You’re Not My Real Dad!

“You’re not my real Dad!” I screamed. “You can’t talk to me like that!”

“Well, I’m the closest goddamn thing to a father you’ll ever have, so I can talk to ya how I damn well please!” Stephen said, and he hit me again. The slap of his hand was hard against my cheek and stung. I knew it was turning red.

“Fuck you!” I yelled. “Fuck you, Steve! You’re shit! You’re a terrible fucking person!” And I retreated back into my bedroom and slammed the door in his face.

I’d show him. I’d show him. I went to the closet and dug through the boxes in it. Where was it? Where was it? In the shoebox. In the shoebox. There it was, there it was.

I took the shoebox out of the closet and lifted its contents out of it. So beautiful. I’d spent so long creating it. So many hours. So many countless nights up alone in the darkness of my room, with only the light of my desk lamp to keep me company.

I fished the sewing kit from out of the desk drawer. Took out a shiny metal pin with a plastic red ball atop it.

I stuck the pin into the doll and from the kitchen downstairs I heard Steve scream.

It was going to be a long night. One I enjoyed.

Salt II

There was only one thing Kapil hated more than the cold and that was the salt. It ate into the leather of his slip-on dress shoes just like his job he so despised ate into him, slowly draining his soul away, melting it into briny runoff to flow into the gutter.

Crunch, crunch, crunch, went the thick white granules on the sidewalk under him. He felt a burning beneath his feet, a tiny fire licking the bottoms of his shoes. He stopped and lifted one sole, revealing the tiny white cubes clutching to it. He brushed them away with his hand, and the granules stuck to his glove. He watched in horror as they ate through the leather of it, then into his hand below, and screamed as his skin burned away and then the bloody muscle beneath. Kapil looked down and saw his shins being dissolving, melting into steaming piles of liquid red mush, and he screamed.

“Help me!” he yelled, as the salt consumed him.

But no one further down the sidewalk could. A heavy man in a fedora was liquefying into a fatty pile of goop. A woman and her young child clutched each other as they dissolved into the pavement, screaming and crying. A dog yipped and whined as it melted into the salt beneath it, its owner already a fleshy puddle at the end of the leash. People tried to run as their legs were consumed but could not, and they fell crawling to the sidewalk, the burning eating away their flesh down to their bones.

Kapil screamed as his entrails slopped out of his jacket in a steaming mound. A salt truck drove by, the spinning mechanism beneath it scattering grains of the white mineral everywhere.

Clover

When I was five I discovered the clover patch by the old farmhouse I grew up in. A hidden oasis of green in the expanse of sandy hay flapping in the wind around our humble little abode, the amber stalks around opened like a curtain to a hidden backstage. Many a warm summer afternoon I lay in the cool comfort of the clover patch without a care in the world and stared up at giant white clouds slowly crawling across the sky.

When I turned 8 I fell in love. Margaret was her name. She lived in the next farmhouse over, down the road. We met when we both wandered to where the properties did, right where it gave way to the thick of the forest, at the rotted fence made of old railway sleepers.

We lay in the clover patch most every day that summer, at first apart and then together. We lay in the innocence of childhood guilt, knowing that what we were doing was wrong but could also never be. That was when we learned its secret. The clover patch was alive, a living thing. The tiny sprouts swayed and caressed their leaves against our naked bodies, absent any summer breeze.

The summer after that my parents sent me off to boarding school and I thought only of Margaret. Those few weekends I returned home I visited the clover patch, like a pilgrim to his childhood Mecca, hoping I’d find her there. But the clovers lay still, only for only me.

When I was 16 I visited the clover patch under the light of the full moon and Margret was their too, her back to me, the clover swaying beneath her feet in the still humid air. “I knew you’d come,” she said. We made love. We lay in the clover and held each other and it held us.

We made love each summer after that, until I was 19 and Margaret told me she was going away to college in the city. “I can’t keep doing this,” she said. “We’re not children anymore.” The clovers lay still then and I wondered whether they’d ever really moved at all.

She sent me a letter after I shipped out to Iraq. It said she met someone and everything had happened very fast. It said she’d always love me in a certain way, and that nothing would ever be the same as those summer nights we lay amongst the clover. She said she was pregnant and she was going to keep it and they were going to get married.

When I was 20 I came back to the farm on leave. Dad and Mom were dead and the old farmhouse was mine now. I brought Margaret’s second letter with me and read it over and over on the way home. I went back to the clover patch under the light of the full moon, and thought about all the summers we’d lain in its soft caress.

I lay, and this time the clover was alive again, and I felt it caressing me, then saw in the dim moonlight little white tendrils sprouting from the tiny plants and snaking out over me. The tendrils burrowed into my skin, into the flesh of my arms, and I bled. The clover sprouted, smothering me, thousands of them rushing into my mouth and forcing their way down my throat and suffocating me.

The moon was beautiful that night. I hoped that one day Margaret would come back with our son, and in my bones they’d find my dog tags with the inscription I’d had engraved on the back: I STILL LOVE YOU

Dog Park

It was a beautiful sunny day in the dog park just off of Chestnut Street in the little town of Prosperity, Rhode Island.

Michael Winters walked his dog – Buckwheat, his yellow lab – along the paved path with him, and whistled a happy tune. The sun was shining and the sky was clear and blue; the rains of yesterday had moved on, taking the looming clouds with them, and all was once again beautiful and prosperous in Prosperity.

Walking through the gate and closing it behind him, Michael waved at another regular attendee of the park he recognized, an older man, always clad in a navy raincoat, whether it was raining or not. Buckwheat was already jumping up excitedly and pushing her golden paws against her owner’s shins, ready to run, ready to fetch, ready to play. Her master rubbed her yellow head and spoke excitedly down to her – that’s a good girl, that’s a good girl, you ready to get the ball? you want to get the ball, don’t you? – then stood and extended his arm, primed to hurl the small orb into the grassy enclosed area, amongst the other owners and their loyal animals.

Michael Winters froze with ball in hand and arm extended. Something was wrong. Terribly wrong. He glanced from animal to owner to pet to master to dog to human, a zigzag across the green space, building in speed and franticness.

They were all watching him. The dogs were. They’d all stopped and were staring at him with their little eyes – their eyes that had taken on an almost human quality. Why didn’t their owners see it? They all still chatted and threw balls that the dogs ignored and played with their phones; none seemed to see their pets all staring directly at the newcomer.

Buckwheat started growling and barking, quietly at first, then louder, and turned toward Winters, her eyes red and full of hatred. Her barking turned into a rage-filled thing, a horrible sound not like her, like her master had never heard her, like an vicious animal, a rabid wolf, a monster. The dogs in the park joined in, from the giant Great Dane down to the tiny chihuahua. The noise was overpowering and Michael covered his ears. The owners paid no mind.

Winters dropped the ball as the animals crept towards him, frozen in terror. Buckwheat leapt and plunged her teeth into her master’s throat, and warm blood gushed and painted the beautiful golden fur of her face crimson. The pack of other canines came in like a famished wave to feed.

The sun shone. A boy rode by on his bicycle, and rang its bell.

Prying Eyes

Have you ever had the feeling someone is watching you? Where the air seems just a little bit different, and you can feel the hairs on the back of your neck start to stand up?

Michael had gone away for the weekend, on business, he said. He wasn’t going to be back until Sunday night. I’d just finished a relaxing hot shower, my hair up in a towel and my still-wet body hugged in the warm folds of my bathrobe, and put on a pot of tea and the television. With him gone I thought it would be good to opportunity to just stay in and relax and have some time to myself.

That’s when I felt the eyes watching. When I got the overwhelming sensation of not being alone. Of someone was looking in. The drapes fluttered in the cold wind of the night and I knew someone was there. I could feel it.

“Who’s there?” I called out, but no one answered.

Trying to remain calm, I went to the closet and got out a flashlight. I held it in my shaking hand called out again:

“I know you’re out there! Show yourself!”

There was no response.

I turned on the flashlight, and I saw the voyeur leering down at me from the tree in the yard. It was Michael. Vacantly his eyes stared in through the window, so very white. Beneath them a rope tight around his neck and beneath that jagged bloody letters carved into the flesh of his chest:

I SEE YOU