Empty Signals

radio tower1

On the hill to the west there is a radio tower. The tower climbs over 2000 feet, scraping the sky with its pointed antenna. I don’t know what it broadcasts. Nobody does. There’s probably not any radio waves left to send, so it just sits there, pretending to have a purpose.

But the world’s gone quiet. The roads are empty, while the sky is freckled with stars at night, devoid of planes or satellites. Uncommon when we were kids, but completely expected now, is the vision of the haze of galactic batches of gas and dust and distant suns through the naked eye. Continue reading

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Wake-Up Call, Chapter 5

MALLORY’S JOURNAL DON’T TOUCH!!

Mommy tells me to write things down instead of say them out loud. my voice gives her headaches, she says.

i have a lot of things to say, and i’ve been writing as fast as i can, but i don’t think i can remember everything and this pencil isn’t very sharp.

i think Trident is angry at me, at us, and i don’t like making people angry.

Trent — I call him Trident because of the three fingers on his right hand — would always offer to listen when I saw him in the hallway, but only once did we talk for more than five minutes. it was on one of the days that i had off from school because of the snow. i love snow, but i love school. days like that are hard for me to feel happy or sad about. that’s why Trident started to talk to me in the hallway.

he talked about a crazy world where gravity didn’t matter, and neither did your looks or the weather. school was at home and snow and rain didn’t exist. everyone was happy in this world.

i told him i wanted to go there, and his eyes seemed to light up in a way i’ve never seen from an adult before. then he got really sad, like watery-eyes sad, and he started to cry. i thought it was a little gross, and he should’ve wiped his nose, but i don’t like to be rude if i can help it. because he got upset, i decided i shouldn’t talk to him so much. either i was upsetting him, or he was what Mommy called “unstebble”.

when he sobbed, my mommy came to the door and shooed him away. she didn’t say anything, at least, not out loud, but just before Trident made it to his door, Mommy stopped him and whispered in his ear. i saw him smile. he looked back at me and winked, then went into his apartment.

later that night, Mommy was tucked me under the covers, pulling them tight so i wouldn’t fall out of bed again, and i asked her ‘what did you say to Trident?’

she just looked at me like she was scared that i made a sound, and then walked out of my room. she didn’t shut the door, she never shut the door. instead she left it open and sat in her favorite rocking chair, staring at me through the open doorway until i fell asleep.

the next day was rainy, not snowy, and the rain washed all the snow away. i went to school like normal, didn’t look at anyone else like normal, and wasn’t bothered like normal. that’s the reason i like school, nobody bothers you if you don’t look them in the eyes.

i got sent home early, the teacher said she thought i looked sick as a dog, but dogs don’t look sick. they’re happy and healthy and they have clean tongues. that’s what the books say.

i walked home in the rain. it wasn’t heavy, more like a mist than a waterfall. i like the rain, did i tell you?

our building is on the corner of garnet and main streets, and it’s five stories high. i asked Mommy once what kind of stories they were, the ones that made up the building, and she only stared at me before walking out of the room. i don’t think it’s a weird question to ask. if you live inside a story, you should know what kind of story you’re inside of.

when i got home that afternoon, Trident’s door was open. he does this sometimes when he takes a walk to the fire escape. he’ll sit there outside and puff from the cigarettes he rolls. he thinks i don’t see him do it, but i do. i watch him whenever i can. i’ve never seen anyone like him. he looks odd, his nose like a beak and the three fingers on his hand are puffy, like slugs. when his eyes find you in a room, it’s hard to ignore their gaze.

i walked to his door, looked out on the fire escape, but he wasn’t there. i called out, “Trident! Are you home?” but didn’t hear anything. i was about to go home, finally, not wanting to wake him from a nap, when i heard the three taps. “tink-tink-tink”, like a nail on a glass table. like Mommy’s fingernails when she’s growing impatient.

“Trident?” again, no answer, and i didn’t wait to hear one.

i wasn’t afraid to go inside his apartment. i was in there, once, when it was vacant. Mommy and i were thinking about moving to the other side of the building. she said it was cheaper, but i think she just wanted to move their for the view of the lake. our side faces the next building over, so we see nothing but a brick yellow wall. yellow wall. Trident’s apartment, even before he lived there, small and felt cozy, and when i walked in this time i noticed that the floor was still covered in the same small rugs, and the drapes and curtains were the same, think veils that hung there before, only now with a few more cobwebs.

across the room was a couch and in front of that a small table. there was a full glass of water on the table, like someone just poured it because they were thirsty, then decided to go out to eat instead. better for me to investigate the “think-tink-tink” that was coming from the large box under the table.

the box was dark brown, almost red in color, and was about the size of my schoolbag. i didn’t realize it was a box at first, considering it was sealed up tight and i  didn’t see an opening. and then when i touched the top of it, to pull it from under the table, and the “tink-tink-tink” became a “thud-thud-thud” and the lid almost flew off — would have flown off if it wasn’t for the lock keeping it sealed up at the corner.

when it thudded again, i almost fell over. something about the sounds that accompanied the thuds, the growling, made me feel uneasy, like when i had to give a presentation in class. i used my toe to push the box back under the table, and the “thud-thud-thud” happened again, this time i stumbled toward the couch and bumped the table, spilling water everywhere.

i noticed that the water hissed when it hit the table, and started to burn through it. the water dripped down, onto the box, and immediately turned white, frozen. the lid pushed open then, and a small white worm slithered down the side of the box. it was very long, and kept slithering down, and tot he ground and towards my toe — and then i ran out of the room.

i ran to our apartment, but the door was still locked, so i sat at the top of the stairs and watched Trident’s door. the white worm slithered out the doorway and up to the fire escape window. it seemed endless, spinning its body through the slit in the window. finally the end of the worm slithered up the wall and out the window. the end was bulbous, throbbing, and the growling echoed through the hall.

Mommy came home a short time later, and when she opened the door to our apartment my cat, Saxon, jumped out and ran to Trident’s room. “Saxon, no!” I ran after him, but he leapt back and zipped by my feet as he escaped back to our apartment.

i told my mother what i’d seen, and her skin fell white. she and i held hands, she told me i had to try and forget what i’d seen in Trident’s apartment — then he came lumbering up the stairs, like normal. he said hello, but we didn’t say anything. Mommy dragged me back inside, and i only stared at Trident, feeling so guilty that i’d betrayed the trust he’d given me by simply allowing me to be his friend.

then he ran into his apartment. and we heard him scream through the door.

Heddy Bought a Cake

I wanted to experiment with two versions of a story. This is version A, version B to come next week

Heddy bought a cake.

She chose the finest looking cake that she could see in the window.

The frosting held a thick, smooth matte finish.

Three layers, was the cake, each a cylindrical piece that fit, one on one top of another, in three filled sections.

The lowest layer was her favorite. With filling of hard brown chocolate fudge, the frosting on the bottom layer was blue, the color of the sky in her childhood memories when she would hide under the deck in her parents’ back yard in the summertime.

The next, second layer, was covered in a dark, ugly yellow frosting, the kind of yellow that penetrated one’s eyes with its absurd, burnt, egg-yolk shade. Worse still, the filling was a powdery vanilla cake, which Heddy knew about because she’d requested this specific.

On top of the yellow layer, which was itself on top of the sky blue layer, was the brightest white that could be pasted on frosting. This top layer was unique in that it was all frosting. Six inches high, a diameter of 4 inches, the frosting was packed tight yet ready to crumble at the first prick of a knife.

The cake had to be kept in a cool room with a temperature of not more than 65 degrees, nor lower than 45 degrees. Fahrenheit.

Heddy picked up the cake in the middle of the night, the manager of the bakery quietly standing by the back door while she entered and carried the box by herself. The box was two feet high and a foot wide, just big enough to hold the cake. She didn’t ask for help, and the manager didn’t offer. Instead he counted the money in his hands and ignored Heddy. Couldn’t stand to look at her face.

No one could.

Shame, really, because if he’d bother to look at her tonight he would’ve seen two bright rows of pearly white as opposed to the rotted gums and few eroded teeth that actually sat in her mouth, corroded from years of sugar at every meal — and only sugar.

Driving home, Heddy looked forward to sleeping at dawn. Dawn was the best time of day, to her, as she would slowly drift to sleep in the morning after a long night of restlessness. Or, in this case, a sugar high.

When they found Heddy four days later there were no more crumbs or smatters of frosting on her chin. Just an empty dish on her dining room table and the empty cake box in the corner, her two cats canoodling inside the box, licking each other with white-frosted tongues.

Heddy’s face was all smiles, eye looking to the sky that was painted on her dining room ceiling, a sky of bright blue. She wore a burnt yellow dress and died in it, while her brand new dentures were pearly white.

For her last birthday, Heddy ate a cake.