Howdy, I'm working on a new crazy fantasy novel and I'm posting rough draft chapters on my blog as I go. The main reason for posting them is to get feedback, so be as brutal as you need to be! First drafts can suck (since they always do), so I'm not going to take anything personally and I don't want to publish a steamy-pile-o'-poo novel.
by Sam Landstrom
Note: This is a work in progress. Any feedback welcome. You can email me at email@example.com
“It will be dark soon, Mistress,” Flairon, the ranger said. “The Slaw hunt at night.”
The sun bled over the horizon, its dying rays slathering over the ranger’s shoulders, painting his back a brilliant orange.
“How far to the keep?” I asked.
“Less than an hour, my lady, but as I said—“
“Good, then we will sleep there tonight,” I interrupted.
“Er, sleep?” stammered my guide. “Sleep in that place?”
I watched him carefully. His glazed eyes shifted feverishly as though struggling to unpin himself from my spell.
He needs a little push, I thought as I added just a touch of magical honey to my voice. “Not inside the castle, just in the courtyard.”
“The courtyard is too close!” the ranger protested. “In the woods, I beg you, out of sight of those dark windows…” his voice trailed off.
“Yessss,” I hissed in what must have been the most reassuring sound imaginable, “you and I will sleep side by side, safe and hidden.”
The ranger spit into a muddy puddle and observed intently the white foamy saliva as though looking for an omen. “Then we must hurry, Mistress. Tonight will be dark and I tried long ago to forget the way to that cursed place.”
A long wail echoed behind, followed by another. And then another.
“Not exactly silent hunters, are they?” my voice quavered. Hours had past and night had long since fallen. The ranger led the way with the dim light of a partially hooded lantern. The trail was faint and rough going, no more than a game trail.
“My lady, the Slaw know we cannot outrun them. They prefer to terrify their quarry rather than surprise them.”
“If we cannot run then shall we hide, or perhaps take refuge in a tree?”
Their sense of smell is keen,” the ranger said while shaking his head. ”That is how they found our trail. Hiding is out. As for climbing a high tree, that would make them happier still. They carry oils for burning.”
The ranger looked past me, back along our path and then continued, “They expect to drive us forward like frightened animals until we are exhausted, then press in for the kill.”
“Then we must pace ourselves.”
“I am, my lady. The Slaw are near, but they will keep a distance for some time to come.”
“And Inverness Castle?”
“It is also near,” Flairon muttered under his breath.
We trudged on as the Slaw’s cries became louder and more numerous. With a dagger clenched tightly in my right fist, I spun around several times. They seem so close, I thought. Meanwhile, the ranger kept a steady stride and his attention keen on the faint trail.
Suddenly, the forest ended at a large field toothed with dark stumps and dead trunks resembling knobby knuckles of countless buried monsters. I could not tell detail in the moonlight, but the grass seemed subdued and patchy. Beyond this lay the irregular, shadowy walls of the keep.
“It is time to run, Ranger. If these monsters have any minds at all, they will know to catch us before we reach those walls.”
The ranger nodded mechanically. I wondered whether he agreed with my reasoning or merely obedient to my charm spell.
Not long into our dash, a chorus erupted from the forest behind. The ranger sped ahead. My dress, a roughly spun peasant weave practical for travel, was still a dress and therefore not ideal for sprinting.
I lost sight of Flairon as he rounded the corner of the northern wall. Perhaps there was a gate on that side? Looking back, I saw several glowing points—eyes! For a moment I thought of shouting for the ranger, but there was no time and my breath was short. Instead, I put on a burst of speed straight for the western wall.
The neglected and crumbling outer wall of Castle Inverness loomed in front of me. There was commotion behind. Footsteps, panting, perhaps. With a breathless arcane word, I released my spell and jumped. I rose up, up into the air, leaving the stubble grass below me. I cleared the wall, a wall taller than two men, or nearly did. I felt the blow of my leg against the top of the battlement which flipped me down, face forward. Luckily, the battlement walkway was wide and the impact of my unlucky leg had slowed my momentum; otherwise, I would have arced clear over the walkway into the courtyard below.
Beside the pain welling up in my left knee, shin, and foot, my hands had taken a heavy blow on the oak walkway. Better my hands than my face, of course, but small shards of wood had slid into my palms. I hated slivers, even little ones. I wanted very much to take time to tend to them, pull them out with now chipped up nails; however, I’m no idiot. “Flairon!” I tried to shout, but out of breath as I was, it sounded like weary vomiting.
Overriding the pain in my hands and legs, I crawled to the battlement and peered over.
Nurel’s shit, here they come!
Well, there was actually only one Slaw climbing the wall. The others stood several meters back, chattering and squawking as though egging on the little burglar.
The Slaw, about the size of a ten-year-old human boy, climbed the rough, pitted wall easily and was making excellent progress. Nevertheless, I took the time to properly form my spell. With a careful phrase and a flick of my wrist, I crumbled the very top of the rotten battlement directly above the climber. It yelped as it sprang away from the wall, just avoiding the worst of the falling rubble.
Disappointed as I was that I had not smashed the loathsome thing, at least I was heartened to see them all backing away from the wall. Large, glowing eyes, green and bulging naked, peered up at me in what I imagined was hatred. One of them turned back toward the forest and yowled.
Calling for reinforcements, no doubt, I thought, and as though manifesting this fear, I felt the wood under me shake as footsteps rapidly approached. There was no time to draw power for another spell.
Charging along the runway was a shadow of a man in the night, tall and lanky. He was carrying something—a bow. “Flairon!” I sighed in relief. How he had made it over the wall so quickly, gods only knew.
Flairon leaned over the wall and—seemingly without even aiming—let loose an arrow. One of the little devils below fell to the ground, screaming and thrashing. The others scattered back toward the forest. Now, with their eyes turned away, they made difficult targets in the scant moonlight; nevertheless, the ranger fell one more of the goblins before the others made it to the safety of the woods.
The first of the Slaw to be shot, the one near the wall, was still crying and rolling. It was nearly naked, with only some rough cloth around its genitals. It’s skin was wrinkled and yet, in the moonlight, shiny and smooth between the furrows. It reminded me of the skin of an earthworm. The arrow shaft that stuck in the Slaw had snapped in half; its white-feathered fletching illuminated in the moonlight against the blotched, stubby grass.
“Are you going to finish that one or what?” I asked as I recovered my breath.
“My lady, I would rather not spend the arrows. I expect I will need even more than I have before the night is through.”
“You expect them to attack again?”
“Yes, my lady,” the ranger answered as he swiftly set to work with flint and steel to re-light his lantern. “Slaw hunters spread out like a net as they stalk the forest, much easier to scare up game. Most prey, animals and the like, do not require the entire hunting party—”
“However, we are not so defenseless,” I tried to complete his thought.
“Yes, and so for us they will call for the others, take the time to swell their ranks.”
The ranger directed the light from his mirrored lantern like a beam from a lighthouse, out into the gloom toward the hem of the forest.
“Slaw are not as cunning as most, particularly when they smell a kill, but I expect that when they are ready they will attack from all sides. The two of us cannot defend all the walls.”
“Perhaps, then, we should enter the castle,” I said, more to myself than to the ranger.
“Please, no,” the ranger’s voice trembled. “There is evil in there. Better our bodies be consumed by the Slaw than our eternal souls...” His voice trailed off again as was his habit. He peered up at the massive shadow of the fortress behind us.
Flairon had a point. Although I did not know the exact nature of the fiend in that castle, I knew that Mordanna specifically commanded that I free it. And anything that interested my twisted doppelganger was not to be taken lightly. I needed a night to prepare. This journey had sapped my strength.
“Very well,” I said slowly as my mind raced.
“We must build a fire, a very large one, down there,” I pointed down into the courtyard.
“You…you want to build a fire here? But Mistress—”
“We will be victorious,” I interrupted.
His eyes widened in the lamplight. “Why? Of all things, a fire in the middle of this unholy ground? And what of the lesper? Surely, the light will attract them!”
“We will be victorious,” I repeated, this time using my charm voice while touching his arm lightly. His weather-hardened body tensed and he edged closer. He then took a deep breath and nodded.
Fortunately, there was plenty of firewood at hand. Dried, mummified husks was all that remained of the fruit trees and ornamental shrubbery of that long ago courtyard.
We climbed down from the wall walkway and set to work. My bruised shin forced me to limp as I gathered fallen branches while Flairon snapped larger, gnarled branches off of logs. We tossed our kindle into a pile around the largest of the dead trees in the middle of the courtyard. We worked at a frenzied pace. I ignored the pain from the slivers in my palms. There was no time to pull them out. Meanwhile, the calls of the Slaws grew louder; they were multiplying and gathering quickly.
When the pile of wood and debris had risen high enough for my purpose, I gave the command to light it. With a scowl, Flairon produced a vial of lamp oil from his backpack and doused the kindling below the larger branches.
The wood ignited immediately and the flames rose and expanded with great fervor. The ranger looked up cautiously and I followed his gaze across the courtyard and up the castle walls to where the moonlight illuminated the broken windows above the battlements and the black arrow slits below. The fortress was as lifeless as a painting. Is the fiend watching us from its lair? I wondered. What will it think of us lighting its courtyard on fire? Despite the pit in my stomach, I smiled. Perhaps some god—some god of fools—would laugh at our folly and spare us.
In the growing light of the fire I could see that the giant wooden double doors of the castle were cracked open. Were they open when we first arrived? My smile fell.
“Mistress, by the sound of them I would say they have gathered. We must defend the walls. Or hide or—” He peered up at the castle.
“To the wall!” I ordered.
Glowing sets of eyes dotted the forest ahead. I dared not count them.
Turning away from the forest while sliding my back down the battlement wall, I sat down on the rotten walkway. I needed manna, energy for spells. Hidden behind the wall, I felt safe enough to go into my trance.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and focused my soul—my entire being—on reaching out into the vast multiverse to harvest spell power. This task is anything but easy. Imagine being bound tightly—save one free arm—and pushed down into a bottomless, shadowy pit, full of spider webs. Falling fast and nearly blind, you must snatch an individual strand of web between your thumb and forefinger.
The Slaw’s assault pulled me from my trance. The cacophony of whines and snarls which had settled into a backdrop for my meditation had suddenly transformed into battle cries—high pitched, furious, and seemingly on the edge of panic.
Gods knew how long I had been in my trance, how long the Slaw had been gathering before they finally decided to charge. While threadwalking, time does not exist. The most powerful wizards, of which I am not, could spend an entire lifetime traveling the multiverse having only expended a few moments of meditation in their native universe.
“Gods help us, they come from all sides!” I shouted. The ranger did not answer as he worked his bow; thumb, thumb went the string.
Soon, several of the Slaw had scaled the far wall. Two had leaped down into the courtyard while another attempted to run toward us upon the rickety battlement walkway. These little beasts were shortly followed by others, and even more poured over the East and West walls.
I took a deep breath. I was not helpless. My meditation had yielded power which now coursed through my body; it tingled as though organism thousand tiny sandy tongues were licking the inside of my skin. There’s always such tension before release.
“Flairon, close your eyes!” I shouted. He ignored me while shooting a Slaw off the walkway. Despite our earlier discussion of my plan, the ranger was not sticking to it. Doubtless, he trusted his arrows over promises of magic. I did not blame him. “Close your eyes!” I commanded as I tugged on the charm that bound him.
We shut our eyes and I let loose the spell.
CRACK! I saw bright pink behind my shut eyelids. The fire became a brilliant flash, a brief pulse brighter than full daylight. I waited a second to allow time for the flash to die down. I then ordered Flairon to open his eyes.
Our enemies were nocturnal creatures and were even rumored to be able to see, in some mysterious way, in complete darkness. Now they shielded their glowing onion eyes and screamed in pain. One, who had been charging on the walkway before the bright burst, stumbled and fell headlong off the battlement. Several in the courtyard below who had been closest to the fire when it flared up, were now thrashing on the ground.
“Kill them all and be quick!” I shouted. “They will not be blind long.”
The ranger dropped his bow and unsheathed his sword. Some of the goblins carried short swords while others carried spears. The Slaw still standing waved these weapons blindly in front of them, but Flairon effortlessly batted the blades aside and then, with one mighty cleave, cut the goblins down one after the other.
I pulled out from the folds of my dress two long, thin daggers. As a witch, using a blade to dispatch foes is demeaning. And dangerous. Blind or not, those vicious little monsters would slash and bite for their lives. Worse yet, no matter how hard I tried to make tidy kills in the past, they invariably turned into bloody messes. I, unlike some of my discipline, do not enjoy the sticky blood of my victims on my skin and clothing. Nevertheless, wielding my blades required no manna and that flash spell had just about drained me. Jumping down into the courtyard, I got to work. Here, I had more room to maneuver around my enemies, thrust in one dagger into its back, followed by the other and then spring backward before my victim had a chance to retaliate.
This sort of killing was not as swift as the ranger’s frontal, brute force method, and most of the time I only wounded my victim. Still, I hoped my prescribed two stabs disabled those it did not kill.
The ranger swept the battlements while I murdered and maimed in the courtyard. We were only a fraction through our work before more came.
A lot more.
My heart sank. What I had taken for their grand assault proved now to only be the first wave. And these new specimens were bigger, moved faster, and were better equipped. Nurel’s tounge, they have bows! I thought as I crouched down, arrows whizzing above and around me.
Like cockroaches, they scuttled up over the battlements. The ranger jumped down from the battlement to join me. He roared in fury, but an arrow shot from the top of the East wall thumped into his shoulder and cut short his battle cry.
“To the castle!” I shouted. My fear of what lie inside the dark fortress now overridden by my terror of certain death.
No sooner had I given this command did I realize it was too late. A dozen or so of the marauders had rushed over into the courtyard between us and the castle doors and more were on the way.
Only real magic would save me now. For that, however, I needed manna. The dead and dying were all around us, but I did not have time to crush their souls. I needed to threadwalk, and not just the thread of my own existence; that would not yield enough. No, I needed to reach deep, deep into my soul. Even if the effort sapped me dry, killed me, I’d rather die walking the plains than under the claws and fangs of these loathsome predators.
Falling to my knees, I pulled out what little manna I had in reserve and then clawed out more. My spirit slipped away.
September 8, 1992
So, my shrink told me I had to keep a diary. She said I need one to understand my feelings about what happened to my sister. How’s writing about fucked up shit like that going to make me feel better?
Besides, writing in a journal is gay.
So, I wasn’t going to do it, but then I started going bat-shit crazy. I’m not crazy yet, or at least I don’t think I am, but I’m going to write down in this gay journal what happened, or what my crazy-ass thinks happened, before I completely lose it. Right now I can remember most of it. Horrible and real, like the first few seconds out of a nightmare. Other stuff is fuzzy, so I might get some it wrong.
Hell, I don’t even know when I started going nuts. Maybe it started at the car accident, but I think it was later. I think it started on a rainy day, like halfway through November. Me and my buddy, Joe, who I’ve known since we were in kindergarten, were dogging some kid in building 4.
“Gooook,” Joe said. He then looked over at me. “You see, you gotta say the words nice and slow like that, otherwise these Cambodian fucks won’t understand you.”
“How do you know he’s Cambodian?” I asked. Joe was in prick-mode. He gets like that sometimes. I usually try to distract him with questions.
“The fuck I know,” Joe replied. “Maybe he’s Chinese or a Jap or some shit. Easiest to just call ‘em by their real name though, which is ‘Gook.’” Joe was smiling and his face was all red. I could tell he was getting off on this. He had followed this skinny kid all the way from the locker rooms calling “Gooook” over and over.
“Gook? Dude, it’s like 1992, not Vietnam and shit,” I said. “Around the house they probably just call him bitch.” I fondled the Volkswagen hood ornament that hung from a chain around my neck. I always like to fondle shit when I get nervous. “Anyway, I’m going to class. What do you have next?”
Joe didn’t answer me. He was still watching the kid, who was now up a few steps on the building 4 stairwell. The kid was staring down at Joe with his dark eyes like some slant-eyed, half-starved-to-death version of Clint Eastwood.
“Gooook,” Joe whispered up the steps with a smile.
Clint’s face started trembling, but he kept his stare-down going. Problem was that Joe was on the varsity wrestling team while Clint was so short and baby-faced that he didn’t even look like he belonged in high school. Matter o’ fact, I don’t think Clint was a good name for him, he was more like Short Round from Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.
“Forget him, come on,” I said and put a hand on the steel door leading back outside.
“Goooky, goooky, goook,” Joe taunted as he took one slow step at a time up the stairwell.
Short Round just stood there as Joe stepped up, looking like he might make some kind of stand.
“Dude, I hope he pops you,” I called up the stairs.
Now Joe and Short Round stood with their faces only a foot apart. Joe was on the lower step, so they were about level with one another. Short’s chest heaved fast and shallow under his little white T-shirt.
They just stood there like that for a few seconds. Then, suddenly, Joe punched the kid three times in the face. The punches came in fast, like slap, slap! Joe didn’t put his body into it though; they were only jabs. The first two hit square and snapped Shorty’s head back, so the third jab just grazed his cheek.
After the punches, Joe put his “dukes up,” as though ready to box. Shorty, with his right cheek turning red where he’d been hit, turned back to Joe as though he was still playing the bad-ass. Besides that, he didn’t move.
Joe must have known the kid wasn’t going to come back at him, so he put down his fists. I couldn’t see it, but I’m pretty sure he was doing his big ol’ smile as he whispered, “That’s right, gooook, do you want some more?”
Just then, a couple of girls came down around the stairwell, backpacks slung over one shoulder. They started to make their way around Joe and Short Round, but when they realized something was up, they just stopped.
“Uhhhh,” goes one of the chicks. Her eyes, layered up with purple eye shadow and shit, were opened up wide like she was saying, “What the fuck?”
Joe glanced up at the girls, smirked and let out a fake little laugh, then walked away.
The next thing I remember, I was sitting in my 3rd period English class. We were reading the opening prologue of Chauser’s Canteburry Tales.
Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Some poor sap a few rows up was assigned to read this part out loud. He tripped over the awkward sentences nervously.
Why is that dumb-ass teacher making us read this bullshit? I wondered.
Mr. Merrick said that it was written in Middle English, but from what I could tell, it wasn’t English at all.
I looked up from my textbook, like I always do in this class, to sneak a peek at Candra Wheeler. The shiny, squeaky-clean red hair that dangled down her back was like some kind of fishing lure to me. I always imagined running my fingers through it.
In my periphery, I saw Mr. Merrick move his head, maybe looking up. Using my quick reflexes, I looked back down at my book. Getting caught spacing out in class is a damned good way to get called on to read.
That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
How stupid is my life? I thought. My little sister, my baby sister, is dead.
I remembered seeing her chubby little leg sticking up from all that crumpled up metal in the back of the car. Usually, she was screaming all the time for her bottle or because she was tired, or just for the hell of it. But she was real quiet back there with her little pink socks sticking up.
Now I have to read this bullshit! Worse, I gotta fear this bullshit. Be afraid I’m gonna get called on to read it out loud. I didn’t want Candra to hear me stuttering over the words.
Bifil that in that seson, on a day,
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage.
And why did Joe have to be an asshole? What was the point of beating on some little kid? I wish that little bitch had gone Bruce Lee on Joe’s ass, but that’s not how shit works. If he’d hit back, Joe would have fucked him up.
I peeked up again at Candra. I bet she’d like those shoulders rubbed. My dad told me once chicks like that. “You have to move slow and sensual,” he told me. “Don’t just start grabbing at tit.” Seemed like a waste of time when you could be getting’ down to business, but whatever.
Shit, there was a pause in the reading. That meant the kid was finished and a new sucker was gonna get called on. I looked down at the book and tried to find the right place, but I couldn’t remember what was said last ‘cause I was thinking about titties.
I found a spot that sounded a little familiar.
But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space,
Er that I ferther in this tale pace,
Help me! Help me! Fool of a boy, you must help me!
I squinted my eyes. “Help me! Help me!” the words blurred and shook on the page like one of those visions you have in the desert with the water and palm trees and shit. What the—
My heart sped up a little and my hands started shaking as I turned back a few pages. It was just the regular Canterbury Tales, nothing about it being a re-adaptation or crib notes. I turned back to the page I had been reading, but those words were gone.
Another student, Jennifer, was reading now. I poured over the page again. It’s here somewhere. I couldn’t have imagined that.
When Zephyr also has with his sweet breath,
I need you to help me! No time to waste! Whistle into the air!
Filled again, in every holt and heath,
More shimmering words were on the page! I closed my eyes hard and then opened them again. They were still there. Whistle into the air? I shut my eyes again and opened them. The words were gone.
Whistle into the air? Aw shit, I think I’ve gone crazy anyway. What the hell!
I lowered my head down so I was like practically kissing my book, and then let out a low whistle. I didn’t think anyone would hear it, but Jennifer really shy, so she just whispers as she reads. I know most of the class heard it ‘cause they were all looking around. Someone snickered.
“Snickered,” is that what they call it? Or am I thinking about a candy bar?
The rumbling surge of power infused me like a thunderclap.
I had never connected an anchor like this before. Of course, until now, I had never been desperate enough to bet all the manna of my soul on a single harvest walk.
I had only been gone for a second or two, but the surrounding Slaw were nearly on top of Flairon and I. There was no time to think. I knew only that the thread I tapped into was distant, distant and therefore powerful. It was time for another spell.
The courtyard fire I had used to blind the first wave of Slaw was burning low; I directed my attention to it. Uttering an arcane word, I flicked one long finger. I meant to make the fire burst into a blinding flash like last time. That did not happen. Instead, I felt unbearable heat as though my entire body was unexpectedly thrust into a great oven. Then, just as suddenly, the heat left me as sheets of fire shot out of my body in all directions with a deafening hiss. The force of this eruption shook me as it launched me a short distance into the air.
I came to on the ground, my ears ringing. The ranger, Flairon, my guide, was burning a few feet away. Others were burning too. The Slaw that had been closest to me when I exploded were now no more than flame festooned smoking lumps. Less fortunate ones were reduced to screaming, thrashing, humanoid torches.
I, myself, was unharmed; however, the bare dirt beneath me was hot. I stood up quickly.
Now that is power!
My revelry was short lived thanks to the whistle of an arrow. Slaw which had been out of range of the blast were taking potshots from up on the wall. The initial arrows were off target, no doubt thanks to all the light from the various fires, but I knew the gangly archers would soon adjust.
“Shield me!” I shouted to Flairon, before remembering he was dead.
To my astonishment and initial terror, the ranger shuddered and then lifted his corpse from the ground. He was smoldering from head to foot and covered with patches of fire. Dull white peeked through what used to be his forehead. His upper lip was gone too, revealing a row of crooked teeth. Flairon, or what was left of him, heaved air from his lungs as though to shout, but his neck was open and charred, causing only smoke to belch out.
Nevel’s Hole, I raised the dead? It took an extraordinary amount of power to create the undead. Normally, to do this took a lengthy ceremony and, of course, sacrifices had to be made.
I accomplished the feat with two words.
The corpse staggered along swiftly and was between me and the raining arrows before I fully appreciated what had happened.
Outstretching my finger, I decided that a bolt of lightning would clear the wall of those pesky goblins, but the lighting did not come. My power is dried up?
I cursed myself for squandering my manna with the inadvertent raising of the ranger. Perhaps I could go back for more. It would only take a few seconds—perhaps hours in that world—but only seconds here. However, even a few seconds was too much time. My corpse shield had taken several arrows. At least the little devils were now keeping a respectful distance.
Gods, why don’t they run? Must I stab or cook every last one of them?
It was I who ran, leaping over a smoldering log and a few crispy bodies, up to the great wooden castle doors. I was pleased to discover that my revitalized servant was fast. It kept right up with me, still doing its best to absorb those arrows aimed at my back. A fabulous job indeed, as I know all too well how difficult it is to wield a new body. Could it be the ranger himself? Perhaps I snatched his soul before it travelled far.
“Open the door,” I commanded. The zombie clasped the handle with a charred hand and swung it open, right into itself, sending it flailing backward.
Once inside, we slammed and barred the doors. The room was void of light, save the flickering glow coming from the patches of fire still burning on the zombie. I hurriedly rummaged through my pack and found a torch, and by the time I had lit it off the zombie’s shoulder, the front doors began to shake violently. High pitched whines and cries accompanied the rumble.
Ninety-nine hells, they must be hungry!
It was as though they had mobilized their entire race to chase down one human. I was not even a fully grown woman. Each of them would get less than a bite.
The entrance chamber was large with a high vaulted ceiling. The stone walls, as much as were visible under the torch’s sedate glow, were cracked and flaking. The ground was strewn with loose rubble. The air was stale.
I backed away while ordering my undead minion to stay vigilant near the doors. If the little monsters wanted me, they were going to have to go through Flairon. Well, it wasn’t Flairon anymore. That was a pity, of course. I was always so hard on my servants.
The pounding spread higher up the doors. Are they standing on one another? I imagined a sheet of worm-skinned, sword-wielding Slaw coating the doors and creeping up toward the windows. Like murderous ants!
I certainly did not want to stand there waiting for them to break the door down, but at the same time I did not feel at liberty to run wild through a devil’s lair.
It must know I’m here; after all, its fortress is under attack! I still did not know what “it” was, and now I had lost any chance of surprising the thing. Of course, the fire and the subsequent Slaw-slaughter probably precluded that anyway.
Perhaps it waits for my move? I wondered.
Afraid to stand or run, I decided to take this moment of reprieve to gather more manna for additional spells. It was time to enter the trance and retrace my way back to that newfound world I had discovered only a minute ago.
September 9, 1992
Man, I started off feeling pretty good today. Nothing weird had happened to me since English class yesterday. It was time for gym class and I had on a brand new bad-ass, black tank top. I needed a shirt like that to show off my pecks ‘cause I’d been hitting the pushups hard at home the last couple of weeks.
Chicks want to fuck guys with sweet pecks and guys don’t. Well, I mean guys don’t want to fuck with guys with sweet pecks.
For PE we had to run two miles. I like lifting weights better than running ‘cause then me and Joe can pretty much just goof off in the weight room. Still, running is better than basketball or baseball. Seems like all the other guys’ dads trained them to play these games since they were born. My dad isn’t into sports. I mean, sure, he’ll crack open a beer and watch a game, but he’s damn well not gonna take his boy outside to toss the pigskin or whatever.
Anyway, I’m not puny or retarded or anything, but I don’t have the skills, so a game of basketball is just me getting humiliated for forty minutes. No one wants to pass me the ball, and when I do get it, I get yelled at for “travelling” or some other bullshit rule I broke.
So, for me, running is better than all that. First of all, jogging in PE isn’t a team sport. No one’s counting on you, so no one cares if you suck. Second, I don’t even suck all that bad at jogging ‘cause nobody—not even the biggest nimrod jocks—practice running long distances. Sure, there are a few skinny fags in our class who are actually on the cross country team, but nobody but Mr. Erickson is impressed with how fast they run. Third, and best of all, jogging is co-ed. Lots of girls exerting themselves, getting all pink in the cheeks with their little shorts, athletic tops, and bra straps peeking out. Every run gives me beat-off material for like three weeks.
Anyway, we had all gathered in the entrance of the gym, leaning our backs against the concrete wall. Me, Joe, and Mike were standing next to each other shooting the shit while waiting for the rest of the class to get out of the locker room. We were going to get sent out in the drizzle, so some in the class were taking their sweet-ass time getting suited up.
“Yo,” Mike leaned in and whispered to me and Joe, “my buddy Jody’s got a pickup truck. He could pick us up on Broadway and give us a ride to near the finish line.”
“You know a guy named Jody?” Joe grinned back at Mike. “Dude, that’s a chick’s name.”
“Yeah, I told him that once and he got all pissed,” Mike said.
“You wanna cheat on a two mile run?” I asked in a whisper. “Just walk like one of the girls if you want to be a pussy. You don’t need a chauffeur.”
I didn’t really like Mike. He was always saying how he knew so and so and could get this or that. But he and Joe went way back, so I had to tolerate his bullshit presence sometimes.
Mike looked at Joe then back at me and then grabbed his crotch through his sweatpants. “Eat this, Trev! You got no imagination.”
I was going to say something back, something rude (and probably true) about the junk he was holding, in relation to his mom, but first I looked around to make sure no teacher was near.
The teacher’s assistant, a senior named Molly with straight as a razorblade light blond hair and big blue eyes, was looking up at us from over her clipboard. She was like one of those chicks in the commercials, you know, in the red convertible, sunglasses, laughing with her posse of friends who are also hot, but not quite as hot as the blond. Damn, I hate it how you get into those commercials until you find out they’re trying to sell you tampons or some shit and that all the girls are supposed to be on the rag but are still having fun. At that point I’m a little turned off, but I still watch the girls laugh and spray each other down with hoses and shit.
Where was I going with this? Oh, yeah, Molly. So, that girl, the gorgeous, popular girl that a fuck-up like me ought to be invisible to, was looking straight at yours truly. I’m thinking, I gotta say something!
I forgot about insulting Mike as I slid a few feet along the wall toward the T.A. who was sitting, one leg crossed over the other, in a foldout chair.
“You gonna run with us?” I’m pretty sure my voice cracked.
The corners of her perfect little mouth turned down a little and then she shook that beautiful head. “No, I’m not feeling up to it.”
“Are you sick or some shi—“ I caught myself. I wasn’t sure if I should use crass language when speaking to an older girl. “Uh, you got a cold or something?”
Everyone in the hallway was quiet. I could feel Mike, Joe and everyone else staring at us. After all, this was a freshman P.E. class, so even the girls never really talked to Molly.
“It’s just… It’s just a bad time right now,” she responded.
I slid another step toward her. “Really?”
Another moment of quiet.
“Period,” I barely heard Joe whisper from behind me. I turned around and noticed Judy, a chick with a face like a weasel, leaning against the wall smirking at me.
“Oh… Oh, well, OK, we’ll miss you.” I smiled while stuttering that out, but my face was burning.
So you see why I compared her to a girl in a maxi pad commercial?
Man I felt like a dumbass later on as I was jogging along in the cold wet.
We were running on the track today rather than on the streets. It was boring, but Mr. Erickson said it was safer to stay on the fenced-in field in this sort of weather.
She tells me she’s having her period? I know I’m a freshman, but doesn’t she care at all what I think? That shit is demoralizing.
OK, I understand what menstruation is, but I don’t get the point of it. Bleeding every month makes no sense at all and it’s sorta creepy. I imagined Molly sitting there, back in the gym hallway, on her foldout chair with her clipboard, just bleeding away.
I left Joe and Mike behind. They wanted to slack off and I felt like I needed to run off my shame.
There was a billboard advertising cigarettes visible through the high chain-linked fence and I used it to keep count of my laps. On it was a long-legged chick with trendy black hair. She was a little too skinny to truly be hot, but she beat looking at the fence. She was lying on an expensive looking couch, with her upper body propped up like I’d never seen anyone do in real life. She was probably lying there because she needed to eat. She had a slutty smile on her face. “You’ve come a long way, baby,” the ad said.
For the first lap, I checked out the small but perky breasts. Second lap, I slid my eyes down to her silk covered crotch, but that made me think about her bleeding there. That made me think about my little sister, although she was just a baby. She had been bleeding too, but she was bleeding for a reason, bleeding ‘cause my dumb-fuck mother couldn’t drive for shit.
I looked down from the billboard to the small puddles forming on the track. I kept the tears down. I wasn’t going to let that shit happen there.
Heather and Carla were walking up ahead. They’re goth chicks, which basically means they wear a ton of makeup, wear black all the time, and listened to whiney bitch music. Anyway, Heather, the skinnier one, was kinda hot.
They’re out here so I guess they’re not on the rag, I thought.
I quickened my pace so the girls would see how I was hauling ass as I passed. I looked back up at the billboard just as I went by so I could be all aloof, but then checked my feet to make sure I didn’t splash a puddle on them.
Something had changed with the sign. Was it the words? I looked back up.
“TALK TO THEM!” the sign said.
My knee buckled and I nearly fell forward. I turned my attention back to the track to keep from tripping and then checked the sign a second time.
“You’ve come a long way, baby,” it said.
Shit, I’m hallucinating again!
I had all but convinced myself that I had imagined that stuff in English class yesterday. Hell, last night, for once in my life, I cracked open my lit textbook at home. I totally searched the Canterbury Tales for the strange message. Nothing. Now I had seen another fuzzy twisty message on the billboard.
Talk to them.?Talk to who? Heather and Carla? I did a quick check behind me. There they were, chatting away as they swung their black ponytails back and forth with each step.
The billboard was burning a hole in the back of my head. I wanted to check it again, but was afraid to.
God knows what it might say.
God! Of course! Both the message from yesterday and today could be from God. Now I’ve never thought seriously about God. My mom went through a born-again phase and made me go to Sunday school for a while. This only lasted a few months, but from that little bit of time, I decided God had to be bullshit. According to the lessons, God was boring and on the occasions he wasn’t boring, he acted like an asshole.
A little like my dad actually, I realized. Maybe that’s what fathers were like back then too. Strangely, this last thought made the idea of God a little more likely.
But why would God want me to whistle in class and… and talk to chicks?
Oh hell no! Not God, but the devil! That made more sense. The devil is tempting me. Tempting me to disrupt the class. Tempting me to talk to girls!
I actually threw that idea out pretty quick. To me, the devil’s an even harder sell than God. Horns, pitchfork, and goat legs? Sounds like one of those sandal-wearing goat fuckers from the old days on a shroom trip.
Besides, if there’s a Devil, then there’s a God and why would God tolerate the devil’s nasty-ass?
By now I had finished another corner of the track and was again facing the billboard.
“You’ve come a long way, baby.” The sign said.
That was a relief.
So if it’s not God or the Devil, what? Science?
This semester I was taking an intro to psychology class. For some damn reason the football coach was teaching it, but once in a while when he got tired of going on and on about the “science of winning”, he’d read out loud something from the actual textbook we were supposed to be using.
So this guy named Freud started all that quack bullshit. He thought everyone had a subconscious, like a side of their mind they didn’t even know about. And this subconscious would, like, do its own thing. Freud would get patients to release their subconscious by talking about it on his couch while Freud beat off or whatever.
Which I guess is the point of this journal, right? To talk about shit? I guess my shrink believes in Freud. The problem with this as I see it, is that sick bastard Freud thought guys secretly wanted to do their moms! If I know anything, I know I’d rather cut my dick off with a meat cleaver than so much as see mom in the shower. I mean, that guy was literally a motherfucker, or wanted to be one. Why the hell should I listen to some dead motherfucker?
But then as I ran along, I got to wondering if I was repressing something after all and now I’m hallucinating about it. I mean hell, reading that Chaucer shit was boring. Maybe my subconscious wanted to break up the monotony with some whistling? And now my subconscious wants me to talk to the girls. That makes sense. That seemed like the kind of thing my subconscious wanting me to do.
But what do I do about it? I wondered. I slowed down to a walk. The PE teacher was standing nearby in the grass just off the track, a whistle draped around his wrinkly neck.
“Mr. Erickson, what happens if you… if you suppress your subconscious?”
Mr. Erickson looked at me like he’d heard it before and then sighed. “Back to running Mr. Waverly.”
I sped up. Heather and Carla were coming up again.
“TALK TO THEM! TALK TO YOUR FEMALES! DO IT NOW!
The words blurred and shifted through the drizzle.
It’s just my subconscious! It’s just my subconscious! Freud, let me go! Release me from your sick-ass grip!
Just then, I noticed I was about to lap Joe and Mike. I slowed down to stay in step with them. “Hey, what does that sign say?” I pointed up at the billboard.
“It says ‘Hi, I’m Trevor’s mom and I like to suck—‘”
“Shut the fuck up Mike, I’m serious!”
“Jesus T-bagger, I knew you were retarded, but thought you at least knew how to read,” Joe said.
“Ugghhh, it shifted back again!” I said after checking the sign.
“Dude, are you having a seizure or something?” Joe asked. “Maybe you should slow down. You’ve been running around this track like a hamster on crack.”
I shook my head, “Fuck it, never mind. Hey, what do you guys think about Heather? I was thinking of asking her out or something.”
“Really?” Joe’s eyebrows raised up. “I don’t know… I’m not into Goth bitches, but maybe you want to get into some of that kinky biting shit?”
“Yeah, only fags date Goths, dude,” Mike joined in.
“Yeah, Goths are like ‘Never mind your little fag dick, just read me some Edgar Allen Poe’ and shit.” Joe laughed.
“Come on, she’s not even wearing that much white shit on her face,” I argued. “She never does on days we’re supposed to run.” I knew better. Defending these girls would only get Mike and Joe really going.
“Seriously Trev? Are you actually keeping track of her makeup regimen? You gonna give her a makeover for your first date?” Joe asked.
“No, it’s just that she probably knows we run on Tuesdays and so she lays off the makeup on Tuesdays.“
“What kind of Goth plans out their day like that?” Mike asked. “Shouldn’t they be on drugs, committing suicide or something?”
“Anyway, I’m going to talk to her,” I said.
“Well bitch, you’ve got my blessing. Just don’t ask Carla out by mistake,” Joe said.
“Yeah, Carla’s fill’n out those shorts a little too good,” Mike tilted his head up the track.
“Fo’ real,” Joe agreed. “No one fantasizes about a fat vampire crawling on all fours at yeah.”
The two of them laughed and high-fived while I started running to catch up to Heather and Carla.
I’ll do what you ask Freud, just make it stop. Don’t make me crazy!
I slowed up next to the girls, took a deep breath and nearly shouted. “Hello there, fine females!”
I had never said anything like that before. I must’ve gotten the “female” thing from Freud’s billboard.
Startled, their heads jerked around to watch the yeller.
Heather, who was walking nearest me, straightened up her back, gave me a funny look and said, “Hi there, strange male.”
“I’m here to give you my number,” I announced like it was what they’d been waiting their whole lives for.
“Oh my God, you want to give us both your number?” Heather asked.
I nodded with less confidence than I had intended. Shit, I’m asking them both out! That’s not good. They think I’m a perv, plus Carla’s fat. Freud, you motherfucker!
“What makes you think we want your number?” Carla asked.
“Well… ‘cause I want to take one of you delightful ladies out to a movie… A movie you want to go to, even, like a romantic comedy or some shit.”
Heather laughed. “Romantic comedy? Barf.” She shook her head. “Besides my boyfriend might not approve.”
“Boyfriend? Sure well, that’s why I’m giving you my number instead of the other way around. You call me when you’re available,” I paused dramatically and then said, “I’m willing to wait for a good thing.”
Freud, what are you making me say? Now they’re going to think I’m a homo.
Both of the girl’s mouths hung open for a second, looked at each other with some kinda secret girl expression, and then they shared themselves a good laugh. Heather turned back and looked me straight in the eye. “I seem to have forgotten my little black book and pen in my locker.”
I felt like I was being spoken through, like I was that little girl in the Exorcism, “Between the two of you, you’ll remember. Heather, you memorize the first three digits and Carla, you remember the last four.”
The girls were silent for a moment which said to me they were cool with the plan. I then gave them my number, three digits and then four. I made them repeat it back to me twice, which made them say shit like “Do you think we’re stupid?”
With that deed done, I thanked the girls and began running again.
Ok Freud, I did what you asked. Now fuck off.