Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Signs, Pt. 8

I sped back into the heart of the city, swerving around cars, trying not to imagine what I’d find when I got to her apartment. I parked on the street, hopped the fence surrounding the complex, and ran. I wove through the various buildings looming like silent sentinels above me, and rushed up the three flights of steps to her door. I was sweating and out of breath as I pounded my fist against her door, calling out her name.

Was she even home? What if she was lying dead on the floor, a victim of Rob’s insanity? Who could I call to ask about her? How could I get into a third floor apartment without the key?

I could hear movement on the other side of the door. A muffled voice said something that sounded like, “Goddamnit, really?” and I could hear a deadbolt spinning. The door opened, and she was standing there in the pajamas she always wore on her nights in, her long brown hair and her hazel eyes as beautiful as ever, a pissed off expression on her face.

“What do you want? And why are you all gross?”

In between panting breaths, I gasped, “Hopped your fence. Ran up stairs.”

She shook her head. “You fucking lunatic. What are you doing here?”

“Had to talk to you. About Rob. Don’t take Yellows.”

Her face contorted in a look of annoyance and confusion. “What?”

I took a deep breath, did my best to stand up straight and compose myself. “I heard from Danny Boy that you gave Googe some pills Rob had given you. Yellow ones with a white dot on one side. Don’t take them. Rob made them. They’re… poisonous.”

She crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. “You heard from Danny Boy heard from Googe, huh? Jeez, it’s like playing telephone with burnouts.”

I frowned, but I ignored the insult. “Look, all I’m saying is don’t take Yellows. They’re dangerous.”

“I’m not taking Yellows! I ran into Rob at a party a while back, the dude went on some rant about changing the world, and he gave me a little can full of pills. You really think I’m going to try anything Rob’s pushing? Come on, give me a little credit.”

I said nothing. I just stared at her in silence, processing this new information. My phone rang, but I swatted at it through my pocket, silencing it.

She sighed. “I’m not taking them, alright? I never even tried one. I was going to toss them in the trash, when Googe walked up to me and started talking about them. He obviously wanted to try them, so I gave the pills to him. There. That’s the story. Happy?”

“He was trying to get me away from his house,” I said softly. “He knew I’d rush over here to see you. He used you to get me away from his house.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Rob. I was over at Rob’s earlier so I could confront him about the Yellows when he insinuated that you were going to overdose or something.”

She snorted. “And you believed him?”

My eyes narrowed to slits. “It’s been a rough fucking week, alright? Forgive me for thinking that someone I love was in danger and wanting to do something about it.”

She drew back as if I’d slapped her. She looked away. My phone rang. I silenced it. “What?” I asked, my voice as hard and as cold as ice.

“I really wish you wouldn’t say things like that,” she said still looking away from me.

“I wish for a lot of things. I don’t get any of them, either.” She had no response to that. I sighed. I felt defeated, but at least she wasn’t dead from an overdose. “I’m going,” I announced. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Yeah, you too.” She frowned. “Are you okay?”

I tried to imagine what I looked like to her. Covered in scratches and bruises from my falls earlier in the day, beads of sweat running down my face, a dark light burning in my eyes, and here I was ranting about drugs. “Do I look okay to you?”

“Look, I thought you were here to… I thought that you were going to…”

“I got the message last time, thanks.”

“You clearly didn’t, otherwise you wouldn’t be calling me at 1 in the morning on a Monday to–”

“Yeah, I fucked up, I get it.”

Silence. “I don’t want to be like this,” she said. “I don’t want to think, ‘Oh fuck, now what?’ when you show up on my doorstep. I don’t want us to be like this.”

“You think I do?”

“I think you have a vision of how the world is supposed to be and you have a way you like to act when reality doesn’t match it. I think you like to suffer.” She stared at me for a moment, frowned. She wasn’t annoyed this time, though. There was no anger, no frustration in her eyes. Just worry. “Where are you going?”

“Back to Rob’s.”

“Is there anything I can do to keep you from doing that?”

I shook my head. “Probably not.”

“Well, do you want a glass of water or anything before you go?”

I opened my mouth to speak when my phone rang yet again. I growled at the thing, pulled it free from my pocket. Danny Boy. The other calls were probably him, too. What had him so riled up he was calling me every couple minutes?

I turned my attention back to her. “No, no thank you. I should get going.” I turned to go. She called out after me. “Yeah?”

“Be careful, okay?”

I nodded. I walked away. When I was down on the ground, I pulled out my phone and called Danny Boy back. “What’s going on, man?”

“Googe. He… He… Oh, God,” Danny Boy said. His voice was choked, his words coming out slowly and strained.

“Googe? What about him?”

“Dead. He’s dead.”

I stopped in my tracks. I hadn’t known Googe very well. He was Danny Boy’s friend more than mine, but he was a a good guy. He was always cracking jokes and laughing and sometimes I found him a little insufferable sometimes, but he was a good guy. “What happened?”

“I, I, I went back to his place after I left yours. I was going to give him back the Yellows, and I went got there, he wasn’t answering his phone or his door. His door was unlocked, so I went in, and then I was calling out trying to find him, and finally I went into his bedroom, and he was dead, he was fucking dead, he fucking shot himself.”

I closed my eyes. “Jesus Christ.”

“There were bullet holes in the wall, man. You know that little revolver he has? There were four or five bullet holes in the wall, and then he was just lying in the corner, man. The gun on the ground and his fucking brains on the wall.”

I paused. What Danny Boy had just said had set me thinking. The sadness I felt at Googe’s passing was giving way to a cold analysis. “Bullet holes? Was he shooting at someone?”

“I don’t know, man! I don’t know!”

“Well, was there any blood?”

“There was blood everywhere, man!”

I took a deep breath, trying to control my temper. “On the wall, with the bullet holes. Or the ground. Did he shoot anyone other than himself?”

Danny Boy was silent. “No,” he finally said. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Alright, man. You’ve got to call the cops. Throw anything you’re holding in with Googe’s stash, call the cops, and wait outside for them. They’re going to want to question you, but they’re going to want to question you a hell of a lot more if they find out you were there and left.”

Danny Boy whimpered. “Man, can you come over here and help me talk to the cops. I don’t know what to say to them.”

I started walking again, walking towards my car. “You’ll be fine, man. I promise. I have something I need to take care of first, but I’m going to head over there as soon as I can.”

“Where are you going?” Danny Boy asked, his voice little more than a whine.

I opened the door to my car and slipped into the driver’s seat. I started the engine, looked at the road ahead of me as it stretched on into night. “I’ve got to take care of Rob.”

* * *

I stood in front of Rob’s house, the nearest street lamp too far to do any more than turn me into a shadow. There was no sign of Rob, no car in the driveway, no light or noise coming from the house. As I stood there in the darkness, I suddenly realized how tired I was. My body ached from my experiences at work earlier in the day, and dealing with Danny Boy and hearing about Googe had left me emotionally drained.

Not to mention talking to her.

I shook my head. It didn’t matter. On the drive over, I told myself that Googe was dead because of the things he’d seen when he was taking Yellows. I told myself I was going to kill Rob for the damage his pills had caused. But as I drove, I realized that I wouldn’t do that, couldn’t do that. There was no way I’d get away with it. I needed a different plan.

So instead I would burn his house to the ground. The fire department and the police would find equipment for making God only knows what and assume that he’d gotten careless and started the fire himself. Maybe he’d get caught in the fire himself. And even if he didn’t, there was no shortage of “business partners” who would come for him once their supplies dried up.

Remembering that the front door had been locked earlier, I stepped around the side of Rob’s house, hopped the fence and found myself in the backyard. Trash of all kinds littered the grounds. Plastic and styrofoam cups, glass bottles, glass pipes, tin foil, the accoutrements of ruined lives. I thought to myself, thank God no one’s home. It was impossible to be stealthy as plastic rustled and glass cracked underfoot.

A glass sliding door separated Rob’s backyard from the house. I gave it a tug and was surprised to find it sliding effortlessly and relatively quietly on its tracks. I stepped inside, the smell of the house assaulting my senses. The air reeked of chemicals I couldn’t identify, with dishes gone unwashed for weeks, with trash and old food and who knew what else. But underneath it all was the scent of sweat and vomit. Human misery. I stood there in silence for a moment, straining to hear the sounds of movement or activity, giving my eyes time to adjust to the darkness. At last, impatiently, I stepped forward.

The house was quiet. As still as a grave.

I walked towards the bedrooms, stopped at the first door, and slowly opened it. Nothing inside but equipment I didn’t understand. I squinted, trying to focus in the dim streetlight eking through a window that had been mostly covered up with blankets and sheets. There was a desk, with books strewn across it. Something that looked like an industrial pill press. Vials and beakers. I turned to inspect the other room.

A figure grabbed me by the neck, its thin fingers squeezing, digging into my throat. “Rob!” I choked out. I flailed wildy, striking my assailant wherever I could, the face, the ribs, the stomach, but it ignored my attacks. There was a sharp pain in my side, and then the world went black, like snuffed candlelight.


The Signs, Pt. 7

I rushed through my apartment like a force of nature, turning over everything in my search for some other piece of evidence that Rob had been inside and finding nothing. There was nothing left behind except for the Yellows, nothing upset in the kitchen or the living room or the bedroom or the bath. I stalked the rooms of my home like a wild animal, my anger building with every passing moment. There was only one thing I could do. I went outside, got back into my car and began driving towards Rob’s home. He lived on a small home on the outskirts of the city, a crumbling building in a bad neighborhood. I’d been there a few times years ago, before our falling out. It had two bedrooms, but these were both full of lab equipment. Rob slept on the couch or the floor most nights.

I didn’t know what I was going to do. I couldn’t focus. I drove, the day slowly growing darker around me, the thought that Rob did this to me, Rob did this to me, repeating over and over in my head. Somewhere in a quiet corner of my mind a lone voice said that I was being irrational, that my emotions were controlling me, that I never would have acted like this a year ago, but it went ignored. Nothing mattered except for my desire for revenge. I shouldn’t feel this way. I shouldn’t have to feel this way. Someone, something would pay.

How could he have been in your apartment? the voice asked. Danny Boy would have seen him. He couldn’t have left without you hearing it.

It didn’t matter.

He probably has a gun, the voice said. He’s a dealer. He probably sleeps with a pistol under his pillow.

It didn’t matter

He’s just a fucking burnout. He’s a no-good burnout, and you’re about to risk harm or jail-time for no good reason.

I shook my head. Rob was more than just a burnout. He was dangerous, had always been dangerous. He was smart and he was ambitious and he thought and felt things that were completely divorced from normal human beings. He laced the drugs he made with poison and God only knew what else in the name of his insane ideals.

And you’ve been taking them.

I frowned. It was true. I had taken them, but that just made me uniquely qualified to identify and do something about the danger. No one else understood the situation like I did. No one else understood him like I did.

After all, I’d seen the signs.

* * *

I parked down the street from Rob’s house. I didn’t want to risk him or one of the junkies that sometimes stayed with him to look out the window and notice a strange car. It had been many months since I’d been in this part of the city, and it seemed worse than I remembered it. I could hear angry shouting bleeding out of nearby houses. The road was cracked and pitted, the sidewalk fractured in some places and outright crumbling in others. The lawns, where the grass wasn’t simply dead or nonexistent, were unkempt, littered with discarded trash and toys. People watched me from porches, from doorways, from windows. I was an outsider, a stranger someplace I didn’t belong.

Oh, well. Given Rob’s chosen profession, he likely had visitors of all sorts calling upon him at all hours of the day. My presence couldn’t really be anything out of the ordinary.

I walked up to the front door. There wasn’t a car in the driveway, but that wasn’t a reliable indicator of whether or not Rob was home. I tried to look through a window, but a curtain obscured most of my vision. There didn’t seem to be any lights on in the house, even though it was already dark at that point. I tried the door, but it was locked.

I considered hopping the fence that separated the front yard from the back and trying another door or a window. I considered kicking open the front door, but decided against it. The neighbors might turn a blind eye towards a stranger creeping around Rob’s house, but they’d likely take some kind of action if I outright broke in. So instead, I opted for something more subtle.

I pulled out my phone, punched in Rob’s number. He didn’t pick up. I tried again, and again, and again, until finally he answered, anxiety and frustration making his voice rise to an unnaturally high pitch. “What? What do you want? Goddamn you, what?”

I took a deep breath, prepared myself to sound as pathetic and desperate as possible. “Hey, Rob. It’s me. I–”

“Yeah, I know who it is! What the fuck do you want?”

“I need more Yellows, Rob. I, uh… I ran out.”

“Look, I’m too busy to deal with this right now. Why don’t you let me– Wait. You ran out?”

I hesitated. There was an unmistakable note of suspicion in his voice. “Uh, yeah. I just… the things I saw, man. I didn’t ever want to stop seeing the, you know? I guess I just–”

“You ran out. You’re telling me you opened up the tin I gave you and it was empty.”

I frowned. “Yeah, that’s what I fucking said, isn’t it?”

Rob was a silent for a moment, and then he chuckled. His laughter was thin and strained, like the last gasps of a dying man. “You ran out. Why are you lying to me, friend?”

“What?”

“I know you didn’t run out. That’s not possible.”

“Yes, I did! I took all the fucking Yellows you gave me, and I ran out! Now get your ass home so I can get some more off of you!”

Rob chuckled again. I grimaced, the harsh and unnatural sound of his laughter ringing in my ears even after he stopped. “You misunderstand, friend. I’m not saying I don’t believe that you took a lot of Yellows. I’m telling you, it’s physically impossible to run out of them.” He paused. I could just imagine him smiling on the other end of the line, could see his smug, self-satisfied leer in my head. “They don’t work that way.”

I frowned. “Where are you?”

“Tell me, how many did you take, friend?”

“Where are you?”

“A dozen? Two dozen? More?”

“Where are you?”

“What have you been seeing? Anything interesting? Anything unusual?”

My jaw clenched. “Where. Are. You.”

“Building a better world, friend. You’ll never find me. But I think I can guess why you’re really calling. You saw something that upset you. Something your narrow little mind couldn’t handle. Oh, friend. You always wanted so badly to be a part of a better world, and when you finally got the chance, you couldn’t cope with it. It’s funny to think that when they asked if there was anyone else they should approach, I almost mentioned your name.”

“You’re up to the same old shit,” I whispered. “Poisoning people for your own amusement. Hurting others in the name of some half-formed ideology.

“I assure you, there’s no poison in Yellows. None whatsoever. Although I suppose it might appear that way to the close-minded, such as yourself.” He chuckled. “Why, to the close-minded, Yellows might even seem downright deadly. And you know what they say about mind over matter, yes?”

I opened my mouth to tell him that I was going to break into his house and destroy his equipment, that I was going to call the police and turn him in, that I was going to track him down and break every bone in his body when he said the only thing in the world that could have stopped me.

“Tell me, how close-minded do you think Lori is these days?”


The Signs, Pt. 6

I watched as Danny Boy sat motionless, just staring off into space. “Is anything happening?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No, nothing yet.”

I stared at him for a moment, then quickly stood up from my chair. “I’m going into the house and grab a notebook and a pen, okay? I’ll be back in thirty seconds. Let’s catalogue the experience, okay? You tell me everything you see and feel, and I’ll write it down.”

Slowly Danny Boy shook his head. I could tell that the Yellows were already beginning to take hold of him. “Yeah. Okay,” he said, his words slightly drawn out but not quite slurred. I rushed inside, grabbed the items, came back out. By the time I’d returned, Danny Boy had stood up from his seat and he was gazing all around him in wide-eyed wonder.

“Hey. Hey. I’m here,” I said. “I’m here. Can you hear me?”

“Everything’s different,” he said, the awe plain to hear in his voice. “It’s like… like the world’s just a picture, and another picture’s been laid on top of it, and it’s impossible to tell which one is which anymore.”

I nodded, scribbled down his words. That seemed consistent with my own experience. “Tell me what you see.” The sky, the creatures that slid through it like a knife through flesh, the hives off in the distance. It all sounded consistent. This is a real place, I thought. These aren’t drug-fueled hallucinations. This is a real world.

I stood there, turning these thoughts over in my mind when the blast of a car horn shook me from my musings.

Danny Boy was walking towards the street. “Whoa! Hey!” I called out after him. “Get back here!” I chased after him, grabbing the back of his shirt and pulling him towards me. He jumped and started swearing once I had my hands on him. “Dude. Calm down. It’s just me. Calm down.”

Danny Boy stopped struggling for a moment and looked at me. He didn’t really seem to be seeing me, but he was at least looking in my direction. “Whoa. Dude. You’re all fuzzy.”

I frowned. “What, like I have to shave?”

“Like you’re not really there.” He reached out with one hand to touch my face, but missed. His hands opened and closed inches away from me. He frowned, frustrated that he couldn’t figure out where I was in relation to him and his world. His eyes were unfocused, one of his pupils dilated until this iris was nothing more than a thin ring around it, the other contracted to a pinpoint. Like Rob’s had been., Presumably like my own had been.

“Hey, let’s go inside. I can’t have you wandering into the street and getting hit by a fucking car. Come on.”

I put my arm around Danny Boy and gently pushed him towards the front door. He didn’t stumble as we walked, but he was taking exaggerated steps to avoid obstacles I couldn’t see. I unlocked my front door, pushed it open, and he paused. I pushed him forward, but he stuck his hands out to grab the doorframe and shook his head. “I’m not going in there, man.”

“What? Why not?”

He violently shook his head. “I’m not going in there. Don’t make me go in there.”

I frowned, confused and frustrated. “What could possibly be in there?”

Danny Boy turned his head from side-to-side, some nervous animal who had caught the scent of a yet unseen predator. “Can’t you feel it? It’s like… like we’re somewhere we’re not supposed to be, and we’re being watched. Like being watched through a security camera, and someone’s got their finger over a button to call in the guards, but they’re waiting to see what you do before they push it.”

I looked through the open doorway and into my apartment. It wasn’t even particularly dark, being lit by a sun that still had a few hours to go before setting. “What do you see in there?” I asked.

“Nothing, man. That’s the thing. I don’t see anything. There’s just nothing.”

I studied Danny Boy for a moment, then the doorway, then Danny Boy again. “You see me, yeah?” I asked. “You can see me, or my shape or outline or whatever?”

Danny Boy nodded, slowly at first, then vigorously.

“Alright. Tell me what happens.” I stepped forward, through the doorway. Behind me, I heard Danny Boy gasp. “Oh, Jesus. Oh, fuck. Man, come back. Hey, come back! Where’d you go?”

I looked over my shoulder. I could see Danny Boy clearly, could see the panic on his face. I stepped back outside, and his shoulders visibly sagged with relief. “What did you see?” I asked him.

“You were just gone, man. Here, then gone. Poof.” He looked over his shoulders, trying to take stock of a world only he could see. “This shit’s weird, man. I don’t know how I feel about it.”

“It’s only supposed to last a little while. You want to just sit here until you come down?”

He nodded. “Yeah. That sounds good. Talk to me, yeah? I’m seeing some crazy shit, and I don’t want to think about it too hard.”

I led him back to the chairs we’d been sitting in. We sat there quietly, me studying his expressions and him looking around nervously.

Danny Boy left not long after the Yellow he took wore off. I watched as he left, and once I was sure that he was gone, I moved a chair to face my front door. By the light of the setting sun, against my better judgment, I took a Yellow. I opened up my tin, not looking inside, trying to ignore how full it felt under my fingertips. It was as bitter on my tongue as always. I sat in the chair staring at the door, waiting for the sky to turn the color of a bruise, for strange creatures to start swimming at the corners of my vision, for my apartment to turn into whatever foreboding tomb had frightened Danny Boy.

The colors of the world changed. The environment became populated with creatures not of this world. But my apartment didn’t change. It wasn’t even overlaid with a hive, as I had suspected it might be. I sat there for what felt like a quiet eternity, waiting to see whatever Danny Boy had seen until at last I gave up. I put the chair back where I had taken it from and went inside.

I walked into my apartment, the world around me completely normal save for the vague sense of surreality I always felt when I took Yellows, and went straight to my bedroom. I collapsed onto my bed, feeling every ache and bruise from my misadventures earlier and wishing that the damn Yellow would wear off so I could just go to sleep in peace. I lay there with my eyes shut when I heard a man’s voice, so soft as to be barely perceptible. A neighbor’s television, I thought. I rolled over, tried to ignore it, when suddenly the man shouted. “I’m trying! Please, I need more time! The production is nearly complete and the network is nearly stable, but I just need a little more time!”

I opened my eyes, the growing sharpness of the world before my eyes telling me that the Yellows had almost completely worn off. I knew that voice. I knew it, but from where?

“I understand. I understand. I’ll return, then. Thank you. Thank you, friend.”

My eyes went wide. It was Rob.

I leaped off of my bed, charging into the living room, my hands balling into fists my side. I turned the corner, my arms raised, and I saw nothing. There was no trace of anyone, or anyone’s presence. The television, the bookshelf, the couch, the coffee table were all exactly as I had left them when I’d left my house hours earlier.

I stood there, my anger and adrenaline slowly fading. As they dissipated, I began to feel something else. A sudden, nameless terror washed over me. I trembled, fell backwards onto the couch. “No. No, no, no, no, no,” I whispered over and over to myself. I was hearing things now.

I was losing my mind.

I sat there shaking, my head in my hands, trying to regain control of myself. I almost didn’t see it, hidden amongst the magazines and empty glasses and used plates on my coffee table as it was. But I saw it, and as my mind processed it, the feeling of helplessness gave way to anger once more. Anger became fury. Soon I was shaking again, struggling to control my rage this time.

A battered mint tin, one that had not been there when I’d left for work in the morning, sat on top of my coffee table, the yellow and white pills that lined it staring up at me coldly, disinterestedly.


The Signs, Pt. 5

Two minutes late. I’m filled with shame. And just in case anyone was wondering what happened on Tuesday, I was out of town last weekend and set Tuesday’s post to update at the right time but on the wrong day. Part four went live Sunday night, if you missed it. Here’s part five! Enjoy!

I ran, charging through the wall of the building, stepping through the indistinct and agitated grey figures, slamming into cars, tripping over parking stops. I panted, gasped, swore, but I didn’t scream. Everyone at my job already thought I was strange. If any of them had seen me running around and screaming in the parking lot, it only would have made an unpleasant environment even worse.

The sound of my feet echoed off the ground, my panicked breathing drowned out anything else. I tried to listen for the plodding sound of the grey figure’s footsteps behind, but I couldn’t hear anything, didn’t even know what I would have been listening for. The office, I thought. I need to get back in the office, close the door, I’ll be safe, I’ll be safe. Can’t follow me through a closed door. Not real in this world. It’ll hit the wall and bounce off.

I burst through the doors of my office’s lobby, collapsing in a heap, skidding along the tile. I flopped over onto my back, trying to see what was behind me, trying to push myself to my feat, trying to crawl away all at once.

The grey figure was standing there, its claws at its side, hands twitching with nervous energy. It turned its head from side to side, its body and its features sharp even through the glass doors of the lobby. I was right, it seemed. The grey figure didn’t know where I had gone, or didn’t know how to interact with solid objects from my world, or something. It didn’t matter. The grey figure was helpless, and I was safe.

And then the grey figure shrieked. It placed its hands on the glass, and it pushed through the door like it was nothing more than cheap plastic wrap. Reality warped around the grey figure, and it gasped and snarled as if in pain, and the glass and steel of the door flowed around it like water.

I couldn’t control myself any longer. I screamed. I screamed for the grey figure to stay back. I screamed for someone, anyone to help me. I screamed for people to stay away before the grey figure could get them. The creature was inside the lobby, was drawing closer and closer. I was dead. My vision began to blur, the grey figure becoming little more than an apparition. I closed my eyes and awaited the inevitable.

It never came.

Hey, uh,” someone said behind me. “Are you okay, man?”

I opened my eyes. The grey figure was gone, the world around me sharp and clear. There was no other world beyond the glass of the lobby doors, no skies of pink and purple, no beasts swimming through the air, no squat round homes. The Yellows had worn off. I was safe.

Tears began to well up in my eyes. I tried to stop them, tried to control myself, but it was no use. A thousand thoughts ran through my head. The grey figure wasn’t real. I nearly died. Yellows were more dangerous than that damn tainted coke. Rob was insane. I’ve never felt so alone. These people don’t know what nearly happened. Oh God, I miss her.

Hey. Hey, man. Are you okay?”

The tears came freely. My chest heaved with each choked breath that escaped my lips.

Who’s the nut?”

Probably homeless.”

No, this guy works on the fourth floor. I’ve seen him before.”

Is he always running around screaming like that?”

He’s got to be on drugs.”

Hey, look at me. Are you okay?”

There was nothing I could do but shake my head.

No, I was not okay.

* * *

It wasn’t hard convincing my boss to let me go for the day. She took one look at my scratched and bruised face, my agitated demeanor, and she sent me home. I walked to the rear entrance to the building to avoid anyone who might have been in the lobby earlier. As I pushed open the doors and stepped outside, I was overcome by just how unreal everything seemed to be to me. The sky may have been the blue I was used to, the sun the same, but everything felt artificial. I expected to hear the sounds of chittering, of claws scraping on stone at any moment, but it never came. I walked to my car in silence, and I sat there until my hands stopped shaking, and then I drove myself to my apartment.

Danny Boy was waiting for me when I got there, sitting on one of the chairs on my apartment porch. There was an opened twelve-pack and an empty beer can on the ground next to him, a book in one hand and a beer in the other. He waved as he saw me walking towards him, and I half-heartedly waved back. I didn’t know what to do or say about his presence there. On the one hand, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I didn’t want to do anything other than crawl into bed and go to sleep, even if it was only the late afternoon. But still, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I’d just toss and turn, thinking about everything that had happened, or I’d drink myself into a stupor, or something equally senseless. Maybe having Danny Boy around to distract me would be a good thing.

“Hey, man,” I said to him once I was close enough.

“Hey,” Danny Boy said. He looked me up and down, frowned. “What happened to you? You look like you lost a fight with a fucking sidewalk.”

I took a deep breath, exhaled. “Something like that. What are you doing here?”

He shrugged. “Bored. Wanted to hang out. I wasn’t doing anything, so I figured I’d swing by and say, ‘Hey.’”

“I’m supposed to be at work, man. How long have you been here? Were you just going to wait for me to show up?”

He tapped a finger against the book and grinned up at me. “Yep!”

“What if I was doing something else after work? Running errands or going out.”

Danny Boy shrugged again. “You don’t usually run errands after work. And you never go out anymore, man. Not since you and Lori–”

“Yeah, I’m lame, I get it.” I dropped down into the chair next to him, reached into the case of beer and pulled out a can. I cracked it open, took a long pull, and stared off into nothing.

“We going inside.”

“It’s nice out. I want to just relax for a bit.”

“Alright,” Danny Boy said. His attention didn’t return to his book, and I knew he was going to ask me another question. “So, like, what are you doing home so early anyway?”

“I lost a fight with a fucking sidewalk,” I muttered.

Danny Boy frowned. “Dude, come on. What the Hell happened?”

I thought back to the grey figure that had evidently noticed me. That pink slit of a mouth, those fangs, the claws, the voice pounding inside my head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Dude, you–”

Anything else, man.”

I turned to look at Danny Boy and I could see the concern on his face, but I wasn’t about to tell him I’d seen a creature from another world that wanted to kill me.

Or worse, that I’d hallucinated one.

Please, just anything else. I don’t even want to think about the fucking day I just had.

Danny Boy didn’t say anything. He just shook his head, turned away, took a sip of his beer. “Alright, man. Whatever you say.”

We just at there in silence for a while, neither of us looking at each other. Danny Boy was the first to speak. “So.”

So.”

I picked up some Yellows the other day.”

I blinked, the meaning of his words taking a moment to truly register with me. “What? Where? Did you run into Rob?”

No. Got them off Googe.”

He didn’t want them.”

He didn’t want them? Had he seen what I’d seen? Had some inhuman monster shattered the sense of wonder he had felt at exploring a strange new world? “Huh. How come?”

Danny Boy shrugged. “Didn’t say.”

I frowned. “That didn’t strike you as a little odd? You didn’t ask why?”

Danny Boy shrugged again. I wanted to reach over and punch him. The lack of imagination he could exhibit was astounding sometimes. “Well, how’s Googe doing anyway? How’d he look?”

Danny Boy turned to look at me, one of his eyebrows arched. “Fine. Googe-like.”

Same as ever?”

Little tired, maybe. Little pale. Maybe he’s getting sick. I don’t know, man. What’s with the third-degree?”

I shrugged, shook my head. “I don’t know, man. Been a weird day. I’m on edge. Suspicious of everything. I don’t know.”

You’ve got to mellow out, man. Here.” Danny Boy reached into the case and handed me a beer. I took it from him, turned it over in my hands, finally cracked it open and took a sip.

So,” I said. “Have you tried them yet?”

The Yellows? No. I just got them before I came over here. I was thinking I’d try one tonight.”

I stared at my friend, a thousand different ideas flashing through my mind. “Why don’t you try them out here?”

Danny Boy turned to look at me, the expression on his face oscillating between confusion and suspicion. “You sure?”

Yeah, why not? I mean, we don’t really know what’s going to happen once you pop one of those things in your mouth, right? Might as well have somebody on hand to make sure you don’t… I don’t know. Think you’re in another world, climb up onto the roof, and walk right the fuck off, no?”

Danny Boy turned this information over in his head, considering it. “Yeah, that makes sense. And it’s like you said, who knows what Rob put into this stuff? Wouldn’t do me any good to have a seizure or something alone in my apartment where I can’t call 911.”

I frowned. Was I really about to sacrifice my friend on the altar of my own curiosity? Was confirming the nature of what I’d seen so important to me that I’d risk my friend’s well-being?

The first couple times I tried the Yellows hadn’t been bad.

You don’t know what he would see, even if he just stayed in the apartment.

I’d just seen the circle of five. Nothing unusual about that.

You don’t know how he’d react to them.

Hey, uh, Danny Boy. You don’t have to take those things, man. Rob… You can’t trust that guy, you know? He just doesn’t see the world the way other people do.

Danny Boy shrugged. “Fuck it, man. One won’t kill me.” He reached into his pocket and produced a battered and dented mint tin. He opened it up, and I felt my hands subconsciously grip the arms of my chair.

It was full. Googe must have tried at least one, maybe more, but the tin was full. The Yellows were all arranged with the white dots up, an army of eyeballs all regarding Danny Boy and me, diseased and malevolent. I said nothing. I just watched helplessly as he reached into the tin, pulled one out, held it before his eyes for a moment, and then popped it into his mouth.


The Signs, Pt. 4

The next day during my lunch break, I climbed the stairs to the roof of my building and sat on the ledge. I slid a Yellow into my mouth, closed my eyes, and waited for the other world to open up before me. By the time I opened them, the sky was pink and purple, the clouds a bright, chemical green. It was beautiful, in its strange and alien way. I wondered if this was what she saw when she took Yellows, but the thought didn’t trouble me. Instead, the memory filled me with a certain kind of peace. I thought back to nights spent sitting on the balcony of her apartment building, one of her blankets wrapped around both of us, sharing a bottle of wine and watching the city below us sparkle like a jewel.

I looked down. It wasn’t night now, and even if it had been, there were no cities in this world, at least none that I had noticed. But I did see those grey figures that Danny Boy had spoken of. They were walking to and fro, interacting with each other, disappearing into and reemerging from their squat little homes. They didn’t seem to wear any clothes or carry anything on their persons.

They fascinated me. I wanted to get down to the ground and take a closer look at them.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the tin, opened it to see how many of the little yellow pills I had left. More than a dozen at a glance. Ten minute trip per pill, at least two hours’ worth of this other, beautiful world. I didn’t know if I would try and contact Rob to get more once my supply was out. Even if the product was good, the man was insufferable. I put the tin back into my pocket, took a deep breath, stretched out my arms, and saw that my skin was translucent.

I held my hand in front of my face. It looked solid, but as I pushed it away it began to take on that same ethereal air I had noticed just moments before. First my skin went pale, then clear, hints of muscle and sinew visible through a fine mesh of veins and arteries and capillaries, and then the whole thing became an indistinct blur.

“I am not here,” I thought. “This is another world, and in it, I’m not real.”

I accepted this without further consideration. I was fine with it. It would only make it that much easier to walk amongst the grey figures.

I walked down the stairs of my building, doing my best to keep my head down and my eyes focused. I only passed a few people, and they didn’t pay me any attention. They were indistinct, flesh-colored blurs to me. I wondered if I looked the same to them. I passed by one blur dressed in the same garish colors as one of my co-workers, Samantha, had been wearing that morning, and decided to find out.

“Sam,” I said.

“Hey,” the blur responded. “What’s up?”

I stood there in silence for a moment, realizing my mistake. I didn’t have a damn thing say to Samantha. The blur shifted, and I imagined her looking at me suspiciously, uncertainly. Maybe even a bit fearfully. I shook my head, took a deep breath. “I’m feeling kind of light-headed. I’m going to step outside for a bit and get some fresh air, yeah?”

“Sure. Hey, are you feeling okay? You look… out of it.”

I forced a laugh and tapped my head, trying not to jump as my hand went from being an indistinct cloud to a thing of flesh and blood before my very eyes. “Light-headed, like I said. I’ll be fine. Going to walk around. Might be a little late getting back. If anyone asks, tell them I took a long lunch, yeah? Tell them I’ve seen the signs.”

I jumped a little bit, surprised at myself. Where the hell had that come from?

“Okay, I guess,” Samantha said, her voice uncertain. “Feel better.”

I nodded, smiled, exited the building. Awkward though the interaction had been, it bought me a little bit more time for exploration. Stepping foot outside brought a new set of challenges, though.

Outside, the world was every bit as stark and beautiful as it had seen from the roof of my building. I could see the outlines of the parking garage, of neighboring offices, and I knew they were still there, but I could not see the parked cars or people going about their business until I was nearly on top of them. The grey figures and their homes stood out sharp and distinct like the only real things in a dream, but I couldn’t interact with them. I wasn’t of their world. Meanwhile, the cars speeding about that I could only just hear, couldn’t even see were very much of mine, and the Yellows wouldn’t protect me from being hit at forty miles an hour. So instead of going out towards the street, where I’d first noticed the grey figures, I walked towards one of their buildings that was located in the middle of a parking lot.

I bumped into cars as I made my way towards the building, but I kept my eyes focused on that squat grey dome. It reminded me of a beehive, although the shape wasn’t quite the same. There were sharp lines, angles, and although I got the sense that the architecture was deliberate and regular, I couldn’t divine the pattern that had inspired it. I felt like I was looking at some kind of self-similar fractal pattern. Romanesco broccoli as a bee’s nest. It was beautiful. It made my head hurt, but it was beautiful.

“Rob,” I whispered to no one. “You crazy, goddamn brilliant bastard.”

I stepped forward through what I believed to be the front entrance of the building. There were a few windows higher up, but there was no glass over the, no door in the front. It was completely open. Communal housing, perhaps? Did the grey figures have a sense of private property? Who could say? I felt like some great anthropologist confirming for the very first time the reality of some forgotten tribe whose very existence had long been forgotten by man.

I grinned. I laughed softly. “Don’t be afraid,” I said to no one. “I come in peace.”

There were grey figures inside the building, but unlike the ones I had seen outside, these ones were downright lethargic. They lay curled up sleeping on the floor, standing motionless in front of machinery whose purpose I couldn’t divine, sitting at tables and languidly picking at what I assumed to be food. While they were more distinct than Samantha had been, than my own flesh was in that world, there was still something intangible about them, like shadows glimpsed through a dirty window.

They were smaller than the circle of five, smaller than me. They varied between five and five-and-a-half feet tall. There didn’t seem to be any children or any obvious genders. They all had the same ash grey skin, the same thin limbs that were too long for their squat torsos, comical little pot bellies. They didn’t seem to have much muscle on their frames at all, and their overall appearance at once suggested something both insect-like and ape-like. I couldn’t make out any of their facial features because of the ethereal quality that seemed to suffuse them.

I walked amongst them, stepping over the ones sleeping on the floor, walking around the cars that bled over from my world into the world of the yellows. The grey figures were silent, and that silence combined with their almost complete motionlessness was filling me with a sense of unease. I began to feel less like an anthropologist moving amongst an exotic and fascinating people, and more like an intruder wandering through a museum after hours. I closed my eyes and listened, and I heard nothing but the sound of my own breathing.

I stood there, as silent and motionless as the grey figures, part of me wishing my trip would end. I never thought I would miss my desk, my chair, as solid and mundane as they were.

“Well,” I said to myself. “The Yellows will probably wear off soon. I should head back to the office.” I looked around. None of the grey figures had acknowledged my words in the slightest. “So, yeah. You’ve got my business card, right? Let’s do lunch sometime?” Nothing. “How’s your Friday? Mine’s terrible. Maybe next week.” Still nothing. Not even the echo of my own words.

I turned to leave, and that’s when I saw one of the grey figures actually moving. It stood before an alcove, moving its hands in regular patterns and occasionally bowing its head. I stepped closer to see what the grey figure was doing. There was a shelf in the alcove, level with the figure’s head, and upon that shelf was a small statue, a graven image of a robed figure, much like the ones I had seen in my own apartment. And though it was only an inanimate object carved from alien stone, it exuded a sense of gravitas as if it were actually one of the circle of five, and not simply a representation of one.

Prayers? Worship? What was I seeing? I stepped closer for a better look.

The creature snapped its head towards me, and suddenly its entire body came into sharp focus. I could count its fingers, I could see the uneven patches of color on its grey body, I could see its chest rise and fall with every breath it took. It turned to face men, and then I could see that the reason I hadn’t noticed any facial features on the grey figures was because they had no facial features at all. There were no eyes, no nose, no lips, not even cheek bones or ears or hair. Just skin pulled taut against the figure’s skull.

Its head bobbed and swayed. It tilted its head up towards the ceiling, and slowly turned it in a wide arc. Its hands stayed at it sides, but its fingers splayed open, and I saw that each was tipped with a black claw. I thought of a dog sniffing the air, trying to divine some unfamiliar scent.

A thin line opened up at the bottom of its head, a seam coming undone, revealing dark blue gums and a row of sharp white teeth. The grey figure hunched down, its thin body tensing up, and it lifted its head to the ceiling and shrieked. The other grey figures, the ones who had been near-catatonic leaped up, looking everywhere and chattering wordlessly, but they remained indistinct. Not like the figure before me.

I backed away slowly. The grey figure lurched forward, chittering like an insect, and there were noises in my head, something shrieking, laughing, cackling at me not in words, but in ideas.

see you I see you I see you I see you I see you I see


The Signs, Pt. 3

Rob was smug when I called him. Of course he was. Rightfully so, given how our last interaction had gone, but it still pissed me off. “I’m glad you called me, friend,” he said. I just bit my tongue, knowing that it’d be better to let him go on for as long as he wanted rather than to try and interrupt him. “I really believe that my Yellows are going to change the world. I’m working on ramping up production, you know. Trying to establish a reliable distribution network. Oh, this is going to be big, friend. Very big.”

“Yeah, uh… I’ve heard a lot of good things about them. From a lot of people whose opinions I respect. So, you know, I thought, ‘Hey, maybe you’re being too hasty about this. Maybe you ought to give ol’ Rob a shot.’”

Rob chuckled at that. “Good, good. And how is Lori these days?”

I pulled the phone away from my head and stared at it for a moment. Of course he went there, the lousy bastard. Of course. I almost hung up the phone on him, but somehow, I restrained myself. “I, uh, I don’t know. I haven’t talked to her in a few weeks, not really. She wasn’t one of the people I talked to. You’ll have to ask her yourself what she thinks.”

Rob chuckled again. “Well, that’s fine. I will, the next time she buys from me. That’s just fine.”

I forced a smile. I don’t know why. It’s not like he could have seen me. “Of course. The signs. So, where are we meeting?”

“Doesn’t matter. A coffee shop. We’ll sit down, have a drink. I’ll leave a mint tin on the table. I leave, you pick it up, and we go about the rest of our lives.”

“How much?”

Rob didn’t chuckle that time. He laughed. “First one’s always free, friend. You know that.”

I sighed. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. I was disgusted with myself. Disgusted with myself and desperate to see the beautiful new world that I’d heard about. This one wasn’t doing it for me anymore. “Sounds good. You’re a real pal, Rob. I’ve got another forty left on my lunch break. Can you be at Pyotr’s in fifteen?”

“Certainly, certainly.”

I put on sunglasses, walked outside to my car, winced at the harsh light of day. Pyotr’s was only a few minutes’ drive away from me. I ordered a plain black coffee and sat at a table in the back of the cafe, nursing my drink and rubbing my temples. After a few minutes, Rob came and sat down in the chair across from me. He was grinning, always grinning, thin lips pulled taut against yellowed teeth. “Howdy, howdy, howdy. How are you doing today, friend?”

“Hungover as fuck. You?”

“I’m doing wonderfully. But then, I always am.”

I looked at Rob, really looked at him, and I realized he was thinner than I remembered. Pale. Not fair, but almost a sort of weathered grey. His skin had a sallow quality about it, as if what sat before me were a stranger wearing a poorly made Rob suit. Rob had been a bit chubby back when we were all still in school. Had the years really been that hard on him? Had he looked this bad at the party and I just hadn’t noticed?

“Uh, yeah. You’re looking good, man.”

Rob smiled, gave as best of a mock bow as he could without standing up. “Well, of course I am. I’ve seen the signs.” He coughed, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a package of mints. He popped one into his mouth, visibly swallowed it, shuddered once, and then smiled at me. He pushed the container across the table and said, “And now you can, too.”

I had nothing to say to that. I just nodded, picked up the tin, slipped it into my pants pocket.

“Don’t be scared. You can take one now.” Rob smiled. “Your journey will last about ten minutes.” His eyes narrowed to slits. “You’ll have just enough time to drive yourself back to the office and get back to your desk.” His grin became a sneer. “I’m sure you have a very busy day planned of sitting quietly and trying not to make eye contact with anyone.”

I smiled as coldly as I could. “Well, someone’s got to make the world a better place, just like someone’s got to do everything in their power to make it worse.”

I expected some kind of a retort from Rob, but none came. He looked at me, and after a moment I realized that he was looking at something past me. Or maybe something else in the space where I should have been.

One of his eyes was dilated. The other had narrowed to a pinpoint.

“Yes. I agree,” he finally said, still not looking at me. He nodded to himself. Once, twice. A pause. A third nod.

“Hey, Earth to Ass… Earth to Rob. I’m the only person here.”

That got his attention. His head snapped toward me, and he looked at me with those half-focused eyes of his. I frowned, shifted in my seat. I didn’t like the way he was looking at me, like he couldn’t decide if I were actually there or not.

I opened my mouth to say something, but decided against it. We were done, and after seeing what had happened to Rob, I was certainly not about to try a Yellow before going back to work. Instead I just stood up and walked out of Pyotr’s, got into my car, went to go sit quietly at my desk and try not to make eye contact with anyone.

* * *

I sat on my bed, the mint tin open before me. It was full of tiny little yellow pills, round things with no markings on them. I’d seen Rob’s MDMA before, each one with a stylized R on one side. His ego would demand no less, and I was surprised to see that these were so plain, so unassuming. The only distinguishing thing about them at all, one I had evidently failed to notice at the party, was a black spot in the center of the pills on one side. The effect made them look almost like miniature halos.

Or maybe jaundiced eyes.

I don’t know how long I sat there in front of the tin, those little yellow eyeballs looking up at me, watching, waiting. The emotional pain I’d felt the night before that had made me so desperate to escape from my reality had faded into my mundane and constant misanthropy, and in its place, the old profound mistrust of Rob and his abilities had returned.

I sighed, plucked a single pill from the tin. It sat on the tip of my finger, and I stared at it, considered it, and it considered me. “Whatever. Fuck it.” I put it on the tip of my tongue. It was bitter, and in an instant it had dissolved away into nothing.

I took a deep breath and just sat there, staring out the window and waiting for something to happen. I watched and I waited and there were no changes. The sky stayed exactly the same. There were no dragons sliding through it like fish slide through water. I stood up and walked over to the window, looked outside. No little grey men.

I felt normal. Lucid. Disappointed. I considered taking more, but decided not to risk poisoning myself chasing a high that didn’t exist. Instead, I turned and left my bedroom, walked towards the kitchen. That’s when I saw them.

There were five of them, and I understood instinctively that five was a number of power. There had always been five, there would always be five, and should one of their number pass away, they would be promptly replaced. There must be five.

They stood in my living room, taller than humans, only a foot or so shy of the ceiling. They were impossibly thin, little more than stick figures beneath the dark robes they wore. To say that the robes were black would have been an understatement. They were blacker than anything I’d ever seen, so dark that they seemed nothing less than a hole in the universe, a portal into non-existence.

They stood motionless, communicating with each other in a language I would never understand, a sound I could feel in my bones. They were discussing important matters. That much was obvious. But what those matters were, I couldn’t say. But I stood there, and I watched them, and somewhere beneath their robes, where their faces would have been if they were human, there was the suggestion of movement, of unseen things slithering in the night.

I watched them for what felt like an eternity, years passing by as unnoticed as seconds. It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes though, from what I knew about how Yellows worked. The comedown was instantaneous. In one instant, the circle of five was there, and in the next, they were gone. I stood there alone in my empty living room for only a moment before I rushed back to my bedroom for the tin of Yellows.


The Signs, Pt. 2

The west of the weekend passed by quietly. Monday came and I pulled myself out of bed and shuffled along to work. The day was slow, interminable, and I wanted desperately to be anywhere else doing anything else. I thought back to Rob and his Yellows. Should have grabbed some, I thought. I could have taken one at lunch to make the day go faster. Instead, I just kept going along, sleepwalking through my day, tapping away at a computer and wishing I were somewhere else.

I left work feeling like I had at the party, full of nervous energy with no outlet. I needed to run around. I needed to scream. I needed to do something before I popped. So I called up my friend, Danny Boy, and told him to come over to my place with a twelve-pack and whatever he was holding. “We’ll make a real night of it. Get weird with it.”

“Dude, don’t you have work tomorrow?”

I snorted. “Alright, so we won’t get that weird with it. But still. I need to blow off some fucking steam, man.”

Danny Boy grunted in response. I could just imagine him shrugging his shoulders, even though there was no one there to see it. “Alright, whatever. I’ll be over in forty.”

Traffic was slower than usual, and by the time I got home, Danny Boy was sitting on my porch, a case of beer and a backpack next to him, a can of beer in his hand and two more on the ground nearby. As he saw me approach, he upended the can he was drinking from, finished the last of it, and gently tossed it at me. I easily side-stepped it. “You’re late, man.” He picked up the backpack, tapped it with his hand and grinned. “Come on, step it up. The pipes, the pipes are calling.”

I smirked. For the first time in a few days, I felt like laughing. I felt a little bit like the person I used to be, smiling and finding things funny and generally pretty content with the world.

Just a little bit, but it was something.

We went inside. I drank one can, then another. Danny Boy packed the pipe. We were just sitting there, going and back forth talking about nothing, when Danny Boy said something to snap me out of my blissful little haze.

“What was that?”

“I was asking if you remembered that guy we went to school with. Robert Something-or-other.”

I took a deep breath, let it out slowly. It didn’t help. “Yeah, I remember him. What about him?”

“I was talking with my boy Googe the other night. He said he was at this party this past weekend, and Rob was there pimping some kind of homemade hallucinogen. Called it ‘Yellers,’ or something.”

“Yellows. I was there, too.”

“Oh yeah? You try them?”

I shook my head. “I’m not trying a goddamn thing that guy makes after that bullshit he pulled with the blow. He’s lucky he didn’t kill someone, putting fucking worm medication in his shit. Fucking psychopath.”

“Worm medication?”

I nodded. “Does bad things to your blood. Too much, and your skin starts rotting off your bones.”

Danny Boy’s eyes went wide at that. “Jesus, I had no idea. He said he’d put something in to give it an extra kick, something to help people step outside of their comfort zones and experience a different way of looking at the world.”

“Yeah, Rob says a lot of shit, in case you haven’t noticed.”

Danny Boy frowned, looked down at the ground. He hadn’t known about the coke and he didn’t like hearing about it. “Well, Googe said the Yellows were good. Trippy as fuck, he said. Comes on quick, doesn’t last long. Like being in a different world.”

“Sounds like salvia.”

Danny Boy shook his head. “He said it was different. Like, he didn’t believe anything crazy or impossible, like that time he thought was a walking Lego man. He said he was just sitting there, and all of a sudden he could see another world.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that before.”

“The detail, though. He said it was like the house was still the same but the world had changed. He looked out the window and the sky was pink and purple, grey snakes swimming the air. Houses growing out of the ground. Little grey men walking around, climbing around on the houses on all fours. That kind of stuff.”

“That doesn’t really sound that weird.”

“He said that he didn’t even really feel all that high. He was just surprised. Like if you were sitting in front of the TV, you blinked, and then you were on a sunny beach somewhere.”

“Still.”

“Well, how about this, then? He said he met some other people at the party who tried the Yellows too, and they saw the same things he did.”

I shrugged. This conversation was far cry from the kinds of things Danny Boy and I usually talked about when he came over, and it was rapidly chipping away at my good mood. “Rob’s exactly the kind of asshole to try and take a crowd of people on a guided meditation, though. Give them some drugs and then paint a distorted, poorly conceived portrait for them.”

“Yeah, but Googe didn’t get the Yellows from Rob. He got them from Lori, he said.”

Just like that, what was left of my pleasant little buzz was gone. My eyes narrowed to slits. “What?”

Danny Boy looked at me, opened his mouth to speak, shut it. He shrugged. “Hey, man. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I’m just saying what Googe told me, okay?”

I ignored him. My mind was racing a mile a minute, even through the haze of the alcohol and the weed. Had Lori gotten the Yellows from Rob or from someone else? Did she try them? What did that bastard make her do to get them? Did he give them to her just to piss me off?

I sat there in silence, staring at the ground while Danny Boy went on and on and about something. “I’m sorry, what was that?” I said to him once I realized he was beginning to look at me with concern on his face.

“I said, ‘Isn’t that really something, though? To get visions of someplace else? To be transported somewhere else, even if only for a little while?”

I just stared at Danny Boy for a second, but I nodded my head in agreement. “Yeah. To be somewhere else. That’d really be something.”

And it was true. It would be.

* * *

Danny Boy left, but I don’t remember when. I don’t remember picking up the phone and calling her. I only remember her voice. I existed in a state of her voice, and then in a state of not her voice, and then it was morning and my head was pounding and I was late for work and I had to fight to peel myself off the floor.


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