The Signs, Pt. 1

Welcome to the show, kiddies! This is the 101st post in the blog. Isn’t that exciting? Granted, that total includes posts that were angry rants and posts that were lame excuses, but still! 101 posts! Neat!

Anyway, we’re going to kick the year off proper (now that it’s February and all) with a horror story I like to call, “The Signs.” Enjoy!

It was such a small thing, such a tiny thing, held between two fingers. In the dim, flickering light from the candles that were illuminating the room, its color seemed to change with every passing second. One moment it burned as bright as the midday son, the next it was the same sickly shade as a smoker’s teeth. From gold to piss, from sunflower to hornet to poppy, all in an instant. It was hypnotic. It was unsettling.

“I call them ‘Yellows,’” Rob said. He was grinning. Sneering, really. His teeth were stained from wine, from abuse and neglect, and he looked for all the world like some kind of monstrous giant holding aloft some tiny animal to be devoured in a single bite. “You take them, and they’ll open up a whole other world to you. You see shit.”

The gathered crowd oohed and ahhed. I snorted. “Take enough of anything and you’ll see shit. What makes these things so different?”

Rob pulled his hand in close to his chest and grinned winder, a petulant false prophet making his audience beg and clamor for his message. “Shit’s not from this world, son! Divinely inspired! The formula came to me in a dream. Hooded figures told me, ‘We have chosen you to be our agent, Robert Williams. We give you this gift. Go forth and prepare the world for our coming.’”

The gathered crowd was eating this up. I just rolled my eyes, wondering how I’d let myself be suckered into giving a once-close friend turned “I’m sure.”

Once upon a time, Rob had been cool, a Chemistry major with a good future ahead of him and a penchant for concocting and sampling his own goods. But after a few philosophy classes, some alternative medicine and lifestyle bullshit, he became convinced that he “had a higher purpose.” Timothy Francis Leary as Buddha.

Rob’s grin settled into a close-mouthed smug smile. There was something mean in his eyes. There was always something mean in his eyes these days, something cruel and calculating, like some sadistic professor watching his students struggle with a deliberately obtuse concept. “You guys are lucky, you know? I mean that. I really mean that. You can’t get Yellows on the street yet. Not yet. But man, once these fucking babies hit, they’re going to change everything.”

What am I doing here, I asked myself. Why, out of everyone at this party, was I talking to the one person I couldn’t stand?

“How many have you got?” some girl I didn’t recognize asked.

Rob winked, a touch of the charm he used to have shining through from behind the corroded facade of his current state. “I got enough to go around. First one’s always free, kids. You know that. You know I take care of you guys.”

The others surged forward, hands outstretched, clapping Rob on the back and laughing and joking about what a great guy he was. I couldn’t take it anymore. I left the bedroom we’d all gathered in, walked out into the hallway, down the stairs. All around me, the music pumped and pulsed. The house was warm from the heat of the bodies inside pressed against each other, wet with the sweat and exhalations. It was a living breathing thing, and in that instant I felt like some kind of helpless creature that had been swallowed whole by it. I wandered into the kitchen, where people were standing around, laughing and drinking, but I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t want anything to drink and I certainly didn’t want to talk to anyone.

I walked into the living room. A crush of people were dancing to the music blasting through the speakers. I didn’t see anyone I recognized, but then I saw her, dancing with some guy I didn’t know.

His hands ran up and down her body.

He gave her ass a quick squeeze.

She put her hand over his, put it somewhere less offensive.

But they kept dancing.

My breath caught in my throat. I almost wished I’d stayed upstairs with Rob. Almost.

I turned around and walked away. Maybe the kitchen was the place to be after all. Maybe I would have a drink, or grab some chips, or find the hottest girl in there and drag her out onto the dance floor. But the kitchen was crowded, and so I started pacing around aimlessly, doing my best to avoid the living room.

I couldn’t stand being inside the house anymore. It felt like something was crawling around under my skin. I couldn’t stop moving. If I stood against the wall, I tapped my feet. If I sat down, I drummed my fingertips against my knees, played with my hands aimlessly. So I went out to the front porch, leaned against the railing, lit a cigarette. There were a few other people out there, smokers, couples talking, but I ignored them and they ignored me. At least, they ignored me for a little while. As my cigarette slowly burned itself out and I tried to decide whether or not to light up another, I felt a presence behind me. I looked over my shoulder to find Rob standing there, leaning against the side of the house with his arms folded in front of him.

Rob looked at me, some strange emotion playing across his face. Amusement? Smug satisfaction? It didn’t matter. Nothing the asshole did mattered. “Hey, man. Thought I saw you come out here. Tell me, was that Lori I saw dancing with some dude in there?”

I stared at Rob in silence for a moment, trying to keep my face neutral and failing badly. “Oh, is Lori here?” I said. “I hadn’t noticed.”

Rob smirked and shrugged. ”Maybe I was mistaken, then. But hey, in any case, it was good seeing you again, man. Shame you didn’t stick around to try some of my newest masterpiece. Maybe next time I see you, you can reach deep down inside yourself, find your fucking balls, and try something life-changing for once.”

“And maybe next time you’ll be less of a scumbag piece of shit, but I’m not going to hold my breath.”

He chuckled and shook his head. “You just don’t get it, man. You haven’t seen the signs.”

I turned away from him, pulled out another cigarette, did my best to light it with shaking heads. “Fuck off, man. I don’t have shit to say to you.”

Rob chuckled once more, but I ignored him. I just kept looking straight ahead, at the houses across the street, at the open road, at nothing. The cigarette burned down, and when it did, I looked over my shoulder. He was gone.

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