Human Behavior

02/19/2011 § Leave a comment

“Patrol on the left, machine gun nest on the right.” Sasha whispers, pointing from behind the schoolhouse wall.

“Here’s the plan-” Sasha continues, positioning his back up against the wall. He faces the other three men in his squad, keeping his head down.

“Yuri, Alec, you’re on the left, make a lot of noise to get their attention. Andrei, you’re with me on the right. We don’t have a lot of cover, so we need you two to run interference for us. Got it?” Yuri and Alec nod, and tighten their grips around their rifles. These four fought closely for many long months to retake this city. They were family.

Go.

The four dart in opposite directions, away from the safety of the destroyed building. Sasha and Andrei run fast, the soles of their shoes hit hard against the pavement. Just behind them, Yuri and Alec fire, just as planned. An exchange of distant, seemingly harmless “pops” are traded as Sasha and Andrei dash for the machine gun nest. War doesn’t seem so dangerous from this perspective.

That was until the mouth of God opened in front of them. A bouquet of fire sends a dotted line of bullets leaping over Andrei’s shoulder, the dots connect just behind Yuri and Alec. Andrei and Sasha are now illuminated to the Germans. The two run faster, knowing it’s only a matter of time before weapons train on them. They desperately need to close that distance.

Andrei continues forward, and grabs his grenade. Sasha drops to one knee, then shoulders his rifle. He only manages to squeeze the trigger once before the machine gun opens up on him, tearing into his stomach, knocking the wind out of him. Sasha doubles over on top of his rifle.

“Andrei… Just go…” He summons all of his strength to relay this message. With one arm over his stomach to plug the gushing bullet wound, his free arm fumbles for his pistol as he rolls around helplessly in the city street. Sasha looks down, straining his neck in an effort to stay low to the ground, the grit of the concrete rubs against his face like sandpaper.

Suddenly, he feels something cold and wet tickle his face.

“Who’s Andrei?” A deep voice booms into his ear.

Almost involuntarily, Sasha vaults himself off the ground, jumping to his feet. He looks up and sees a bear staring him square in the eyes, a good foot taller than him. Sasha falls backwards, and lands hard on his tailbone, jolts of pain shoot through his body. He reaches his arms behind him to feel for an escape, and feels-

“Grass?” Sasha is just as startled by the grass as he is by the talking bear before him.

The bear brings his paws up to his chest, and shakes his head in disapproval.

“Your mother will be upset with you if you don’t get back soon, Sasha Medvedev.”

Sasha digs his fingers into the soil, trying to feel his way back to reality.

“How did you… Why is… How are you…” Sasha babbles. His arms start to tremble.

“We were looking all over for you, dear. The Volkovs are coming for dinner tonight, remember?” The bear points his paw at Sasha’s stomach.

“You might want to take care of that before you set the table.”

Sasha looks down, and his shirt is covered in blood. He panics and frantically pulls up his shirt, but sees no wound on his stomach. Baffled, Sasha climbs to his feet. The bear is already hobbling away from him. With nowhere else to go, Sasha follows the figure lumber into a cave.

Sasha slowly and carefully follows him into the cave, squinting his eyes against the darkness. Inside were three bears, the father that he had seen before, the mother, and a cub. The mother bear looks up at Sasha as he enters, and lurches towards him. She lifts a paw to his face.

“Tsk. What are we going to do with you? You’re filthy. Go clean up.” She scolds. She stands on her hind legs, and inelegantly brushes her paw across his face.

“And go change. Playing in the dirt like your brother right before dinner with the Volkovs, you should know better.” Sasha looks down and nods. He plays along for now.

She reminds him of a taller, hairier version of his own mother. She was always comparing him to his younger brother. Even though he was the older of the two, Sasha never could do anything right. He was never good enough for her.

“Are you sure..? No, this can’t be right… She has to be someone else.”

“Huh?” Sasha replies to the voice.

“I said go change!” She snaps.

He walks deeper and deeper into the cave, but his eyes have a hard time adjusting to the darkness. He hits his head hard on the rock ceiling. The sound could only be heard inside his head, but it was felt by everyone inside the cave.

“Wow, good job Sasha!” The cub snickers.

“Shut up, asshole.” Sasha retorts, holding his hand to his head.

“Sasha! Leave Mischa alone!” Mother bear scolded. Just like his own mother, she always took his brother’s side. His name was Mischa too.

“Go clean up! Enough wasting time!”

Sasha grits his teeth, and ducks his head, then crawls deeper into the cave. His eyes finally adjust to the darkness as he kneels beside a bucket of water to clean himself up.

He follows the path beyond the pail of water back to his room, where he finds a change of clothes. Sasha throws his dirty, blood stained clothes into the corner, and fumbles around in the darkness to change into something clean. He strains his eyes to find his way back to the main entrance.

“Listen, nobody will find out, she’s not going to wake up. And even if she does, she fucking lied to us… Don’t tell me you’ re growing a conscience.”

“Who said that?” Sasha asks the darkness.

“Who said what? Nevermind, get over here and help your mother with dinner.” Mother bear replies. Father bear was slowly, and awkwardly pulling a dead deer into the cave with his mouth.

Sasha sits down with mother bear, and helps her prepare the dinner. The dinner table was low to the ground, meaning Sasha would have to sit on the cave floor with the rest of the animals.

“So you savages can cook.” Announces a harsh voice from the mouth of the cave. Three wolves slowly and confidently enter single file into the cave.

“Ah, the Volkovs, please come in!” Papa bear politely tells the intruders.

“We already have.” The leader declares arrogantly. “My name is Vadim, and these are my brothers, Valodya, and Vassily.” The other two didn’t speak.

The seven of them sit down around the table. Sasha helps mother bear set the dishes on the table, he tends to the wolves.

“Is this the main course?” Vadim asks Sasha.

“Yes, father killed this deer himself.” Sasha replies plainly, trying not to show his anxiety.

“I wasn’t referring to the deer.” Replies the alpha. Vadim bites down on Sasha’s arm, and he shrieks involuntarily. The other two Volkovs snicker at each other, as the three bears sit quietly, observing. The wolf releases, and Sasha pulls away to rub his arm.

“Mmm, maybe for dessert.” The wolf says, now turning his attention to the plate in front of him. The wolves feast away on their respective dinners, as Sasha sits down among the bears.

Suddenly, neither he nor the bears were hungry. The four of them sat and watched as the Volkovs tear apart their food.

“Now, you know why we’re here.” Vadim spoke again after swallowing. “We need your part of the forest to help feed the other animals.” The other two were still feasting away happily, as Sasha and the three bears exchanged glances.

Sasha is a stranger here, but he understands exactly what’s happening. He speaks before the others can.

“The other animals, or just the Volkovs?”

“Sasha! Know your place!” Papa bear roars, showing his teeth towards Sasha as he does so. Sasha ducks his head as his face turns hot from anger and embarrassment. He has been in this situation all too often.

“Comrades, we barely have enough to feed ourselves, how could we possibly feed any other animals?” Papa bear pleads.

”Everyone needs to share for the good of the entire forest, and that includes the Medvedevs. You understand that there are other hungry animals besides yourselves, don’t you?” Vadim replies reasonably.

“But we are patriots, we helped the Volkovs in the past, and we were told that we could keep this part of the forest for ourselves! Surely the Volkovs don’t have so short a memory as to imply-”

“Oh we have quite a long memory comrade, I assure you.” The wolf raises his upper lip to show his fangs. The Volkovs were much smaller than the Medvedevs, but far more menacing.

“But perhaps if you offered something else of value.” Vadim now gazes at Sasha. “…we would be persuaded to overlook this insignificant plot of land.”

Mama and Papa bear look at each other, and then to Sasha and Mischa.

“Sasha, Mischa, go play outside.” Mama bear tells them as she sits up. She begins to clear off the table as Papa Bear sits in stoic silence.

Sasha does not argue, and follows close behind Mischa as he runs outside towards the stream. Sasha stands beneath a tree, waiting anxiously. He crosses his arms, watching the young cub play in the water.

”This will all be over soon.”

Sasha‘s eyes dart around the forest, and he begins to panic. Suddenly he feels a dull, stabbing pain inside his stomach. Sasha winces, and collapses to his knees, holding his belly.

He examines his arms, and they‘re stained a familiar red. He‘s bleeding again.

“Mischa! Come!” Mama bear’s voice was heard yelling from inside the cave. Mischa stopped playing in the stream, and quickly waddled back into the cave.

Sasha climbs to his feet with his arm still over his belly. He doesn’t notice that the wolves begin to surround him.

“Hello Sasha.” Says a harsh voice, seemingly from out of nowhere. It was Vadim. Sasha begins to back away from the tree.

“Well, it looks like we won’t have to take your land.” Vadim begins. Sasha feels something soft and furry brush up against the back of his leg. It’s the other wolf, Vassily. Vadim is now uncomfortably close, and nuzzles up to his his bloody stomach, sniffing.

“Your family will be proud of you.” Vassily adds. A sharp stabbing pain shoots up the back of his leg as the third wolf, Valodya, bites down on his Achilles tendon. Sasha collapses to the forest floor.

Vassily growls, and wraps his entire jaw around Sasha’s neck, pinning him to the ground.

“This will all be over soon, so let’s not make this any harder than it has to be.” Vadim says, as he sinks his fangs deep into Sasha’s stomach. Sasha opens his mouth to scream, but no sound leaves. He lay on the ground helpless, forced to endure the gnashing, ripping, growling… Nobody would have helped, even if he could have made a noise.

“…let’s not make this any harder than it has to be.” The words repeat.

When she came to, Sasha lay bare on the cold cement, surrounded by dead German soldiers. The only thing covering her body were the bandages around her mid section.

Yuri was now on top of her. She opens her mouth to scream, but Alec has it covered, smothering the sounds she makes. Nobody would help even if she could make a noise.

No, not here, not again.

She growls fiercely, and bites down hard on the hand covering her mouth. Her jaw squeezes tighter and tighter until she tastes blood, sending her into a frenzy.

She bites harder.

Alec screams in horror, and tries to pull his hand away. This stuns the other two into complacency. In the confusion, Sasha thrashes her head to the side, and pulls Alec closer to her.

She grabs his pistol.

With one fluid motion, she points it at Yuri’s head, and pulls the trigger, then over to Andrei, and squeezes off another round. Both men collapse instantly, painting the wall behind them red.

Sasha releases her bite, and grabs Alec’s wrist with her free hand. She stands up, twists his arm upwards, forcing him to his knees. She puts the gun up to his temple and squeezes the trigger before he can react. His body goes limp.

Sasha gets down on all fours, naked, and covered in blood. She breathes heavily, growling every time she exhales. Her heart is pounding hard against her rib cage, as if trying to escape.

But there is no escape from this body.

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Conjunction

12/15/2010 § Leave a comment

Conjunction
Fall is here. The cruelty of the ocean air is magnified by the season. I stare out into the vast ocean of gray, cigarette pursed between my lips, and escort my lighter towards the tip.
Shick.
Shick.
Shick.
“Fuck.” I say to no one. I spike the lighter against the rock beneath me. It connects with a hollow “tick”, no explosion, just shards of plastic. I nurse the cigarette, hoping the end will spontaneously combust, but there’s no fire left in me.
I sit down at the cliff, legs dangling over the edge, the apathetic immovable earth beneath me does nothing to accommodate my form. I spit the cigarette into the water, and look up at the sky. There are no stars tonight, just gray. Gray with a wash of red as the sun desperately struggles to peek through the clouds to give this drab canvas some color.
It hurts to come back here, but this is the only sanctuary I have left. Maybe I came to finish some demented ritual, maybe I came to torture myself, or maybe I’m here because it reminds me of when I last felt something. I spent so long pouring my good intentions into you, and it looked like I was helping.
The day was hot and miserable. The classroom had no air conditioning, and the open windows just made it worse. Maybe starting school in the summer wasn’t the best idea. It certainly didn’t help that physics was my least favorite class. It was right after lunch, and my day was already two-thirds finished, but space and time moved at radically different speeds relative to lunch. That week, theoretical physics.
“Alright, I know you’re hot and sweaty, but please, settle down.” the professor said, wiping the sweat from her forehead.
“This lesson isn’t in your books, so put them away!” She told us, clapping her hands together excitedly. Her body language told us that this week was different, this week was exciting. No boring textbooks, just us, and-
“Black holes!” Her excitement compensated for the apathy in the rest of the room. “Imagine taking something as massive as the whole earth-” she stretched out her arms, “and shrinking it down to the size of a pin prick,” now pulling her arms together. “Something so massive, and so dense-” she said, clenching her fists. “-not even light can escape.” She started to pace back and forth in front of the podium.
“Strange things happen around black holes. For example, if you saw a spaceship fly into a black hole, you would see it as you normally would, until it approached the point of no return, called the event horizon. Then that ship would seem to slow down, and eventually stop. It would appear to float peacefully in the darkness of space.” Each of these steps had a corresponding hand gesture.
As I orbit around this black hole, I realize that this is the final, and greatest irony of our story. This is exactly what you wanted, to be at the center of my life, and I can’t help but be drawn in by your gravity. I never loved you, that was definitely the first irony. We had nothing in common, we couldn’t even pretend to be interested in the same things. Still, I never wanted to hurt you.
I spent that entire day at this very spot, the snow made a comfortable bed for me to lay in as I stared up into the clear winter sky, the only obstruction coming from the steam of my breath, and the smoke of my cigarette. I looked up, asking Orion for advice. The hunter and I planned this well in advance, it was going to be a clean breakup. Until those two words:
“I’m pregnant.”
This was the alpha and the omega, the beginning, and the end. My heart fluttered with anxiety, anger, and excitement. I had no idea I could feel such a range of emotion in such a short period of time. I was so over stimulated, that I was unable to express my emotions into words. So instead I said:
“This changes everything, you realize this don’t you? You can no longer be around Dylan-”
“But he has kids!” You protested. “He could really help us!”
“You know what happens when you’re around Dylan.” I reply, annoyed.
“But all three of his kids turned out okay, Amy, Alex, and Emily-”
“Three, four, and five years old, I know.” I reply, even more annoyed.
You always were a chronic oppositionist to everything I said, my blood boiled whenever you did this, but it was also cathartic.
“Well you don’t need to worry about Dylan anyways, remember?” You replied. That’s why it was cathartic, you contradicted me, then did your best to put my mind at ease. It always made me feel better after scolding you. You knew that. You knew everything. You did everything for a reason.
“Of course I remember.” I quickly replied. “You’ve been staying with me for two weeks.”
I hated talking about this, but you always brought it up.
That was the first time he hurt you.
As winter gave way to spring, I came out here after a big rainstorm. My feet were wet up to my ankles, and the edge of my pants were muddy, as if I had been puddle jumping. I was wet and miserable, but I didn’t care. I sat down cross legged, leaned against the wet rock, and looked up at the cloudy sky. Draco was visible that night, nestled between the two bears, both of which were hidden from view. That whole night, I stared out into the ocean, and eventually fell asleep.
You said it was Dylan’s dark side that attracted you. I spoke to him a few times over text, but never in person. I knew him well enough to know that I didn’t like him. He was always in the right place at the right time to do something sinister, to manipulate you into doing something you shouldn’t be doing. Just like you were for me.
“Cum on over honey, he’s gone for the night.” Your text said. I was out of town that night, and you never called me ‘honey’, even when we dated. You were several months along then, and I knew that text was meant for someone else, and I knew I got it on purpose.
“You spelled ‘come’ wrong.” I replied. This was the exact moment in space and time when I stopped buying into your games. I still played them of course, because I wanted to protect you. You made bad decisions, and I wanted to save you from them. You encouraged this.
“Shit wrong person, sorry!” You replied.
No it wasn’t.
When I arrived back in town, you ran into my arms, giving as big of a hug as your protruding belly would allow. You were shaking, dry sobbing.
“I know I shouldn’t have but I saw Dylan when you were gone, and he… He raped me…”
My heart was an anchor that plummeted deep into my stomach, and I too started to shake. It wasn’t the first time this happened, but that didn’t make me feel any less pain, or rage.
“You’re not safe at your apartment, you can stay with me again until this blows over.” You nodded enthusiastically, immediately calming down. I didn’t bother to ask if you wanted to go to the police or even the hospital this time, you never wanted to go, you were always terrified of going. I never asked why.
You only had one pair of jeans that fit you anymore but somehow, it was only a matter of time before my floor was covered in your scattered clothes. I stacked your clothes on top of my soaking wet clothes, and hauled them into the basement for laundry. When I emptied your pockets, you had a cell phone I didn’t recognize, and upon pulling it out, a note hit the ground with a sharp “tap-tap”. It was lying on its side, half opened, inviting me to examine its innards. Normally I would have left it there. Normally I would have respected your privacy…
Even now, I can still feel the guilt wash over me as I slowly and diligently pulled the note apart, cell phone in hand. I carefully examined the creases so I would know how to fold it back up again. The text covered less than half the page, and was in your handwriting.
“My Birthday is March 23rd.” It read. That’s weird, your birthday was in February.
“Amy, Alex, and Emily are my children. Remember, 3, 4, and 5 letters, 3, 4, and 5 years old.” This was when I knew, but I kept reading.
“My name is Dylan.” the last line read.
I remember feeling the earth spin a thousand miles an hour beneath my feet, forcing me to collapse to my knees. My hands started to shake, and “Dylan’s” phone fell carefully into your pile of clothes. I folded the note back up, tucked it and the mysterious cell phone away in your pocket, and darted back up to my room. I carefully set your pants on the floor so they looked carelessly thrown.
I never confronted you, he had disappeared from your life by then anyways. I was so hopelessly intertwined with you and Lily, that the three of us made a permanent conjunction in the night sky, easily visible by anyone on earth that knew where to look. There was no need for “Dylan” anymore.
The cool nighttime breeze was a nice contrast to the harsh summer day. I brought a pillow with me that night as I looked up at the sky, fully prepared to fall asleep again. The sky was clear, but the blinding light of the full moon hid the rest of the stars from view. I stared into the calm waters, the light of the moon magnified by its reflection. I took a deep breath, and leaned back against the rock. I held the pillow in my arms instead of using it to cushion me. By the time I was half asleep, I remembered that I was starting school in the morning. I jumped to my feet, and walked back to the car, carrying the pillow, and a content smile.
Lily was so beautiful. You never quite knew how to hold her, but she was made for my arms. She was bringing us together. I was excited for the future, I was learning how to love you. She was unusually calm in my arms as I rocked her back and forth. Normally she hated to leave the house, but this time she was calm. She looked up at me, and although she was still too young at that point, I swear she smiled at me. I smirked back in approval.
Even when I heard you cry out that desperate shriek in the next room, a cry I knew all too well, that shaking, world collapsing cry, I still didn’t believe it. In my arms was all the evidence to the contrary. It must have been something else, anything else. You stormed into the room, and sat in the chair furthest from where I was sitting. You were inconsolable. I didn’t bother to ask what was wrong, I knew what was wrong. I carried her into the next room, and sat down. The chair was still warm. The man across the table had a stern look on his face.
“Well you probably figured this out already, but…” I rocked Lily back and forth, as if doing so would change the words that were about to come out of his mouth, or perhaps shield me from them. “The DNA results say that there is no chance you’re her father…”
I opened my mouth, and the word “okay” involuntarily stumbled on to the floor. I didn’t know what else to say, so I just kissed Lily on her cheek.
“…on the other hand, the poor sap who flew into the black hole would have a very different perspective. The gravity would become so intense, that it would stretch and distort reality around him, until there was nothing left.” She said, dramatically flailing her arms around to show what matter looks like as it’s pulled apart.
My phone vibrated with the force of a thousand bolts of lightning, almost throwing me out of my chair. I frantically pulled it out of my pocket, and saw your message.
“She’s here.”
I sprung out of my seat, a line of sweat fell off of my face onto the floor, as I sprinted towards the door.
“Sorry, I gotta run!” I told whoever would listen as I bolted out the door. When I arrived at the hospital, you were in so much pain. It’s funny, I remember wishing you pain for your poor choices, for your lies, but not like this. This pain I wanted to end. I held your hand and joined the abnormally calm professionals in the room telling you to just breathe.
“Just breathe, you’re doing fine!” We said as a team, cheering you on, and her out.
It was a medically sanctioned massacre, there was blood everywhere. Screaming, crying, ripping, bleeding. Jesus there was a lot of blood. I was afraid everyone would disappear, leaving me in a room full of blood. They could have easily arrested me for murder.
She was so beautiful. You and I were welling with emotion, connected for the first time. I was so proud of you, of us.
“I love you.” I told you for the first time without prompting, and for the first time, I meant it. You smiled a big stupid grin as the tears streamed down your face. I never wanted to leave that room. Just you, me, and her.
“Let’s just go.” I tell you when I stepped back into the room with Lily in my arms. You were still shaking in the corner, sobbing pathetically, hands over your face.
“Hey, listen, we’ll talk about this later. Let’s just go.” Lily was slumped over my shoulder, still oblivious as I reached down with my free arm to take your hand. Your lips were trembling, but your eyes were dry. Not a single tear. I was looking up at the sky, seeing something billions and billions of miles away in perfect clarity for the first time.
You fucking knew, you knew everything.
Lily was in the back seat in what should have been the quietest car ride in the history of the universe, but you kept opening your mouth, each word pulled me deeper into nothingness. You asked me to marry you. I should have laughed. But I said-
“Yes.” That was my last gift to you, a peaceful car ride.
We arrived at your place, you were understandably ecstatic with Lily in your arms, and the two of you scurried happily into your safe apartment.
I drove off, and reached underneath my seat to grab an ancient crumpled package of cigarettes, with an almost dead lighter taking the space of the missing smokes. I officially quit when I started school, but I have had an emergency pack on standby this entire time.
As I brought the lighter up to the tip, I realized that all of my good intentions were just a crude projection smeared across your event horizon. All the good will that I poured into you had been stretched, distorted, and torn into oblivion, I just couldn’t see it from my perspective.
I stepped out of the car with a new cigarette dangling from my mouth. The path to the cliff is littered with leaves varying in color from brilliant red, to dead brown, all crackling beneath my feet. Even the most vibrantly colored leaves are on their way to a quick death after falling from their trees.
I stand up for the last time, the cold uncaring ocean air caresses my face, and the empty gray sky offers no guidance, so I look down. I stare at the rocks below, and they invite me to join them. You took everything from me, but only because I gave it to you, now I have nothing left to give. So I lean forward, and let gravity take me.