“The raven is not beholden to human law, only to human imposition. The raven is subject to no authority, but its own.”
A yellow, 1964 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight is parked out by the beach, shaded by a crooked cypress over explaining the direction of the wind. Drunk Beach. Meth Head Boardwalk. Pervert’s Pier. Stinky’s Cul de Sac. Waste Water Treatment Plant Avenue. You get the picture. The black churning sea carries on. Ravens bicker over crab scraps and hop along the fence posts. A tattered and worn out raven lands on the hood of the car, eying its reflection in the windshield and knocking its curved beak into the glass. Gurgling. What the raven cannot perceive is the sealed interior of the vehicle: A faded royal pine air freshener dangling from the rearview above an overloaded ashtray. Cushions of light blue velour, stiff with age and smelling like a casino in winter. A grotesque quartz crystal hot glue gunned onto the dash, casting refracted violet and pink light onto the shellacked, faux wood interior door panel, loaded with electronic controls and locks that no longer work. The radio’s push buttons are cracked bakelite, covered in slime. The car’s hood is salt-battered, beaten, rusted over and seagull scat shat on. The hood ornament — a rocket thrusting into infinity — signifies nothing presently, except for the irony of the past’s futures. Today the fog is a palpable mist on the face. Webs of dew cover slow moving hairdoos, hats, wigs, toupees, hair extensions and tweezered brows. Everyone here owns a dehumidifier for the bathroom and calcium chloride for the closets. Moths eat through outfits and mold covers anything left unattended in a matter of seconds. The rusty Olds has been parked here for three full days now. The driver has not moved. A mushroom grows in a fold between the gas pedal and the brake.
There are fictional landscapes that are remembered, despite never having existed. Places called Shambhala, Shangri-lah, the Shire, the Sunken City, Sugar Town…Sugar Mountain. Versions and details might be different, depending on whether you arrive there via a drunken boat, a death ship or a yellow submarine, yet all versions retain something similar, an essence that inspires the collective to dream. Then there are actual places that are so jaw dropping in their horror that they defy reality, seeming almost fictional when discovered, daring us to forget them, leaving us alone and singular in situations so real, they can only be described as surreal, other worldly, out of body — like watching a film version of your own death.
The void area of the Pacific is a place so remote that most birds fail in flight to access its few and far between rock outcroppings of granite. In this rather calm region, currents stall and flotsam abounds in a cesspool of human debris, swirling in the heat and madness of progress. This vortex is called the Pacific Garbage Patch and it contains the putrid remains of the citizens of many countries. The particles and debris that inhabit the patch do not adhere to the whims of fantasy and shared blissful remembrance. This place has horse latitudes. It is geographically distinguishable and scientifically proven. A map will get you there. The macroscopic particles especially, are biologically proven to kill marine life and anything else that might ingest it. This place is a fact that people wish to forget. The infinite display of the ocean’s arced horizon becomes finite in the microscopic zone of molecular pollution.
In the quagmire of its microbeads and polyeurethane leftovers, lives a bacteria that can eat the plastic particles and grow from ingesting them. This bacteria has been evolving now for the last forty years and has nestled itself conveniently in the subcutaneous layer of ocean where it is able to skim the garbage patch for the fattest morsels of plastic schmutz. Its digestion is audible to the whale and the dolphin and the albatross and the flat footed grossbeak. It is breathing. Growing. Quickening its evolution by exploiting a circumstance: earthquake, lava, nuclear bomb, bleach and ammonia mixed mistakenly, Moore’s Law, Murphy’s Law, too much T.V., science, metaphysics, mythology, mixology and petty lies by politicians…all factors made the creature — a bacteria with limbs, floppy wrists, fangs, beady eyes, skin like a potato chip bag, a mouth sucker like a plastic water bottle top. It is shape shifting as it grows and swims closer to a point of land. It is taking over the waves and moving onward, over the crests, like it knows its destiny and is eager to repair a wrong. It senses things. It can feel your thoughts in its skin and relays your fears back to you like radar. Echo echo echo. It makes you want to eat more potato chips so you will throw more empty bags into the sea to feed it. The Creep travels in the night when the sun does not stunt its growth. The Creep has arrived. It is its own champion. Rise up foul petri dish! Evolve…and meet your maker.
The rock man pushes his slow barrel molecule mixer toward the corner store. Rock never thought he’d turn out to be an ambulatory oxygen huffer. People used to cross to the other side of the street to avoid his badass stare. Now they step aside to make room for the oxygen tank and the tube, staring at his weird contraption, his sad situation. When the diagnosis came down, Rock opened up his trailer, put a sign out by the lawn ornaments that said “Rocks for Sale” and began selling off his collection. The rock man needs money for the damn canisters. Money for the pills. Money for the lottery tickets and nachos. And mostly, money for the beer that keeps his senses underwater. He hasn’t seen or heard from Anton in days now. And so he decides to buy one 16 oz can of Miller Highlife for himself.
Operating the cash machine at a sloth’s pace, Shag counts back the rock man’s change. Her fingers place each coin individually into his rough palm with a jerky motion — a left over tremor from years of tweaking and smoking chemical cigarettes outside by the trash can. Shag inhales a shallow breath. It could happen, she thinks. It could happen to her. This air can. And then who would take care of her? Nobody. Especially not her brother. Only living relative, a transient bum walking his buns off. No driver’s license. No phone. Just a full head of yellow hair at sixty, and a bottle of cheap whiskey in his blue, nylon coat. Empathy is miles away as the rock man thanks her.
Rock says, “If you see Anton, tell him to call me.”
Shag looks away and exhales something inaudible and ugly.
Barrett walks thru the parking lot peering into parked cars. He uses a tiny retractable flashlight attached to his key ring to scan interiors for valuables. He’s coming up dry tonight, but it doesn’t trouble him. He whistles through the gap in his two front teeth then spots something that causes him mild alarm: Anton’s Olds parked down at the far corner. Barrett owes Anton five hundred dollars. He lifts himself up and over the fence that separates the riff raff from the private golf course, and now he’s truckin’ toward the fairway — drunk, flat footed, slap happy, sloppy, patting the whiskey bottle stashed squarely in his coat pocket. A gang of teenaged ravens are scattered around the fairway, just below the ninth hole. They watch his shadow stumble and trip. One croaks in alarm. Barrett waves the adolescents off, flapping his thin coat to appear huge, then makes his way to the green. The little flag whips at his cheek. Barrett takes out his pecker and pees into the proper place. A hole in one. He laughs at how witty he is. Sniff. He thinks about navigating over to the store for some free snacks from his sister. He zips his fly and walks back toward the fence.
The cop is parked near the fence by the golf course. His assignment is to seek out and arrest the perp who’s been pissing in the 9th hole every night now for the past three weeks. The complaints have been endless. The cop chuckles to himself. Rich old farts chasing a tiny white ball around on a field of pristine, weed resistant turf deserve a little piss on their fingers tips, as far as the cop is concerned. He’s grouchy now. And bored. The cop, Bill, takes out his phone and calls his boyfriend, Ed. It goes straight to voice mail. Bill stuffs the phone back into his pocket. He touches his own leg. His thigh. Lights a cigarette. The Chinese place might still be open. He reaches into the glove box and pulls out a menu for Kingman Chinese American and flips to the appetizers page. Egg rolls. He hits the ignition and in an instant of clarity, the headlights reveal a tall, older man in a beat up, nylon coat hopping over the fence.
Ed switches off his phone, because he’s having drinks with Sam and Sam just broke up with Devon because Devon is emotionally immature and so naturally Ed is drinking with Sam to discuss the play by play. Sam and Ed are best friends. They love each other. In fact, they secretly want to be each other. This is Sam’s third break up in two years and now she’s thinking there’s something wrong with her and Ed is reassuring her that no, there’s nothing wrong with his Sammy, because he knows that if something’s wrong with Sammy, then something’s wrong with Ed. He touches her shoulder. Sam smiles into her beer and they each take a shot of tequila and head over to the pinball machine. Ed says, “Devon is so toxic. I don’t know how you managed even eight months with her.” Sam slaps the flippers like a seal. She’s horrible at pinball, but she still beats Ed. Sam has good luck, generally speaking, and this has carried her to just above average for most of her life. She takes in her best friend with her eyes. She’s thankful for him. Sam says, “Let’s get another shot of tequila Eddie.” Sam spots her own reflection in the Schlitz beer bar mirror. Her face is tired, droopy, bloated. “Ed, do you think I have anemia?” But Ed is at the bar already, talking to a young skater dude and ordering. Sam looks at her phone, scrolls through her text messages and finds Devon’s last correspondence. A sexy selfie from the bathroom of a party they both went to about a month ago. Devon sent it while Sam was trapped in bad conversation with a clueless drunk guy who didn’t pick up on the fact that Sam and Devon were together. Devon had escaped to the bathroom where she sat in the bathtub, fully clothed, posing with the host’s scrub brush. Sam smiles remembering this particular shot. Ed comes back. “What are you doing?” She ignores his question. “Bottoms up!” Sam shoots first and smacks her glass down on the bar. “Eddie, what if I made the wrong decision?” Ed checks his phone and shakes his head. Sam says, “She made me laugh Eddie.”
Diana sends past due emails to delinquent accounts. She would give the job to the assistant librarian, but she’s nosey and likes to see what people are reading. She notices Devon’s name. Her daughter, Sammy is dating this girl, and Diana doesn’t like her, not just because the name Devon sounds downright devilish, and not because Devon is a lesbian, although she finds that hard to bare even in this modern age, it’s just a gut feeling, and Diana always trusts her gut. Plus the girl has a delinquent account, and the book that’s past due is Post Office by Charles Bukowski, a drunk, misogynist. Hopefully Sam will come to her senses with this one. She checks her phone. Diana left a message for Anton on Wednesday and she still hasn’t heard from him. The least he could do is call her back after storming out of the library like that in front of everyone. He’d been so preoccupied with something all week and then his temper flared up out of nowhere, like when they were first together, and now the most sensitive real estate agent you’ve ever met, having his adult tantrum right in front of the library during story time. Jesus. She did her best to understand him. But who has the time to sort out someone else’s problems? Diana turns off her computer and then the lights of the library. She locks the doors and bolts the big rusted padlock to a chain between the door handles. Then she walks out into the thick, cold ocean air toward Palm, down the small dirt alley, past the waste water treatment plant, crumbling stucco mold covered dwellings, icicle weed, aloe, cactus, succulents and lichens…to the back door of the rock man’s small one bedroom beach bungalow. She lets a breath go, and then knocks.
Devon sits cross-legged on the couch pecking at the keys, working furiously. Her focus is razor sharp, as is her profile. She stops. Something has stumped her. She puts the laptop down and has a sip of bourbon, then turns out the light and goes to the window. Her delicate index finger parts the blinds as she focuses on the convenience store across the street, shimmering in all its unnatural fluorescent beauty. The parking lot is coming to life with do gooders on a bender, casual corn chip eaters, last minute feeling lucky quick pick future millionaires, desperate toilet paper purchasers, half-baked microwave pizza connoisseurs, drunk and getting even drunker nine to five office workers with flat asses, out past their bed time after school candy lickers, and five finger discount malt beverage drinking bums. Devon loves this view. It is her inspiration, her muse…her Comstock load of lucky silver. She spies Shag, coming out for a smoke, leaning one foot against the building before inhaling. The bottom half of her apron is filthy with black grease from the hot dog rotisserie. She exhales and is eclipsed by a regular pulling up in an orange Kawasaki. He’s dressed always, in a long jacket that hangs down to his knees loosely, making him appear bigger than he is. Devon doesn’t know his real name. Everyone calls him Kawasaki because of his bike. In the bright white light of the parking lot, the man’s shadow plays against the side of the building, ambling up the wall like Nosferatu. Kawasaki handles the payphone as if it were his own personal office and jams some of his chump change into the slot. Devon is convinced that his twice a day phone calls from the pay phone are either to his parole officer, or to buyers of his cheap brand of crank. Devon notices Shag now, looking across the street toward her. She’s forgotten her cigarette, which is major, and is now squinting in Devon’s direction. Devon ducks out of sight and turns out the light, knocking a loaner copy of Bukowski’s, Post Office (an original, Black Sparrow edition) onto the floor.
Shag’s eyes resemble those of a snake, but they are keen like a raptor and when she squints she can see the wrinkles in your underwear. The curtains in the window across the street are still moving slightly, as if a bat is stuck in them…this reminds her that she left her windows open at home, and it looks like rain. Kawasaki is yelling into the phone, “I haven’t seen him in three days!” Shag picks up her smoke from the window jam and takes a final puff before flicking it at the back of Kawasaki’s head, just missing him. She shuffles back inside, crossing the threshold. The animated sensor, announces her pronation with an audible “ding dong” that can be heard blocks away on a clear day.
Ed’s leaning back on the couch with his knees as wide apart as they will go. One side of his body is preoccupied with the phone that’s nudged into the crook between his ear and his shoulder. The other side is dominated by Tucker, a Jack Russell, curled up into Ed’s armpit like a controlled environment beta tester for roll-on. Ed is listening. Just listening. He strokes Tucker’s neck and then his belly. And then he hears something on the other end of the line that causes him to put the dog down, and he grabs the phone and looks and screams into it, “Three days?!” The dog spins around Ed’s ankles. “In three days that fucker could be all the way to the border.” Ed exhales once, twice, audibly. And says, “Kiss it goodbye, dip shit.” Sam comes out of the shower toweling off her hair.
Barrett high tails it to Anton’s place. There’s no way Anton can be home right now if his jalopy is parked out at the beach. And Barrett knows that Anton leaves his shit wide open…meaning his fly, his car door, his intentions, his face…an open book with a heart on a sleeve and a total poop target for shitty minded people…but also most realistically today, Anton leaves his bathroom window wide open.
Barrett slips into the back yard and finds the bathroom curtain window flailing in the breeze like one stiff, proud flag, and he lifts himself up and into the house all monkey, head first, hitting the sink and knocking over the pimple cream and prescriptions. There is a big blue Persian cat in the middle of the hallway, belly up rubbing its quarters on the dirty rug. The cat senses that Barrett is much more animal than most other bipedals and starts up, following from room to room as Barrett searches the premises. They move in tandem, mouth breathing. Barrett strikes up a dialogue with the cat, befriending the big blue. He’s earnest in his intentions. He doesn’t believe in hurting animals, not even hurting their feelings.
“Well you are the prettiest thing ever. Where do you get your hair done?” He stoops down and pets the cat, sneezes, curses and looks under the mattress. And there it is. The stash. Barrett grabs it and as he backs out of the room he knocks something off of Anton’s dresser. It’s a beat up black notebook. Barrett opens it and reads a passage marked by a pencil stuck in the page. The cat rubs at Barrett’s legs with her back and tail. Barrett tucks the notebook and the stash into his pants and lifts himself up and out of the bathroom window.
The Rock Man sits in his favorite chair next to the stereo, listening to Alice Coltrane and drinking a nip of vodka on ice. He hears the door slam, and expecting Anton he calls out, “Where you been old man?”
It’s Diana, in her librarian outfit.
“Haven’t seen him in a while.”
“When was the last time?”
“About three days ago, down on the beach. I was fishing off the pier, and I spotted him. So I rolled down that way and when I got near him he gave me this look, like he didn’t even know me. And he started talking to himself and took off. I tried following him, but I’m a little bit slow these days.”
Rock man arches his eye brows and rattles his oxygen tube.
“You better not be protecting him. If he’s done something wrong you better tell me. I know he’s shit deep with that Kawasaki.”
“Jeesus Diana. I’m not that partial to Anton’s financial endeavors.”
“And Ed, that dip shit little clown. I know he’s workin’ it too.”
“Look, I just sell rocks. And that aint a euphemism for a rock of somethin’ else…and, I’m not interested…like I told ya.”
“I don’t wanna get in the middle of your beef.”
Diana walk over to the rock man and sits down next to him finally.
“We’ve always been the best things for him ya know…we’re the only one’s who know him.”
Rock looks into Diana’s eyes, hard.
“Have you ever told Sammy?”
Diana squeezes Rock’s hand. “You know it was for the best.”
The rock man looks up at the ceiling and exhales, and he doesn’t say a word.
Barrett is making a cup of coffee with an old camp stove. The tin foil wind screen vibrates with each major gust. He’s smoking and thoroughly loving his morning, soaking it all in, like a king in a castle, except Barrett’s castle is a big blue tarp stretched over an old iron laundry rack on the rooftop of his sister’s apartment building. He sits on a milk crate at his makeshift table made of stacked boxes, and he’s reading the black notebook that he found in Anton’s apartment. His look slowly sharpens into concern as he flips from one page to the next, smoking down into the filter and forgetting the coffee that bubbles over. Barrett grabs the cup, turns off the stove and pockets the notebook. He climbs down the exterior fire escape all the way to the street. Once down there he enters a café and walk over to the cream and sugar station. He pockets a handful of sugar and a tin filled with cream. He exits with the cream puddling onto the floor with his every step. He comes to an outside trash can. He pauses, looks around. He takes out Anton’s notebook and rips out the pages that contain Anton’s scrawl, and then throws them into the trash. He now has at least twenty fresh, blank pages for his drawings. It sucks that the paper is lined, but beggars can’t be choosers. He walks over to the fire escape and climbs back up into his cat bird seat.
Devon is sitting at the café with her big can headphones on, listening to Charles Mingus, Foggy Day bleeding into Drums, Max Roach on the snare and hi hat. She’s watching like a stalker carrying a dossier on every one of her neighbors, reams of paper, photographs, maps and projections. She’s just spotted Barrett swiping the creamer and a handful of sugar packets before hightailing it out the door like an old rat. To verify what she’s just seen she bolts up and follows him outside. Barrett is standing at the trashcan ripping pages from a notebook. As soon as Barrett walks away out of eyesight, Devon makes her way to the trash and plucks out the pages that Barrett has just deposited. She walks back into the café, sits down and begins reading:
“The waves were mellow, just rolling in soft and fat, tossing up seaweed, and it smelled like a dead whale of course. Rock was staring out to sea. I watched him as he squinted and did not blink. Then he asked about Diana. I didn’t know what to say. I’ve been alone in this thing with her for so long, it’s not easy to talk about it with anyone else. Besides, I know I’ll just fuck it up again, so what’s the point? I don’t have any real options. Just the best of many worst-case scenarios that I keep running around my head. Sometimes I wish people would just leave me alone.”
“Kicking around with the Rock man. Always picking up everyone else’s trash. Like the time we tried hiking up Mt Diablo and it took us an hour to go 800 feet cause he had to pick up every cigarette butt. Like he feels guilty for smoking all them years. Some do gooder. His oxygen tank’s so heavy, it’s hard for him to get down to the litter that’s half sticking out of the sand now, and it drives him crazy cause he can’t get to it cause the wheels on his oxygen tank cart are small and made for old folks home short skirt carpet. But he’ll try it anyway, but there’s no clearance, and he gets stuck. Then he starts swearing and Shadow starts barking pulling her Lassie impersonation. Damn dog. So I just go on down there and pick up all the shit trash on the sand myself, so there’s no raucous. And I’m getting a bit of a work out at it too and my middle is flattening out a bit I think. Not that it matters.”
“I thought about kicking it back into the sea, it just looked like a damn plastic water bottle at first, but there was something to it, odd looking, and so I picked it up and it was softer than a regular plastic water bottle. Squishy, kinda sticky and crinkly like an old potato chip bag. And then it wiggled, and I saw its spine through the clear skin, and it turned in my hand, then I noticed the slits — gills really — opening and closing, like breathing…and where the cap would be, instead there was an opening and these sucker lips that tremorred for food, or air or maybe it was trying to say something. And then it moved it’s face or whatever it was, toward me and I saw the eyes. Little black eyes like a ray, with the spark fading. And then it moved again and twisted out of my hand and fell thump onto the sand, and I screamed so fucking loud that Shadow went insane and Rock tried edging his way toward me with his oxygen tank cart and he got stuck in the sand swearing and then Shadow starts barking…and I couldn’t stop looking at the thing’s shallow breathing body laying there. And then I heard this tiny scream. It was a moment when your mouth waters because you might throw up or pass out. I’m still not sure what I really saw or heard. I looked over at Rock and he’s trying so hard to get through the sand to see what the hell’s going on and why I screamed like a girl. And then Shadow ran up and gathered the soft thing’s belly in her mouth and in just about three seconds, she ate it. She ate the fucking thing. And then she walked off very proud. And about an hour later she threw it up in the house.”
Devon holds this last page out at arms length and squishes up her face. She takes her headphones off. Walks back outside and looks around. The fog descends and she slips slowly back to her apartment. She’s not sure what to make of these ripped up notebook pages. Her first instinct is to call Sam, the bone sniffer, always knowing the truth and what to do, how to handle things, always fixing things because she understands reality, and how to negotiate it. This is what initially attracted her. So what happened?
The Rock Man is pushing his tank and juggling his morning coffee. He’s heading out toward the beach. In the distance he sees Billy’s police cruiser pulling over a car full of teenagers. They call Billy by name and he throws something into the car’s open window. The kids all scream. The driver hands him a wad of cash before peeling out down the road.
Billy turns to get back into the cruiser, and notices the Rock Man is watching him. He stops, locks eyes. Rock doesn’t budge. Billy climbs back into his cruiser, hits the lights and siren and takes off toward the other end of town.
The Rock Man continues his slow plodding until he reaches the far side of the parking lot where he spots Anton’s car. He stands there, breathing heavy. He looks back at the way in which he came and then looks back at the car. He tosses the cup of coffee aside and pushes toward the Olds.
Diana goes into the bathroom and runs the water, then splashes some onto her face. She starts to cry. She takes out her phone and contemplates dialing the number.
The Rock Man nears Anton’s car. As he draws closer, he hears a phone ringing. He is at the driver’s side door. The phone is loud. It is coming from within the car. It keeps ringing.
Diana is holding the phone to her wet ear.
Rock Man puts his hand on the door, and then takes his hand away. Looks at it. Tries to rub off whatever is stuck to his hand now as a result of touching the car door. He puts his hand on the door handle again and pulls.
Diana is trying to get comfortable on the sink. Leaning this way and that. Then, there’s an answer, finally, on the other end of the line. She exhales a laugh in relief.
“Bastard. Where have you been? You had me scared this time.”
She waits, but hears nothing on the other end of the line.
“Anton! What the hell is going on?”
“Diana, it’s Rock.”
Diana listens to the click of the phone and then the nothingness of dead air.
Devon is sitting outside on her front porch, smoking and reading Anton’s journal with a concerned look.
“There’s something foul in the bottom of my gut that can’t be eliminated. And my head is so foggy, I can’t wake up. I’m in this strange dreamy place — not dreamy like laughing gas dreamy funny haha — but dreamy as in, I can’t complete a thought or a sentence and I catch myself staring off into space every day, just sitting there idling. And I had this real shitty nightmare last night, where I was eating potato chips out of the bag and I went to bite into one and it had a face and it screamed at me not to bite it. What the fuck is that about? That fucking thing at the beach. I should have saved a sample instead of flushing it down the toilet after Shadow threw it up. People do that with ticks. I’m an idiot.”
Today Shadow died. She walked over to me, leaned into my knee as I was sitting there and then collapsed onto the floor and urinated.
“I sense it. I hear its tiny scream and I know it came here to tell me something.”
It came into being and it is not leaving. It is still here.
I have the message. I have it.
Barrett is drawing the landscape below him with the nub of a number 2 pencil. He seems unsatisfied. Since he doesn’t have an eraser, he wets the back of his hand and runs it over the page, trying to blot something out against a very high school level drawing of a seascape. And then he hears yelling from below. He goes to the edge of the roof and peers over. There’s a man with a cart of some sort and its attached to a big cannister of air and he’s backing away from a parked car and he’s all wrapped up in his own tubes and he’s screaming his lungs out. Screaming until blood comes out of his mouth. Barrett wishes he could draw what he’s seeing, but he’s not that good of an artist.
Devon is sitting, thinking. She takes the journal entries and folds them up. She hears yelling coming from a few blocks away. Now it’s hysterical screaming. She walks inside the house and closes the door.
Devon goes over to her desk and starts typing furiously. She is transcribing Anton’s journal. She pauses, rolls something around in her head…lights a cigarette, continues typing…stops and then takes out her phone and calls Sam.
Sam is sitting at home slightly hung over from her night out with Ed. She sees Devon’s name and picture light up on her phone and waits for the third ring before answering it.
“What are you doing?”
“Sitting here looking at the wallpaper. What are you doing?”
“Sitting here listening to the neighborhood descend into debauchery on a Saturday morning.”
“It’s a little early for debaucher.”
“Not for some of us.”
“You’re smoking aren’t you?”
“I hate it when you smoke. It’s disgusting.”
“I don’t care. Come over here.”
“Give me one good reason.”
“I’ll leave the door unlocked.”
Sam goes to the kitchen, opens the fridge and moans. She grabs a can of beer, opens it, drinks the entire thing in one swift motion and then wipes her mouth on her sleeve and walks out the door, a bit swilly and underdressed in her haste. She is ready. Ready to devour or be devoured. Sam has deliverance in her bones.
Sam reaches the threshold of Devon’s door and pushes it open. She navigates through the mess and the filth, taking the hallway slowly, until she comes to Devon’s bedroom. She must use the element of surprise to carry out her intention, but with the black out curtains pulled shut, it’s hard to make out what’s what. She delicately pulls her shoes off and then her socks, and before she can untuck her shirt, she’s grabbed from behind and Devon is breathing close to her and coming into her mouth with her cigarette breath and now her lips are parting and taking in a smoky tongue fully and she is tasting the bitterness of it and is instantly aroused. She straddles Devon and holds her to the bed and pushes her body onto her fully, rhythmically beating her captive until Devon stops her by turning her head away.
“What’s going on Devon?”
“This isn’t why I asked you over.”
“I wanted to read you something.”
“You called me up and asked me to come over here so we could read together?”
Sam laughs a little, to save face.
Devon takes out a typed version of Anton’s journal and begins reading.
“…so I picked it up and it was softer than a regular plastic water bottle. Squishy, kinda sticky and crinkly like an old potato chip bag. And then it wiggled, and I saw its spine through the clear skin…”
“Ewwww, that’s weird.”
“Is it good?”
“Did you write it?”
“Well, yeah. I mean I typed it up…today.”
Devon takes the manuscript and puts it in her desk drawer.
Sam goes to the window and opens the curtains, revealing the carport. A smidgen of sunlight manages landing on Devon’s cheek, accenting her bad skin.
Sam turns and heads for the door, “I gotta go.”
“See you later?”
“I don’t think so. You’re a creep.”
Sam is walking with purpose, fists clenched. There’s a siren coming up from behind her and then a police car shoots past. It stops at the end of the long parking lot out by the beach. She walks to where the commotion is and begins to recognize the man who is sitting on the curb — the Rock Man. He is sitting while two paramedics administer oxygen to him. He is pale and shaking his head no, no, no. And he starts howling, like a sad dog. Baying for something that is lost.
Bill the cop is writing down notes into a pad of paper and chewing gum, and kind of looking side to side as people talk to him, not really listening, just nodding his head, yep, yep, yep as he towers over everybody else and then goes over to the car — the yellow Olds, and Sam recognizes it. The car is Anton’s old cruiser. Anton, her mom’s ex –boyfriend from a million years ago who still comes around every so often, kind of a loser…just got out of jail last year after getting nabbed for dealing drugs. Cleaned up. Became a real estate agent or something. Mom bought him a blazer for his new job. Still in love, apparently, as far as blazers go. Bill the Cop tapes off the car and a spot on the ground where now Sam sees it. The body. It is Anton’s body laying belly up with his shirt off and she gets closer to look and sees that there are words scrawled into the skin of his stomach. The words have been carved with a blade, somemthing sharp. The letters look like psycho, ancient runes. Sam looks closer and Bill holds up a stop sign hand and gives her his police look even though Sam has known him for years because he’s Ed’s boyfriend and Ed is her best friend, but she still hates Bill because she hates cops and because Ed does nothing but complain about “Billy” everytime they go out and Sam is tired of listening to it even though she never says anything because it’s the least she can do since Ed listens to her going on and on about Devon constantly…but the letters now, she’s making them out and the words are appearing slowly, the appearance of a sentence criss crossing Anton’s body. And she thinks he must be dead because the ravens are bouncing on the hood of the car, sniffing out death, waiting for dinner, and this makes Sam feel a bit sick. Then she hears it in her head as she mouths the words, the sentence that is scrawled across Anton’s body, “I have arrived.” The old raven on top of the Olds gurgles, and then takes to the air, flapping to get some speed, then up, catching a current — it follows the stream down the length of the beach toward the pier and then south. It overshoots its regular border and continues, knowing it must fly, because it is near death.