November 19 2015

GHOSTS: Act I, Episode 34

Why’d You Do It?

Act I Episode 34 Why'd You Do ItWhen I come to, I raise up on hands and knees. Dried chunks of rotten sick cling to my cheeks. Cold drool swings like a rope from my mouth. Tremblin’, I wipe the vomit from my face. “What the hell—”

“Why’d you do it, Sarah?” a soft male voice asks behind me.

I jump to my feet and spin around. The Lawman. Two of him. The one with my sickle buried in the center of his neck, splayed over blood-soaked carpet, and his shimmery twin sittin’ beside ’im, puffin’ a cigarette behind a curtain of smoke as wispy as he is.

My stomach rolls. “I—I don’t know. Momma turned on me, and … I snapped.” I meet the spirit’s washed-out eyes. Even without life, they burn through me.

A wild shot of adrenaline racks my whole frame. I done somethin’ bad. Real bad.

He exhales a thick cloud and stands. “I had a family. When you brought that scythe down on me, you killed a part of them too. There’s no coming back from murder in cold blood. At least, not without a big sacrifice.”

Steadying myself on the arm of the couch, I lower my head.

“You got something dark living inside you. Look what you did.” He gestures to his and Momma’s hacked up bodies. “You dragged your mother’s corpse up here from the cellar and posed us like dolls. You drank tea and made a toast to Luna over our bleeding bodies before we were even cold.”

Frowning, I press a palm to my forehead. I feel sick. Shaky. “I don’t remember any of that.”

“Doesn’t change the fact that you did it.” He steps closer. I back away. “You’re fucked up, girl. Somewhere down the road, you lost your humanity. Or maybe you never had it. Either way, you’re an abomination. God turned his back on you, and now you gotta make your wrongs right.”

I swallow the bile zippin’ up my throat. “Yes, sir.”

His eyes assume a eerie glow, like freshly birthed vengeance. “I’m gonna have to haunt you, Sarah.”

I clutch my stomach. “I reckon that’s fair. For how long?”

He cups my chin and forces me to look at him. His brown skin is ashy and sunken. His face is sad. I shiver. “As long as it takes. Once you make peace with yourself, you’ll be free of me. Until then …”

I bounce my gaze around the crime scene that used to be my home. Why did I do it? Why?

Because the shit finally piled up so high, I either had to let it crush me to death, or shake it off for good. Killin’ was necessary to my survival, like breathin’ or eatin’.

A siren sounds. A police car’s blue and white lights brighten the gloom.

“Make this right,” the Lawman intones as he fades into the shadows.

“I will,” I vow, too dizzy to stand.

The sirens cut off.

I pass out.

November 18 2015

GHOSTS: Act I, Episode 33

Squad Justice

Act I Episode 33 Squad Justice“So help me, if you miss again, Grant, Chokeman is gonna give you somethin’ to die about,” Drill Sergeant Cleveland hollers as she brandishes the metal tube we’ve all come to fear.

“Yes, sir,” Grant says.

“The general don’t take kindly to fuck-ups, and this has been a choke-free environment for,” Cleveland counts off her fingers, “eight whole days. As you know, we in the R & R program take pride in our work. We do that through perseverance, effort,” she leans meaningfully into Grant’s face, “and not letting our peers down.”

“Yes, sir!” she answers. A bead of sweat streams down her hollow cheek.

“Now get your sights on that target and do your job, maggot.” Cleveland points to twelve o’clock.

Thirty meters away, a fat, horned lizard lords over a “No dumping” sign on the side of what used to be a road before CME Day. Grant lifts her rifle and leans into its butt. The lizard notches its spiked head. We all hold our breaths.

She pulls the trigger.

Grant doesn’t even hit the sign. The lizard taunts her with a smile before it flicks its tail and scurries down the metal.

I suck in a huge breath and hold it. Cleveland glances to the Humvee where General Sikes observes silently.

He nods.

She hits the button.

My collar constricts. Everyone except Sergeant and me falls to the dust. For an agonizing thirty seconds, I remember Daddy’s hands around my neck.

You got what you deserved, Daddy.

One day, General Sikes will too.

Dirt kicks into a cloud of red and brown as the squad members twist and gasp. A few quit moving. A halo of rainbow colors surrounds my vision, but I refuse to let my breath go.

When the collar hisses and loosens, people sit up. All eyes shift to Grant, and they’re not focused softly.

Sergeant shakes her head and stuffs Chokeman into her shirt pocket. Red-faced, she orders, “Pack up your shit, you sorry excuses for soldiers. We’re goin’ back to base and startin’ over.”

We pile into the sun-beaten Humvees. No one says a word. The squad members trap Grant in their sights and launch eye-daggers. Unlike her, they don’t miss.

That night, a scuffle wakes me. I sit up in my bunk and scan the darkness of the barracks. Near the left wall, a gang of women wearing gas masks circles Private Grant’s cot. I can’t tell if Grant is dead or sleepin’.

Someone raises a fist and crashes it into her gut. Grant lurches awake and whimpers piteously. The others get in on the action. She tries to fend them off. Muffled cries of pain fill the barracks. The attackers say nothin’ as they take turns pummelin’ Grant until she’s quiet. Then, they hit her a few more times.

I lie down and curl on my side. I swallow hard. The collar pulls tightly against my throat.

Chokeman can strike when you least expect it.

So can revenge.

November 17 2015

GHOSTS: Act I, Episode 32

Does It Hurt?

Act I Episode 32 Does It Hurt?I sit before Large’s cage in a wheeled desk chair that once belonged to the C.O.s. I munch on freeze-dried apples I found in the inmate kitchen. These little chunks are the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. That’s no lie.

“Please give me a piece. Just one.” Large lies beaten on the concrete floor inside his cell, his hand reaching through the bars. “I ain’t ate or drunk nothin’ since the explosions. It’s been days. I’m dyin’, Coolidge. You don’t want another murder hangin’ over ya. The Devil hisself will hunt you down and make you pay for starvin’ me an’ for them killin’s you done to Medium and Small.”

“If the Devil dares to set foot in this little slice of hell, I doubt it’s me he’ll be lookin’ for.” I roll my fancy chair over to Small’s cell. He lies facedown in a puddle of blood. His testicles lie beside him. “Ain’t that right, Small?”

He doesn’t answer.

Large sniffle-snorts like a chunk of snot is lodged between his throat and his nose-ways. He’s cryin’ again.

I close my eyes and smile as the sweet and sour fruit tumbles back and forth over my tongue, gettin’ crushed between teeth … chomp, chomp, chomp. I pull a piece between my lips and make a show of suckin’ on it real loud so as Large’s mouth will water appropriately. Assuming he’s got any water left in him.

“You look dehydrated,” I say. Then I turn to Medium in the cell on Large’s other side. “And you, Mr. Pissy Pants, have left quite a few stains on this here floor. If the C.O.s come back, they gonna be sorely disgusted.” Waving the stench away, I kick his bloodied face through the bars. He doesn’t move.

“Please, Coolidge. Sarah,” Large moans.

I mosey back to his cage—not close enough for him to touch me—and throw a sneer down at him. “You sure changed your tune from when you an’ your friends busted into my cell and assaulted me over and over. How does it feel to be so … helpless?”

He stares at me with pleading eyes. He knows his time is almost up. Only question remaining is, how much longer will I make him suffer?

The truth is, seein’ him in pain hurts me. I ended Medium and Small pretty quick, but I couldn’t in good conscience go easy on Large. It wouldn’t be right to let him off the hook. He needed to endure the same hell he put so many others through. His torture isn’t for me. It’s for all his victims.

“You want me to end it?” I ask.

He whimpers and nods.

“Pull down your pants and put your tallywacker through them bars.”

His eyes glaze. He does like I said. His manhood looks more like a babyhood. Using the letter opener I found in a desk, I slowly begin to hack.

“Does it hurt?”

His screams drown out the question.

November 16 2015

GHOSTS: Act I, Episode 31

Grim Reaper

Act I Episode 31 Grim ReaperI have to go back for my sickle. It’s the one thing in the world I own, and I won’t leave it behind.

I squat behind the tree line on a patch of dry, brown pine needles and watch the house. I’m pretty sure Momma’s in there, but I ain’t been here long enough to know whether she’s alone or not. So, I wait.

Hours pass. I catch a lizard and eat it. The sun goes down.

The clouds part and show me the crescent shape of the moon. I take it as a sign it’s time to collect my property. I sneak out of my hiding spot real quiet-like and head around back to the hole I once escaped from, peeking from the top of the cellar. I wriggle in, millimeter by millimeter. Not a sound. I slide down the coarse wall into the gloom.

This place is heaven and hell all rolled into one. Horrible things was done to me here. But it was also a refuge from horrible things.

Maybe the cellar is my purgatory. Momma once told me purgatory was where bad people went to make amends for their sins. I don’t rightly know what exactly my sins are. I been punished my whole life, long before that murder I done to Daddy. Aside from killin’, the only sin I believe I’m guilty of is tryin’ to be somebody.

Metal glints from the corner. I look around the cellar one last time. I’m gonna miss this place.

I pick up the scythe and blow off the dust. The door above opens, and light filters down. Then wooden steps creak as someone descends.

“Sarah? Is that you, baby?”

“Momma?” I whisper.

She rushes to me, arms open, and pulls me into a hug. The scythe dangles at my side.

“You came back. Thank God, you’re here.” She nervously plays with my hair. Her breaths speed up. “Let’s go upstairs.”

My control slips, and tears rush into my eyes. I wipe them with my free hand and grip the sickle in the other tighter.

“You ain’t gonna give me up to the Lawman, are ya, Momma?”

She hesitates. “Of course not. I was worried about you.”

“Is he here?”

She shrugs. “No. Why would he be here?”

“You told him I killed Daddy.”

“I didn’t have my medicine. You know how confused I get. I done set them straight now. They won’t be comin’ here again.”

“You lyin’.”

Fear leaps from her eyes like the lizard that tried to get away from me earlier. I launch the scythe at her throat. Blood spurts from her voice box. The scream dies on her lips.

When she stops jerkin’, I smear another tear away.

Decked out in Momma’s prettiest red, I creep upstairs.

The commode flushes.

I round the corner as the Black Lawman comes out of the bathroom.

I swing.

And swing.

And swing.

Lord, this is gonna be a hell of a mess to clean up.

November 13 2015

GHOSTS: Act I, Episode 30


Act I Episode 30 Plotting“How come Washington don’t get her ass beat like the rest of us?” Johnson asks in the dining hall.

Day in, day out, Washington wakes up with us, eats breakfast in silence, and turns left at the door where everyone else turns right when it’s time for trainin’. She returns to barracks at night without a speck of dirt on her uniform.

Her pretty face don’t bear soldier scars like mine. She don’t have burns from the sun or acid or from boiling water thrown at her. Her brown skin is pristine. The only parts that ever show wear and tear are her eyes. They’re usually tired and droopy by bedtime.

She don’t have to work in the grueling blaze, weatherin’ UV flare ups, breathin’ toxic air, and bein’ forced to complete endless exercises and drills. Why does the general give her special privileges?

“Adams don’t train neither,” Arthur says.

I had no idea. Maybe because Washington’s the first and last person I see every day. Hard to notice anyone else over all that perfection and privilege always tauntin’ me.

Buchanan licks the last bit of mush from her bowl. She says, “I heard they’re General Sikes’s assistants. He gives ’em cushy jobs to make ’em happy.”

“Why? They somebody famous?” Johnson says.

“They weren’t before they came here. I’da known … I religiously followed the news and all things celebrity. Research for the night job.” Harrison smiles and wipes her mouth as she glances Washington’s way. My roommate sits by herself at the end of a table, staring at her untouched mush. “That bitch is nobody,” Harrison says.

“If they’re gettin’ special privileges, I wanna know why.” Johnson glares at Washington. “I won’t be havin’ bitches takin’ shit I can’t have.”

“They sure don’t deserve it. You’ve worked way harder,” Arthur says.

“Yeah, and you been here longer,” Garfield adds. “Seniority should count for something.”

The other girls always kiss Johnson’s ass. I never turn my back on her, especially not during target practice. She’d steal the pennies off a dead soldier’s eyes.

“I’ll bet their job’s dick suckin’. They’re the general’s personal whores,” Garfield sneers.

“I thought Sikes preferred his mouths with a mustache over top. For extra tickle on the dickle,” Buchanan fires off.

The squad busts into laughter.

“Y’all find out what those two are up to,” Johnson says.

Arthur, Buchanan, and Garfield nod. The trio slaps hands and wiggles fingers like a secret handshake.

“Margo knows everything,” Arthur says. “I’ll ask her. It’ll be worth sacrificin’ a meal. Who needs to eat, anyway?”

“Margo certainly don’t,” Buchanan says, and the crew laughs some more.

Washington’s head turns our way. Her eyes narrow as she stands. Leaving her uneaten breakfast on the table, she saunters out of dining.

Johnson signals Arthur and nods to Washington’s empty seat. Arthur pops up like a grungy weasel. She runs over, snatches the bowl of mush, and gives it to Johnson. The hungry vultures look on as she eats.