Just a bullshit story. An idea I had, which I pitched to a friend, and he said it’s the dumbest thing he’s ever heard, and now that I’ve written it I agree with him.
It’s dusty when he rides in.
Cassie waits by the window, drinking out of a plastic cup that makes the water taste sour. She smokes. She parts the curtains.
Outside a cloud of red dust settles, revealing a Chevrolet.
A man exits the car. Cassie follows the man with her eyes as he walks up to her front door and knocks on it three times, and waits, and then rings the door bell once.
She finishes the cigarette. It is something she must do, not because she is enjoying the cigarette but because she’s learned that finishing things is crucial to a happy life. The man does not knock or ring the doorbell again. He waits.
He is silent when the door opens.
“Lou,” she says.
“I like your hat,” she says. “It makes you look like a proper man.”
Lou removes the hat. Cassie follows his hand down below waist level and notices for the first time that he’s carrying a large clear jar. Inside the Jar a black slug writhes about.
“Jesus,” Cassie says. “You can’t bring that in here.”
“I just want to talk,” Lou says.
“Can I come in?”
“Get rid of it.”
“This is what I need to talk to you about.”
Lou walks past her. He spends a great deal of energy analyzing the details of the house’s interior. The place looks clean, airy. Everything resides neatly in its place, and although the space does not exceed a thousand square feet, it feels vast, with light, with the curtains breathing in a cross breeze.
Lou sits in a yellow-painted wooden chair that used to be painted turqoise. Cassie brings him coffee.
Lou places the clear jug on the table. The slug twitches inside the jar.
“What is that thing, Lou?”
“Can I tell you a story?”
“Are you drunk?”
“Are you fucked up at all?”
“Nightmares,” Lou says.
“I don’t know,” Lou says. “I’ve been drinking. But not like how alcoholics do. It’s a taste thing. I enjoy the taste more than the feeling. I enjoy how it makes my mouth feel like Novocaine. It’s not an addictive thing. Don’t look at me like that. I already knew what you were thinking before I said anything, before I came here. Stop judging me.”
“I’m not judging.”
“Stop thinking and just listen. Can you do that for me? Can you do me one last favor and just listen with an empty head?”
“Do I owe you something I wasn’t aware of?”
“You don’t owe me anything.”
“So what if I don’t want to listen?”
“But you will?”
“I’ll listen,” Cassie says. “But I know what you’re gonna say.”
“I’m having nightmares,” Lou says. “We’re in a house, you and me. And there’s like a couple dozen other people there, it’s a party or something. It’s dark in this house. And we’re all talking, I don’t know about what. But then all the sudden the walls start shaking. Paintings and photographs unlatch from the walls and crash to the ground and shatter. The foundation of the house begins crumbling, people are screaming, running for their lives, bedlam, a complete clusterfuck of limbs and bodies thrown about, running, screaming, bleeding, and all the while the house is falling apart, it’s crumbling. And we’re in the middle of it all, just kind of looking at each other, trying to figure out what to do exactly. Well, just then, as I’m looking into your face, and you into mine, the ground opens up. The ground beneath our feet literally cracks apart like an egg, a fissure begins forming twenty, thirty, forty, fifty feet wide. And all these creatures begin crawling out from someplace inside the earth, their skin black and shiny like oil and their eyes a horrendous yellow. They begin eating people. They tear people limb from limb, bite into flesh, and torture the living as they scream. Then they get you. They get you, Cassie, and grab you by the neck a start devouring you while you’re alive, and you’re staring into my eyes as they decapitate you, and once your head is detached you’re still blinking and breathing and looking at me, and you say, Why didn’t you do anything, Lou? Why didn’t you save me?” Lou drinks his coffee. He scratches his face. From his left pocket he removes a pack of cigarettes. “Then I wake up.”
Cassie removes a cigarette from Lou’s pack without asking for one.
“That’s it?” she says. “Are you fucking delusional. You drive seventy miles to tell me I get decapitated inside your mind every night?”
“Shit,” Lou says. “I forgot to say that before all of that went down, we were having a really great time, a fantastic time. Not just the whole party, but you and me specifically. We were happy.”
“And then I got eaten alive.”
“Yeah. Like I said, it’s a nightmare.”
Cassie looks at the jar. “Why that?”
“That,” Lou says. “Is the second part of the nightmare. I woke up, feeling like shit. This is the night after we”
– got fucked up-
-listen. I woke up feeling like I was going to throw up. Just sick as all hell, like I was out at sea or something. And then I did.”
“You did what?”
Lou looks at the slug.
“You what?” Cassie says. “Vomited?”
Lou nods. “Right onto my pillow.”
“Gross,” Cassie says. “Fucking gross, Lou. What the hell?”
“This is going to sound crazy.”
“Get it out of here? What is it doing? Ugh.”
“Just here me out,” Lou says. “What I’m saying to you is that this isn’t what it looks like. The crazy thing I’m trying to say to you, which is completely unrelated to drinking or being fucked in any way, which is not a byproduct of my instability–the total and absolute truth that I believe in my deepest heart, is that this…this is my soul Cassie.”
-Oh my fucking
-god dammit, Lou, get some fucking help
…Please,” Lou says. “When you left a part of me died, it was fucking horrible. I literally felt an inner atrophy. And then a few days later it just…exhumes,” he holds the jar up to the light. “It just comes out of me.”
“Yes,” Cassie says, standing. “You’re right. This is your soul. Poor thing, you poor poor thing. So sick, yes.”
“Get help, Lou.”
“This was my help.”
“Then don’t get help.”
“I tried putting it back in,” Lou says. “At first I kept swallowing it. But immediately I’d shit it out, whole, alive.” Lou lifts up his shirt. A deep, mangled scar runs vertically across his chest. “I tried to put it back in.”
Cassie looks at the scar. Her mouth slightly parts. She slowly raises her head and finds Lou’s eyes. What she sees before her is easy to pity. But more than that it’s disturbing, like watching someone moments before a preordained death. It is, in some ways, like witnessing a decapitation.
“Lou,” she says, blinking. “Don’t come back here. And get some fucking help, please.”
“Kiss me,” Lou says.
Cassie does not move. She does not make a sound. Lou leans his face into hers. He kisses her. His lips feel like sandpaper and his breath smells like cigarettes and raisins. She does not kiss him back. She allows the kiss to happen, as if for its duration her brain vacates her skull and then returns once he pulls away.
Lou places the jar on the ground, at her feet.
“Take care,” he says, donning his hat. “Of yourself and of our friend. If you neglect it you neglect me. If you let it die, I die. If you don’t believe me, then do what you want and I guess you’ll find out.”
He exits. Standing by the window, Cassie watches him get into his Chevrolet and drive off, a red cloud of dust hovering toward the highway. The slug ceases to move, except for its antennae, which gently quiver.
Written at 10:07 at night, in my office, in Agoura Hills CA.