Alex felt his lower back tingle as though bedbugs were marching in place on his skin. No matter how he rubbed, scratched and itched, the feeling would not subside. Alex prepared a slew of excuses in his head, picking out the best one. In the last few minutes of his class, Alex silently rehearsed his lines.
“Excuse me professor,” Alex intercepted the tall, bespeckled man.
“Yes, young man how can I help you?” He paused, a puzzled look crossed his face.
“Alex? Is that you? Since when did you start growing out that beard?”
“Y-you see, that’s why I’m stopping you,” a flash of panic ran through Alex’s mind. It was too soon.
“I-I-I’m,” Alex’s carefully crafted lie had disappeared into recesses of his mind.
“I can’t attend class tomorrow. There’s an emergency.” Alex was finding it difficult to speak.
“I’m sorry to hear that, you know that without a valid medical concern I cannot excuse you from this test.”
“It truly is an emer-gen-CY!” Alex struggled to growl out the last syllable.
“Alex, your tone of voice is inappropriate. I’m sorry, but without a valid medical concern, you simply cannot be excused.”
Alex clutched at his sides. He let out a beastly roar. Everything was happening too fast. He needed to get as far from these idiots as possible. But it was too late. He fell to the ground, doubled over in pain. It was as though fire ants had taken up residence in his very bones. Moisture flooded Alex’s eyes and clouded his mind. He vaguely heard the professor let out a yelp, turn, and run down the corridor.
The door to the classroom opened, a woman’s head peeked out to watch the man running for his life. She looked down at Alex, crumpled over on the ground, steam rising from his engorged, exposed back, the bone threatening to split through the skin. The shirt Alex had been wearing had torn down the middle, the fabric falling down his arms. The woman joined the professor in yelping and fleeing down the hallway.
To the fleeing onlookers, Alex looked like a giant, growing fleshy mass. His spine protruding upward, his shoulder blades carving mountains into the tautly stretched skin.
Suddenly the skin tore open, blood spattering ten feet in every direction. For just a second, the sinewy mass quivered and paused as if to compose itself. Slowly. Deliberately. Four limbs reached out, exposing a large canine head. An impossibly large, naked wolf stood where Alex once knelt. Skin and hair sprouting to cover the exposed muscle fibers.
The transformation complete, the large canine prowled the now empty hallways. The sun had set, the moon was up. And for the first time it was free to do as it wished.
Taylor sat at his computer, staring at a pair of glasses he’d digitally modeled on his computer. He tapped the tip of his stylus absently on his desk. He pursed his lips and furrowed his brow. He had made a few adjustments to the bridge, nudging a few curves outward, contouring the area to fit his nose better; he wondered if he had fixed the fitment issues, or made them worse.
“Taylor! I said dinner is READY!” He heard his sister yell from down the hallway.
“IT’S GETTING COLD.” She somehow belted even louder. Unfazed, Taylor sat back in his chair and massaged his forehead. She said that everytime she wanted help cooking.
“TAAAAYLORRRR.” His little brother was calling for him this time.
‘Et tu Rory?’ Taylor thought to himself. Convinced, he got up from his chair. Before he left his room, he hit print. The 3D-printer in his room hummed and rocked gently. He closed the door to his room and walked to the dinner table. To his surprise, dinner actually was ready.
“I TOLD YOU! YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME.” Emma looked angry.
‘First time for everything’ Taylor thought, wisely remaining quiet.
“You’re doing the dishes.” She said before storming off to her room. Taylor heard her sister complain as she walked past his room.
“Whatcha printing this time?” Rory asked.
“Glasses.” Taylor replied.
“Another one?” Rory looked intensly at the glasses Taylor was wearing. “What’s wrong with those ones?”
“It doesn’t fit my nose.” Taylor said, pulling off his glasses. He pointed at the bridge.
“So I widened the gap here and dropped the whose thing down a millimeter. But when I did that, I had to recontour the lens area so I can reuse these lenses.”
Rory nodded. Taylor appreciated the honest interest. Rory’s phone blinked and buzzed on the table. Taylor examined his food. Spaghetti. He barely registered the burnt meat and overdone noodles, he was still wondering what other tweaks he could have made.
“Here, give me your plate.” Taylor said as he finished eating. Rory didn’t look up from his phone as he pushed the plate toward Taylor’s expecting hand. Taylor took the plates to the sink and dropped them in with the others. He moistened a sponge before throwing it in the microwave for a minute.
“Why do you do that?” Rory asked.
“Can you wipe down the table?” Taylor replied.
Rory tucked his phone into his pocket and grabbed a paper towel.
“Because it kills the bacteria.” Taylor opened the door to the microwave a second before the timer ended, a small cloud of steam spilling out onto the countertop.
“It suppossedly kills the bacteria.” Taylor corrected himself, waiting to reach in to grab the steaming sponge.
“Really?” Rory asked as he dropped the dirty paper towel into the trash bin.
“I suppose so.” gripping the sponge with his fingertips, Taylor deftly flung the it into the sink.
“Huh,” Rory examined the steaming bright orange porous block. “I guess the steam and heat kills it or something.”
The boys stood there for a minute, steam rising from the kitchen sink. Emma poked her head out of her room. She looked at them staring at the sink.
“Why are you guys just standing there?” Emma sounded less than pleased.
“The sponge is hot.” Rory answered, as he walked to his and his brother’s room. He left the door ajar.
“Can you please turn that thing off? I can hear it all the way in my room.”
“Taylor’s printing out his glasses.”
“He already has glasses. Why does he need another one?”
“Because they don’t fit right.”
Emma gave up. She closed his door and retreated back into her room. From the kitchen, Taylor could hear Gilmore Girls playing from Emma’s laptop.
Taylor dropped a glob of soap onto the warm sponge and cleaned the tomato sauce from the plates. He scrubbed the dried cereal from the bowls abandoned in the sink since morning. Setting the dishes aside on the drying rack, he dropped the silverware into the dish washer. Ironically, they never used it to wash dishes. Just the silverware, pots, and other utensils.
After rinsing his hands, Taylor dried them off with a paper towel. He used it to wipe down the counter surfaces before retreating into his room, the 3D-printer humming in the background.
“DOTA?” Rory asked as struggled to get up from the beanbag chair.
“Can’t,” Taylor hunted around in his swimming bag for his lotion.
“Why not?” Rory slouched back down.
“I have to finish this college app.” Taylor found his lotion. He massaged it into his cuticles and knuckles.
Rory made a vague disapproving grunt.
Taylor didn’t respond. He sat back at his desk and pulled up his college application. He’d read it countless times. In fact, the application was already complete. He just needed to hit submit. But Taylor couldn’t find the confidence to. So he read it again.
An hour later, Taylor heard his parents get home.
“Hey Dad?” Taylor called out from his room. “Can you read this?”
“What, your college app? Did you change anything?”
“No,” His dad said, stopping by Emma’s room to give her a kiss and a hug before finding the boys. Rory had fallen asleep, his phone blinking and vibrating.
“Son,” his dad hugged Taylor, “Just submit it already. It’s good. It’s fine.”
Taylor crossed his arms and stared at the submit button, his mouse cursor hovering over it.
“Look,” His dad sat on the bed. “Sometimes you just have to go for it.” He paused for a moment to loosen his necktie. “You’ve seen my lectures, they’re not always good. But I don’t know that until after I’m done speaking.”
Taylor heard his 3D-printer chime. His glasses were done.
“You can prepare for everything, but something will always catch you by surprise. And that’s a good thing. It makes life interesting.” His father got up from Rory’s chair and walked to the door. “That reminds me, did I ever tell you the story of how I met your mother.”
Rolling his eyes, Taylor got up to retrive his new glasses, pushing his dad out of the room in the process. At his desk, Taylor fitted the arms to the frame and tried them on.
‘Huh.’ Taylor blinked and looked around the room.
He popped the lenses from his old frame and inserted them into his new ones.
'Huh.’ Taylor thought again, looking around the room. He didn’t notice any visual artifacts. The glasses didn’t slip down his nose. He shook his head side to side, and adjusted his glasses out of habit instead of necessity.
‘First time to everything’ Taylor thought.
Tristan felt cheated when the lady at the crematorium handed over a small tin of ash. Jack weighed nearly 70 pounds when he died. What Tristan held in his hands were the remains of a gerbil or cat, not a full grown Boxer. Tristan mumbled a curt “thank you,” and walked outside to the waiting truck. He climbed silently into the passenger seat. Gabriel put the pickup into reverse and pulled out of the gravel parking lot. He headed west toward the mountains.
Gabriel waited for Tristan to speak. Jack was Tristan’s dog; the only one home when Tristan got back from school and the only one awake when he rose to catch the bus.
“They didn’t give me all of ‘im,” Tristan whispered.
Gabriel glanced at the tin in Tristan’s lap. ‘Maybe it was just the bones?’ Gabriel wondered. ‘Had they given them the wrong tin?’ ‘Do bodies shrink when they’re burned like that?’ It took Gabriel a few minutes for him to come up with anything to say.
“Sure they did,” Gabriel paused, “Why wouldn’t they?”
“Because it’d be too hard to carry a fifty pound sack of ash back with us.” Tristan replied, tears welling up in his eyes.
“Wanna go back to get the rest of him?” Gabriel asked.
“…no,” Tristan wiped the moisture from his eyes, “they probably just threw it away or something.”
The truck came to a red light. There were no other cars this far from the town. There the brothers waited in silence. The light turned green. Halfway through the intersection, Gabriel decided to turn left.
“W-where are you going? Home’s that way,” Tristan pointed out his window.
“Lets take a detour,” Gabriel replied, “I know a place where we can spread Jack’s ashes.”
“But.” Tristan thought for a moment. “I thought we were going to bury him. In the backyard.”
“Nah.” Gabriel replied, “Jack deserves better.”
“O-okay,” Tristan agreed hesitantly, “But where are we going to put him then?”
“Hanging lake,” Gabriel said.
“Yeah, okay.” Tristan nodded slowly, “I like that.” Tristan patted the lid of the tin, “You hear that boy? We’re going to the lake.”
Gabriel smiled. “Remember when he was just a puppy and we went hiking for the first time? He like, couldn’t handle being outside.”
Tristan laughed softly, “Yeah and we had to like, carry him half the way up.”
“Yeah, and when we got to the lake, he didn’t want go near the water.”
“That’s because you through him in!”
“Did I?” Gabriel sifted through his vague memories, “I don’t remember doing that.”
“You waded like halfway into the lake and dropped him in the water.”
“Oh yeah. I did. Didn’t I?” Gabriel thought for a moment. “Eh, but isn’t that how all things learn to swim? You drop them in the water and see what they do.”
“Oh my god. What is wrong with you?” Tristan laughed.
The truck pulled into an empty parking spot. The brothers stepped out of the truck and started walking to the trailhead. The sign read ‘4.8 mi to lake’.
“Oh yeah. I forgot how long the hike is.” Gabriel squinted at the sun. They had a good four hours of daylight. He looked at Tristan, still holding onto the tin with both hands.
“I’ll go get water and a backpack,” Gabriel walked back to the truck. Tristan looked around for a spot to sit. He found a familiar rock and sat down, waiting for Gabriel to amble back. Tristan heard a dog bark and fly out of the trail. The dog stopped and turned around, looking back expectantly for his owners. Shortly thereafter, a tall bearded man and equally tall woman jogged out to join their dog. They noticed Tristan and waved. The dog started running to the car. The couple smiled at Tristan and jogged to join their pet.
“Yo,” Gabriel approached Tristan, he had changed into a pair of hiking boots.
Tristan stood up, “Took you long enough,” he started walking up the steep incline, both hands still holding onto the tin.
Tristan grew impatient. Gabriel was stopping at every break area.
“Ah. Shit.” Gabriel rested his elbows on his knees. “I’m so out of shape.”
“Really? We’re right here. It’s like. Just over that ledge.” Tristan pitied his brother. Gabriel used to hold his high school’s record for the 5000 meter run. That had been almost five years ago. Tristan had broken it his first year on the team. The coach just needed to swap out the G. for T.
“It’s the altitude, I swear.” Gabriel got back on his feet, “Providence is at sea level. I flew in like, three days ago remember?”
Tristan rolled his eyes and jogged up bounding up past the ledge. He frowned, “Uh, sorry to disappoint, Gabe. It’s just over the next ledge.” Gabriel sighed and trudged along the dirt trail, trying to keep up with his little brother.
Gabriel whooped in relief as they reached the top. Bounding past his little brother, Gabriel took off his boots and socks mid-stride.
“Right here.” Gabriel was standing ankle deep in the frigid water. He turned toward Tristan, “Lets put him right here.”
Tristan handed Gabriel the tin. Opening the lid, Gabriel waited for Tristan to take off his shoes. He hopped off the embankment and stood with Gabriel.
“Um,” Tristan furrowed his eyebrows, “How do we do this?”
“Uh,” Gabriel didn’t know, “I don’t think there’s a wrong way to do it.”
Reassured, Tristan grabbed a handful of the ash. He took a couple steps deeper into the water. He paused. A gentle breeze took a pinch of the falling ash, taking it toward the center of the lake. Tristan tossed the ash up into the air.
“See ya buddy.” Tristan stood for a minute, watching the ash float away in the wind.
“Thanks for everything.”
Landon made his way into a large, mirrored room, the overhead lights flicked on automatically. The fluorescent tubes humming as they warmed up. Landon noticed one of the tubes wasn’t as bright as the others. He would make sure to stay on the other side of the room during his practice bouts.
Landon dropped his bag and took out a pair of calf length athletic shorts (he refused to call them capris) and a long sleeve shirt. He took his clothes with him into the bathroom. He locked the door behind him and unbuttoned his shirt, hanging it a hook behind the door. He pulled on his t-shirt and tugged on the neck hem. Landon felt constricted. His shirt was clinging a little too close for comfort. After changing into his long athletic shorts, he took his regular clothes off the hook and folded them neatly before heading back.
Landon adjusted his glasses as he stepped into the mirrored room. He nearly tripped as he backpedaled out. Michelle was stretching in front of the door. She looked up at Landon.
“Sorry,” Landon spoke softly, “I didn’t know you were here.”
“What?” Michelle asked, her voice seemed to boom in the mostly empty room.
“I didn’t know,” Landon spoke with a little more confidence, “You were here.”
“Yeah I just got here. My chemistry class ended early.” She adjusted her sports bra and plucked at her shorts. “The teacher,” She shook her head, “Professor. Whatever. Thought our reaction would take more time. But we finished. And I left.” She made a puzzled expression at Landon.
Landon realized his arms were frozen in a half-raptor pose. He quickly brought his arms down, gripping the bundle of clothes in his fingers. Michelle smiled awkwardly. She started bouncing on her toes. Landon sidled past the airborne Michelle and made his way to his bag. He tucked his clothes into the side pocket and started to stretch.
Michelle bounded over to Landon and got into a low lunge. Landon winced as he felt something in his back twinge.
“Your back again?” Michelle asked.
“Yeah.” Landon said softly, pushing his thumb into his lower back.
Michelle cocked an ear toward Landon, “Dude, you HAVE to speak louder. I can barely hear anything you’re saying.”
Landon stood tall and groaned exaggeratedly. With hands on his hips, he pushed forward arching his back.
“Bloody hell,” Landon projected loudly in a fair approximation of a London accent, “This is torture. Absolutely unjust. When I was your age, I too was lithe as a willow. Now look at me. The ravages of time be unfair.”
Michelle snorted out a short laugh. Landon had a penchant for melodrama. He started again, but clamped his jaws down when a few other fencers entered the room. Michelle greeted them enthusiastically. Her conversation settled on one boy in particular. Landon watched Michelle as she moved her weight from foot to foot. Landon turned to the side and reached down for his toes.
Landon was jogging around the room, when Mr. Bouchard entered. The fencers aligned themselves into two rows. Landon found himself displaced off to the side, under the dim, discolored fluorescent tube. They started drills and practice bouts.
Landon found it hard to focus. He knew his timing was off. Mr. Bouchard berated him on moving his arm unnecessarily. Landon focused on keeping his shoulders from moving too much. Apparently, his attacks were far too easy to read. Mr. Bouchard came around again. He berated Landon on his footwork.
Landon needed a break. He waved over one of the new fencers who was slashing at the air. His fencing partner taught the freshman a few new parries. Landon walked over to where his bag had been relocated. He pulled a water bottle from the side pocket opposite his street clothes. He sat down a comfortable distance from Michelle. She was drawing up a mini-tournament.
“Who do I fight first?” Landon asked.
“Some underclassmen. They’re pretty bad. But they’re tall and have long reach.” Landon nodded, he was the tallest and most veteran fencer on the men’s team. He supposed Michelle wasn’t fond of the new bloods, idiots who just wanted to hit people with swords.
“After that, you’ll probably face whoever’s left.” She paused for a moment.
“So.” She paused again. “How’s Chris doing?”
Landon looked at one of the fencers. Quick on his feet, he effortlessly ran through the new drills against his opponent. He looked like he was dancing.
“The blonde one?” Landon spied tufts of ash blond hair poking out from under the mask.
“Yeah.” Michelle face flushed slightly, “I’ve never seen him before.”
Landon looked at the mysterious fencer, “Huh, I guess he’s new.” Landon envied the lightness of the stranger footwork. He wondered if gravity makes exceptions for certain people.
“You might have to face off against him,” Michelle said, “tell me if he’s any good, okay?”
“Sure,” Landon said softly. He took one last sip from his water bottle before donning his mask. He picked up his sword.
Landon faced off against “Chris.” He managed to get in two touches at the start of the bout, countering his opponent’s overly aggressive flunge. But his opponent was learning; Landon backpedaled too much. For the next two touches, Landon had found himself backed up against the end of the piste. Landon grew irritated.
“En Garde,” ‘to hell with it’ Landon thought to himself,
“Prez,” Landon shifted his weight,
“Alle-” Landon stomped on the ground as hard as he could and lunged deeply at his opponent.
A woman walked along the beach. Thick, exaggerated sunglasses hid most of her face. That and the ridiculously large hat she was wearing. Aside from her hat at glasses, she wasn’t wearing much else. A few triangles of fabric covered her groin and breasts. When she was married, she never dared to show off. But today marked her 35th birthday and a newfound freedom. She was sure the universe was sending her signs. A sort of “welcome to the rest of your life.” half the house, the car, the bank accounts. Today was a going to be a good day. She layed a towel on the beach and looked around. It was quiet for a Friday afternoon, just the way she liked it
John dreamed about skydiving. He had been 22 years old when he first jumped out of an airplane. He had just graduated from the University of Arizona. He hoped to go again, but too many things got in the way. Besides, he had more important things to do. After all, he had his own office, having graduated from the cubicle life. He had a new car. He had a nice apartment just south of the city. To top it all off, he had a steady girlfriend. John had everything he thought he ever wanted. Still, John dreamed about falling from the sky. Suddenly, John’s leg cramped horribly. He cried out, sitting up quickly to at his hamstring. The sudden movement promptly tossed him into the water. Disoriented, John flailed wildly, his hand colliding with the large paddleboard. Clinging to the mass of fiberglass and wood, he waited for his leg to relax. Clambering back onto the board, John heaved for air.
A small boy ran after his dog. He grew frustrated with his small feet and the shifting sand. If he knew how to curse, he’d curse his short, uncoordinated legs and the dog that refused his affections. He opened is mouth and let out a squeal. Suddenly the ground was in his face. He was confused. His mouth was full of the gritty sand. He made a mental note to never eat sand. Before he could right himself, He heard his father exclaim “ohmahgad” and “itsokaybabyitsokay.” Large human hands appeared, seemingly from nowhere, gently wrapped around the small child’s torso and lifting him into the air. Instinctivly, the small boy reached for the nearest handholds. In one hand, he gripped the tough fibers of his father’s beard, in the other hand a fold of his father’s shirt. The small boy was dizzy. The sudden change in altitude was disorienting. When his nausea settled down, he promptly vomited his lunch into his father’s shirt pocket.
John sat up slowly on the board. His heart still racing faster that it should. He looked around. He wasn’t too far from shore. He looked around for the paddle. He couldn’t find it. His heart rate picked back up. He must’ve dropped it when was napping, or perhaps when he fell off the board. Cursing under his breath, he flopped onto his stomach and paddled to shore. He was in good shape. A thousand meters wasn’t that far. John had swum farther distances before.
A young woman reclined in a wooden chair atop a wooden fort with the word “Lifeguard” painted in faded red letters. She was gently rubbing her eyes with the sleeve of her lifeguard t-shirt. She’d just taken out her color contacts and thrown them onto the sand below her elevated hideout. They’d been bugging her all morning. She had been in such a hurry, waking up at her boyfriend’s house. She didn’t have time to clean up. Eyelids raw from the rubbing, she rummaged through her purse and found a small mirror. She had smudged off most the makeup; a few clumps of mascara still clung to her eyelashes. She picked at them with her fingertips.
John heaved for air. He couldn’t go any farther. Luckily it seemed a woman wearing an absurdly large hat had seen him waving. He was dehydrated and sunburnt. Relieved, he sat back down on the paddleboard. He wondered how much longer until the lifeguard came around in a boat to pick him up. He laid back down for just a minute. His sunburnt shoulders prickling with complaints. He looked up at the sky. His vision going white, as if the sun was bleaching out the colors.
The woman went back to her spot, adjusting her bikini as she walked. She shrieked as she swatted at the dragonflies that had found her tanning spot. She hated bugs more that anything else. She couldn’t understand why her ex-husband loved camping so much. She blamed the his coworkers. They were geniuses at times, buried in their work, at other times they were insufferable idiots, running off into the woods with an ounce of weed and bottle of Jack. She refused to dwell on the thought any longer. She laid back down and stretched out in the sun.
The lifeguard looked around frantically. She had radioed for a paramedic before she jumped into the boat. She found the binoculars and scanned the ocean as the other lifeguard steered. The sun was setting. It was hard to make anything out. The boat passed by a number of surfers, she cursed under her breath. Had she gone too far?
The little boy ran down to the shoreline, his dog firmly affixed at the end of a leash. He looked at his father, wading out into the waves with his clothes on, trying to wash off the peanut butter and jelly sandwich his son had ate and regurgitated. The dog barked and pulled the boy to the waterfront as a man on a large surfboard washed up onto the shore.
John lay faceup on a stretcher. He didn’t remember getting back to shore. He could hear a dog barking. John blinked his eyes. He saw a young girl standing over him. She was talking to a large man who turned to look at John. He felt himself slipping. He couldn’t make out any of the words the large man said. John felt cold in his groin and lungs. He closed his eyes. His head hurt. He was slipping off the stretcher. He felt himself get picked up. John was sure he was falling. He never felt himself hit the ground.
Six Months of Selfies
I spent the first six months of this year taking selfies, tracking the progress of my face. 487 pictures later, this is the result. I hope to continue this study, gathering data on my face for the months to follow, as follow up on the long term efficacy of isotretinoin therapy.Also. Hair.
"Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is."
Day 3 #rtx2014
Day 2 #rtx2014
Day 1 #rtx2014