around, to and fro, 'all the livelong day' with a pure sort of joy that can only come from a complete and total disregard for his or anyone else safety. Are you picking up what I’m putting down? Oh, I think you are. And the best part is there is more!

Now surround that half-crazed man-child with a younger, but equally crazy large group of boys. One half is loudly chanting, “Fireball! Fireball! Fireball!” and the other half is chanting. “U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!”. Then thrown all of it outside on a hot, unsupervised, summer afternoon.

It was like magic! We were all mesmerized! How did we ever get to this point? Who came up with this awesome idea? Where did we even get all this stuff from? Who cares! It was party time and we actualizing the hell out of our potential!

If only you could have seen it. It was a majestic orb of flame soaring all about through the air like a small comet we snatched out of the sky and stuck on a stick. Fire hazard? Burns? Injury? Property damage? You can't make magic happen concerning yourself with little annoyances like that!

However, it would seem reality would mightily disagree. So much so, that it decided to be rude and not even bother on knocking before barging right on in. Somehow, during our haste to bring our brilliant blue print off the page and into life where it belonged, we never considered “fire hot” and the rope was not indestructible. So, during one exceptional feat of stick swinging, the burning, fiery tape ball suddenly shot through the air and hit Mitch in the chest. To make matters worse he was not wearing a shirt on that hot, hot summer day.

The chanting and excitement ends. This kid is screaming in pain. In fact, he screamed running all the way home. Things get a little hazy after that. It’s hard to keep track of what exactly happened while running in blind fear in hopes of not being connected to that tragic incident. Don’t look at me like that. Everyone ran. The next day, Mitch showed up with a bandage and no hard feelings.

See. Fun was had by all.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Legion: Chapter Seven

The building quakes with his shoulders and horns slamming into either side of the restroom's entrance, initially barring his path, but not convincing him to alter or change his approach, instead he only responds with more aggression and fury, unleashing bestial snarls, clawing, struggling and fighting to find a way through with brute force alone.

“I know you're both in here! Do you think you're fucking funny?! Do you think this is fucking cute?” The Beast bellows with his voice beginning to sink into its deeper, guttural, inhuman depths. “Did you really think you could hide from me?! You bitches! You teasing, stupid, fucking bitches! I swear-- I fucking swear--” The sheer indignation and rage rapidly devolves into savage, inarticulate screams until a savage roar blast through the small space, causing both women to scream and scramble away to the furthest wall.

The rampaging Beast is unable to apply reason to the very simple problem, so, he instead repeatedly slams himself into the entrance as if expecting it to yield, thrashing blindly, claws furiously raking the cement, horns nosily scraping the walls.

“Shit! Shit He's going to get in!” Norah shrieks.

“Oh god. Oh god. Oh god.” Malika repeats the words both absently and as a plead to some higher power.

It is sensory chaos between Norah's screams, the Beast's own monstrous sounds, and the panicked thoughts ricocheting through her brain. It is hard to look away from this monster trying everything he can to reach them. The aura of hate and violence wafting from his massive frame like radiation, poisoning the air, and eating away at her Malika's resolve. But somehow she force herself to begin looking around the room for a way out. Her eyes darting about until her senses catches up with the desperate search to escape.

“The windows!” Malika says even as she is rushing over to them. She repeatedly jumps but her hands can just only reach the edges. She releases a sound of fear and frustration while trying again and again. But even when she finally manages to grab hold the tile is slippery and there is nothing else to pull herself up on.

“It's too high!” Norah startles her as she announces suddenly from the right. “Fuck! We have to get out! We have to get up there!”

“If I help you up, will you pull me up afterward?” Malika ask looking between the door and Norah.

“What?” Norah is shifting on her feet and half distracted by the Beast.

“Its a simple question, Norah! For god's sake!” Malika becomes more demanding. “If I help you reach the window, will you help pull me up?”

“Yes! Yes!” Norah readily agrees. “Just-- just please-- please what do we do? How?”

Malika quickly knells, lace her fingers together with the palms turned up, and motions for Norah to step on to them. She briefly struggles to hoist her upwards but manages to lift the other woman high enough until she can successfully grab the outer edges of the window.

“I got it! I got it!” Norah announces triumphantly.

“Hurry!” Malika orders through her gritted teeth.

Norah scrambles to climb up, it is an awkward and clumsy maneuver but she manages to finally make it, first slinging one leg out, followed by the other before falling outside with a surprised sound. Malika waits impatiently, repeatedly looking between the Beast and her potential way out. After several seconds her frightening suspicions are beginning to seem like a horrifying reality. Norah is nowhere to be seen.

“Wait! You can't-- you can't do this!” Malika pleads desperately as she begins trying to jump and grab the window again. “Norah! Norah! Don't leave me! No! Please, don't do this!”

The only response is the continued and building anger of the Beast. She turns in time to see him finally squeeze his way in, turning his large body and head, at a most unnatural angle, then stampeding across the restroom with a furious scream. In his rage, he simply charges forward before smashing head first into the furthest wall with his horns, destroying most of the tiles, but knocking himself down.

Malika stares petrified, pressed there against the wall, as he staggers back to his feet, looming over here there in that mostly dark space. Her heart is pounding in her chest so hard it hurts, there is not enough space to run around him even if she found the will to move her legs, and her voice has fled taking the ability to as much scream in fear. She knows she is about to die. She tightly shuts her eyes not wanting to see it coming.

A pounding noise causes Malika to jump with a startle breath and she immediately prepares for the first painful thing to tear into her. The fist that will shatter her face. Claws to rip open her skin. The noise continues without the awful pain she was prepared for but she is unable to move or open her eyes.

“Run! Run! Through the trees! He can't get us there!” Norah's frantic voice is coming from near the entrance somewhere.

Malika dares to open her eyes to the nightmare, her breathing stops as she witness the Beast shift to turn towards the sound, raising to his full height, he roars in growing frustration with unnatural widen jaws, before storming towards the door, where he lowers his body and turns at an odd angle to rush outside.

Malika does not move. Despite her brain yelling and demanding she run something feels disconnected. She is light headed, short of breath, and her limbs are rubbery. Outside the Beast is yelling all sorts of vicious, ugly threats with the sounds of breaking branches following in his wake.

Norah's much smaller silhouette, partially lit by the thin light outside, leans in through the doorway. At first she only repeatedly makes silent but eager gestures for her to run towards the exit. Malika keeps telling herself, begging herself to move, but the lingering terror has seized her, overriding even instinct with its immobilizing choke-hold. The very real threats of being hurt or killed makes her fear any move could easily be her last.

“Malika? Malika? What are you doing? Please! Come on!” Norah whispers with desperate frustration.

This simple action is one of the most difficult things Malika has ever done. It requires a great deal of effort to take that first shaky step which nearly causes her legs to buckle beneath the weight of her fears, beneath the growing hopelessness, and exhaustion. Yet, she remains standing, and she keeps moving forward, each step becoming steadier and easier until Malika is fleeing from the building.

“Stop running!” The Beast's voice explodes unseen from somewhere behind them as they flee together through the park. Though, initially it seemed impossible, he is even angrier now because Norah's misdirection further wounded his pride.

Further, and further away from the single, functioning light in the park, they flee back into such darkness that Malika imagines she can occasionally feel it brushing over parts of her exposed skin-- and inexplicably-- across her already raw emotions. Only the sparse street lights, much further ahead, illuminates the skeletal branches of the trees dotting the park, and guides them towards where it ends and the street begins.

But right now there is only the blackness, the damp grass, and the absolute dread.

“I gave both you sorry sluts a chance to be nice! But you want to play games! You want to act like your god's fucking gift! Now I'm going to make sure all your fucking holes hurt!” He yells after them with those heavy steps swiftly bearing down.

Malika does not know how much longer she can sustain this. Running seems to help only marginally. They stand no chance in fighting him. Surviving seems less and less likely with each passing moment. Despair can be as heavy as it is toxic. A hundred ton, radiated block, that not only utterly crushes a soul beneath its immovable mass, but also corrodes hope until it grows fragile and crumbles. Malika's hopes are close to breaking apart by the time they reach the edge of the park, and she looks to Norah, who's expression wordlessly mirrors her own feelings.

Malika's eyes adjust to the thin glow of the streetlight as they cross the sidewalk. The imprecise outlines of multiple, large buildings crowd the shadows beyond. She is uncertain where to run by the time they reach the middle of the street as it all increasingly feels like a great labyrinth where there is no exit.

The shrill call slices through the air. It is coming from somewhere much closer now. Malika and Norah pause, but to their shared surprise, they quickly turn to see the Beast has immediately done the same. He remains near the edges of the park, his hackles visibly raised, snarling, bearing his teeth, and shifting on his feet appearing torn between continuing the chase or perhaps leaving.

The horn calls out again and he now roars in response before hesitantly retreating a few steps back. Malika observes this closely with two competing emotions raging within, fear and curiosity. It is disturbing seeing the Beast there and realizing just how close he was to catching the both of them. Yet, for the first time since this all began, Malika senses, beyond her own fear and revulsion of him, that the cowing aura of violent rage she has constantly felt in his presence, is noticeably receded. Despite his defensive posture and deadly display, he looks almost nervous-- agitated-- frightened?

“Why has he stopped?” Norah questions with a trembling whisper. She then glances around. “And what is that? We heard it earlier but...”

Malika does not answer as she continues starring at the Beast. The fear is not gone. Not even remotely. But far beneath the icy layer something roils deep within her. The smoldering embers of a greater, but dormant umbrage at feeling constantly frightened, powerless, and victimized. There is some small note of pleasure to seeing him react this way.

However, this immediately changes upon remembering what is associated with that strange horn. If this monster is possibly intimidated by the others then it meant they are something far worse, and all the more likely to not have good intentions upon finding them.

Malika quickly looks around then motions for Norah to follow, however, she does not immediately turn her back on the agitated Beast, she instead, begins backing away to make certain he doesn't chase them. “We need to keep moving,” She begins. “Those other ones are coming. The first time I heard this--”

No sooner than Malika speaks the words do they appear. Macabre phantoms, silently emerging from the night as if manifesting incarnations sent to punish those disturbing its oppressive shadows. She is unable to decipher with her eyes if these beings are figures hidden beneath an intimidating mixture of black armor and clothing, or far more disturbing, if it is what each is made of.

The Ghastly Woman is followed by two others. To her right, is second woman, who's face is inhumanly pale, and devoid of all features except for the tragic multitude of angry red scars, and four glowing emerald eyes. To her left, is a third woman with grotesquely wide, gleaming, milky-eyes, and a joyless manic grin literally stretching from ear to ear. Ghastly and Scars both carry black metal shackles attached to heavy chains, that not only rattle as expected, but also very faintly moan and mewl like a soul abandoned to languish in the worst of agonies.

“Oh, holy fuck-- “ Norah whispers before unconsciously clutching onto Malika's right arm so tightly it hurts, or at least it would, if the other was registering the death-grip instead of starring at these new figures with the same level of disturbed disbelief.

The Beast, turns his sightless head in their direction with a growl, dropping animal like onto all fours, then backing away further and snapping his jaws as a threat. He howls in pain when, an unseen sniper makes its presence known, with a number of searing red arrows that strike him swiftly with stunning accuracy. Two are embedded in the left side of his face, by the time he raise his arm defensively, only to have the limb and hand struck by several more.

The Beast flees into the park, but Ghastly first points at Norah and Malika, with an accusing finger, sending Manic charging towards them, as she and Scars dart off into the darkness after the Beast. To their combined horror, the nightmare approaching them, also has a pair of large, serrated knives.

“Run!” Malika yells as she stumbles back with several clumsy steps before turning and fleeing with Norah.

Manic releases a screeching, distorted cry behind them as she pursues both women. There is no plan, or thinking, only running, and after leaving from the streets, across the sidewalk, and up a particularly narrow path, the two find themselves amidst an expansive complex that could be either residential or commercial. The current conditions visually renders it little more than an outline of glass, cement, doorways, stairs, and large shrubs.

Norah and Malika only briefly stop to look around for some place to go next. Manic footsteps are quickly approaching.

“Malika! Over here!” Norah whispers urgently from where she has wandered a short distance away.

Malika hurries over to find the other woman crawling beneath a spot under some large shrubs. Diving down into a crawl, following after her, where she is immediately surprised at the softness of the ground beneath her palms and knees. They are scraped, scratched, and snagged at by branches by continue until they are able to hopefully conceal themselves.

Malika is afforded only a partial view of the already difficult to see path. There is an involuntary gasp from Norah when the feet of their pursuer comes into view. When Manic immediately stops, Malika fears perhaps even that small sound, has signaled their deaths at the point of those knives.

It remains this way for several tense moments. No other movements or sounds. Just Norah trembling as she clutches onto her right arm with both hands, her own pulse in her ears, and the growing suspicion that perhaps this killer knows where they are but is just letting the anticipation cruelly build. Manic takes a step in their direction but turns and walks about with quiet steps as if she is searching.

There is a terrible crash from the street, a noise only made by large amounts of wood, plaster, and glass all breaking in one violent act. There is calls of commotion in that strange alien language, another howl of pain from the Beast, then the call of the horn once more. This causes Manic to hesitantly back away a few steps, seeming to consider continuing the search, or return to what is clearly a fight. The next loud crash is followed by a bellowing roar. She turns and rushes off.

They remain huddled there in silence for an unknown amount of time. Malika comes to notice a pungent, almost lemony odor hanging in the air all about them. Though strong it is also not entirely unpleasant. Now, that she has really noticed the fragrance, she realizes its familiar, even though she cannot recall from where or why.

Malika reminds herself there is a way to come back from this. There has to be. To think anything else, even for a moment, would cause her to immediately despair.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Legion: Chapter Six

The cement floor of the women public restroom, is as uncomfortably hard as it is numbingly cold, but the tile against Malika's back is little better. A lone, pale amber light functioning in the park, is close enough to shine its weak glow through the pair of high, empty rectangular windows on the opposite wall. This is not the most hospitable of spaces but at least for now there is shelter and some tenuous sense of safety. A place where she and this stranger can perhaps figure out what to do or where to go next.

To Malika's left, sitting against the wall in a similar fashion with her knees partially drawn up and peering eagerly into the screen, the other woman continues her seemingly futile but extremely determined effort to fix the phone. Normally, she would be incredibly reluctant to handover that considerably expensive device to just anyone, especially someone she just met and who's name she still does not know. Yet, in light of their current situation, she seriously doubts this person has any plans to steal it.

By now, the party, Amanda, Jason, and even her problems with Patrick, all feels so far away. Malika looks down at ruined cocktail dress, and even in this extremely poor lighting, she can see the left shoulder strap is now missing, there are small rips in some places, and parts of the edges are frayed. Seeing it in this condition stokes an unexpected sense of hurt and sadness in her. The recollection of the excitement on her sister's face as she opened the box causes Malika to struggle against what feels like an onset of tears.

It immediately occurs to her that it is perhaps ridiculous to have such a strong emotional response to seeing her dress ruined, when compared to the seeming mountain of unexplained awful she is currently facing, but that is what makes these lingering emotions all the more puzzling..

“Sorry, but this isn't working either.” Begins the other woman with clear frustration. But her voice is a welcomed distraction despite the not-so-good news. “I thought, maybe-- just maybe-- a factory reset might be the key. But I've done that twice now and nothing has changed. The same display comes right back each time.”

“It's alright. You tried.” Malika responds quietly and accepts her phone back.

“It looks like we've lost our only way of contacting someone for help.” She admits dejectedly, drawing her knees up until she can rest her arms and chin atop them.

“Well-- not necessarily,” Malika begins with a little of the hope she has been keeping in reserve. “We shouldn't just give up because this piece of crap is broken, right? Maybe we can find a payphone?”

“What? When was the last time you seen one of those?” The other woman's tone is both cynical and derisive.

“I-- I dunno. I mean,” Malika's uncertainty to if the woman is being antagonistic or just generally distressed makes her stumble over her words. “just because we haven't seen any doesn't mean there aren't some around? Like, there could be one here around this park, or in the lobby of a business--” She pauses then quickly looks over at her with increasing optimism. “Or, better yet, we could find a hardline phone we don't need to pay for?”

“I've knocked and banged on so many doors,” She replies dismissively. “No one answered. Or if they are there they did not want to answer. Not to mention every place-- at least everywhere I have gone-- is locked. So, it would be totally pointless--”

“Look,” Malika's tone sharpens with her patience wearing thin against the other woman's abrasive demeanor. “If you have any ideas of your own, now is the time to start spit-balling them onto the board, because I'm not sure what else to do.”

“What's your issue? I'm only telling you what will and won't work.” Her tone hardens.

“No. You haven't made a single suggestion! Not a single one! You've only snidely remarked on what you think won't work. And if we are tossing items into the 'not helping pile' then this is definitely not helping. ” Malika replies.

The immediate silence between them moves through a number of short phases. They are both initially upset at one another over the perceived slights, then surprised by this sudden confrontation, followed by a cautious but mutual retreat after assessing the other would not escalate the situation. Both women are uncomfortable now as they stare ahead trying to decide what to do next.

“Hey,” The other woman begins with a more apologetic and measured tone as she looks over at Malika. “I didn't mean-- the way that all was coming out-- and how it was said, none of that was aimed at you. I'm nothing but grateful towards you. I'm sorry if it came across condescending and sort of jerk-ass.”

Despite initially only nodding in response, internally, Malika is deeply relieved. The apology feels like a vale has been turned and pressure is being released from the building tension. She hates arguing and fighting. It always leaves her feeling jittery and uncertain. Replaying every action, word, and decision in her mind while endlessly questioning her role in the conflict. She looks over with a quiet eagerness to accept the olive branch.

“Its alright.” Malika replies with some sympathy. “I get it. This is all really stressful and scary. But fighting with one another isn't going to solve anything.”

“I'm Norah, by the way.” She tries to smile but it is a faint and fragile expression barely held there. It also does not last long at all.

“Malika.” She replies feeling the way the other woman looks.

“I'm really not upset at you,” Norah's wipes her eyes as her voice cracks. “I have been trying not to freak the fuck out for what feels like hours now. At this point I'm not sure what else to do. I'm getting desperate enough to start hoping I will wake up soon.”

“What were you doing before this happened?” Malika asks.

“Before this?” Norah responds with evident confusion. “Like, before I ran into you?”

“Before even that. Before all this started.” Malika clarifies.

“Oh,” Norah looks ahead appearing to think back. “I was walking home from work--”

“Then you are from this area?” Malika interrupts hopefully.

“This area?” Norah looks over at her. “I'm not really sure where we are. Now, that I thinking a little clearer, if I were to take a guess, I would say maybe this is downtown?”

“There are a lot of giant buildings.” Malika readily jumps aboard this conclusion.

“But,” Norah briefly pauses as if she is recalling something. “I also don't remember there being a park like this downtown. Especially, one this big, and with as many trees.”

“I suppose I don't either, now that you mention it.” Malika hope deflates with a quiet sigh. “My apologies for interrupting. I was just hoping maybe you had some clue to where we were.”

“Sorry. But, and I know this may sound strange, but I don't even remember how I got here.” Norah admits. “I was walking home from work--” She trails off.

“Then?” Malika questions curiously.

“I don't remember.” Norah looks to her seeming increasingly troubled by this. “I covered a late shift for a co-worker, that had some sort of big family emergency, so I was hurrying to catch the last train--” She trails off again, closing her eyes, and pinching the bridge of her nose with a frustrated sound. “but I can't remember what happened.”

“Everything was fine then you were waking up on the street...” Malika states more than questions.

“Yes!” Norah nods seemingly surprise. “It is like, one minute I was on my way home, then I was startled awake from where I suddenly found myself sitting against this wall of what looked like a store. Is that how it happened with you?”

“It is sort of similar. I was at this party with some friends, I can remember we stepped outside, but that is where it grows hazy. I have no memory of what happened before waking up on the sidewalk.” Malika explains. She leaves out living with her friend, avoiding her emotionally and verbally abusive ex, and being stalked. Because, firstly it is not relevant to the topic, and secondly, she rather not think about it. She briefly turns her attention towards the doorway, listening to the silence beyond that room, praying to hear nothing.

“Who is Patrick?” Norah surprises her with this sudden question and she turns to see the other woman has picked her phone up again. “I know, its broken and all, but these last text messages looks like he is asking where you are. Do you think maybe this person is near--”

“He's no one.” Malika voice comes out far sharper than intended as she immediately takes the phone back.

“Oh...” Norah appears puzzled but says nothing further as she turns her eyes back to the opposite wall.

“Sorry, sorry,” Malika words bubble up nervously as she realizes how volatile her response was. “I mean, he's no one-- not like literally, because obviously he exist--” She looks over at Norah continuing to fumble over her words. “I meant in a figurative sense that he's nobody-- but not in a derisive 'not wealthy or important' way but just nobody in a 'not worth talking about' sort of way. That makes sense?”

“I think so.” Norah nods despite her expression betraying both the gesture and words.

“Anyway,” Malika sits the phone on the right side of her. “We need to find some sort of help.”

“That is starting to feel a lot easier said then done.” Norah admits. “Besides you, I haven't seen or heard anyone else-- not normal anyway. After searching, and walking for what felt like more than an hour, I started knocking on doors, and calling out for help. Looking back, I really wish I hadn't.”

“Why?” Malika asks.

“I think that's how he found me.” Norah replies.

“Even after seeing that thing with my own eyes I still can't believe it.” Malika confesses.

“I keep telling myself that its really dark and my eyes could be playing tricks on me.” Norah begins but there is little conviction in her voice. “That maybe he could be just a really large psycho with a fucked-up mask.”

“I really want to believe that.” Malika quiet statement is filled with little else but doubt. “But do you?”

“I'm not sure. I mean, I'm not stupid or crazy, Malika. I know we've seen some shit. Shit we can't even begin to explain or make sense of. But I honestly can't let myself think too much about it all-- I'm too frightened to let myself think about all this for too long.” Norah nervously admits.

“Then maybe its best not to focus on that?” Malika uncertain tone sounds as if she is questioning her own logic or asking if its a good idea. When Norah does not answer she continues on. “Maybe-- maybe its best, for now, to just accept we are in serious danger and need to find help?”

“You may have a point.” Norah nods. “But where do we start? It's dangerous just to keep wandering around out there.”

“I was thinking it might be a good idea to wait here until the morning,” Malika begins but then abruptly pauses mid explanation.

There is a moment of uncertainty that slowly morphs into begging denial. Maybe it is nothing. Maybe she only thought she heard something close by. However, confirmation comes when she glances at Norah and her startle expression makes it clear she also heard something.

Both women quickly but quietly get to their feet. Malika controls her trembling breaths while nervously glancing between the only two entry points, the pair of windows and the door. The sound grows clearer, gentle, but persistent. First, like a sustained breeze flowing through the nearby branches and leaves. Then the gentle susurration of starting rain fall. However, it rapidly builds, gathering directly over the building, reminiscent to a chorus of murmured, unintelligible whispers.

“What is is it? What is that?” Norah looks about fearfully. “Is it him? Do you think its him?”

“I don't know.” Malika replies anxiously.

“Do we stay? Or do we run?” Norah quickly glances between her and the door with growing alarm.

“I don't know, Norah. If we try and hide we would be trapped. But if we run outside we might run into whatever is happening.” Malika responds with an indecisiveness mirrored by her shifting on her feet and looking about.

The whispering has grown stronger and closer, but whatever is being said-- if anything at all-- it is still unclear. Malika is close to suggesting they run when that sound catches her ear through the strange chorus. Faint but distinct enough for her to know she has caught a few notes this time. She knows without a doubt that she heard that old gospel song once more. Just as she is realizing this she also spots hints of purple light creeping along the outer edges of the windows.

Much of the fear begins ebbing as she knows what is outside before further evidence presents itself. She turns to explain to Norah what is happening but the woman's puzzled and tearful expression catches her off guard.

“Did you hear...” Norah's tone seems one of startled uncertainty even as she takes a few small, tentative steps towards the door as if its unconscious decision. “Did you hear that? Or-- maybe-- maybe I'm hearing things?”

Malika, watching her with increased concern, walks over and goes to respond, but the first of the fireflies hovers in through one of the windows, catching her attention. Its wispy, candle like glow, melts the deep shadows away until they cling to the furthest corners of the room. As both women watch, several others soon nimbly follow the first, with many others slowly passing the door and windows while circling the building.

Norah eyes widen, and she tenses, but remains perfectly still as a number of the fireflies suddenly dart in her direction with a burst of startling speed, but dramatically slow their flight to carousel around her. Malika is almost certain they are in no danger but a lingering part of herself is still unsettled. She tries not to make any sudden moves that may startle these 'insects'.

The purple hues of their lights brushes over Norah's features, animates the shadows of the room, while painting the walls and ceilings with their ethereal color. But what troubles Malika is, no matter how long she watches or stares at these fireflies, she can never see them clearly. It is as if they are being viewed from her peripheral, are slightly out of focus, or partially distorted in some subtle way. She is never certain if it is a trick of the lights, when at times she sees what resembles butterflies wings amongst the small swarm, only for their angle to change as their flight paths shifts, and those closer to dragonflies emerge.

“What--” Norah trails off in a mixture of awe and caution as she looks about herself to watch the drifting lights.

“I don't think they will hurt us.” Malika replies absently as she gazes at those hovering about the room, and now, those drifting near her. “I think their some sort of fireflies.”

“My aunt's backyard had fireflies every year. None of them ever looked like this.” Norah explains while continuing to observe them in wonder.

Malika has had the thought several times but initially could not find the courage until now. She slowly holds out one of her hands and keeps it there in the air as the fireflies continue gliding about.

“Malika,” Norah begins with clear worry as she takes a step closer. “Hey, maybe you shouldn't...”

After several moments it appears nothing will happen. Until one of the lights darts about, criss-crossing Malika and making her flinch, before it hovers around her out stretched hand, then lands on it. At the moment of contact it is being brushed with the fine tips of a feather, or holding a hand out of a window to touch those first warm rays of a new day, but it is never enough of both to be completely certain of either. The wings flutter in a ephemeral swish of rich shadow and light that causes them to shift appearances each time.

A new voice in the room catches both women off-guard, it is small, but angry. They quickly search the area with their eyes for the source until spotting Malika's phone, where it lies near the spot they were sitting, with a few of the fireflies either perched upon or hovering about it. The screen flickers with distortion and a voice plays from the speakers.

“--how can you-- I thought you were different-- being overly emotional-- if you would just have a rational conversation-- they are turning you against-- probably fucking some other--”

Malika instantly knows that voice despite the static and whining cutting the message apart. It is clearly Patrick. She stares at the phone uncertain how to respond. Norah, on the other hand seems to ignore the words, and rush over to the phone causing the fireflies to gently drift away.

“Hello!?” Norah says desperately into the phone. “Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?” But there is no reply other than the constant, but partial pleads and accusations. She looks down at the screen in frustration and confusion.

The gentleness and haunting beauty all shifts so suddenly that both women are just recoiling when the lights of the fireflies, all bleed into an alarming, seething red that paints the room the color of blood, and their hornet like buzzing drowns out any other sound. Malika and Norah release panicked sounds and cover up, while the now seemingly angry swarm, drone deafeningly through the small space before abruptly pouring out the door.

Norah is the first to slowly remove her arms from their defensive position around her head, then cautiously look about the rest room to make certain it is safe.

“See! See!” Norah quickly rebukes Malika as she turns to her. “You shouldn't of touched one of them like that! It totally made them flip their shit!”

“Wait! What?!” Malika blinks in surprise before immediately becoming defensive. “What about you running around and shouting?”

Norah does not get a chance to defend herself before another sound now draws her attention. She unconsciously drops the now silent phone but neither cares right now. It is rapidly drawing closer through the darkness. A familiar, heavy, excited breathing, all being carried closer on heavy steps. The terror of the realization hits Malika like a bolt of lighting, coursing down her spine, and nearly making her legs go out. They stare hopelessly at the door together.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Legion: Chapter Five

The terror clawed at Malika until it took all of her self-control not to surrender to the very primal urge of running off screaming into the opposite direction. She remained crouched there behind the rear end of the small car, trembling, wide-eyed, and praying she had hidden herself quickly enough. That face. Her mind whirled in shock and questioned if she could really trust her eyes. That visage was utterly impossible and yet she knew exactly what she saw.

Malika's floundering reasoning is trying to make sense-- any sense at all-- of the THING. The closes comparison her erratic thoughts are able to cobble together is Edvard Munch's The Scream, now brought to life as a woman, further twisted by anguish and rage so potent it can no longer be contained, instead manifesting as a seething orange light burning from the wide eyes and gaping mouth.

Time is dilated by her fear and anticipation making the silence stretch seemingly forever. Malika strains her ears, her heart pounding, and her breathing on the verge of hyperventilating. The first few steps startles her, she jumps, fumbles with her phone, then drops it to the street with a muffled thud.

Everything is still again.

Malika can hardly stand it. Every instinct is screaming to remain hidden and run at the same time. She dares to carefully peek from around the rear of the vehicle, her blood instantly chills, and her stomach drops at the sight. Now, the dark figures have not only fanned out, but they are all actively searching while holding what appear to be long knives. The ghastly being, with the insidious glow seeping from its eyes and mouth, is prominent there in the dark while walking ahead of the other two.

Malika ducks back behind the vehicle with her hand clamped over her mouth. She no longer trust herself not to emit some sound expressing the unbearable emotions expanding inside of her. This fear is unlike any she has ever felt, something deep and instinctual, thrashing about inside her, desperate to escape, threatening to seize control of her muscles in order to flee. She frantically begins looking about for some place to run. Any place is beginning to seem more and more tempting as the escalating need to escape is insufferable.

The cry of a horn, a wailing that is shrill, sustained, and ominous, echoes from somewhere in the distance. There is a brief pause before it calls out again and it is immediately followed by commotion among the figures. There are some quickly exchanged words in a language Malika does not understand, then as she hears running, she looks just in time to see them each swiftly vanish off into the opposite direction. The horn calls one last time before the stiffing silence settles again.

Malika only waits long enough to make absolutely certain the figures are gone before springing to her feet and bolting in the opposite direction. She runs harder and faster than she has in years with her mind blank of everything other than putting as much distance between her, and those nightmarish figures. On occasion Malika thinks she hears something beyond her own labored breaths, pounding pulse, and frantic steps but is never certain.

She runs for an uncertain amount of time, forcing herself to occasionally glance over her shoulder, each time always terrified she will see those figures suddenly pursuing her. It is while looking back that she nearly collides into a figure who sprints out from the apartment complex in front of her. Malika manages to avoid ramming into them by coming to an abrupt, clumsy stop, where she holds her arms up in front of her defensively, and finally releasing all the bottled up fear with a scream, before back-peddling so awkwardly she nearly falls but manages to turn and begin running away.

Malika is several yards away by the time she registers this person is yelling after her. The voice is begging, pleading, and frightened. It takes a great deal of self control for her to risk turning around but even then she continues backing away in preparation to immediately run again if needed.

“--please! Please wait! Wait! I won't hurt you! I just need help!” The young woman is holding one of her hands out in an imploring manner until she sees Malika has turned to face her. She lowers her arm and takes a few steps forward with the words continuing to spill forth. “Oh, thank god! Thank all fuck you are normal!”

Malika stops backing away as she quickly looks the stranger over suspiciously, still trembling from adrenaline and fear, it is difficult to stand still, she anxiously shift on her feet, still prepared to flee at any moment. It's a little easier to see the other woman now. She is Filipina, a little taller than herself, with short, dark hair styled in what Malika has heard described many times as a 'pixie cut'. Though the dark hides most of her, she able to see the other woman is wearing some sort of button-up blouse, slacks, and sneakers.

“Thank god, you're not another monster!” The other woman continues, appearing as jittery and frightened as Malika feels. She moves closer but frequently looks behind her and around their surroundings. “But we--”

“You saw them too?” Malika ask in dire need of further confirmation other than her own eyes. “Those women? The ones with the glowing faces?”

“Yes!” She immediately replies and turns back to Malika. “But those aren't the only ones. I'm not even sure they're the worst.”

“What?” Malika's voice comes out smaller than she intended.

“You have a phone!” Hope dramatically brightens the woman's voice as she motions to the small device. “I lost mine and I don't even remember where. Maybe we can use yours--”

Malika is able to witness the exact moment that hope dies, sinking back beneath the roiling waves of dread, confusion, and disappointment, when the soft glow of the phone's screen illuminates the other woman's face, only for her to realize it is actually broken.

“Oh no. Oh, no, no, no.” The other woman runs her hands through her hair in disbelief and despite the laugh it sounds as if she could cry. “You have to be absolutely shitting me?”

“Sorry.” Is all Malika can think to offer as she lowers her phone. “But what did you mean--”

A sound from somewhere in the apartment complex cause both women to freeze. They exchange an uncertain glance in the tense moments that follow. The clatter of something tumbling over, punctuated by a feral snort, startles and spins them in the direction it came from. They stare towards the large, shadowy structure of the apartment complex just a short distance away.

“Wha-- what was--” Malika's voice trails off as a thin whisper. She is unable to as much finish the question in fear of the answer. She glances at the, other woman, who is visibly trembling by this point as she takes a few small steps back until one of the dead street lights is pressed against her back. 

“Are you down here?” A voice now calls out. It is inquisitive, unnaturally baritone, and a deep guttural, bestial growl trials behind its every utterance. Nothing about it is right.

The other woman seems as if she will hyperventilate now while unconsciously pressing herself harder against the light post, starring wide-eyed in the direction they last heard the speaker. “How-- how does he keep finding me--”

“Who is that?” Malika whispers more urgently.

“Come out. Come out. I promise I won't hurt you. Just come out.” He calls out again almost teasing in a way.

“It's a monster! A literal fucking monster!” The other woman's hushed voice trembles.

Those heavy footsteps grow closer still. Steady, slow, and methodical like someone searching for something or someone.

“Don't be this way. Don't tease me like this.” He nearly croons with a needful, salacious longing that drips from his every word. “Can't go letting me smell sugar and not give me a taste!”

Malika's skin crawls with all the frantic energy of a kicked ant hive. Equally terrified and repulsed, her stomach ties into knots, as she knows what he is demanding. The metaphors are always just a prettier scenic route that avoids saying what is expected. Childish, clumsy word play attempting to circumvent the uglier truth that there is no choice. In this make-believe, it is only as serious as theft if its only an object, so it is not violence to steal a 'little sugar'. They are not forced if they just let him 'have some'.

The sound grows closer now, something has been knocked over, and Malika begins moving backwards.

“Don't run!” The other woman quickly warns.

“What?” Malika ask in confusion while glancing between her and the apartments. “Are you out of your mind? You're welcome to stay but--”

“Don't run.” She repeats as she motions Malika to begin walking quickly away with her. “Please, don't run. He'll hear us. I don't think he can see. But I know he can hear and smell.”

“Wait! Wait! You think he can't see? Or do you know he can't see?” Malika presses clearly unconvinced.

“Don't be this way!” The snarling becomes more pronounced and the attempts of a honeyed coercion is dropped . “I keep asking! I keep asking nicely! Why won't you come out?”

His pounding steps storming from the apartment suddenly cause both women to turn just as he is exiting the structure. He first collides into the upper portions of the the large exit with great force, before his hulking, lanky frame is forced to awkwardly duck beneath it in order to proceed. The sound of fear that escapes Malika is involuntary.

The beast instantly turns in their direction, releasing a wild, excited sort of noise somewhere between a howl and yell, then begins striding towards both women. They scream and begin running from him but he is steadily gaining ground, blunt steps and heavy frantic breathing drawing closer, threatening to overtake them. Malika instantly regrets glancing over her shoulder upon seeing the lumbering being charging through the darkness after them.

“This way!” The other woman announces before banking left suddenly around a corner. Malika follows after her but becomes puzzled upon finding the woman standing still with her back against the wall.

“What? What are you doing?” Malika ask frantically as she slows down. “Come on! Come--”

“He's too fast. We can't out run him. Please, just do this and trust me!” The woman begs with a desperate whisper.

Malika constantly looks between the woman and direction the beast will soon arrive. “But how do you know--”

“Please! Or we'll be caught by it!” The woman replies quickly.

Malika cannot fully commit herself to trusting this. The compassion in her does not want to abandon this woman to whatever is coming. The very human instinct to survive demands she forget this stranger and save her own life by continuing to run for it. Through sheer force of will, she manages to compromise between both urges, instead racing several steps away, off the sidewalk and ducking down behind a minivan. In someway, she is not abandoning this woman, yet if this turns out to be an awful miscalculation that goes horribly wrong, she is also not close enough to suffer consequences she can not bear to imagine.

The large form charges off the sidewalk, pass the rear-end of the minivan, and races up the street a short distance until coming to a sudden halt, standing with its back to them. Malika stares aghast at this horror. This thing only mimicking a man in shape, but far too large, too long of limb, and disturbingly strange in its movements to be anything other than a nightmare made flesh.

Even at that distance and through the thick shadows, her eyes can easily make out the horrendous crown of great, jutting horns and antlers. The Beast stalks about but never much further from them. A shiver runs down Malika's spine when he lifts his face to the sky and begins to eagerly sniff the air.

“Its been so long. So long. That smell.” He complains bitterly to no one before raising his voice attempting his honeyed pleads once more. “I won't hurt you, baby girl. I won't. I just want to touch you. Let me touch you. That's all I need. Just come out.”

Malika wills herself to dare begin moving away very slowly and carefully. She does not take her eyes off him until she is able to lean from around the van and see the other woman is still there pressed against the wall. When their eyes meet she silently gestures for Malika to move towards her. She gathers her courage and begins doing so.

“Wait. Wait. Something-- something different.” He is still going on in his rambling excitement while smelling the air like a starving man. “Oh yes, yes, yes. There are two of you now.”

Malika freezes when the Beast abruptly turns in their direction, and adding to the nearly unbearable heights of her fear, she is able to now see his face. Except for the pair of large horns stabbing up and outward from where his eyes are supposed to be, his profile is disturbingly human. He licks his lips with a large, pale tongue as he begins salivating at the prospects, causing it to dribble audibly to the pavement. He is roaming closer to their general direction as he zeroes in.

“Don't tease. Don't be selfish like this.” His impatience strains his continued pleads with hints of building anger. “Don't go wasting all that honey by hiding. This is cruel. You shouldn't be like this to me. I'm trying to be nice.”

Malika heart feels it could burst as he wanders closer and her pulse pounds in her ears. She only glances at the other woman who looks the way she feels. The urge to run is beginning to overpower every thought racing through her mind until nearly it, and it alone, is all that she can think about.

“Teasing little bitches,” The Beast snarls once more and the thin facade burns away under that intense loathing. “I said I wouldn't hurt you. What the fuck more do you want?”

A toxic mixture of relief and panic mingles in Malika as he wanders pass her. Relief that the monstrosity has somehow missed her causes tears to begin falling. However, these tears are also for the other woman as he is now steadily, if even slowly, moving towards her while still sniffing the air. His massive hands are bawled tightly into fists reflecting that building hate.

“Or maybe that is what you both want!” He bellows suddenly while bearing a mouth full of large canines. “Maybe you want me to hurt you! Maybe, just like every other, fickle cock-sleeve, you don't want me to be nice! Is that it? Bitches never want nice!”

The Beast appears mostly distracted. Malika realizes she can begin slipping away. The moment the thought occurs to her she is already beginning to move off as if automated. The sheer need to escape this nightmare has blotted out everything. Fear has a silver tongue and it is assuring her she is no hero, she cannot help, has no way to help, and is not obligated to. It is not like she is the one doing this. She is just trying to survive.

But the shame grows heavier the longer Malika hears his hateful ranting, imagines what this thing, is capable of, and what it will most likely do to that woman. Malika is several yards away by the time she turns to glance back and immediately loses her courage upon laying eyes on him once more. She begins moving again.

“Teasing cunts!” The beast is seething, his voice spiteful, harsh and more creature than man, while he pauses near the sidewalk. “Probably huddled together giggling at me! You fucking whores! I know you are here! You won't be laughing soon! You won't think its fucking funny when I find you both! This is why bitches don't deserve nice! I kept trying nice! Now you'll get what all you cunts deserve!”

Malika can see the other woman making herself as flat as possible against that wall. He is not too far off and clearly knows she is nearby. The rage is somehow more terrifying than his appearance. It emits from him as an immense second presence that makes her feel all the smaller and vulnerable. There is no real plan beyond a prayer and hoping this is not incredibly stupid. Malika feels some irrational anger at this woman for not running or sneaking away like her but she is also genuinely terrified for her. It is all so excruciatingly irrational and unreal.

Malika forces herself to hit the van door, he immediately turns, launching himself at the vehicle in one motion with both stunning speed and a savage roar. She falls backwards, watching in horror as the beast claws, strikes at, and smashes his way into the vehicle through the windshield.
“I know you are in there!” He yells furiously tearing his way further though the glass and eagerly reaching around inside with just one arm at first. “Come out! Get out here now, you teasing bitches! If you had just given me what I wanted, I would have been nice! You made me this way, you giggling little snatches! You made this happen!”

He rips the remainder of the windshield away with a snarl before lunging half his body back inside, blindly grasping and grabbing at the interior with increased energy. The claws of his feet nosily scrape and slide across the hood of the van as he thrashes about.

Malika, and the other woman, move to meet one another, then as swiftly but also quietly as possible, they sneak off. The direction does not matter as much as the distance right now. They are nearly a block away before the beast's enraged roar erupts through the night. The fury blasting from it is palpable.

“Thank-- thank you.” The other woman manages with a shaky voice. She wipes at her face indicating tears but it is too dark to really tell.

Malika goes to reply but a familiar sound causes them to both pause and look about. The haunting, shrill call of that horn once again echoes from places unseen. The beast's snarling and roaring immediately cease.

The dreadful hush has returned.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Legion: Chapter Four

Initially, Malika easily believes that, perhaps, what she is searching for on the first several buildings she pass, is easy to miss because each is so large and its also dark out. After this, she realizes that maybe she is just looking in the wrong places. She is obviously doing something wrong. Malika redoubles her efforts, carefully shinning the light of her phone above and around doorways, along walls, even checking the curbs, or searching for street signs. This all remains a fruitless endeavor as she is no closer to locating any addresses or street names.

She continues wandering aimlessly a while longer until spotting another of the sparse, still functioning streetlights further off, whereupon she walks over and pauses beneath it.

This makes absolutely no sense.” Malika contemplates with building frustrating. Of course buildings have addresses. Of course streets have signs. She once more readily decides she is obviously going about the problem wrong. This only fuels the fear and confusion.

You are being overly emotional and silly. Be rational. Stay--” She catches this critical inner voice, or as her therapist began derisively referring to it as, 'Inner Patrick' before it becomes too harsh and distracting. That is not needed right now. Much like him it is of no help in a stressful situation.

A brief, but bitingly cold wind rushes through the streets and in-between the buildings with a forlorn moan, bringing Malika's full focus back on her current circumstances, as she shivers and folds her arms about herself, wishing she had a coat.

The moment she glances down at the sleek, lacy, maroon cocktail dress, something begins to solidify in her otherwise hazy and indistinct recollections of the evening. Her sister, Ayana, brought this dress for her as a birthday gift a year ago. Patrick immediately hated it. He claimed it made her look like she was 'asking for trouble' by wearing it out because a lot of guys were just 'bros' who had trouble controlling themselves. They were not real gentlemen like himself. At least that is how he explained it.

Malika can suddenly recall deciding to wear this dress to the party because it felt liberating to do one of the things she wanted to do-- then she felt immensely self-conscience looking at herself in the mirror. So, she went to ask Amanda her opinion. She found her in the front room arranging plates of snacks on the table. The townhouse is quiet, except for low music, and light rain against the windows. No one has arrived yet. This is clearly before the party.

“Well?” Malika remembers asking as she held her arms out and turns side to side.

Amanda pauses in the middle of what she is doing, grins mischievously, and offers a low whistle. “My, my, my, are we trying to cause trouble at this little shindig of ours, Miss Lika?”

Malika recalls the instant feeling of anxiety and disappointment upon hearing this. It must have shown all over her face as Amanda's own expression becomes puzzled than turns into a sympathetic smile.

“I'm only joking, sweety. You look stunning.” She offers gently and stands up straight from what she is doing.

Malika was going to reply but something interrupted her. The vibration of her phone. Another unwanted text message. Amanda's smile creases into a small frown as she instantly knows who it is. However, her displeasure of such remains silent when she returns to preparing for the party. It is as if he sensed she felt a moment of happiness that does not involve him and had to intrude or ruin it somehow.

Even as the memories of the hours immediately following that moment become garbled and blurry, a surge of bitter anger and profound regret surges through Malika. She begins walking down the street once more while unconsciously squeezing her phone. With renewed determination she knows there has to be a fire station, hospital, or other emergency service building nearby she can ask for help.

Malika's pace slows down near an intersection when she first thinks she see's something. It is only after crossing the street, and stopping at the corner, is she now certain she spots the series of lights. High above the murk of the streets, against the pitch black sky, there is what appears to be a swarm of lazily circling fireflies. The deep purple glow is vibrant and surreal there in the thick shadows.

There are questions now. Yet, none are as pressing as to why those lights have seemingly brightened at her presence and why the swarm is now flying through the air to gather above her. Malika backs away with growing trepidation. She knows little very little about insects and is unable to recall if fireflies bite or sting-- though the 'fire' in the name ominously brings to mind fire ants.

Malika is startled by the swarms burst of sudden speed when it swoops down and congregate around her. As a small child, when she would take walks with her grandfather, anytime they saw bees, he would remark that they could smell fear. She desperately recalls this warning and remains as still as possible, all the while fighting the urge to begin swatting at the swarm, watching closely as they glide and flutter in circles about her.

The longer this continues but remains harmless the less fear Malika feels. The sensations are so slight that she begins to wonder if she is only imagining the faint warmth rising from their collective illumination and the ephemeral sounds being emitted by their wings like a distant song. She turns and gazes about trying to catch a better look at these fireflies but manage only glimpses of what appears to be highly ornate, crystalline wings trailed by their independent lights.

On a cold wind she hears what could be the smallest hint of a familiar song. An old gospel hymn her grandmother really loved and use to play frequently. One of those they also played at her funeral. This all feels baffling and comforting at the same time. Then the fireflies all depart as gracefully and swiftly as they arrived, swirling and twisting through the dark as a stream of light. Malika takes a step after them feeling inexplicably lonelier as she watches the swarm departing.

Yet, she quickly realizes she can now hear something from the direction the fireflies have vanished. Her heart quickens with her pace as she begins walking towards it. She prays it is not just the wind or her mind playing tricks on her. The closer she draws the clearer it becomes that it is indeed real. The muffled voices of other people having some sort of conversation.

Malika only remembers she is wearing a black sneakers when she begins nearly jogging. And odd combination with the dress. She cannot remember when she changed out of her heels. She has no real plan. She does not even know what she will say or how she will explain her situation. None of this matters right now. She just wants to catch up with them.

Malika, upon turning the corner near what could be an apartment complex, can now see the three vague figures walking away from her at a brisk pace, down the middle of the street. The sense of relief causes her to begin hurrying after them and she prepares to call out to get their attention. The building hopes that these people may aid in ending this horrible night far outweighs the potential danger of approaching strangers for help.

Maybe it was coincidence, or the other sound from elsewhere, or Malika's own approaching steps, but something has just caught the three figures attention and caused them to immediately turn in her direction. They whisper to one another as one wanders beneath the lone light on that street, and at this sight Malika barely catches the terrified scream before it erupts from her throat, and immediately dives behind the nearest vehicle in an attempt to hide from them.