“Live! And have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.”

-gwendolyn brooks

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I was obsessed with the lights across the yard; magnified by the low thrum of the bass. . The way the breeze ran through my tights every so often and the weather, I could feel it. Not just in my knees but between my fingers: 68 degrees and dropping. I could feel the wave of people as they circled us and Sansom was obsessed with watching me sway in the middle of the yard, unruffled by the movement around me. My curt, tight smile that sometimes flashed a fang.. The way I swatted his hand when he tried to touch my thigh.
“I wanted to know the fabric of the garter.”
The way I cocked my head to the left and my mask: black latex, plain, tight shined bright under those starry little lights.
“What’s your name?” he said again.
My lips were drier than they looked but I had just applied a new cherry lip gloss and I decided to kiss him on the mouth to keep him quiet.

  I had taken a few hits more of the lavender joint and felt free and strange and Sansom and I danced a bit. Giggling amorously towards him, he didn’t mind my constant denegation.  I let him suck my neck for a second when I thought no one was watching but then I pushed him gently back.
“What’s your name, mate?”
Pointing to his name tag, he smirked and then pointed past me. I turned to see a crowd circle around the fire. Four people were carrying chairs and others were sitting down on the logs that were already there. Their movements seemed synchronized. It’s the weed. It’s their masks. They floated in the lights. I was gazing upward at the lights missing the announcement, letting Sansom’s tongue glide its way up to my right earlobe. Now, holding my hand: mine, and leading me towards the fire. The angel somewhere scowling, gone. My knees numb from standing.
“Here,” he led me to  a white wicker chair that felt reserved for someone else but here I was. Taking his place on the log next to me, he continued stroking my knuckles and I hadn’t talked to anyone else the entire time. There were two women in front of me: both in all black and both had jet black bob wigs, or so I thought, black masks like mine; plain and red lips like mine, black long fingernails. Kind of like mine except mine were red. They were dressed like twins. And I was dressed like them.  I smiled. They smiled. They had fangs.
“Here you go,” someone tapped me.
I turned around, saw the other pirate hand me the joint. The angel must be here.
“Oh, no thank you. I’m ripe.”
He shrugged and passed it to Sansom who gestured to him to bend over so he could whisper something. Something in my stomach hurt. I grabbed it on instinct and felt the walls closing in. Next to me sat another man in a white folding beach chair. He was dark with dark features and a wild metal mask: blue with silver designs, kind of like swirls and the edges looked like they could cut. Decorative, you would see it hanging on a wall. . He was wearing a shiny blue suit to match. And a cape. My gaze lingered on him because when he moved the suit changed from blue to silver and because I recognized him.
“Ok!” A woman in a long white dress clapped her hands.
I shot back. I could feel the twins eyes boring but I focused on the leader. She had short pink hair and a flower crown and her name tag read “Freya.”
The man with the dark features unprovoked leaned towards me and said, “Originally, the theme was a midsummer’s dream in outer space.”
I saw that the top of his mask had two pointy antlers on top with balls on them. Like the old alien suits. It was blue too the coil springs, the balls, the headband.  My mouth dropped open but I don’t know why.
“We are going to play my favorite game,” the hostess continued. “It’s called Thirteen Stories and we only play when there are thirteen people left.”
I turned back and she looked right at me. Lowered her head in a nod as if including me. That I am the thirteenth in the white wicker chair. My right leg was trembling slightly. I bit my lip. I turned to the fire.
“For those who are new, it is a Halloween tradition. We each tell a story; a scary story and the person who starts sets the theme. Everyone must follow the theme.”
A guy to the right of my dark friend held up a beer my direction. I could see him in my periphery. He raised his eyebrows at me. I shook my head no. Suddenly, I was paralyzed. My leg was shaking but I felt unable to speak or swallow. I felt unable to move my hand from Sansom’s hand and to move my hand from the chair.
“We then each tell a story that follows the theme and whoever goes last….”
I don’t know how I got here.
“…they are cursed.”
I don’t know how to get up.
“Legend has it, the rest of the year, they will be living this story. So it is in your best interest to go first, or to jump in fast.” 
“Wouldn’t we just tell a story in our favor, Frey?” a pink fairy looking woman asked.
I nodded.
I don’t remember how to walk.
“Well the theme of this year is the narrator’s unexpected death and I’ll go first,” she said.
Don’t get up and don’t squirm.
The first story is called The Woman Who Saw Her Own Death.”
Don’t breathe and don’t choke.

Inside, the place was lit with candles and there were a few mingling around the snack table in the kitchen but I could see past that everyone was out back.
“Here,” my friend handed me a joint. “It’s got lavender in it.”
“Perfect. I could use the relaxation.”
“You have beautiful eyes,” he said.
I did not tell him I was already stoned nor that I don’t do well in crowds but merely sucked the paper and felt it burn in my throat.
“Thank you,” I cough. “Take me to the backyard.”
I hand it back. We walk past the crowd and I realize his friend and the angel are behind me, shuffling and I hear her murmur but can’t make out what she said.
“First,” he says. “Pardon me, mate.”
I did not realize at first he had an Australian accent which made it more interesting.
“Greetings,” I say to the man he pushed aside.
I am seven inches taller than I am, towering over the women in the room.
“You have to wear a name tag,” he hands me a black sharpie.
“I don’t have to do anything, mate,” I say mimicking his accent.
“Haha,” he squints at me. “True. Where are you from?”
“The night.”

Outside, it was cooler and I was relieved to be out there as the weed was getting to me. The crowd was getting to me too.
“Unseasonably warm, yeah?” Sansom was blathering.
I found it hard to focus and kept nodding, clutching the seltzer in my hands. He touched my hand lightly admiring my long, red acrylics and it didn’t bother me though I hissed.
“What’s your name?” he yelled over the music.
It was an accordion synthesizer. There had been no lyrics since I had been standing here which felt like an hour but I was certain only fifteen minutes had passed. My eyes darted around the room. One index nail pointing to the name tag.
“Isn’t that part of the game? We don’t tell anyone?”
Everyone was wearing a mask of some sort. The angel had one of those ones you held the whole time with big white feathers at the top and pearls lining the edges. All white.
“How did you get here?” Sansom asked.
“I walked, mate.”
“Haha, I mean, like, who invited you?”
“You did.”
I touched his arm and he forgot the rest.

“Excuse me.”
We should match.
My cape hit a woman’s mini skirt as I balanced myself on my right foot, baring down and feeling the shock through my knee; a sudden current of flame. Twenty five blocks in and in closed toed black velvet knee highs to boot. Letting a little ssssts escape my mouth,I stood up straight so as not to aggravate my thigh any more, draw attention, centering my torso and with grace (and because I didn’t want to touch anyone), I paused. I faced the women and then pulled my  left heel straight out of the crack.
“Excuse me,” I said again to the Barbie in all pink sequins.
Not jealous but dazed, amazed at her attention to detail; her hair pulled back, tense. I remember what that felt like as a kid; so tight the creases of your forehead hurt. Maybe she’s a mermaid. She had a turquoise shell at the top of her head, pinned. Neat. Blowing her cigarette my way. Her nails long, clear with just the tips colored silver and sparkling. Blue eyes. She winked at me. I nodded, dizzy for the moment and back in time.
We should match.
“Excuse me,” I repeated, turning to the rest of the crowd.
“Excuse me,” I barrelled
“Excuse me.”
Politeness was the indelible torch I carried. Way was made and things broke at the green light. The crowd was just out front of the building for a smoke. The clacking of my  heels became louder as I moved away from the speakers, the crowd, a blaring of a horn somewhere behind me. Some blue eyes. My knees on fire.
We should all match.
“We should all match,” I say out loud.
I picked up the edge of my cape and tossed it over my shoulder so it hit him as I passed. Underneath my hood, I smile but I don’t turn around and I don’t reach out.  Thirty blocks in and counting. Heels clacking. Knees on fire: resolute and willful.

I could hear their caroling before I even arrived, at least ten feet from the door; the chorus of guffaws and low fi. That’s how I found them.  Walking up to the door with nothing in my hand save the same red and white straw I’d been gnawing on for days, covered in my saliva, anyone who touched it would be dead. My key around my neck attached to one gold chain.
“Hi there.”
A group of two men and one woman turned towards me. The men were both pirates, I supposed. They had patches on their eyes and the woman looked like an angel in all white with wings and a little white halo, gold star streamers dangling down.
“Hi there,” the man nearest me said leaning on the railing. Holding a beer can in his hand, he gestured to blue cooler at the top of the stoop. “Want one?”“No, thank you.”
“We have other party favors,” his companion interjected.

They were  both wearing black and white striped shirts and black palazzo plants and a red kerchief so they matched. Leaning on opposite railings, they looked similar. Both had sandy brown hair though one was a little taller than the other. I could only see the one on the right’s name tag: Samson. She was on the ground, leaning on the bottom part closest to the window. From my periphery, I could see her arms were crossed and her hair was long and dark. I could also see a little orange pumpkin light glowing from inside.
“Oh yeah?”I kept my focus on Sansom.
A tingle went through my right arm as she eyed me up and down but didn’t say anything. I didn’t look at her once.
“Would you like to come in and see?” the taller man  on the left said. The one who offered me the beer.
“Yes,” I smiled real big showing my fangs. “I would love that.”

you? you will know me by
the devil etched squarely on
my thigh and my ascetic
right arm, twitching
for something to grab,
my left nail picking
at the scripture
In God We Trust,
circling a web on
my inner elbow
now red
from the plucking.
my nails are unpainted,
filth-tipped and broken.

my clavicle is jutting,
as are my eyelids,
sharp  and
neck perched, gazing upwards
and down at you,
the long legs beaded with sweat,
tongue lolling,
panting,
you found me exhausted
and

watching it drip
from my lips
like little fits of rave
and fury; my concern
not being water,
or the saliva
leaking to my bottom lip
but posterity,
warning.

I clear my throat again.
excuse me.

you invite me in.

“the women”

 

My entire life has been informed by the absent space between us; not the physical space but more the way I succumb desperate to the craving for distance. Strolling, vapid seeing nothing but a way past. The pervading eyes and I am (smiling) seeing the space close in around me.  I’m a shell. Inside a buzzer goes off to clench my jaw, to tighten my shoulders. The way there was once twenty feet between us. To suck in my waist and to walk straight, don’t fall but I am picturing something or just ticking like that. The way you tic from nerves and I looked too gaily upwards. Maybe a pleasant thought crossed me. Suddenly there was ten feet (I am smiling), then five, then one foot and then a ubiquitous hand on my shoulder, on my middle back, my lower back and “you’re too pretty …” falls from the sky.  (I am still smiling) and the way they trail their fingers further down. But in a huddle. They are all in a huddle. So many of them. 

It is important they tell me I am too pretty to frown.
“the men”

we needed a spark.
I grin full tooth to
show you my new
porcelain canines.

“We are obsessed with exposure, and prefer to take the initiative, to expose ourselves.”

 

–Louise Gluck

 

I am  walking behind three hooded women in some sort of cave. they are carrying torches so all I can see are the outlines of their bodies and a foot ahead of them. I am not looking ahead of them. I am staring at the back of the woman on the left’s cloak when she turns around. they are all in black robes. they all look the same from behind. she says, you’re lucky, you know. but I couldn’t say anything. physically, I couldn’t move my mouth. the cavern opened to a well. the three women parted and walked around it but I couldn’t see them anymore. I walked closer to it. 

I wake up. I don’t know what time. I turn to the nightstand for my phone when I see her at the foot of my bed. cloaked, she is sitting on the floor, kind of leaning to the side. comfortable like she’s been there for a while and her eyes are green though I know it’s her. when she smiles, I know it’s her. she says

does she kill for you? does she kill for you? kind of hisses it. I can see the corner of her lifted aristocratic brow and her lips are painted a flame red. then she begins to stand.  pressing her arms into the mattress, I feel the weight of the bed move downward. I am not terrified but paralyzed. I can’t say anything. I remember feeling like I couldn’t say anything or move and in her full stance, she was much taller than I remembered. 

“Artemis”

 

from a young age, I cherished quiet. I cherished secret games. the color game I played a lot. I would spend hours in my room alone. as long as I spent outside with friends, I spent alone.  it was soothing, the deprivation. I was often immured in noise or tension so sometimes I  would place my head face first into the pillow and begin to see little colors form everywhere.  squeeze my eyes real tight to see the colors pop and change shape. I could do this for a while, often hiding under the covers to do it. I would pull my eyelids shut or I would stick my face into the bed hard and my retinas would burst like a kaleidoscope. depending on the lighting of the room, depended on the colors you’d see. if you shut your eyes and stare up at the sun, you’d see a burst of red. or if you were under water sometimes it bled: a green spot that slowly spread like a spill on a paper towel. I couldn’t explain the pleasure or the phenomenon to anyone, I just enjoyed the visions it produced without understanding why sometimes I saw orange and sometimes I only got  black static like a tv was out.   it was my secret eye game. a solo activity i did in my room or when I was swimming privately away from my friends. playing with the sun, playing with the shallow end. resting on my daybed.

however, I’m impressionable and one time I saw an episode of Unsolved Mysteries where a couple was listening to a ghost through a pillow and then the wife was possessed. or she floated up to the ceiling maybe even without being possessed. I think she was possessed but for dramatization they made her float.  the beginning music of Unsolved Mysteries scared me enough so that every time I hear it still, I wince. it was the rejection of closure that the series provided. these madmen and mad paranormals are still here.  for years after that particular episode, I had a hard time laying down flat and listening to the pillow. a hard time laying down having to sometimes sit up suddenly.  listening to the buzz that reverberated from each window from the telephone wire outside, I swore I could hear them.  I opened my eyes to look at the closet and felt the closet was responsible. a woman lived in my closet and came out at night to mate with me. I didn’t tell anyone for fear they would disown me for the pleasure I got at six from her sex. 

she was not a color. she was a force. but when I closed my eyes, I felt yellow. 

 

“the color game”

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