He helped her navigate the bedroom. Tall brown rug, recently vacuumed, the tracks snaking out into the night, going around the waterbed and between the dresser and end table. A night light in the corner of the room, one in the bathroom shining, bright childish colors.

Thanks August, she slowed and looked at him but he was fixed, concentrating on the destination.

You're welcome, Evelyn

Please, call me Lyn

He smirked and staggered, using the waterbed to steady himself but his hand sank into it.

Woah, what the fuck


Oh wow

She pulled him out of the bed and her back hit the bedroom doorjam, one shoulder in and the other out at the hinges.

He was facing her, she held onto his shoulders and looked him in the eye. Without heels they were the same height.

Let's make out

He smelled her breath and couldn't stifle a disgusted look, brows lowered, eyes squinting, corners of mouth turning down.


He nodded, face relaxing.


As soon as the door closed behind them Sandra turned around to face Ian, Jaden was behind her looking around the room.

You can only wear a condom in here, she pointed with her hand low, balanced on one foot because she was standing on the toe of her sock, stepping out of it. She spun on the ball of that foot and faced Jaden.


He turned to face her, she curled her finger and stepped onto the toe of the other sock. He put his arms around her and they kissed while Ian's clothes hit the floor. Shirt, pants, boxers.


They can stay

He clapped his hands together and she clenched her ass like she knew he was staring at it.


Two guys were sitting in the emergency room, one has his fingers in a bag of ice, bruises risen up on his good arm. They looked like whipped dogs.

The man next to fingers had a massive swell rising up out of his head above his eye, his shoulder a red and rashy bruise. They kept their heads down either out of shame or because they didn't want to draw attention.

And when we go back there we are going to fuck him so hard.

Fingers had frozen, staring at the entrance.

What, you don't want revenge

Is that Gomez

The dark silhouette of a man wearing a black pillowcase loomed beyond the sliding door, dusk illuminating him, he stepped sideways and disappeared out of sight.

Looked like him

Think he needs help

I can go check

Eth-ridge, Carl, the nurse called out.

Fingers groaned and worked his way to his feet, his friend remained seated.


He motioned with both hands as claws, gave a frustrated look, lots of yellow teeth, squinting eyes.

Are you gonna check or what, he motioned with his ice finger bag at the door.

Fine, he put his hands on his knees, leaning forward to stand.

Carl nodded at the nurse and walked her direction.

He stood in the parking lot and looked around. They had parked directly in front of the emergency room entrance before dusk and there was a trail of blood leading back to the car. He looked to his right at the parking garage and Gomez stood on the top level, still wearing the black pillow case.

Ricky lit a cigarette with his zippo lighter and took a drag on it, glaring at Gomez, knowing he couldn't see him from that far away.

He limped and smoked, taking his time, watching for cars, eye swelling beneath the floppy black blob on the side of his head.

The elevator opened and Gomez dove inside, smashing Ricky's body against the wall. He gasped but his ribs were shattered, Gomez kicking his feet and pressing his forearm into Ricky's collapsing throat. Gurgling, arms pressing feeble, scraping and sliding on the dirty floor, a hand in a puddle of coffee. Gomez continued to scrape his boot feet on the floor, wriggling his shoulders and torso like a snake, pressing to find a deeper part of Ricky's neck to smash. Then Ricky's eyes went out. Gomez leaned close and looked in with his milky eye. He released him, body slid to the floor and the death rattle.

Gomez was in his pickup truck, driving with his one good eye. Watched cars in the intersection. Drove through a residential neighborhood. Parked within walking distance of Carl's apartment. Followed the path between the houses that the children took on their way to school. They saw him and cowered by the fence. When he reached the apartments he knelt by the stairs and waited.

I wish he would stop calling

I wish he would stop coming by, knocking the door

I wish he would stop coming to my work

Asking how I'm doing

Asking what happened

She climbed in the car and shut the door.

Hey girlfriend

Hey, the word dragging out in excitement

The two hugged

Let's go we don't want to keep him waiting

They laughed

So, she dragged out the word while putting together the next question and driving, turning the wheel. Someone's in love?

She laughed and it was infectious.

Yes, I think so.

Well you better be, you are moving in together


They paused and listened to the music, smiling at traffic at the stop light.

Moving closer


I'm not moving in in, I'm moving into the same complex, in.

That's not even the same thing

Shut up

The car started moving again, she was turning the wheel and making a left turn and when it was complete smiled at her friend, but you are in love


They were picking up speed on the highway now.

One thing at a time

It's how you get there

How about you

Oh you know, Marco is a piece of shit.


She was picking up more speed, signaling to get into the middle lane now.

He asked for full custody

He doesn't even have full custody of himself

He lives with his girlfriend now, she can help


They were tailgating a work truck with a large orange cooler on the back.

They arrived at the moving company. The flat part of town, semi industrial, white washed buildings and black asphalt curling in the sun. Cars crowded the highway, glass front buildings, adult boutiques and lingerie shops next to strip clubs and boat dealerships. The moving company doubled as a storage facility, white stucco with red doors and awnings which matched the moving trucks for rented.

Want me to wait

That's him over there

Then call him over

She climbed out of the car and motioned, he was standing outside his car smoking. He crushed out the cigarette and hurried over. They hugged and he held her for a long time and the two leaned to look in the open passenger window.

Anna this is Andy

They rented a moving truck and he drove, she was in the passenger seat. It smelled like a plastic navy bench seat cooking in the sun, a public place that had been rented to many people.


So's the beast, he motioned to the gas gauge.

At the gas station he got out to pump and when it was finished he hung up the handle and approached her open window.

Let's go

Inside they got crushed ice drinks with funny straws. They stood and drank in the bright sun.

Gonna get burned

Bring anything

She held out her drink and he took it, looking inside and thinking about trying it. She had mixed cola and cherry, his was the lime green flavor.

She produced sun tan lotion and pulled his sunglasses off and put them on her forehead because she was wearing her own pair. She put lotion on her hands and then smeared it carefully on his skin, avoided his eyes. Then, put his sunglasses back on his head and kissed him on the lips.

He looked impressed that she came prepared.

She put her sunglasses on his head and repeated the process for herself, careful not to mess up her make-up. Once her sunglasses were back on and she had her drink in her hand he said, lets go, lady.

She wrote the date December twenty-first on an index card and stuck it in her mirror at the dresser where she would see it when she got ready at the start of each day. She had pulled down her photos months ago, they sat in a pile on the chair next to the trash. She hadn't found the strength to slide them in yet, but looked at them from time to time and considered it.

Seeing the date has made it easier

The day you are going to die

Yeah, knowing that that is going to be the end

How are you going to do it

Does it matter

I guess it does not

It does not

She typed on her phone and glanced up at the date occasionally, knees together, feet crossed, smiling and nodding along with the music.

She stood by the curb in the cold, long black shining jacket, a long black cloth covering her hair. She looked like a nun to him.

He was talking to two men, one on each side.

He looked at the one on his right, excuse me, and stepped directly between them and walked up to her.

Hello, I'm Jere

She looked like she couldn't believe what was happening, she looked at the street like she might run across it, glanced over his shoulder and saw the two men staring at them in disbelief.


He looked down at his hand and back to her, she slowly put her hand out and he gripped it and pumped it once.

Nice to meet you


Are you being stood up?


You look like you are being stood up, is that happening right now?

No, she chuckled nervously.

Alright, I wanted to make sure because you keep making eye contact with me.

She looked down.

That's what I thought.

She smiled and looked up at him, I'm just looking around, seeing who is here.

Is that so

She looked past him again, your friends are staring.

I don't give a fuck.

She flinched like he hit her.

I want your socials. Are you gonna add me?

She looked side to side to see who else was watching, nobody it was just his friends staring in disbelief, one with a beer in his hand and the other with a clear plastic cup.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket and paged to his social media app, to the search page, and handed it to her.

I don't have that app.

What do you have?

She recited a few and he pulled up the search on one that he also had.

I could give you my number.

Want to text me? He switched to that app on his phone and typed, this is Jere, then handed it to her.

She typed in the number and her name and hit send.

Text me if he doesn't show, I want to talk to you.


He turned around and faced his friends, stepping forward to close the circle.


Who's that

No, he pointed at him.

They laughed.

Did you wind up going

Fuck no

Why not

I don't go to shit alone it's fucking sad

Well I would have gone

You said that

She turned off the road and into her apartment complex, came from the side street that ran along the area where town ended and the forest began, it went on for a stretch before the lake. Massive, black, and sprawling in the distance, only visible in winter and this was spring so the leaves had returned. A wall of darkness that shimmered when the wind blew. And someone had put out the street lights so it was just headlights and the exterior light shining yellow past the dumpsters and fenced in children's playground. Black bars, wood chips and small gray rocks, a facade to navigate in order to recycle cardboard.

She stopped on the other side of the garages, a way from the apartments and the lights so she could leave her music up loud. A low strumming accompanying a reverberating drum tapping. A woman joined, singing about how no one would ever love her again, not the way the man she feared would leave her.

She turned off the engine so she could hear it more clearly, then sat in her car crying. Her face growing uglier, more teeth and drool, blew her nose into the sweatshirt fetched from the back seat when she couldn't find a tissue.

The night was silent outside her car. It was late enough at night that everyone was asleep. Not even people returning from the bar on the road now.

The music included the sound of dogs barking but it wasn't at that part yet. She heard something hissing and moving in the forest behind her. Looked in her rearview mirror and a slender muscular woman stood red in her tail lights. She immediately took her foot off, went dark and the hissing continued, the sound of something crawling on the trunk and roof of her car, skittering.

She covered her face with the sweatshirt, tried to bury her hands in it, the dog barking began and the sound outside stopped. She peeked and a mass of snakes swirled into the forest darkness.

The song faded out and the chorus held one final note as the dogs had really picked up, then the muted sound of a woman's scream then the song ended.

She sat in silence, staring wide eyed at the rearview mirror from behind the sweatshirt.

The next song started and it was a woman cooing along with a jangling guitar, she immediately turned it off and sat in silence and watched for a few minutes more. She pulled out her phone and looked at it, unsure who to text or what to do. She looked at a list of people she could message but then noticed how early in the morning it was.

She set the sweatshirt on the passenger seat and put the phone on top of it, started her car and drove to her usual parking space. Then, ran quickly and noisily up the stairs, her jacket making rubber squirt noises and high heels tapping the pavement.

Inside she found someone in voice chat on one of the chat rooms she frequented.

She agreed, it could have been an angel

She looked around the room

Windows are closed

She bobbed a teabag in a steaming cup of water

I don't think it can fly I mean it looked like snakes

She was speaking into her headset, the only light in the room a consistent rainbow strobe from her keyboard.

It was dark, I didn't want to light her up again I mean what if she was still out there

She looked at herself while the person replied and realized she had not removed her boots, just her jacket which was thrown haphazardly on the couch.

Nah, I'm good, champ. If you want to fly out here and have a look you are welcome to crash on my couch.

She blew on the tea to cool it and then took a sip, wincing because it was still to hot.

She laughed, yeah, that could explain all the missing pets, you got it guys

She pulled her long boots off one at a time and set them on the floor, tried to balance them upright but they were too floppy so she returned to her tea, paging through internet search results.

No I'm not seeing anything, how about you guys

The Alligator woke from a nap when they drew close to the dark pond. A pair of creatures balancing on two legs like birds but with more meat on them. One stopped the other with the back of an outstretched arm, it clutched a rock on a metal string it wore around its neck and spoke in a language that the alligator did not understand. Then they turned and left. They could not have seen it but after a minute of thought it set a toe on the pond floor and pulled slowly a foot further in just in case. It took a deep breath and wondered what the two beings were before falling back into its afternoon slumber.


She knocked the door and he answered. She froze because he looked directly in her eyes like he knew what she was. She glanced around the room behind him and there were outlines and reflections that made it look like people were standing behind him, but when she focused she didn't see anyone else in there with him.


She wasn't sure if it was a question or a statement.

I'm looking for Jere.

You found him.

The shapes behind him shifted, she couldn't bring herself to move any closer to him. His body was draped in some kind of shroud, she initially mistook it for a night gown and now she looked down and studied it, a hooded flannel shirt and sweatpants.

What do you want

It was a statement of wonder, he was still looking directly at her face, studying it and trying to figure out what she was.

I need your help, Jere

I gathered that

Let me in

I don't think so

He smirked, he hadn't moved at all in the time he stood there. She had let her arms fall casually after knocking, her purse pushed behind her back on a long strap.

He studied her for a moment, looking her up and down. She wore a black cocktail dress and black flats with pointed toes. Her hair was tousled and dirty like she slept outdoors, her fingers were caked with dark earth and fingernails splintered, nail polish chipped, but she had taken the time to touch up the makeup on her face.

She looked him in the eye and commanded, but you do think so.

He raised his eyebrows like he felt sorry for her.

But I don't think so.

He began to close the door.



I need your help

You said that

They're going to kill me, Jere

He looked in her eyes and real emotion had crept through, she looked frightened.

Come in


or, this baby here can fit so much sorrow

Content warning: Rape.


Evelyn returned from the living room and topped off her drink in the kitchen. She looked at the dirty dishes, the torn open bag of red solo cups, new items like boxes of snacks sitting open, a bowl sideways in another bowl that was supposed to hold fruit but now had a crumpled wire retainer.

She stepped out into the dining room area and saw Sloane standing, she watched with wide eyes as the girl stumbled from shoulder to shoulder then grabbed the curtains to the screen door and tried to balance herself, they slid open and Evelyn took a step forward but Ezra got to his feet first and steadied Sloane.



He smiled. She pushed his hair out of his face and he put his arm around her, let me help you.

Evelyn sat in Ezra's spot, deal me in

They laughed and Ivy put her arm over both shoulders, cupped her hand on her bare arm. Welcome aboard, sailor

Evelyn leaned forward and they nuzzled noses and Phil slid a quarter across the table, your turn.

Briar spoke, it's so good that you're back

Luca spoke, we missed you, Evelyn

August spoke, yeah you have to down that drink to catch up

All three of them slurred, swaying, their hands joined like a seance.

What's going on here?

We're just happy.

Briar was staring at Phil, Luca and August were looking at Evelyn.

After a few moments she realized they were waiting for her to finish her drink before they would continue their game so she choked it down.

Luca and Celeste both moved to stand and Evelyn said, don't bother I got it

She got up and made her way back to the kitchen, maybe I should bring the bottle

They were talking amongst themselves but she had Celeste's eye.

She came in with the bottle in one hand and the solo cup in the other. She reached in her purse and pulled out a cigarette and lighter.

What are you doing?

You can't smoke in here.

Oh my god

Evelyn looked at Luca, of course I can, this is my house.

He looked embarrassed, and drummed his fingers, Celeste grabbed his hand.

She held the cup with her cigarette hand and poured the bottle in until it was half full.

They all watched as she raised the glass to her lip, then the cigarette.

She reached her free hand behind her and pulled the curtain closed then continued drinking.

You can put your ash in my cuff

She looked down where August was pointing, the rolled up cuff of his jeans, black converse with the star shining at his ankle.

The door was hanging open when they got there, someone had cleaned up the bathroom and it smelled a little bleachy.

Turn off the light


There's a night light it's romantic

He winced.


She was in Logan's room. They were watching videos on the tiny television of people trying ridiculous stunts, their bodies flying through the air, the film cut before impact so you never saw any broken bones or blood, no faces in pain, just anticipation.

Meghan looked at her phone, sad emoji face arrived

What's wrong chica


Oh no old man make jane sad


She paused, it wasn't like Cindy to let her make jokes about his age.

I need to deal with this, are you guys good to start without me?

She had leaned forward, curled over her phone, and Logan and Jeff made eye contact. Logan looked extremely stoned and Jeff was working on the bottle of vodka.


We can wait

Take your time, Jeff took a sip of his vodka.

Cool, I'll try to make this quick, she scooched herself out of his bed, dragging her ass by bending her knees, pushing off with her hands, so she went straight toward the television and stepped onto the messy floor, she heard something crunch and looked down, corn nuts and a pretzel stick.

In the bathroom she wrote back, what's going on

I don't know this is getting to me

She shared a photo, it was a cropped section of a picture Jere had sent, his forehead and the corner of his eye, lots of lines and wrinkles, looking very red, bad lighting, hair frizzy like he just got out of the shower or the end of a long day.

What am I looking at

He's fifty


She waited for a reply and looked around the dirty bathroom. Strands of hair from different people clung to everything, wet at one point and now like a strange cobweb stretched over the grime. It smelled like shaving cream.

She opened her note app and wrote, what are you shaving, Logan?

Cindy replied, I can't get it out of my head, every time I think about him I see it in my mind, he sends me photos and it is so obvious, he is so much older, then she sent a string of characters before the end of the message.

Yeah but he knows gossip girl


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