In which Katy catches a turtle, meets Natalie from Produce, and gets caught … taking care of herself.
The Beginning of the End: A Grocery Store Horror Story
“So, how do we destroy it?” I ask as I stand up. I walk over to the library window and peer out at the darkness. Yellow streetlights dim at random intervals, and I feel the hair on my arms prickle. My eyes search for monsters, but after a moment, I give up and turn back around.
“Why did the cat disappear?” Regina curls her hair around her finger and tugs. “You looked like you were having a difficult time focusing.” Rain nods her head in agreement.
“I think you need to let it go.” Rain grips the strings on her hoodie and pulls them down in thought. “If my theory is correct, clearing your mind of Death and the feelings it invokes should do the trick.”
“It can’t be that easy,” Guy murmurs with suspicion.
“Easy? Have you met yourself?” Regina laughs, but I have to agree. The Voices’ existence is living proof that I have a problem with letting things go.
“This is barely a plan,” I manage to say, “but I don’t know what else we can do.” I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I try to think of nothing, which doesn’t work. Every breath raises the tension in my shoulders, a faraway police siren assaults my eardrums, and cicadas play an uneven tune. I push into my temples with my thumbs as if to massage out the thoughts that plague me, but that doesn’t work either. I try to think happy thoughts, but they feel as false as you would expect. Whoever coined the phrase Fake It Till You Make It obviously never dealt with mind monsters. I open my eyes.
“Did it work?” Regina and Rain look at me with hope, and because for once in my life, I don’t want the people in my life to think of me as a fuck up, I lie.
“I think so.” The look of relief on everyone’s faces and Arnold’s genuine smile make the corners of my mouth tilt up. Maybe if I just never think about Death, it won’t come back. I slide my hand into my pocket and hold the riverbed stone. River, deep-sea blue, mud, river, stone, the Voices, friends, smooth, desire, love, losing them–
“Katy?” I look up at Regina, grateful for the interruption. Not thinking about ***** is going to be harder than I thought. I open my mouth to reply, but my breath catches in my throat. Leaning against the old bookshelves, in his eerily white button-up long sleeve shirt and perfectly styled hair, is Tom. The lack of signs of our struggle put me even more on edge.
“Someone’s been a bad girl.” Tom takes a step forward, and just like that, all hell breaks loose.
“Katy! Hey!” James stands just over the hill behind me with a big grin on his face, a fishing pole in hand, and a small ice chest in the other. I hop off the swing and hold onto the vine as he teeters down the slope. Out of breath, he stops in front of a knocked-over tree, sets his items down, and takes a seat on the deadwood. “What brings you out here,” he looks around, “all on your lonesome?”
“Carlos gave me the day off, thought I’d get some fresh air and exercise.” The other Voices are even further down the bank than before. Guy, however, stands next to me with a scowl on his face. Smoke snakes out from his foot towards James, but I quickly stomp on it. It chokes and disappears in what I hope is agony, and James gives me a weird look. “Foot fell asleep.” I guess I’ll go drown myself now. James laughs, and the awkwardness vanishes for the most part. He skims a hand over his buzzcut.
“So…do you fish?” His simple question turns into a 15-minute lesson. I manage to catch a plastic bag, a shoe, and finally, a turtle. James graciously removes the hook from its mouth.
“I can’t believe I just did that. That poor little turtle.” I cover my mouth with both my hands.
“What? You’ve never had turtle soup?” I openly gag, and James’ grin gets bigger. “There’s also turtle on a stick, fried turtle, hell, I bet you could even make turtle tacos.” He drops the reptile into the water with a plop, and it makes its escape. I lightly shove James’ left shoulder, but he doesn’t move an inch. He looks at me smugly.
“You’re the worst, you know that?” He laughs and hands me a water bottle from his ice chest.
“By the way,” he hooks a shrimp and tosses the end of the line into the water, “Natalie from Produce is coming by; we made plans to fish today. Feel free to join us.” I wrack my brain to remember who that is, but I come up blank. I look for the Voices, specifically Guy, but I don’t see them. They’re probably just exploring on their own.
“Sounds like fun.” We chat for a few minutes until I hear an engine cut off just over the hill. A woman who is most likely Natalie makes her way down the hill with a pole and an ice chest. She gives James a quick hug and looks me over.
“Katy, right?” I open my mouth to speak, but for some reason, I find myself at a loss for words. I don’t want to admit it to myself, but the reason is simple. She is beautiful. In a span of a second, I take in her looks: raven hair in a pixie cut, thin frame, no curves to speak of, a baggy heavy metal shirt and matching baggy black pants, and an absence of makeup. The more I look at her, the more I realize she doesn’t look like a stereotypical woman at all. Her ambiguous appearance makes me feel warm, but I quickly shut the feeling down.
“Yep,” I stutter then clear my throat. “James says you’re in Produce. What’s that like?” James snorts, and I turn redder than his sunburn.
“Lots of fruit, potatoes, and half-eaten bags of grapes. Better than the front,” she turns towards James, “and don’t I get paid more than both of you?” They playfully argue about who has it better as I sit down on a log and try to ease my embarrassment.
The feelings Natalie inspires aren’t new to me, but they are always colored with an ounce of shame. My daddy, for all the good he did in the world, didn’t like gay people, which wasn’t surprising considering he was a strict Catholic. I never got the chance to tell him I didn’t just like men, and to tell you the truth, even if he was alive today, I don’t think I could. I glance over at Natalie, and another round of shame injects into my veins. I’m no innocent: I can look down at my father’s beliefs all I want, but he wasn’t the one who passed out petitions against gay marriage at church during high school. How can I hold the hand of a woman (or anyone else for that matter) or join the LGBT community with a resume like that?
“Hey, I’m gonna head out,” I wave to James and turn to Natalie, “it was nice meeting you.” I give her a small smile and leave them to find the Voices. Despite their protests, I’m finally able to load them into the car and get back to my-our apartment. After a quick shower, I put on my pajamas, lock the door, and crawl into bed with my laptop. Despite the cocktail of shame earlier, I have needs, so I look up my favorite porn site.
After I skim through categories ranging from vanilla to the extremely risque, I settle on a lesbian and transgender compilation video. I manage to slide my hand down my pants and get to work when I hear the door handle jiggle. Before I can extract my fingers, Guy phases through the door.
“You really think you can keep us out with a lo-” His voice trails off as I quickly remove my hand and close my laptop. Moans hemorrhage out of the speaker for a few seconds. He looks at the laptop, at me, at my hands that are now covering my face, and at the computer again.
“What did I say about knocking!?” I whisper yell at Guy. After our first group meeting, I had given the Voices what I thought was a very clear privacy talk. Guy crosses his arms and smiles at me, but he doesn’t seem happy.
“Is this about James?” He takes a step forward, and I scoot back against the headboard.
“NO,” I sputter, “but it’s really none of your business.” There, he’ll leave me alone now. Guy looks at me thoughtfully. I don’t see the tendril of smoke curving over the comforter until it wraps around my ankle and tugs me down the bed.
“I like you like this,” Guy says in a gravelly, almost confused voice. He places his hands on both sides of my head while mine grip the sheets.
“Like what?” I ask in shock. He hovers over me and runs a hand through my hair, down my neck, and lightly snaps my waistband.
“Angry. Eager. Doing things that some part of you thinks is wrong.” His hand rubs down and up my covered thighs and stops just below my groin. I blush and wonder if he can feel the heat emanating from between my legs. His smug grin answers my question. “You need to let go more often.” I try to kick out of his smoky appendage’s grasp, but it doesn’t look like I can.
“What, like you?” I groan in frustration. “You almost killed a guy. You’re not exactly setting a good example here.”
“That’s not why I’m here. I’m not your father, brother, mentor.” His hand glides over my center like a feather as if it isn’t really there at all.
“What are you then? Because you sure don’t feel like a frie-” Guy brings his lips to my neck in a chaste kiss. He climbs the rest of the way onto the bed as he peppers my neck with kisses, each one harder than the last. I look into his brown eyes, and I can’t help but ask, “Why?”
“Because,” he mouths into my shoulder, “you deserve to be free. Because, deep down, I see a fighter who doesn’t want to take shit from anyone.”
“So, you feel sorry for me?” I push into his chest, but my hands pass through. He looks at me and narrows his eyes.
“Because, when I want something, I take it. And to hell with everybody else. They can burn for all I care.” His words scare me, and he seems to sense it, so he stops his movements. His eyes are on my lips, but he’s completely still as if waiting for me to make a move. I could get up. I could leave and forget this memory, shove it down like all the other embarrassing moments in my life. Fuck it.
I meet his lips, and after a moment, he pushes back. Guy’s hand slips under my waistband and moves back and forth between my legs. Impatient, I tilt my hips up, and his fingers slip into my core. I groan into his mouth, and he grins. He stops, and yanks open my pajama top. Sucking on my right breast, he returns his fingers to my slit. He sets a rhythm that I can’t help but move to, our movements fast, wild, and messy.
“Harder,” I groan, and he complies. My climax hits me, and I grab his arm to hang on as a gush of wetness leaks out. My ears are ringing as I come down from my high. I feel like taking a long nap, but Guy has other plans. He unbuttons his pants and takes out his manhood. Wait, he’s not human, so there has to be another name for it. Guy interrupts my thoughts as he yanks off my pajama pants, grabs the back of my knees, and guides his member into me in one smooth thrust.
“You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to do this,” Guy pants as he moves in and out of me slowly. His skin shimmers between human dermis and the roiling shadow I remember in my dreams. Tendrils of smoke glide around my body, seeping into every inch of my skin as if begging for us to become one again. His face solidifies for a moment, and I realize he’s really here with me, now, so I kiss him deeply, even though I don’t know what I’m trying to convey to him. This throws him into a frenzy, and he drives me into the bed until he stiffens and pumps into me one last time.
We stay like this for a minute, a shadow figure slowly melting into my skin. Like this, he weighs almost next to nothing, so it isn’t uncomfortable. When he pulls out, the rest of his noncorporal body leaves me as well. All that remains is an aching emptiness. I shake the feeling, readjust my clothing, and roll over to look at Hate. Before I can get up or say anything, I feel a small piece of what can only be Guy snake around my heart. I should be afraid, but for once, I’m not. The Guy beside me cups my cheek and kisses my forehead. I let the darkness overtake me with a smile.
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