Saturday, February 28, 2015


The night encompasses all, driving humans back to their dens, leaving the streets for us. The shadows are our friends, as we  traverse the alleys in search for anything those humans felt was unnecessary, yet which for us is a boon. Many of us are desperate enough for food that they plead with the humans during the day. How pitiful.

Yet I am starting to consider that a viable option. I cannot remember when the last time I ate a decent meal was. The rats are all gone, and the birds are too smart to outwit nowadays. The moldy walls, dripping wet at this time of year, make it impossible to search for food higher. And my previous trash can has been taken over by that scar face.

There are days when I come there and threaten him, but he always has a whole gang by his side. All that food used to be mine, but no more. Now stranger fangs gnaw at my leftover fishbone and pizza crust, tiny paws kneading at my old pillow. And that tyrant, the black shadow with the amber eye, stands there proudly against the pale moon, towering above all the other cats as her pierces me with his eye from atop the garbage can, moaning threateningly.

Today I approached him yet again. Things were more quiet than usual – perhaps they had gone to find mates? Still, I remained careful, trying to approach my food silently, and as quickly as I could. I could almost smell it.

Then I heard a hiss, a presence towering above me. The golden eye opened wide, the pupil deep as a black hole. I stared into the abyss and lost myself for a moment. I felt the hair on my back raise, my spine twisted into an arch as I screamed at him, baring all my fangs. And yet he was so, so much bigger. One swipe of his paw was enough to send me fleeing in a panic.

I ran away into the night, desperately trying to catch my breath. I then stopped as I saw a human. It was one of those really slow moving ones. It looked at me for a moment, went into a building, and came back with something that smelled simply divine. It looked at me, probably expecting me to come over, but I wasn’t stupid. It seemed to catch on, since it soon went back home, leaving behind only the thing that smelled so nice. I sunk my teeth into it. It was the biggest feast that I had had in a long time. I know it was from a human, but that didn’t count as begging. I mean it. I did not beg.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Conspiracy Nut

“Excuse me.” René flinched, as a woman approached the counter. He had been so engrossed in his book that the voice seemed like a furious jerk that ripped him out of a closed space, his head hitting the floor. She was a short little thing, holding a thick tome twice as big as her arm.

“Yes, ma’am,” he rasped and then coughed. He could feel hair in his throat. He was glad it wasn’t the taste of blood or flesh. Well, yesterday was a full moon, after all. It could’ve gotten much worse

René hated full moons. “How can I help you?”

“I wanted to return this,” she said as she lay the book on the counter. “And I need the next volume. Can you get it for me?”

“Yeah, let me just check the catalogue,” René smiled at the lady, laid the book on the bundle of returned books behind the counter, and proceeded to type on the computer furiously. He had to stop for a second to scratch an itch on his neck. He always had to be careful after a full moon, as his nails would sometimes stay sharper and he would often injure himself. He glanced at the woman who eyed him with her lips apart, probably connecting two and two together. René paid it no mind, however – his species had been fully accepted and acknowledged by society for quite some time now. Still, people would often gape at him for a couple days after his transformation.

After a while, the search window went blank. “Well that’s weird,” he muttered. “I don’t have the volume in my catalogue. Although I’m sure they have it. I’ve read it myself. If you’ll give me five minutes, I’ll go look for it.” It must be them.

“Oh, okay,” she said, looking startled. René noticed that she hadn’t stopped looking at him since back when he first saw her do it. Did she forget what she was here for? I’m not good-looking enough for her to just forget herself like that. He went out from behind the counter and made his way down the hallway of books.

The library had an old-timey feel to it. The floors and walls were mostly wooden, though the large windows had a distinctly modern feel to them. Still, the rows of bookcases were long and tall enough to get lost in this labyrinth. René knew his way around, but he always felt uneasy whenever he had to go in there. He could never shake off the feeling that he was being watched. He knew there was plenty of things in this library that he could never even begin to grasp. He knew the other staff knew a lot more than they told him, and that there was a purpose to refraining that knowledge to him. But what is it?

He was sure it had something to do with his condition. Did they send him on errands here so that they could monitor his behavior? Maybe they wanted to gather data about his private life? Or maybe they were trying to find the right moment to steal his DNA in some eugenics experiment? René felt a shiver run down his spine. He tried to shake off those thoughts as he approached the proper shelf. 

After looking at it for a couple of minutes, his heart sank. It’s gone. Disappeared, without a trace.
I knew it. It’s a setup. They’d come for him, he knew. He ran down the row of bookshelves, to face the woman from the counter, the one that lured him out. And then he lost his balance. He tried to grab on to a bookshelf to support himself, but instead a row of books fell out, falling under his feet, which caused him to trip. René landed on his head, stars appeared in front of his eyes, the sound became muffled. He lay there in a daze until he heard a familiar voice.

“René,” the tone was urgent, even though the voice barely more audible than a whisper. René instantly recognized it – it was Cliff. “Oh man, what did you get yourself into this time?”

“They’re after me again, Cliff,” René said as his lip started trembling uncontrollably.

“What? No, no, it’s okay, calm down now,” said Cliff as he reached out his hand to help René up. His head was still spinning, but after a reassuring hug from his only trusted friend, everything slowly went back to normal.

“Thanks, buddy. I really lost it there for a second.”

“Hey, no problem.” Cliff smiled. “So what happened?”

René told him in detail about what had happened to him. Cliff explained that they had to replace their supply of that book, so it was temporarily removed from the catalog. Relieved, René returned to his post behind the counter, unaware of the watchful eyes above him.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Crosswords III (2/2)

Everyone laughed, even Freddie. Martin barely smiled, though it was still a bigger hint that he was enjoying our company than anything I’d seen in a long time. I glanced at Jess. Although glanced may be a bad word. I looked at her at couldn’t take my eyes away. She’d done her hair in a thick braid that she threw over her right shoulder. The way she laughed melted my heart. There was a supernatural quality to it, as if her laughter was somehow a purer form from anyone else’s. I wondered if it was obvious to everyone that I always looked at her like that when she laughed, and that made my face turn red.

“Alright, before we go,” Freddie said as he reached into the back pocket of his dark jeans. The smoky image of a Persian cat’s face on his black t-shirt seemed to move along with him. The DVD in his hand gleamed in the sunlight. “There’s something we need to discuss. So, according to our dear Martin here, this thing is fucking dangerous, right?”

“Well, it’s not exactly dangerous on its own,” Martin said calmly.

“Well, obviously, it’s not like it’s got razor blades attached to it,” Jess rolled her large gray eyes.
“But those people want it,” Martin continued. “And they won’t stop at doing us some serious harm.”

“I’ve noticed,” I entered the conversation. “But who exactly are they, Martin? You really never did elaborate on any of this. You just came in and said ‘we have to go to New Mexico’ and that’s in. Don’t you think you owe us even a bit of explanation? Like who are those people? What’s on the disc?”

“I don’t know, okay?” Martin started to lose his composure again, but took a deep breath and was calm and collected again. His face had gone from chalk white to beet red, the back to white again in an instant. “I got told where I have to deliver the disc and that other people will pursue me because of it, and nothing else.”

“And you felt the need to drag us all into this,” Brandi added.

“I didn’t intend to do that,” Martin said. “I really thought that I’d given you crosswords. It was an honest mistake.”

“Whatever the case,” Freddie started in a slightly raised tone. “Those guys now have a fake disc, that you somehow made to look like the real deal, and we have the real disc, along with another copy. I don’t think it’s safe for just one person to hold these discs, so I propose we split them between two people and change every day.”

“Great idea,” I said.

“Awesome. Here you go then,” Freddie grinned as he handed me the original DVD. I felt faint for a second.

“No, wait!” I gasped. “I didn’t mean-“

“You’ll do fine, Leo,” Freddie reassured me. “It’s only for one day. And I’m pretty sure most of us will agree that you’re one of the more reliable people here.” He sent Martin a meaningful glance as he said that sentence.

“So that leaves me with the other disc then?” Martin asked.

“Not so fast,” Freddie waved his finger at him and outstretched his palm. “I think we all agree here that you still have some trust you need to win back after all this.”

“He does have a point,” Jess nodded. “You can take one of the other shifts, but I think someone else should hold on to it now.”

“We should draw straws,” Ian added.

Martin sent Mia a helpless glance, but she only shrugged. “Don’t look at me. Freddie’s absolutely right.”

“Fine, be my guest,” Martin sighed as he placed his golden DVD in Freddie’s hand. “This one’s empty anyway.”

“Yeah, of course. Ian, you got those straws ready?”

“You’ve got it!” I didn’t even notice when Ian managed to get to the car and come back, but here he was, with a bundle of straws in his hand. I counted them – thank goodness, there were only five, meaning no straw for Martin and me. I don’t think I could’ve handled the responsibility of possessing two discs. “Ladies first.”

One by one, the straws were drawn. Jess was the first, drawing a straw of a regular length. She seemed a tad disappointed. Mia was next, then Brandi, Freddie, and finally Ian was left with the last straw. In the end, it was Brandi that got the shortest straw.

“So I win Martin’s porn stash?” Brandi said as Freddie handed her the disc.

“Martin’s what now?” Mia raised an eyebrow as Freddie, Jess and I snorted in an attempt to contain our laughter.

“What is with you guys?” Ian said as he stared at Freddie in confusion. Martin looked just as confused.

“Don’t worry about it,” I told him. “We’ll tell you later. So, isn’t it high time we got going? I thought those guys were going to chase us down.”

“Oh, right!” Ian exclaimed with one hand on his forehead and ran up to the car. He sat at the driver’s seat and started to fiddle with some device. “Martin, where exactly are we going? I have to set the course.”

“Helix, New Mexico,” Martin said to him as he approached the car. “Though I’m not sure your GPS will find it. It’s a really small town.”

“Don’t you worry about that,” Ian grinned. “Freddie’s got an eye for such gizmos. I’m pretty sure this baby can-“ a beeping sound came from the car. “And here it is! Groovy! But we’ve got a long road ahead of us, guys,” Ian turned to us. “So we better get moving.” And with that he started the engine.

As we were getting into the car, Jess raised a question. “New Mexico’s pretty far away. Why can’t we just go by plane?”

“Good question,” I said to her, sending a smile in her direction, but she didn’t notice.

“I’m guessing that travelling by car give us more room to improvise should anything go wrong,” Brandi said.

“Those guys could be screening flights,” Freddie added as he fastened his seatbelt at the front seat. “They find out we take a specific flight and get to the place we land faster than us, and we’re fucked. Am I on the right track here, Martin?” A crooked smirk appeared on his face.

“I’d assumed it was obvious,” Martin replied as he sat down and started fiddling around with his iPhone.

“What the hell is this?” Jess had tried to sit next to me, but she hadn’t noticed that space was occupied by some irregular-shaped object wrapped around in black cloth.

“Oh, that’s my trumpet,” Ian said as he turned around to face her.

“Why’re you taking your trumpet?” Mia asked.

“I always take my trumpet.” With that, he turned to face the steering wheel again. Freddie  turned around to face Mia, shook his head, and whispered: “Don’t ask.”

We rode along beaches, forests and rivers, and yet none of us could fully enjoy it. I really admired Ian for being able to stay awake and drive after such an eventful night. One by one, we would drift away to sleep. Martin fell asleep first, his arms crossed across his chest. Mia was next, laying her head on his shoulder. I don’t know when Brandi fell asleep. She’d been looking out the window for the longest time and then she suddenly closed her eyes. I couldn’t be certain she was really asleep at this point. Jess was still reading a book when I fell asleep. I felt like no time had passed at all when Freddie shook me awake, but one glance at the clock was enough for me to know that more than three hours had passed.

“Sorry to wake you, Leo,” Freddie whispered. I could barely make out his bearded face through the blur. I rubbed my eyes and yawned. I felt terrible, but at least I could see him clearly now. He was wearing his glasses, lighter and sleeker than Ian’s thick spectacles, but no less black and rectangular. There was a laptop opened on his knees.

“It’s okay,” I whispered back as I yawned again. “Did something happen?”

“Nah, everything’s fine. Everyone’s still fast asleep. Can you give me your disc for a second?”

“Why? Are we changing shifts already?”

“No, it’s nothing like that.” He glanced around the car again. “I wanted to check what’s on it. And I didn’t really want to do it with Martin around. Awake.”

“What happened to Martin’s our friend, huh?” I teased.

“Well, he is,” Freddie whispered. “But he’s also a huge fuckup who’s hiding things from us.”

“You don’t think he’s telling the truth about the disc?”

“I think may be telling us only parts of it. I’ll try to confront him about it later, but you know how difficult he’s been lately.”

“Tell me about it.” I scratched my head and dug out the disc from my pocket. “Here you go.”

“Thanks. I’ll need to check Brandi’s disc later when we stop at a motel or something.”

“I think I’m gonna need to make a stop soon,” Ian yawned. “I think I need to use the bathroom.”

“Hey, next stop you make, we’re switching.” Freddie said in his low growl he always used when he was being assertive. “It’s a wonder you’ve managed to take us so far without crashing the car yet. Don’t force yourself. Find the nearest gas station.”

“Thanks,” Ian said and adjusted himself in his seat. He seemed to get a little kick out of that conversation.

“Okay, so the system can’t even recognize the disc,” Freddie said, more to himself than anyone else, but I still leaned in to take a look at the monitor. Only then did I notice Jess’ arm on my shoulder. I felt my cheeks turn hot, but did my best not to panic and move around in such a way that it wouldn’t fall off.

“S-so what now?” I asked Freddie.

“I’ll try to boot from the disc on startup,” he said as he rebooted the computer and entered the proper commands. The screed suddenly flashed and lines of letters and numbers appeared.

“Easy there, Morpheus,” Ian snickered.

“Well, fuck me backwards,” Freddie whispered as he tried to type something, but the image was static.

“What’s going on? Is that some kind of code?” I asked. I could feel Jess’s hand squeeze my shoulder.
“Not a code that I’m aware of.” The image did look weird, that’s for sure. The numbers seemed clumped together in squares with the letters protruding from them in all directions, forming lines that vaguely resembled existing words, but scrambled.

“It almost looks like it’s in English,” I commented.

“Yeah, but what does that tell us?”

For a second we all sat there in silence, unable to come up with a sensible answer. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, Ian yawned and said: “Doesn't it kind of look like crosswords puzzle?”

Crosswords III (1/2)

I had a nice view of the town from the cliff at edge of the woods. I had never seen the town from this angle this early in the morning. We usually came here in the evenings. This was the spot where we would make bonfires and watch the stars. This place had been there for years, and we had a lot of memories there. Now, I could add to that the memory of changing clothes there, struggling to put on my t-shirt as fast as I could, the rush only making me more visible to anyone that may have been passing by. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to change in public.

Having finally put on my beige V-neck, with my head inserted in the proper hole this time, I scanned the view in search of my house. There it was, still in one piece. I started to wonder if that wasn’t the last time I’d see it like this. I stood there, staring, for a couple more minutes, when I heard that annoying cough behind me. I flinched and glanced back behind my shoulder. Martin was leaning against a tree, a suitcase at his side. His black sweater against the dark forest, combined with his deathly white complexion and fair hair made his face look like a disembodied floating head.

“I don’t think we have the time to be staring off into the distance like that, now do we,” he said in a monotone.

“And who do we have to thank for that, huh?” I sent him a smirk. “How long have you been standing there?”

“I just came,” he said. “Mia’s changing somewhere in the woods. She said I didn’t even let her take a proper shower after the party.”

“Well, shame on you.” Not that any of us had a chance to take a shower. I hadn’t even realized that until we had to spend some time cramped in a small car together. The two guys that came with Martin didn’t say anything, but you could see in their eyes that they were praying for it all to end. They left us there in the woods and took the car. They drove away so fast that I was genuinely surprised they didn’t hit a tree. “Seriously, Martin. What have you gotten us into?”

“Don’t expect me to apologize.” He adjusted his glasses.

“Oh, don’t worry, I don’t. But why?”

“Everyone makes mistakes,” he sighed. “Alright, enough chitchat. Let me change now.”

“You want me to watch?”

“Shut up.”

“Remind me why we’re still friends,” I sighed, shaking my head, as I made my way deeper into the woods.

“Spare me the sappiness, please,” Martin replied in as flat a tone as usual. I remember that he didn’t always use to be like this. I mean, I hadn’t known him for nearly as long as I’d known Brandi, Ian, and Freddie, but having been his roommate in college, I thought I got to know Martin pretty well. We used to play games and watch Netflix all the time – we had a lot of fun and got along really well. I mean, we still do all that, but he’s become so distant lately, and I don’t really know why.

I heard the sound of an engine somewhere in the distance. I looked around for the trail – there was no way the others could find us in this thicket. As I walked, I felt a gentle tap on my back. The loud YEAAUGH sound I made echoed throughout the forest, mocking me, waking any sleeping animal within a mile. Someone was having a chuckle behind me. It was Mia, her orange ponytail jumping up and down as she desperately tried not to burst out laughing.

“What did I ever do to deserve this?” I gasped, still trying to catch my breath after that little heart attack Mia gave me.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to,” Mia giggled, wiping a single tear from her eye. “I really forgot how easy it is to scare you.”

“Hey, like you wouldn’t scream if someone pushed you in the middle of the dark forest like that.”

“Maybe you’re right,” she said, this time with only a smile on her face.

“So,” I said in almost a whisper. “Martin really didn’t tell you anything about this DVD thing?”

Mia sighed. “He didn’t say anything. He did seem a bit more jumpy than usual yesterday, but he didn’t say anything about the disc.” She lowered her gaze a bit and even though she was still smiling, I could tell it wasn’t as genuine anymore.

“Don’t worry,” I said as I stretched my arms and then placed them behind my head. “I’m sure he just didn’t want to worry you.”

“Yeah, but still,” she turned her eyes back to me, a stern expression on her face. “I think he owes us all an explanation, now that he’s made us go on this road trip together. I mean, what a hassle…”

“Well…” I began and stopped for a second. It was hard to keep my frustration with Martin’s behavior at bay, but if anyone had it worse than any of us, it was Mia. “You know, it’s been a while since we got to all spend so much time together. We should make the best of it, like Freddie said.”

“Says the guy who had a car bust in through his living room wall because of all this,” Mia chuckled. “I guess you’re right, though. Thanks.”

“No problem,” I grinned as I tapped her on the shoulder. “Now, let’s go find that van. The parking lot should be nearby.”

“Aren’t you forgetting someone?” Martin’s cold voice came from behind.

“I thought you’d catch up.”

“And so I did.”

We made our way through the wood and reached the parking lot without a problem. The big light blue Mazda Bongo van stood parked there. The four people standing outside it were lost in conversation, so they didn’t notice us approaching right away. Ian was the first to face us.

“Hola!” he yelled in our direction. “Qué tal?”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Freddie grunted at him, much to the amusement of Jess. “You know, one of these days, I’m gonna learn Irish and do the same thing you do in front of other people.”

“But I don’t speak Irish,” Ian retorted with a wide grin.

“Why discourage him, Fred?” Brandi asked in her usual collected tone, but you could tell by her smile that she was enjoying how embarrassed Freddie was looking. “I think it’s always great to learn a second language.”

Freddie made a deep, irritated sigh as Mia, Martin and I approached the group. “Yeah,” I added with a smile. “No hay problema, eh?”

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A peaceful Sunday morning

The gentle rays of the sun were seeping through the kitchen window. I was trying to enjoy my coffee as I browsed through the morning paper. Yes, the morning would have been very pleasant if it weren’t for all the noise.

“And you know what else she said to me?” a squawk came from beyond the window.

“What? What did she say?” came another voice.

“She said black is so last season,” the first voice said, outraged.

“Oh, she did not!”

“Well, believe it. Still, I slapped her in that stupid beak and told her ‘girl, what color do you think you are?’”


Fed up with the argument I didn’t want to be part of, I opened the window and shouted a bit louder than I’d intended: “Would you kindly pipe down! I’m trying to have a peaceful Sunday morning here!”

“Oh shit!” one of the crows exclaimed as I screamed at them and then they both flew away. I was just about to close the window, content with the quiet I’d finally get to enjoy, but then a voice came from just below me.

“Oh, hi, you’re up,” said the orange cat as he jumped up on the windowsill, ready to enter the house. He almost made it, but I pushed him out. “Hey, no fair. You said you’d let me in.”

“Not now,” I sighed. “I need to use the bathroom.”

“Oh, okay. I’ll wait then.”

“I don’t have anything you can eat, okay?”

“Yes, you do,” the cat waved his tail. “The nose knows. You can lie to other people since you guys are stupid and couldn’t smell a rotten egg from half an inch away.”

“Yes, we could!” I said, my arms raised in exasperation.

“Yeah, whatever. I’m coming in now.” The cat took another step, but I managed to stop him again.
“Don’t you dare. I’m closing the window now.”

“Alright, but you better come back soon. I need you to pet me before I go pay that old lady a visit. Oh darn, my hair is all messed up.” And with that, the cat started washing itself as I closed the window.
I sat down on the toilet and sighed again. I could finally have some peace. Or so I thought.

“Oh, uh, hi. You live here?” I heard a small voice coming from somewhere above me.

“Who’s there?” I whispered.

“Um, up in the corner.” I looked up and indeed, in the corner I saw a tiny little spider suspended on a web. “Yeah, so I’m new here. Mind if I stay? I’ll eat up your flies and stuff.”

“Fine, fine,” I grunted. “Just please, promise you’ll be quiet.”