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Ketch Creeley
Adult Wyrm
Adult Wyrm


Joined: 03 Jun 2014
Posts: 207
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2015 2:39 pm    Post subject: Spin Reply with quote

(This post is in response to the Come One, Come All playable and serves as a companion piece to the Takedown SL.)

Wake up.

Not his house, not his bed, not his sheets, not his leg. Thoughts stumble over each other before his vision is fully cleared of sleep. There’s a leg wrapped around another one. The one that’s his but not his. The other is pale, needs a shave, pricks his--no, Terence’s--calf right where it meets the ankle. Janine. Also not his. Terence’s girlfriend. She runs her hand down his spine and he rolls to his side, finds the back of her thigh.

He makes an appearance every couple of days. Shows up at the door with groceries, with booze, with dinner, with fatigue, just like Terence. Slings an arm around her shoulders, says look at you, look at you, sight for sore eyes, just like Terence. Took her addled mom to a doctor’s appointment once. The lady babbled about lace slips and train yards, thin skin under her neck sagging and swaying like crepe. Forgotten, old. Made him think of blank walls and birthday parties that no one ever showed up to and he wasn’t sure whose memory that was, but it sure as *** wasn’t his. More bad news from the doc with an expression like he’s perpetually wearing a surgical mask: nothing happens below the bridge of his nose. You have to look at the eyes to read him only to see the news is even worse. Janine cried when he met her after her shift, standing under the awning of the strip mall wearing an expression that was also not his: regret, sympathy. Racing engines in the jetport nearby while a fat grey tear slid down her cheek. *** he was terrible at tears but better than Terence. He cupped her face in his hands when he said, “There’s nothing else to do.” Terence wouldn’t have done that. He shouldn’t have, but she looked so goddamn grateful afterwards.

He likes her. Or he feels sorry for her. Or both. It’s a weird mix. He doesn’t want to. He can’t wait to never see her again. Soon.

*******

He doesn’t know why he suggests the carnival except maybe it feels a little like penitence because he can sense things winding down with Terence, a psychic brownout like spots at the edge of his vision. What will Janine do without him? With her sad confusion and her *** job slinging turnip greens and overcooked roast in the cafeteria and her mother becoming an afterthought of a person. Best not to get tangled up in those thoughts. It would have been easier had this whole undertaking not stretched out so long. He’s too easily thrown off by his own dichotomy lately, forgets which is which, what is what, whose is whose. Best not to think much on that, either.

Janine wears a paisley sundress with thin straps that sag in the deep valley beneath her collarbone. He wears Terence (broken in now) settling into the bad knee, the thumb that constantly jams, the faint ache around the ankle. He wards off any sense of comfort by sorting through the bitter shards of the man’s memories and leaving the nostalgia alone.

The midway is bright and boisterous, lights splashing rainbows across Janine’s face while his thumb haunts that dark shadow beneath the strap of her dress just how she likes. “What’ll it be: ferris wheel? Teacups? Pony ride?” That last one is a tease. She can tell by the way his mouth flinches into a reluctant smile and she ducks her head under his chin, pushes up against it before pulling him towards the carousel, looking back at him over her shoulder to make sure he’s still there, make sure he’s still himself because lately she feels like she’s looking at someone or something else; like a photograph blurred in development, he’s just outside the lines of himself. He never hit her, not with his hands, but his words sometimes came at her like a fist and it’s less frequent recently, and softer like an open-handed smack that she doesn’t trust entirely but doesn’t want to question either because she likes the eyes that look back at her across the bed or the table or now, on the midway, with the light from the Funhouse so aggressively bright on one side of his face that she can count all the places his nose has been broken.

“Carousel,” she says and bumps up against his hip to nudge him in that direction, a swaying pair of lovers on a date. It’s not her fault, it’s not her fault; this is the train track of thought his mind is chugging along. There's a shadow shaped like the last five years offset to the left of his vision. Don’t look. “Fine, fine,” he says and drums his fingers on the top of her head then hands over his tickets at the gate, eyeing the disclaimer affixed with a wry smile that fades fast when he grips a wooden mane painted fuschia and orange and swings up on the circular platform. Beneath his hand the wood is too warm, tongues of fire speaking to the lines of his palm in a language he doesn’t understand but recognizes as dangerous. He steps off the platform abruptly. “You go ahead,” he says, releasing Janine’s hand as she wraps one arm around the neck of a swan that reminds her of a music box she had as a kid. Nothing more than old memories in it for her, he can tell, and when she pouts at him he relents, steps back up again and looks for something a little less mouthy than that pink-painted horse. The tortoise looks docile enough. Janine laughs at way the broad-shelled back of the reptile emphasizes the shortness of his legs. It’s a laugh of temporary forgetfulness or faith, and he hopes it’s worth the ride. Jaw clenches tight as the music lurches into the air, hand in a white-knuckled grip on the pole. The tortoise bobs its head upward and from the corner of his eye Janine’s smile is haloed golden in twinkle lights. He pats the back of the mottled shell once, runs a superstitious index finger in the grooves between plates. Be quiet, his fingers are coaxing the softly jabbering wood beneath, heart hammering a jackrabbit taunt. But tortoises, he remembers too late, are patient. And stubborn. His mind empties out and is filled up again with fire. The immolation is slow, painful, and cleansing.


***********************

Janine wants cotton candy and a funnel cake. This expressed with doe eyes as she jumps from the ride with one last caress along the swan’s graceful black neck. “Go ahead, I’m going to ride again,” he says, and Janine’s fingertips linger on a carved feather a half second longer. He's sweating profusely and the eyes looking back at her are the old, three-weeks-ago ones. The ones that have lead and percussion caps behind them. She doesn’t understand, gives him a smile, hesitant like a toe scuffed in the dirt or a glance aside. “It’s peaceful,” he tries again, unconvincing and then a command wrapped in the deception of compromise: “I’ll meet you at the milk bottles, win you something that won’t fit through the door.” Aim at the bottom of the bottles, not the top. He's not sure who tells him that, but he doesn't question it. He's already handing his tickets over and settling atop the tortoise again to see if lightning strikes twice. Janine disappears into the surf of humanity, following the scent of butter, grease, and cotton candy. Her slight figure hardly registers among so much color and the loneliness of that makes him look away.

He rides five more times, enough that the girl taking tickets starts looking at him like she's taking more of an interest in his face than the hand that holds the ticket. The last go round, he meets her eyes in silent, steady accusation.

***************************

Janine’s mother’s breath smells of toothpaste over meatballs and sour. It comes at slow, steady, moist intervals. Janine gave her the master bedroom after her first diagnosis and took the closet-sized guest room instead. Terence couldn't understand this, the woman couldn't remember *** anyway. What'd it matter where she slept? But Janine insisted it was a due kindness.

This is not something he's done in awhile. Months, weeks, years? Days? Instinct has his hands itching at her throat but muscle memory recalls high rises and country estates, that poly-filled is better than feathers, that the death knell brings an unprecedented burst of strength and it’s best to clench knees around the waist rather than the hips and even better if you catch them with all their limbs under the covers so you don't have to worry about defensive wounds. It feels like returning to a kinder era considering some of the convoluted *** he got into later. There are other options, too: the hammer in toolkit in the laundry room, a knife, the chain lock for Janine’s bike, a newspaper, a sock and a chunk of concrete. Years past, memories, other voices have trained him to see everything as a potential weapon and his catalog unfolds rapidly once he’s opened the throttle that way. Kindness, cruelty. He thinks about this as he outlines the old woman's face beneath the pillow, hands pushing firm until he can see a shallow indention where her mouth gapes uselessly against the cotton pillowcase. Thin concepts, really, and promiscuous in their interchangeability with perception and time. Unreliable and subjective. Pointless. He changes his mind at the last minute, throws the pillow aside and grabs for her jaw and the back of her head, his fingers in her open mouth, firm on molars before she realizes it and then a sharp right upward twist. Less suffering and more clear cut answer for the questions that will come. Whose decision was that? The truth is, he’s not sure.

Does it matter then which notion guides him? Does it matter that there is money enough in the old woman's policy to provide for Janine for five lean-living years if it's not cashed in and relegated to medical care for a lost cause? Or that he equally considered subjecting Janine to the same treatment that the woman beneath him is receiving? Or that he's not appalled at his own behavior or of the way he leans forward to listen and feel for her breath, riveted as ever by how dearly, dearly some will struggle to hold onto their life. Some of these are his thoughts, and some are not, but he’s hard-pressed to figure out which is which at the moment. Someone's counting down in his head, some know-it-all voice like a finger drawn slowly across the fabric of his mind. It rankles and then he realizes it's his own, not Terence's. Likewise, the hands splayed on the mattress are also his. ***’s getting confusing and not just in his thought processes. He runs a hand across his jaw. Terence's, not his. Standing up, he smooths out the covers, fluffs the pillow and sets it back by the old lady’s head, tenderly arranging her on her side. Stands in front of the full length on the back of her door until he settles in again, then closes the door gently behind him. Crams himself back in the full-sized bed, tip of his nose buried deep in the nape of Janine's neck inhaling the warm, sleepy scent of her skin. Eyes closed tight enough he can pretend, pretend, pretend for one more hour before he rises and leaves it all behind.
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