Some Instincts

Shivering through space, Daley tiptoed across the library in her overcoat, gloves and woolen hat. Every cough ripped through her throat like ice chips going up rather than down, the reverse of her favorite summertime treat, crunching posicles in the yard before they melted.
Her body was a nesting place for germs and it made her uncomfortable to be around people who could catch her diseases but she had no choice. The world hadn’t stopped when her fever had risen to 102. The shelf she was searching for was being elusive, skipping around the library and purposefully evading her.
Terry’s blue and black coat flashed in her peripheral vision and warring instincts kicked in. She didn’t want him to see her like this but she wanted him to see her, to remember she existed outside the universe of beer pong and lax boys sucking on helium balloons for a laugh. Terry wasn’t above that sort of thing – Daley liked to think she was – but he had something to him that was more than that as well.
She couldn’t decide what to do quickly enough, and so he was gone, slamming out of the library like everyone seemed to do, as loudly and disruptively as possible. The sound reverberated in her head and she still couldn’t find the shelf mark she was looking for. She wished she could ask for help but her voice was reduced to a crow’s scratchy caw and whispering hurt even worse.
It was time to give up, she realized, surprised that her body had already figured this out and that she was falling to the floor, knees buckling, hands pulling some books off the shelf with her just to make sure that someone would hear and come running.
At least, she thought before everything went black, some instincts are still working.

Man and Wolf

There’s a full moon tonight.
It’s a werewolf moon.
It means that things are changing,
They’ll come to get you soon.
**
The man becomes the beast.
The violence is exposed.
Do you have some sympathy?
He’ll say it’s not what he chose.
**
The moon hides behind the clouds,
She’s playing hide and seek.
The man is howling in the woods,
The werewolf tries to speak.
**
The werewolf’s nature is its own,
Survival, eat and mate.
The man has passions, anger, guilt,
He thinks he has a fate.
**
The werewolf curls up quietly,
His pack is fast asleep.
The man is climbing up the trees,
Or digging six-foot deep.
**
The moon rises full again.
The werewolf’s gone afar.
But man has stayed right where he was,
His heart like stone, like tar.

Going Soft and True

Leroy glanced down at his watch for what felt like the hundredth time. They were late. Very late. And he was out on a limb here, risking his ass for Mr. Tony Boss-man. As if the Boss-man ever did a day’s work in his life, sitting there on his throne of black leather on wheels, computer screen hiding half his face, playing at being all modern. Sure, he was modern. If modern was looking at dirty videos all day.

Patting his pockets, Leroy searched for his lighter. Realizing it was already in his hand, he drew his pack of Marlboro cigarettes from his jeans, shook one out, and lit it. He glanced at his watch again, breathing in the smoke as if it was much needed oxygen. They were so late, he thought again. He could feel the prickles on the nape of his neck; he was sweating so badly that his hair seemed to be leaking. There was no reason for them to be late. Not unless… But he wouldn’t go there. Not yet, not consciously.

Glancing at his watch yet again, he realized that this was the first time in a long damn while that he’d been up in the small hours of the night. He remembered the last time vividly now, as if it had been yesterday instead of eight years ago. He could almost smell the smoke from the barrel of the gun – but no, that’s the cig, he reminded himself – and could almost see the hole in that man’s chest. That was a long time ago now, and Leroy tried to forget it more often than not. Only right now, with them being late and all, it was getting hard to separate his quickened heartbeats from that other night when he’d felt them so strongly too.

He realized he was muttering under his breath and shut up quickly. It was a habit he’d picked up at the pen. Some banker who’d offed his business partner had told him that muttering made people stay away from you. Leroy’d started doing it one evening when one of the thugs seemed willing to come beat on him for some sport, and he’d found that the thug turned away pretty quick when Leroy didn’t respond to his taunting but just kept on muttering. The thug had made his dumb friends laugh by making fun of the crazy dude talking to himself, and that had been it. The habit of muttering had stuck. The Boss-man told him to cut it out, that it was freak-show quality stuff that would scare away his clients. Didn’t need the muttering, though, to scare them away. Since they were so late that Leroy just assumed that they weren’t coming.

Just as he took his last puff and was flicking the butt into the road, he caught sight of headlights coming towards him. That moment seemed to stretch into forever. Leroy saw the headlights, saw the flare of his cigarette hitting the ground, saw the man’s chest torn open eight years ago, saw the bars of his solitary confinement when he’d raged at first, saw the eight wasted years. He saw it all in that one instant, and instinctively turned and jumped over the railing of the highway into the adjacent field. He ran through it, the dew making the ground slippery and the plants moist. He slipped, fell, hands covered with mud where he caught himself in the wet earth. He stayed down, heart beating, and listened.

He heard the idling car. He heard voices, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. The blood was pumping so loudly in his ears that he felt that they must have turned into beacons of sound, broadcasting to all the crooks he’d ever known, telling them all that Leroy’d turned soft. That jail had reformed him. That Leroy wanted to clean up his act and never think of how another deal gone bad could turn into a gaping hole in a man’s chest.

He stayed down for a long time, long after the car had gone with the dealers in it. He lay in the damp earth until the sun rose, until the plants and ground around him seemed to start steaming. When the sun warmed the back of his still sweating neck, the warmth gave him goosebumps and shivered. The involuntary movement jarred him, and he finally managed to make his stiff limbs listen to his brain. He sat up, and stared around him. The field he was in looked nice, tended, except for the long path he’d made from the highway where all the plants were trampled, bent and broken. Like him, like Leroy the ex-crook, the ex-brave, the ex-badass.

There was a house a few hundreds yards away, at the end of the field. Leroy got to his feet, shaking, and took a good long look at it. He’d go there, ask about making amends for the ruined crops. Ask if he could work to pay for some food. Maybe if he’d prove he was strong and just as able as any man to work a long day in the sun, they’d let him stay for a while. Rent a room for his labor. That is, if there was anyone in there. With his luck, it’d be some old bag who hired illegals to work her fields, or some senile man with fifteen sons who did everything that needed to be done. But then again, maybe it’d be a husband and wife and a little boy who needed some extra hands to help get the harvest in proper. Leroy started towards the house, thinking that soon enough he’d find out.

Nightclub

As you enter, you hit not so much a wall, but rather a whole cathedral of sound. There is no escape, no corner where relief from it can be found. If you’re there, you’re not looking for that kind of relief anyway. No, if you’re there, if you’re one of the mass and crush of bodies that fill the place, you’re looking for the kind of relief that can be found only in surrounding and drowning yourself in sound.

Darkness – though punctured by swirling colored lights one moment and a bright flashing white light the next moment – is still the feeling and the living presence that dominates the space. You can feel it in every square inch, the darkness being beckoned and welcomed as a savior, as a necessity, as a living thing to be worshiped. The throng of people treat the darkness as a blessing, a way to keep their anonymity, a way to overcome shyness or fear, a way to live out their wildest sides.

The music is no less important than the darkness. It seems to induce madness, or perhaps levitate towards ecstasy, as people lose themselves in the movement, in the noise, in the never-ending thrum of the bass in their hearts and stomachs. Smoke coils endlessly in the air, the pungent smell of strong alcohol mixing with it, as cigarettes are lit one after another, as drinks pass from hand to hand.