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Black Eyed Kids: The Story of Jamie Cyan
by Devon Pitlor Prologue: Jamie Cyan stared into the endless black void of their lifeless orbs and came to understand that the unknown boys had a singular mission, and this mission concerned him and him alone and had nothing to do with washing their hands or reading in his house.
I. Whatever happened to Jamie Cyan? What did happen to the once-great child actor and singer? Silam Hershkin, “the Cutter,” was determined to find out, and to this end Cutter Hershkin had unleashed his entire crew, his investigative staff, otherwise known as Cutter’s Diggers and Drillers. And they had found next to nothing. Three hours before broadcast time, Cutter sat in front of a half-melon shaped ashtray overflowing with the stubbed out butts of at least three packs of cigarettes that Cutter had consumed one after another. Cutter slapped his palm against his forehead more than once and swore at everyone that got near him. Mostly his maledictions went like this: “We are going to fucking bomb tonight…implode with our
own boredom…do you hear me? The public wants dirt. They want me to live up my reputation and cut as deep as I can. The little snotty son of a bitch doesn’t have a thing to cut into…” Nevaeh Lark, Hershkin’s main backstory writer, broke in: “He’s not a little son of a bitch anymore. He’s thirty-seven now and seems to be very happy with it.” “Well, he shouldn’t be. Who has seen the snotface in the last ten years? What has he done, starred in? He’s hosted a few celeb reunions, done some commercials and a walk-through on a serial or two. But other than that he’s zippo, zilch, zero. With the odds that run against flash in the pan child actors and teenage heartthrobs, he should be dead of an overdose or a motorcycle accident by now. Instead, he’s perfectly pleased to live out in Mirandela and play with his yacht. We don’t even have a sex thing on him. He hasn’t been seen with a girlfriend in twelve years, but no one can pin him down as a fucking faggot. At least that would get some ratings. Instead, we have a calm-ass guy with a totally private life that none of you paid snoops have been able to unearth a thing about. There is always some crap buried somewhere, and you brass tits have less than three hours to find it, or I’m going to can the lot of you. Now get back out and find me my wedge before showtime.” Nevaeh, a seasoned celebrity stalker, slunk out of Cutter’s office. Cutter returned to the swell of papers he was studying. Reports by other celebrity hounds. Old lurid yellow press clippings. Overseas photos from gigs in Europe and Asia. There was nothing. Absolutely
nothing. Fourteen years of relative obscurity. America’s prime child actor and later teenage idol, the hottest item in the media for almost twelve years, had simply given up the spotlight and slipped into obscurity, living comfortably and apparently contentedly off his enormous earnings as a one time celebrity. The cutest boy in the world he was once called. Rumors of girls committing suicide for him were once common. His singing engagements with a plasticated, trumped up pseudo-band had netted him millions. His product spin-offs and endorsements billions more. His interviews up until his so-called retirement at age twenty-three…oh shit. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, Cutter knew. Cyan had grown older and lost his boyish cuteness, but he was supposed to be struggling to regain something, some hold on the fans, some new recast into a fresh re-posturing. He was supposed to be out creating scandals with underage girls or movie stars --- or even other boys, for Christ’s sake. He should have been taking the risks that bored has-beens choose, driving fast, using stimulants, playing Russian roulette, cutting his face and arms with razors, getting creepy tattoos…something. He should have been making news. But for all that he had once been, Jamie Cyan had simply grown up and out of the public eye. He gradually faded from the music scene altogether, and his occasional television spots were poorly rated and none were ever designed to be any sort of revival. Jamie had made all the money he would ever need in life and had wisely invested it too. He lived in a huge and paid-for sprawling five level house in
Mirandela behind a wall, but he was not reclusive. Even that would have helped Cutter Hershkin get an edge on him. Cutter could have been the first person to get an interview in years. But Jamie was not that way. He talked to reporters and television interviewers whenever asked, and he usually demanded only a small recompense for his interviews, which, none of them, were ever more remarkable than the bland story of Jamie’s happy retirement itself. Cutter did not believe a word of it. Cutter smelled the same masked pile of shit he could smell with any celebrity. At age seventy-two and the victim of two triple bypasses, Cutter was not going to be proven wrong by a kid that just dumped his fame in the wastebasket one day and walked out the glare of outrageous popularity with money still left in his pocket and a genuine smile hanging on his face. No, that didn’t happen in Cutter’s world. And Cutter Hershkin had a reputation to prove it. That was what had prompted him to arrange a live appearance with the “has-been” on his weekly show, and this now appeared to be a dreadful mistake. His sponsors would know it as soon as the insipid interview aired. Cutter needed to make something happen and he needed to make it happen fast. II. What Silam Hershkin didn’t know Nature had been very kind to Jamie Cyan in several ways. Not only had the fates bestowed him with one of the most symmetrical and beautiful faces possible, but life had also given him a father who knew how to manage money and actually give valid advice to a thirteen year old who was grossing around forty million dollars each year. Not only
did Jamie listen to his manger father, but he also believed him and followed his advice, and it was no exaggeration that he was more than financially solvent for life by age eighteen. He owned a beautiful and secluded residence, several motorcycles (which he never raced or drove too fast) a lot of cars that he could have but never did operate recklessly. But one of nature’s best gifts to Jamie was his totally calm and even temperament. Jamie knew from the start (and his father also confirmed it) that he had very little acting or singing talent and that his gargantuan fame was based almost solely on his looks, and, strangely for the explosively eminent teenager that he became, he also realized that his looks would not last forever. This sort of early realization was singular among child media prodigies. This was not to say that during his all too brief heyday that Jamie did not reap the social benefits of his immense popularity and good looks. Scores of teenage girls followed his every move, and often as he neared later puberty, Jamie took advantage of situations with particularly aggressive and/or attractive girls, but his dalliances were subtle and usually veiled, despite the constant and relentlessly intrusive press surveillance that he attracted. Drugs and alcohol also emerged as passing teenage fads, to be experienced and, strangely, in Jamie's case dismissed without obvious abuse, and as the years ticked on, following his retreat from the glare of the world's harsh spotlight, the issue of recreational drug usage began to eventually disperse as even a passing interest in the young man's mind. In effect, by age 37 Jamie Cyan had managed to break the gruesome mold that all too often led child stars to perdition, addiction, depression, ruin and even death. Jamie accepted the passing of his fame with few regrets and enjoyed an
occluded life wherein pleasures remained private and, above all, nondestructive. Nor was he given to sermonizing about his clean living, which at times was not all that clean. He simply enjoyed what good fortune life had offered him in his early years and faced the future with a kind of disinterested tranquility that enraged those, like Silam Herschkin, who made a living from chasing down the most damning facets in the lives of stars both past and present. Jamie had, however, a flaw or two, as we all do. One of his flaws was that he shared very little of himself with anyone save a select few friends and his ever-present father, who even in later times guided Jamie's decisions and actions. In short, Jamie became almost reclusive and nourished the idea that the world was usually perched to exploit him if he allowed it. This fear of entanglement with others became suddenly the central focus of a rather dramatic revelation on the Cutter Hershkin Show during his one and only appearance. III. Cutter Hershkin's digging pays off...or sort of. Cutter, whose nastiness was concealed behind a very congenial camera personality and a reputation for knowing the stars, felt four minutes before the airtime of his weekly show that he had found a crack in Jamie Cyan's wall. A staff aid named Donovan Bliss, a sneaky little "digger" to be sure, plopped a hand-written note in Cutter's hands just as the backstagemen we applying the usual cover makeup to the old man's knotty face in his dressing room. Donovan smiled knowingly, made a little bow, and walked away quite satisfied with his finding. It was, after all, the only grime that had ever been
dug up on Jamie Cyan, and it might have some potential. Cutter, in the unforgiving glare of his dressing room lights, glanced at the note and smiled to himself. He was fortunate to have such a wily assistant, and just before taking his place at the interview table on stage, surmised that whenever he dropped this bombshell, his ratings would automatically be salvaged. Little did he know before showtime that Jamie was in a position to turn the information against Cutter and emerge, as always, an irreproachable if boring example of a fallen superstar that had actually escaped the curse of his status and milieu. The early interrogation allowed Cutter to unveil absolutely nothing about the clean-living and overly comfortable ex-teenage idol that was not already known. No drugs. No wild parties. No affairs with underage girls or other trendy celebrities. No homosexual liaisons. No nothing. Jamie Cyan, citizen, was just that, monotonously regular and tediously well-adjusted. After the first commercial break and Cutter's rapid burning up of two cigarettes, the two resumed their seats and Cutter prepared for his notorious slash. It was now or never. There were two more sequences in the show, and if Cutter didn't find his drill tip now, channels would start switching all over America. "You employ the services of a well-known and very high class agency for call girls," Cutter sneered. "May I ask you why? You could have found girlfriends and or wives in a dozen places, but prostitutes, as it were, often visit your house. I assume they carry the necessary health department certificates with them, and you avoid disease, but still..."
Jamie straightened up in his seat. He raised his chin slightly and pushed an winning grin across his face. "That's right," he answered enthusiastically. "Totally correct. I have not desired a permanent relationship with a female for years, and even before that it was always of little interest to me. I am not the marrying kind, and the entanglements of a relationship or marriage have always been just another part of this fake celebrity world that I seek to avoid. No nasty divorces or rumors for me. I use the services of a perfectly legal dating service whenever I am in the mood and leave it at that. No continued attachment, financial, emotional or otherwise. For me, the solution works. I am not advocating it for everyone, but it does avoid the spillage and destruction that marks this city and this state and this country. So I willingly admit that I have brief and truncated dates with some very beautiful women, and nothing ever goes any farther than that. Cutter, how many times have you been married. Seven, I think it is? Seven women, seven divorces, seven ugly scenes where you lost possessions and created a media stir. That is the kind of life I have always wanted to shun. I'm happy with the little I have. I don't need scandal or controversy. I hope you and your viewers can understand." Cutter almost banged his balding head on the table. He did not understand. But fortunately for Jamie, the press, the critics, his former fans, the world in general did. Jamie got the ratings for Cutter that night with his brute candor, and the reviews praised his frankness and ability to break out of a stereotype that was often viewed as a blight on the American stardom scene.
"He should be dead by now," muttered Cutter after the show as Jamie walked calmly out to his taxi. "He should have overdosed..." But Cutter's words fell on deaf ears. Even those present in the studio had come to respect Jamie and his immaculate openness. Cutter emerged as the pervert and Jamie the hero. Strange and unaccustomed as the story was, it should have ended here, but it did not, as well shall presently see. And that became, if there ever was one, the real story behind Jamie Cyan. IV. An evening of quiet happiness Jamie Cyan, former teenland sensation now thirty-seven, healthy, thriving, content and serene about his future, sat in a chaise-longue alongside one of his best childhood friends, Dennis Darbion, drinking a tall rum and coke and watching one of the most spectacular sunsets that Mirandela Bay could offer. The balmy Pacific breeze wafted across the pool deck, scattering various open newspapers here and there. Tomorrow a domestic would clean everything up. Today the newspapers still contained the news: Silam "Cutter" Hershkin, interviewer of stars and scathingly trenchant television personality, was dead of a heart attack at seventy-three. His funeral would be at Beth Ezra and was scheduled for the next day. Thousands would attend. There would be police security. Jamie also had plans to attend, though he could not explain to Dennis exactly why. It was
something about the television-land community all supporting one another. Jamie had once one-upped the famous Cutter, and that made him feel a kind of special closeness, a closeness that Jamie enjoyed with precious few. That was precisely the angle that Cutter Hershkin should have taken, thought Dennis, though he said nothing. His thoughts ran far back to their boyhood and his years of friendship with the once-famous Jamie Cyan. Yes, Cutter would have done better to ask why so few people were admitted into Jamie’s circle, and why even those who were there, like Dennis, were only sort of there. There was a cold barrier that separated Jamie from the world. It was more than just his loathing of female liaisons. It involved, Dennis knew, a kind of possessive selfishness. Jamie was self-centered, materialistic and not one to share his life with anyone. It was a hard shell that he had erected around his person years ago, and for all the world, it was successful, and, Dennis noted to himself, it hurt no one. Or did it? Dennis knew only too well that at the zenith of Jamie’s fame and during the years of its waning thereafter, there had indeed been a woman. That was something that Cutter didn’t know. If Cutter were still alive, it was something that maybe Dennis could have sold him to use in a second live interview. But Cutter was dead now, and it was too late. The woman’s name was Fallon Sorensen, and she was dead too. Dead at age twenty-eight and under circumstances that were never completely discussed out of deference to Jamie. But she had been there, a beautiful unknown from somewhere on the Canadian prairie, and she had slipped totally under the beacons of the prying onlookers
who at the time still eyed Jamie for a possible story. Very few knew the whole truth, even Dennis, but there had been a sort of buried romance. Jamie had harbored actual feelings for Fallon, and then one day she was struck by a passing truck as she walked, presumably home, during a rainstorm along the side of Route 50, the Coastal Desert Drive. Her death had been a freak mishap, and, surprisingly, she was never linked to Jamie Cyan. Jamie had kept it that way. He had not even acknowledged knowing her and most certainly had not attended her funeral. Her body had been whisked away to Canada, where bereaved parents knew and cared nothing for anyone called Jamie Cyan. Their daughter had gone to California for the same reason that all pretty, aspiring actresses do, and some person or thing had caused her to be on the side of a busy highway during a rainstorm. That was all they knew or would ever know. And Cutter Hershkin could never connect the dots because Jamie had never given anyone the slightest trace of a link. And that evening, poolside at Jamie’s expansive domicile, Dennis knew better than to bring up the event. It was twelve years ago and just one of those topics that was totally off limits---to everyone. Still, Dennis mused, he would have sold it to Cutter if he could. Right now he was in need of some money, and asking his old childhood friend for a lifeline was as totally out of the question as discussing the long-dead Fallon. As the sun dropped under the horizon and the final, vivid colors of sunset faded to silver gray, Jamie stood up suddenly, smiled at Dennis and said “Well, that about does it for me tonight. Cutter’s funeral is
early tomorrow. Need to get some rest.” And Jamie meant it. He would retire to his gigantic bedroom and watch his wall-sized flat screen television until he fell peacefully asleep while the rest of the coastal colony partied the night away. Dennis could stay in a spare room or leave. It was all the same to Jamie. As Dennis Darbion showed himself to the door, his head filled with the directional vectors leading to other watering holes along the coast where he would be headed looking for financial succor or maybe just female company that night while Jamie slept, it occurred to him that Cutter was right. Jamie was the most self-content person who had ever lived, and other than this little mystery regarding Fallon Sorensen, there was absolutely nothing to distinguish Jamie Cyan from a happy cow blithely grazing in a lush field of endless grass, and Dennis, despite their long friendship, began as did so many others, to hate that. His final thoughts upon leaving was that nobody could be that perfect, that exultant, and that maybe the key to his financial salvation was to hire a detective and re-open the Fallon Sorensen case himself. After all, the networks would not take long in replacing Cutter Hershkin, if they had by now done that already. No, Dennis felt disgust for his old friend, not loyalty. On the way out, he tucked a silver chafing dish under his shirt. It was just another Jamie-thing he could exchange for cash in a pawn shop and by far not the first thing he had lifted. V. After the funeral of Cutter Hershkin
When the big event was over and the police had directed the huge crowd of attendees back to their cars and away from Temple Beth Ezra, Jamie Cyan felt a certain satisfaction in that he had seen a lot of old “friends” milling by Cutter’s open casket. Also, he had seen Cutter, naturally, all powdered and rouged up and looking ten years younger, his hands artificially folded over his chest. A more realistic portrayal, Jamie thought, would have been to position his palms on his forehead as if he were pounding it in frustration about his ratings. Also, at the service, Jamie had met a young woman, an aspiring singer of some sort, in whom he decided at length that he might even find some potential romantic interest. He had taken her phone number and promised to call. But since he never did call, her name is immaterial here and there is no need to mention it. Cutter’s funeral, sad as it was for some people, had been rather social and exciting for others, and Jamie had been one of these. I really need to get out more, he concluded. These kind of thoughts had been rare for Jamie in the last few years. With plans to call the new woman and revive a few old acquaintances, he went home, poured himself some expensive barrel cured whiskey and settled down once again beside his pool. The domestics were finishing their daily rounds and preparing to vacate the house. Jamie greeted each one congenially. He had always maintained excellent relationships with his hired help, or so he thought. What he did not notice was that some were planted spies left over from the days of Cutter Hershkin and others, like his friend Dennis, were constantly pilfering small, saleable items from his house. Jamie, always at ease with himself, had no idea that most of the rest of the world held him in mild contempt.
It was a kind of unsettled day on the oceanfront. Huge billowy dark clouds drifted in from the Pacific and cast temporary shadows over his pool deck. A temperate breeze seemed to screen the promise of a possible cyclone, but still there were enough patches of joyful sunlight to match Jamie’s enhanced mood, and, as always, he was blissful with his life and where it was leading. His possessions were many and all visibly arrayed before his satisfied eyes. His transition from fame to relative obscurity had been painless. His bank accounts still bulged. Common sense and some sensible shields against the stupidity of the celebrity world had prevailed. Money, thought Jamie with unconcealed glee, really is life's report card. His happiness at that moment of his life seemed boundless and inalterable. But, as Jamie was soon to learn, this happiness too, however sane and however deserved, could evaporate quickly, and it was going to. VI. The black-eyed kids It must have been the taller one who had knocked at the patio door. He looked to be about eleven, and his companion, somewhat shorter, may have been eight or nine. Both seemed normal enough at first glance, probably boys from the neighborhood going door to door to collect for some team or asking for some lawn work to earn extra money. But they had bypassed the front gate somehow, and that set off a small alarm. Nonetheless, thin wiry boys like this could jump a brick fence easily, Jamie knew. He had been one himself. Though never so bold as to approach a stranger's enclosed patio.
Nevertheless, Jamie wedged open the wooden door and asked them what they wanted. "Please mister," said the older boy, "can we come in and sit down and read? We don't mean you any harm. We just need to come in and read." "Read?" said Jamie taken aback at the odd request. Then the remnants of slowly fading daylight made it possible to take a better look at each boy. They were dressed as most kids of the era: jeans, black tee-shirts, unremarkable if not dirty sneakers. Their hair was medium-long and fell down in random tendrils over their ears. Their teeth and mouths seemed in good proportion...but then the eyes. Jamie noticed them at once. Both boys had totally black eyes, from the sclera to the iris to the retina, jet black orbs that fixed him with a sort of blank intensity. They had no visible pupils, just more deep blackness. The eyes of demons, Jamie thought. Somewhere in his mind he knew he had read of such things, beings with black eyes who wandered into people's houses and asked for favors. Now there were two of them outside his patio and both pleading, almost demanding, to come in. Jamie felt a sudden jolt of raw panic and lodged against the door with his foot. The older boy took a step forward and glowered at him with his featureless and hollow eyes. "We need to come in. Now." "Why? Are you in trouble?" The younger boy stepped up and fell in behind the older one. "No,"
he said very plainly. "There is no trouble. Not with us. We just need you to let us in so that we can sit down and read." The slender night breeze blew a few fallen palm fronds across their feet and ankles. But the boys moved no farther than a foot from the door. They did not seem poised to force their way into Jamie's patio. But their jaws were set in a determined clench, and their black eyes never deviated from meeting Jamie's astounded gaze. Jamie noted that their voices seemed far more mature than what one would expect from kids their age. Then he observed the skin of their faces and bare arms. It seemed healthy enough, perhaps even a little olive-colored, but upon closer examination in the dimming light, it became more transparently ashen than olive. The boys, however, seemed fit and well fed. Both had a good physiques and the beginnings of tight, healthy muscles. A sense of inexpressible dread washed over Jamie Cyan. For the first time in his life, he felt truly invaded. In the first place, the boys had crossed the fenceline onto his property, and secondly they were too close to a door that he had not fully opened. Jamie sensed a growing malice as they continued to stand there waiting, showing small signs of physical impatience, for him to fully open the door and invite them in. They repeated their request, each one of them separately, once again. Jamie felt his pulse rise, and his breathing became at once heavy and labored. The boys were exacting some sort of terrifying and macabre influence over him. Perhaps it was hypnotic and perhaps it had something to do with their utterly sinister black eyes. In any event,
Jamie had no intention of letting them in for any reason. But their insistence and unwillingness to give a little ground and back up led Jamie to question them further: "Exactly what do you want to read?" Jamie was almost stammering. The mind-numbing apprehension which had started in his stomach had by now worked its way up to his chest and throat. The smaller boy shifted his balance to the left and tried to peer past Jamie onto the patio. The taller boy held his ground, not lifting his gaze from Jamie's eyes. "I'm not sure," said the shorter one. "We can find something. We need to come in. That is all." The older boy held up his palm at a strange angle from his head creating a dry shadow across his frozen face. "My hands are dirty," he said. "That is unsanitary. I need to wash them. Please let us come in." Jamie recoiled suddenly from the door. He had, however, failed to close it, and he saw beyond the waves of his now all-embracing terror that neither boy advanced toward the partially open door. Then one of them repeated "You need to say it is okay. You need to invite us to come in. That is all." "That is all," echoed the other. "That is all," repeated the first.
Jamie saw the lights suddenly come on around his patio and realized it was fully night now. In the cracked doorway, both boys, unchanged, stood in the yellow pool of security lighting that illuminated the patio entry. Jamie realized that he needed to walk back and close and bolt the door. It did not matter who these black eyed kids were or where they came from or what they wanted to read or whether their hands needed washing or not. He needed to protect himself and his property. He needed to call the police. He needed to act fast to safeguard his life. Something hideous was developing outside of his patio door. He needed to move sideways to the wall and punch the security button, which would summon the compound guards, who could if need be call the Mirandela police. But he remained frozen and immobilized by fear. The button reminded him that he had often needed to deal with intruders, mostly from the meddling press, in his earlier days. That was the original purpose of the security system, though in recent times it had certainly fallen into disuse. Trembling with an unaccountable horror, Jamie called out to his visitors once again, his voice hoarse and broken: "Who sent you? I mean really. What do you want? Where did you come from?" With an unearthly precision, the boys answered in perfect vocal unison. "No one sent us. We want to come in and read and wash our hands. We don't come from anywhere. We are just here. That is all." As the wind from the Pacific picked up into a kind of minor night gale, their voices seemed to bounce off the patio walls and come from everywhere at once. There was now an eerie shimmering quality to
their words. "Get out of here and don't come back," shouted Jamie breathlessly. He broke the grip of fear holding back his body and moved forward to shut the door. Then one of the boys, most probably the older one, said loudly but with a exact and hewed calmness: "Cutter Hershkin was wrong about you." That simple sentence caused something in Jamie to turn over and restrengthen his resolve. The mere mention of a reptilian prober like Hershkin made him realize that he was perhaps not being confronted with demons from beyond but by very real media snoops. It would not have been the first time. Jamie knew he needed to lay this aspect of his earlier life to rest, and much of his gripping terror dissolved into anger. It was a situation he had dealt with before and would deal with again. This was Southern California, and the media spies would go to any length to get their stories. Even to the degree of sending children. Angered now, more than scared, Jamie moved toward the door. VII. Dennis Darbion That night as with every night, Dennis Darbion, childhood friend of Jamie Cyan was sitting in a chic and modish lounge drinking mostly at someone else's expense. Dennis had a kind of public charisma that caused most strangers in bars to open up to him. He often let it be
known, especially after a few drinks, that he had been a childhood friend of the once-famous Jamie Cyan. "Who?" said the bartender, annoyed at a name he did not recognize. "Who?" said a woman of the night perched on a barstool that was more or less reserved for her nightly presence. And a few others said "who" as well. No one within earshot seemed to remember Jamie Cyan. After all, Jamie had dropped mostly out of sight over twelve years ago. In a celebrity culture, flashy and temporary icons wink on and off, and Jamie's bulb of brightness had definitively dimmed. Someone shoved some bills into the jukebox and a crude but Caucasian-modified pseudo hip hop tune filled all corners of the lounge. Anything Dennis said from this point on would be drowned out by the music. That was well and good, thought Dennis. His intent was just to get drunk anyway and maybe find a gratis female companion for the night. Mentioning a has-been like Jamie Cyan no longer got him any coinage. He raised two fingers to the bartender and fished around in his pocket for some bills. The bartender, a fat man wearing a stained white coverall, brought him a clinking drink and told him to put away his money. "Drink's covered," he grunted, pointing over his shoulder to a thin woman at the far end of the bar. Her face was obscured by the glare of the hanging bottles and the overhead neons. Dennis, wanting to thank her, got up and stole over to her side. She had a sort of lackluster baldness to her face that acted as a shield against the sort of
anticipated sexual bullshit that Dennis traded in. "I'm Nevaeh Lark," she began, "and don't bother to tell me about you. You are Dennis Darbion, old friend of Jamie Cyan's. I used to snoop for Cutter Hershkin. They buried him today, and they buried my job as well. In fact, we all got fired. That's normal. The new host will have her own crew." "You worked for Hershkin?" "Yeah, that's why I know who you are. I also know you hang out with Jamie over there in Mirandela. The man has no friends, and I suspect you are not much of friend either. It is easy to detest that guy." "I know," said Dennis. "He's as cold as chiseled marble. When I think about it, he has always been that way. No real friends. No attachments." "Well, not quite," said Nevaeh shifting in her chair. "I'm from Pittsburgh, and tomorrow I am going back there. I'm out of this celebrity rat's nest forever. I'm going to try my hand at some bona fide journalism. I finished raking over the slime pits." "Good for you," said Dennis eyeing his empty glass and hoping that Nevaeh could meet the expense of another drink for him. "Good for you. This is no place for a bright young woman like you." Nevaeh nodded at the jaded bartender to bring two more cocktails.
Then she turned her body toward Dennis, crossed her long and rather shapely legs and continued. "I was at Cutter's funeral today. It's amazing how many people the old nasty son of a bitch got. But he made a lot of people rich with his exposés, and I suspect that his replacement, this Oakleigh woman, who is a prime bitch, will do the same. You remember Jamie's last interview?" "Yeah, he made a fool out of Cutter. That didn't happen often." "He made a fool out of all of us. But if it had been just one day later, I would have had something. You know, I hate that asshole just because he is so perfect. And I know you are an insolvent leech and need some money, so just for the spite of it, I am going to tell you what I learned just twenty-four hours after the airing of that last interview. My flight leaves for Pittsburgh at ten, so don't even think about thanking me or inviting me somewhere for a nightcap. Just take what I tell you and carve your old buddy down a notch. That will be thanks enough. I've come to abhor perfect people. Guess that is something that wore off on me from Cutter." "I'm all ears," said Dennis Darbion, already planning on a visit to Oakleigh whatever-her-name-was, the new interview host, Cutter's replacement. "About twelve years ago there was this girl named Fallon Sorensen. Jamie had an actual fondness for her." "Not news," grumbled Dennis. "I know all about Fallon. He kept her
a secret, and she went along with it. She claimed to love him. But, then again, everyone loved him back then." "Not the way Fallon did," rejoined Nevaeh. "I mean she really loved him, and she gave up her career in acting just to be his secret shadow because that was the only way he would have it. All indications point to the fact that he was starting to love her too. But he would not allow anyone, and that means anyone, to see them together in public. They used to meet in Glencrag Morrow up on the coast just to not be seen. One press shot of her with him would have sealed her career, but she faithfully went along with the secrecy he demanded. That was how much she was in love with him. She was willing to forfeit everything, and, you know, for that piece of shit, she sacrificed her life." "I know she was hit by a truck on the road, but I don't know why she was out walking on the road in a storm." "Because they were headed back home, and he suddenly told her that they were finished. She jumped out of the car at a stop sign and walked off. He was thinking something about her proving her true love, so he sped off in another direction and didn't even try to stop her. His plans, I think, were to call her the next day. He liked to test people. He was testing Fallon. Only he pushed her too far. Some witnesses, who have always chosen to remain silent, say she stepped purposely into the truck's oncoming headlights. Of course, no one will ever know. Her remains were shipped right away back to Canada, and her family never allowed even one interview. But what I learned is totally within keeping with the creepzoid's character. Don't
ask me my sources, either. It was like suicide or near suicide, and the skanky little bastard never showed a dribble of emotion, but, it was said he suffered. I got that from someone pretty close to his household." "So what can be sold in this story? A bunch of blank sources from a journalist in a bar about to disappear back east." "All you need is to tell Oakleigh about Fallon and the meetings at a resort in Glencrag Morrow, Teagan's to be exact. Got it? Fallon Sorensen, Glancrag Morrow, Teagan's Retreat. That will be enough. Oakleigh files her long claws and skeds another interview with Jamie, and Jamie agrees because he always likes to show off his perfection, and Oakleigh pops the question, and Jamie melts down, and, believe me, from what I've heard he will melt down. That was probably the only time in his life he was in love. You can also mention they went to a clinic in Nevada and got a blood test, a pre-marriage blood test, and here is the address of the clinic and the date. Their real names will be on the records." Nevaeh Lark slid up and off the barstool and handed Dennis a small sheet of paper folded in three twenty dollar bills. "Leave a tip," she said and then, without looking backward, walked out. The next day, after sobering up, Dennis Darbion would make an appointment with Celeb Television's newest driller, Oakleigh Mynter, known as the Shark.
VIII. Jamie admits the black eyed boys While the chance meeting of Dennis Darbion and Nevaeh Lark was unfolding in downtown Palm City, Jamie Cyan of Mirandela, scarcely three miles away, had made a bold decision, driven by the anger of what he perceived as yet another violation of his privacy, to open his massive wooden patio door and invite two young boys into his house, boys with jet black spheres for eyes, boys with strange, sonorous and uncharacteristically mature voices, who only wanted to come in and wash their hands and read. The dark stickiness of the Pacific nightfall was enveloping everything beyond the reach of the patio side floodlights, when Jamie found the strength to pull open the door for the strange duo, who still stood side by side with set and firm expressions, glaring out from hollow, black lifeless pits where the optical windows of their souls should have been. The boys, upon Jamie's weak invitation, entered the enclosed patio, and each seemed to automatically rotate to a position first to the front and then to the back of Jamie. They both circled him in this way for a minute or two and then settled on a position which they maintained, and despite how or where Jamie moved, he was encircled so to speak by two boys. He could turn his head to see the one in back, who turned out to be the shorter one, and look straight ahead to see the taller one standing before him. At once upon taking these positions, both boys began speaking and acting in perfect unanimity. Together they raised their vacant eyes to the ceiling and said "Ceiling...roof above." Jamie noted the uncanny way they had assumed of speaking
in an exact cadence with one another. They repeated "Ceiling...roof above" and lowered their eyes. Jamie especially kept track of the larger one in front of him but realized that the smaller boy behind was at all times doing exactly the same thing. Once again scared to the marrow and stammering, Jamie asked "What are your names?" As one, they answered: "We have no names. We are nameless." It was almost spoken in a chant, a mantra, as it were. The boy behind, however, repeated the word "nameless" again and said "That is all." "That is all," chorused the taller boy. "That is all. We have no names." Then from behind: "That is all. We have no names...." and then much quieter, almost as if to conceal his words he added "because of you." "Because of you," echoed the boy in front. Jamie was paralyzed now in fear, a deeper sense of nightmare than he had ever experienced in his life. It was the sort of debilitating panic that came from both within and from a force outside of his body. Once again, he found it impossible to move and was immobilized there on the tile of his well-lighted patio beside the glittering turquoise of his cambered swimming pool. Then the boys began a sort of low humming sound and began circling around him once again. As they did so, a icy chill rose from Jamie's feet up through his entire body to his head. He shouted the word "demons" but noticed that even his
voice had lost its volume. Around and around him the boys circled, humming, glaring at him with their cavernous black orbs. Then they began in unison once more: "We are not demons. We are not demons. That is all. That is all." This became a monotonous hymn and lasted for an untold number of seconds, as Jamie lost all track of time. The lights of both the interior of his spacious house and his large patio began to flicker. Little by little, Jamie began to lapse downward onto his knees. His head remained tilted to watch the encircling duo. The vitality in his muscles and torso was slowly draining away, but his vision remained clear for a time. Before his eyes, each boy began to change slightly in shape. First, it was the larger one. The skin of his face became red in patches and the whites of his eyes began returning in slow moving spirals. The younger boy displayed some of the same changes. His arms began to develop irregular bulges here and there, and these became red, pink and even bright purple. His eyes spiraled and began turning crimson in places. Dots of color punctuated the eyes, face and arms of each boy, but these came in ghastly protuberances which seemed to mushroom out of their bodies, assume strange colors and then throb...pulsate. All over their bodies, bumps appeared like manifestations of a strange multicolored fungus. At length, most of the blackness left their eyes, and a sickly purple and white muddle of color took its place. Their tongues lashed out of their mouths and were cream colored and spotted with red swellings. The chanting became louder. "Not demons. Not demons. Boys. Boys. That is all."
As the last bit of vitality drained from Jamie's person and he sank to the floor, he remarked how grotesquely uneven and asymmetrical each boy had become. He saw the horrid swollen humps of color rise and fall over their arms and foreheads, and then heavy red veins protruded out from their skin. A huge purple vein rose from the lead boy's chest up through his neck, across his face and forehead and disappeared into his hair. The second boy now had arms that were woven with a maze of huge twisting red seams that encircled them like so many slithering monstrous snakes. Jamie, beyond fear, was certain that they were not only turning into fiends but that he himself was dying. The sides of his visual plane gradually faded to black, leaving him only a small slit of vision through which to view the boys. And finally, the sheets of blackness on each side closed in, leaving Jamie in a state of total and unrelenting darkness. The boys eventually disappeared from view, as did the lights and all else discernible. Jamie found himself as if locked in a pitch black cellar, alone, isolated and cold. A single spot of blinding white light, like a medium sized star, loomed somewhere in his sightless view. That light, Jamie knew, was the world he had left, and from where he was now, it only offered a slim view of any sort of reality that could be identified. Through that slim spectacle, Jamie saw one of their faces, still shot through with horrendous pulsating veins, and a mouth full of mottled and bloated tongue ready to speak. Then he saw the other face. It looked much the same. When the words came, they were unfriendly and remote as if coming from a tunnel which led impossibly back to a life that Jamie knew was no longer his. "Life...life...life..." the boys chanted. "Life...life...life. It is
entering us and leaving you. We have never known it before. And we can't keep it. It feels wonderful, clean, warm, fleshy and florid. It is full of the blood of real being. Life...life...life." Jamie knew he was dying. Somehow the non-demon boys had stolen his life force once they were invited under his roof. His only thought was why. Why is this happening to me? And who are they? In the cold, blind chasm of his mind, the tunnel of feeble light opened wider. The faces of both boys, repulsive and deformed by what must have been the influx of his life force, crowded into the space. They were speaking, again far off and sounding like metal scraping against stone: "You know who we are. You have given us a taste of life, but we cannot stay. You have given us a moment of living." Jamie found himself thinking "Who are you?" again. Then everything went completely void. In a stuporous haze, Jamie saw himself standing alone on a sort of dark ice shelf surrounded by tenebrous shadows. When these shadows finally opened, he saw himself with a woman sitting in a car during a rain storm on a road overlooking the mist-shrouded Pacific coast. He was arguing with her. He told her he did not love her any more and to tear up the blood test documents as well as the recently signed but un-solemnized marriage permits. He knew he was testing her. Out of his car she jumped at a stop sign, into solid sheets of dancing rain. She disappeared. The vision closed. The dark curtains of vacant nothingness took its place. And then Jamie heard the voices again.
"We are the unborn children of you and Fallon. We came close to gaining life, but you prohibited it. To live, we will have to now wait billions of eons for the chance to come again, if it ever does. We are what could have been. We have come to sample only a brief moment of what should have been ours, and we will take very little. You have taken everything from us. The chance of life itself, but from you we will take almost nothing. Our chance will never come again. Do you understand?" Then all went cold and empty once more. IX. The aftermath When Jamie awoke and regained his senses, he realized at once that it had all been very real. The patio door was open, and there were no signs of the boys. But a torn sneaker was abandoned on the flagstone path leading from the patio door to the gate. He could see it as he weakly groped for a way to rise from the tile floor and look outside. It was early morning. How long had he been in this trance? He did not know or remember. As he rose to his feet, he suddenly tripped and fell down again. The backside of his left leg had no feeling or strength. He felt down his calf to his ankle and finally to his heel. Nothing. That section of his body was totally depleted of life. Likewise, a patch of his forehead and face. From an area over his right eyebrow straight down his cheek to his chin, there was flabby skin with absolutely no sensation
whatsoever. Not only did Jamie not have muscle control over these small areas of his body, but they felt cold and numb as well. He examined his face in the mirror. Though his right eye functioned perfectly well, his face sagged uncontrollably from forehead to chin, but only on the right side. His skin was pallid and lifeless there, as it was on the back lower side of his left leg. One boy had been in front, the other in back. Each had, Jamie knew, taken a part of his life. The rest they had given back. His life force had only temporarily invaded their un-conceived bodies, and it had no doubt been returned to him exactly as they promised. But each boy had nonetheless kept a small amount. The amber sun told him it was late enough in the morning to call for medical help. Maybe psychiatric help as well. Doctor Al-Ibram diagnosed a stroke and prescribed some medication that didn't work, issued him a cane to help with his left leg and some pain killer that was really not needed. Then he released him, assuring him that victims of small spot strokes often regain their facilities. What he did not tell Jamie was that the MRI scans had shown nothing except the inexplicable absence of neural consciousness in the affected areas. Jamie's brain was medically intact. There were no tumors, blockages or other abnormalities. It was easier to explain that this had simply been a small stroke. And, even though Jamie knew the doctor's diagnosis was wrong, he nonetheless realized that it would make for a good explanation. No
one would ever believe the story of the black eyed children or that these same children were simply the drifting souls of children that he had no doubt been scheduled to create with the long dead Fallon Sorensen. But Jamie knew they were. His own possessive selfishness had kept them in whatever dank limbo they now occupied and had barred them from becoming actual breathing beings. At least, he thought, he had given them their tiny "taste" of life and a small memento to take away back into the soul-empty gloom with them. Long ago, he had cheated them of essence. This was not their revenge. This was simply a little something of life they had managed to secure for themselves out of the shadows. Jamie hoped that the fleeting influx of life he had bestowed on them for however long it lasted had been gratifying. The boys never came back, so Jamie never knew. His selfish retreat from involvements had come at a price, and considering the bleak nothingness to which they had briefly consigned him, he was prepared to bear the small inconvenience of a cane and a face that sagged almost imperceptibly on one side. It was the least he could do. His only regret was that he had never granted them names. They would never receive those. Never. X. Epilogue Dennis was right. Jamie needed to get out more, and another television appearance would not hurt his income either. Oakleigh Mynter was developing a caustic reputation for herself, following, as it were, in Cutter Hershkin's footsteps. Perhaps he could boost her
ratings. And several weeks later, under the harsh glare of the studio lights, Jamie Cyan, one-time child sensation, admitted that he had once been in love and had failed---selfishly no doubt---to see it through. He left it at that, and Oakleigh Mynter, probe as she could, was never able to pry more information from him than that. The only thing Shark Mynter learned that day was that Jamie Cyan had had a stroke and that it didn't seem to bother him much----as neither did much of anything else. ________________________ Devon Pitlor July, 2010 ////
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