Friday, July 23, 2010

A Hole in the Ground

This is a fictional story that hasn't been able to find a home elsewhere, so I'm going to post it here. I'm trying to adapt a much longer, more complicated version of this into a little screenplay. It will probably never become a movie.

But for now it will serve as another reminder of my fear: domestication.




A Hole In The Ground


If it weren't for the speakers blaring death, or black, or grind, or whatever genre of loud, noisy metal. If it weren't for that and the giant, red tag on the wall. If it weren't for that spray-painted, dripping image of a goat on the wall. I could be mistaken about it being a goat. But if it weren't for all that and the group of thirty post-punk-looking-kids standing behind me, I'd have thought this was a boring, yuppie, nightmare of a house. Because it really looks that way.

“Who the fuck lives here?” I'm yelling at Crickett, the girl I came to the party with.

“What?” The voice is feminine, but definitely not Crickett's.

I turn to the red-haired pixie standing beside me because she's trying to say something. “Is this your place?”

“Sort of,” she shouts above the blast beats and shredding, staccato riffs. “It was my parents'.”

“So they're probably pissed.” I gesture towards the graffiti.

“No,” she says. “Just dead.” The girl shrugs and takes a sip of her beer.

“Oh,” I tell her and follow up with, “Sorry,” because it seems polite, or necessary, or something.

“Look,” she says, pointing to a framed 8x10 on the wall. The picture shows an elderly couple seated together and smiling. “They were old. So, you know, it was bound to happen.”

“Yeah, I guess so.” And then trying to change the subject: “Anyways, are you a friend of Crickett's? Otherwise, I don't really know why I'm here.”

“Crickett, Crickett...” She seems to be racking her brain for an answer. “Not good friends. Obviously. Is she in that band, Fetus Grinders?”

“Not anymore,” I tell her.

“But,” she says, as if to stop me from going on. “You don't need to, like, know anyone to be here. I mean, are you gonna steal my parents' vase? You want the fucking vase?” She nearly knocks over the porcelain antique from a small, wooden table.

“No.”

“'Cause I could care less. Just crash here. Please. It will make me feel better about my loss, or whatever.”

“You're kind of weird, you know that?” I don't know why I let this pass my lips.

“Uh, thanks asshole,” she responds.

“I just mean that you don't look drunk or fucked up or anything. But you're still...”

“Weird?” She finishes the sentence for me.

“I should probably come up with a compliment right about now.”

“It'd make me feel slightly better about talking to you,” she says.

“Okay. I like your hair.” The way this comes out sounds almost like a question.

“Oh my god,” she says. “Are you gonna ask me if I dyed it myself? To, like, improve my self-esteem as a colorist? Or are you talking about the cut? 'Cause I didn't even do that.”

“You're cute and you've got good hair. For a punk. But you're right about me. I'm an asshole. So I'm gonna find my friend, Crickett...” I'm already walking away, already drowned out by the next screaming number.

But this girl starts to laugh. She extends her hand as if waiting for me to grab hold. I cock my head to the left, hoping to convey my confusion. She just leans closer and yells, “Don't let that shit go to waste.”

“What... shit?”

“You being pissed off. Just come up stairs and fuck me.”

“What?” I can't be certain I heard her correctly.

“We can do it on my parents' bed.”

Not sure whether I'm actually considering this, I say, “I don't even know your name.”

“I'll tell you after. If you're good.”


The sex might not be as violent or angry as she wants, but it fulfills all my criteria for a great fuck. The girl even lets me put it in her ass, which is surprisingly clean. And when I cum on her stomach, she leans forward to kiss me, biting harder than I'm actually comfortable with. But her mouth tastes like sugar so the pain just makes it feel like a bad addiction.

I lick the inside of her gums and say, “I'd really like to know who I'm fucking.”

“Me,” she says, stroking my cock back to erection. “You're fucking me.”

I'm back inside her cunt and asking, like it doesn't even matter, “So I wasn't good?”

“You're good, baby, you're good.”

My voice is panting in her ear. “I just want to know your name.” I choke her until I think she's blacking out, which makes me cum again, and then I lick the sweat from her neck. She smiles and leans back into me, her skin pressing against mine.

“Just call me baby,” she says so soft I can barely hear. “I like when you call me that.”

“That's what you called me.”

“I know, baby. I just like it.”

We either fall asleep or pretend to, and in the morning we're stuck together, melded by the rising sun.


When I open my eyes she's already looking at me, her face inches from mine. “You know, I invited you up here because I thought you were gay.”

I blink. “So you didn't want me to fuck you, or didn't think I would?” Our pillow talk is unusual but it goes without saying.

“I just meant you smelled good for a boy.”

“Maybe it's cause I like other boys. Maybe I want them to smell me.” I whisper this through morning breath.

“Please say you're telling the truth, 'cause that's really hot.”

“It depends on my mood.”

She kisses me on the nose and asks, “So where do you live, little boy?”

“I've been, uh, sleeping on Crickett's couch.” This is, in fact, my living situation.

“Crickett... The girl you came here with?” she asks.

“Right.”

“She's your girlfriend?”

I shake my head as much as possible. “Just a girl. Just a friend.”

“You should sleep here instead,” she suggests.

Right now it doesn't sound like such a bad idea, but I say, “I'd need to get my stuff.”


Downstairs, a variety of crust punks, hipsters, and shaggy haired anorexics lay passed out on the floor. The walls are tagged up with more red paint and the rug is a few stains uglier.

The girl I slept with starts banging on the walls and shouting, “Everybody out! The boy and I are getting married. We want the house all to ourselves.” She kicks some kid in the gut and he rolls his way out the front door.

I can't find Crickett among the dispersing stragglers, so I call her on my cell phone. There's no answer and I don't leave a message on her voicemail. At the moment, it doesn't seem to matter.

“We're getting married?” I ask when the house is all but empty.

“I'm sorry,” she tells me. “I should've asked you first.” Her face breaks into a cute, dopey smile and she starts laughing. “Just stay with me, will you? Until we hate each other or whatever.”


The power goes out that night, but only in our house. We search the kitchen drawers for candles and light them on the windowsill of the master bedroom.

“How long have you lived here?” I ask, laying in bed beside her.

She seems to think way too long about this. “Not long,” she says. “Almost the same as you.”

“So you didn't live with your parents?” I normally wouldn't question her about it, but she seemed so quick to tell me they were dead. And not too upset about it.

“To tell you the truth,” she says turning over to face me, “I'm not sure they ever lived here.”

I just stare at her, hoping to hear the story. But I'm almost certain I won't.

“I grew up in homes,” she says, after a time. “When I turned eighteen, I went looking for my mom and dad. From what I could gather, they lived somewhere around here... at some point.”

“But not in this house?”

She shrugs. “I was gonna knock on doors, ask around and stuff. This one just happened to be open, so I spent the night. Or a couple nights.”

“They're probably on vacation,” I say. “What if they come back?”

“Then we'll leave.”


Over the next week, we smoke a lot of pot. I don't know where it comes from, but the girl leaves each day and comes back with more.

We lay around the house and fuck, and when we get really bored, we start rummaging through the books on the living room shelves. I'd have preferred something less intellectually demanding, but the power's out so we can't watch TV or listen to music.

One day, the red-haired pixie finds a story she's really into. “Have you heard of this book where there's, like, a hole in the ground, and it keeps growing and growing until it swallows up the earth?”

“I don't think so,” I say. “What's it called?”

“Fuck,” she says, rummaging through a pile of stuff that's accumulated in a corner of the bedroom. “I don't remember the name, and I don't remember where I left it. I really wanted to find out what happens.”

“But you just told me what happens.”

“There's more to it than that,” she shouts at me. And then, “Forget it.” She falls face down on the mattress. “I'm hungry.”

This is a problem because we don't have any money and we've gone through all the food in the kitchen pantry.

“Do you know how to do anything?” she asks me. “For money, I mean.”

I pause for a moment, but find no qualms about telling her the truth. “Before I moved here, I used to turn tricks.”

“Like a magician?” She looks confused.

“Like a hustler.”

“Liar,” she laughs. And then, “Really?”

I nod my head.

“Like, what would you do?”

“Whatever,” I tell her.

“Give blowjobs and stuff?”

“Whatever.”

“That's cool,” she says, nonchalant. “I guess I know how to dance.”

“Like a ballerina?” I ask, mostly just to play with her. I know what she means, and she knows it too.

“Like a stripper.”


The girl tells me I no longer smell good for a boy, and I let her know she's also beginning to stink. But the water's turned off in the house, so we don't really know what to do about it. Eventually, we find a bucket under the kitchen sink and decide to sneak on to the neighbor's property to fill it under the faucet in their backyard.

Sitting in our bathtub, we scrub each other down with wet rags and bars of soap.

“That's better,” she says, nuzzling my neck. “If I were an old man, I'd buy you.”

“They're not always old,” I tell her.

“Older than you, though.”

“Yeah, I guess,” I say.


That night, the girl takes a bus somewhere downtown and I sit in a coffee shop, posting ads on Craigslist. My phone's run out of power so I have to sit there until I get an email from a prospective john. Around midnight, it happens. I call the guy on a pay phone and he picks me up twenty minutes later.

The man only gives me two hundred dollars, but all he wants to do is blow me and eat me ass. I have to close my eyes to keep hard because every time I look down, all I see is the bald spot taking over his scalp. But when I throw my head back, he seems to think it's in ecstasy.

“You like the way that feels you little fuck.” It's not a question.

I make noises as he buries his tongue in my hole. Sure, it feels alright.


The girl gets home later than I do. She looks pissed.

“What's wrong?” I ask her.

“Tuesday night specials,” she says, covering her face with a pillow. “Just my luck.”

“I, uh, don't know what that means.”

Her voice is muffled by fabric and goose down. “It means ten dollar lap dances. It means six hours and only fifty bucks.”

I massage her shoulders and remind her, “That's enough for food, baby. And I got two hundred more.”

She looks up at me and rubs a thick glob of mascara from her eyes. “Really?” Her voice sounds hopeful. When I nod, she says, “I love it when you call me baby,” and wraps her arms around me.

“We can probably turn the power back on too.”


I take a bus to the store, get a cashier's check, and take another bus to the Department of Water and Power. By the time I get back home, the electricity's on and the water's running. The girl's even picked up a bag of groceries. We eat cereal with fresh milk.

There's a knock at the door and the girl goes to look through the peep hole. “It's some lady,” she says. “She's holding a... pie?”

“Okay,” I say, which doesn't seem to mean anything.

“Should I open the door?” She says this loud enough for me to hear in another room, which means loud enough for the woman outside.

“Yes,” I shout back. “And ask for a slice of pie.”

I walk towards the foyer just as the girl is opening the door. The woman outside says, “Oh hi,” like she's expecting someone else.

“Hello,” says the red haired pixie.

There's an extended moment of silence in which the woman seems to be looking around, staring at the graffiti that lines the walls of our home. Finally, she speaks again. “I just noticed that Sam and Hillary hadn't been around lately, and...” She tries to find her next words. “Are you relatives of theirs?”

The girl is speechless so I step in. “I'm Sam's... grandson.”

The woman cradles the pie in one arm and greets me with a handshake. “Molly Sanders,” she says.

“Kayden,” I tell her, introducing myself. The girl looks at me funny, probably because she's never heard my name.

“Is Hillary home?” asks the woman.

“She...” I correct myself. “They're vacationing. In Europe.” I feel like this is a good enough explanation.

“Oh,” says Molly. “I didn't know.”

“Yeah,” I mutter. “Sorry.”

“Well, I baked this for Hillary. I guess you're welcome to it though. If you want.”

The girl says, “We'd love it,” and does a sort of curtsy.

“It was nice to meet you,” I tell Molly, as the girl takes the pie from her.
“Likewise.”


After we eat the pie, the girls spends a long time staring at herself in the bathroom mirror. I get bored of watching her and so I put on one of her black metal CDs and try to read a book.

About an hour later, I get the idea that we should go out to a show or something. The girl's no longer in the bathroom so I look for her throughout the rest of the house. I call out, “Baby,” but she doesn't answer. Eventually, I find her sitting cross legged in the foyer, staring at the front door. She looks stoned, but also kind of sad.

“What's up, baby?” I say, kneeling beside her.

“Do you think Molly has my nose? Maybe my eyes too?”

“I wasn't really paying attention.”

“She would have recognized me, right?” She doesn't seem to be talking to me. “I mean, if she was my mom.”


Later, we end up at a venue called The Smell. Some local hardcore acts are playing. I usually like to be up front, ready to dance or pile on for a sing-a-long. But tonight I stay in back because the girl seems low on energy and I feel like looking out for her.

Between sets, someone calls out my name. It's Crickett.

“Kayden!” She gives me a hug, holding on for life. “I thought you died or something.”

“No,” I tell her. “I've just been crashing at this house.”

“With who?” asks Crickett.

“We live together,” says the red headed pixie standing beside me.
Crickett notices her for the first time and says, “Oh, sorry. Hey, I'm Cricket.”

The girl shakes her hand. “Cool.” Then to me, “I'm gonna go to the club. Get some dances in before it closes.”

“You sure?” I ask, but she walks away before answering.

“What's her story?” says Crickett when we're alone in the crowd.

“Complicated,” I tell her.

“As long as you're happy, man.”

“I think I am,” I say. “Yeah, I mean, shit's been way worse.”

“Good. Well, stick around. My new band's playing later. Thirteen songs in fifteen minutes.”

I smile and dance to Crickett's set. A fifteen year old boy kicks me in the face.


The girl's in the shower when I get home from the show. I peel back the curtain to watch her bathe. She seems out of it, but in a good mood.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” she tells me. And is if I should be proud of her, “I made a lot of money tonight.”

“Good, baby.” To let her gloat, I ask, “How much?”

“A thousand.”

“You can make that from dancing?”

“Well, not just dancing.” She can probably see my face drop. “What's the matter, Kayden? You jealous?”

I don't know who he is, but there's someone out there I want to kill.


It's been a month and the owners of the house haven't come back. The girl and I start to clean up after ourselves and really act like the place is ours. She goes out almost every night to the strip club. I do my best to find johns on Craigslist. Between the two of us, we pull in a lot of dough.

We buy things like better food and a computer. The girl starts shopping for new shoes and clothes. I feel kind of domesticated for the first time in my life.

“Do you think we're in love?” asks the girl. I don't know how to answer her, so I don't. But when she leaves that night, I feel like something is missing.


Sometime in May, I really have to pee. The girl's been in the bathroom for hours and she won't come out, even when I bang on the door and tell her she's a fucking bitch. My swollen bladder makes me violent and irrational, so I break down the hinges before I can manage to piss my pants.

Inside, the girl is crying and clutching something tight in her hand. Several small boxes lay opened at her feet.

I whip out my dick in the bathtub because the girl's sitting on the toilet. The stream of urine provides immense relief, but I still say, “Oh my god, baby. What the fuck?”

“I think,” she says, all choked up, “I'm pregnant.”


We sit on opposite edges of the bed. She explains. I do my best to listen.
“Just, like, you know, at this point in my life, I can't abandon something... someone... that's mine. I fucking know what that feels like. To be abandoned and, you know, I can't do that to someone else.”

I'm not sniffling or tripping over my words, so I probably don't sound all that emotional. “I don't really know much about it, baby. But I'm pretty sure it's not a person yet.”

“I can fucking feel it inside me, Kayden.” Her voice echoes through the house. “It's alive so it's fucking... something.”

“Oh.” What else can I say to this?

“I understand if you want to bail, or whatever. Just, maybe, like, think about it.”

“I think we should make sure you're really pregnant before...”

“I'm sure.”

“Okay,” I tell her. “But we should go to the doctor or something. To get a second opinion.”


In the waiting room, I look over the girl's shoulder as she fills out paperwork.

“I don't want you to call me baby anymore,” she says as she scrawls out her name. “For obvious reasons.”

“Okay,” I agree. “Patricia... Sanders.” I read it aloud for the first time. “Isn't that our neighbor's last name?”

“It's common,” she says.

Someone calls for her a few minutes later. The doctors do some tests. At the end, her womb is proved full.


I start to freak out on the bus ride home. “How do you even know it's mine?”
Patricia looks out the window and bites her lip until a tear appears in the corner of her eye.

I don't apologize, but I grab hold of her hand and squeeze. She squeezes back.


“I've never taken care of anyone,” I say in bed that night.

“Me neither.”

“I feel like I should practice or something.”

She traces circles on my skin. “You mean, like, get a dog?”

“Something less complicated. Like a plant. Maybe I should start a garden.”

“Yeah,” she says. “That would be nice.”


The next day, I buy roses, tomato and cucumber seeds, and a small, wire fence. I dig up earth with my hands, and then go back to buy gardening gloves and a spade.

Patricia, who I've started to call Trish, sits on the computer, researching what to feed babies. She starts finding out about all the chemicals and preservatives in household products and food. She even calls up a toothpaste company to complain about the toxicity of fluoride in their product. “Did you know,” she shouts into the phone, “that this shit inhibits the immune system, can cause neurological impairment, and has even been linked as a cause of dental flurosis? Do you even know what that is?”

She gives me a new list for groceries almost every day with further specifications of what brands not to purchase. Every time I go to the store, I look for something else to plant in our back yard.


Patricia twists the stem of a rose in her fingers, the flower pushed up under her nose. “Maybe we should call her Rose,” she jokes.

“What if it's a boy?”

The word forms on her tongue before she can even decide what to say. “Rose... ando.”

“I'm not calling my son Rosando,” I tell her. “There's no fucking way.”


I spit watermelon seeds into freshly tilled soil and stare viciously at a small hole in the ground. “Trish,” I call out to the girl who's red hair is now marred by dark brown roots.

She can't hear me so I march into the house to find her. Once I drag the poor girl outside, I demand an answer. “What is this!?!”

Patricia kneels and pokes her fingers in the dirt. “Looks like a gopher hole.”

“A what?”

“A hole made by a gopher. It's an animal.”

“I know what a gopher is,” I say like I'm trying to prove a point. “But what the fuck is it doing in my garden?”

“It's probably just hungry,” she says.

“But it's my garden.”

“Then drown it,” she suggests. “Find the other hole and pour water down them both.”

“What other hole?” I stammer. “There's only one hole.”

She's already walking back towards the house.


At night, we have sex. Patricia bites my ear and moans, “Oh my god, baby,” while I punch her in the cervix. Then she stops and says, “Sorry. That was weird.”

I'm confused, so I ask, “What was weird?”

“Calling you baby, because...” She looks down at her stomach.

“It wasn't weird until you said that.”

She says, “Sorry,” again as I stare through her. “Please don't stop, Kayden.” I'm lacking in response, so she adds, “Just fuck me in the ass or something.”

I roll off her and cover my face with my hands.


The next day, we go to a book store because Patricia wants to look for something to read our offspring. I browse bright colored pages with large pictures and small words. She disappears for several minutes.

“I found that book again,” she says, sneaking up behind me. “The one about the hole in the ground.”

“Funny,” I tell her, while eying a Bernstein Bear.

“I'm not talking about your stupid garden.” She jabs at me playfully.

After a long pause, I ask, “Then what are you talking about?”

“The book I like. The one I lost before.”

“Cool,” I say. “Does it have pictures?”

“No.”

I still don't know what we're talking about so I keep looking for something to buy the fetus.


Some of the vegetables in my garden look nibbled on, or destroyed. I still can't find a second hole in dirt, but the first one looks bigger. My hands are steady when I fill it with water and my eyes glossy as I dream of the gopher drowning underground. If I can't protect my garden from this rodent, there's no way I can handle a kid.


Patricia's bump is starting to show and the owner of the strip club won't let her dance anymore. She tells me I have to be the breadwinner, the man of the house. “And we have to stop doing drugs,” she says.

“All I do is smoke weed,” I tell her.

“Oh,” she says. And then more confidently, “Yeah, I guess that's not so bad.”

“For me,” I say. “You can't smoke anything.”

“Well, then don't tempt me.”

“So no more weed.” I mull this over, staring at the ceiling. “Sure. Whatever you want.”


The lack of THC in my system makes me kind of depressed, but mostly just bored. I spend a lot more time in the garden and a lot more time staring at the hole in the ground. There doesn't seem to be any sign of the gopher, but the pit is getting wider. I can fit my entire foot inside it without bending my ankle.


“I don't feel like you're contributing enough to the baby,” says Patricia.

“What do you mean?” I ask, laying in bed beside her. I'm kind of upset by her accusation, and I'm sure she can hear it in my voice. “It's not even born yet.”

“I just want it to know more about you. Like, what you're into or whatever.” She touches me, I guess, to show she means well.

“But it's in your stomach.” I feel it's important to point this out.

“Maybe...” She starts looking around. “You could play it one of your favorite songs.” Patricia picks up a booklet of CDs from the floor and throws it to me.

My eyes convey insubordination, but I give in despite them. I slip a Wolves in the Throne Room disc into the CD player and skip to the third track. It's called Cleansing.

The first few minutes are ambient. A woman's voice wails, Yes, to the darkest place we know... To the hidden places. Patricia brings her belly to one of the speakers. By the time the drums kick in and the screams rise over speed-picked guitar riffs, I'm beside her, my palm flat on her navel. Her organs vibrate beneath the skin. I sense my unborn child. He, or she, is dancing.

That night, Patricia and I make love. I believe it's our first time.


A week later, a john picks me up at my usual spot. He drives me to his apartment in the Hollywood hills. The man stares at me, which isn't unusual, but he doesn't make the typical comments about my face, ass, or skin.

The john asks me to get naked and lay on his bed. I do as he says, but I keep my face down so I don't have to look him in the eyes. He kneels on the mattress, plays with my ass for a little bit, and then fucks me. Afterwards, he curls up to my body and holds me like we are lovers.

I ask if I can use the bathroom to clean off, but he doesn't answer. Eventually, I tell him our time is up and I have to leave. To this, he says, “You remind me of my son.”

I pry his arms off me and start to pick up my clothes, but he throws me back on the bed and pins me down by my throat. The man delivers several blows to my face before I black out.

When I come to, I'm huddled in a bus stop, shivering and wrapped in a blanket. My face feels puffy and wet, and I sense a warm stew leaking from my rectum. I do my best to cry, but nothing comes out.


Back at home, the water in the shower runs hot and stings my wounds. Still, I stand under the faucet for at least an hour.

I try not to wake Patricia but she must sense my presence, my silent sulking at the foot of the bed. “Kayden?” I don't answer at first, so she asks, “What are you doing?”

“Thinking,” I tell her. It's the best I can come up with.

“Come to bed,” she says. “I'm cold.”

Her request is unacceptable. I feel it's my turn for comfort, my turn to ask for help. “In a minute,” I say, which doesn't translate a bit of what's going on in my head.

“Maybe you should stop coming home so late,” she yawns.

I don't know what she means by it, but it makes her sound like a bitch. I say, “Fuck you,” without tone or affect.

“What's your problem?” she demands, her voice now loud and pissed off.

“I'm making money,” I tell her, even though tonight I wasn't paid. “For us.”

This shuts her up for a while. But she crawls to me, slowly, and after a time, says, “I know, Kayden. Just maybe it's not the best way... in the long run. Like, I worry about you.” She touches me and I flinch. “And the baby.”

“What about the baby?” I ask.

“I don't know. Like, what if you catch something? Do you even wear a condom?”

“I've never worn a condom with you.”

“That's cause I'm not a junkie, and...”

“And what?” There's a fire in me that keeps rising. It may have to do with pain, or shame, or a fear of my unknown future. But I feel like I need to burn something.

“Jesus, Kayden. What do you want me to say? I'm not a fucking faggot.”

A spark jumps from my wrist and smacks her across the jaw. Hard.

She retreats, staring at me like I'm some kind of animal. And when she tries to get up, to leave, I pull her back down. She's shaking when she asks me, “What happened to your face?”

Instead of striking her again, I stomach the violence. My gut churns bits of broken glass. The pain is too much to bear, so it comes out through my eyes, nose, and lips. I'm literally leaking, sobbing uncontrollably, stuffing my face in a pillow to pretend I can't be seen.

Patricia acts concerned, but she's never been less convincing. I can feel the hatred in her voice when she tells me, “It's okay, it's okay,” and the coldness in her fingers when she strokes my neck.

I roll over to hold her, to feel her, to claim her as mine. She doesn't resist until I try to fuck her, force my half-limp cock up her dry, unwelcoming hole. It's not hard to hold her down, but she tells me, “No,” and, “stop,” like she actually has a choice.

After a time, she lays motionless and I stop, unable to cum. My saliva falls on her cheek and I roll off the bed to spend the rest of the night on the floor.


Patricia is gone in the morning, and I decide to fast until she comes back home. I've heard about people who shed their guilt and get what they want by fasting. But maybe it's because they combine it with prayer.

I don't believe in prayer, so needless to say, it doesn't work.


Three days later, I order two pizzas and eat them both. I still feel like I'm dying, so I attribute it to something other than hunger. Maybe exhaustion. I haven't been able to sleep without someone else in my bed.

I try passing out to music and put the same Emperor CD on repeat all day long. The volume is as loud as possible.

There's a knock on the door around 8pm. I don't really notice it until it becomes a persistent bang. When I reach the foyer, the walls are shaking from its force.

“Hello?” I say as the door swings open.

A police officer stands on the porch and yells, “Can you turn that down!?! Now!?!”

I leave him for a moment, and come back with relative silence.

“What is this?” he asks, handing me a piece of paper. The scribbled letters read, I'll see you at the end of the world. “It was tacked to your door.”

“I don't know,” I tell him, stuffing the paper in my pocket.

“We've had some complaints,” says the officer. “About your music.”

“Oh. I, uh, apologize.”

“You live here?” he asks.

I nod.

“Mind if I come in?”

He doesn't really wait for an answer, but I say, “Sure,” when he's standing inside the house.

“What's with all of this?” He seems to be referring to the graffiti.

I scratch my head and mutter, “I guess things got out of hand.”

“Your neighbor across the way there... She says you're name's Kayden. Kayden what?”

“Starling.”

The officer writes something down on a pad of paper. “She also says you're house sitting for a Sam and Hillary Ollofson.”

“Yeah,” I say, trying to remember what lie I told her. “I'm their godson. They're vacationing in... Sweden.”

“They know about all this?” Again, he's referring to the paint on the walls.

“I sent them an email.”

He returns pen to paper. “You live alone?”

“Yeah, um...” I look out the window as if someone should be standing there. “I think so.”

“You think so?” The cop's looking back and forth between my eyes. “Who else lives here?”

“Listen,” I stammer. “Can I file a missing person's report?”

“Who's missing?”

“The girl I was living with. She's sort of my girlfriend.”

“How long has she been gone?”

“I don't know,” I tell him, which seems like a bad idea in retrospect. “Maybe a few days.”

He points to the fading bruises on my face. “You two have a fight?”

“You know what?” I say. “Never mind.”

“I could come back tomorrow,” says the officer.

“That's, um, not necessary.”

He takes one more look around the house and tells me, “Keep it down,” before leaving.


The back yard is where I head next. It's there I discover a small crater, a missing garden, and a lack of evidence. A lot of earth's been moved. There's a big enough hole for me to sit in, lay in, and fall asleep. After stomping around a bit, that's what I do. Sleep.


In the morning or afternoon, or whenever I wake up, I walk towards the front of the house and stop. I can sense something moving outside. It walks up the front steps and knocks on the door.

Looking through the peephole, I find the same police officer from yesterday.

“I can see your eye peeking through that hole,” he says from behind the door. “And I can hear you breathing.”

“Oh,” I say, cringing, as I let him in. “Hi.”

He's inside once more, looking at the graffiti. “I spoke to your neighbor again. The one across the way.”

I don't know what to say, so I ask, “Does she, uh, have any leads?”

The cop looks at me like I'm stupid. “Leads for what?”

“Never mind,” I say.

“She says the Ollofsons have been gone for several months now. She says she's good friends with them and she's never heard about a vacation. Or anything about you.”

“You know,” I say, feigning concern. “I haven't heard from them lately, either. Maybe we should contact, I don't know, the Italian government.”

The officer pulls a pad of paper from his pocket and flips through several pages. “They're in Sweden?”

“Right,” I say as if made a mistake. “The Swedish government.” I watch him write something down and ask, “Is it possible to dust for fingerprints outside. Maybe on dirt or something?”

“Why do you ask?”

“I think there's been some vandalism,” I tell him. “In the garden.”

“Do you think we can stick to the Ollofsons for now?”

“Of course.”

The officer clutches his stomach, and suddenly looks worried. “Sorry, but can I use your restroom?”

Again, I say, “Of course,” and point him upstairs.

Immediately thereafter, I rush towards the kitchen and grab the largest knife I can find. It takes me less than thirty seconds to slash all four tires on the officer's car, and forty-five to disappear down the nearest side street.

For a brief moment in time, I think I see Patricia. She's in the corner of my eye, peering out from a window in one of the homes that line the block. When I turn my head, she's gone, and I can't tell where she would have been. All the houses here look the same. Plus, I'm running. Or being chased.

I have to escape. I must remember that.

Later, I'm back on Crickett's couch. She asks me what happened and I tell her bits and pieces. When I'm finished with the story, I still sound like a good person. And to go on living, I have to believe that I am.


Some nights I think of going back to the house, to wait for Patricia and our unborn child. I wonder how the kid will grow up, and if he, or she, will ever find me. There are excuses I come up with for daughters, and explanations I believe I would give a son. There is advice I even write down, made to sound wise and benevolent.

But I know none of it will matter. I am a father, and I will be hated. Because I am alive and I am gone. And I am unable to give anything at all.

A hand in my pocket pulls out a promise I hope is kept: I'll see you at the end of the world.

I start digging in every hole I can find.

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