The table was empty, and by no means was that strange. In fact, Alan couldn’t remember the last time there were bodies warming the seats that surrounded the old dusty relic. It had once been a gathering place for meals, conversations, games, extended family. Now it sat barren and lifeless, a cold reminder of a life once enjoyed.
Alan sat down in the chair at the far end, dropping his plate of microwaved spaghetti carelessly onto the table. He cracked open a can of Coors Light and took down half of it. He spun some noodles around his fork and stared blankly past his plate. He wondered how long someone could survive on pasta and shitty beer. It had kept him alive for the past six months, but God knew he couldn’t do it much longer.
As he loaded some noodles into his mouth, Alan remembered how life had been before Shea left. Left probably wasn’t the right word, but Alan was still too sober to think about that. He was better off without her. But damn he missed her cooking. Alan swallowed hard as the dry, defiant noodles clung to the walls of his throat. He gulped down the rest of his beer and felt the starchy lump slide down into his stomach. He got up to grab another beer. When he returned to his seat, he cracked it open, took a healthy chug, and thought about how he and Shea had met.
It had been a few years ago on a cloudy November morning, memorable because the forecast had called for rain. This was somewhat of a rarity for southern California which had been experiencing a harsh drought. It had left the ground parched and the water bills high. Alan decided he would go for walk. The cool weather was a treat and it had put him in a pleasant mood. As he turned away from his front door, making sure to lock it, he noticed a woman standing across the street. She was flicking her lighter over and over again, trying to light her cigarette. It produced nothing but sparks.
“Need a light?” Alan offered as he crossed the street. He held out a lighter that he had fished from his pocket.
“Thanks,” she said, taking the lighter from his hand. She lit her cigarette first try. “I’m Shea,” she said, handing him back the lighter.
“Alan,” he replied with a smile. “Are you walking this way?”
She looked in the direction he was pointing. “That’s right.”
“Do you mind if I walk with you?”
Shea eyed him up and down while taking a long drag of her cigarette. She blew the smoke up into the air above his head.
“I guess,” she said with a shrug.
The two walked together along the empty streets. The clouds grew darker above their heads and a breeze started to pick up. Rain seemed close at hand.
“So where are you headed?” Alan asked.
“Nowhere in particular. And even if I was, what makes you think I’d tell you?”
“Just a question. Seems like a gloomy day for a walk.”
“Well where are you headed?” Shea added with some attitude.
“I guess nowhere in particular.”
“Hmm, gloomy day for a walk,” she mocked with a hint of a smile.
Alan liked her don’t-give-a-fuck sort of attitude. It was complimented by her sleeve of tattoos and her dark eye makeup. She left a little smear of red lipstick on the butt her cigarette after every puff.
“Well if you’re interested, I’d be happy to buy you a coffee or something.” Alan offered.
“Make it a beer and I’d be very interested.”
Alan scraped the remainder of the noodles into a little pile on his plate. He scooped them up, put them in his mouth, and chased them with the rest of his beer. I should have known right from the start, he thought to himself, she was nothing but trouble. As he made his way to the fridge for another beer, he remembered those early times with Shea.
“Not bad,” Shea remarked as they laid next to each other in Alan’s bed. They were both breathing heavily and had beads of sweat sticking to their foreheads. Alan looked over at Shea as she stared at the ceiling.
“Not bad at all,” he replied. “Glad I ran into you today.”
“I’m sure you are.” She said, still staring at the ceiling.
Alan laid in silence, not sure how to respond to that. Shea sat up, letting the covers slide down into her lap, revealing even more tattoos on her bare back. She slid off of the bed, picked up her panties from the floor, and put them on slowly. She knew Alan was watching.
“I’ve got to go.” She said as she wrangled up the rest of her outfit from around the room.
“Oh. You’re um… you’re welcome to stay for a bit if you want.”
“That’s alright,” she said as she slid on her coat and walked towards Alan. She leaned in closely to his face. “Thanks for the fuck,” she whispered and then kissed him hard on the lips. She made her way to the door, stopped, and reached into her purse. She pulled out a little white card and tossed it in Alan’s direction. It landed on the foot of the bed. “Call me.” she said and left the room.
Alan took a seat on the couch with his freshly opened beer and turned on the TV. The news was on. He watched as an anchorwoman reported the latest developments on the story she was covering. Alan wasn’t really listening though. His mind was still stuck on Shea. She may have been a crazy bitch, he thought, but damn was the sex good. He had called Shea a few days after their first encounter and the two met up for drinks. Once again, the night had ended in Alan's bedroom. A few weeks went by and they slowly became a couple. By the end of the first month, Shea had moved in with him. Everything had happened so fast—and Alan could see that now—but when you’re caught up in the thralls of love, thoughtful decision making seems to take a back seat. Alan continued to stare at TV and knock back gulps of beers. He slowly became lost in a world of alcohol induced memories.
“What do you mean you’ll think about it?” Shea asked in frustration. “I’ll have nowhere to sleep when the landlord finally tosses my ass out. I sleep here most nights anyways.”
“I know, I get that.” Alan responded. “It’s just that having my own space is good for me and there’s not much room to begin with. Adding you and all your stuff will really cramp the place up.”
“But don’t you care about me?”
“Of course I do.”
“So why would you want to see me thrown out into the street?”
“You know I don’t want that—”
“Well that’s what’s gonna happen!” Shea cut him off, starting to yell. “If you won’t let me stay here, I’m just gonna have to find somewhere else to go. I know lots of nice guys down on the south side, they would be glad to have me sleep in their bed.”
“Whoa, calm down. I don’t want you staying at some other guy’s house.”
Shea stared at Alan with a look of seduction—she knew she had him. She walked towards him slowly looking him in the eyes. She reached out her hand, grabbed between his legs, and started whispering into his ear. Alan tried to speak but could only stutter. “I… I guess… uh-huh… yeah, we could try it out and… and see what happens.”
“Thank you, baby.” Shea said as she let go of him and pulled away from his ear. “It’ll be fun,” she said with a crooked smile. “I’ll make it worth your while.” With that, Shea pulled Alan into their new bedroom and showed him exactly what she meant.
She certainly knew how to get what she wanted, Alan thought to himself as he got up off of the couch. He was five beers deep now and needed to take a piss. Alan had known when Shea was taking advantage of him, but he still couldn’t say no. For almost three years their relationship was like this—Alan sacrificing his home, his time, his money, even his happiness at times, so that Shea could get what she wanted. But if he was being honest with himself, Alan was getting what he wanted as well: good sex, delicious meals, and a relationship—if you could call it that.
Alan made his way from the toilet to the fridge for another beer, bracing a few stumbles with the help of the walls. He cracked open his sixth, tossed back his head, and chugged the entire can before letting out a monstrous belch. He tossed the empty can towards the trash and grabbed a fresh one. Popping it open, he found his way back to the couch. The news story continued to unfold on the TV.
He had figured out Shea’s game early on, but decided—was it a decision?—to go along with it for a while. Once things got comfortable however, he was stuck and he knew it. He would probably still be with her if it wasn’t for what she did. Alan may have been a bit of a pushover, but he wasn’t pathetic. He wasn’t going to give her what she wanted that time, no sir. Alan took a few hefty swallows of his beer and thought about that night.
“Shea?” Alan called as he walked in the door. He heard some music coming from his bedroom. He walked down the hall, and found the door locked. He put his ear against it and listened as the faint sound of moaning and bouncing bed springs finally reached him. A cold shot of adrenaline rushed through his body. That whore! Alan took a step back, lifted his leg, and sent out a powerful kick. The door swung open and crashed against the wall with surprising force. Shea, who was on top of another man, shot her head back in his direction. Alan just stood there, staring in disbelief.
“Baby!” Shea said as she slid off of the stranger. “I thought you were staying at—”
Before she could finish her statement, Alan stepped forward, grabbed her by the arm, and threw her against the wall. Her head hit first and she dropped to the floor, unconscious.
“What the fuck, bro?!” the man in Alan’s bed yelled. Alan grabbed a vase off the nightstand. He swung it with all his strength at the man’s head and connected. The vase shattered, sending shards of glass flying around the room like confetti. The man let out a yell of pain and put his hands to his face, blood already beginning to seep from the gashes. Alan was in a fit of rage. He picked up a shard of glass off the bed and sent it deep into the man’s neck. The man tried to fight back but soon lost strength as his blood splashed the walls and splattered Alan’s face.
As the man gave way into a heavy lifeless mass, Alan looked around the room at what he had done. The adrenaline was starting to wear off and fear started to creep in. Blood covered the bed sheets. Shea lay naked on the floor. Gripped with fear, Alan got to work quickly. He dragged both bodies into the garage, tossed them in his truck bed, and covered them with tarps. Then he climbed into the driver’s seat and took off towards the hills.
With seven beers down, Alan decided that some scotch would be a nice break from the carbonated monotony of piss water he’d been binge drinking. He made his way to the liquor cabinet and pulled down an old dusty bottle. He grabbed what looked to be the cleanest glass from the mountain of dirty dishes in his sink, filled it about halfway to the top, and returned to his spot on the couch. He listened as the anchorwoman rattled off some recent developments. A group of policemen were setting up caution tape around the apparent crime scene in the background. Alan knocked back a couple hard swallows of scotch.
Just then, Alan’s ears caught what sounded like the front door being unlocked and creaking open. He sat up and looked towards the direction of the door, his view blocked by the kitchen wall. He sat their silently, listening for any movement. He heard the door shut.
“Who’s there?” He announced with insecure authority.
There was no answer.
“I said,” Alan began, trying to steady his quivering voice. “who’s in my house?”
Alan pushed up off the couch and slowly made his way towards the front door. He rounded the corner and what he saw made him flinch. Shea—or what was left of her—stood there naked. Her hair was a tangled mess of matted dirt and dreads that fell wildly in every direction. Her skin was blotchy and pale. It clung tightly to her cheek bones and turned grey around her sunken eyes. She was covered in festering wounds exposing tendons and muscle fibers. Coagulated blood gathered around her nose and mouth. Her eyes were filmy and glossed over like a frosty window. She was wearing bright red lipstick and held a pistol in one hand. In the other, she held a cigarette.
“Hey baby,” she said with a vengeful smile. “It’s good to see you.”
Alan stared in disbelief. He had buried her months ago. “How—”
“Did you miss me?” she asked as she raised the cigarette to her mouth and put it between her lips. Despite her mangled look, Alan still found her strangely attractive. He loved the way her red lips looked when they were closed tightly around a fresh white cigarette. She took it from her mouth and aimed her pistol at Alan’s face. “Got a light?”
There was ear-splitting bang and Alan collapsed onto the floor, a pool of blood grew quickly beneath his head.
“What do we got, Martinez?” Detective Connors asked as he made his way into the house.
“A white male—Mr. Alan Brown, age thirty-one. It was a single shot that did him in. The bullet entered between his eyes and exited through the back of his skull,” Martinez explained as they approached the body.
“Did we find the bullet?”
“Yes, sir. And the weapon. It’s there in his hand.”
“Any signs of a struggle or forced entry?”
“None. The door was locked when we arrived. Neighbor said she heard nothing but the gunshot. According to her, Alan here had become a bit of a recluse. She hadn’t seen him in months, or his skanky little girlfriend, as she put it.’’
“Did the neighbor happen to know what the girlfriend’s skanky little name was?” Connors asked.
“Yeah, said her name was Shea. Take a look at this.” Martinez motioned for Connors to follow. He led him to a table and pointed to a piece of paper. It was held down by a glass of scotch. Connors looked it over. It had a single line of text written on it.
“Once again, that bitch is going to get what she wanted.” Connors read aloud. “See you in hell, Shea.” He let out an inquisitive grunt. “Interesting suicide note.”
“It appears to be.” Martinez agreed.
“Whoever Shea was must have really fucked with this guy’s head. Let’s see if we can find out who she is and get in touch with her.”
“Will do, sir.”
Connors looked up towards the TV, noticing it for the first time.
“It was on when we arrived,” Martinez said. “Same story they’ve been playing all day.
Found a couple bodies buried up in the hills off the old fire road. Say they’ve been there for months.”
Connors moved towards the screen and listened.
“Authorities are still working to uncover the identity of both victims,” the anchorwoman explained, “the male victim is still unidentified, but they have confirmed the identity of the female victim: twenty-eight year old Shea Evans. They say her tattoos were the biggest aid in the identification process...”
Connors looked back at Martinez, eyebrows raised, “You think that’s our Shea?”
“I’m going to go notify the detective working on that case. Keep up the good work, Martinez.”
“There’s just one more thing, sir.” Martinez said as Connors headed for the door.
“We also found this,” Martinez said as he held up a clear bag labeled, Evidence.
Connors walked back towards Martinez and took the bag from his hand. Inside was a cigarette butt. It was stained with red lipstick.
"I don't care man, really, there's nothing you can say this time. I'm gonna do it."
"Come on dood, that's what you said last time... and the time before that."
"Yeah, well I actually mean it this time, alright. So you can just take whatever chicken shit horse shit advise you've thought up and shove it way up your dirty balloon knot."
"So why'd you call me then, Brian? You always do this shit. I'm sick of it man, always the same cry for attention. I mean, the first few times genuinely scared me. One time I rushed over to your house at 3:00 in the morning just to find you sitting on your couch watching Netflix. You told me that you had worked past it, that you felt better. Remember that Brian?"
"Don't interrupt me, I'm not done. Then two weeks later I get another call from you at 4:00 in the morning claiming that you're 'really gonna do it this time.' Once again, I rush over to your house and what do I find? You're making a goddamn Pb and J and spreading the jelly with what you claimed was the 'knife you'd end it all with.' I mean come on dood, I'm sick of this shit. And it's gotten so much worse. I've been woken up by you almost every night for the past month. I can't get a good night's sleep so my performance at work has been less than sufficient, the boss is threatening to fire me, and you heard about Lauren leaving me, right? Yeah just great, just what I need right now. My good friend Brian bitching and moaning and crying for attention. You know what, maybe I'm the one whose going to off them self this time, how about that? What do you think about that Brian?
"Fuck you Kyle, don't make this about you."
"I'm getting my gun, man. I'm serious, fuck this. I'm out."
Kyle slams the phone down on the counter and goes to find his gun. Brian listens intently and holds the phone tight to his ear. He can hear Kyle talking aloud to himself in the distance as he shuffles through drawers. The sound of his voice grows louder as he comes back to the phone.
"You hear this Brian?" Kyle holds the gun to phone and cocks it: ch-chick.
"Holy shit Kyle! Put that away man, what're you doing?!"
"Not so fun on the other end of the line is it Brian?"
"Come on man stop fucking around!"
"Nah, fuck this, you had your chances and you never went through with it. Now it's my turn. See you in hell, buddy."
There was a loud bang and the sound of something heavy hitting the floor.
It was all thanks to that first god damn ontological discussion with the big man himself that sparked a second date with God. My first date was all but inspiring as I wheeled around to find myself broken beyond repair. Time would mend, but I'm not so sure that it would piece me back together entirely. Anyways, my second date with God went something like this:
"Where're the floor boards?"
"Beneath you're feet."
Hmmm... thanks for the sip of wisdom. Remind me again why I thought I could handle this? It wasn't for me to decide and it certainly wasn't anything I was ready for.
Have you ever felt a pain so strong that it literally brought you to your knees? A pain so ironically satisfying that you found yourself clinging to it even as you began to heal? It's these experiences that contain the capacity to change and harbor the implements to love. No, I don't want a third date with the Oh So Powerful One but I've got a pretty strong feeling that it's coming. In the meantime, I suppose I'll lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling for a while. Maybe call up an old friend just to remind them that the tides have shifted and the swell has weakened. That could clean up the surf a bit if we're lucky, turn these close-outs into something a bit more manageable.
"I had a really good time tonight," I said without much thought.
"Me too," was the respond.
Call me crazy, but I'd call that a success. No but seriously, call me crazy. It'll be the best decision you've made in quite a long while.
My time has come, will come, did come.
"You'll find me when you're ready," God said.
"I wish I could tell you no," said I.
That One Story
He never saw it coming. The bolt of lighting exploded with a force so powerful that it knocked him to the earth. He held his burning chest with one hand and yanked at the grass with the other as if he could somehow transfer his own pain into their innocent green blades. The wizard knew his bolt had done some damage, but was it enough? He couldn't be sure. With the stroke of his wand he decided he didn't want to write about fantasy anymore and completely changed the subject, continuing to abide by the 10 sentence limit of the challenge of course. With only a few sentences left, there wasn't much else to say. How could he create a story in only 2 sentences? It seemed impossible, unlikely, and absolutely mental. It was.
The spray of the ocean peppered his tired face. The wind whipped at his hair and carried with it the thick fishy scent of the old pier pylons. He used to come her as a young boy and walk along the deck of that pier. He often looked through the cracks and watched as the cool blue ocean flowed gently beneath him. Now fierce and grey, that same ocean was trying to swallow the old pier with every great wave it sent. He watched as the mighty pier held fast against its fickle opponent, calmly enduring, patiently waiting for peace.