I’ve followed her for days, and I’ve almost gotten used to how much this hurts! It hurts less at night, but she sleeps too much then. She never used to. Often that was because of me, last time, when we both stood at the crossroads, the ones she’s headed back to now.
If I tried, I could keep her awake. She’d deserve it, right? She’s the one who makes it hurt. But I always drift behind her, and she never senses me. So why do I know how blue her eyes are, that that’s where this infernally tranquil sea floods out of? If I stepped in front of her, would she see me with her eyes now, or her eyes from back then? I only get to look at her face when she sleeps. She looks almost exactly the same! Even with the lights off, I can see that. At those times, I can almost relax, almost forget the shredding agony her blue glow locks me in when she’s awake.
Now she walks around town, smells the summer smells of pollen, thistles, and fresh-cut grass. I smell it with her, scorching my brimstone nostrils. She drops by the same places where things happened. She hangs out with her friends, drinking and smoking up and playing the guitar she’s learning, telling ghost stories in the woods and graveyards and the abandoned sawmill lot, all the same spots we used to go.
No one tells the best ghost stories anymore, the ones I was there for, even when they sit on the same spots where things happened. Maybe I should do something about that. You can’t say I’m not in the unique position to do so. I have other things on my mind, though. She makes out with boys in the same spots in the woods where we used to make love, next to the railroad tracks or that sandy spot by the river. The town’s full of such places, places where things happened, and she never notices!
She hangs out in a coffee shop that used to be a speakeasy, back when we were both young and alive and together. We weren’t much older than she is now, but we got in one night, dressed in fancy hand-me-downs to look the best we could like the gangsters and dames we’d seen in the pictures.
By then, she was already used to drinking. I wasn’t. She thought it was so cute how I tried to act tough, pretended to hold my liquor better than I did, how I got snappy when she noticed.
It was one of them who ran that speakeasy. He wore a wide-brimmed hat like a preacher, but otherwise looked like the pinstriped gangster you’d expect to run a place like that. When he took an interest in us, we were scared out of our minds at first. We thought he knew we were too young, that he’d kick us out, tell our folks. Which I have to admit is pretty silly, considering the kind of place it was to begin with, but you know how kids are. The truth was, he’d noticed what we’d only faintly started to notice in ourselves. He bought us drinks and said things that made us sure he was off his rocker. By the end of that night, though, we understood plenty. He showed us things going on in that speakeasy that no one else saw. Or if they did, they mistook it for odd shapes the cigarette smoke made in the air. He got us plenty drunk, too.
She managed to sneak into her house that night, to pass out like a good girl. I woke up in the speakeasy’s basement. My pa beat me plenty when I staggered home with an obvious hangover, but I didn’t mind so much anymore. I just grinned through it, which made him think I’d gone crazy so he beat me worse. Now I understood that the pain was just weakness being chased out of my body, letting in strength I’d need for the new world my eyes had been opened to…a world of power we’d build right under the noses of this silly little town.
Now she drifts through it all, sleepy and sad, not quite sure about what…through the sea that bleeds out through the air around her, from her clear blue eyes. It’s the soft blue that hurts so much. After the last time, I awoke in the scorching blackness that’s almost red, a constant blaze that feels wonderful to me because I’m part of it. Bit by bit, it’s replaced everything but my memories. As I’ve learned to work this new ephemeral matter, I’ve mastered it. I rule it, along with everything it touches in the world it bleeds out into. My fingertips are needles, and my bones are sharpened with sword edges. In the realms I travel, I flex and flail my razor limbs, cutting to ribbons anything stupid enough to come against me. I suck in those bloody ribbons like spaghetti and grow ever stronger. But my blades can’t touch the blue that bleeds from her eyes, mingling with the reddish gold that wafts off her silky hair. Now I’m trapped in it, following her until she wakes up…to me, to everything she doesn’t notice yet.
To find out what happens, pick up Story Time With Crazy Uncle Matt, a collection of wild, weird, dark short fiction by Matt Spencer, coming in September from Back Roads Carnival Books, or read it as a Kindle Single coming June 15, which you can pre-order for just 99 cents, by clicking on the cover image below: