Saturday, January 15, 2011

About that time

I hate having a ton of ideas for things to write and having a bunch of other things I'm supposed to be doing. Add those two in with my natural apathy and I have way too many excuses not to work on anything. Sucks. Anyways, started working on this awhile ago, but was too lazy to upload it because I didn't want to add in all the paragraph breaks. There's more than this already, but, again, laziness. It's a killer.


Shit just never seems to happen quite how you expect.

It was something his father had always said, particularly when something bad happened entirely unexpectedly, like that time he smashed half the bones in his hand into splinters with a hammer. He'd been working on re-shingling their roof, different piles all around him in some kind of order he couldn't understand. His dad, who worked twelve hour days as a line cook at some French joint downtown did that with everything, setting up everything he'd need far in advance, calling them his meez. For the roof job, it had been two packs of cigarettes, Matador Full Flavor 100's, three tallboys of some cheap, generic beer—the kind of swill that tasted like someone else had already drank it once and pissed it back out, still foaming, into the can again—a stack of all the roof tiles that could be salvaged after the last windstorm, a staple gun, hammer, box of nails, towel with grease and blood stains for any inevitable emergency gush of sangre or rush of sweat in the eyes or spilled beer, and a crossword puzzle book for breaks.

What he'd neglected, however, was a pen, a tragedy he'd realized ten minutes after starting, and he'd be damned if he was climbing back down that rickety piece-of-shit ladder he should have replaced a decade earlier when it started rusting and falling apart. Instead, he hollered from the roof to anyone in earshot to bring him a pen, using his usual only semi-coherent blend of profanity, slang, kitchen acquired Spanish, and English that came out specifically when his meez were wrong or, God forbid, messed with.

He had grabbed a pen off the counter, and rushed outside, his older brother in tow, an air horn hidden behind his back. He planned to shock his unsuspecting brother on his way back down from the roof, get a good laugh out of it, and that was all. Unfortunately, as Isaac would swear daily, his older brother was as close to retarded as a bright kid could get.

The air horn squealed for half a second, and then there was a very specific, very instantly recognizable sound that Isaac would remember for the rest of his life. It was the strange combination of a dull thud and a stomach turning crunching, like someone stomping on a pile of chalk but somehow more visceral, personally painful even to hear. Isaac, only ten at the time, had never heard the word fuck said louder—he would swear every time he'd tell the story that his dad screamed it so loud the roof vibrated.

But, impressively, and thoroughly stupidly considering the ridiculous amount of damage done to his left hand, his dad grit his teeth, tied one of the ice-cold tallboys to his hand with the towel, finished hammering down the tile he was working on, and then stepped down from the roof. Isaac, duly concerned, stared on in awe. His dad forced a smile, pain sweat coursing down his forehead, clapped his hand on his son's shoulder, and said, “S'all good, kid. What'd I always tell ya? Shit's never quite the way you expect it to be!”

As he grew up, he thought this made about as much sense as the whole “Expect the Unexpected” bullshit line. You can't expect the unexpected, because, by definition, it's unexpected. You can try to prepare, make room for adjustments to your plans when shit inevitably goes awry, but that just doesn't as much of a catchy saying, he guessed. And of course things aren't exactly as you expect, unless you're Kreskin or something. He figured his dad always meant to be prepared for things to change on you so you can just roll with it, but that just seemed like common sense.

Eventually, and a bit too late, he realized his dad was just trying to say, “no matter how smart you are or how much you know, shit's still going to take you by surprise all the time.” He learned this on a frigid December Saturday, the kind of cold where everything has been plastered with a few inches of snow and ice, and the wind feels like it could freeze the air solid in your lungs. He was just walking home from another boring day of classes, par for the college misanthrope course. Later, he'd try to remember what was on his mind as he stepped out into the crosswalk. He wanted to say it was something intellectual, maybe even pertaining to one of his classes, perhaps something about the implications of Burke's expanded definition of rhetoric. More likely, though, he was thinking about the ass on the girl walking ten yards or so ahead of him. Great shape, nice and round, and the girl was wearing just tights and a long-ish shirt that covered next to nothing so it was perfectly outlined as she walked. Ah, that's right, he was wondering about whether or not he should feel bad about just unabashedly staring at this girls ass.

Then, all of the sudden, he heard it again, that nasty sound of bones being bashed apart into splinters. Suddenly, he was flying sideways, his elbow bumping against the side of knee. How was that shit happening? It was like being in a first-person shooter for a second; he could see out of his own eyes, he was aware that something was happening, and that it was awfully intense and surprising, but that was about it. Or at least, until his now crumpled body hit the pavement. Then it all hit at once, the realization of what would happen, the knowledge of how bad he was hurt, and the pain. Oh sweet hell the pain. He figured it was what it must feel like to be torn in half by a giant or something, his entire middle was far too destroyed to even want to look at...if he even could have. He could vaguely hear voices, could tell they were screaming, but it was muffled. He was slowly becoming aware that even the pain was getting more and more dull—still agonizing, unimaginable, horrifying, but slowly becoming an echo of itself. He'd have laughed at the fact that he was thankful he couldn't feel any pain in his legs if he hadn't also been aware that he couldn't feel anything in them at all, or if he could laugh at all. Breathing was suddenly so hard, struggling just to force haggard rasps in and out through the feeling like that mean ol' giant had his massive mitts on his chest, squeezing and crushing the life out of him.

Keeping his eyes open was getting harder and harder, and everything around him was starting to blur into an incomprehensible mess of lights and shadows, black and white. It was rapidly becoming disturbing that the shadows were starting to blot out more and more of the world. He was aware of sneakers stepping in front of his face and only barely aware of small splash of dirty water and slush that sprayed up in his face. Someone was trying to move him. That's a mistake he thought, absentmindedly, the pain getting further and further away, Didn't anyone ever tell this jackass to not move seriously injured people?

Wait, fuck, I am pretty seriously injured, aren't I?

Christ, this isn't right at all...

I was just walking down the fucking street, car must've been speeding, fucking asshole...
Slid on the ice...
Getting way too damn cold...
This shit isn't right...doesn't work like this...

It's nothing like it was supposed to be. On TV, every death was foreshadowed a few episodes in advance, and the dying character always got their final, important, heartfelt episode. Then, after sufficient tears were shed and enough loose ends were tied up to make things poignant, someone could punch their clock for the last time. In movies it was the same damn thing, and everyone always died in some really cool way. Everyone who died in movies got shot or blown up or killed by some crazy super disease or eaten by zombies or kung-fu'ed to death by Bruce Lee. And video games? God, those were the worst of all. Any major character had to go in the most dramatic fashion possible, probably saving the entire human race or taking the big baddie down with him.

But this? Fuck, this wasn't right at all. Walking home and hit by some speeding douche? Wrong. Incorrect. Try again, asshole.

No, not wrong. No dramatic comeback when the audience doesn't expect it. No extra life or save file waiting so you can pick things up after the unexpected. Just a thud and blamo, one more set of slightly used organs for the hospital.

No, fuck that. I'll wake up in the hospital. Probably won't walk again. Sucks. Sucks hard. But not dead. Not like this. Doesn't work this way.

As the driver, mildly intoxicated and terrified, the girl with the nice ass, and a group of other gawkers and shocked nobodies crowded around, and amidst the snow-muffled sounds of the paramedics getting closer and closer, Isaac reached out by instinct alone, his hand bloodied and shaking. He was grasping for something; what that was, even he wasn't sure. But something was there. Something had to be there.

Slowly, he became aware of the texture of something in his closed hand. It was warm, soft, familiar. Skin. Someone was holding onto him.

Gradually other sensations started falling into place: warmth from the touch, some cold, hard surface underneath him—was he naked?--the feeling of his heart beating hard and fast in his chest, the sound of voices.

“—another one? Looks like a fucking kid.”
“Shut it, Marcus.”
“Oh, getting all maternal on me, sweetheart? How cute.”
“I said shut it, Marcus, or I'll shut it for you.”
“Try me, cunt. Try me.”
“Both of you cut it out. He's almost done.”

Done? The fuck am I doing exactly?

The last sense to come back was sight, and God, what a sight! Tits, easily D's, in some kinda tight body suit that left very little to the imagination. He was in someone's lap, some hot girl's lap, apparently, in something that looked like an old Gothic cathedral. He tried moving, and his body responded, slowly, sluggishly, fighting him at every impulse. He looked down to make sure everything was still there—holy shit, he was naked—and found with some degree of shock that it was.

“Easy, kid. Don't wanna take it too quick, these marble floors are just as hard as they look.”
The girl, smiling, sat him up and gave him a look over. He covered himself quickly.
“W-what...where...where the hell...ah shit...this is hell, isn't it?”
The girl, the very large, very black man who was telling him to stay down, and a few more, a group sitting a few dozen yards away on an altar, all laughed, but not heartily enough for Isaac's liking.
“Not hell,” the mountain of obsidian said, tossing a pair of slacks onto Isaac's lap, “Probably not, anyways. Put those on and we'll try to explain.”

Isaac tried his best to hide his shame in front of the girl who, giggling slightly—was that a good or bad thing?—turned around. He slipped on the pants, amidst more laughs from the peanut gallery on the other side of the cathedral. There were three of them, all of them with enough piercings, crude ones at that, to look like they'd just barely made it out of a scrape with someone wielding a nail gun. One was a lanky bastard with a long, greasy, and jet black mohawk, another was a short, stubby kid, probably a full head shorter than Isaac with a shaved head, and the last was tan, handsome aside from the metal work and tattooed lines zig-zagging their way up and down his chest and face, with wild, long white shocks of hair jutting out at every angle from his head. Isaac had been in school long enough to know what they were, even if the term was decidedly a little too juvenile for these clearly grown men: bullies. The little one was the toady, the mohawk was the loudmouth, and the expressionless tan one was...well, that one was a mystery, but he just seemed to ooze a don't-fuck-with-me vibe from every pore.

“Hammer, you know you're wasting your time,” shouted the loudmouth through his massive shark-toothed grin. Isaac had heard of people getting their teeth sculpted and filed into rows of razor sharp fangs but had never seen it before. “Trying to help out another green faggot is just gonna gonna get you burned again.”

Hammer, a fitting name for the massive African Isaac decided, simply shot back a cold stare, and took his firm hold on Isaac's shoulder again. Together, with Girl-With-Big-Tits, Hammer led Isaac out of the line of sight of the loudmouth and company and they sat on a small bench under a massive circular stained glass window. They sat in silence for a second, Isaac between the two, looking back and forth at the two very opposite figures, waiting for words that never came. Finally, confusion got the better of nerves and shyness and Isaac spoke out. “Either of you nice folks want to explain what in the hell's going on? Where are we? Didn't I just die on the pavement, like, five minutes ago?”

Hammer held up one of his gargantuan hands and shushed him. “Not yet. Sorry, it'll be easier when everyone is together,” he offered, his accent thick but easily understood. Isaac stared at him for a moment. That was it? I'm magically transported without my clothes to a dark, creepy-ass cathedral where I'm getting cuddled by some babe, and I get hushed by the one who knows what's going on? Serious bullshit, man.

“He's stern, but he's just trying to make this easy,” came from his left, along with a hand on his shoulder, “Hammer's a really good guy, I promise.”

Isaac forced a confused smile, and sat up straight. Apparently, even in hell he still wanted to impress pretty girls. “Finally, someone who isn't an ass or a mute! Mind telling me what's going on?”
“Sorry, I can't say I really know all together too well either. It's best to let Hammer explain it; he's been here longest. I'm Karen, by the way.”
“Isaac, nice to meet you...kind of. I...ah...well, thanks. For earlier I mean.”
“Earlier? Oh, um...gosh,” she said, blushing and looking away, “I was just, um, I was putting my Shadow back on and you started to, well you know, and I was just right there and, it was like, I couldn't help but want to, you know, make it easier I guess?”

Note to self: Hottie will talk way too damn much without saying much of anything if you let her.
Isaac smiled and shook his head. “Sorry, but I really don't understand. Not even a little, actually. Putting on your 'shadow'? Sorry, but to the uninitiated, none of this makes a whole lot of s—shit!“
Before he could finish, a sudden burst of light flashed in one of the empty rows of pews, sending a sudden shock wave of wind, dust, and old cobwebs out in every direction. Hammer and Karen jumped to their feet and rushed off to the source without a word, Isaac scrambling on his still-wobbly legs to keep up.

It was like seeing the divine work of creation first hand, both beautiful and somehow terrifying. There was a faintly glowing outline of a person yet to be, like God's own design sketch, just sitting there in one of the pews. Then it started. First were the bones, starting from the spine and growing outward like a time-lapse of growing tree branches. Then the heart grew in place and started beating out rushing tendrils, veins, arteries, capilaries, and then the brain too, sending out what seemed like a never ending system of nerves throughout the body-yet-to-be. And soon blood, so much blood! It formed splotches like dripping ink which slowly shaped themselves into organs, muscles, everything. The skin started to cloud up in patches, spreading as if it were an infection all over the body, filling out every last line and detail of the glowing design.

Suddenly, where there had only a minute earlier, there was a man where there had been no man before. He was older, frail looking, probably in his late fifties, and he was just there. Isaac realized, while he was just gawking, jaw agape like a moron, Karen and Hammer had been moving. Hammer had clothes in hand and Karen was standing behind the pew with a blanket. The moment the old man was done materializing, she wrapped the blanket around him and stepped back over to Hammer's side. And there, they waited, staring down at the seemingly dead man for what seemed like an eternity. Gradually, he started to stir, moving slowly like a baby still fascinated by his own body's existence and capabilities. Must've been just how I looked, Isaac thought, still staring.

But when his eyes opened, there was only a moment of panicked looking back and forth before the screaming started. He flailed and struggled, Hammer easily holding him down, his arms and legs slamming against the immovable pillars holding him fast like they were made of gelatin.

“No! No! You can't! Get off of me, for God's sake someone stop him! Help me! Please, God, help me!”

Hammer didn't move an inch, didn't say a word. It was Karen who leaned into the fray, dodging and slipping the old man's frantic swings to try to calm him. Eventually it worked, and he stopped, panting and gasping for breath.
“God in heaven...where...where is he? That...that salesman! He...He stabbed me! He had a paring knife or something...put it in me right here! Right here, don't you see?” he said, slapping at his chest, “And then! God, and then! He held his hand over my mouth so I couldn't scream and started ransacking my house! But this...what is...where in God's name are we?”

The dull thud of feet on marble echoed slightly through the cathedral. It was the loudmouth. “Step back, Hammer, I'll take this one. Loooord Almighty knows this old piece-of-shit won't last, might as well let me take him.”
“Marcus...” Karen started, but this time he didn't even hesitate.
“Save it, slut. Oh, and old man! God? Yeah, if he's up there, he deserted your tired old ass right about the time some burglar stuck you, got me?”

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