It's so Merry Christmas I can hardly stand it! Love that quasimoto!
About writing- it's hard. I don't mean, like shoveling snow or putting up sheetrock, or pouring cement, which is truly hard when it's all dried, but hard as in, what in the world is the point of building worlds out of words when they aren't real? Why spend time I could be knitting a sweater or figuring out how to make booties out of baggies (real grocery bags mind you(some people are so brilliant))? It's not like I couldn't find something productive to do in real life, (my oven has been calling me for years now, happily, very faintly.) But no, I feel the need to make up stories and write them down, well, the writing down part is negligible actually, but anyway, my point is, something like, does it have a point? It's not easy you see. It's not nearly as fun as sitting in a tub reading a novel someone else wrote. It's kind of exhilarating when you look back and see the dizzying pile of pages and pages of dross that you wrote to come to some kind of okay at the end. (depressing thought, my novel, Hotblood, my mother and sister in law agree was much better around the third draft rather than the eighth that ended up published. Luckily, no one else gets to compare the two, so we're safe. They're right though, it's more obsessive, compulsive, and much, much longer. You really feel stuff, even if you don't want to. When I'm talking about stuff, I'm talking about the color of dresses and the way they feel, girly, needy, sexy, the appeal of gooey macaroni and cheese after a long drive, and some action scenes which they may have liked or not. It's actually cut two months shorter than the original, Halloween being the big break down, where she used to be with Lewis over thanksgiving, broke his ribs playing football, very touching scene, also, they made out a lot, and soul flight, don't even remember if soul flight is in the final version. Man, it was a pain to write, sad to not use it. Oh well. It was charming. I should stick it in here, would be particularly fun. Okay, twist my arm, Man, I've forgotten where the end of my thingy should go. ) there.
Once upon a time there was a world that ended, crashed and burned into a billion pieces. But don’t worry. It wasn’t a very big one. Just mine.
* * *
The funeral lasted just long enough to make my feet blister in my glossy new black pumps. I’d gotten them with Snowy; she had picked them out really. She had decided that we both needed new wardrobes, all black just the same as our old wardrobes, and neither my mom nor her parents had said no. It was hard enough to say no to her even when tears weren’t glistening in her thick black lashes. It was her boyfriend after all that lay in the casket, no one could question her mourning him. We’d bought clothes while my mother was making funeral arrangements. It felt weird; that’s what you do when someone dies: go shopping. Wasn’t there something about shredding your clothes with a knife, shaving your head and mourning in some kind of itchy sack? That would have felt much more comfortable than my cinched-waist skirt, high heels, and waterproof mascara. If external embodiment of internal torment was the idea, then it was fully manifested in my outfit. Of course Snowy would be even more glam than she’d made me be. When she came up to me in the viewing line she threw her arms around me dramatically and sobbed. Of course she did it artistically and tragically managing to expose just enough cleavage and throwing her hair in a beautiful cascade of grief. Her pale blonde hair looked perfect on her black suit. I was sure no one would think the same thing about me. My brown hair was more gray than black, or even brown. My skin was colorless as well. Not the perfectly pale of my mom’s or Devlin’s skin, but a sallow in between color like mushrooms. I patted her back awkwardly. We aren’t really hugging friends; we’re more, come-over-to-my-house-and-drool-over-my-brother friends. That’s what we’d been ever since fifth grade, when she figured out I was Devlin’s sister; it was inevitable. I was really popular with everyone who knew him. Too bad no one knew me.
“I can’t believe I’m not in line with you. I don’t know how you can take it with just your mom by your side. Where’s your dad? He can’t have flaked out today!” I shrugged looking away. I didn’t know what I could say about that. Why couldn’t he flake out today, just because his son’s body was assembled in a casket doesn’t mean that he had to be here to observe it. Snowy was still hanging onto me as people walked by. My mother stood and smiled tearfully and thanked them for coming. I stood and stood and stood sure my feet would be bloody by the time I peeled them out of these shoes.
When the howling started, I didn’t know what it was. I’d never been to a funeral before. I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be like. It started muffled and distant then grew louder and louder as we walked to our seats. The speaker started talking about my brother like he wasn’t present. Or like he was dead.
“Devlin was the kind of boy any mother and father would be proud of having,” the priest began. He spoke slowly and gloomily. Funerals suited him perfectly. I’d hate to see him perform at a wedding. His white hair nodded back and forth over his head looking like an askew halo. “He had a smile for everyone and could charm any girl,” the old man continued. Some people stopped howling long enough to stare at the priest in confusion. Snowy’s teeth ground together. I couldn’t help smiling at the guy. Did he say that at weddings?
“Why is everyone howling?” I whispered to Snowy trying to distract her from the priest.
“It’s called grieving. I mean you’d have to pay for people to do this in some countries. They help you express your sorrow so you feel better,” Snowy answered. She’d been to funerals before. She had lots of old people in her family that seemed to die right before tests. With the funeral being right before the week of finals, she’d probably get passed in everything. I would too, but I was getting all A’s already. After the service, we walked out of the church into a day that had changed from a sunny May morning into something windy and a little wild. Snowy walked between my mom and me with her arms firmly linked in ours. My dad must have snuck in the back of the church at some point, and when I saw him he looked awful. His eyes were bloodshot and the hollows of his cheeks were deeper than usual. When he walked up to us, Snowy clutched my arm tighter and glared at him. He stood hunched against the wind and looked really old for the first time in my memory.
“Do you need a ride to the cemetery?” he finally asked.
“That would be nice. Thank you,” my mom said. “Snowy, you ride with your parents all right? I think it would be nice to go as a family. Don’t you think so?” She said looking at me. I shrugged. Snowy reluctantly dropped my arm and made her way to her family’s suv.
Dad opened the door of the beautifully restored 1954 Oldsmobile. The thing had to take gas like a sieve, but he’d always been illogical about things of beauty. That’s why he married my mother. We sat in the front seat, all three of us. My mom didn’t bother him about the car not having any seat belts. She just settled down and stared out the windshield with a polite smile on her mouth. We pulled out after the long black car and started down the road. The sky got darker and it almost made sense to have our headlights on.
We got to the cemetery and dad pulled over. He came around and helped my mom out of the car. I got out and stood by the car shivering. He took my hand in his and I could feel how warm he was. He didn’t hold my mom’s hand but we walked together. When we stopped at the coffin, our coffin, and the hole underneath it, all you could see of the hole was black. There was no bottom. The world started to get smaller and smaller. There wasn’t anything besides that hole and the world was being swallowed by it, no, just one small coffin with whatever had been my soul with it. After the priest had blessed the grave the sky split open and rain fell on us. My dad pulled out an umbrella and held it over us as we took the shovel and threw a scoop of dirt into the grave. The rain was working harder than we were to fill in the hole. It was as if nature wanted to erase the memory that the hole had ever been, but the hole inside me wasn’t being filled up. I was a sieve. Nothing could fill me not the rain and not the warmth of my dad’s hand.
The rain washing the dirt into the hole made mud splash on us. It was gray against the black of my mom’s skirt, and that was all there was. I saw the faces of the people around us, people I knew, no, Devlin knew. Did I really know anyone? Snowy, reached for the shovel then winced as a large hailstone struck her. Like rain wasn’t enough. No one had expected rain today. When everyone started running towards their cars my parents and I just stood and watched. We were dry except for the mud that splashed us from the grave. My dad gave the shovel to someone I hadn’t seen before although he looked a little bit familiar, a man who had an umbrella. I watched as he easily tossed in some dirt one handed before handing the spade to another man. It seemed like there was a whole umbrella gang I hadn’t noticed before. When the last man had done his duty they stood around like they were waiting for something. It seemed almost funny to see them, black umbrella men cut outs against a particularly bright flash of lightning. For a minute I almost wondered who these umbrella people were, people prepared for something as unexpected as this storm, on this spring morning, but then the mud distracted me. My dad’s hand was still reassuringly warm. I watched as the rain and mud continued to fill the hole. It wasn’t so much a hole now as a lake that got thicker and thicker as more dirt washed in where his body lay. After the hole had filled, I wondered for a minute if we were going to get our shoes wet. A sudden bolt of lightning with a boom of thunder that knocked me back a step filled my head and my ears and my eyes until I was sure I wouldn’t have any sensations again. The warmth of my dad’s hands held me in place, kept me on this earth until I could see again. Flickers of light flashed again, more distant this time, then a general lightening of the world and I could make out shapes of trees that held still, like they were holding their breath along with the rest of the world. I didn’t know if everything was really so quiet, or if I just couldn’t hear anything after that explosion of thunder, but then Snowy’s squeal broke the silence. I watched her run towards us then she stopped in front of the grave and stared down at it. There was a dent in what was otherwise a hardened grave.
“Are you guys okay? Did you see that lightning bolt? I thought you got hit!” She bent down suddenly and with one hand touched the hollow in the now dry dirt. She yelped putting her fingers in her mouth. “It burned me. That is so weird.” She gave me a look then said quickly, “Wow. So are you going to the luncheon?”
“No.” I said. I don’t know where my voice came from, but it was loud enough that Snowy could hear me.
“I’d like to go with you if you don’t mind,” my mom said and walked with Snowy away from the grave. My mom’s hand was holding onto Snowy and she firmly led her away from my dad and me. I looked at the grave, but there wasn’t anything there anymore, not even a hole, just a slight hollow, like the hollows in my dad’s cheeks. I looked up at him to see, and when I saw him, he was even paler and sicker looking than he had been before.
“Drop me off at home first,” I told him.
He looked at me suddenly and then a wry smile flashed over his face. “Sure. Let’s go then. There’s nothing left to do here is there?”
We walked back to the car and drove back to my house. He pulled up and waited. The heater was on and I warmed my hands and arms up on it. It had gotten so cold since this morning. The sky was still a chalky gray overhead. He cleared his throat then leaned over and opened the door for me. “Dari,” he said then hesitated. “If you need to get away from here for awhile, you can always come stay with me. I’d like that. Or if you need to talk—anything okay?” I smiled at him, at least I think it was a smile, then got out of the car.
He waited until I made it up the front walk and opened the front door. I watched him peel out. He had forgotten to turn off his headlights. His battery would probably die at whatever bar he stopped at. He’d stopped drinking for a while, but sometimes, old habits die hard.
I walked inside and stood in the dark for a minute or twenty. It was very cold. With a hard shudder I made my way to the thermostat. I cranked it up as high as it would go, then went to the bathroom. There I filled the tub and after taking off my shoes climbed in. It felt good. So warm it stopped the shivering for a while. I don’t know how long I was there, in the warm dark, but I must have fallen asleep because a bright light and a shrill scream woke me up. I squinted open my eyes and would have told my mom to turn the light back off and leave me alone but she was grabbing me by my hair and pulling me out and hitting me on the back before I could say anything. When I could screech and wave my arms enough to stop she finally realized I wasn’t dead.
“What were you thinking? Don’t you think I’ve suffered enough for one day?” She was pretty hysterical. I’ve never seen her like this. She is always calm, like at the funeral, like at the door the day the police officer came with the news of the car accident, like at the morgue where she identified the body, what was left of it, she never shrieked or screamed or lost it, ever. She kept whacking me on the back like that would help.
“Chill out mom!” I said. “I just fell asleep. Relax.”
She knelt beside me on the bathroom floor and started to cry. This wasn’t good. This was the woman who never showed any sign of any emotion really, and here she was weeping on me. I patted her shoulder awkwardly. What was I supposed to say to her? She suddenly straightened up. “You’d better get out of those wet clothes before you catch a cold. I’ll make you some tea.” She got up and was out of that room before I could even slump down against the tub. In my room I got out one of the new black t-shirts and black jeans that Snowy had gotten for me and put them on. They were too tight. Not comfortable enough. I went into Devlin’s room without thinking and got some of his sweatpants out of his drawer. They were long enough I didn’t have to wear socks to keep my feet covered. One less thing to do was always good. The t-shirt would be okay. I walked downstairs. Mom had set our tea service out on the coffee table along with some sandwiches. She sat on the edge of the couch looking out the window like a statue. She was so beautiful with her sweep of black hair against her pale skin, all black and white. My face always looked sallow and unhealthy. She looked up at me suddenly and I couldn’t help but notice that she was really looking at me for the first time in as long as I could remember.
“Sit down Dariana. I have some things to talk to you about before your uncles come.”
I sat down. “Uncles?” I didn’t know any uncles.
“Yes. They’ve decided to pay us a visit after night fall.”
“You aren’t curious?” she asked me.
“About what?” This conversation had gotten really long. I was still tired, and starting to get cold again. I leaned forward and poured myself some tea. I tucked my feet under me and wrapped myself around my teacup. It was steaming, but not hot enough. My mom just watched me for a while then sighed.
“We’re going to talk about you. Do you want to stay up and hear what we have to say, or do you just want to go to bed?”
“I think bed sounds good. I’m kind of tired.” I got up and stretched. Why was it so cold? That was what I was curious about. Why was it so cold? I felt like all of my heat and warmth was used up, like warm life was draining out of me from a hole I couldn’t see. The hole was located somewhere near my chest. I climbed in my bed and climbed right out. Those sheets were cold. My closet had some extra blankets. I pulled the boxes down from the top shelf and pulled out winter coats and blankets. Perfect. I pulled my clothes down next, they couldn’t hurt, and finally in my closet in the muffled quiet I slept. If I had dreamed I would have woken with a scream, but there was nothing to dream about anymore. No nightmare could terrify me more than waking up in the cold again.
When I did wake up I was cold and hollow, and my stomach started growling at me. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to eat something warm. Maybe some instant oatmeal would be nice. I opened my closet and glared at the sun that was shining through my curtains pooling on the beige carpet. The pile of clothes and coats that spilled out of the closet into the sun was a sharp contrast—black and beige. So which one was I? I pulled a black sweater out of the pile and wrapped it around me. Walking down the stairs I heard low conversation from the kitchen. The sound stopped before I got to the doorway. There in different positions sitting and standing were the umbrella men. They didn’t have umbrellas here, but there was no question. They all looked in one way or another like Devlin had looked. There was no doubt that they were his uncles. Mine too I guess. My mom was standing in the middle of the men in a white suit, like a lily in the darkness of their black clothes, black hair, black eyes, and white faces.
“So… what’s for breakfast?” I asked and started towards the cupboard where we kept our instant cereal. Mom pulled a chair out at the table. It was spread with a breakfast big enough to keep a hotel happy. The scene looked like a black suit convention, and our fancy huge kitchen somehow didn’t look nearly big enough at the moment. I put some hot eggs on my plate and poured some hot chocolate. The toaster popped and mom put some hot toast on my plate. I ate three bites of egg, two bites of toast and drank the chocolate. After that I was sure I would throw up if I ate anything more. I started looking around and saw all those black eyes staring at me, and my mom in the middle of it trying not to look anywhere. “Thanks,” I said and emptied my plate in the disposal, then rinsed it for the dishwasher. I was about to go back upstairs when I was stopped at the base of the stairs by a pretty big black chest blocking the stairs. The chest was attached to legs, and arms, and the rest of it ending with those black eyes that didn’t give anything away.
“Living room,” he said, and so I went. This was getting really annoying. I curled up on the couch and tried to tuck my feet under the cushion. After everyone was assembled I started counting. Could it be seven men? Only seven? It seemed like there were twenty of them, each one seemed to take up twice as much space as they should.
“What’s going on?” I heard someone ask. Oh, that was me. Good, I thought, if we got this over with I could climb back into the tub, no, not with my mom there. I didn’t want her dragging me out by my hair again. The closet. Definitely the closet.
“We’re wondering if we should bother leaving only to come back next week or if we should just wait for the inevitable,” one of the men said. I think it was the one who’d blocked my escape upstairs but I couldn’t be entirely sure.
“That’s not true. It’s not written in stone. She has the freedom to choose,” my mom’s voice protested, but it sounded like she was saying sounds that didn’t have any meaning.
“Nothing is inevitable, if it were, if we knew the future with any amount of certainty none of us would be here today. The tragedies would never have happened,” another man said then looking directly at me added, “none of them.”
That had been a guy who was slender. He was slimmer than the other men, and a little shorter. The first guy was really big. He was built like a linebacker and his voice was deeper and coarser than the slender guy. He could have been giving an oration his voice was so smooth and silky.
The slender one looked at me suddenly and smiled. It was almost nice, but seemed to hold too much significance for me to return. “I’m your mother’s youngest brother. My name is Saul. My oldest brother is Saturn, but we call him Satan for short. The grim one is Seth, Stewart is the one with the scar across his cheek, Shelley has the long hair, Steven, and of course, Stanley.” All the men nodded at me as their names were spoken except Satan who scowled. He did look satanic. “Not even they can tell each other apart so they don’t mind if no one else can. You’ll have to pardon the assonance but I’m sure it’s something you’re used to Dariana.” This time when he smiled I smiled back. Of course my smile didn’t last very long since the next thing he said was, “You see we’re all waiting for you to die.”
My mother’s sudden sob got my attention, but her face was buried in her hands. This was the weirdest dream I’d ever had. My mom didn’t get carried away with emotion. Her sobbing was weirder than all these creepy guys in my living room.
I sat for a minute wondering if I was going to wake up or what. I was cold. So cold. This was getting ridiculous. “The only thing I’m going to die from is cold. Why am I so cold?” I’d finally said it. I was cold. I was freezing. One of the men walked forward, Seth, maybe or Stewart, no Stewart had the scar. It was hard to keep them straight. He pulled my hand out of the folds of my black sweater and held it for a minute. His hand was warm, but not like my dad’s. His hand didn’t seem to give off any of the heat he had somehow.
“She’s right she’s cold,” he said like it was a grand announcement. I stared at him in amazement.
“That’s what I said. I’m cold. So I’m cold. You’re not very warm yourself, by the way. You might want to increase your circulation. Do some aerobics or something,” I added trying to be as obnoxious as he was, although that was probably impossible.
“Aerobics,” he repeated looking like he’d never heard of it before.
“That’s a great idea Grim. You’d look great in a leotard,” the one who I think was Stewart said smiling.
“Can we get back to the point?” Satan asked. “Dariana is only going to last a couple days at the most. It’s amazing she’s done as well as she has.”
“Well? You call how she’s been well?” my mother asked nearly hysterical.
“I’m cold. Look, you guys seem to have it all straightened out. I’m going back to bed,” I said standing up.
“We haven’t finished yet,” Satan said. “You’re going to die soon and we want to see if anything can be done to change that. It’s your life. You need to stay and discuss options with us.”
“Die?” I asked looking around at those white faces, all of which looked more or less like a government agent from a television show. “Me?” Everyone just looked at me solemnly while my mother looked tragically out the window into the darkness. She did tragic very well. It suited her and her complexion perfectly. “Fine. Well, either way I don’t see how me staying here is going to change anything. I’m going and when you’ve figured out whatever it is you want to figure out, let me know. Or not. I really don’t seem to have the energy to care right now.” I walked out of the room without a backwards glance at my uncles or my mother. I stopped in the hall at the foot of the stairs. They were so long, winding up in whiteness to the darkness above. There is no way I could climb anything tonight. The white door with black trim beckoned to me. Into darkness, into cold maybe if I was cold enough I wouldn’t feel cold anymore. That seemed to make a kind of sense, at least it was an idea, since my brain seemed paralyzed with cold there weren’t any other ideas to choose from. Outside would work as well as anything else. I grabbed the first coat my fingers found hanging on a hook in the wall then slipped out shutting the door quietly behind me.
So, I lost my big font, where did it go? Oh well. That was a nice beginning, don't you think? Very dramatic. Very hard to write a zombie perspective without it being boring. You see, this had too much personality so it wouldn't do even if it was fun to read, fun to write, actually. I'm getting all nostalgic reading this, missing Lewis and the Nether, I loved the prom scene, absolutely smushing. This is too long. Bye.