Friday, April 12, 2013

Excerpt: The Creatures Within

Here's an excerpt of the latest short story I've come out with. It's a psychological tale about the trials and tribulations of one veteran in the City. It's solid, if not a little dark.
Let me know what you think!
It's available here:
Other sites will soon be available too!


We dance all night. I feel Maria's breath tickle my neck. Her smile fills my vision, warms my insides. Her sweat smells sweet and buries itself in my mind. We embrace. I smell the sandal soap on her golden-brown hair. I whisper a joke into her ear. She fake slaps me and laughs. My heart races, and my skin grows hot. I smile. Her moist lips press against mine.
I wake up with a headache, and reach over to the other side of the bed. She's not there. The sun peers in from the Venetian blinds I put up only a few months ago. I close my eyes, and when I open them the room is dark. It's now the sparse building lights of the northern reaches of the Bronx filter that in. The subway sparks off in the distance. My clock flashes 12:00, and I feel a dread worming its way from my balls to my throat.
That's when the noise comes to me. At first it sounds miles away, an echo off a cliff. Then a crisp crunch pushes on my bladder. I stand up, clenching my fists. I'm a man. One who has seen war. I'm never to be scared. Not here at least. I switch on a light, kicking a ball that's lying on the floor.
I jump back. Then I remind myself that it can't be real. I rub my eyes, try to use my other senses, but my nostrils are filled with a sulfuric chemical so sharp that my mouth starts to water and my stomach retches.
Something's eating on the desk where I usually write, sitting on my chair. It has scales all over its body, and its head is separated from the body by a distinct saffron—the blood near its mouth not withstanding. It's an insect, but it's hard to say what insect. I'm stuck between wanting to run away, and finding out what this thing is doing in my studio apartment.
Perhaps it's not real. Perhaps it's not. I can't tell. I know one thing: this isn't a dream. Things are too slow, too detailed for that to be possible. And everything else about the studio is exactly as I remember. That never happens in my dreams.
I breathe through my mouth so that the smell emanating from the creature doesn't turn me inside out. I move to see what it's gorging upon. Its mouth is bloody, but its arms, bristling with sharp thorns, hold, and thus cover, what it's eating. I notice that my heart's trembling, as are my hands.
Don't be scared.
I step closer, well aware that this large insectoid will make light work of me. I see golden-brown hair on the desk and feel a dread inside my body. I stop and wonder why I'm so scared. Haven't I been through much worse? Maybe I haven't seen this kind of creature before, but I've faced the prospect of death. Funny, it doesn't get that much easier, no matter how good I think my rationalization process is.
The crack of a bone snaps me out of my train of thought. I stare at the body, step closer. It looks like my woman. The creature is eating from her soft underbelly. My heart drops. How could I let this happen? Let this creature into my studio and let it take my woman from me.
How do I know I let it in?
Somehow I know this creature is a parasite from one of my many travels to the other side of the world. I let it in, and here it is eating away at her. The body moves. I freeze. I feel vomit rising up my throat and urine pushing its way out. I hold it back.
The creature turns towards me. Its eyes are large glass-orbs. It turns back. I prepare for it to launch an attack on me. I grab a weight sitting on the floor. Instead a screeching sound breaks forth from its mouth. In breaks this sound makes me cringe. It's laughing. I step forward. At the end of its arm is a pincer. It grabs my woman, my love and cracks her skull.
There is no fear when all has been taken from you. I learned that during my time in Iraq.
I lurch forward and grab the arm, trying to yank it away. The creature opens its bloody mouth and reveals teeth of slender steel bars. I feel fear for an instant, but the sight of my love's body is still too much. I try to move the arm again, but I fail. It's too strong. The thorns are cutting into my skin. I hold on, but my flesh is being torn apart. Reaching back with one hand I try to punch the creature. I'm getting dizzy. I swing, but it's much quicker than I. Its head ducks.
Its laughter fills my head, and an expanding explosion cracks my skull. I fall to my knees looking at my love's body, feeling revulsion at myself for not being able to stop this creature. Oh baby, my Maria, please forgive me. The creature stops laughing. It's shaking its head now.
I try to stand up, but the ground moves and slams into my side. I look over to the desk. Where's the creature? It was just here. I stand up, touching the empty chair. There's mucus there. I glance around the room. Nothing. How did this happen? Am I mad? I look at my hands, they are torn, bloody; flaps of skin and flesh dangle, every movement is pain.
I stare at the desk. Maria's body is there. "Please forgive me," I say. The ground reaches up and slams into me again. I stumble a few times before I stand myself straight. The desk is bloody, but the body is gone. I sniff the air. The sulfur smell is gone. No! Have I finally gone mad? I know it wasn't a dream. My hands still have scabs on them. I look out to the Bronx night. The subway moves as it always did, a twenty-four-seven reality.
I find my phone and text my woman.
She texts back that things are all right, but she's busy, can we talk later?
I sigh with relief. She's working the night shift at the hospital. I stare at my hands. They still have scabs, but they're itching now. I pick at them. There's nothing but light young skin left. I walk to the chair. It's dry. The desk is clean. And yet in the back of my head I can hear the creature laughing. Has it crawled inside me? I wonder if that's possible. All these years after war and finally I'm going nuts. I hesitate, wondering if I should tell Maria about it. No, if I do then the creature will have won. Is that what I want? No, it can't be, I need to think carefully. Perhaps I can go to the Veteran's Hospital.

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