1. from another ancient story, probably the part i liked best. the rest is sort of irrelevant…

     

  2. Ithica and the Pack of Wolves

    ** note: this is a story written back around 2010, posted here so it won’t be lost. **

    In the darkness of the Black City, Ithica and four children climbed to the highest rooftop on the Westend neighborhood. Below them, there were only spotted light. Candle flames. Battery powered electric glows. There were forced transactions of cable lines, splintering through the few windows where people still lived. Re-routed television programs. Overhead lamps. Microwaves that still worked for minutes at a time.

    Clocks that still blinked the 12:00 hour each and every single moment of the day.

    Ithica and the pack of Wolves sat with their legs crossed, their bodies slanted into one another. Fingertips touching thighs, chins resting on shoulders and the smallest boy crawled into Itchica’s lap, the laces of his sneakers undone. On the left side were the teenage twins. On the right was the middle brother and in the center sat the youngest and Ithica, not a mother but a babysitter and their only hope for a sister one day.

    They all sat and watched the city underneath them. Too high up to tell what was going on. Somewhere below them, the oldest of the Wolves was, Mathias, working hard to save their mother’s skin. It had begun peeling in the mid-afternoon sun and no one understood why. Radiation. Eastend Sickness. It could have been anything. It could have been everything. Mathias wasn’t a doctor but a scientist. A biochemist. Or he would have been.

    If there were universities in the Black City.

    They all knew their mother would have settled for a smile before her death.
    They also all knew Mathias wouldn’t have anything of it.

    So they said nothing about it.

    “Mathias says you’re trying to get away…” The youngest Wolf said, looking up. He had bucked teeth that popped out over his slender lips. Dark eyes like all his brother’s had. He was nine years old and his name was Jeremy. He had the longest eyelashes of them all.

    “I’m not trying to get away…” Ithica mumbled but all their eyes were on her. The twins blinking in sucession, each hiding behind the long hair that clung in their faces. The middle Wolf who looked least like the rest of them, his nose elegant and upturned. “I just…I just need to find someone.” She stammered.

    “Mathias says you’re looking for the Fox.” Jeremy chimed again, his small body squirming against her legs.

    “And you only go looking for the Fox if you’re looking to get away.” One of the twins broke in. Jonas. He shoved a strand of greybrown hair behind his ear. “So if you’re looking for the Fox…”

    “You’re looking to get away…” The other twin finished. Ivan. Still hidden, his eyes seeming like they were shut.

    Ithica, though, was silent. She brought her hands to her sides, fingertips brushing the gravel and tar. It was cool in the midnight air.

    “No…” She finally whispered. “It’s not that at all. I’m looking for the Fox — for Etienne, because I knew him once. A long, long time ago. And I need to see him again. You wouldn’t understand…”

    And the pack of Wolves thought on it. Their heads casted downwards to the city. Their forgotten home. The broken up streets. The falling apart houses. Somewhere down there Mathias was looking up. Somewhere down there their mother was dying. The wolves were just children and they knew it. The world was too much. There would always be things they’d never understand.

    And when told that, the Wolves would always turn quiet. Suck on their teeth. None of them said anything at all. Only Aidien, the middle child took in a breath. It hung in the air, pointless. Afraid. A collective thought come together in a single swish of breeze.

    It was rare, but it happened, when the brothers all thought exactly the same.

    “You’re not going to be our sister, are you?”

    And the city stopped, waiting.
    Waiting.

    “No.”

    It shot her as she said it, sending her back, leaning onto her elbows and eyes to the star-splattered sky. Around her each of the boys struggled not to let out a cry. The paleness in Mathias’ eyes suddenly explained. The devotion to the sick mother. The desire to heal.

    And every soft breath they’d ever known, Ithica’s, their mother’s, was falling away. And it had never seemed clearer that the pack of Wolves would be alone at last. Just them. Mathias and Jonas and Ivan and Aidien and Jeremy. The boys. The brothers.

    Lost in the Black City. The city that got it’s name from the lack of light.

    They’d tumble down too. Hit cement. Be forgotten.

    “So when do you leave?” Jeremy asked, in his quiet child voice. He settled still on Ithica’s lap, head leaning low to hide his tears. They sounded only on the ends of his words with a tiny sniffle. The sound of his hand against his nose.

    “Soon.” Ithica said. “Maybe tomorrow. Maybe the day after that…It’s north and far from here. It may take some time. I haven’t been there since I was a little girl…” She paused. “And it’s the Fox. And hardly anyone finds him…”

    She frowned to the night sky and closed her dark eyes.

    “And if you come back…” Jeremy tried again.

    “I don’t know if I’ll be coming back….”

    The boys let out a sigh together. Unable to face one another. Each looking up. Or down. Left or right.

    “Figures…” Ivan murmured. “No matter what, you’re looking for the Fox…”
    “And not matter what…” Jonas continued. “You’re trying to get away…”

    And around them the night continued. The Black City flashed the only way it could. Underneath them, far away from the rooftops the channels were changing and the lights were tinkering on and off. The people always remained. There was nowhere else to go. Deadend city. Deadend lives. They all knew it when they plugged their lamps in. Sucked their energy dry.

    Everything was borrowed. Time. Light. Love. Sewn together connections and
    Ithica and the pack of Wolves.

     

  3. Study: Duality

    Danilo stood in the bathroom, wiping his nose. Each time he pulled his hand away, more blood seemed to coagulate on his fingers. Carter could see the frustration begin to settle around the corners of his eyes, the way his skin pinched in and his eyelids went heavy.

    “What the hell did you do to get your nose punched in? Again.” Carter was calm. The situation was nothing new. It happened too often. From his spot sitting on the toilet seat, he reached over and turned the water on and unraveled some toilet paper to wet it, holding it out for Danilo with practice.

    “Said something stupid,” Danilo murmured. “You know the sort of thing I always do.” He flared his nostrils, rubbing the skin until he was satisfied. He washed the blood from his fingers and took the offered toilet paper delicately, wiping between the bottom of his nose and his lip. “Sorry, I’m such a mess.”

    “It’s okay. I’ve mastered getting blood out of the tile grout in this place.” Carter gave the best smile he could. Keeping humor about all the blood loss was the only way he could deal with it all. Danilo turned to him, the corner of his lip turned up in an approximation of a smile.

    “You’re good, Carter.”

    “I try to be.”

    “You’re way too good for me.” Danilo turned back to the mirror and dabbed once again under his nose. The bleeding seemed to have stopped. “Better than I ever could be.”

    Dean DeCosta leaned forward into the bathroom mirror as a thin line of blood made it’s way down his face, threatening to spill sideways into his pursed lips. To Carter Cameron, sitting on the toilet seat, the scene felt familiar. He said nothing about it though and just turned the sink on, peeling toilet paper from the roll. It was a mechanical response.

    “That fucking guy didn’t have to hit me,” Dean said, pulling his nose upwards to take a look inside. His face was nearly pressed into the mirror glass, body hunched over the sink that was dotted with blood.

    “And what made him think he could do it?” Carter offered the piece of paper out, elbow balanced on the sink edge. He stared up into Dean’s face, the edges of his jaw, the way his lips still had a bit of a smile to them, even when he was frowning. He looked tired, deep, dark circles were starting to appear under his eyes. There had been too many long nights in a row.

    “I guess ‘cause I was painting on the side of his wall.” Dean shrugged. He took the paper Carter had and dabbed his nose, staring into it when he pulled away.

    “Oh, well, you know, just some casual disrespect of property?” Carter held back a laugh.

    “No, apparently he just only lets North Hollow kids paint on his shit. He has no taste.”

    “Heathen,” Carter clucked. “Well, I’m just glad you didn’t punch him back.”

    “I’m stupid, but, I’m not that stupid.” Dean balled up the little wet napkin and dropped it into the sink, putting his hand out for another piece. Understanding, Carter ripped off a dry bit and pressed it into his palm.

    “You’re good, Carter.” Dean said, glancing at the paper napkin in his head and then to Carter, shaking his head.

    “I guess.” Carter murmured, a shiver running through his body. Too familiar.

    “I’m a lucky cat,” Dean laughed. He rubbed the tissue under his nose, spreading the red stain all over his skin. His nose seemed to have stopped bleeding. “The city’s going to shit, but, at least I have you.”

     

  4. Untitled #1

    It was late evening on the day after they held the first funeral and Arianette sat in what was left of Canyon Bay, her legs crossed over the rubble from disfigured houses and apartment buildings. All of it had been something once. Something tangible. The remains meant nothing to her, just reminders of atomic blasts in history books, of fire and brimstone of Bibles. Tall tales from sources she never trusted. Lies told with a cunning consistency.

    She trusted nothing. No one. Only Kennedy.

    He stood halfway across the gulf of broken glass, examining what seemed to be the leftovers of a party. Streamers, broken and burnt, littered what seemed to be a doorway, a deflated balloon sat by itself atop everything else. Kennedy frowned at it, like he had no idea what it was.

    “It’s how people celebrated once,” she called out to him and Kennedy looked up at her with a tilt of his head. Arianette hated how his memory came in and out in spurts and sputters, how he forgot the simplest things and remembered the most complex, how he shattered things and then simply forget. Ignorance mistaken for deceit, bouts of violence mistaken for a cold heart. “You know, a party?”

    He shrugged and picked up the remains of the balloon. It was red, waxy in the sun. He crunched it in his palm, elegant long fingers curving over it.

    “Never been to one of those,” he called back in return, still holding tight.

    “We had one last year, for my birthday.” It pained her to speak.

    “We did?” Kennedy let the balloon slip from his hand, back into the mess that had been someone’s life. “I think I would have remembered that.”

    “We ate cake and sang a few songs. Hung up a banner on the old willow tree I had out back, in the old place I rented, you know which one.”

    “We kissed on the roof at that place, right?”

    She smiled, even though it hurt.

    “Yeah.”

    “I remember that place. I remember the color of clay.” Kennedy nodded again and went back to stepping over the pieces of broken furniture, the legs from tables and the blown out fabric swatches muddied over. “Red, like blood,” he whispered. “Clay.”

    “Yeah, that’s the place.”

    Arianette stood up and stretched her arms out as high above her head as she could, wiggling her fingertips to the sun. It beat down in waves and heat patterns she couldn’t predict. Hotter than it had been the year before, but, cooler than it would get before summer would be over.

    The place she mentioned was a street and a half down, but, she decided to let it pass. Telling Kennedy about it would just rile him up and she had to be so careful with him, more careful than he knew he needed. The was didn’t need him losing himself in the realization.

    Instead, she watched the dismemberment of the neighborhood captivate him. There was a look of wonder in his eyes, blue-green like glass from shattered kitchenware as he plucked different objects out of the nothingness and held them to the sun before giving up on them and moving on in a breath.

    Arianette had loved the neighborhood. If she had known it was going to fall, she wouldn’t have left. She might have let herself go up in smoke and dust with it too. It was the first place she was able to stand up on her own, where she caught everything she would eventually lose. It was where she met Kennedy, it was where he still was whole. It felt like an entire lifetime ago.

    The first funeral was impossible, a task she forced herself through. Every single one after that was one she wouldn’t, couldn’t attend. They would last a week and would feel like forever. She didn’t enough sadness left inside of her for it. The first one had to be good enough, no one was watching anyway.

    Kennedy came jumping back towards her, leaping over the street sign that lay mangled between them.

    “Do you think we could have cake like they do at parties?” He asked, nibbling at his lips. “I was thinking something with strawberries.”

    “I’m sure we can pick one up somewhere, if you really want.”

    He nodded, looking back to the fallen party. “I don’t think they were able to finish theirs.”

    “No, they weren’t.” She followed Kennedy’s sight before closing her eyes.

    “How are you so sure?” Kennedy asked, thrusting his hands into his pockets. He must have leaned back on his feet and then forward again, as Arianette could hear the clicks against the pavement, the continual movement he had to have. She opened her eyes again and the house was still there, almost forgotten in the impending dusk except for what she remembered of it.

    “The first funeral was for the birthday boy,” she mumbled.

    And she wished that he didn’t have to keep telling Kennedy everything over and over again. Reliving it over and over again. Each time. Every time. But wishes worked the same way as broken balloons did, shiny hopes that never had the chance of going anywhere.

    “Oh,” was all Kennedy said. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

    “So am I.”