“Hello, my class is taking a field-trip and I’m selling magazine subs—” I slammed the door in his tiny, stupid face.
He might have been eight-years-old, and my reaction might have been cruel, but the kid’s gotta learn the world is a harsh place sometime in his life. Why not now?
I went back to the kitchen table and picked up the steaming mug. The coffee was dark and mean, just like me, without any sugar or cream. I picked up one of the story submissions I’d been reading through. The past few months, I’ve been putting together a collection of horror stories written by LGBT authors with the help of a lot of really incredible friends. I just needed a moment of peace this morning and kids were already ringing the bell. I’d fallen so far behind with the selection process for this anthology, I never believed I’d get it finished on time. Every extra second of my day had been occupied by “Black Rainbow” and more things to read kept coming in daily. It was going to be spectacular and the entire process was inspiring and exhilarating…and yet, I couldn’t wait for the submission deadline to come so I might finally stop printing endless pages and pages and feeling so overwhelmed.
Before you guys reading rag on me in the comments about the printer – listen, I’m not screwing up my eyes reading through fifty 18 to 25 page stories on my computer. Mind your own business.
If you must know: the paper is from 60% recycled material. Once I’m done with the pages they get recycled again. I shred them into a thousand pieces and use them to line my hedgehog, Jason’s cage. The cage paper has to come from somewhere …
I see you guys in the comments of these posts when someone does something that Facebook and Twitter have decided aren’t “socially acceptable” or “environmentally conscious” enough. You guys act like you’ve never poured oil down your sink drain or watered your lawn during a drought so your grass wouldn’t die; but I see you. You act like you’ve never in your life fed ducks bread or gave your kid a sip of beer at a BBQ because they wanted to know what it tasted like. You’re perfect right?
Don’t try to come for me, haters.
I still use plastic straws, paper plates a lot of the time and waste lots of paper towels, too.
Nobody’s perfect and life’s full of hard lessons. We choose convenience over eyeball cancer in this house. Fight me.
The dog ran to the door and barked one short, gruff grunt moments before the doorbell rang again. Max always had a knack of knowing when someone was about to press the button on the other side.
What could it be now? It wasn’t even 7 o’clock in the morning and someone had rang the bell twice. Was there no decency left in the world? Who comes to someone’s door this early? The police, when you’ve got a warrant out, that’s who. Who are their parents? Who are the children? For christsakes.
They rang the bell again. Impatient little shit.
I looked out through the peep-hole onto my empty porch landing. Nobody was out there. Cautiously, I opened the door again, inch-by-inch.
“Hello sir!” a little girl stood off to the side of the doorframe this time with a tiny plastic wagon. A wagon that was full of magazines and order forms. “My class is taking a fieldtrip—“
Nobody wants to order anything from you, kid! Make your parents take it to work like all decent hated coworkers do. Let Karen in her cubicle nextdoor wait 5 months for the orders to be fulfilled. How had I suddenly become responsible for teaching the nation’s youth the truth about society? We’re grumpy. We’re mean, nasty assholes, and don’t bother us before we’ve finished our blessed coffee. Blessed?
It’s finally happened. I’m replacing cuss words with religious ones. I’ve become my mother. My worst fear.
Max was barking his head off, standing at the kitchen window with his forelegs up on the sill. I’d never heard him bark like that before in my life.
Oh god. The noise. All the ringing and the barking.
“MAX!” I shouted, “SHUT UP!” But he wasn’t listening. He just kept barking and barking out towards the street beyond through the glass.
I trudged quickly to the door and threw it open, “WHAT IN THE NAME OF HEAVEN DO YOU WANT?”
Two children stood on the stoop this time, looking up at me in shock.
The little boy regained his composure first, “Good morning sir or madam!” he said gleefully. He was reciting the script word for word. I felt my hand rise up to my forehead unbidden.
“We’re selling magazine subscriptions for our class fieldtrip.” The girl said without missing a beat.
Why was this happening to me? — hold on — what was happening outside?
The children were all throughout the neighborhood. They were mostly around the same age but there had to be at least 50 of them. There weren’t even that many eight-year-olds in town. Some were peering into windows. Others knocked their small, precocious fists against hard wooden doors. The sun was shining its bright and early glow on the world outside, tinging everything in a pastel orange. At the center of the round pavement at the far end of the cul-de-sac stood a woman whose hair blew wildly around her head as though she stood in the middle of a tempest but there was no breeze. She held her arms out like a conductor and she looked to be shouting, though her lips were moving wildly I could only hear the bright calls of the song birds in the trees.
“Sir?” the little boy said, “are you okay?” He drew my attention away from the spectacle that was happening beyond my yard in the rest of the neighborhood. I turned my eyes down to meet his eyes.
His solid blue eyes filled with mist.
The little girl smiled and her gums began a slow bleed, “did you hear what we said?” she asked me. I closed my eyes tightly and turned my head away. When I opened them again I saw three children climbing up the walls of the Thompson house across the street with the dexterity of spiders, while two others slithered assuredly on their roof. Pattering up and over the front of the house and into the back like sure-footed rodents scampering across the shingles of their two-story colonial.
“We’re selling magazine subscriptions for our class field-trip–” The little girl said again. She was missing one of her bottom teeth, but that wasn’t where the blood in her gums was dripping from. “–to the watery depths of hell.”
The blood was coming out of the beak. There in the depth of her throat, writhing towards the back was a mass of tiny tentacles and an octopus beak.
“The dark god has been sleeping for many eons.” The little boy continued where she’d left off. “But now, praise be his word! He has awoken once more. In his great palace beneath the waters of Braden Lake he sets a place for us to come and adore him.”
The little girl began again looking over her shoulder: “teacher says he wants you to come and adore him too. Do you hear him call to you? Do you hear the whispers of his dark dreams twirling toward you on his tendrils? Twirling through the midnight while you sleep? He can reach you here. There’s no reason to hide. We belong to him.”
“He wants us to join him in the dark below and embrace the splendor of the water as it fills our lungs.” The boy added. He clapped excitedly.
She smiled again, the girl, her mouth stained pink. The blood that slowly bled from her was coagulating into thick raspberry jam on her teeth. Her blue, watery eyes seemed vast and deep and were lighting with a wild energy. They seemed to slosh like tiny dark tidal pools. She laughed. “He’s gonna turn the rest of us blue when we breathe the deep!” she said with a little clap of her hands. The ringlets of her blond hair tussled with her giggles, “That’s my favorite color, even though it’s for boys. Won’t you buy a subscription mister?”
I stood there for another moment, glancing anxiously around the neighborhood. The number of children continued to swell all around. I gulped.
“Sure,” I told them cautiously. They both became energized then, smiling far too wide, like hungry feral dogs. “Let me just go get my wallet. I’ll be right back.”
I locked the door and set the deadbolt.
That was 20 minutes ago. I didn’t go back. I took the dog and climbed into the bathtub with him. He’s been shaking worse than me and wining anxiously in the dark even with me holding him close for comfort.
POUND POUND POUND
I can still hear them here, even hiding this far inside of my house.
“Hey misterrrrr? You coming back?”
Their shrill voices make my skin prickle with gooseflesh. My blood is running so cold I feel like I’m freezing from the inside and they just keep knocking and I can hear them, oh Jesus I can hear them climbing the walls outside and scampering across my roof.