This’ll be the last time.
But it was always the ‘last time’. A little voice in my head whispered, it crept up my neck like a fly. The door rocked as I beat my knuckles against it. The metal screen bashed loudly.
“Hold the fuck on I’m coming.”
You can still walk away. Just turn around, and never come back.
“Go away. This is the last time. Then I’m done, I’ll kick this stuff for good.”
No. No you won’t. You’re not fooling anyone Steven. Your keep coming back, you always do.
The door opened slightly for a woman with brown eyes and black hair to peek through, its brass chain ringing. “What?” She asked.
“I heard you will selling this month.” They changed dealers every so often. It made it harder to track the drugs that way. Or at least… they didn't get caught as often.
“Who wants to know? You a cop?”
“Do I like a cop?” I sighed and raised my right hand. “I swear on Jesus Buddha Muhammad who ever the hell you worship I’m not a cop. Gonna let me in? Or do I have to go down Third Street?” I had no idea who this woman was; I had never seen her face before so she wasn’t a regular dealer. But anyone who knows Hector well enough to deal knew that the gang couldn’t compete. She slammed the door.
Here’s a chance. The little fly whispered again, I could feel it. Crawling through the little hairs on my neck, tickling my skin, my hand moved to scratch it, rubbing the back of my neck…
Turn around. Walk away.
The door came open with the little brass lock jingling in and out of view like a pendulum. “Come in.” She said, motioning with her head to sit on the soft, old couch. The moment I walked through the door I could smell the stink of wet dog and cheap, musky air freshener. I sighed and bent down rest on the couch.
The cushions were old and worn. My tail bone hurt from hitting the metal bar that made up the frame. And for a second I thought she must have bought this couch from Goodwill or something.
“Ow.” But she didn’t seem to notice. All the dog hair flying in the air, that’s when I noticed how skinny she was. Like she ate once a day. Her shirt went past her legs down to mid thigh. I couldn’t tell if she was wearing pants or not. But she sat on the loveseat opposite me and pulled out cigarette from the box on the coffee table.
“Got one to share?”
“This is my last pack.” She didn’t look at me. She was more concerned with lighting her Marlboros. Her Zippo snapped open and burn the tip. She inhaled the smoke for a long moment, her eyes showing her pleasure at how it must have tasted.
“What’s your poison?”
Tell her your name.
“Quinton, and uh… Well… You should have gotten a call saying I would be here, that’s how this generally works.”
“Oh. Oh! Okay, I got your stuff, be back in a bit.” She didn’t have much of a body to stare at. Too skinny for my liking, I looked around her living room again; there was a fish tank by the window on a wood table. In the middle was a small table with magazines and water marks. Across on the wall was a big TV.
When she came back she put a paper bag on the table in front of me. I placed the agreed upon price, then took the cash.“Thanks.” Then I got up and walked out the back door. I wasn’t about to let this get away from me.
“Later.” She said. Waving her hand with callous disregard. I hear d the sound of the TV turning on as I opened up the screen door.
Cops generally didn’t patrol this part of town. But they always showed up when you least wanted them too. It was a brisk walk back home. A small apartment a few blocks away. I thought about just using the side walk but that was too risky, instead I jumped through the fences of backyards. My hood up and tight against my face and my shoes squished through the wet grass. It must have rained last night. The clouds were still grey and it was foggy. Cold even for a day in Phoenix.
The apartment was small, easy to overlook and cheap to keep up. These small gated communities generally didn’t have a whole lot of security, and so there was a bit of crime here and there. In this case, much closer to home than most would like.
“Hey Lucy.” I said as the door groaned open. The struggling artist was watching a bit of TV this lovely morning.
“Hey. So you must have gotten paid.” Her eyes looked at the brown paper bag.
“Yep, Payday baby.” I showed her the little paper bag with all the magic. She bit her lip.
“Did you get the good stuff?” Lucy was a visual artist; she spent most of her days in her study drawing, making very little money weekly. Mainly she designed tattoos and shirts, and when her designs were recognized she brought in three weeks worth of work compare to the restaurant I waited tables at, but those days were few and far between. She’d tell me her secret could be attributed to one little thing, shrooms.
“Nice.” She cooed and took the small plastic bag.
“I got something a bit extra too this time.” Looking through the contents I found the baggy filled little heart shaped candies.
“That’s right. Cost a bit more than usual, but it will be worth it. Ever had a try?” The couch was messy. So was the room. Blankets hung around and pillows littered the floor. The pull out bed was still made (if you could consider a mess of blankets to be a made bed.), and there was leftover pizza on the coffee table.
“So… Got anything planned tonight?”
“Just finishing up some prints. Why? Do you have something fun in mind?” Lucy was always a bit quiet, but she never seemed uncomfortable, even living here.
“Yeah. When’s the last time, you know, we went out? And just had some fun?” I worked overtime every other week. And when I came home I was generally too tired to do much other than sleep. Double shifts waiting tables had that affect you, but not this week. This week, I felt like getting out.
“What did you have in mind?” Her smile was so pretty. Her lips cherry red, she always seemed done up, like she’d never be caught dead without make up. Her eyes were hazel and her skin was pale. But I liked her. I felt like she was the only one that ever unerstood me.
“What do skittles go well with? Bass. Neon lights and Bass. Day Tripper’s is going to be open tonight, and we got all the incentive in the world to get out of here.” Scooting over against her on the couch she leaned her head against my chest.
“Mm, nah. I don’t like those places. There too loud for me and the music sucks.”
“Ah come on. It’ll be great! You know no one goes clubbing for the music right? I haven’t meant anyone that can stand dub step for more than a few minutes. Unless…”
“Unless what?” She asked.
“Well, you know. They have some skittles to take with it.” My eyes darted widely to the bag of heart shapes. Back and forth. Back and forth, and she giggled.
“Okay. Just once though alright? That stuff really sucks when the high wears off.”
“How bad could it be?”
The day went by in its slow kind of way. Nothing good on TV. The apartment smelled like pot for most of the day, Lucy was in the only separate room in the apartment, which we had devoted in its entirety to her passion. Everything else was done in the living room, the only other room in the whole house except for the bathroom.
It was dark now. Smoking a cigarette, my Arizona Cardinals cap on to keep my hair out of my face.
You never learn. You won’t learn unless someone forces you to. You’re a scumbag.
The laptop was set to sleep and I got off the bed and walked into see
Lucy deserves someone better than you. You know that. Someone that can put her in a descent house.
I leaned on the entrance way and knocked on the wall. “Hey, ready to go?”
She looked over from her desk, “Yeah just a minute.”
When a woman said a minute, what she really meant was fifteen. I nodded and went into the bathroom. The light flashed on and I was blind for a second. Blinking I looked in the mirror to see that I needed to shave. My chin scruff was turning into a fine goatee, but the rest had to go. Then I put some eye drops in, and waited on the couch. It was 10:00 before we were ready.
You could feel the bass in the parking lot. But inside it was so loud we couldn’t hear each other talk. We walked up to the bar.
“Thanks for getting me out of the house; you were right this is fun!” Lucy said in her red dress. Her brunet hair shining in the light. I smiled and went in for a kiss.
“When have I lied to you?” I had to yell so she could hear me. I pulled out the plastic bag, and she pursed her lips. “What? Oh Come on! You said just once and this will be just once!” She rolled her eyes and acquiesced. I pulled out the little heart shaped pill and placed it on the tip of her tongue. Then I did the same.
“To my girl.” I said raising my glass. She shook her head and our glass rung together. Now the night could really begin.
Everything came in images, the music sounded so much… better. The bass forced you to move a certain way. Lucy was smiling, rubbing against my leg. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something. But it turned out just to be more people. But… it had a certain sound. Something…
It was just the lights. I kissed Lucy again and it was all so great, blue turned to red and green turned to yellow and everything seemed like it was underwater.
Something black was sitting at our place on the bar. Tall and mean and distorted. I looked right over at it, and it raised a glass to me. Opening its row of razor sharp teeth there was nothing as the drink disappeared down its mouth. Black and empty.
Its teeth looked like… Pencil tips. Like really, really sharp graphite pencil tips. Rows and rows of them.
When I woke up I was in our bed. Lucy was cuddled beside me, the covers over us. It was Sunday. The next day. The night was a total blur except for…
What the hell was that? What did I see last night? It wasn’t anything. Just a hallucination, everything itched like crazy though.
Had to have been. I got up out of bed and made some food for Lucy, who grimaced and opened her eyes. “Hey…” She said. “Why up so early?”
“Just felt it was time. So, remember anything from last night?”
“Nope.” We both laughed. It must have been great then. I didn’t think of telling her about what I think I saw last night. It was probably jus the ecstasy. After she got up I made us both some eggs, there would be some definite hangovers today to be sure. When she got up and sat at the counter I placed the plate before her and she began to dig in.
“After breakfast I need to go do something. Think you can hold down the house while I’m out?”
She looked up from her plate and held up a finger. “Sure. Where are you going?”
“Just on a personal errand, There’s something that’s been bothering me since last night.” I put the pan in the sink and sat by her.
“Um… Yeah. I’ll try to not burn the house down.” She winked to signify she was joking. I snickered. Once I had eaten I was out the door.
“No, there was nothing special about that batch. Made the same way all the other ones are.” The drug dealer said.
“Yeah but I saw something. I can’t tell what it was but it definitely knew who I was.” I replied.
“Well that’s pretty common with Ecstasy. It’s hallucinogenic so you see weird things.”
“I know that. I’ve taken the stuff several times already so I know how it works.”
“Apparently not…” She said and lit another cigarette. Seeing I wasn’t going to get anything else out of her I shook my head and went to the door.
“Steven…” She said. I looked over my shoulder. “Maybe there’s something your brain is trying to tell you.” She stared at me for a long time. And her eyes… for some reason they looked black. I opened the door and left. Halfway around the block it hit me, how did she know my name?
Back home Lucy was on the front porch with her sketch book, chewing on the nub of the pencil. “No luck coming up with ideas?”
“It's weird, last night I was doing fine. I had some t-shirt designs that were ready and I wanted to send them to a producer after some last minute additions. But now I’m drawing a blank.” She looked at me like she was accusing me. I shrugged.
“It could be the drugs.” She nodded sagely, like she knew that already.
How many times will you screw up before you recognize your fallacies?
“Just shut the fuck up.” I whispered under my breath after the door shut behind me.
Later that day Lucy went off to buy more supplies, and I too a shower as soon as I got home from work.. Every thought was about the monster with the pencil teeth. And how it… stared. There was something about it eyes, or was it lack of them. It was so distorted that I couldn’t remember. Either way, it wasn’t something was just conjured up.
It was real. Somehow it had to be. I couldn’t be the only one who saw it. It was too real, it lasted too long. What if I am going crazy? What if it’s not the drugs at all? I dismissed that line of thought, what else could it be?
The lights turned off. And all I could hear was the sound of steaming water. But without the lights I was afraid I would slip and fall. I got out of the shower.
Opening up the drawers above the sink there was a light of matches, and some half used candles. I reached back to scratch the hairs on my neck and grab the nonexistent fly.
When the fire from the match caught I set it to the candles and put them on the shelf. Then it was cold. Goosebumps riddled my arms. I looked back at the mirror, and froze. The pencil teeth demon was staring right at me.
I screamed as it opened its maw and reached through the glass for me. The hand kept reaching out, the glass warping more and more as the clawed hand reached out for me. Slowly coming ever closer, its mouth mashing with its graphite rows of teeth.
Tluaf rouy sti!
I couldn’t look away from it. I couldn’t look away from its teeth. Its eyes like smoke as it distorted and retorted. It was so close. I felt it touch me.
Then it was gone. The lights turned back on.
Tlouf rouy sti
I had no idea what that could have meant, but some deep, dead voice said I knew what it meant. My eyes were dragged to the towel, I had pissed myself. Suddenly the empty house seemed far less appetizing to stay in.
When Lucy returned home she noticed that the front door was wide open. She went inside the house to look for Steven. But he was nowhere to be seen. She set her color pallets down in her study. “Steven?” She went back into the bathroom, water was everywhere. And the lavender candles had been melted down until they were just a large puddle of wax.
“Steven?” She called again. But he didn’t answer. He wasn’t in the house. She went back to the front and locked the door. And across the street was a man in a towel. “Steve?” Walking closer to the man, believing that it was just a homeless person. But the ruffed up hair and the goatee said the opposite. Instead was the shivering, naked form of her boyfriend.
Lucy didn’t know what to say. When she left he was fine. “Steve? Steve!” He jumped as if he just now recognized she was standing over him. He panted and stared at her, his eyes darting between her and the house.
He came back a bit. “Lucy… Wha-“He looked down at himself, just now noticing his apparent nudity.
“Come on, let’s get you back inside.” She said, grabbing his arm. He pulled away.
“No! Don’t make me go back in there!” He yelled and pushed her off.
“What the hell! Steven what’s gotten into you!?” She yelled, not sure why he was acting this way.
“There’s… there’s something in the house. And it said…”
“What? What did it say to you?” She asked.
“I… I don’t.” Steve stopped. He would never believe her. “I don’t know.” Annoyed, Lucy took off her jacket and gave it to him.
“Come on, let’s get you inside.” And this time, Steven took her hand.
I couldn’t sleep in this house. Not after that. My eyes kept darting to the bathroom, and what I thought I had seen. Every time I closed my eyes I could actually see it. This had to be the drugs. There was no other explanation. Unless…
She knew your name. Steven. How could she have known your name?
The drug dealer was not one of the regulars. And she seemed… off. She had to have known more than she was letting on. Was she, was she screwing with him? Maybe. Or maybe, she really did know.
How could she know? Not even Lucy knows why you do drugs. In fact, sometimes you don’t know either.
“I do it to get away.” I whispered. The voice, as much as I hated it, gave me something other than this house to think about.
The little fly landed on the armrest, inches from my face. It crawled around on the couch, rubbing its little legs together and scratching its red eyes and head. It turned, and scavenged for leftovers. Why does it help you get away Steven? Why are you running?
“I’m not running I’m… forgetting. Because I don’t want to remember.”
The little fly flew away and landed by his ear, creeping across his face and tickling his hair. It stopped by his ear. So you do it to forget? To keep away those memorie? What could possibly be so bad that you need drugs to forget?
“You won’t understand. No one but Lucy understands.”
Ah, and yet, you would give her up for your next hit. So what really means more to you Steven? Forgetting your past? Or her?
I slapped side of my face. The sound was hard and Lucy flinched. Then she shifted, and said nothing. I pulled my hand back and there it was, the dead little fly.
Three in the morning, and I still couldn’t sleep. It was still eating away at me. The drug dealer. The demon… the fly. I looked over at Lucy, who was still fast asleep. And slowly, carefully, I got out of bed and dressed in my darkest genes and leather jacket. I opened the door and was gone into the night.
The lights in the neighborhood lit the way down the street. With my hands in my pocket I walked back to the house where I bought the ecstasy. Where this all began. The sound of the city surrounded me, making the old saying true, that the city never slept. The farther I went the more my stomach turned. I looked over my shoulder to make sure I wasn’t followed. That… it, wasn’t there.
The closer I got, the heavier I felt. The quieter things became as the memories came back to me. How long had it been since I spoke to my father? Years? Decades? Longer?
A yellow light flickered and died for a second. As I walked by I could feel something was wrong. Something was missing, the sounds of the city had been replaced. Replaced with the buzzing of thousands and thousands of little flies. I froze, and to my left was the breathing of something big and heavy.
It stared back at me. Its black needle teeth shining in the flashing light. And its eyes… were big, and red. It was a fly. A massive, two legged fly with needle teeth. It stared back at me, rasping as it took its two top arms and cleaned its big red eyes. Behind me were its legions to take me away. Thousands upon thousands of flies.
I ran as fast as I could. The flies cornering from everywhere as they blotted out the moon and the light. I took the corner, to my left was the demon. Then my right. Never running and just appearing. I could see it, the house was close by. Running as fast as I could I could feel then grab at my jacket. Buzzing and tickling my neck.
I jumped the fence and grabbed the door knob, forcing my way inside. I slammed the door behind me, looking at the wall of black flies that surrounded the house. Their buzzing could be hear d through the wall.
This was not the same house. It was empty, the paint was flicking off the walls. The carpet was gone and instead a wood and dirt floor was all that remained. The fish tank was still there, except that it was in a thousand pieces and scattered across the floor. Taking a step into the living room I could hear the sounds of static. I opened the door to the bedroom, and found a T.V. The drug dealer was nowhere to be seen. But then the static stopped, and was replaced by a black screen.
The TV seemed to need a remote, and of course one could not be found. The room was ripped upholstery and torn up floor. When the TV changed it showed a pill. Then a syringe. Then flies.
The flies were in the house. They poured like water into the window. I slammed the door behind me and came back to living room. And there, was a body.
“Mom…?” The body was grey and dead, the eyes rolled into the back of its head. The stomach was opened up, cut by a knife. I held my mouth with my hand, trying to stifle a silent scream. Beside her was heroine, ecstasy, meth, pot. It led right to my feet.
The room turned red, the house was on fire. And all on the walls were three words painted in her blood.
It’s your fault.
Over and over again, the flies died by fire. The fire consumed all.
“So tell me again, Ms?”
“It's just Lucy. There’s no Missus.” She said. The doctor looked at her and brought out the case file.
“Of course, now Lucy let me reiterate what we have on file again. You say that on the date of July 12, 2013 you and your boyfriend were taking illicit substances while this… event of his happened?”
“That’s correct sir.”
“And, a few hours before this, ‘event’ you had found Steven naked, wrapped only in a towel on the side walk opposite the house, where only hours before he was completely healthy and a functioning drug user like yourself.”
“Was, Doctor. I have been clean since then.” She reached into her pocket and showed him the coin. It read ‘six months’. The doctor responded by nodding.
“I see, and it when he left later that night you were unaware? That you found him in his current state within an old house that morning? Now excuse me but this all seems rather insane to me. How could he have gone from being functioning to his current state?”
“That’ where what I know becomes speculation. You see, even thought Steven and I was regular drug takers, he never seemed to be out of control, up until this point anyways. When I went searching for him that morning I found him there, what’s odd is that he was certain that was the address where he was receiving the narcotics. What doesn’t add up to me is that that house had been abandoned for years. When I went in I found him lying on the ground. That’s when I called the hospital. And that’s all I know.” She said. The doctor didn’t seem to believe her. And hearing it aloud, she didn’t either.
“Thank you for your time, Lucy.” The Doctor said, he politely gestured that she was free to leave his office but before she got up she had just one more question,
“May I see him?”
“Of course.” They got up and made their way to the medical ward. Where Lucy was taken to his room, the smell of bleach flooded her senses. Nurses and doctors changed ads and worked on subjects. The doors passed by until they came to the room 13B. And inside, hooked up to a monitor was Stephen. The nurse let them in. “Steven has been unresponsive since he was brought in, and the flushing of drugs has not helped with his current state. Essentially there is very little we can do for him. We don’t know what’s causing this.” The Doctor made it sound like he was a lost cause. But Lucy didn’t was sure of the opposite. “Take the time you need.” He said and they left.
Lucy came to his side. He was in a deep coma. One that they weren’t sure was caused by an aneurism or some other blow to the cranium. His withdrawal also meant that they had to constantly pump him full of liquids. “Hey Steve.” She started.
“I’m not sure if you can even hear me but, maybe you can.” She pulled up a chair and brought her drawing pad. “I’ve had a bit more success now that I’m clean. I’ve sold more than ever too.” She tried to hold back her tears.
“But… I still miss you. A lot. I just want to see you again.” She put her hand in his and finally let go. The tears coming from her eyes.
His finger twitched. And she looked up. She smiled, to her that was his way of saying he was listening. Through teary eyes she took out her drawing pad. And began to show him what had sold, and what had not. What she did not show him though, was the black drawing that she had left on her desk. The one with the monster with graphite teeth and large, fly-like eyes, the one she crumpled up and left on her desk at home. The one that was title “It’s Your Fault”.
The one, that at that moment, a tiny little fly landed on.