Creature Feature: Chapter Four.

 

-FOUR-

Buttercup

(Dick)

 

It felt as if that Detective Kruger guy sent the reporters to my house as his own way of sequestering me inside. All evening the reporters knocked on my door to get a statement. I never once opened up.

The fuzzballs and the ceiling stain creature did nothing but stare out the window at the mobile zoo that had so generously allowed themselves to trod all over my beautiful lawn.

Nadia and I generally stayed out of window sight and played board games in the dining room for hours until the ten o’clock news had passed and the reporters began to wave their white flags.

I went to work a little late due to my lack of sleep, but I was pleased to see an empty lawn when I woke up, save for a few soda cans and Twinkie wrappers.

I drove to work under severe paranoia. I imagined that at any second a newsperson would be jumping out from behind a tree and in front of my car with a cameraman on his back and a microphone in hand, shoving it into the window to get a quote. I pictured a pathetic attempt of getting them off by turning on the wiper blades, only smooshing encrusted insects into his face. I saw the cameraman climbing up to the top of the car, ripping a hole through the roof with a chainsaw to make room for the lens and to say, “Did you do it? How did it feel to burn an old lady to a crisp?”

There came up a red light and I stopped short, nearly bumping a woman crossing the street. She glared at me before I made an oops face.

“Spare some change?” The lopsided bear knocked on my window.

“Argh, I’ve already told you…” This guy had brown fur. Beverly mentioned brown fur in her description. She never said what size it was. I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. “Hey wait a sec, let me ask you something…”

The creature bolted away from the car after a terrified look crossed his fuzzy askew face.

“Hey wait! I just want to talk!” I peeled out and around the block, cutting through the red light, the camera flashing a picture of my license plate. The creature was visibly terrified, bounding down the sidewalk, every few seconds looking behind him. His fur began to matt with sweat. He pumped his arms as if her were a marathon runner or exaggerated cartoon character. I drove keeping pace, but rode contemptibly, yelling at pedestrians and an old woman driving a Cadillac, veering into one or two rear view mirrors. The creature kept its peripheral eye on my car the whole time. I tore around the block, driving past the whooshing noise of the oaks that had been planted perfectly apart half a century before.

Foop-foop-foop.

The bear ran fast, and would scream shortly every time he turned his head to look at my car.

Eeee!” He squealed exactly how you would imagine if a lopsided giant bear-thing could talk. “Maaa!”

He maneuvered like he had invented it, never needing to see where he was going, weaving in and out of people, trees, dogs, mailboxes, long legs, bicycles, and other miscellaneous things one might find on a sidewalk.

Meeep!” I pulled over as he turned down a dead end street. Some unsightly creature in the bushes laughed at his impending doom, shaking the stems as prison bars while I ran to corner him in.

“Hey man, why are you running away from me? I just want to talk.” I panted, and was aware but didn’t care that some people were beginning to eavesdrop and spy out their windows.

“This Is A Neighborhood Watch Community,” the sign on the corner said.

He saw me and froze. He looked over my head, his frown turning down further, his fuzz quivering and trembling in terror. I turned quickly, falling for what could have been a trick, when behind me a fuzzy brown thing flying faster than I could barely take a glance at was… a moth.

“A moth? Seriously?”

“What was that?” The bear was in total panic.

“I don’t knowww!” he wailed, trailing the know out to short pathetic sobs.

“Ok, Ok I’m sorry.” I patted his shoulder (even without my handy bottle of Purell) and said, “We have to go. We’re starting to gain an audience and I’ve already been in the news once already today.”

I grabbed the melancholy hairsack’s paw and led him back to the main street, nodding at the glaring neighbors, phones in hand, as we passed. His hand was trembling as we left the dead end.

“Want to go for a ride? I swear I’ll be nice.”

Without hesitation he shook his head no. He seemed in shock and speechless. He gave me a hug.

“Dude, it was just a moth.” I reached into my pocket and handed him a dollar. He took it swiftly and crumpled it into the palm of his hand with a smirk.

“Do you have a name?”

He nodded.

“What is it?”

The bear turned away and began to walk down the sidewalk. He looked back for a second and beckoned me to go with him.

My phone vibrated. WHERE R U? said the text from Veronica, one of my girls.

LATE, I texted back.

Veronica instantly responded, THEY R LOOKING 4U. I hate abbreviated texts.

TELL THEM TO F@$* OFF

RLY?

NO. STOP TEXING AT WORK

Apparently my troubles were far from behind me, but I had this gut feeling that if I followed this giant faux teddy bear I was going to be somehow leading myself to redemption.

I trailed behind him mostly, until I walked into someone who was walking toward him and almost ran into me. It’s hard to see in front of a giant invisible bear.

“Where are we going?” I asked simply, to no response.

We walked for some time. I wished we drove. The idea of walking all the way back to my car was not my most anticipated. The neighborhood changed slightly from suburban main street to just over the tracks main street- not the worst, but definitely not the greatest. I saw a man pick a cigarette butt from a garbage can ashtray and moved up closer to my guide.

“We almost there?” He nodded, and pointed to a little storefront neatly nestled in between two vacant shops with broken windows. “Thangadurai’s Tea?”

The creature nodded.

The outside glass was tinted an opaque orange, an unfriendly broken plastic sign hung above the beaded door. The creature went in first, the beads violently clacking together, the tiny ting of the bell announcing his presence. I followed closely behind.

“Buttercup!” welcomed the shopkeeper. “Always good to see you my friend!”

Buttercup stepped aside.

“Dick, actually.” The Indian gentleman appeared friendly but hesitant. I watched as his smile twitched as he tried to retain one expression. I made like I was a normal.

“Actually my friend I call everyone Buttercup! Always good to have a new customer, you know!”

Sure you do, I thought.

His accent was thick but decipherable, and he raised his hands as he spoke, palms forward. “How may I help you today? Hm? Looking for some special blend tea? A pull or two on the hookah, hm? Some of my regionally famous curry?”

“I watched the man as he spoke, instantly recognizing his eyes darting from my face to the bear’s. The creature stood aside quietly as if practiced, observing our conversation and waiting for one of us to make a move.

I turned to him and said, “Buttercup?”

He nodded.

“Are you a girl?”

Buttercup pouted and the shopkeeper chimed in. “Buttercup is asexual.”

For the sake of identification I’ll call Buttercup he.

“I haven’t really talked to another one of us,” I said frankly. I really hadn’t. I’ve seen some people here and there interacting or at least what seemed like it on the street. Over the years I’ve mistaken schitzophrenic and crack-addled for creature-seers, all of which were horrible encounters.

“Then today is your lucky day. Come, come!”

The shopkeeper took Buttercup and myself behind the counter to a dark back room that reeked of flavored tobacco, chai, and curry. Buttercup plopped down familiarly on the deep soft couch and glanced around satisfied. He oozed of excitement when the shopkeeper handed him his usual blend of tea in exchange for the crumpled up dollar I had gave him prior to our visit.

“Everybody has their vices, even the unseen ones. This is exciting, no?”

I nodded and sat on another couch. Overwhelmed, I felt faint, there were so many questions and comparisons I wanted to talk about, though he probably knew just as much as I had. The shopkeeper disappeared around the counter and pulled out a bowl of curried chicken and rice prepared just prior pending the anticipated guest.

He handed it over to Buttercup, who promptly slurped up every last bite, licking the bowl and sitting back in sate.

“Thangadurai,” said the shopkeeper, extending his veiny hand to mine.

“Dick Dickson,” I said shaking his hand. “I don’t know how to approach this conversation.”

“Well Mister Dick Dickson, let’s pretend we already know what each other is thinking or know or have seen and spoken to.”

“That works for me.”

“Buttercup comes to me all the time for my delicious teas and cuisine like clockwork, hm. Always in the morning before I’m really open. I’m surprised he actually paid me a full dollar! Ha! Usually it’s pennies he finds on the ground, very Bohemian mm hm.” Buttercup nodded in agreement.

“I gave him that dollar,” I said. “He knocked on my car window. He always knocks on my window for change. He’s pushy, needy. I don’t even give change to people panhandlers, it annoys me.”

Tangadurai seemed disappointed. “They are not needy, they are lonely. Buttercup was friends with an old man many years ago who made him tea all the time. He died. Now he comes here because it’s nostalgic and comforting. It’s not his fault.”

“I guess. Are you Catholic?”

“Protestant.” I wasn’t sure about Protestant guilt. “I saw you on the news,” he said, sipping his cup of oolong. “I know it wasn’t you.”

“Do you know something?”

“Not exactly, but I have seen this before.”

“So has Buttercup over there.” Buttercup opened his relaxed eyes and attempted to get up quickly from the couch, resulting in a stumble and a plop back down. “Why’d you take me here if you didn’t want to talk about it?”

Buttercup pointed to Tangadurai.

“He wanted us to meet I suppose,” he said. “What have you seen?”

“Right before we came, Buttercup knocked on my window asking for change. I thought he might have been the culprit. Seems as if the culprit had possibly had brown fur, you see, so I asked him to talk and he ran away…”

“I got spooked!” defended Buttercup. “ I saw that thing, on top of your car! A-a-and when you were chasing me it stayed on the car. Hooked itself on! That’s why I ran!”

“That was a moth.”

“It scared me.”

“Did you see it?” asked the shopkeeper.

“The moth? Yeah but I highly doubt that’s anything to be concerned about.”

Buttercup seemed like he had something important to say, but didn’t want to say it, sinking into the sofa like a punished child.

“Something wrong buddy?” I asked, wary of his expression.

“No,” he quickly answered. “Gas.”

Tangadurai blinked at the bear before going to the kitchen to get more chicken. “Think the moth had anything to do with it? Sometimes we see things and think it it something else. Was the moth a creature?”

“I don’t think so.” Could have been. Was it? “Buttercup?”

He shrugged. “M’dunno.”

Tangadurai sunk into an old pilly purple papasan and contemplated quietly.

I felt a little paranoid about this thing that Buttercup was so afraid of. Why was he so afraid of it? Harmless. Stupid bear was probably afraid of everything. Probably only a plain old common moth, wasn’t it?

I had a flashback.

 

It was maybe ten years before I had been conversing with a creature in my apartment at the time. She was a medium sized critter, not the most attractive. She lived at the bottom of the building’s garbage chute to get lazy access to rancid sustenance. I’d seen her roam the halls and knock on doors in an attempt to ask people for more broken eggs or chicken legs (she had an affinity for fowl products). I decided to be neighborly and invite her in for garbage, letting her have her pick of the rotten litter.

She ate happily, slurping moldy by-products while making heavenly noises. “Mm! Oh! Mm this is good…”

It was disgusting.

When she had her fill we talked about the neighbors and the things he found in their garbages. I generally hate small talk and making friends with creatures, but this was too easy access to my weird neighbor’s skeletons. She was good conversation, and I got drunk on tequila as we spoke.

“You know Betsy, from down the hall? Apartment 603?” She went on. “Well, honey, she has the worst taste in food, and men! Every other week there is a new shredded photo of some loser she probably went on a few awkward dates with. There’s almost always dried up roses or half eaten boxes of chocolates, and by half I mean each piece of chocolate is half eaten, the cow. She must be such a freak or just picks the worst! One time I found a porno DVD amongst some leather clothes and anal beads. Freaky stuff, baby! There was a horse on the cover.”

“I’m not sure I need to know these things,” I laughed. “though now I know to stay away!”

“You’re better off, sweetness. Thanks for the trash, I’d better be going.”

“No problem, good talking to you.”

“Who you talking to, me or him?” She was half in the hallway.

“You. Who?”

“Yes?”

“No, who him? There’s nobody else here.” I flicked away a moth. “The moth?”

“Yeah. Get outta here moth! Mind your business.” She flapped around an arm authoritatively. It flew out the window. “Nasty little thing.”

 

“Dick?” Tangadurai said. I had spaced out.

“Yes! Oh, sorry. I should go. It was nice to meet you Tangadurai, Buttercup. I’m sure we’ll meet again. Very sure.”

“One thing before you go,” said Thangadurai as he stood up, “Be careful. They are spiteful, and remember everything. A brotherhood, hm? They are on each other’s sides.”

I nodded and we shook hands. Buttercup stayed on the couch, head back, eyes closed, savoring the fill of hot tea and spicy chicken.

I texted Veronica: NOT COMING IN TODAY.

She texted right back: KRUGER JUST LEFT. SAYS 2 COME 2 PRECINCT.

I replied: I TOLD YOU NOT TO TEXT AT WORK.

To which she replied: YOU TEXTED ME FIRST.

I replied with a tongue-out emoticon.

I had no intention on going to the precinct today. Instead I headed back to my car, through the weird neighborhood with the broken windows and hobos digging for cigarette butts,  afraid I was being followed by some harmless insect.

 

I drove sixteen miles to my old apartment building. The door code (I was shocked I remembered) still worked so there was no need to wait or annoy some random tenant.

The place was exactly as I remembered, outdated, musty smelling, the same disgusting stains on the embattled carpet. I flashed back for only a moment before heading down the clinky metal stairs towards the garbage dump in the basement.

As luck would have it, I heard the expected rustling in the trash and the same gross yummy noises I had heard drunkenly that one day.

“Mm. Oh yeah. Oh man,” the creature said, tossing out papers and packaging intermittently.

“Hey!” I shouted. I never did get her name.

The rustling ceased.

“Hey you, in the trash. It’s OK I know who you are. I just want to talk.”

I heard a smacking of lips. Just one smack.

“We chatted years ago in my apartment? I gave you eggs and…”

“Chicken legs!” She popped out from the center of the bin as if she were a hooker in a birthday cake. “How’s it going, honey?”

“Good, thanks! I’m glad you remember me!”

“How can I forget? You’re the only person who’s ever bothered to be nice!” She climbed out, positioning herself with her tripod legs. She wriggled her gnarled toes. “So what brings you back to this dump?”

“Nostalgia,” I said semi-truthfully. “I have run into some problems and I think you might be able to help.”

“After one conversation ten years ago? I don’t know…”

“How well do you remember that conversation?”

“I remember everything, honey. Always. I still remember what was in your wastebasket. Used condoms, liquor bottles, frozen pizza boxes, porn…”

“I was a bachelor back then!” Granted these things still pop up in my wastebasket from time to time. “Do you remember when you left my apartment, I said goodbye and you asked me if I was saying goodbye to ‘you’ or ‘him’ and you yelled at the moth that was floating around my head?”

“You were drunk at the time, baby.” She looked down, obviously hesitant to talk,

“Yes, but I remember. The moth, did it happen to be one of you guys?”

“I’m not sure I remember.” She began to climb back into her cave of refuse. She seemed afraid.

“You said you remember everything, always. Who was it? Come on, it’s just between you and me. What are you keeping from me?”

She sighed and carefully looked around the room. “Sometimes what you see is not always what you get.”

What vague words of wisdom. “So you mean…”

“I mean,” she looked around again and whispered, “You need to be careful. I wouldn’t trust most of ‘em with the littlest secret, honey. Spiteful bastards, mostly.”

“Spiteful? I haven’t pissed off any of them, I don’t think.” I sped through my brain’s database in reverse.

“Sure you have,” she said matter-of-factly. “Honey, we talk. You can be a real prick-o when you want to be.”

Great. Gossipy things. Probably Marisol. “Know a bird named Marisol?”

“Ha! Know her? She’s our Paul Bunyon!” I think she meant Paul Revere. “Tells us the word when it’s good.”

“But what about the moth?”

“Moth, schmoth,” she scanned the room then whispered, “I don’t want to talk about it. I’m afraid. You should be too. Keep your eyes open. I don’t know what it is, but I have this bad feeling about it. I heard about your problem. Word spreads quick. Lay low. Disappear for a while. Trust me.”

The vent clinked. She dove under a greasy styrofoam hamburger holder.

“You have to go.”

The terrified look on her garbage spattered face told me that we were no longer alone in this basement. An odd chill came through the air, likely from the clanking vents. But was it really just air in the vent?

I shivered and ran out the door. Through the window I saw a flapping shadow of something with wings. A bird? Could it have been the moth? It could have been any type of creature, or not a creature at all. A bat? A sparrow who had built a nest in the walls?

The shadow made It look bigger than a moth… Couldn’t have been. I felt crazy, paranoid.

Maybe I was being framed for this murder for some reason. I can’t think of any creature that I had done wrong or offended or insulted. I hadn’t slept with any of their girlfriends (a horrid thought). Was Margie O’Malley into something sinister? Did she know all about the creatures?

Did this have anything to do with me at all? Maybe I was giving myself too much importance.

I got in the car and headed towards work, all the while paying very little attention to the road and more attention to what was inevitably about to try and rip my roof off and burn me to a crisp. I know I ran a few stop signs, pissed off a few pedestrians. I’m pretty sure I even ran over a gosling crossing the road.

I pulled slowly into the lot, scanning over every car, making sure there were no strange autos with any kinds of hidden lights inside or POLICE INTERCEPTOR stickers on the rear.

Chico straightened his back nervously as I pushed though the doors. The door to the supply room was locked up tight, wrapped up nicely like a present whose bows were caution tape, its gift tags orange cones.

“You are a very popular man today, Dick.”

“I know.” I cut to the chase. “Margie O’Malley, she married?”

“Yes, her husband Guy. Why?”

“Do you have their address?”

“Dick, I don’t think it would be wise for me to just hand over such information. I mean Kruger and them still seem a little fishy about you.”

“Chico,” I pouted, “I thought we were friends. You know I don’t have anything to do with this, right?”

Chico gave me the once over before looking around and typing speedily into his computer. “570 Birchwood, you know where that is.”

“Thanks man. How is everyone?”

“On edge. Your girls are in panic mode. They all say their supplies went missing again and they can’t access the room. They keep begging to go down there, even with the stains on the wall…” Chico turned flush and shuddered at the thought.

I grumbled. “I was never here. I was going to go up to see but I’m really not in the mood to listen to whining. I’m taking a hiatus, if anyone asks. See you in a few days. I’ll be home if you need me.”

Creature Feature- Chapter Three.

-THREE-

Poor Margie O’Malley

   (Dick)

“Morning Dick,” said the desk guard in the front lobby.

“Morning to you, Chico.” I signed my name. Then I heard it.

Even through the metal door and from down the stairs I could hear the shrill and instantly recognizable sound of Beverly. Her breathless squeal was like a horrible fire alarm with no breaks and no need for a battery or plug. I closed my eyes and gripped the pen tightly. The plastic snapped.

“Everything alright man?” Chico asked concernedly.

“Yeah, sorry. I just remembered I left my coffee pot on.”

“I’m sure Nadia will see it.”

“Yeah you’re right. I’m sure she will.” I eased up a bit and put down the broken pen, deciding to ignore Beverly for now and check up on her later. She was probably getting fed up with the cabinet locks.

As I walked into the office I could already tell that the girls had found something to complain about. Each girl was, as usual, missing something or another.

“Dick! Either we have ghosts or we are being pranked. None of us believe that our papers are just growing legs and walking away!” Could have been.

“Seriously. My Post-Its are missing, that bill I had right here,” she slapped her desk, “is now gone. What the hell?”

I looked at the paper eaters who were now standing together against the wall as if a suspect lineup, unmoving, heads down. One had a little yellow sticky note stuck to its fur. “I’m sure it’s nothing. I told you girls to keep digital copies of everything, so print new copies. And I will personally go and get you another block of Post-Its.”

This answer wasn’t exactly as satisfactory as they had hoped for, but it was an answer to their temporary problems in the least.

I went over and snatched the stuck Post-It off the creature’s fur so no one would question its floating in mid-air. I didn’t need to say a word. My icy glare was enough to get them out the door and into someone else’s office for a while.

I did my little morning routine of making more coffee and checking emails before heading back downstairs to get stickies and check on Beverly.

She was still screaming loudly even an hour later with that damn circular breathing. I unlocked the door. If Chico wasn’t there I would have shouted down the stairs, “Shut up shut up shut up!” but then I would have looked crazier than I already seemed.

I locked the door behind me and covered my ears. “Beverly!”

“Ahhhhhhhhh…!” she continued.

It was dark and the switch wasn’t working. I felt around for the switch for the other set of lights across the room. “Beverly!”

“Ahhhhhhhhh… It’s about time! I’ve been yelling for hours! What the fuck?”

“Let me find the lights.” I flicked it on. “What in the hell are you yelling about?”

“You left me all alone!”

“Of course I did, you agreed to it!”

“You left me all alone with that!” She pointed one of her glittering tendrils to an unlit corner across the room.

“Would you feel better if I checked it out?”

“Yes.”

I found a flashlight on a shelf with the battery stockpile and stumbled my way around the half lit room. Beverly seemed really unnerved and I hoped it wasn’t yet another creature I had to deal with in this godforsaken building in this godforsaken world full of godforsaken…

I stopped in front of what she was screaming at. I couldn’t believe it. “Beverly… what… what have you done?”

“It wasn’t me asshole!”

I had no time or response for her insults. On the floor in that darkened corner, black and crimson wetness shimmering and shining in the glow of my flashlight, a pile of goo, bloodied and blackened, lay in front of me.

But this pile of goo was no creature, as I would have expected on any regular day. It was a person. A human person.

I nearly vomited. Attached (barely) to the pile of goo were two feet from the toe to mid-calf, mostly unburnt, and in near perfect condition. I did not recognize the feet but I had seen something like this on the internet.

Spontaneous combustion, possibly?

I thought that had been some hoax to sell papers, but apparently not. There was no fire damage but it smelled like a barbecue. The clothes were ashes except for the open toed blue pumps on the dismembered feet. A woman, obviously, or a transvestite.

“Beverly what the hell happened?”

“How the fuck am I supposed to know?”

“Well you were here weren’t you?”

“Yeah but you shut the lights on me!” She was beginning to look more uncomfortable than she usually looked, rocking back and forth like a common banana.

“Fair enough. What do you know?” The smell of charred flesh was starting to make me a very odd and unnerving combination of queasy and hungry. “Let’s go over there.”

Slurp-pop. Slurp-pop. Slurp-pop. “I heard the door open early this morning as I was trying to reach that box of finger moisteners up on the top shelf. Things were falling everywhere so I was distracted.”

“Who opened the door?” I asked.

“I told you I don’t know, Diiick. I barely even heard footsteps. It was more like a shuffle.” Beverly attempted to shuffle her own feet as an example, but the resulting noise was awful and ill descriptive. “You get the idea.”

“Actually…” I didn’t get the idea at all.

“Anyway I figured it was just one of your whores wearing slippers or those stupid Crocs or something, but two minutes later the door opened again and I heard that god awful whistling from that old bitch on the second floor. The floor shuffler shorted the lights, I saw its shadow by the fuse box.”

“What did it look like? Big? Small? Did it smell bad? Was it furry? Make any noises?”

“Let me get to it sheesh! Anyway when she went to go check the fuse box, that’s when I saw it all happen. All of a sudden she was on fire, as fast as a firecracker, poof! No screaming, no pleading. Just like that. The only thing I saw of the creature who did it was a little patch of brown fur from the door light. Then it was gone, just like that.”

“So it was definitely a creature, brown fur…”

“Yeah, something like that.” Beverly hesitated, looked around the room. “And now the cops are all going to think it was you.”

I turned beet red. Everyone in that room knew it wasn’t me, but everyone else is going to think that it was me on the opposite side. Chico I’m sure saw her go in. He saw me go in too. He sees everybody go in! And those security cameras, I forgot all about them! I panicked. “Jesus Bev, what am I going to do?”

“I suggest you scream. Then run upstairs and tell that funny looking guy at the desk to call 911.”

“Right, right.” I took a deep breath and yelled,  “Oh my god! Oh my God!”

“You’re a terrible actor.” Beverly turned around nonchalontly and returned to her fiddling of clips.

“Thanks a lot Bev.”

This was fucked up. Who could have done this? Was Beverly telling me the truth? She was mean and all but I don’t think she ever lied to me. If anything, she was full of truth. Blunt, awful, bitter honesty. At least when it came to opinion.

I ran upstairs, making it to the top before Chico flung open the door himself, walkie-talkie in hand. I had to catch my balance, nearly falling backwards down the stairs. “Dick! Sorry, what happened? Who’s down there? Who were you talking to?”

Shit. Chico had heard me talking to Beverly.  I turned up the panic. “Myself. Her. I saw… I saw…” Bad actor my ass.

Chico ran down with his flashlight and I stayed up. All I heard was “Jesus Christ!” followed by the sound of gagging.

Beverly yelled, “Not on me you don’t!”

“What the hell happened?” He shined the flashlight in my face, as if I were just caught red-handed.

“I don’t know!” I lied. “I went downstairs to get Post-Its and I saw it already there. Did you see anything at all?”

“I saw Margie O’Malley go down there, then you. That poor woman!” Chico’s eyes welled up with tears as he briefly lamented. “What an awful thing! What kind of monster would do such a thing? Oh God I feel awful! I must have turned around for a second… I need to call this in.”

Chico yelled some codes into the receiver of the walkie talkie, an untintelligible reply following.

“You think someone did this to her?”

“I don’t know, Dick. This can’t be an accident, people just don’t melt like this!” He sniffed the air. “Smell that?”

I sniffed too, the barbecue smell making my saliva activate. I shivered in self disgust. I sniffed again. “Gasoline?”

“Yeah.”

“Chico you know I didn’t do this, right.”

“Of course not,” he paused. “Of course. Come on, let’s check the security footage, quick before they get here.”

I remembered a time when I was ten years old. I was playing in the sandbox at recess, digging holes with these kind of ugly mole type creatures with wings like fairies and noses like pugs. I remembered being overjoyed as they flew up in the air and dive bombed into the craters I had enlarged for them. They were blind and ofent missed, plopping into the piles of dug out sand. I thought it was hilarious, even though in hindsight it was a bit cruel. 

A pigeon had landed in the sandbox to peck at the crumbs of the half eaten sandwich I had been picking pieces off of to entice the winged moles to land in those spots. One of the moles was on its way down from the air to land in the hole where the pigeon had landed crashing into and immediately killing the poor bird.

I remembered my classmate Wayne screaming bloody murder and the teacher running over in panic to investigate the fuss. She found me sitting in front of the dead pigeon, a bunch of holes, and a big rock that just happened to be at my side. Of course the teacher thought I killed the pigeon with the rock. She grabbed my arm and I started to cry, not for the bird but for the forcefulness of the grab.

A meeting was called immediately with my mom and dad and the principal and the teacher and the school psychiatrist. The teacher told them all I had bludgeoned the pigeon, my parents were crying as if they were raiding a future psychopath and all I had to say for myself was, “I didn’t do it.”

My arm tingled with the phantom pain of my past as Chico led me behind his desk.

We waited for the sound of sirens as he rolled back the tape. He didn’t need to rewind far, only a couple of hours before the Technicolor blue pumps on Margie O’Malley’s feet popped onto the screen.

“There’s Margie,” Chico sniffed. He slowly fast forwarded from the time she entered to the time I suspiciously opened the door. “Nothing!”

“Maybe someone was already down there?” I already knew this was the truth, but before we had a chance to check, the flashing lights of police and ambulances rolled up to the front of the building before the entire staff of all the offices made their looky-loo selves downstairs.

Even the paper eaters came down to see. “Dick!” One whispered. “Dick, uh what’s going on?”

I couldn’t answer, so I opened my eyes wide towards the one who asked saying with them, “You know I can’t right now.” I made a quick monstrous face and it was understood that the cause of this fiasco was likey another creature.

“Ohhh,” he said.

Hoards of men and women with guns and uniforms, cameras and trench coats, badges and suits came swooping in to hustle out the crowds and secure the area.

It was a chaotic scene from a movie: hysterical employees, a detective with a cigar and a hearty mustache, a vomiting cop, all actors in this tragic play whose plot was just starting to get interesting. I stayed with Chico. Better to stay involved than to run away, right?

There was a lot of chatter amongst selves, a lot of critters sneaking downstairs to take a gander. Beverly slurp-popped her way back upstairs, visibly annoyed by the flood of unwanted visitors.

“Whores!” She shouted at the secretaries. “Fools! Assholes everywhere!”

Beverly tossed a tentacleful of paperclips into the crowd but nobody noticed.

I waited patiently until the detective with the cigar and mustache came up to me. He eyed me up and down with premature accusation before saying, “You found the body?”

“Yes sir.” I was nervous.

“You seem nervous.” He noticed. His voice sounded as if he had been smoking cigarettes since he was twelve years old.

“I am nervous. I just found an exploded corpse in the supply room.”

“That was hours ago. How come you’re still nervous?”

Was this guy for real? He seemed a caricature of himself with his beady eyes, unkempt mustache, cigar rolling from one side of his mouth to the other.

“Did you see what happened?”

“No sir.” I tried to stop myself from trembling. “I went downstairs and the body was already there. I had no idea. One set of lights was broken so when I went to turn on the other set, that’s when I saw her. It must have been after the fact, and it still smelled like barbecue.”

The detective paused and squinted at my choice of words. Still looking at me but talking to Chico he said,  “May we see the security footage?”

“Of course.” Chico rolled back the tape, further this time after explaining the earlier viewing. He rewound  slowly until the tape showed the last person to enter the room the day before. I tried to watch alongside but was pulled aside by a second detective holding a clipboard and an empty form.

What they did see, however, was that the last person to go in before and after Margie O’Malley had combusted… was myself.

The detective looked tensely at me looking for a reaction. I stayed cool.

“Kruger!” Yelled the coroner from the doorframe to the mustached man. “You gotta see this!”

Detective Kruger put up his index finger and followed the coroner downstairs. Much to Chico’s protest I went to the door to listen in.

The cops at the door stood in front and told me to keep away, but through their demands I heard the words Spontaneous human combustion and I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire career! 

I sighed deeply as Beverly tugged at my slacks with a glittering tendril and said, “Well, you got out of that one by the skin on your ass!”

“You said it,” I mumbled, confusing the cops before heading back to sit with Chico.

Detective Kruger came back up looking skeptical. “Don’t leave town,” he commanded. “Here’s my card. We will likely call you in for more questioning.”

I nodded and took the card. I folded it in half and put it in my shirt pocket. Detective Kruger sneered at my blatant violation of his printed name, then left me alone.

We had to close the building early, much to the liking of my girls. Veronica made sure to ask if they were still getting paid for the day. I kept the news channel on all day to listen for anything at all about the case, which there was. It had leaked immediately thanks to Twitter (#combust) and Facebook (which became the hottest meme, mostly involving Keanu Reeves), quickly becoming big news. The shots of my building surrounded by news vans and reporters was unnerving. I knew for sure that eventually some scumbag reporter was going to come knocking at my door.

Knock-knock-knock.

Crap. I stood at the door for a second before…

Knock-knock-knock. “Dick! It’s me open up. I forgot my house keys.”

Nadia’s keys dangled and swayed lightly on the hook by the door, surely hidden from her before she left. I let her in, the side of my eye catching a glimpse of a reflection of the sneaky critter that positively took them initially.

She rushed in and closed and locked the door behind her. She got on her toes and looked through the peephole, a plastic Thank You bag of groceries dangling from her wrist. “I’m being followed.”

“Have you seen the news?”

“What’s going on? He looked like a reporter.” She squinted at me suspiciously and with disdain. “Is that why you’re smoking inside? I hate that.”

“Sorry.” I followed Nadia into the kitchen and I put the cigarette out in the sink. “I think they think it’s me. I think I’m being framed.”

“Who they?” she asked, while putting away the milk, a half squished loaf of bread, and a box of frozen veggie burgers.  “And what are you talking about?”

“Who and why I have no idea. I found a dead body in the supply room today.”

“Oh my God! Who was it?”

“Margie O’Malley. Not one of my girls, she worked on the second floor. Why’d you buy veggie burgers? We already have a box.”

She shoved some things in the freezer aside, almost crushing the creatures conversing with a string of words that sounded like Ya Ya in conversational tones. “The ones we have taste weird, like veggie by-products. Broccoli butt holes, carrot nipples. Anyway are you Ok?”

“Yeah I’m fine. Margie was totally unrecognizable.” I took out another cigarette. Nadia glared at me and closed the freezer door. “I heard the coroner mention spontaneous combustion. But of course spontaneous combustion is even a real thing, right? I guess it is, maybe. I’m not sure if I believe it. It sure looked like it.”

“I thought that was a hoax to sell papers.”

“So did I.”

“So why do they think you did it?”

“Because I was the last one in the supply room before her and the last one out after her. It looks fishy.” Goddamn creatures. “I didn’t do it Nadia.”

“Oh course, tsk, don’t be ridiculous.” She got up and hugged me tightly, then put her hands on my hot cheeks. “So now what?”

Knock. Knock. “Mister Dickson! Mister Dickson this is Charlie Roberts from News 6. May I have a word?”

“That’s what.”

Creature Feature- Chapter 2

Note before we begin: I had made a couple of minor changes to chapter one (last paragraph gives a slight lead-in to the actual plot, taking advice and realizing that the main plot-line doesn’t begin until chapter 3). Also, I’m not totally set on where the chapters begin or end yet, so take it as it is.

I’m posting these as I edit them, hope you enjoy!

 

-TWO-

Beverly

(Dick)

 

I worked on the south shore in an office that too many creatures like to call home. Paper addicts, most of them, like an opium den for the hallucinations themselves.

One day the girls in the office were so freaked out by the paperclips that the creatures would fling into their hair, they called up this paranormal investigators group that I’m pretty sure I’ve seen during some late night filler spot. I told them not to bother, acting the skeptic but more of a realist. They came in anyway with their meters and cameras and barometers and their weird interns at midnight carrying boxes of donuts. I had to go in to open up for them. I would have just called them off, but I didn’t want to hear it from the girls. “Dick, oh my god, again with the clips.” “Dick, look! My chair is spinning!” 

They found nothing. I had coaxed the creatures temporarily out with a big bag of old shredded files. The girls were disappointed.

They had imagined this elaborate ghost story, a tale of misogyny and heartbreak, about a woman hating spirit that roamed the halls of the most mundane medical billing company this side of Suffolk, tossing office supplies across rooms and twirling swivel chairs. They all swore up and down at one point or another that they had individually seen or heard an apparition when in reality it was nothing but invisible vermin.

Veronica had called up the ghost hunters while on her lunch break after I specifically told her not to. She was insistent, threatening to ask for a raise if she couldn’t do it.

Being cheap, I let her make the appointment.

What she didn’t tell me was that I had to be the one to open up for them in the middle of the night since I was the only one with a key. At least it was a Friday. Nadia was annoyed, but by the time I left the house she was already asleep and it was forgotten.

They were late.

A van pulled into the lot as I was finishing my third cigarette. I didn’t know what I was expecting, maybe a bunch of goth kids with filthy dreads and heavy eyeliner, just returning from a midnight ritual in some graveyard somewhere.

It was nothing of the sort, just normal(ish) people, wearing t-shirts with the organization’s logo brandished on the front. Three dudes, one girl.

They talked to me like I was interested in this shit and I kept repeating how they were wasting their time. I unlocked the building and led them to the stairwell which, of course, was occupied.

“Please please please don’t make yourselves noticed,” I thought. They were not mind readers, but who knew? Maybe I was wrong. I’ve been wrong about them before.

They did the right thing regardless and slid against the walls. The investigators looked directly at them and had no clue. One creature, paper thin, lay flat like wallpaper in camouflage like the once-ocher-now-gray paint on the wall and it seemed like a useless piece of evolutionary claim to fame. They all whispered mean things.

“Oh look at her, those shoes are so nineties!”

“That is the most disgusting beard I’ve ever seen!”

“Ow!” One had their toes stepped on. The investigator looked down, but just assumed it was a pebble.

“Should I lift his hat? Dare me?”

“Come on,” I said, glaring at the last speaker, his translucent skin blushing a bright vermillion. “Let’s get this over with.”

All of the ghost hunters set up their respective equipment, looking around and around at every inch and corner, feeling the walls, temping the air. I sat in a twirling chair, almost missing the seat but disrupting the chair twirler as to not provoke cause for evidence.

The creatures were gone from the office, still near the loading dock with the paper shreds I gave them earlier, assumingly. At one point I tossed a paperclip at the head of the cameraman who nearly had a heart attack before I confessed.

So much for being the fearless spirit detective.

An hour later I was getting really bored and dizzy from spinning in that desk chair. “How much longer?”

“Til about three,” nineties-shoes said with a slight grimace. “Is that alright? The girl who called, Veronica, said it was no problem.”

“Guess not.” I thought of that pay raise I didn’t want to give.

I began annoying the investigators, persistently asking, “Whatcha doin? What’s that thing do? Find any ghosts yet?”

After many no’s and technical answers spattered with acronyms I hadn’t really been paying attention to, I started thinking of ways to throw them off. I put on a sweater. “Woah, it just got really cold in here.”

Gross-beard came over with the thermometer and barometer and found no change. I shrugged, and twirled some more. The cold came from a paper-eater, blowing into his face. I told him to do it.

After another hour my eyes were drooping, even after two donuts and three cups of lukewarm coffee. I started seeing spots. The coat closet opened by itself, and it figures that nobody noticed at all.

I stood and stretched before making my way over to do a little investigating myself. I opened the door and cursed the girls for using it as their own spare closet. On the floor sat a creature. It’s two eyes were shiny in the dark, like a cat who was caught in a flashlight. Its sloth-like claws pawed at the coats with anxiety.

“What’s up brotha?” I whispered.

“Hiding,” he said with a timid shake. “The one with the hat peeked in here before and sneezed on me. I’m being quiet so he doesn’t think I’m a ghost.”

“Oh. Good move.”

“I’m not a ghost right?” His eyes glossed immediately over.

“No, they would have said something.”

“Oh. Ok.” He sighed with relief as his eyes promptly dried. “There’s a moth in this coat. I want to get it but the hangers clink. When are they leaving?”

“Soon buddy. Hang in there.” I closed the door.

Ten minutes later nineties-shoes folded up her tripod and they called it debunked.

They rattled off a list of things the occurrences could have been and I politely nodded as they exited my other ear. “The full report will be up on the site in a week.”

“Great,” I said while thinking, “Get the fuck out already.”

I betted that the list of possibilities wouldn’t include what it really was, but I still felt like I should have tipped them.

It took me a while to train those damn paper eaters, most of the time spent while everyone went to lunch. Over the course of months I taught them how to eat only what was in the recycling bins and absolutely not what was on the desks or in filing cabinets. Their idea of important paperwork was only about taste and not the actual content. During training I’d deliberately buy the cheapest, thinnest, smudgiest paper I could find so they’d be less inclined to eat it.

The queen bee of them all was a vulgar cephalopod named Beverly. She was female-ish, pink scaly skin with sparkly extremities, looking as if she had been born of a disco ball and a costume jewelry kiosk from any given mall. She was as if she were decked head to toe in Swarovsky crystals except the crystals were really gaudy tumors and polyps. She had a real attitude problem, one would say she was a bona-fide asshole.

She was very possessive over her supplies, hoarding them in corners from the girls she so openly felt disdain for. She would join in the spinning of chairs when bored or craving attention from the other creatures or when she wanted to piss off my employees even more than she already did. The creatures usually ignored her, thinking she was a menace and merely an annoyance.

She was the real reason for the paranormal people’s visit.

I stayed late this one day to clean up a particularly bad bout of obnoxiousness. While picking up an entire box of flung rubber bands I said to her, “Beverly how many times to I need to tell you…”

“Fuck off,” she said in her usual curt tone while tossing a full box of staples at my head.

“Hey, not nice! Don’t make me put everything out of reach. Don’t think I won’t do it.” She was only two feet tall.

“How are you going to explain that, Diiiick?” She made a motion with a tentacle like she was giving a blowjob.

“I’ll bring in a dog. Or a cat. Maybe a ferret, a nice stinky one. Bet you’d love that! They say an office pet is very calming. Maybe it’ll work for your cranky disco-ball ass.”

Beverly screamed. The sound was so loud and so shrill I had to cover my ears. I had never heard her do that before. She stopped. “New trick?” I asked. “It’s awful.”

“I learned circular breathing like Kenny G! Go ahead and get your dog or cat or fucking ferret.”

“Fine, you win. What can I do to make you never, ever do that ever again?” I’m always willing to bargain, especially if it means one less stressor in my already fucked-up life.

“Hmm…” Beverly rolled her three eyes and thought to herself, twirling her polyps as if they were clumps of hair. “Got it.”

“Shoot.”

“Fire those whores.”

“I don’t employ whores.”

“You know what I mean! Ahhhhhhh!” She screamed again.

“Beverly! Jesus Christ!” She stopped. “I’m not going to fire my girls. I’ll put you somewhere else.”

“Put me somewhere? Like a common banana?” I didn’t get that reference at all. “I can move about on my own, thank you. I like my corner.”

“Banana? What? Ok Fine. I’ll help you relocate to a place that has crap loads of office supplies.”

“You mean far away from you and your trash bags. I get it, I’m not an idiot Diiiick.”

“Ugh. You’re right,” I said truthfully. “Frankly, you’re a pest and everyone hates you. And you seem to hate it here yourself even though you insist otherwise. If I show you a better spot for you it would be win-win for the both of us, and I’d be less likely to have to give Veronica a raise.”

“Where are you talking about?”

“Ever been to the supply room?”

“What’s that?” I piqued her interest.

“In the basement, there’s a locked room we share with the other offices. All of our crap is kept in there. Staples, paperclips, printer cartridges, rubber bands, you name it.”

“Sounds like heaven Dick-o!” She twitched and perked, all of her tumors and growths and sparkly appendages standing upright. I gagged at the slushy sound it shouldn’t have made.

“Yup. It’s big. You’ll be alone. You can cause as much chaos as you want. The girls are afraid of it. Nobody’s ever in there. It’s not too bright but not too dark either. There’s tons of corners and shelves you can sit in or on and hoard supplies without getting in anyone’s way. How’s that sound?”

“I’m intrigued.” She stood up. I was shocked by how tall she could be. Her slew of legs sucked out from her underbelly like an ebbing jellyfish. When she walked, her suction cup feet made an uneasy slurp-pop noise with every elongated step.

I escorted her down the stairs, holding my inevitably insulting laugh caused by the noise of her feet. Slurp-pop, slurp-pop, slurp-pop all the way down to the basement. I nodded at the secretary from the second floor as she scrunched her face from the gross sounds of what sounded like wet sneakers.

“Morning Margie.”

“Morning,” she replied with hesitation.

When we got to the first floor I opened the door near the lobby and flicked on the lights, the fluorescent bulbs flickering and clicking on from above, illuminating the dusty room with a sterile glow.

“Wowwwwww…” Beverly said in a very long Kenny G breath as she eyeballed all over the room, blending together with, “This is heaven!”

“It’s just a supply room.” Hardly my interpretation of Eden, but hey.

Beverly slurp-popped her way from one locked cage to the next, ogling the goodies of clips and computers and rubber bands and bags of expired ink cartridges ready for recycling. She was enamored by the corners. “The lighting is perfect!” she said as she shook her jiggly arms about to catch the reflections of light.

“Glad you like it. We cool?”

“Ya, ya,” she said half-assedly while digging things off the shelves through the cage with her tendrils.

I shut the lights and closed and locked the door. “One down,” I counted the paper eaters on my fingers, “seven to go.”

Creatures like her are easy to entertain, like a dog given of those toys where you put a treat inside to keep them busy. I deliberately did not unlock the cabinets so it would take her eons to actually get anything and cause any serious trouble locked up down in the depths of her oasis.

I locked the door and left, really not in the mood to even think of dealing with the paper eaters. One small victory was enough for one day.

 

Nadia started dinner as soon as I got home. I loved watching her cook. She always got so into it, regardless of what it was, and she always made a big mess. She could have been making a one skillet meal like Hamburger Helper and have the sink filled with dishes by the end of it.

I sat at the table and watched Nadia as she blindly stepped over the floor licker that had moseyed its way out of the cabinet under the sink. I paid it no mind. It’s quiet and skittish and cleans up Nadia’s messes on the floor. She always thinks that by some miracle of miracles she hadn’t spilled a single drop on the floor. It’s fun to watch it quietly licking the ground with its disproportionally fat tongue you can see twisting and turning like a carpet cleaner from its underbelly.

It did freak out Nadia once when she had put a paper towel on top of it and the towel seemed to blow across the room. She thought it got stuck to a rat and I had to awkwardly investigate.

“Must have been a draft,” I said. The floor licker was shaking nervously against the wall, terrified of the paper towel.

“Oh,” she replied hesitantly. The thought of a rat in her house was appalling.

As we sat down after dinner in front of the television, I couldn’t help but shift myself back and forth to compete with the thing that was blocking my view.

“What’s with you being so weird lately? Do you have hemorrhoids?” She sipped her third glass of pinot noir.

I stopped shifting and began my staring match with the shit brown elongated stretchy gelatinous blob that was hanging from the ceiling. It blinked, and smirked. He knew she couldn’t see him, and he just waited for me to try and do something about it.

He was mad at me for yelling at it after leaving stains on the ceiling. Nadia blamed me for overflowing the tub on the second floor, or for not getting the hole in the roof fixed, or for dropping a glass of water and having it splash all the way up to the ceiling or something far-fetched like that.

“Sorry,” I said. “I haven’t noticed. Like I said, just distracted. Not hemorrhoids. That’s disgusting.”

“Meh, they happen. Anyway it’s freaking me out, cut the shit.” Nadia was always freaked out about something, but the way she looked at me the past few days had had a big hint of suspicion. I could tell she had no idea what she was supposed to be suspicious about, and I’m sure as hell she would never figure it out on her own. It would be up to me to tell her, but I hadn’t want to do that. Not then. Not during our show, anyway. She’d find out soon enough.

I sat back on the couch and pretended to watch the screen. The opaque goober crossed his arms and turned itself about towards the TV so he could spitefully watch it upside down and right in front of my face.

He didn’t talk back except for disgusting gurgling noises and the occasional bubble that popped out of his mouth hole, but I knew damn well he understood me. I woke up at three in the morning that night to see him using Nadia like a marionette puppet. She was drunk-sleeping and limp as he walked her across the room. It was the sound of her head bumping against the wall that woke me up to see this. It woke up Nadia too. When she lifted her head, the blob let go, and Nadia was confused. She fell against the wall and caught her balance.

“Nadia baby, come back to bed,” I said through gritted teeth while glaring at the smirking blob. “You were sleepwalking.”

“Huh? Uh… OK.” She came back to bed and was snoring before her head hit the pillow.

“Don’t make me grab the salt shaker!” I threatened.

He frowned and stuck out what could have been a tongue before retreating through a crack in the ceiling.

The remainder of the night I barely slept. Between Nadia’s snoring and the chewing noise of a fuzzball I couldn’t see and the persistent anxiety caused by thinking the blob would try and use me as a puppet too, I was still awake when my alarm went off.

I went to the bathroom and was horrified when my poop vanished without flushing (Rid-X usually did the trick, doesn’t taste as good as shit). I kicked out all of the giant bug creatures from the tub and back down the drain, shook the big handed thing off my toothbrush, and searched the rest of the bathroom before finally getting to enjoy a rare peaceful moment alone under the flow of hot water. No sooner had I stepped out of the tub and onto the back of something that looked strikingly similar to (but definitely wasn’t) a bathmat had my normal day truly begun. It squealed like a piglet and slipped out under the door.

Nadia was still asleep. I kissed her head and she made a weird noise and I got in my car where a great song was playing on a new station I had never heard before

I drove down the block and badly sang along. “Heeeeere am I sitting in a tin can faaaar above the world…”

At the intersection at a red light, a big eyed and lopsided thing unbelievably similar to a giant stuffed teddy bear (except for the fact that he was nowhere near as adorable as a teddy bear) knocks on my window. “Got any change?” the creature said with an unnerving sweetness.

“What do you need change for? You’re not going to buy anything.”

“Says who?” the creature pouted.

“Says the whole world who can’t see you.”

The light turned green and I drove off. The bear-creature stared as I drove away. I saw him kick a pebble in the rearview mirror and I only felt a little bad.

 

Creature Feature- Chapter One.

Ok loyal readers.

I am sort of kind of just about pretty much not quite done with this tale, but I’m really desperate for a bit of commentary of any kind, good or bad. Been writing this for over a year and have surpassed the 50,000 mark, and am so close- but not quite.

It’s been fun writing it. Perhaps, if enough people are interested, I’ll update the chapters one by one like a serial.

How clever!

Therefore, herewith lies Chapter One of Creature Feature.

-ONE-

Creatures are not ghosts

(Dick)

“Poor, poor pussy,” I said to the carcass. “You have no idea, do you?”

The creature ate the corpse slowly. Really slowly. Really very ridiculously unfathomably slowly. I watched for a few minutes just to make sure that’s what it was actually doing.

I didn’t know what made me stop. Curiosity finally got the best of me with this one, I guessed.

Looked like it’d been eating it for months, based on the state of the cat, which at this point was like a steak that’s been left out in the kitchen, molded over, then solidified over the course of many, many weeks.

Nobody passing by even realized anything was happening. It was a black cat (aptly named, albeit old hat, Midnight per the rabies tag) who had suffered a tragic, and somewhat ironic, bout of starvation under this particular hydrangea bush. Midnight died of said hunger and was at this storied moment in its rotten fetid state was, unfortunately for kitty, something else’s meal.

The circle of life.

I thought about lifting the thing in the air like The Lion King.

“Hungry?” I asked it.

The creature sniffed, and blinked a set of eyes.

This particular creature had nine legs and seven eyes (he seemed ashamed that it was not quite symmetrical, I probably shouldn’t have asked it why it was so off balance). Its fur looked soft and plush like the most expensive chinchilla, and would have probably fetched a fair price if anyone was actually able to see him.

I could have found another seer in Chinatown or something, black market it with fake Fendis and Coach bags, but I’d feel too guilty. Catholic upbringing.

Besides, what good’s a fur coat if you can’t even see it?

It nearly fell over from trembling. The legs were like cheap wooden chopsticks all kind of crammed together like a stem underneath its round and lumpy body, balancing precariously while it ate. Every so often one leg or another would rise to give way to a hot spot on the ground or an ant or to pee, always squinting like it was the most painful chore in the world.

I kept it company while it noshed for a bit, watching uncomfortably as it struggled to keep its posture, all the while obsessively masticating its superiorly disgusting find of a meal, chewing until the proteins dissolved into nothing, and ever cautious of the people who leaned in to smell the hydrangeas.

A jogger in an offensively worn-in pink velour tracksuit ran in place as she sniffed the big blue flower cluster. I pretended to tie my shoe. She stepped back in repulsion after grabbing a whiff of rotting cat, then made a disgusted sound before running off once again.

“Eesh!” She said this louder than she should have, but (insert-bad-pop-song-here) was blaring in her headphones.

The creature paused in its chewing and sighed, thinking the overtly loud “Eesh” was for it. Its lack of personal hygiene was, after all, questionable.

“It’s not your fault,” I said.

The creature made an unholy grunt and then spit. Phlegm dripped from its mouth ungracefully.

It started to cry with this guttural bleating.

“Oh, no no don’t cry,” I pled. I went to pet him but I had no Purell.

After about an hour of consoling the thing and another hour of waiting for the last sentence to end, the creature got to the point. The cat had been able to see the creature just fine and was the only company he had ever had (besides yours truly, sadly). It died next to him and the creature was starving. He said the guilt was unbearable and he cried the first full week of feasting.

“The… guilt… oh… it… is…. un…. bear… a… ble…” It spoke with a painfully pregnant pause between each word and syllable.

“How awful.” I stopped myself a second time from petting his head. I lit a cigarette. I couldn’t help but think about the starving cat, and why it wouldn’t have just gone to some dumpster somewhere to find some tossed sandwich or something. I also couldn’t help but notice that the creature was standing on the cat’s tail.

Tricky bastard.

There was a time when I’d just ignore it, passing by like the rest of them, leaning in to smell the hydrangeas and going on my merry and passably ignorant way. I’d seen it every time I did lean in for a sniff, every damn day on my way to work for years, and I’d seen it look at me, its desperate eyes waiting for some kind of connective response from anyone who knew to give it one back.

An invisible life sounds, at least some days, great. People, generally, are assholes. They laugh and point with their chocolate covered fingers. They scream at strange things that aren’t found in the safe glass confines at a pet store. They hunt and kill and taxidermy deer and rabbit and ferrets that are (normally) gentle and vegetarian and (relatively) harmless. They say mean things thinking that whom they are speaking to can’t understand their insults.

They can.

Like Captain Hydrangeas, some certain creatures do enjoy the company of people. Many seem to be in constant search of someone who can actually entertain their ever-persisting existential crisis of whether or not they actually exist. The only kind of interaction seems to mainly come from cats and dogs that hiss and bark at them as they would a squirrel or a ghost.

“Am… I… a… ghost?” it asked.

“No,” I assured. “Hardly.”

I try to keep those kinds of conversations brief. I can’t tell too much about myself. Sometimes I’ll use a fake name in case they seemed too clingy from the get-go or know how to read a telephone book. I’d learned my lesson.

I had almost gotten myself committed while hiding from a phone book. It was on the ground, the pages flipping from what looked like the wind. He was big like a Sasquatch, maybe around eight feet, give or take. His face was little and had skin like a leper; scabby and dischargerous. He sat cross-legged on the ground looking through the book for the fake name I gave him earlier in the day. His eyes were all pupil, disproportionately small like marbles, frantically trying to find my address, mumbling my name over and over.

“Adrian Green. Humph,” flip, flip. “Adrian Green. Humph.”

I crouched behind a mailbox and everyone that passed thought I was a nutcase for hiding from the White Pages.

I shouldn’t have started conversation. I should have known better than to ask a sulking creature who was covered in sores what the matter was. He was so grateful that I cared, and it was all fine until I had to go and do my own thing. He became all anxious, clingy. He wanted to be my “BFF” (his words, not mine.) As soon as he described out future relationship as such, I fake answered my phone and slipped away. I said I’d be right back but ran off instead.

I felt so bad for the person whose name I gave him (how was I supposed to know Adrian Green was a real person?) I followed him when he found it, keeping myself hidden behind trees and cars and ship-shaped mailboxes the whole time, always keeping a safe distance. I don’t know why I bothered, concern for the inevitable mess I  had caused, I guessed. I knew what was next it before it happened.

From across the street and behind a Suburban I watched the utter frustration of this eight foot tall man beast as he pounded on the door and knocked on the windows. When the woman who lived there finally opened the door to see absolutely nothing, and the knocking on the door and flinging around of the furniture on her porch, she fainted.

I called the police. The creature realized it wasn’t my house and left, annoyed. I stayed and talked to the cops as a concerned citizen who happened to pass an unconscious woman in her doorway. A flower pot dirt creature on the porch was laughing hysterically the whole time. He thought it was a riot. The cops thought the woman was a nut. The woman thought she had a poltergeist.

I had never seen him again, thank God. A gossipy little bird creature with really long braids in her hair named Marisol told me that he was on his way to some remote forest in Appalacia.

“Great place to be alone,” I said. “ Hope nobody mistakes him for Bigfoot.”

“Please,” she said while flipping her braid over her feathery shoulder. “Everyone knows Bigfoot doesn’t exist!”

“My girlfriend thinks he exists.”

“Ya girlfriend is stupid.” She pursed her beak like lips, and blew a kiss. “Adios!”

My girlfriend is not stupid. She may have liked to drink a lot, but a smart girl, nonetheless. An esthetician by trade. She saw that job as an adventure in bettering humanity. She’d say she was “Curing the world of ugliness one homely housewife at a time.”

We met when my buddy Gerard had begged me to go with him to get a facial. I wasn’t really interested, but he insisted. Apparently my pores were visible or something, whatever that means. A good dude, though I think he wanted to sleep with me. He’d never made any attempts, although admittedly I would have appreciated the flattery.

Maybe a kiss. Just to see.

He made an appointment for both of us at this place in town that a bunch of Korean ladies lined up in a row doing the nails of shrieking housewives. In the back were separate rooms for waxing and facials.

Gerard got a Brazilian wax. He couldn’t convince me to do that.

I did get my nails done, the whole time feeling scrutinized and surely talked about amongst the foreign mumbling manicurists in between the screams of Gerard from the back room. When I was finished the only American employee called me into the back to get my face slathered and peeled. She was sexy as hell, told me her name was Nadia.

“Nadia,” I repeated in the form of a sigh. “Nadia, that’s a pretty name. Like from Bullwinkle.”

“That’s Natasha,” she corrected with a half-grin. “It happens a lot.”

She smiled and made me lay down on the crinkly doctor’s office paper. She lit a candle, making it slightly less clinical. A little creature was bathing in the heated wax, using a toothpick to scratch its back. “We waxing those eyebrows of yours?”

“No!” I shouted. I checked myself. “No, sorry. Just a facial.”

“Afraid of a little hot wax?” The way she said ‘hot’ gave me half an erection. The creature in the wax watched our conversation intently, dropping the back scratcher and readying itself in case it needed to move out of the way of the fat wooden applicator. The last thing either of us wanted was to be stuck on either of our faces.

“No, just came for a facial.”

“Whatever you want.” She tossed her ponytail behind her shoulder. “That your boyfriend out there?”

“No,” I laughed, and excited that she was in the beginnings of a good old fashioned pick-up. “I think he likes me though.”

“Interested?” She slathered on some cold white goop that smelled like a corner pharmacy perfume aisle.

“No, he’s not my type.”

“What’s your type?” Her fingers on my cheeks gave me chills.

“Tall, long hair. A-plus if they work as a beautician.” Charming!

“Esthetician.”

“Sorry, esth… este… fuck I can’t say it.” She laughed,  in turn spilling cream on my shirt.

“Aw, shit.”

“It’s ok,” I said laughing. She was embarrassed. It was adorable. She excused herself for a minute and left  to go find a paper towel.

While she was gone I wiped the cream off my face and put it in my hair, sticking it up in all directions. I flipped my upper lip so it would stick to my teeth, and put my fists under my chin like an 80’s high school portrait, sponsored by Glamour Shots.

When Nadia came back in I asked, “Do you think I’m beautiful?”

She laughed in surprise and spilled creme all down the front of her apron. I laughed at her and she turned beet red. She said “Oh my God!”

“Nadia will you go out on a date with me?” She looked shocked and appalled while wiping herself clean, a task that proved to spread it around making it worse.

“Uh, really?”

“Yeah why not? Are you single?”

“Yeah, but… but I just embarrassed myself…”

“No you didn’t. That was hilarious. Want to go out with me sometime?”

“Ok.” Simple as that. “You’re a mess.”

“Name’s Dick.”

“May I?” She always wanted to pop my pimples.

“Jesus Christ! Ask first!”

“I did,” she said as she was already squeezing. “Hold still.”

She hurt when she popped them, and she used her fingernails. Some shadow-faced tree-limb-dwelling creature was staring at me though the window, pawing around the flower box.

“Huh huh huh…” It guffawed. Hot breath steamed a circle on the glass.

I ran over and closed the blinds.

“Hilarious.”

“What’s hilarious? Zit popping?” Nadia picked lint from her belly button.

“Yes.” I kicked away a fuzzball that was eating my socks by the hamper.

“You’re in a weird mood.”

“Yeah. Distracted, I guess. I dunno.” Distracted with ridiculous stupid annoying creatures eating my socks and lurking by my window.

“Well, whatever it is, you’re in a weird mood.”

She knew she wouldn’t get much from me. She’s tried, oh she’s tried, and failed every time. If I said I didn’t want to talk about my feelings, I meant it. She’d gotten so good she’d intercept me with a raised hand and a shrug before I could say, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

She ruffled my hair and kissed my forehead and smiled that dopey crooked smile she put on after two glasses of wine and a decent day at work. She was wearing my underwear and it made me happy. And horny. It had the Superman symbol over the fly.

She went to the bathroom and I threw that sock eating fucker out the window. He left one of my favorite pair in threads and was threatening my libido. They always found their way back in the house through the cracks, like rats. For years I had been tossing them out windows. It doesn’t hurt them, they keep coming back. They can’t speak at all or understand what I’m saying, I think. If someone less sympathetic knew about them they would make a fortune beginning a fuzzball extermination business. They have no natural enemies, every household has them, and nobody’s the wiser. People sometimes inadvertently toss them in the washer and dryer with the clothes, and weeks later wonder what that odd smell is coming from the corner of the bedroom.

When I was small I used to think that the fuzzballs were super cute, and I still think they are when they aren’t eating my clothes. They make little chirping noises like finches and are barely the size of a bowling ball. Their fur changes to the color of the majority of the socks they eat. Most are white. They are soft and sort of friendly (they don’t bite, at least) though skittish, mostly ignoring everything but socks.

My mother would get so annoyed putting mismatched socks together for no other reason than that she didn’t want to have to go out and buy new socks. The fuzzballs would beg, and I could never resist feeding them. The worst part is they will usually only eat one sock from each pair, scoffing at the thought of eating a match. Persnickety little shits. It wouldn’t be until I began doing my own laundry and buying my own clothes for it to turn into such a nuisance, and coming into the realization that I was turning into my parents.

“What are you doing?” Nadia was brushing her teeth, foam and spittle lining her lips. It dripped down her shirt, right between the cleavage. She must have seen me from the corner of her eye tossing something out the window.

“Just letting out a fly,” I lied, a professional pastime.

For example: just last week I had to lie about a creature to the mailman who thought I was messing with his sack. I intercepted him in the driveway, and we exchanged pleasantries.

“Hello.”

“Hiya.”

“Nice weather.”

“Yup.”

When he turned around I reached out to slap a newt-toed thing that was attempting to steal a bundle of Publisher’s Clearing House packets. The mailman caught me doing it and accused me of trying to steal the mail, giving a brief spiel about federal law or postal policy or something along those lines. I just said there was a thread sticking out of the seam and it annoyed me. We left it at that.

It reminded me of a time when I was five years old and knew nothing better. I was out in the yard, opening the gate, my hand outstretched. I was giving high-fives to the fifty-foot long five-foot tall sausage-link looking beast that had been running around the yard. He had a lot of hands and I slapped each and every one of them. Nice guy. He’d slither up the tree and shake down acorns, making a painful rain and a painful mess of the surrounding sidewalk. My father asked, “What on earth are you doing?”

“Giving high fives to Chuck!” I enthusiastically replied.

“Who’s Chuck?” my father asked.

“He’s a fifty-foot long five-foot tall worm that looks like sausage links. He has a lot of hands so I was slapping them as he left the yard!”

He just looked at me as if I had seventy-six hands myself and just nodded silently before turning back into the house. Moments later both of my parents were watching me out the kitchen window, contemplating the inevitable conversation that was to come about the hazards of imaginary friends.

I was five. People don’t really think the strange things a five-year-old does are really that strange, and I had gotten away with it for so long with nobody really noticing.

They sat me down later in the day and I remember being so embarrassed for the behavior I thought was normal. I was just beginning to come to terms with the fact that nobody else saw what I saw, and that existential crisis all of the other invisible creatures simultaneously experienced always made sense from then forward.

I never interacted with them so publicly again. Chuck was so hurt and upset that he immediately ceased his visits. I cried for hours. My parents let it go, but I had to learn how to keep it to myself. People asked too many questions, and quizzical looks became more of concern as I got older.

Nadia laid her pretty little self down on the bed. A feather flew out of a rip in the down pillow top and landed on her eyebrow. I plucked it off and swooned for a minute about how pretty she was until I was again interrupted by that shadow-faced tree-limb dwelling jerk laughing deeply outside the window.

Huh huh huh.”

I grunted in frustration.

Nadia rolled her eyes at my yet again oddly quiet outburst before rolling over onto her side. I got up to close the curtains.

These things are hard to ignore. There are very few of us who can see them. They know who to gravitate towards, they sense when they are known. They get the same feeling people get when they are positively sure that they are being watched from behind. For people it’s mostly false alarms. The creatures, they always know. I can guarantee you that the one under the hydrangea bush knew I was faking it when I ignored him the first time.

One might ask me if I feel crazy all the time. They might wonder how much effort it must take to pretend that what they see is what there is, and that what I see is what they don’t. It’s like a constant confusing hallucination, but I have to pretend otherwise.

And when there would come a time when I would be framed for a murder I didn’t commit, and the only other parties involved were other creatures one would ask, “What in the hell do you do now?”

Dream Journal: Number Three.

This dream left a mark. The intensity of it was absolutely incredible. When I woke up, tears were streaming out of my eyes uncontrollably due to the sheer power of it. The dream was lucid. I had some control over the events, and I could physically feel what was happening.

1/11/2013

I was outside with my father. We were chatting about I don’t know what, and smoking cigarettes. He attempted to put his cigarette out in a cup of water, but it would not go out. It sparked in the water as if made of electricity.

The clouds were small and puffy and dark, and we decided to go inside when they began to merge with each other quickly to form large, dark storm clouds.

Inside the house, family from both sides were sitting around the dining room table (Dad, my Aunt P, cousin G, Aunt L, cousin L). My Aunt L was pouring over a placard with two rows of pictures. She was sad, one of the pictures was her late husband, my Uncle J). Aunt P was talking about my artwork, the usual family nagging: Why don’t you do something with this? My grandmother was mentioned in this conversation… At the mention of my grandmother, the candle on the table began to move as if a fan were blowing on it. The square lamp on the table immediately got brighter before surging, and a wisp of plasma appeared over the table. My cousin G had a look on her face of shock. I reached my hand out to touch the plasma, unafraid (I could literally feel this, it was viscous). The moment I touched the plasma, it entered my hand and through my body (I could feel this too). The intensity was so great, I fainted.

This is when I woke up to find the tears streaming out of my eyes like a faucet. I couldn’t stop it. I wanted to get up out of bed to grab my book to write this down, but I wasn’t finished with the dream. I went back to sleep.

I met with my young cousin E and told her all about what had just happened while driving her somewhere. She didn’t really understand, but listened intently. I took out my phone and went to tell my friend C all about it, but all I could muster in a text to her was O M G before another distraction took me to another part of the dream.

I was on the top floor of a very sterile building, a dorm of sorts with white walls and metal railings (a recurring place). I ran down the hall to chase after what was either a patient or a prisoner who had leapt out the window onto the fire escape. I jumped out the window myself, landing a few floors below to catch up to the patient/prisoner. I convinced them to come with me. The person was androdgynous, dressed in white, stocky build, gothic makeup. We got in the car and got lost, driving to a dilapidated parking lot before I woke up once more.

Dream Journal: Number Two.

1/6/2013

I’m in a seaside town after a storm. Everywhere is messy (leaves and twigs, sand and drifted miscellania). I’m by myself, walking down a road with two lanes of traffic. I kept to the left: three-foot high speed bumps intermittently decorated the road, and I had to watch myself as the cars attempted to drive over them.

I walked along the dock that lined the bay and I thought I was hallucinating: in the water was a creepy little girl in a dress standing and waving at nothing.

A family in blue penguin suits waddled by (for a moment I thought they were real penguins).

Further down the road into town was a lot of damage and downed trees. Sand was everywhere. The town was crowded with tourists, however, and they were all making their way towards the bay as I was heading into town. They all got in my way.

Dream Journal: Number One.

I’ve decided to keep my journal next to my bed to record my dreams. Some have been so potent and (briefly) unforgettable. I find them fascinating, some lucid, some confusing, some obvious, but all interesting.

I hope you find them as interesting as I do.

 

12/30/2012

I’m in a place that is recurring- a very large, filthy public restroom. There are many rows of stalls and the whole place is flooded. One stall is nice (it’s red and painted and tiled inside). The door won’t work so everyone in the room tries to watch me as I pee. I have to block the door with my foot to prevent this. I slip and fall and slide under to the next stall, landing in a puddle of piss.

I get into a taxi cab to get back to work. This is post-Sandy, moving back from the hotel to the renovated office. The cabbie gets lost and I hope he doesn’t charge me full fare. He drops off another girl in front of a building with a giant open storefront window. She goes in and sets up a large trade show booth (I can see from the outside).

At the office I have to shift all of my desk things because I don’t care for my new shadowy corner. A new employee walks though and I forget his name.

Outside is a suburban neighborhood. There are triplet babies crawling around. Their mother comes running when they get too close to the street. They are tiny babies, but one of the triplets stands and speaks as an adult. A parade float drives by and we all laugh in amusement. On the float was an ancient Roman or Greek. We laugh, but realize that there is nothing funny about any of it.

Henry Trout and the Golden Book.

Hello.

A while back I wrote about this book I wrote called Henry Trout and the Golden Book.

I broke my foot at work, and in a fit of desperation during a moment where I thought I was trapped in a loop of a week that had stressed me out to the point of weight loss, I published the book with CreateSpace.

I’m giving it a go, what the heck. It had collected a bit of dust and I really do love what I’ve done, so here he is:

http://www.amazon.com/Henry-Trout-Golden-Book-Volume/dp/1477605827/ref=reg_hu-rd_dp_img

Shameless promotion? Maybe a little. But that’s the breaks, kid.

Henry has a proper little home, and now he needs a neighbor of a book two.

If you do read it, enjoy it! It’s fun, pretty, safe for everyone, and you might learn something new!

An open letter about —s.

Do you know what it feels like to be an inadvertent public nuisance? How you are hated and loved for all the wrong reasons?

To be condemned by their god as a sinner or heathen or filthy animal, a beast, an unnatural being, a societal deviant, a piece of garbage destined to burn?

To be publicly humiliated by the people who are supposed to represent us? To be shamed and amended and treated as lesser than? Do you know what it feels like to have laws put in place that blatantly tell the rest of the world that you are not worth legislation?

To be looked as as a disappointment, to be tossed by your family because of a genetic mutation? To live as would any other and still, because of one difference, be an undiscussed member?

To be asked stupid questions and to hear ignorant comments? Do you know how it feels to hear the word FAGGOT as derogatory in everyday conversation?

Do you know what it feels like to be called a FAGGOT? I do.

Do you know how it feels to be marginalized and minstrulized? To be asked to go shopping or go to a Broadway show or dress up in women’s clothes or listen to show tunes and be asked “who is the woman in the relationship?” I don’t want to take you shopping, I don’t like Broadway or show tunes, I don’t have any desire to wear women’s clothing and impersonate dead divas, and I am not in a relationship with a woman, we are both men.

Don’t make assumptions. Do you know how it feels to have to constantly dissipate stereotypes? It’s very annoying.

Do you know what it’s like to have to fake a person you aren’t because you are afraid of what they will think of you or say?

Do you know how it feels to be treated as equal? To have children excited to go to your wedding? To have friends and some family see you as you? To have a job or a talent that showcases something other than that? I know these things too.

Do you ever realize that the land is changing? That people like us are coming out of the dark? Do you know that at some point in history the way you treat us is how you once treated your women? Blacks? Asians? One day it will be shameful for YOU to shame US and we will never have to have this conversation again.

house hunters irrational.

My friend X and I are always complaining about our mutual obsession with shows about real estate (House Hunters & HH International, Property Virgins, Designed to Sell, etc. etc.).

We complain because the both of us (separately) live in modest abodes within our means, and watching all of these freakin’ bastards complaining about these huge houses having too little space drives us both absolutely insane!

Well we hate these shows yet continue to watch. Or maybe we love the shows, but hate the people.

These people who mostly seem to be our age, often much younger, buying their first home, dream homes, tossing money around like it’s nothing, hip young things with steady jobs, often handed a whole new living room set or a fancy budget from the show’s producers.

I get so annoyed when people on this show are my age or younger, but not so much when they are considerably older and just buying their first home. At least those people can unwittingly set a goal for their voyeur, and it seems to be a more realistic expectation.

The reason, I think, behind torturing ourselves with all of this jealousy and hatred is the fantasy of it all. We like to pretend that these people are us, we are in front of the cameras and not them, stressing out over whether the lowball offer we had just placed is going to be good enough for the seller. We like to think that these amazing houses are our own, and size up the space with our ophthalmological measuring tape, trying to figure out if our brand new furnishings will fit in the space, and which colors would look best below vaulted ceilings.

We like to see how other people live, peering into their lives as if we were visiting a friends house and silently judging their decor. The fun part is the judging, telling people off and saying out loud that their brown leather couch is just plain hideous against a pink wall (or any wall), and that hand-me-down lamp from Grandma should have been donated to Goodwill with the rest of her old stained clothing.

We can say these things out loud because these people, good or not, annoying of acceptable, are complete strangers presenting themselves to the public, showing off their brand spanking new possessions and rubbing in our faces the house that they now own, and we do not. Take that! I’ve got a key, and you’ve got a rental unit. Ha ha!

We still hang on to that ancient myth called the American Dream, a little thing introduced to us decades ago that has set the nearly impossible bar for 90-something percent of this country. It’s true that the dream is different for everyone, but who wouldn’t want a great family, a beautiful lawn or giant apartment in the city, a steady job that they absolutely love, a debt-free existence, and a dog that poops gold coins? I don’t think that’s a lot to ask for.

In the meantime, while waiting for the American dream fairy to come and plop a house key in my lap, I’m going to keep on bitching to X about that amazing view that was discarded because of a dinky little power line, or the in-ground pool that (heaven forbid) needed to be refinished, and then one day maybe we could bitch to each other about how our mortgage is too high, but the location is to die for.

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