This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
ONLINE STORIES COLLECTION
By C.M. Humphries
ONLINE STORIES COLLECTION II
2011 C.M. Humphries. All Rights Reserved. www.cmhumphries.com
T able of Contents
Never Taken . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.2 (originally published in Blood Moon Rising Magazine.)
Aftermath . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 10
The After Effect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 11
Day and Night . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 14 (originally published in Fashion for Collapse.)
Never Taken By C.M. Humphries I. Leaves crackled as a sudden gust of wind stirred the silence of Raven’s Crook. On the outskirts of the town—a place not much more elegant than the rest of the town, but more elegant nonetheless—Lindsey jogged on the weathered and fractured sidewalk, heading for home. She paid no attention to the coming nightfall, nor the leaves blowing around in small cyclones off to the side of the street. Fast beats and repetitive lyrics were the only items on her mind as she exercised to the tunes coming from her MP3 player strapped to her upper arm. Flickering streetlamps guided her way, but did very little to display suspicious happenings of individuals around her. From afar, one could see her dirty blonde ponytail bouncing up and down along with her buttocks; her leg muscles tightening and revealing bluish veins. Without a shadow of a doubt, her blood ran hot and sweet. From a corner, one could discover Lindsey perspiring from her forehead and around her neck. She was beautiful unlike most sweaty fitness junkies. Everything about her looked so inviting, even despite a presumably salty, deep sweat. Like an angel among mere mortals, Lindsey jogged closer and closer to her home with the slightest sign of fatigue or exhaustion. In her hands were nothing; not even a water bottle. She was well-trained to the point that she could head out for miles without
breaking or desiring something to eliminate dehydration. Four miles today, although she had not been the one to count. From a splintering and collapsing porch, her mother called out, “Lindsey, get your worthless ass over here and finish dinner,” as Lindsey crossed in front of her driveway. Lindsey turned into her driveway and pressed the square stop button on her MP3 player, and then looked towards the front door of her house. Her parents’ house, for one day she would be free. She had not heard a word her mother had said. “Did you say something?” she asked. “Yes, I said something. Jesus Christ, you and that dumb gadget Brian got you. You know, that boy is well-suited for you. He’s worthless too. Doesn’t contribute to arr socidity.” “Leave him the hell alone,” Lindsey called back. She thought he mother sounded like an angry pirate. Or a native to sticks of Indiana. “He loves me and one day we’ll leave this shit hole.” “Yeah, just like me and your father,” Lindsey’s mother said as she turned to head back into the house. Lindsey shook her head as she headed up onto the porch. She rubbed her hand across her head and removed some of the greasy sweat that had built up. “Bitch,” she muttered.
Inside of Lindsey’s home was what anyone could expect from looking at the outside. Worn furniture, an antiquated TV, the smell of burnt meatloaf and body odor. What topped it all off was her family. John, her father, was a man in his late forties who had never achieved anything in his life. For years he had switched between one name-tag job to another, and for awhile, he found himself loving unemployment. Then, his nagging wife made him get off his cottage cheese rear end and pick up a mechanic job. Well, he swept the garages at night and cleaned everything including the fecal matter on the toilet seats. As Lindsey entered, John remained on a ripped couch, beer in his left hand, remote in his right. “There she is,” he muttered as he eyed up a grease stain on his flannel jacket. “I have no idea where you got yer looks frem, but it sher as hell wasn’t yer mom. “ “I can hear you,” his wife called from the kitchen. “I wouldn’t look like this if you’d just git a real job somewhere, one dat can actually pay for a treadmill.” “Hell, woman,” John replied while keeping an eye on his daughter, “you’d need a fuckin’ surgery or two ta remove all yer gut. C’mon, Jan, you wouldn’t even use a goddamn tread.” “Um, I’m just going to go upstairs now,” Lindsey said as her legs turned towards an unstable staircase. “The hell if you arr,” Jan called from the kitchen. “I slaved all over this food and yer gonna eat it. It makes me sick to see how skinny you are.”
John laughed and grabbed his hair. “It’s only because yer mother never looked as good as you. Wish you weren’t my daughter.” He chortled some more. Lindsey gagged and darted for the staircase just as Jan came around the corner with a black dog that refused to walk. Instead, it just dragged behind Jan, on a leash, as it was brought to the front door. “Not so fast, young lady,” Jan said to Lindsey. “Take Rufus for a squat.” “Really?” Lindsey said. “Are you serious? I need to shower, I’m upstairs, and you’re there with Rufus in front of the door.” “Now,” Jan repeated as she let the chain leash fall from her hands to the floor. Lindsey just stared at it. He mother walked backed into the kitchen. Even from outside the door’s window one could see her resentment. Rufus stood up for a moment and the moved to a squatting position. “Oh no,” Lindsey cried out as she sprinted towards her dog, grabbed the leash, and walked Rufus outside. “Jesus H. Christ,” she muttered through grinding teeth as she brought Rufus to the side lot. From the porch anyone could admire Lindsey. She was like a white trash Cinderella. Or, was Cinderella white trash to begin with? “God damn it,” one could hear Lindsey say from her backside. As the dog relieved itself in the neighbor’s yard, a cold chill ran across Lindsey’s shoulders, she dropped the chain and looked behind her. Nothing. “Weird,” she thought
aloud. Another strong gust passed her by and the leafless trees waved goodbye as she trotted back inside.
Lindsey toyed around with a burnt chunk of something on her plate. Minus a bite, the square of meatloaf was uneaten. Jan was starting to notice her daughter’s lack of appetite. “My food not good enough fer ya?” Jan asked as she looked around the table. “Or arr ya just starving yerself again like those movie stars you like so much. Normal people just ain’t good enough fer you?” Lindsey ignored her mother and pushed her plate to the side. She scooted her chair away from the table and then left the kitchen. “See what you gone and done?” John asked his wife. “You sher arr stupid sometimes.” “Oh yeah?” Jan replied. “I’m stupid? Guess what she axed me earlier? Huh? Jist axe!” “What did she ask you earlier?” John stared at his food. “This does taste like shit. I don’t blame her.” “It’s just fine! Anyway, she axed me if she could go ta school—cal-ledge. Huh? Now who’s the dumb one? She doesn’t need to go to no freakin’ scam-school, now does she?”
John fought with a section of the meatloaf he had placed in his mouth. Jan stared him down. “Oh, what da hell you botherin’ me fer, anway? I don’t give a damn if she goes to some school. Maybe, she deserve ta.” “She doesn’t deserve a goddamn thing,” Jan said as she threw her plate against the wall. Meat and ketchup littered the yellow-stained walls and ran to the floor where Rufus was impatiently waiting. “We can’t even aff-ford no school fer her.” “Not if you keep breaking arr shit, we can’t.”
Lindsey sagged against the back wall of her closet-sized room, sobbing. How could her mother be so malevolent towards her own daughter? Man, how she just wanted to get her things and go. But, she knew she would never make it far. Her parents had no money, so neither did she. She felt like an outcast and was treated all the same. Nevertheless, she had always found strength and never given up. Lindsey stood up, turned around, and peered out of the window. Somewhere out there had to be someone else just like, waiting just like her for a shot at something more. Even mediocrity seemed redeeming. Then, like a ghost leering around the corners of a nightmarish haunted house, Lindsay saw a broad figure in the reflection on the glass. The dark outside world made her window like a mirror. A lump built in her throat and her lips began to quiver. Dad? Lindsey began to wonder—
--In one fell swoop, Lindsey turned around to meet the arms of a faceless stranger all before being grabbed, swung, and thrown out of her closed window. The world spun. And with a giant thud, Lindsey met with her gravel driveway as shards of glass rained down from her room. The world grew black as the stranger watched from her window while she faded away. II. Her eyelids stuck together as though glued. Lindsey fought to open her eyes. The more she fought, the more it hurt. A sharp pain shot across her face as she gave it one more attempt. A quick squirt of blood spilled along the cement floor in front of her, underneath a small, dangling light. Some of it ran down her face. While the blood was certainly startling, the sight before Lindsey was much, much worse. In a circle, five other young women were strapped to chairs—each one of them with their eyes clothes or dried blood along their cheeks. Clone-like. Staples sealed their mouths shut. Metal claps pressed their wrists against armrests. “Oh my god,” Lindsey wanted to scream before realizing that, she too, had her mouth sealed shut. She wanted to cry, but her eyes burned too much. She wiggled her lips around. Thank goodness, she thought. She felt a sticky cloth across her lips; not a steel plate. Duct tape, she told herself. Blop. Drip. The subtle dripping of water from a busted pipe suggested to Lindsey that she was in a basement.
Then there was the stranger. He wore a plain, white flesh-colored mask that bared no emotion. He was tall and fit. Such a man could very well flip a SUV on his own, which would make tearing a human being in half much simpler and much less grueling. He walked towards the girl closest to him, a weak light revealing only indistinguishable sections of his upper body. His face remained prominent, however. He took a deep breath and exhaled along the girl’s neck. Out of the five, this girl looked the closest to Lindsey. He said, “Do you love someone?” The girl shook herself in the chair as if she was being electrocuted. His question alone brought misery and pain to the girl. He asked the question again, and she still didn’t answer. The stranger pulled a large pocket knife from his right pocked and brought out the blade. He pressed it against her bottom eyelid. Though she could not see, the girl obviously felt the presence of the knife, for she squirmed and mumbled different pleads for her life. “Do you love someone?” he asked again, his voice deep and scratchy. At another failed response, the stranger ran the knife against the bottom of her eye and cut out the flesh. Underneath the plate, Lindsey could still hear her scream. “Answer me!” he demanded. Without giving her enough time to respond, the stranger whipped the knife along her throat. A monsoon of blood stained the girl’s white shirt and before long, her head dangling off the side of her neck, holding onto a few bones and veins as the flesh started to rip as though perforated.
The stranger walked over to the next girl and did the same. She even tried to answer. It wasn’t before long that Lindsey was one girl away from being dead. “And you?” the stranger said to the girl. This girl’s eyes were wide open. Her entire face quivered and her body went through convulsions. “Yes,” the managed to squeak out from behind the plate. The stranger grabbed the side of the metal and ripped it off of the girl’s face. Blood-covered screws and lumps of flesh fell to the floor. “What?” he asked. The girl spat out a pool of blood and struggled to form words with her deteriorated lips. Pressing the knife against the corner of her left eye, the stranger demanded a more proper answer. The girl only squealed. The eye rolled towards Lindsey as the stranger made his way along. Looking over at the girl, Lindsey discovered that the stranger had not killed everyone. In fact, two of the girls were only injured, though they might soon die from blood loss. Lindsey glanced back over at the stranger. He vanished.
Aftermath By C.M. Humphries Starlight pierces through a shattered window; reveals the trailer’s living room. Crickets chirp outside. Inside: shivering. On the couch lies a woman, kitchen knife slipping from her hand. A man’s sprawled out below, bat at his side. In the corner, a little girl hunches over a handgun with closed eyes.
The After Effect By C.M. Humphries
10AM flashes on the face of her cell phone rather quickly, and Missy finds herself frozen in front of the clinic. A bone-chilling drizzle spits from above. For some reason, the rain feels colder than ever. She shivers before she can even take a step, meaning she nearly convulses standing up. The first step stretches out an eternity like a bad nightmare. Her legs, though the kind of petite most young women desire, feel like they weigh more than her little hybrid car. She meanders towards the vehicle, worried that she has lost her keys. With that in mind, she searches her purse. Rummaging through make-up kits, assorted pens, and various things she once considered necessary, Missy struggles to locate her car keys. With her free hand, she pats her jeans. They are damp and start clinging to her legs, which is useful for checking pockets. Despite the aid of the rain and her persistence, she fails to locate her keys. Switching her hands, Missy begins to search the purse again. It’s not a knock-off; no one dared to even insist that. Said the purse was classy.
Cling cling. She hears the clatter of keys and panics when she cannot find them— Ah ha! They were in her hands all along. My god, she tells herself.
Key in door, then key in ignition. She is off, but not quickly. She drives hesitantly; well below the speed limit. The clinic falls into a blur of buildings in the distance, but it stands out like a diamond amongst crystals.
Not a minute past 11AM, she arrives home. Rolling up in the driveway, she notices the garage door closing. “Damn,” she mutters. Turn the key, take it out, lock the door. Swinging her purse over her shoulder first, Missy heads for the front door. Before she can unlock the deadbolt, the door swings wideopen, and standing in front of her is the man she made too many vows to. “How’s it goin’ honey?” he says with glee in his eyes and true excitement in his voice. It’s pure happiness, uncut like a good drug. “Well, you seem excited,” Missy mutters as she steps into the house, which is full of towering furniture and exaggerated immaculateness. “Certainly am. Two years dry, cold turkey. And now . . .” He steps towards Missy and leans over to press his ear to her belly. His eyes narrow and his smile sags. Missy just stands in the doorway for a few minutes, her eyes filling with hot tears. Her lips quiver. In one fell swoop, Missy yanks a few slips of paper out of her purse and shoves them into his hands. He takes one look at them while Missy sprints past, up the stairs, and into the master bedroom.
Her husband stares at the pages for a long time. His feels his face growing warmer. His gag reflex teases him. His stomach churns. The slips fall out of his hands and onto the expensive, oak flooring. Missy picked out the flooring. Said it was classy.
Day and Night By C.M. Humphries
For awhile I think I’ll never wake. Every night, for as long as I can remember since Jen was taken away, I’ve ended up in the same town square. I’m never sure where exactly, but I know it might be somewhere in Lovington, the second-most crimeridden town of Chase County. No lie there. They have less crime than Raven’s Crook, Chase County, but in my night terrors, it’s all the same. Something always lurks behind me, an ominous presence breathing down my neck. I travel the flooded streets of this town with Jen at my side, windowshopping in front of bakeries, pawnshops, and jewelry shops. The jewelry stores usually capture her attention, and consequently mine, but we both know it’s beyond our reach. For the most part, we can’t even afford the pawned off jewelry. But this evening feels different than the rest and closer to being reality. This is the evening that I had a little to spare, so we bypass the bakeries and pawnshops. Instead, we enter the real deal: Ralph’s Jewelers, home of unique cut diamonds rings and pearl necklaces. Despite their commercial claim, they are almost the same as the other pawnshops, but there’s prestige to a jeweler, right?
A sterling silver anniversary pendant necklace is the item of desire, whether or not she knows it. I think it would be something nice for a change. Soon, I find the necklace in my hand and I’m reading the inscription. I can’t make out the words. Even though they say you can’t feel physical pain in dreams, there’s not much written against real emotions. “It’s beautiful,” Jen says before I notice the police officer in the far corner eyeballing his gun. Nothing seems suspicious about that, for some reason. “Down!” the cop shouts, and in a retrospective slow-motion, I recall everyone slowly dropping down to their knees; hands over heads. But not Jen. Not at first. Her instinct involved bravery. I flashback to the day I forgot about the grill. Flames soared high, and the lovely fire department’s phone lines are unresponsive. “All circuits are busy,” that mysterious voice said to me. Really, the fire department? To my surprise, Jen rushes out into the yard, ABC extinguisher in hand. Probably not the best technique, but she fights every flame to its dim death. And now she wants to save everyone in the jewelry store. Some madman dressed as a cop waves his gun, and all at once, she forgets about everything else, even the closest person to her. And I do not mean me.
* Then I really wake up to the gray world, where I’m once again in a dark living room. If I would’ve known I’d pass out like that again, I would’ve have struggled up the stairs, to my bedroom. Hell, I knew. I just hoped I wouldn’t pass out. The night terrors have become too much to keep enduring. The quivers, the cold sweats. I can’t do it anymore. In a haze, I lean over towards my cell phone on the end table. The touch screen reads 8:04AM. No, I mean 4:08 in the morning. Sometimes I do that. “Shit,” I mutter. I never want to sleep, yet even when I succumb to the sensation, I receive or steal no more than ten winks, or about five fence-jumping sheep. I can’t take it. I hear something tap and look at the clock again. Why can’t I figure things out? It’s 8:04 for sure. Jumping out of my seat, I rush to the blinds and peer out. Contrary to my first instinct, there is no one out there; no UPS or FED-EX truck. Nada.
Even with the lack of delivery men, I scurry to the front door, like a child rushing to a Christmas tree littered with presents on Christmas Day. That was the plan for our child: spoil the shit out of him or her. Hesitant, I reach for the door knob. The turn. The gasp. The click. I rip the door open, slamming it against the front wall, and I allow a blue sky to have a peek of my face for a few seconds. It’s hard to bear much of the world these days. It sickens me that everything still moves and still goes on, despite my life feeling static. There’s no one at the door, though. There never is. However, a small package sits at my feet, addressed to my wife. Why would anyone do this to me? I step outside and breathe in the fresh air coming in from the lake. Glancing around, I can see an elderly woman strolling around the block with some children. I bet those are her grandchildren. There are also two girls on bikes and a group of friends heading down towards the beach. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed living at a lake. Disappointed, I turn around and stare at the box again. I feel the need to open it. And I think I’ve made a great mistake once I rip away the masking tape. How?
Knowing nothing better to do, I pull apart the box and find myself staring at cotton. Just a necklace box. Empty. I feel like there’s something to it, a greater meaning of sorts. Maybe I just can’t see it, so I remain outside, clutching the case close to my chest, and I observe life passing me by. I notice a strange thing. Clouds look like clouds, not animals. And the streets are nothing more than pavement. The world holds no analogy or metaphor. Only during nights do these things morph into flooded dark streets and the inviting jewelers. Awake the world is always constant and brighter like a sunset in the country. And all this means nothing to me compared to the empty box in my hands.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?