DANIEL THE ICONOGRAPHER
There have always been aspects among us. I’ve met several. They’re weird. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, lording over every element and abstract fucking noun, clinging to their fiefdom of rocks or trees or euphoria or paperwork.
I met the Aspect of Limestone once. He wouldn’t shut up about how the fucking pyramids were built out of limestone. At the time I believed him, let him have the satisfaction of feeling important about his stupid rock. I didn’t have any reason to question it. He was an aspect after all, and the first one I ever met, at that. A person is really nervous, leading up to meeting an aspect. You get worked up into a lather thinking about it, is he going to be really tall? Do they look like people? I hope he’s not really tall, that makes me uncomfortable. Basketball players are freaks. But after you meet that first aspect, it’s a lot easier.
Some do look like humans. The Aspect of Stuffed Animals might be that woman with the peach fuzz mustache that sits across from you on the bus every morning wearing two pairs of socks and all her sweaters have cat faces on them. But others don’t really look like anything. Just an energy, like when you’re so bored you’re too bored to sit but when you stand you’re too bored to stand, so you end up rolling around on the carpet like a fucking idiot making mouth noises at your dog until even he goes into another room to get away from your annoying restless whining. That could have been an aspect.
Even other aspects are monsters.
The kind that myths warn us will devour our bones in one chomp, or will turn a person to stone and use him as a bird bath for fucking weird ass birds. Like birds with hair. They exist. The monstrous aspects, not the birds with hair. Well, they might exist too, but I’ve never met one.
It turns out the pyramids weren’t really constructed completely out of limestone. Apparently most blocks used by the slaves or aliens or giants or whatever were actually a mixture of limestone and clay, with water. So, you know, concrete.
The Aspect of Concrete is very quick to point this out.
I’m sitting in his living room, trying to listen. My eyes flick from his face, his grey eyes and square, stubbled jaw, to the television behind him. It looked like hockey but I couldn’t make out the teams involved or the score from this distance. I need glasses.
“So Lziyexci was lying to you. The pyramids are concrete. Just, like, concrete. All the way up to the tippy top. Good ol’ concrete.” He leaned over, obstructing my view of the television. Sure, this conversation is way more interesting.
“What was lying to me?”
“That’s just a noise. You’re just making noises.” I sip my coffee from the stone mug he chose for me earlier. And when I say chose, I mean he went through his cupboard for several minutes to find the perfect mug for the Iconographer. Apparently the perfect mug looks like every other fucking mug I’ve ever seen in the history of my life and mugs. I hope the Aspect of Mugs has a better fucking mug.
He leans forward slightly and I catch a scent of something wafting from his dusty grey clothing. Something I couldn’t re- oh no wait, I remember, it smells like a gravel driveway. The Aspect of Concrete smells like a gravel driveway.
“Lziyexci,” he says, this time slower, as if that makes any difference whatsoever.
“I still…I- nope.”
“That’s his name. The Aspect of Limestone. Lziyexci.”
“I never learned his name. And here I thought we were friends. Oh well.” I sip my coffee again and wish it was in a better fucking mug. I mean seriously, just a plain old stone ass mug. I’m the fucking Iconographer and he gives me this mug. I set it on the table and try to arch my neck to see around his dumb rectangular head. The sun is beginning to fade outside, its cast shadows sliding along his grey carpet like oil made from honey. Soon it will be dark, but I’ve got a long way to go tonight before I’m allowed to even entertain the thought of sleeping.
“Do you know what my name is?” he asks. His eyes have never left mine since the moment I knocked on his square door and showed him the sigil. Well, except for when he was looking for this ugly fucking sad excuse for a mug. Fucking mug.
“I do not. I’ve just been calling you Conky.”
He didn’t smile. He didn’t do much of anything, really. I realize then that I don’t think I’ve seen him blink. My hand instinctively dives into my coat pocket and my fingers wrap around the Culling Blade before I can tell them to stop being fucking babies about a guy who only blinks when I’m not looking. Or maybe he doesn’t blink. My fingers get a little tighter.
His face didn’t even budge. His mouth didn’t move. But I heard him, clear as my mug is ugly, but his mouth didn’t move. Did it ever? I should pay more attention. Lysander told me to pay more attention. He told me to pay all the attention. I’ve paid very little. Normally such frugality would be considered a virtue, but in this case, it may result in me being ground into bloody paste between a vengeful aspect’s granite fists and poured into a foundation for a fucking office building.
Some aspects lie, Lysander told me. Some aspects will see the sigil and try to eviscerate me on the spot. If I show the sigil to the Aspect of Evisceration, for example. Be careful. Look for the signs. Pay attention.
I was paying attention then, at least.
Proeltizzxirt doesn’t move, he just stares at me, not blinking. He doesn’t breathe, he doesn’t scratch his nose, he doesn’t fart. He just stares. I look down at the table, down at the mug. It might have been what a small child would have described when asked to describe the world’s worst mug.
“Do you know why I’m here, Conky?” My fingers grip the Culling Blade tightly in my pocket. The handle is hot, just like Lysander told me it would be. When it sensed it might be called into service, he said.
He didn’t answer for several long, bloated seconds. Then his voice begins to rumble up from nowhere. His mouth definitely didn’t move. I look right at the damn thing, his pallid lips pushed so tightly together they might have well been a carving in the side of a mountain. He is speaking to my brain, which, if you’ve never experienced, is uncomfortable.
“You want my icon.” The words turn in my head like the back of a cement mixer.
I nod. “Are you going to give it to me?”
I raise my eyebrow. “Well? You don’t have a choice, Conky. You saw the sigil. You know what that means. You know what I’m doing, and you know that this day would come for you eventually. It comes for all aspects, big and small.”
Not even a fraction of a fraction of an inch of movement.
I get that feeling again, this time accompanied by a strange impulse. The Culling Blade was burning my hand, but I feel no pain, just the red hot handle beginning to blacken my palm as if it were preparing my nerve endings for pulping. The harbinger grumble again begins to bubble forth not in my ears but between them and quickly, like a beacon in a foggy night, one word coalesces: “No.”
My hand is out of my pocket before I realized what was happening. The Culling Blade moved not as a result, but as the cause, propelling itself from my coat and in an instant I’m standing, my chair flinging back from the force and skittering across the stone floor of his stone kitchen.
But Proeltizzxirt remains motionless. I hold the Culling Blade in front of me. Or more accurately, I hold its handle. There is no actual blade, until I need there to be. At least I fucking hope that’s how it works, since I’ve never used it.
“Well if you’re not going to give the icon to me then I have to take it, right? I can’t leave here without it. What are you doing? Why are you just sitting there? We have to battle!”
Intimidating, I know. Proeltizzxirt begins to rock slightly in his chair, almost imperceptibly at first, one way, then the other, then back again, a little further from center each time. His eyes never leave mine, and as the rocking intensifies, his pupils lock onto mine like a tether, and I feel the rumbling in my brain again.
There was a tone in his voice, if you can call it a tone, that wasn’t present before. Embarrassment.
“I’ve set. I can’t move. This happens.”
The Culling Blade tells my arm to relax and they fall together back to my side, the handle cooling rapidly. “Are you fucking serious?”
He keeps rocking, getting very near to the momentum required to topple completely from his chair. “I want to get you the icon, but…”
“But you’re a fucking telepathic lawn gnome and you can’t move. I nearly killed you!” I laugh, and one day I might actually think this situation was funny enough to think laughing right then wasn’t stupid. “Can’t you just tell me where it is and I’ll get it myself?”
Back and forth, and back. Almost there, almost out of the chair. And then what? The floor? Solid plan.
“I planned this wonderful gesture, I was going to present you my icon and it, I don’t have roses or anything, but, I mean, it would have been nice.” The grumble in my brain had become almost a whimper.
“Don’t worry about fucking fanfare, man, I have to get a lot of icons. I don’t need a promenade each time, I’d be dead before I finished collecting them all. Where is it?”
“You already have it.” His eyes leave mine for the first time since what seemed like the birth of the universe and land squarely on that fucking mug.
“Why would that be a joke?”
His rocking is nearly there. Each lurch became a lunge and at the apex of each, there was a sign that maybe one more would be enough.
I pick up the mug from the table and turn it around in my hand, inspecting each terrible divot and imperfection, and thoughts of smashing it and then smashing the pieces and then building a rocket and then shooting the smashed pieces into the fucking sun begin to seep into my brain, but I immediately shut them away. Proeltizzxirt might see them. Or hear them. Or whatever.
“And what are you gonna do once you rock yourself out of that chair? Roll off like it was the third day of September?”
“I don’t get the ref-” And now Proeltizzxirt is on the floor. A cloud of dust poofs up, and as it clears, I see his limbs beginning to twitch.
I look at the television. Commercials. Outside the sun is completely cast away for the day, and the streetlights along the street have kicked on. I’m never going to sleep. This is my life now.
Before long, Proeltizzxirt is able to stand, and now that his face is capable of exuding emotions, its painted with a sour mix of shame and sadness. He speaks, and with his real voice this time, straight from his actual mouth hole. “I’m sorry, Iconographer. I was hoping that wouldn’t happen, it happens sometimes, I’m sorry.”
“It’s…it’s okay, man. Listen, I gotta go.”
He gestures toward the stupid ugly mug and I hold it up. He stares at it sadly, like I’m taking his childhood pet to go live on a farm. “Be bold, Iconographer. Be right and walk right. Take my icon and with all the others you will have the power you seek to call forth the One.”
“That’s the plan.” A few seconds pass. I shift my weight from one foot to the other, and he absentmindedly rubs the elbow he landed on . “So, I’ll go then?”
“Do you want some soup or something? For your journey? I made soup, it should still be good.” Proeltizzxirt crosses the room rigidly and opens the fridge. He turns around holding a plastic container filled with some sort of opaque liquid.
I shake my head and take a few steps toward the door.
“Oh, okay, right, you’re probably not hungry. But maybe a soda? I have Mr Pibb.”
“I’ll get something on the way.” A few steps closer. Almost there.
“Right, busy man and all that.” He chortles nervously.
I grab the doorknob. It feels like freedom. “I’ll see you around then, Conky.”
I open the door, step through it, and shut it behind me. The night air was hot and heavy, and the lightning bugs were beginning to fly around like little green analog systems in the haze of the streetlights. Summer air never felt so good after whatever the hell just happened in there. I walk toward my car, passing Proeltizzxirt’s mailbox, floral patterned, jutting up from the curb. I tell myself not to turn around.
Don’t turn around.
But of course I do anyway and I see Proeltizzxirt in the window, the glow of the television flickering behind him so sadly I want to buy it a lollypop. I wave halfheartedly, and he waves back.
This job is fucking weird.
I toss the mug into the backseat, where it comes to rest beside the pyramid paperweight. Two down, several hundred to go. So far this is easy. I shove the key into the ignition and turn, and the Charger’s engine roars to life. I dig the Culling Blade out from my pocket and try to toss it onto the dashboard, but it won’t leave my hand.
“Why are you sticky?” I shake my hand furiously, trying to dislodge the handle, but it remains stubbornly attached to my palm. “Get off of me.”
I’m almost overwhelmed by a feeling that seems both familiar and markedly different. What was a grumble with Conky is now a purr, a silken sound, or feeling, of what velvet might trigger when shoved into an ear drum so hard it pets the brain. I shudder.
“We need to talk,” the voice says in my head. It’s alarming, but also calming, reassuring, like waking up to see your mom in the kitchen making pancakes when your mom had been dead for several years.
“Who needs to talk? Who’s in my head now? This is getting shitty,” I say aloud, to no one. To the car. To the air. “People can’t just come into my head whenever they want.”
“I have one job. Protect the Iconographer. Be wielded in his, or her, in some cases, defense, strike down enemies, et cetera. I’ve stabbed a lot of objects. And I like stabbing. I’m good at it. I’m also quite talented in the realm of slashing, but I really consider my forte to be stabbing. Have you ever felt the warmth of a person’s bowels all around you as you sever vital connections and vessels and pierce organs and cleave bone aside like wrapping paper on a birthday?”
I turn the Culling Blade in my hand, still glued to my palm. I flex my fingers and wiggle my wrist, but unenthusiastically. I’ve been the Iconographer for less than a week, but if more than a week ago someone told me I’d be having a psychic conversation with a sentient sword that apparently checked the “extremely” box on the survey measuring job satisfaction, sitting in a car that some old guy just gave me, I’d wonder if that person were insane.
“I can’t say that I’m familiar with that feeling, no. I did get slimed once at a Nickelodeon show, but I doubt that’s similar.”
I feel the Blade pull itself to eye level, propelling itself somehow, and my arm is powerless to resist. I swear I can sense it looking at me, even though it doesn’t have a face, because, you know, it’s a sword handle.
“I am Grofgoz-Zxxrotj, Vanguard of Rrzxxrirr, Disemboweler of Krzxshh, Sentinel of Jkriyy and all that stands before it,” It compels my hand to move it downward slightly, then back again. “Pleased to meet you, Iconographer.”
“There is something you have to understand about this arrangement. Father Lysander bequeathed me unto you because he believes you to be the 42nd Iconographer. He read through his books and consulted the oracle and baked his Thinking Cookies, and has decided you are the next in a long line of inept and ultimately fruitless crusaders. But I don’t trust so easily. Know that I will protect you if you remain true, Iconographer, but only if you do, and if you don’t, the last sensation you will experience is my body sliding deep within yours, my hot length filling you until your eyes roll back in your skull and you taste oblivion.”
“Listen, uh…Cully, you should rethink your threats.”
“My threats are terrifying and my name is not Cully.”
“Well I can’t pronounce the gobbledygook you people claim is words so I’m calling you Cully.”
I can sense Cully is offended.
“Well what’s your name, then, Iconographer?”
“Then I will call you ‘Dan’ because I can’t be troubled to pronounce your rightful name fully.”
“I can live with that.”
I wonder for a moment if Conky is still sitting at his window watching, forlorn, like a war widow in the 1800s, but Cully interrupts. “Can you turn on the radio?”
I shake my hand again, and Cully remains stuck fast to my palm. I give him an eyebrow to prove my point. “Can you get out of my hand?”
“This is a fair negotiation. Very well. I will release you from my grip in exchange for the activation of the radio.”
I try to toss Cully into the passenger seat, and to my relief he actually leaves my hand and bounces gently onto the cushion.
I poke the radio and it begins to glow. Sound begins to emanate from the speakers and I glance at Cully, who is still a fucking sword handle and not a real person so I don’t know what I expected to see. But it seems he sees me, because as I glance, I hear his smooth, but firm, moist voice, and shit, I’m doing it too now.
“I demand you pilot the radio to death metal.”
My finger hovers over the button. “Cully, I don’t think the radio plays death metal.”
“Then I will settle for dance.”
“Are you some sort of Norwegian?”
“Your fleeting territorial distinctions are irrelevant to me, human.”
“Okay then,” I answer, and pilot the radio to dance. A kick drum begins to pulse on the impact of every beat, and for the briefest moment, I thought I saw Cully smile.
Which of course is stupid because he’s a fucking knife.
Before I became the 42nd Iconographer and was told my destiny and given a car and a quest and a per diem for food and stuff, I wasn’t much of anything. I was Daniel, I was 26 years old, and I gave up on shaving.
I’m still 26, and I still don’t shave, but beside that, things are a bit different. There’s a world inside our own that contains what can only really be described as existential horror.
Only one day of my previous life would be interesting to anyone, so I’ll start there. It was Halloween. I never get invited to parties, but that Halloween, in defiance of everything lawful and ordered about the universe, a coworker saw me overhearing him inviting everyone else, so against his better judgement invited me also. I told him I wasn’t going to go, because I’m a filthy liar.
So here I am. It’s Halloween. I’m standing in the bathroom of my apartment, scratching through the plaquey overgrowth on the mirror with a miniature decorative skeleton until there’s enough open space to bear a clear reflection. From the moment I became an official invitee of an event, I was building my costume, first in my head, then out of foam and cardboard and paint. Most people use Halloween as an excuse to become something different for one night, something apart from themselves, or to become something more akin to their truer self, the one kept locked up tight inside, only let out when the shades are drawn, the sun is down, the drinks are poured, and the board games are splayed out before them like a tilapia fillet for four to eight players. Most people dress as something fantastical or as a sexy truancy officer. But as the mirror became more and more like a mirror and not boring regular glass frosted over by years of water stains and haphazard toothpaste spit, I began to see myself as I truly was, what I wanted to be.
Fuck monkeys and Chomp-Chomps and fuck plumbers and not similarly fuck princesses because I’m Bowser.
I adjust my horns and fiery orange mohawk. Everything has to be straight. I realize I was only invited to this party out of pity, but Bowser doesn’t need pity. Bowser has a kingdom. Bowser has koopas. And all these luckless party-goers are going to be my koopas. And if they don’t like it there’s a yawning pit of lava they can take a swim in. I assume. I’ve never been to a party before.
I look at the time, then back at myself in the mirror. Bowser has a thick black beard tonight, and a pocket in his chest for stuff. This might not be canon, but practicality sometimes trumps authenticity, and I need somewhere to put candy. I adjust my spiked leather bracelets and my spiked leather arm bands and spiked leather collar and wonder for a moment if there isn’t a deviant sado-masochistic subplot to the grumpy turtle dragon that goes unmentioned. But there’s no time for that now. The party is about to start.
The door’s locked behind me and I drop my keys into my chest pocket. Each step is cautious, as my pathetic human legs are wrapped in thick foam stuffing shoved into bright yellow sweatpants. I mean Bowser legs.
After meticulously navigating the treachery of the dilapidated sidewalks of suburban Detroit I reach the bus stop. There are several other listless poor people like me, each chewing on fingers and shivering. Some are also in costume I assume. There’s no way a sexy doctor would ride this bus in reality. Sexy doctors make even more money than regular doctors, and regular doctors make a bunch of money as it is. No one that has money rides this bus.
I look up at the night sky, and breathe in the autumn air deeply. Across the street a cavalcade of children dressed as robots and vampires and whatever things are cool to children accost each homeowner for saccharine handouts like junkie Jehovah’s Witnesses. But none of them are Bowser because I’m fucking Bowser. I turn to the sexy doctor and tell her, “I’m Bowser.” She nods politely, smiles weakly, and buries her head so deep into her phone it could sprout roots. I try to imagine what she’s doing. Composing a text to herself reminding herself to wear headphones next time. Also what the fuck is a bowser? but the bus hisses to a stop and we all climb on.
I dig into my chest pocket for my pass and swipe it then take my seat. I have a good feeling about this night. Not only is there a window seat fee and open, it doesn’t even have unidentifiable biological fluid on it. I sidle in, my shell forcing me to hunch over uncomfortably, but I don’t care. I’m Bowser and Bowser’s down to party. There’s a woman across from me, staring at me. Crawling over my body with her eyes. Her peach fuzz mustache ripples softly with each exhale, and beside it whiskers radiate outward, drawn on with mascara. Painted calico stripes adorn her forehead and cheeks, and a stuffed cat is perched on her lap.
She smiles at me, and I try to smile back. Really my mouth contorts into something between a smirk and a grimace, since I never quite mastered the ability to be a normal socially adjusted human person. “Going to a party?” she asks.
My brain juggled a few snide responses that were meant to be clever and charming, but my mouth again went rogue and squeezed out “Yuh.”
“Me too. Some friends and me, we get together every Halloween. Only time we really see each other any more. I’m bringing Sadie.” She presents her stuffed animal proudly.
My brain continues cataloging various responses and quips and funny zingers and “I’m Bowser.” is pooped out involuntarily. I try to own it, like a dog that presents its master with the carcass of a beloved slipper.
“Mmm,” Cat-Face murmurs. “That’s a lovely costume, Mr. Bowser. I like that you paid so close attention to what I guess is detail.”
I gaze blankly at the flat grey buildings lurching by outside the bus and grunt softly. Each building is the same, restaurants and banks and bars and grocery stores and bars, one after another and infinite, endlessly, like Zubats in a cave.
“My friends…I wonder what wonderful costumes they’ll have? I just wonder.”
I grunt again. I’ve never been very talented with small talk.
The bus moans as it comes to a stop. From the window I see another cadre of indigent waiting to mount the chariot of the disenfranchised as they shuffle back and forth on Goodwill shoes. I find myself thinking less of this group than the one I was a member of only moments ago.
I see Cat-Face standing in the periphery of my vision but keep my face glued to the window. Small talk is bad enough, but I have a downright aversion to parting pleasantries. I don’t believe in saying goodbye to anyone. What if they died? I can sense her hovering over my shoulder for a moment and I try to see her reflection in the glass in vain. She wanted to say goodbye, that much is certain. I scratch my beard and pretend to be somewhere else, which is difficult, since I’m not somewhere else. I’m on this bus and no matter how hard I imagine otherwise I can tell Cat-Face is not convinced I’m not really there.
And then she does something that sends coiling bolts of nauseating oil dripping down my spine. She touches my shoulder and I snap my head around instinctively as I pull away. I look at her, her mustache shading her lips in the low light of the bus. She smiles again, warmly, genuinely, and I feel preternaturally at ease. The sick shock of her touch dissolves into something I assume is comfort.
“It was nice talking to you,” she says.
I look at her, like really look at her, and notice the tiny crags in the skin around her faded blue eyes, her thick, wild, kudzu eyebrows and dangling cat earrings and feel something solacing me, deep within the desolate wasteland of the part of my brain that controls how I am around other people. I nod to her and open my mouth to return the sentiment, because it was nice to talk with her. I haven’t really talked to anyone in a long time, not really. And I realize my conversation with her wasn’t exactly soul-baringly philosophical, but it was something at least. Right?
She regards me with quizzical calm as my cheeks burn. I’m stupid. My brain is stupid and my words are dumb and I hate myself, but the brightness in her gaze softens the self-loathing for a glimmer and I can only hope that she can see in my eyes that Muh meant It was really nice talking to you, too.
“Have a good Halloween,” she says with another pat on my shoulder, and she disembarks the bus, not waiting for more conversational vomit from her seat partner. I watch her from the window as she begins to walk nimbly between trick-or-treaters along the sidewalk.
As the bus continues its circuit of depression, I hear another voice from Cat-Face’s now abandoned seat. “Oh, what’s this? Aww, a stuffed kitty!”
I turn to see a young girl, between two and fifteen, and I realize I really have no idea what size children are at specific ages. The girl is dressed like Princess Leia, complete with white dress and fake hair buns. She’s found something in the seat and immediately I recognize it as Sadie. The girl holds it in both hands, squeezing it. It looks like love at first sight.
“That’s not yours,” I mumble.
The girl tears her attention away from Sadie and looks at me sternly.
“What did you say?”
“I said that’s not yours.”
You girls are powerful quarry.
I lean closer to her and lower my voice to a whisper. “That belongs to my friend. Give it to me.”
She giggles and at that moment the hate I never thought I had for children reveals itself and begins to burn with the intensity of ten thousand roller coasters. Like the ones that go all upside down and shit. “No, it’s mine.”
I can do this. She is a child and I am an adult. I am superior. I will use my fully developed adult brain and trap her with sound logic and she will have no choice but to wilt to my demands. “Nuh uh!”
Okay, logic didn’t work. I stare at her for a moment and like a mongoose I strike, grabbing Sadie’s furry cotton head and snatching it from the girl’s grip before she could react. I am victorious and victory is sweet.
The girl’s bottom lip quivers slightly but I’m immune to her bullshit.
“Give that back!” she screeches, and several surrounding bussers turn their heads. This is the most exciting thing that will happen to them today.
“Shut your child mouth,” I retort, “Or you’ll end up like Alderaan.”
Tears begin to coalesce along the boundaries of her eyes. “Who’s Alderaan?” she asks through the haze of imminent sobs.
Disgusting. “You don’t deserve those buns.”
The tears begin to jump to their salty deaths and she lets loose a piercing wail that on this of all nights could have awakened the dead. Her little girl fists ball up and begin bouncing off her thighs in self-flagellant sorrow, but I don’t even care.
Other people do care, though, and a ragged man shambles up to our cloister of seats with the look of championing the suffering of others through gin-soaked haymakers. “You gonna just sit there, Turtle Man, you gonna take that little girl’s doll then just sit there?”
“What else am I supposed to do? The bus is still moving.”
“You gotta lotta nerve, buddy. Give her the doll back.”
“It’s not her doll.”
“Oh, it’s your doll then, huh? Grown man in a turtle costume got himself a doll?”
“It’s not a turtle costume, I’m Bowser.”
That’s when he hit me. The blow landed on the top of my head as if he was trying to whack a mole, the mole in this case being my brain. The padding inside the facsimile of Bowser’s face softened the impact, but the psychological damage was done. I was fighting. This was a fight. We are doing battle.
I stand to retaliate, and as I do, the bus squeals as the brakes lock up, and I’m thrown backward on top of my assailant. As we land, the putrid scent of week-old gutter rain and pilfered bathroom mints invades my nose and I resist the urge to regurgitate my preparty vodka cranberry all over his haggard face. It appears though that he wouldn’t have minded. In fact I think he was dead.
“Get the fuck off my bus you ninja turtle fucking fruitcake!” the driver bellows.
Fair enough. I try to roll off the unconscious transient but as I settle on my shell I’m unable to right myself. I rock in the the aisle helplessly, flailing my arms out in a desperate attempt to latch onto anything that could offer the leverage required. The little girl chuckles at my plight and I make a mental note to never feel bad again when I tell annoying children at the grocery store their parents never loved them.
The driver sighs hard enough to generate a few watts of electricity from a wind turbine and says, “For the love of God someone get him up.”
Hands reach down and propel me to my feet and I catch the driver’s gaze in the rear view mirror. “Now get,” he says, and pulls the handle for the door which opens with a hydraulic hiss.
I make my way out, Sadie tucked securely into my costume, and as I pass, the driver mumbles something about hating Halloween.
I step onto the pavement, satisfied with winning my first ever real life fight. I hear the bus door close behind me as I try to figure out where even the hell I am. I feel a yank and without warning I’m hauled down to the cold sidewalk. The bus speeds away as well as a bus can and from the ground I see my tail bobbing and weaving in the wind, waving goodbye to me as it fades into the distance, caught in the door. I feel the biting breeze of October air invading the hole where my tail once resided, my now exposed boxers the only defence my sensitive butt meat has against the elements. I sit up quickly, lucky not to have landed again on my shell. This time I landed on my left shoulder instead, which insulated my fall onto the hard ground by sustaining what felt like a sledgehammer blow. I flex my left arm and scowl. Something’s kicking around in there that wasn’t kicking around before.
But there’s no time for that now. I’m late for a party.