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#27: Expensive exhibit
A beating heart
A work of art
Less so right now,
Or perhaps more?
The colors soar.
We've got shades
of red galore.
A steady rain
comes from a vein.
I can't explain.
Each little drop
lands with a plop.
Of lovely sound,
a bumper crop.
Some hits my face.
I get to taste
a flavor that
I now embrace.
From head to toes,
this rain goes;
a pleasing scent
enters my nose.
My senses dance,
enter a trance.
With this art,
I find romance.
I feel such glee
at what I see.
This work of art
was inside me!
Oh whoa, my head,
It's time for bed?
Oh shit, I guess
this means I'm de--
#26: Late Night Games
It’s not every day I get my ribs broken and my heart ripped out of my chest. But you know what they say about variety: it’s the spice of life.
My blood is pouring down my naked body and pooling underneath me, cherry red and rude against the slick white surface of my bathtub. I drag my fingertip along the rim of the tub, drawing nonsensical curlicues and shapes. There’s really not that much white space left for me to draw with; even though I knew it would hurt, I couldn’t resist my body’s instinct to struggle and fight. My throat feels raw from the screaming. The space all around me is splattered with my blood and covered in my frantic hand prints. I wonder if we should’ve put up a sign like they do at Sea World: the first five rows will get wet!
The disgruntled look on Juno’s face as she wipes my blood out of her eyes only makes me laugh harder. She only rolls her eyes at me. “Was that really necessary?”
“Probably not. But you look good in red.” I lean my head back against the tile and drop my hands back into my quickly cooling blood. The problem with bodily fluids is that it gets cold so fast. Not to mention it’s a bitch to clean up.
Juno follows my gaze to the ceiling where the spray patterns would probably send crime scene investigators into an arguably justified frenzy. “You’re cleaning that up, by the way,” she says pleasantly as she stands and begins to peel her soaked t-shirt off. “This was your idea.”
I sit up awkwardly. It’s hard to move when your ribs are splayed open, plus I’m starting to feel a little tacky; it’s not a good sensation. I watch her unclip her bra, dropping the garment into the plastic tub we keep just for bloody clothing. Her nipples are dark brown and hard in the chilly air. Her skin looks almost translucent in the light. My blood makes her seem even paler than normal. But I’m right; she looks good in red.
Or more accurately, she looks good in my blood.
“You liked it.” I run my hands up her bare legs, following the curve of her calves to the dip behind her knees and then to her wide hips. I thread my fingers through her pubic hair, combing them so they stand up stiffly. I love the way she is made. Her configuration of skin, flesh, and blood pleases me.
Her jeans and underwear join the other clothing with a wet slap. She lifts one leg, then the other, as she joins me in the tub. Juno nudges me with her foot until I’m lying flush against the tub again. I can’t resist catching her ankle and pressing a kiss to her tippy toes. She settles on my lap facing me, her knees on either side of my thighs; it’s a little cramped for two people in this position, but it’s okay. We’re okay like this.
Reaching to the floor, Juno grabs the little china bowl that we’ve taken from the kitchen to hold my heart. I watch as Juno cradles my beating heart in the palm of her hand. She traces her fingers along my gasping arteries, sending a strange tickling sensation up and down my spine. She lifts my heart to her lips and presses a chaste kiss to the pulsating flesh, her lips coming away stained by my blood.
I slide my hand into her hair and pull Juno in for a kiss as she pushes my heart back into my chest, smoothing over the arteries, veins, and aortas until they’re connected and my blood is thrumming through my body again. Sitting back, she closes my rib cage, apologizing quietly at my slight grunt of discomfort. I can feel my flesh and bones begin to knit, but she runs her thumbs along the cuts, urging my body to heal faster.
When I am whole, she reaches behind herself and toggles the faucet until a spray of cold then gradually hot water hits us and we become
#25: The Creep Zone
You are entering a place where dirty underwear surrounds you, and coin-operated washing machines are plentiful...but there are no quarters.
You have crossed a line from which there is no return...a place from where there is no escape...an odor from which there is no relief.
Crotchety, you may say? Does that refer to the old men from which the odor originates? Or the place on the old men from which it emanates?
That's one of the many unexplained, unsolved mysteries that makes your skin crawl, your pupils widen & your stomach turn in..The Creep Zone.
One thing about Lucy: she was always organized. She was organized to the point where her far-less-organized friends often teased her for it, even as they squandered away countless hours on non-productive things simply because they couldn't stick to a schedule. But not Lucy.
It was 4:52 PM. The dryer had exactly 13 minutes to go. At 5:05 she'd empty the clothes and begin folding. Now since this was a B-load (light-colored--but not white--tops and other non-delicates), it would take approximately 18 minutes to fold... less than a C-load (the dark-colored garments), but more than an A-load (whites, plus off-white sheets & towels). This puts her at somewhere between 5:21 and 5:25, most likely leaving enough time to get to the gym by 5:30. A 50-minute workout and the subsequent trip home would take her to exactly 6:30.
She'd planned this dinner a week beforehand (just as she'd planned all of them). Tonight, prep would take 12 minutes while cooking would take 15. She'd sit down to dinner and pop on the TV just in time to take in the last 3 minutes of the national news broadcast, after which she'd put on the TV drama she'd also planned to watch a week in advance. But while the drama looked interesting, it--like too many of them--was an hour-long program. Who has an hour to sit there watching TV...? So she'd only be able to watch approximately 18 minutes of it, seeing as how eating would take her 21. If the show had been only half an hour long, she'd have considered watching the whole thing...but would probably have chosen not to, after thinking about it for about 12 seconds.
The only trouble, as far as she was concerned, was the fact that she'd finished running all of the errands she'd intended to run while her clothes were in the dryer, and here it was, only 4:52 PM. This was extremely frustrating, because while she *had* allowed six minutes of extra time just in case she had to wait on longer checkout lines than usual, the opposite actually happened. Instead of it being 4:59 as she'd expected, there were now a whopping 13 minutes left to wait. Having to wait, with nothing to work on for 13 minutes?! What kind of madness was this?
Not knowing what else to do with herself, Lucy started pacing around the laundromat. She walked as if she was a robot: deliberately, without hesitation of any sort, and sought out every possible path. As she was the only one there at the time, she wasn't going to fetch any funny looks...but typically, she wasn't the sort of person who cared about such things. Since she was inside a laundromat, there wasn't much ground to cover, so this process only consumed about 45 seconds. With lots of time left to kill, she saw no other option but to do it again. And again...
During each lap around the laundromat she passed by a closed red door. Maybe there was something behind it? she wondered. Maybe there's something interesting to do in there? She had nothing to lose except time, and there were still 8 minutes to kill, so she figured, why not?
On the other side of the red door was a short hallway, at the end of which was a seemingly identical red door. The hallway itself didn't stand out in any particular way; walls painted green, floor and ceiling consisting of boring, standard, run-of-the-mill white tile. But while traversing the hallway she felt a sudden odd, uneasy feeling, as if something had changed. Was this a stomach ache? Her lunch had been freshly prepared, and there was no chance of undercooked meat; there'd been no meat in it at all. She shrugged off the odd feeling and opened the other red door...
...on the other side was what appeared to be the very same laundromat. It looked just as if she'd turned around in the middle of the hallway and come back.
Her clothes were in one of the dryers. It appeared to be the same dryer she'd used.
Wait a second...what's going on here?
Lucy returned to the red door and pulled the knob, but it was locked and wouldn't budge.
"Hi," said a voice behind her.
She whirled around, startled, expecting the worst...but instead, coming face-to-face with a seemingly ordinary-looking person. He was a bit larger-built than average, and appeared to stand about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, she guessed.
"Uh...hello," Lucy offered, somewhat uncomfortably. Something still felt a little off.
The man was carrying a clear plastic bag. Inside was a selection of assorted, colored underwear. The assortment covered quite a number of bases; boxers, briefs, panties, bras...
"My name's John," said the man. "I come here to wash my underwear every Tuesday."
"That's...that's great," said Lucy.
6 more minutes until her dryer was done. 360 seconds. Now, she felt, it was starting to feel endless.
"Are you washing your underwear, too?" asked John.
Lucy did her best to hide her astonishment.
"Uh...yeah, there's, um, some of that in here. I come here to wash *all* of my clothes, actually!"
"I like clothes. But I like underwear best," said John with a completely straight face and normal expression. He then, slowly, began walking towards her for some reason.
A chill ran down Lucy's spine. A feeling of terror washed over her, splashing onto her face, even as she tried desperately to keep from displaying a panicked appearance. John slowly approached her, walking in a deliberate fashion.
Five minutes and 40 seconds to go. John was just a few feet away from Lucy.
The front door suddenly opened. Someone else had arrived. Oh, thank goodness, Lucy thought.
Slowly, an old man with a cane hobbled into the laundromat.
"Hi, Richard," said John as he turned his head to greet the old man, but without backing away from Lucy even one inch.
"Oh, hello, John," said Richard.
These two knew each other? Uh, oh...
After he'd fully entered the building, Lucy was able to get a better look at Richard. He was short; no taller than she was. He seemed to have hair everywhere except on the top of his head; this was apparent because his button-down polo shirt was almost completely unbuttoned, revealing way more of his chest than she cared to look at. She whirled around, almost gagging.
"Oooh...who's your lady friend?" asked Richard. "She's pretty good-lookin'!"
Lucy hadn't given any thought to whether she could be any more uncomfortable, but if this feeling could be measured on a scale, she was pretty sure the scale just snapped in half.
John, still just a few feet away from Lucy, finally turned completely towards Richard.
"We just met," John said. "I can't wait to see her underwear."
Turning back towards Lucy, John asked, "Do you usually prefer Hanes, or Fruit of the Loom?"
...he was actually, genuinely interested in...her underwear preferences.
"It's getting more difficult to decide, these days, if you ask me," he spoke, speaking slowly and more clearly than your average person, enunciating each syllable with a sort of extra effort. "Hanes recently moved a lot of their production from the west end of Indonesia all the way over to Bangladesh, and their quality dropped a lot, for a while."
"Usually a pair of Hanes lasts me at least three months, but the Bangladesh pairs started coming apart after only a few weeks...it was a big difference."
"You'll never meet another guy as serious about his underwear than John," Richard said, also beginning to approach Lucy. "He's a good feller. You should ask him out for coffee, or sum'tin..."
As if this is an attribute worth celebrating?
Four minutes, forty seconds...
"...well, that is, if I'm willin' to share!" Richard looked up at Lucy with glowing eyes. He was now only a few feet away, as well. It almost seemed as if he'd teleported closer in an instant. She was starting to feel boxed in. Now, she saw no other choice...
"Um, excuse me, but...you guys are starting to make me feel uncomfortable."
"What?" John said, looking half-confused. "You're uncomfortable? Oh, hold on a second..."
John turned around, returned to his plastic bag of various undergarments, and started to sift through it.
"Is something wrong?" Richard asked, looking concerned. "Would you like a hug?" He began to step a little closer, and outstretched his arms.
Lucy attempted to shrink back, but was already as far up against her dryer as she could go.
"No, I'm quite alright without one..."
Four minutes, twenty seconds...
"Okay," Richard said, looking a bit disappointed and retreating somewhat. "But when I'm feeling sad, nervous or uncomfortable, a hug always makes me feel better, so I figured I'd off--"
"Here they are," John loudly interrupted, sounding excited. "These are the most comfortable I've got!" He removed a light-blue colored pair of panties from the bag, then approached Lucy once again.
"These are from Victoria's Secret...it's their Ultimate Comfort line. It's really soft...this one needs to be washed, but you could at least try it on! Then, you'll feel comfortable in no time!"
John held it out to her proudly, with a huge grin on his face. She counted two missing teeth.
This was too much for poor Lucy.
To spend another three minutes and fifty seconds in this place was too terrible of a concept for her to even imagine.
Not even caring about the fate of her laundry, she charged forward, past the two men and out the laundromat's front door. She started dashing down the street towards the subway station, and made it most of the way there until she noticed that something was different. It seemed quiet...too quiet.
Lucy looked up and around the typically-crowded city street. It was, in fact, still crowded. But everyone else on the street was motionless. They were silent. And...they were all staring at her. Worse still, she noticed that they were all men...every last one of them.
The silence was broken by happy-sounding music that sounded like it was straight out of a kids' cartoon. Lucy glanced at the neon billboard that usually played movie trailers or electronics advertisements. This time, it was showing an ad for condoms.
"When Mr. Happy needs a raincoat..." sang a cute voice from the billboard.
Lucy shrieked, drowning out what she could hear of the song, and charged down the subway station stairs. In one smooth motion, she swiped her fare card, went downstairs to the platform, and got on the first train she saw, which happened to already be waiting. The doors promptly closed; the train began to move moments later.
"...wait a second...the train isn't usually empty, is it?" she thought to herself.
"Good evening, miss," came a man's voice from behind her.
Lucy whirled around to find a well-dressed, very good-looking young man. Actually, he was so good-looking that he seemed fake, in a too-good-to-be-true sort of way. Instantly, her nervousness came back.
"Yes, hello," came another man's voice, from behind her yet again. Why must they always sneak up from behind?!
The greetings kept coming until she was virtually surrounded by five good-looking men and one younger boy. On a sealed, locked, moving subway train.
Lucy finally managed to blurt out an "Ummmm...hi?"
The tallest said, "Well, don't you just look lovely, today?"
The boy shouted, "You're here because you're in trouble, right?"
"Yeah, I'll say."
"Tell us about your problems!" the boy replied.
"I...don't think I want to talk about anything with you," Lucy said.
"But you *must* tell us about your problems," said the tallest, who had somehow managed to sneak up behind her...as he placed one hand upon her face.
"Yeah," continued the boy. "We can't let you leave until we solve your problems!"
The train traveled into a tunnel, disappearing into darkness...
A scream is the loudest sound a human can produce. The pitch, volume and intensity of a scream is meant to convey terror, panic, or desperation--or a combination of those frightening elements--in one moment, during which the person screaming is trying their hardest to communicate such elements to someone...anyone...who might help them.
But, sadly, there was nobody there to help Lucy, as she screamed with all her might. Her clean, name-brand underwear was doomed to become part of an obsessed fan's collection...her uncertain fate rested in the hands of the most gorgeous, yet most creepy men she'd ever met...and there was no guarantee that she'd ever escape from...The Creep Zone.
#24: How it could have ended
"I'm sorry, sir! But we've confirmed that this information is true!"
"Do something about this!! Capture that small boat at once and detain everyone on it!"
"Everyone? I thought it was just your daughter..."
"No, there are others on that ship. That crane needs to be melted down...and the mice will make perfect subjects for the new Carnegie Steel Hair Care Products Testing Facility. Ha, ha, ha, ha..."
"There it is," Stuart said with an ominous tone, pointing towards the large ship. "That must be the Carnegie Steel Hair Care Products Testing Facility...hey, Mom, any good information from the blueprints?"
Stuart's mother was looking closely at a piece of paper much larger than she was. "There are two entry points...one in the front, one in the back..."
The young girl looked sadly at the damaged crane. The four of them, together, barely fit in the small motorboat.
"This is it, Doc..." she said. "Maybe we can fix you up...and maybe...maybe I can finally find out what my name is."
((Of course the crane's name is Doc, because that's where he always worked. Down by the doc.))
"So which one looks safer for us?" Stuart asked.
All of a sudden, static exploded from the small boat's radio. The four passengers weren't even aware that there was a radio, so all of them gazed at it, startled.
"Can you read me?" said a voice from the radio. "This is VIC VIPER."
The girl replied, "who?" Nobody knew whether her response could be heard, or not.
"I don't have much time, so listen closely," the voice continued. "In order to defeat them, I need your help."
"It sounds like we have the same goal," Stuart mused.
"We need to get inside the ship from different routes and destroy the core at each end. Both must be taken out, or there's no future for either of us."
"So which side should we...?"
At the same moment, all of them noticed a small, futuristic-looking aircraft coming down from the sky, headed towards the floating facility at high speed. It then started heading towards the front of the ship.
"...I guess I've got no choice..." Stuart said.
"Let's roll!" the radio said, as the aircraft, itself rolling, disappeared into the front of the vessel.
Stuart steered the motorboat towards the back of the large ship.
"Leave me behind!" Doc cried, as he hobbled down the hallway.
"We won't leave you!" yelled the girl. "Besides, we're kind of slow, anyway..."
The two mice were still running to catch up behind them, despite Doc's limited mobility. It didn't help that Stuart was dragging the motorboat's radio behind him, just in case the mysterious voice contacted them again.
"The core is just a little bit further!" yelled Stuart's mother.
The four came upon a large, round room. As soon as all four of them were inside, the doors slammed behind them.
The girl stated the obvious, but obligatory, "we're trapped!"
A small door opened on the opposite wall. Two lab workers wearing white coats appeared, holding a cage, and quickly approached the four heroes.
Jumping out in front and spreading her arms, the girl yelled, "I won't let you take them!"
One of the lab workers replied, "Actually, those aren't our orders..."
Now that they were closer, the heroes noticed that the cage was a bit large to waste it on mice.
As one of the lab workers opened the cage, the other began to restrain the girl.
"Hey, what...what are you doing to me?!"
"Just hold still, this won't hur--AUUGHH!!"
Doc hobbled into the lab worker who was trying to place the girl into the cage. As he did this, a larger, garage-style door began to open at the opposite end of the room...revealing a large, brand-new Liebherr MK 88, and a man wearing a suit.
"Cease this useless resistance at once!" the man in the suit said.
"Who are you!?" cried the girl.
Ignoring her, the well-dressed man barked at the lab workers.
"Lock her in the brig, now!"
Both answered in unison, "Yes, Mr. Frick!"
"I won't let you!" yelled Doc, still hobbling around as well as he could.
"Don't you understand? You're yesterday's news. This...this is the future...a future that will be controlled by me...Henry Frick!"
The MK 88 rumbled, its engine fresh and new, ready to take on any challenge...including Doc.
"This is bad..." Stuart said.
All of a sudden, the radio he'd been dragging along came to life again. It was just a bit of static, but it gave Stuart enough hope to try reaching out to the pilot on the other side.
"Are you there? We could use some help over here!" yelled the mouse.
A few moments went by with no response.
Finally, the same voice from earlier could be heard once again...
"Okay, you go on ahead."
"... ...wait, what?! We need help!"
"You too," the pilot said.
A brief "sssss" sound afterwards confirmed the end of transmission. Stuart knew that they were on their own.
With that, the MK 88 rumbled, then charged straight at Doc. Doc tried to hobble out of the way, but it was no use. They collided with a sickening CLANG that sent Doc reeling, spinning into the nearby wall, assorted parts flying off. The two mice turned away with horrified faces.
"Nooooooooooooo!" the girl cried, shaking off her captors and running over to Doc, seemingly in one smooth motion.
"Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!" bellowed Frick, in a tone that sounded as if it had come straight from a Saturday morning cartoon.
The girl placed her hands on Doc's face. He'd returned to his human form, but was mangled, barely recognizable.
Tears ran down her cheeks. She reached into a pocket, and took out...one beautiful, golden sunflower.
"I...I want you to have this..."
She placed the stem on his chest, such that the flower appeared to be blooming in front of his face.
"I can smell it...it smells sweet..." said Doc, his voice wavering.
"Enough! Capture the girl and finish him off, already!" Frick yelled.
But nobody moved. All of them were too captivated by a certain sound. It was so low in volume that one had to concentrate very hard in order to hear it clearly, despite it filling the room to the point where it was impossible to ignore. And, the sound was gradually increasing in volume.
Some words were mixed in with the low hissing sound, but they weren't understandable.
"What are you doing?!" Frick shouted, as the only one unaware of the growing sound around them.
The hissing grew louder and became a buzz. Now even Frick was beginning to notice.
Nobody moved, even as the room began to rumble slightly.
The buzzing grew louder and louder. The people in the room all looked around, but realized that there was nothing they could do against a force this great.
"Bees...they're...bees!" cried Stuart, as he ran for cover. But that was impossible, in this large, mostly-empty room.
A shaft cover burst out of the wall and fell to the floor with a clang. A split-second later, thousands of bees poured into the room.
"Wow, they certainly will," said Stuart's mother, looking on in admiration.
The bees, seemingly in one clump, zoomed over to and circled the sunflower... but did not touch Doc. After a few moments, the buzzing mass flew over to--and descended upon--Henry Frick.
Frick fell forward onto his face and produced no further sound. The lab workers fleed in horror; the bees had clearly allowed them to escape. Finally, the mass of bees dissipated, and slowly flew back into the shaft from which they'd emerged.
"We're saved!" Stuart shouted happily.
"Ah, there you are," came a familiar voice.
"Daddy!" yelled the girl, running over to the source of the familiar voice. "I was scared!"
"You don't need to be scared any more," said Andrew Carnegie. "And I'll make sure we fix up your friend, over there, and properly maintain him!"
"Thanks, Daddy...oh, um...can you tell me what my name is?"
"Sure, darling. Your mommy and I...we saw your name, right there in your lovely eyes, the moment you were born...that's why your name is..."
I hate getting up early.
#23: Warmth after dark
Words were unnecessary.
I stared deeply into her eyes...I was unprepared. I fell inside, pulled in as if we were magnetized. Their color consumed and surrounded me, even within the darkness that in turn surrounded us.
But this wasn't close enough for me, so I pulled her even closer. Her soft sigh in response formed a pleasant boom in my ears. Here, everything was amplified, powerful, enveloping. The warmth of the thick down blanket was nothing compared to the heat of our embrace. I couldn't feel the blanket any more.
She placed a hand against my right cheek. The feeling of warmth immediately soaked into me...I pressed against her hand, and in turn, she pressed back. She softly nudged it upwards, stroking the lower edges of my hair. It felt like the distance between us was cut even shorter, as the warmth rushed over, then through me.
I smiled and placed both of my hands on opposite sides of her beautiful face. She smiled back, and drew closer. Our noses playfully sparred. Warmth gently burst forward from our makeshift lances.
I wouldn't be satisfied with just touching my lips to her soft cheek. As I placed my arms around her once again, I ran my lips downward, applying just enough pressure to cause a tingle when I reached her neck. Her smile widened. Feeling the tingle on my end, along with the warmth of her smile, almost caused me to overheat; and, perhaps it would have, if not for the fact that I craved even more of this warmth.
This is what I'd longed for...the thing I've wanted most, seemingly forever. It was my last desire at the end of every day, and what I dreamed of every night. This warmth...this warmth that blanketed, controlled, dominated me...warmth that transcended the literal definition of what warmth is. This warmth, after all, was not simply the product of body heat. This warmth didn't stop at ninety-eight point six.
This was warmth brought on by something deeper; the feeling that I'd thrown myself into a person that had thrown herself into me. Someone who trusted me...with everything she'd been, everything she was, and everything she wanted to be...and who understood that I'd done the same, for her. It was akin to the feeling of staring into a mirror, endlessly reflecting the same image, except that our smiles reflected off of each other, endlessly...with no mirror to be found.
Our hands found each other, effortlessly interlocking. Our cheeks slid against one another...our faces united. The magnitude of the warmth resulting from this unity was more than I could have imagined, causing me to shiver in surprise. An undeniably powerful feeling swept over me...a shiver, caused by a soft, sweet tidal wave of comfort.
Loneliness? Solitude? Isolation? Those things are nowhere to be found, in this place of warmth. They've been banished forever, never to return. I felt so close to this person, now, inches from the lips that had whispered sweetly to me, so many times...inches from the mind that captivated me, the thoughts that captured me, turning me into the most willing of prisoners...within the shortest of distances from someone feeling the same things that I was. The same comfort, the same acceptance, the same trust...the same warmth.
Starting from the blanket I could no longer feel, but extending to the entire world around me...it all disappeared. None of it mattered, right now, as my lips found her left earlobe. I passionately kissed and hungrily nibbled at the only person left, besides me. For even if we were alone in the world, if there truly were nobody else, it wouldn't feel that way to us...not any more. We would never feel alone, again, not ever, not even if the sun, the moon, the stars, the entire sky all disappeared. We were, after all, surrounded by the warmth between us.
Basking in our endless reflections, taking in each other's breaths, we drifted together towards the land of dreams. We would soon return...but not before bathing in a warmth much greater than just the two of us, and dancing in each other's visions of what would come next. Not before reveling in the warmth of our embrace.
...tomorrow night, we'll do this again.