Archive for September, 2019

#Horror #Sciencefiction

Posted: September 4, 2019 in Uncategorized

One Night At Woodstock

I never thought I would die for making a documentary, but, how many of us can predict the circumstances which lead to our demise? I wanted to receive an A for one of my films after so many Cs from my professor. I never thought a documentary about Woodstock could become so controversial, at least, the powerful people eventually did. I say this in retrospect because now I’m a ghost. What Steve and I had seen on film changed everything. I received the A I wanted before we were executed.

It was April of 1973, my teacher wanted to see new films for our final exams. We had a couple weeks to work with. I thought about a Woodstock documentary. My professor never liked my fictional films, but, alas, what type of budget was I working with? Nothing. I had a vision and I went with it on the documentaries. We would interview people who were at Woodstock. It seemed simple enough. No one survived the events in my documentary. Everyone was systematically killed off. It was one of those cold, clandestine jobs that I never realized my friend, Steve and I, were involved in, until the end. Death came upon us so quickly that we had no time to react.

Any-hoo, we went from Buffalo to Bethel in a VW microbus with the intention of locating some people to interview about their experience at Woodstock. Things grew stranger when we reached the town. I put up flyers that my girlfriend, Susanna, made for me, asking people to come forward who were at Woodstock. Steve and I stuck the flyers at numerous five and dime stores which seemed to be the only places of employment in the town. We found a shitty motel to stay at which only cost ten dollars a night to stay, as if we were rich, we were two juniors from Buff State, nothing more.

It took a few days before a woman invited us to her house. Her name was Deborah, and she smelled like patchouli. She knocked on the motel room door with authority, I smoked three joints, and wasn’t really on the planet, I felt like I was on Mars, but she wanted me to see her child. She had wild eyes and her long brown hair was uncombed, sticking up in spots. I told her to wait, closed the door, and woke Steve.

“Man, I’m starving,” Steve said with no regard for the documentary we planned on filming. His father had some money and bought our Ikegami HL-33 Eng for us. It was portable, but really a pain in the ass for two guys to lug around.

“We can eat somewhere in this town, I’m sure, let’s go. A woman asked us to see her child. It sounds weird. Let’s get in on it while we have a chance. Get some clothes on and let’s go.”

I stepped out of the room and spoke to the woman, she looked even crazier upon second glance, and I really wondered what she had to show us. Steve took his sweet time while I smoked a joint, she kept rambling about how weird her child was, and I feigned belief, but she really looked like a burnout who took too much mescaline or acid. Who could tell with hippies? There were plenty on campus, protesting oxygen or the eating of meat. I just wanted an A for once.

Steve stumbled out of the motel room. We were on the second floor. He lit smoked a joint. He looked at the woman with a noticeable cringe that I wish he never made.

“Come on, Steve, let’s go to the bus,” I stated. “Ma’am, we have some heavy equipment with it, and really there should be more than two of us carrying it. We have to take our minibus. We can drive you back here later if necessary.”

“No, I walked here,” she responded.

She lacked shoes and her feet looked bloody and ruined. There were rocks in the parking lot, shards of glass from broken bottles. I could only imagine the pain she felt. It seemed worth it to her in my opinion. When she was dead with the rest of us, I like to imagine that she wanted the truth to come out somehow, and all it took was a flyer to start a fire.

“Do you know a place to eat around here?” Steve asked once we were in the minibus.

“Sure, Sal’s place, I’ll show you the way.”

“Cool, do you want to hit this joint?”

“Of course.” She took it from Steve’s hand and smoked it down to a roach in seconds without exhaling and proceeded to blow a ring of smoke out of her mouth.

I glanced at Steve and he looked at me with a quizzical face. She took in the weed easily. She handed the roach back to Steve, and he looked at it with disgust. She killed his whole joint. I waved him on to the VW, and he followed me with the pot-smoking expert. We all sat down and drove to Sal’s.

*

Sal’s was a regular diner. Sal was a greasy-looking character who wore a smock and a hairnet. He ran the diner by himself. It was still early, eleven or so. There were signed photographs of Hendrix, Joplin, and Cocker. I stared at the framed photographs with reverence. I ordered some hash browns, some sausage on bagels, and eggs. I looked at the people staring at Deborah with disdain. Insanity hung in the air like some sort of cancerous cell which could destroy every person talking to her. It was as if she had a disease we didn’t know about. I hadn’t seen the child yet.

I ate my food. Deborah lacked an appetite. She sat there with her lunatic eyes and her frazzled hair. Steve ate ravenously. He ate a country-fried steak and some home fries. Deborah just stared at her plate. She ordered bacon and eggs.

“Are you going to eat any of that? I’ll take it if you don’t want it,” Steve said.

“Go ahead,” she replied.

Steve slid the plate over, and devoured the bacon and eggs. I looked at the woman. She couldn’t have been much older than us, I thought, yet she seemed so fried by life that she looked older than she actually was, like the bacon Steve scarfed down with authority.

A few other frazzled haired women approached me. They looked like Deborah, same crazy eyes, same disheveled appearance.

“I have photos of my child,” a woman said.

She produced them for my perusal. I gasped. It might have been the first time I truly gasped in my life. The child had black eyes which were slanted, four fingers on his hands, and an awkward posture as if he had scoliosis. The eyes took me in. They were so outre that I decided to change the documentary instantly. The kid looked like an alien. I showed the photos to Steve while he devoured Deborah’s food, and he started choking on the crispy bacon.

“Holy shit, what is that?” he exclaimed.

“I do not know, man,” I said. “Maybe the documentary takes a different direction.”

“Yeah, I think it can, just get that picture away from me before I throw up.”

“My name is Jeremy and this is Steve,” I told the woman who proffered the bizarre photo.

“I’m Mary, please see my child and I’ll tell you the story of how she was conceived.”

“Sure, I’m going to see Deborah’s child first, I promised her, write down your address, and I’ll film your story.”

I went back to my food. I still had some hash browns left. I forked some into my mouth, and chewed while other women stared at me. Apparently, there were more with stories to tell, I thought. I finished my hash browns and wiped my mouth on a paper napkin. Mary wrote her address down, and left it on the counter next to me. It was a small town. I knew we could find her home. Two more women approached me, each one seemed to only be in their twenties, maybe only a few years older than Steve and I, but they all seemed so weary, and they handed me napkins with their names and addresses. They walked away quietly, not wanting to talk about their business in public. I collected the napkins and placed them in my pocket. Sal walked over to me.

“These women are mentally disturbed,” he said in the presence of Deborah. “The kids look normal to everyone but them. Too much acid I think.”

“I’ll tell you what I saw right now,” Deborah stated. “I met a man at Woodstock, we were both tripping, and started having sex late at night on our clothes. We were naked and didn’t care who saw us. He entered me and he had incredible energy. All of a sudden, this circular object appeared in the sky. I watched it as it hovered above us. I felt his passion. But, I kept looking at this thing in the sky. Then a beam came down that encompassed a hundred yards, it was purple, a purple haze formed around us while we made love. I inhaled the haze. I felt euphoria. I thought about the haze as if it were something divine. I never saw the man again. We made love a few more times that night, but he vanished by sunrise. I was naked, lying on my clothes for warmth. Then I found out I was pregnant a few months later. It seemed natural since we had wild sex and I used no form of birth control. But, my son looks strange, nothing like his father.”

“Okay, let’s go check this kid out,” I said.

Sal rolled his eyes as Steve paid for the food. I stood and took Deborah by the hand to help her stand up as well. I nodded at the other women, and showed that I kept the napkins with their addresses. Steve followed me out the door with Deborah, and we went to see her child.

*

We reached the house in the VW fairly early. She left her child alone in the house because she said he was insanely smart. I had goosebumps thinking about how weird this kid must have been. I let her out and I looked at Steve.

Getting the camera out of the minibus was a process. Steve was a great help in lugging the camera into her house. My arm muscles were strained. This kid better be a freak, I thought. The house was extremely hideous, a yellow one story with green shutters. She led us up the sidewalk to the front door. It was painted orange.

“So how did you acquire this home?” I inquired. “It has an excellent look to it.”

My grandmother left it to me in her will,” Deborah replied.

“Fantastic, who did the painting?” I asked.

“My son. He is quite good, isn’t he?”

Steve and I looked at each other with our eyebrows raised. I refused to answer. The fashion of the paint job was a bit strange to say the least. The color coordination. It was a odd-looking place to begin with, and then the fact she let her three year old son do it made the strain in my biceps worthwhile just to meet this weirdo who was conceived at Woodstock.

She unlocked the door and the kid stood in front of us. He looked normal. It was a major disappointment. I wanted a creature, not a kid with blonde hair and blue eyes. I rolled my eyes at Steve. Steve looked like he needed three more hours of sleep. Nonetheless, we rolled the camera into the house while the kid backed up fearfully. He squinted at the contraption while we labored to bring it into the home.

“So much for freakish kids created by spaceships,” Steve said sarcastically. “I guess we’re back to the original documentary.”

“He may transform,” I replied with equal sarcasm.

We brought the camera into the house. The kid shut the door and locked it. He seemed to be pretty smart and he was on the tall side for his age. He waved his hand at us to follow him. Steve and I looked at each other with puzzlement.

“Hey, Deborah, do you have anything to eat?” Steve asked. “Second question, can I smoke a joint in here?”

“Sure. I have some leftover meatloaf in the fridge. I can heat it up and you guys can interview us. I’ll tell you the story and he is highly intelligent if you haven’t noticed. I’m low on weed myself. I wouldn’t mind one.”

“Cool,” Steve said.

We continued carrying the camera under the kid’s instructions. He seemed very smart, too smart in my opinion, to not be weird. He spoke like an adult. He showed us the living room and told us to set the camera there. Steve offered little help. We had a limited amount of film, but I thought we could make this documentary no matter what by going back to the original plan.

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“Phoenix,” Deborah replied casually.

I watched her put some leftover meatloaf in the oven on a tray. She turned the oven on and walked into the living room. Steve sat on the couch and rolled a joint. It wasn’t one of his best, sloppier and skinner than usual. Phoenix stared at the camera the whole time. I turned it on.

Deborah sat down on the couch, and I asked if she could tell her story again. She told the same story, ignoring my questions about the music, and going on about a spaceship floating in the air while she had sex and a beam shining down on her and several others. Off camera, Steve lit the joint, took a few hits, and passed it to her while she rambled about how special her child was. There was something strange about him. I asked if I could film him and she agreed. Once in front of the camera, he changed and appeared to be an alien, his short, sloppy brown hair was gone, and his skin was a ghostly shade of white, his eyes took my attention, his eyes were black and slanted. I stepped back from the camera and looked at him. He was normal. I looked back through the lens of the camera, and the strange appearance returned. I felt afraid for the first time in my life, I must admit, and I wanted to leave immediately.

“I think the meatloaf is burning,” Phoenix stated. “I’ll take it out of the oven.”

He left the room while she exclaimed how this was an example of how smart he was for a three year old. I had to agree. I wanted Steve to see the kid on film, but he entered the kitchen to have some meatloaf. I wrapped up the interview.

“Did he make the meatloaf the first time?” I asked, completely convinced that something happened at Woodstock.

“He did, but I helped a little bit.”

“Cool, can I hit that joint?”

She passed it to me after smoking the entirety of it. I had turned the camera off, and took some deep puffs of the paltry remainder of the joint. I was sold on the story. I walked into the shabby kitchen. There were more roaches than silverware. I watched Phoenix eat a couple while Steve greedily ate the meatloaf with a knife and a fork that looked unwashed and grabbed out of the sink.

“Let’s go,” I said to Steve.

“You couldn’t save some of the joint for me. It’s a roach.”

“Who cares? That kid is eating roaches while you are eating some strange meatloaf.”

“I’m hungry, can I eat this meatloaf in peace?”

“No, let’s go, there will be another joint and if you keep eating the way you do, you will weigh three hundred pounds by the time we graduate. I have something I want to show you. Let’s get moving.”

“I’m hungry, can I eat the meatloaf first?”

“No, let’s go.”

Phoenix squinted at me as if he didn’t trust me. I honestly feared the kid. I wanted us to get the hell out of there as soon as possible. Steve wanted to eat the damn meatloaf.

“At least, hurry up,” I suggested.

“What’s the problem?” Phoenix asked. “Did you see something you didn’t like?”

I refused to reply out of fear at first. He sounded too much like an adult for a three year old. I pondered how to answer him without conflict.

“We ran out of weed,” I stated nonchalantly.

“No, you didn’t, you are afraid of me.”

“I’m not afraid of you, you’re three, take it easy. We have a limited budget and not a lot of time to film our documentary.”

“They are very busy,” Deborah said. “Many children like you are out there waiting. They were nice enough to get me stoned.”

“No problem, ma’am, I was really hungry,” Steve said. “I hope you enjoyed my joint.”

“I really did, thank you again for coming.”

Any-hoo, on that note, we lugged the camera back to the minibus. I glanced back and Phoenix was staring at me from the doorway. A shiver ran through me. I seriously considered that there could be an alien invasion underway.

“What was your problem?” Steve asked. “I didn’t finish the meatloaf.”

“Wait until you see the film. That kid is a ghoul. The camera exposed what he is.”

“Dude, you’re stoned, he’s not an alien.”

I pulled a napkin from my pocket with a name and an address on it. I wanted to test another kid and see what happened. The woman was named Michelle, mother of Ringo. He looked the same way in the photograph as Phoenix had on film.

*

We arrived at Michelle’s house after asking nine people for directions and failing nine times to locate her home in Bethel. Finally, the tenth dude we met said it was across the street. It looked like a shack. No shutters. The windows looked stained to say the least. The screen door hung by its hinges. The façade was brick, which looked cracked and on the verge of falling out of place, collapsing the entire domicile. The roof had shingles which were mangled. The whole place looked horrible. I was scared for the first time in my life. I believed in these people. The film didn’t lie. Phoenix was unearthly.

“I’m going to knock on the door,” I told Steve, “stay in the van until I establish communication.”

“Dude, this is getting old. I’m pretty much out of weed and I’m hungry.”

“Take it easy on the food before you fall asleep.”

“This better be good, I want to see a ghoul as you said.”

“We will, but on the film, I saw something in Phoenix, I believe.”

“I would like to believe that, but I would really like to get high and eat something.”

“This project will get us an A for once. I guarantee you.”

I approached the façade of the house. The door was opened once I was on the grass. Michelle stood in the doorway with her son next to her. He seemed to disapprove of me like Phoenix. It was an eerie look. I kept walking toward them, focusing on Michelle’s blithe smile.

“Hi, do you mind if we bring the film equipment in?” I asked.

“Sure, that would be great,” she replied.

“So you think I’m a freak?” the kid asked. “You want to film me like I’m a freak.” He hissed at me like a cat.

“Don’t mind him, bring your stuff in,” she said excitedly.

I wanted to run back to the van and speed off after meeting this kid. The cat-like kiss sent a chill down my spine. I could tell that Steve detected the apprehension I felt.

“What’s wrong with the kid?” he asked while we unloaded the camera.

“He hissed at me like he was a cat. It was slightly unnerving.”

“I don’t want a kid biting me!”

“We’re fine, let’s go.”

We wheeled the camera up to the door while Steve kept looking at me fearfully. Her parents were present with blithe smiles that mirrored their daughter’s. The kid had the same serious expression, furrowed eyebrows, devious look in his eyes, and of course, he hissed at us like a cat. The hiss was enough to frighten the shit out of Steve. He let out a gasp. I put my hand on Steve’s arm to give him strength. This had to end up good once we started filming, I thought. I was a true believer after seeing Phoenix on film.

We were in the house with the camera. The kid kept hissing at me. Steve whispered that we should leave and I said no. This would be awesome, I thought. I shook her parents’ hands, Stanley and Rebecca. They seemed to dress conventionally, for the time, skirts, t-shirts, whatever, but their smiles seemed unnatural, forced in a way, as if a power greater than them created those smiles. I thought the kid made it happen. He had more power than they realized. He was much more aggressive than Phoenix. The hissing was strange because obviously he knew what I had planned since he hissed at me the first time. It sounded like horses arrived outside. I spent some time around horses. Someone screamed through a bullhorn at the top of his lungs.

“Who the fuck is that?” Steve shouted.

“Reverend Ezekiel, he doesn’t like you guys in the town, he doesn’t like my child either,” Michelle stated.

There was a fist pounding on the door. I needed to get high. I thought this would be a simple documentary about Woodstock, then it turned into apparently alien kids and a reverend was banging on the door. Steve raised his eyebrows at me with a frown on his face.

“I think it’s cool,” I said. “We can film him also.”

“It’s not cool.”

“It could become cool if the kid stops hissing at us.”

I told Steve to turn the camera on. He obliged despite a skeptical look on his face. Michelle opened the door and was almost struck by the fist of the fervent reverend who dressed in all black with a white collar. Steve turned the camera on and gasped when he saw the kid in his true form. I knew he had seen what I’d seen with Phoenix.

“It’s a disgrace that you went to Woodstock and your child is an abomination,” the reverend said simply. He pushed his way into the house with a wooden cross. He held it up while the kid hissed at him in the same fashion that he hissed at me. He was quite an aggressive little three year old kid. I looked out the open door. This dude came there in a horse and carriage.

“This kid looks really weird on film,” Steve said.

“I knew he would,” I replied. “There is truth in what everyone is saying.”

The good reverend approached me with his wooden cross in his hands. His eyes were wild, he breathed really hard, and I stood my ground. I didn’t see a halo over his head. The kid bit him in the leg once he raised the cross. He groaned in pain. Luckily, Steve had the camera turned on us. A smile formed on my face. This was good. We were absolutely in some mayhem involving really strange children.

The reverend pushed his wooden cross against the child’s forehead. “Let the power of Christ compel you,” he shouted. “Let the power of Christ compel you, demon.”

Stanley and Rebeca attacked the good reverend. They liked their grandchild. They punched and kicked him until he was out the door, bleeding from the bites of the kid. I grabbed the kid softly and told him to stop biting. He hissed at me like a cat again.

“An abomination is living in your home,” the good reverend shouted. “You know God will never take him into Heaven.”

“He’s a damn kid,” Stanley shouted at him. “No one goes to your church because you are a weirdo. You got that straight. Weirdo. Now get out of my yard before I call the police on you again.”

“You young men will go to Hell for what you are doing,” the reverend howled. He retreated back to his carriage.

He entered the carriage. He slammed the door and sat down, peering out at us with true fear in his eyes. It was an admirable carriage, painted black with a bronze door handle. His driver slapped the ass of the horse, and it galloped off with the reverend sitting in comfort.

“Why doesn’t he have a car?” I asked anybody who could answer the question.

“He’s a weirdo,” Stanley responded. “He insists my grandson is a sign of the apocalypse. Come, you guys can have some lemonade.”

Thankfully, Steve filmed the entire exchange of words. Stanley led us back to the living room. I told Steve to stop filming before we ran out of film. We still had a few more visits to make.

“I think we should get the fuck out of here before the townspeople come with torches,” Steve whispered in my ear. “That kid looks like a ghoul on film. The reverend isn’t wrong. These people are actually the weirdos. Yeah, I get that he is a weirdo in his own right, but this kid is seriously fucked up.”

“Drink your lemonade and keep your eye on the situation,” I whispered back.

We lugged the camera back to the living room. Melissa’s parents put plastic over plaid furniture. There was a picture of Lucille Ball on the wall which looked like the kid painted it. It was sloppy and seemed more Dali than Da Vinci. We stopped moving the camera and sat down on the plastic. It felt very comfortable. The kid entered the room and hissed at us again. Stan the man brought us two glasses of lemonade with ice cubes, and took a seat on the plastic-covered loveseat in front of us.

“I really want to run away,” he said.

“So do I,” Steve remarked. “Do you guys have anything to eat?”

“I had sex with Joe Cocker that night first before I had sex with Dave and the beam from the spaceship came down,” Melissa announced.

Who would have sex with Joe Cocker? I drank my lemonade. Steve sat with a pale face and I could tell he was hungry. The only thing he wanted to know was where the food was at. He would make a sandwich if he were given access to their fridge.

The kid looked at us with his wise eyes as if he could read our minds. He opened the fridge, took out some white bread and a bag of cold cuts I assumed were purchased at Tom’s Market which we passed by at least four times before finally finding the house.

I rose with my glass of lemonade and turned the camera on. I asked questions and she answered them. The kid came out and looked weirder than the last kid on film, black eyes which were slightly slanted, his skin tone was like white paper one would put in a typewriter and his fingers were extremely long. He brought a sandwich for Steve. I sipped the lemonade. It needed more sugar, but I was thirsty, and I drank it without a complaint.

The kid seemed to like Steve. He gave him a bologna sandwich and Steve accepted it while I turned the camera from Melissa to the kid in his ghoulish film form. He apparently was a philanthropic little ghoul despite the hissing. Steve took a bite out of the sandwich, and screamed hysterically when a roach crawled out, and up his face. He dropped the plate, clawing at his head while the roach was all the way into his hair, scampering on his scalp. The squeal he let out made me laugh. I could see the roach running around his scalp and through his hair while he scratched his head to get rid of it. The giggles coming out of Ringo made me laugh harder. I had to back away from the camera while tears formed in my eyes from laughter. I took a second to collect myself while Steve caught the roach and tossed it on the floor. It scampered back into the kitchen. Nonetheless, he ate the bologna sandwich after the roach was gone.

Ringo displayed his hands for the camera, small to the naked eye, large and alien through the lens of the camera. He held several roaches, allowing them to crawl across his skin. It was quite disquieting to see. The roaches seemed to love him, especially when I looked through the camera at him. A ghoul holding several roaches looked good on film.

“Take a seat,” Stanley said. “That wasn’t funny.”

Reluctantly, Ringo sat down on the plastic-covered love seat. He stared at me. I continued questioning his mother, It was the same story that Deborah told essentially. She had sex with her hands on a tree trunk while Dave penetrated her from behind. I thought her story was a little graphic for her parents, but the kid had roaches all over him, anything was allowed at their home. She went into detail about how large his cock was, how she stared at the sky when the purple beam shined down on them.

I checked how much film we had left. I was fairly certain the town would not supply us with more. I concluded the interview and stopped filming. I considered what we had filmed so far. Hours worth of material. I thought we could try one more person.

“I think that was pretty good,” I stated. “I appreciate your time. I hope I can definitely make a great documentary about your son and your experience at Woodstock.”

Ringo giggled. Steve had kept his distance from him since the roach incident. He stood behind me as if I could protect him from this crazy kid.

“You guys should come by more often,” Ringo said with a giggle. “You are fun.”

“I would like to come back down the road when you are older,” I admitted.

One had to wonder what he would be like in a few more years, as a teenager, as an adult. A fully grown Ringo could very well be terrifying. I pondered the possibilities in the future for the kids we had met so far. No wonder the reverend was so frightened. I was a little bit creeped out.

We exchanged goodbyes with the family and pushed the camera out. Steve looked at me the whole time. It was a disapproving look. I smiled without looking at him while we reached the minibus.

“Your smile offends me,” he stated. “That weirdo stuck a roach in my sandwich, and you act like you are having the time of my life.”

“It was funny. Think about how intelligent he is for his age.”

“These kids are weird. The reverend is weird. We should go home now before something happens to us. I don’t want to be here after the sun goes down.”

“One more stop and we can leave. I promise I’ll protect you.”

“Just get me stoned.”

*

Any-hoo, we arrived at Mary’s house after we called the number she wrote on the napkin. We only had to ask three people to gain the correct directions to find the place. We stopped in front of the terrible tenement. White paint chipped off the façade. The roof was a corroded mess. There were holes, which could let a flood start whenever it rained. Three dogs ran loose in the street, biting each other. I heard the sound of hooves hitting the pavement.

“It’s that damn reverend again,” Steve shouted. “I said we should’ve left. Now, we have to deal with this asshole again.”

“Fuck it, until I see villagers with torches, we’re not leaving. Let’s get the camera out quickly.”

Mary opened the door and it hung on its hinges. The bottom hinges seemed to be pretty loose. We rushed the camera up the driveway. My biceps were growing exhausted from dragging this thing around. The horses grew louder. Yeah, the cavalry seemed to be coming to stop us, again. This time Reverend Ezekiel brought a posse to hunt us down.

“Put your back into this, Steve, and let’s get into the house with the camera.”

“Why don’t we just run away now? We have a film that can get an A already.”

“This could be historical in time. We have to do it. Keep moving with the camera. We will be okay.”

We reached the house with the camera. I was exhausted after doing this three times, but I felt it was right. We had a weird story to tell. Mary shook my hand while I breathed heavily. Her daughter was shy. She hid behind her mother, observing us as we lugged the camera inside. She had beautiful auburn hair, bright blue eyes, and was as tall as the little boys we met. Wait until we film her, I thought, the façade would fade away expediently. In the background, the sound of hooves could be heard lucidly. We were in some trouble.

We brought the camera into the house. I tried to shut the door. It closed to a degree. Those bottom hinges left a sizable opening at the bottom. The little girl feared the camera and cowered in the kitchen once we dragged it to the living room under Mary’s direction. She sat down on a brown couch with several tears in the fabric. It looked like a dog chewed it up, but there was no dog. The house lacked a fence I noticed when we approached it. The little girl peered around the corner of the kitchen at us with a squint. I doubted she would give Steve a roach sandwich. I doubted she would come out of the kitchen. We set up the camera together, I decided to sit down with Mary to make her daughter more comfortable, and Steve turned the camera on.

“So how was your experience at Woodstock?” I asked.

“I became pregnant without having sex with anyone,” she responded shockingly. “A circular spaceship appeared over us and a purple beam shined down on me. I don’t do drugs. I hadn’t had sex in fourth months. The doctor pinpointed the initiation of my pregnancy on that night. She didn’t believe I hadn’t had sex. No one believes I didn’t have sex.”

“I believe you,” I said instantly. “I’ve seen things since I came here to make the documentary. What’s your daughter’s name?”

“Aurora. She is a miracle. Isn’t she so shy? Strangers scare her. That’s why she hides. She doesn’t think people understand her.”

“I understand. I’ve seen two other children. She is very normal compared to the last one.”

Aurora entered the room slowly. Steve turned the camera slightly to film her and gasped. He was always great at keeping his cool. The gasp almost made Aurora walk away from me, but she didn’t, and reached out for my hand. I didn’t quite know what to say as she studied my eyes with her hazel eyes. She seemed to smell the air around me. I returned to my interview of her mother, asking more questions. I glanced over at Aurora, and gestured for her to sit down next to me. Begrudgingly, she did so. Steve gestured for me not to do it. I shook my head at him.

I concluded the interview after Steve indicated how close we were to running out of film by showing me with his thumb and index finger. He turned off the camera. Aurora held my hand tighter as if she didn’t want me to leave. It was unusual. I was a stranger and she was so shy at first. I guessed that she saw that I was a believer, and felt she could trust me. I studied her face. There was sadness in her eyes. I understood that it must have been hard to be so different.

“Hey, Mary, do you have anything to eat?” Steve asked.

“Not much, I don’t make a lot of money, I work at the diner down the street, and bring home leftovers most of the time for the two of us,” she said.

“It’s fine,” I stated, “Steve doesn’t need to eat twelve times a day. He will live.”

“I think you should leave town before the reverend gets you guys,” Mary stated.

“Both of you will die,” Aurora said, speaking for the first time and squeezing my hand tighter. “My mother. Every parent of every child like me also. It won’t be the reverend, but other men. I had dreams last night. I knew I would meet you.”

It was the creepiest thing I’d ever heard. A death sentence from a three-year-old. However, I wasn’t that quick to dismiss it.

I held her hand tighter. “How much longer do we all have?” I asked.

“Maybe a few weeks.”

Mary and Steve broke down in tears. They didn’t want to die. I felt the love in the child’s hand, the warmth, and her wise eyes. It was a pleasure to meet her. Dying, however, did not appeal to me.

“I wish I could have known you longer, but you should leave, the reverend is outside the door,” Aurora stated.

There was a harsh knock on the door. I could hear the honorable reverend condemning Steve and I. He pushed the door down and entered with an entourage. I frowned. This guy was really an asshole. His eyes were wild and his black hair stood on end. Everyone work black. He brought the strongest men of his flock to stop us.

“I’m going to send a wave of energy through their minds. It could affect you as well, but stay strong and take the film away. The other kids and I want to be known,” Aurora whispered.

I squeezed her hand. “Just don’t kill me please,” I said.

She giggled and everything went insane. The reverend and his merry band of gentlemen clasped their ears as if they heard a sound I couldn’t hear. Mary and Steve could, also, because they did the same thing, and I kissed Aurora on the head.

“Goodbye, little princess,” I said. “I hope your prophecies aren’t true. Let me grab Steve and get the camera out of here.”

“You are a kind man,” she said. “Your girlfriend will miss you when you are gone. Hold my hand and I will help you. My energy won’t affect you.”

I hesitated for a second, on the brink of staying there forever, but destiny seemed to be destiny, and I had to take the film out of there. Blood started pouring out of the good reverend’s eyes. His gang of ghouls had blood spouting out of their eyes as well. I puked on the floor, I confess, and it was disgusting. I grabbed Steve by the collar, and her positive energy transferred from her to me to Steve, and he could stand while the collar of his Grateful Dead t-shirt buckled under the hold of my hand. I felt her and, transferring power through my body to Steve. I took my hand off his shirt and grabbed his hand. He was back on the planet, and he looked hungry.

“Hold his hand while I hold yours and everything will be okay,” Aurora said with miraculous knowledge in her voice. “If you let go, my sonic waves will make your eyes bleed. I can’t control my powers yet. I know I have them when I grow angry.”

“Okay,” Steve said groggily

She led us to the camera, we moved it with her help, and we rolled it down the driveway to the minibus. She held the religious militia off until Steve and I loaded the camera in the back of the minibus. Steve still looked dazed and confused by what she’d done. I kept my hand tightly in Aurora’s hand, letting her do her thing. People on the block stumbled out of their houses with their eyes bleeding and their hands clasped on their ears. Her sonic boom failed to affect me. There were horses dead in the street. Their acute hearing failed them. It was too good for what she unleashed. Her power haunted me until the day I died as she predicted.

“I think you can shut your power down, it’s enough for us to run away,” I told her.

“I don’t know if I can. Once I start it, I don’t know how to stop it.”

“Focus your mind until people stop bleeding. You did enough and I will always treasure meeting you. Can you change the future?”

She nodded her head no. I held her hand tighter until I couldn’t hold on any longer. I gave her another kiss on the forehead, understanding what she had done for us. She smiled at me. Steve staggered his ass into the passenger seat. I let go of her hand, and I felt the sonic boom hit me, I saw her close her eyes, and I reached the driver’s side of the minibus. The sound was so screeching that I almost fell over. The sound was a like a razor blade scratched across a chalkboard.  Tears dripped down her face as she turned her power off. I was good enough to open the door, thinking about her prophecy, and I felt that it would be reality.

Any-hoo, I drove down the street as fast as I could. We escaped her range of power. I just had to figure how out to escape this Rubik’s cube of a town. My mind was slightly warped from the sonic waves sent from Aurora. I only experienced a slight bit of her power, but my mind could not figure out the layout of the town. Suddenly, I could hear Aurora in my mind, telling me the proper roads to take. The town was empty. There was no one outside as if she controlled everyone. I admit her power both scared and fascinated me. It was a shame I would never see her again. With her talking to me telepathically, I found the road out of town. Steve hadn’t spoken since we entered the VW. There was a large wet spot on his tan pants. I rubbed his head. I hoped he would be better after we were back at home.

*

We made it back to Buff State. Steve was a shell of himself. He smoked more weed than ever as I completed all the editing on the documentary myself. I cut out the pieces where he kept asking for food, except for the roach kid. It was typical Steve and funny, despite his current mental state, I laughed at the kid putting the roach in his sandwich.

Susanna kept calling me at the phone at the hallway. I refused to answer or accept her calls when someone asked if I wanted to take it. I didn’t want her involved. Part of me wanted to go back and take Aurora somewhere safe. I didn’t know anyone out of state, though. I had no money and no way of saving her. It became significant once the murders in Bethel were on the television news. Everyone we met who had brought one of these children into the world was dead. The children disappeared. Aurora’s prophecy remained in my mind. Steve cried in the middle of the night. I would hug him, whispering that everything would be alright. I didn’t think it would be. He stopped eating, he stopped being Steve, and I tried my best to make him eat, I bought pizzas, and he wouldn’t eat anymore.

I met Susanna in the courtyard a few days after I sent my professor the film, the complete, final cut, and she had a hurt look in her eyes. I smoked a joint and wondered how much more time Steve and I had before we were murdered.

“You are such an asshole,” she yelled at me. “I’m in love with you and you won’t even talk to me.”

“You don’t want to know me,” I told her earnestly.

“I love you more than anything,” she shouted while crying.

I just didn’t want to risk her life. I grabbed her in my arms and leaned her back while I kissed her. I loved her too, but I couldn’t tell her, and risk her dying. I felt weaker than I had ever felt in my life, powerless to the prophecy. She broke from my arms and punched me in the chest until she fell down in tears, dropping to her knees.

“The prophecy I was given by a sweet little girl who is unearthly never mentioned you dying,” I declared. “Steve and I are dead. As long as I do what she predicted, I have to let you go. I hope that will happen. You can move onto other things while we die.”

“I don’t want you to die. I’ll stand with you until the end.”

“I love you, things happen for a reason, okay? You mean too much to me. Stay away from me. If I don’t tell you what I’ve seen, you will live. I don’t think we can change the future. Steve and I will go down as martyrs. Steve won’t even leave the dorm room anymore. He’s too scared.”

She rose from her knees slowly while crying her eyes out. Her blue eyes were bloodshot. I knew she feared my death. I reconciled the fact that I would be killed. Aurora was right about everything so far. I took her in my arms and kissed her with as much passion as I could fashion.

“I would marry you today,” she shouted.

“I’m dead once we show the film. I would marry you today, but the prophecy doesn’t include you dying and if I sound like an asshole, so be it. It’s the way things have to go apparently. “

I walked away while she called my name. I made my decision and wouldn’t back down from it. For a few nights, I heard her calling my name in my sleep. Once or twice, I saw her on campus and turned my head abruptly before she noticed. It broke my heart, but I felt it was absolutely necessary for her safety.

*

The day came when our professor let us show the film to the class. I had to coax a reluctant Steve to come with me. He hadn’t been attending his classes or bathing, and smelled a little rank. All he had done was hide in our dorm room day after every day since we came back.

We received the A I dreamed of. The professor was amazed by what he thought was our “cinematography” with the film, not believing for a second the children really looked that way. Where did he think we acquired a budget to make a film that realistic? The students in our class patted us on the backs. There were screams. There was laughter when Steve almost ate the roach. At the end, the class erupted in a round of applause for us. Steve cowered in his chair while I stood and promptly blew kisses to my classmates. I thought I might as well enjoy it. As soon as news of the film spread, we would be abruptly executed.

The class ended and I walked out with my arm around Steve, I showed him a bulbous joint, and lit it for the two of us. He found no satisfaction in the reaction to our film. I hit the joint and passed it to him, it was the only thing he would do now, of course.

“I know we don’t have much time,” I said, “but, we did what we set out to do.”

Steve cried while he hit the joint. People looked at us while we walked past them. I glimpsed Susanna out of the corner of my eye, but did not dare look in her direction. I think she noticed the despair on Steve’s face. She kept her distance. I hit the joint and thought about letting her go. I ruined her life. My death would be worse for her, though.

“I’ll get us some pizza,” I promised Steve. I held him closer to me. “It will be okay.”

*

I thought we would be killed that night. It took a few days, though, otherwise, it may have been too obvious why we were killed, I suppose. Steve and I were on our respective beds, watching a television Steve’s father bought for us. It wasn’t fancy. We watched I Love Lucy, smoked joints, and ate pizza. The door was locked. A lock failed to mean anything to the men who came for us. The door opened and they walked right in, shutting the door behind them, garbed in all black, and carrying guns with silencers. Steve dropped his half-eaten slice of pizza, and I dropped my half-smoked joint. There was no preamble. Steve was shot in the throat and the forehead. Glumly, I picked up the joint. I took one last hit. I never inhaled. A bullet went through my throat and a bullet went through my head. In less than a snap of the fingers, everything faded to black.

When Steve and I became roommates three years earlier, I never knew we would end up spending eternity together. Sure, we bicker from time to time like an old married couple, but we are ghosts now, and we don’t have a choice in the matter. Generally, our former dorm room is left empty. Once in a while, when the campus is overcrowded, a pair of people will be given our room, and we haunt them relentlessly. It was all we had other than to talk to about our short lives. No glory, no perdition, just the two of floating around a dorm room together.

 

 

 

 

#Horror

Posted: September 1, 2019 in Uncategorized

The Worm

Jeff Prebis

Russ sat in the community room, watching the Property Twins on the small television. A deck of cards was set on the table. His breakfast was in a Styrofoam container. This was his fourth day in the psychiatric hospital. His fourth day without drinking. He looked at the world through a different lenses. There were too many things he’d missed out on. It was never too late to start living your life, and he intended to do that once he left. He was scared to leave. He felt comfortable here. He had a television to watch, cards to play when the other patients weren’t down in the dining room, there was a sense of community, and everyone had a past. He feared everything. Two particular instances in his life haunted him. Two experiments with acid that left him cold and lonely. Two moments that exemplified his life. Two experiences that confirmed how alone he was in this world. The blueprint to his entire life in two nights, two experiences. Fear was a worm that burrowed into his brain. Fear of everything, no matter how mundane, making a normal life impossible. He didn’t want a normal life, though. He wanted to be unique, a rebel in a world of trends and conformity.

He dropped some acid in a shack in a squalid neighborhood. The tenements were in disrepair. Cats and dog ran loose, amuck, scrounging for food like vampires for blood. Blood would have been easier to obtain. Blood existed in veins. Food had to be manufactured. The squalid neighborhood far from any manufacturing plants.

Good Times was on a small television. Russ was crammed in a small bedroom with two other dudes. He smoked all his weed and his ride left him behind, stranding him. He would have to walk eventually. He loathed the prospect.  Danny had some liquid acid, he invited Russ over to try some, they smoked first, and stared at JJ dealing with a predicament, finding a solution, always a positive outcome, a good show, something social but not too dark, dark was hard to depict in the seventies.

Danny leaned over with an eyedropper, and Russ opened his mouth wide, sticking out his tongue. The liquid hit his tongue, there wasn’t an immediate reaction, and the moisture was absorbed into his body. All he had to do was wait.

“I need to get out of here, “Russ said. “I am hungry and I was supposed to be at Lisa’s apartment later. I haven’t had sex in three days and I’m dying.”

The room grew brighter, almost perceptibility, but Russ’ perception picked up just enough, and he was tuned into the universe. He could hear things impossibly far away. He could see through the television show to the reality of actors standing around in a studio, cameramen filming their every move, agents on the phone promising new opportunities, more money from every outlet of their brand. Their branch would branch out to the world like a disease infecting everyone by physical contact or airborne like the flue, microbes floating through the air.

He decided to leave. Standing too fast caused the fabric of reality to shake. His perception picked up the liquid motion of the room. The air moved. He slapped hands with Danny, and walked out of the room. He staggered somewhat, realizing that his imagination might have worked overtime, and that he was hallucinating the sway to his gait. Nevertheless, he made a conscious effort to walk straight. Out of the room he walked, he stepped on the stairs, and descended into the foyer. He opened the door and walked out into the dark night.

The night was darker than most, more ominous, full of scary possibilities, a lot of things could happen on the way to Lisa’s, he wished he had a gun, something to protect himself with. Moving as furtively and as quickly as him were shadows, they were the same size as him, and they moved spryly unbothered by corporeality, a shadow was simply unsubstantial, drifting uniformly through the world. The shadows crouched when he noticed them. Their movements became more furtive as they darted through yards with their blank heads turned to him, looking without eyes.

He texted his girlfriend, begging for a ride. He explained the situation in a hundred word message that he hoped was convincing. He received a return message indicating that she was on the way. He hoped she would find him before the shadows surrounded him and ate his soul. Weird thoughts danced through his mind.

He reached a main road and took a right. There were more shadows cast from the car bodies driving down the road. There was a lot of traffic for night. Cars had their headlights on, shining on flashlights, destroying some with light, but mostly creating new ones. He fought on, dragging his body. He lit a joint he had in his pocket, inhaled, and exhaled a cloud of smoke. The shadows drew closer, converging on him. People always said he was afraid of his own shadow. Perhaps, there was truth to what people said. He was afraid of his own shadow.

The shadows surrounded him, wrapping their bodied around him if they were solid. Arms were around his throat, cut off his air supply, he flailed impotently, unable to shake the shadows off him. A pair of headlights centered on him. He noticed that it was Lisa and Carlton, her husband, things were not going to go good if her husband suspected something between them, he had guns, and was known for having violent tendencies. The lights of the car caused the shadows to unravel. The night returned to normal, dogs barking, and people firing guns.

Russ reached the back of the car. He opened the door and got in with no explanation. He assumed that Lisa told him they needed weed, and Russ was a reliable drug dealer.

The vision of the car driving down the road faded away. Russ was back in the world. His psychiatrist, Benny, had beckoned him and a nurse pointed the way. Russ had to see the doctor in order to get more drugs, without a meeting, he would be cut off and forced to deal with his problems. Something he refused to consider.

He entered the room with the doctor. The doctor had a small laptop in front of him, and seemed fairly cramped in the small office. The previous four times they talked, Benny had tried to assess what Russ’s mental illness was. It was hard for the doctor to discern. Every day Russ had acted differently. Today was no different. Russ still needed a cigarette. That was the most persistent emotion he felt. It never went away, driving him to stay up at night, and stare out the window at the world under darkness, the people heading to the hospital, the traffic flowing down the street.

“Tell me about the last time you went on one of your acid trips,” Benny said. He had a serious expression on his face. He believed the anxiety and paranoia that Russ felt came from his experiences with psychotropic drugs, marijuana use included.

Russ went to a reggae festival with Myron. Myron was the guy lived up the street from Russ. Myron was interested in women and Russ was more interested in weed. He nodded at different hippies with long hair to shaved heads, from cologne to patchouli. The women had armpit hair, dreadlocks, the same as the men, but more beautiful, soft. Russ saw a number of women who looked appealing, while, Myron didn’t like anybody. He complained about the quality of women.

A friend of Myron’s, Tim, stopped them, giving Myron dap. Russ stood to the side of the two, allowing them to talk. He heard Tim mention acid and was immediately interested. It had been a while since his last trick and he longed for a chance to slip out of reality’s grasp once more. He pulled some cash out of his pocket and counted through the bills, finding twenty dollars, what should be enough for four hits and he interrupted Tim to ask if he could purchase some. Tim reached in his pocket and brought a notebook with little blue sheets of paper. There were lines on the paper which indicated where one had to cut to remove the paper in sections. He used a small pair of silver scissors to cut the paper, and he produced four small pieces for Russ. Russ handed him the money and took the paper. As everyone knows, the acid only took up a small amount of the paper.

Russ wasted no time and dropped two hits. He put the other two in his pocket. He took his bag of Indica out, the smell of the buds drifted through the air of the bustling park, defeating the smells of patchouli, sweat, and different kinds of food. He wandered away from Myron and Tim, drawn to the music coming from the stage. Hippies danced with their hands over their heads, swaying to the reggae, stoned, and lost in the moment. This was a wack time for hippies. Technology had inundated society, taken over every facet. Russ still didn’t have a phone, though. He remained pure to his hippy beliefs. He noticed a blonde girl who resembled Sharon Stone. She looked for someone, turning in different directions with her eyes going through the myriad faces that appeared out of the crowd.  Russ stepped forward without blinking, his heart had become set on her after one glance, and he had to talk to her. He strolled to her side, in his hand was the other two hits of acid, he told himself that he was cool, puffed his chest out a little, and spoke.

“I’m, how are you doing?” he said. It might have been lame, but it was all he could think about, and he cringed a little after speaking.

“I’m doing great, I’m so stoned,” the blonde woman said.

“Would you like to drop some acid with me?” he asked. Speaking of acid, the first signs that he was tripping came, and he saw cockroaches crawling on people. The roaches ran in lines of two like Noah’s Ark.

“Yeah, I would love some, my name is Tara,” she said.

“I’m Russ,” he replied. He told her he was a writer, just writing however didn’t make him anybody important, only short stories were published, not a novel, and he had written many novels by this age, 26, and he felt the publishing industry was against him. There were a lot new authors out there competing with him for magazine attention. The publication of his short stories made him more confident that he used to be. A novel would take him over the top.

Tara asked him if writing was hard. Of course, he said. Writing is incredibly difficult. He pulled his bag of weed out in broad daylight, surrounded by so many hippies, anyone could be an undercover cop, but weed was barely a crime anymore, everyone was doing it, and abstinence made you a square. He took out some zigzag papers and constructed a joint out of the paper and weed, licked the joint, and twisted it together. He applied his lighter to the end, sending smoke into the air instantly. Tara looked a little frightened. Russ smoked the joint blatantly with no regard for who was around him. He passed the joint to an amazed Tara. She looked nervous. It permeated her pores. Sweat almost appeared on her forehead underneath the insatiable summer sun rays.

Drifting toward the mall, Russ put out the joint after they both hit it a few times. The purple Indica kept burning in Russ’ hand. He took one last hit and blew out purple smoke. A cop walked toward him, and he gently put his hand on Tara’s wrist. He was hungry. The grumblings in his stomach came on quickly, ferociously. He knew there was a restaurant in the mall. It was sandwiched between clubs that had no business until the sun went down, until people popped out of the woodwork and drank past their tolerance.

The cop cut in front of Russ and the cop put a hand on his chest. Russ moved back a step from the push of the hand. “You smell like weed,” the cop stated.

Russ knew a search was forthcoming. He’d been searched and received citations for illegally possessing weed. Acid was a different story. It was deemed more dangerous than weed, and therefore more prison time was given to peddlers, charging them with attempted murder in many possession or distribution cases.

Furtively, Russ dropped his bag of weed. It slid to his side slowly. The cop noticed it and picked up the bag. He shook it in Russ’ face. Russ had been convicted of marijuana possession twice before, this time he would have to serve jail time. He had a thirty day suspended sentence the last time. The thirty days would added to the new time he gained by a third charge.

“Take it easy, officer, everything’s cool,” Russ said.

The officer didn’t think his behavior was cool, more illegal, and he wrote a court summons for Russ. Russ winced at the piece of paper. He really didn’t want to go to jail. It was the thing he feared most in the world. He coughed a little, nervously. The officer handed the paper to him and told him to sign it using a little box the cop had attached to his bike. Begrudgingly, he accepted the citation. He rolled his eyes. Tara smirked at his disdain.

He walked off with Tara. The mall came in view. People streamed in and out of it, there were gift shops in addition to the restaurants and clubs. He walked in front of Tara to the escalator, and she got on behind him. They rode up to the second floor.

They waited at the façade of the restaurant, waiting for a seat to be available. The restaurant had a buzz. People commented on their food, engaged in conversations, and stared out the window at the ocean. The festival was more crowded than Russ thought. Space was limited. Russ could pick up the cops circling around from this vantage point. He reached in his pocket and crumpled the citation. He felt the effects of the acid, everything was more colorful, and he swayed on his feet like a stalk of grass in the wind. Tara looked nervous, there were bags beneath her eyes, and she yawned numerous times. Shapes began to change before Russ’ eyes. A plate of nachos on a table wiggled and squirmed like it was composed of live worms. The number of people present disturbed Russ. There were too many, instantly, he was filled with anxiety, panic, and wanted to run away. He felt like they were all watching him, using him as entertainment. A waiter approached them, analyzing them to determine if they were good tippers or not.

The waiter stopped in front of a table and placed menus down on its surface. Russ and Tara took a seat. The table was constituted of concert tickets under glass, tickets to shows what that had happened twenty years ago. Someone’s cherished keepsake of an event.

Russ freaked out internally, gradually it switched to externally also, evidenced by the shaking of his body. Uncontrollable tremors ran through him. People blurred as if they were liquid. They moved too quickly for his eyes to keep track. One minute Tara was there, the next she was gone, and he sat alone, staring at the concert tickets in the table, imagining what the concerts must have been like. He often thought about time travel, about going back in time to see memorable things, not stuck in the banal world he was imprisoned in. He scratched the side of his head. He stood up, he couldn’t stay around this many people, and he traversed the dining area to the doors and walked out. He noticed Tara walking into a club. The doorman had checked her id and taken her cash. She vanished into the maw of the club. Russ had to follow her, he was overwhelmed by his feelings for her, and had to get her phone number. He had to become part of her life.

He brushed past people with one thing on his mind, Tara. He reached the line and assimilated into it. He stood nervously, dancing in place as though he had to relieve himself. The antsiness increased tenfold. He reached the doorman and paid him the cash. The cash was wearing out and he needed to sell some weed. He didn’t really plan things out.

He staggered through the club, there were a multitude of well-dressed people. He glimpsed blonde hair. It was her. He surged forward, brushing past people. On stages were women in thongs gyrating. Men stood below them with dollar bills in their hands. The music blared. It was the typical club song, all bass, and no substance. The rhythm made Russ sway as he walked, though. He followed the blonde hair into a sea of people. He was surrounded and his heart beat faster, he felt anxious, uncomfortable, as if the sea would close in on him and drown him. He panicked, he had to get out of there, and find a comfortable hole to crawl into. The experience was a little too weird.

A glimpse of the blonde hair going into a restroom, he increased his pace, and was in the bathroom right behind her, he reached out and touched her shoulder. She turned abruptly, revealing that it was not Tara, and pepper spray struck him in the eyes. He blinked repeatedly, but couldn’t see anything, and the burning was intense. Screams from the woman, screams that drew attention, screams that brought a pair of hands on his shoulders. He couldn’t move, he was held in place, and the world turned black when the bottle hit the back of his head. He fell forward, his palms stopped his descent, and he hovered on the brink of falling down. Someone seized him by the collar of his shirt, he was dragged by someone big and strong, he was weak and fragmented mentally. He was forced onto his feet, his eyes had blood in them, the blood stung, and he blinked repeatedly to regain his bearings, his equilibrium was fucked, and he gagged from anxiety, angst.

He stood outside the club. People stared at him with contempt. He did something bad, it was easy to tell, and people judged him accordingly. He didn’t intend to do anything wrong, he was in a bad dream, and he reached out to confirm that Tara was real.

He wandered to the escalator. He stepped on, and went down, looking back up at the club, at the burly men who escorted him out. He drifted back outside, back into another sea of people. Cops were more abundant, they lingered in shadows, sipping Gatorades and talking to passersby. He saw the cop who issued him the summons. He wanted to flip him off with his middle finger, but held off. One ticket was enough for one day. The sun was going down. The music was louder. Clouds of yellow smoke rose into the air.  Russ needed a joint, buying another one was a pain in the ass with all the cops roaming around. He scoped different people, and judged their shadiness.

Aimlessly, dazedly, he traversed the field until he was in front of the stage. Multi-colored beams emanated from the stage, illuminating everyone’s face with green, yellow, and red. He stood in awe, swaying to the mellow music that the group played. The lead singer danced in place with his long blonde dreads swinging in the wind. For a moment, everything grew still, frozen, and Russ thought he glimpsed the woman with the blonde hair, Tara, and he stopped breathing. He hoped she wouldn’t tell a cop.

Someone nudged him in the arm. A joint was handed to him. He took it and inhaled deeply. Swaying, he passed the joint to a woman on the other side of him. She accepted it. He stared at the lights over the stage, mesmerized. Something touched his legs. He looked down and saw a child reaching up, trying to squeeze his calves with his hands. Russ shifted uncomfortably. He tried to move away, but there were too many people around him. The child made a hissing sound. Russ looked down at him. The child had blood coming out of his eyes. His tongue was forked. Russ fought hard to stop from screaming. The scream anyway, but no one could hear it. There was too much noise around.

The music stopped and the stage became dark. The crowd applauded and began to disperse, leaving Russ alone. He stood in place, hypnotized by the darkness. In it, he saw a shape, a great beast like a panther with a maw full of teeth, Russ screamed, and drifted a step back. He backed into a cop. He pushed the cop violently for no reason, rambling about lights in the sky, sounding as if he saw a UFO hovering over the concert, he couldn’t shut up about the lights, and another cop slapped handcuffs on his wrists.

Against his will, he was dragged to a police van. Others had been gathered. No explanation was given as to why he was being arrested. He was forced into the back of the van and the doors were closed in front of his face.

The police brought him to a court, some kind of night court with very few people in attendance. The accused were a rag tag bunch. Mostly hippies. A few were drunk businessmen. Russ stood in front of the judge with his hands cuffed behind him back. The judge said he would spend two weeks in a psychiatric hospital after which he would be evaluated.

There he sat in the community room. He watched the race cars fly down a track on television. Someone said his doctor would see him next. He hoped to get some more of the anti-anxiety medication. It helped him sleep. Some nights he stared at the ceiling, and dreamed about his acid experiences. Perhaps he was insane as the court seemed to think. He didn’t know. All he could do was wait for a full diagnosis. It was another week away. He stood up when his name was called, and he went to his see his doctor.