:: Article

The Oddity

A novel by EJ Spode.

Chapter 12: Circe

Around 10 AM Joe Bigfire showed up at the jail wearing some hipster art deco shirt talking way too fast but more or less saying bail had been set at 10K and that Funmaker had posted it at Athena’s request. I put my sweater back on, and then endured another hour of processing before I was back on the street. Bigfire laid it all out. The DUI had been dropped because no blood test was ever taken. The broken tail light charge was dropped because there was no broken taillight. The public nuisance charge was dropped because absolutely no one in public had seen me do anything except eat a sticky bun and tip too well. All that remained was the Reckless Driving and the Resisting Arrest charges, but Funmaker was confident they weren’t going to stick. Probably everything would be dropped if we threatened to sue Dickwad for false arrest, imprisonment, filing a false police report and police brutality – all because I rekt his ugly, zitty-ass kid.

Still it had been another day in which I did not get a chance to see Penny. Time was running out. Three more days in Sodak and then I would be returning to Cornell. There wasn’t much room for error at this point. Still, my dream and other reflections were starting to give me pause. I needed to check out the scene a bit and see if Penny was a lost cause or if I could fix things. I called Athena and told her I had formulated a plan.

My new plan was to reconnoiter the Stockman with Athena and check out some of the loozers there and see if it was true that Penny was ignoring them. I figured it was probably true, but that dream with her and Leonardo DiCaprio had given me pause.

My original idea was that I would meet up with Athena around dinnertime, we would rig up some disguises, and go case the Stockman that evening. I even had an idea about the disguise part –I thought I could die my hair blonde, get a nice tight haircut, and maybe reshape my eyebrows a bit. And then I would maybe need to wear sunglasses and a hoodie or something. Or I dunno, maybe a seed cap would be enough.

Athena said that was a stupid idea, because how was Penny not going to recognize me, even in a disguise. So I came up with a plan B: I would go there sans disguise, but pretend to be over her. I would check out the scene, and then come back for the prosetry slam, show her how I truly felt, and win her heart back. Athena thought this was a stupid idea too (“it’s the same stupid idea, EJ”), but she doesn’t know Penny like I do and she probably also underestimates my literary skills. I can make angels weep with my prosetry, whatever prosetry is.

First, though, it was necessary to get a drink as I had just gotten out of jail and I had heard that a post-incarceration alcoholic beverage was a tradition or something. I had Joe take us to a place called Zanzibar, which Climax called The Pansy Bar. It was my favorite daytime drinking hole in Sioux Falls. It had a reputation for being popular with tough guys – or at least what count as tough guys in South Dakota. Physically it was your standard issue Sodak bar with pool tables and video poker, but this one had a back room for illegal poker games.

Beth was bartending, which was good. The Zanzibar had become my daytime drinking place almost entirely on the strength of Beth’s bartending – which is to say on the strength of her ability to carry a conversation.

There was already a seriously motley crew in there drinking. Well… it was almost noon, so I don’t know why I said “already.” I sat at the end of the bar closest to the door, but Beth saw me from the other end of the bar and called me down.

“Hey EJ! Come down to the dark side.”

I headed to the other end of the bar, leaving Joe to do his shady business with the other noontime customers. I ordered a Leinenkugels, and it appeared in two seconds – like she knew I was coming in and she had it on ice right where I sat. She was an uncannily good bartender.

Still, alcohol was not going to be enough to take the edge off my last 24 hours. I went back to Bigfire and asked if he had any quality drugs – preferably opiates. It turned out that all he had was molly.

“What the fuck, dude, do I look like I’m going to a rave?”

“It’s what I have, EJ.”

“Fuck”

“It will take the edge off, bro, and it will make you less agro.”

I was feeling pretty agro, that was true, so I bought a pill. I like the MDMA high, but I do not like the crashy aftermath of tripping on it. But I figured whatever, I could deal with that problem when it happened.

I picked up my beer and washed down the pill. Then Bigfire gave me a lecture, and while he didn’t say so, I was pretty sure it was actually coming from Funmaker.

“Listen EJ, you have to stop fucking around. You guys ripped off Bigfire’s cousin and if you pull shit like that you are going to lose his protection, and you do not want that to happen in this town.”

I tried to shift some of the blame onto Climax, and not unfairly in my view; Climax was the one that was all about the fucking San Pedro cactus. “Dude, I tried to tell Climax to leave the cactus alone but he wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“EJ, shut up about Climax. Why was Climax even with you? Funmaker didn’t tell you to bring a friend. Do you bring your friends to work? Climax was your responsibility.”

I could see that Bigfire had me dead to rights there, so I shifted gears and tried to be all contrite and shit. “No, I’m sorry, you’re absolutely right.”

“Goddamn right I’m absolutely right. Stop fucking around. There are people in this town that will fuck up a smartass like you.”

“Seriously, I’m sorry.”

“And stop blaming Climax for your fuckups.”

“Right. Got it. Sorry.”

“I fucking hope so.”

“I do.”

“OK, peace brother.” And Bigfire was gone – to wherever Bigfire goes when he runs errands for Funmaker.

I returned to my stool at the dark side and chugged some more Leinenkugels. Halfway through my third bottle of beer, I noticed that my friend Circe had taken the empty seat next to me. I hadn’t figured her for being a dark sider.

“Hey Circe, what’s up?”

“I’m drinking shit beer, like you are.”

Circe had come to Sioux Falls as an exchange student from Serbia and then came back to visit and never left. I never really understood why she came back, much less stayed, because she didn’t particularly like it here and didn’t even have a boyfriend. Fuck, I’m not even sure she is here legally.

Circe has this way of always looking bored, and that turns into a way of looking annoyed when you say something to her. Still, she is tall and dark with Slavic features and is mad hot, so you can’t just give up on her. I’ve found that the best way of dealing with Circe is by doing something with her instead of talking to her, so I asked if she wanted to play pool. She didn’t say “yes” or nod (or even look at me for that matter). She just slid off her stool and said, “Do you have quarters?”

A minute later, as I was racking the balls, she said something to the effect of “you better not play like a pussy this time,” which reminded me that the last time we played she got pissed off at me because I was playing mad defensive pool. I don’t see the problem with defensive pool. It’s what you do when you face a better pool player. It’s called *strategic* play. I play thinking about where the cue ball is going to be if I miss. In fact, that is pretty much all I worry about when I play — making sure my opponent doesn’t get a good shot when I finish my turn. Circe hates that. She truly does. She also hates losing.

I decided that I would rather remain in Circe’s favor than win the game, so I was substantially more aggressive than I would have been otherwise. And I shot better than I expected to. Circe seemed to be warming to me, which is to say she wasn’t looking at me with the usual abject scorn, so I thought I would strike up a convo.

“So… Circe, I have a question…”

“Mhmmm.”

“So…why exactly did you leave Serbia?”

At this point Circe took out a cigarette and lit it up right there in the bar. I thought about telling her that was against the rules, but then, I didn’t want to be *that* guy. Circe just stood there smoking and looking at the pool table. I couldn’t tell if she was thinking about her next shot or something else. Or maybe she was just fed up with me. After about thirty seconds of reflection, Circe extended her right arm straight down to the floor, cigarette still in hand. She studied the table a bit longer and then, with her arm fully extended downwards, knocked the ash off her cigarette with a quick flick of her thumb. I stood transfixed. Then she grabbed her cue and proceeded to run the table, cigarette dangling from her lips. As she was moving between shots she talked to me, though.

“You see …*crack* … Yugoslavia used to be one country, and we spoke Serbo-Croatian. Now we either speak Serbian or Croatian, but you know, they are the same language – they are more alike than British and American English… *crack*… So in Yugoslavia we decided we had different ethnicities, different languages, we were different people, so that we could kill each other. And why? … *crack* …Because people are stupid. … So we kept finding differences and kept dividing. There are Slovenes, and Bosnians and Montenegrins, and now… *crack* … now where I am from in Novi Sad they say “we are not part of Serbia, we are part of Vojvodina.” So we can kill more people. “Eight in the corner.” … crack… She sank the eight ball.

“Jesus Circe that’s some quality shooting.”

“Yes. I know. Spode, I came to this country to get away from that shit.”

“Word. And I hear what you are saying about nationalism and racism.”

“It’s not about nationalism and race. Any difference is bullshit. If you think someone is different from you and inferior to you, then you are sick. You have a diseased mind.”

There was this pause in which I didn’t know what to say. I was pretty excited that Circe was warming to me and possibly even liked me. And she was not wrong about the difference shit.

Just then Earl and Lester appeared tableside looking for a game. Earl did the talking.

“You two kids wanna play doubles?”

Now here is the thing about Earl and Lester. They are sharks. They usually play in pool halls downtown, and they have this little circuit that they travel to scam people. It was not unlike that movie *The Hustler* — the first one, the black and white one. Now they knew that we knew they were sharks. And they probably just wanted to humiliate us, but whatever. I was feeling lightheaded from the attention I was getting from Circe and despite all common sense and reason to the contrary, I accepted their challenge.

“Sure thing, I’ll break.”

As I was racking the balls Circe leaned over and whispered in my ear, “they are too good for us.”

I stood up, taking a cue in hand and whispered back in her ear, “we are going to beat them, trust me.”

Circe just sort of looked at me with her lead-shield-piercing Serbian eyes. I couldn’t read what she was thinking, but I thought it might be something like “I respect you for saying that – we will die like bosses. Like my ancestors did on the plains of Kosovo in 1389.”

Now here is the thing with the way Earl and Lester play. When they line up their shots it is CRACK and the ball is in the pocket, bam! And while that is intimidating to be sure I always found it inelegant. I *like* watching the balls roll across the felt. I like being able to see the rotation of the balls. I *like* my game slow.

You expect pool sharks to look like Minnesota Fats and be all duded up in a sharkskin suits with alligator skin boots, and well that’s probably how Earl and Lester front in Vegas or something, but when they are scamming locals in downtown Sioux Falls they dress like farmers, complete with the Dekalb seed caps. That day, Lester was wearing khaki pants, a plaid shirt, and a Monsanto farmer hat. He was representing for GMOs. Earl was a bit more presentable, with jeans, a light blue shirt, and a navy blue jacket. His fugly pinky ring was the only clue that he was a hustler. I assumed that they had just stopped in Zanzibar to practice.

Now about the game. I figured this would be one case where Circe would forgive me for playing like a pussy, and that is surely how I played. My game was on, though, and while I didn’t bury a lot of shots – in fact I passed over a lot of easy ones – I left absolutely nothing for Earl, who followed me in the rotation. And I nudged a lot of our solids into the corner in the process – leaving them for Circe to kill. And Circe was surely on her game too. Earl and Lester started slowing down their game – they had to. We weren’t leaving them anything to blast into open pockets; this was a finesse game.

Circe and I were sharing a cue. As the game started slowing down Circe and I were standing side by side watching Lester line up a shot. She extended the cue to me. I took it in my hand, but as she passed it to me our hands brushed. We locked pinky fingers briefly during the handoff. Maybe it meant, “Hang in there,” or maybe it meant something else.

On about the 7th round I left Earl with an impossible shot. I had missed my shot, but in doing so I placed the cue ball between three solids on one side and just the bumper on the other. Earl tried to masse over our solids, which was stupid, and the cue ball spun into the eight ball, which found its way into a side pocket. That’s called SCRATCHING ON THE EIGHT BALL bitches! You FAIL!

Everyone near the table was stunned, including the eight or nine people standing around watching us play. I glanced over at Circe, and I could tell she was fighting back a shit-eating grin. Earl and Lester walked up to each of us quickly, shook our hands, and then retreated immediately to the bar. They didn’t even ask for another game; I think they figured we were dangerous and very likely could have beat them again. They weren’t going to risk that blot on their sketchy reputations.

Circe walked up to me. “Spode that was so awesome.”

She was fighting back the urge to jump up and down; I could tell.

“Let’s go outside and have a cigarette.”

I started threading my way through the ever more crowded bar and reached my hand back as I squeezed through the early-afternoon drunks. Circe took my hand.

Outside, Circe finally started jumping – albeit the kind of jumping where your toes don’t leave the ground. “That was so fucking cool. You were great!”

“Yeah see, sometimes it pays to play like a pussy.”

“You didn’t’ play like a pussy. You played like a boss!”

We hung out there in the early afternoon cold for a solid ten minutes and had a real conversation about her family and Serbia, and then the totally unexpected happened. She said “EJ why don’t we go to my place. I’ll make breakfast.”

Now there was so much right about that. First, she correctly knew that although it was 2 PM we both needed breakfast. Second: Circe! I never imagined I could hook up with her. For years I had pretended I didn’t even like her. I told everyone how I thought Circe was a witch. In the moment, though, I could feel my knees buckling.

I went back in to pay Beth. As I walked out, she shouted “have fun!” and then laughed like she knew what was next. Beth was a damn good bartender.

Circe lived in an apartment downtown, and I have to say it was very cool. She had a sense of style about her to be sure. There were lots of plates and pictures hanging on the wall, and there was an organized riot of color and texture. The painted hardwood floors creaked as we walked on them – I mention that because it struck me as a kind of musical creak. For some reason, I wanted to slow dance with her on those floors.

We went into the kitchen, and Circe made me a cup of insanely strong coffee and she poured me a shot of Slivovic – which is a plum brandy that is outstandingly good with coffee. She busted out some sausages, which she called cevapcici, and some eggs and went to work grilling the sausage in an old-school iron skillet while we talked about my friend Climax. Circe didn’t like him.

“Why do you hang with that guy, Spode? He is a pig. I hate his name. Who calls himself Climax? You could never take him to a wine and cheese party with your academic friends, for example. He would embarrass you. He limits where you can go.”

I had had this conversation with other people before. People just didn’t get Climax, and they thought he was nothing but trouble. I thought the best way to explain Climax would be by telling a bit of his history. Sometimes you hate a person for what they are, but when you find out how they came to be what they are you understand them better and maybe even like them better.

You see, Climax had a fucked up life right from the very beginning. His mother died when he was 7, but that isn’t the half of it. He had a little brother — I don’t even know what his name was — who died a couple of years before the mother. So I guess Climax was 5, and the brother was 3. It was a car accident. The mom lost control and hit a tree. The little kid died on the spot. When the police showed up, the mom was just sitting on the curb holding the little three-year-old in her arms, rocking back and forth and crying.

For two weeks after the accident the mother would lock herself in the little kid’s room just hugging his stuffed animals, smelling his clothes, that sort of shit. I have no idea what Climax thought about all this. He just told me this shit like he was talking about his mom’s favorite color or something.

That’s also when his mom started getting sick. It started with the headaches and everyone figured, well, you know, it’s the stress of losing the kid, but after a few months of this they sent her to Rochester for a checkup (figuring the doctors would tell her that it’s all psychological), but they found out it was organic. Inoperable brain tumor. She did the chemo and all, so she was able to last a couple more years. I dunno, it must have sucked so bad…

I guess that his mom willed herself to stay alive those last two years. She was a nurse, and she had to know what was going on inside her body, but she refused to quit on Climax. Johnny told me that she would give him all these pep talks in the last year of her life — how he was going to be President of the United States some day, how he was going to do all these important things. Climax never believed any of it, but he sure remembered it — said he remembered it like it was yesterday, like his mom kept whispering this shit to him from the grave “You’re special, you’re going to be famous, you’re going to change the world.” The thing is, I’m sure that she believed it.

I think about his mom sometimes. I didn’t meet Climax till years later of course, but I feel like I know his mom. I’ve seen pictures of her from the ’90s, and honestly, she was very cute. You might say she was hot in an understated way. I gather that she was very smart too. And I think about her a lot, you know, because I wonder what it was like for her to know that she was going to die and leave this little kid alone with his loser father. And the worst thing is that both of her parents had died young too — both died when she was in high school (dad had a hunting accident and mom died of cancer) so she knew what it was like to have your parents disappear.

What can I say? The whole thing sucked.

I explained all of this to Circe, and she was paying close attention, even while she was smoking a cigarette and scrambling eggs with civapcici. “Why was his father a loser?”

I explained how the father was a fucking dick, though I suppose he has his reasons. Losing a kid and a wife could be part of it but from what I understand, he was a dick from the beginning. I mean, no question he had a shit life in a lot of ways. He worked at the Hormel meat packing plant, and when all the minorities started working there he became the biggest racist… I mean he wasn’t one of these guys who hated blacks and Native Americans abstractly — he had personal grudges. You know, nasty fights and shit at the plant. More nasty fights in the bars.

But the thing is that Climax’s dad was a jock at bottom. He’d been a big high school football dude. I guess he was a linebacker or something for Lincoln High… I think he made the all-state team too. Then he went into the first Gulf War, picked up some shrapnel and a purple heart, and came home. I guess he met Johnnie’s mom when he was getting some shrapnel removed back here at the VA hospital.

You know, it’s funny. This must happen a lot. Here’s this great woman who falls in love with a jerkwad, and I suppose it’s because she got to meet him when he was weak and vulnerable. Who knows? Of course, the guy was a stud too, no question about that, so I don’t doubt that she wanted to jump his bones, and to her, I guess that meant they were supposed to get married.

But fucking hell the guy was a bastard. A big fucking bastard. I figure everyone was scared shitless of him except maybe Climax. The guy was 6′ 2″, maybe 6′ 3″, and around 260 pounds when I met him. He had these big fucking hands, and when pounded the table you half expected thunder and lightning to follow. I used to call him Thor. I’d say, “Hey Climax, how’s old Thor doing?”

I guess when Climax was a kid they got along really well. He would take Climax hunting and fishing all the fucking time. You know, every weekend they’d be off hunting whatever was in season, and on weekdays they’d go and fish bullheads out of the Sioux River. He’d go to all of Climax’s little league games, shit like that. But then things fell apart in Johnnie’s freshman year.

The thing is, he wanted Climax to be a jock too. And for a while, he was getting his wish. Climax was on the basketball team as a freshman and he dressed for the varsity games — I think he even played some minutes — but he gave it up in his freshman year. And then he started hanging with the freaks.

Circe was plating the breakfast and still paying attention. “What do you mean ‘freaks’?”

I explained that the freaks were the druggies and burnouts. They would have been hippies if it had still been the 60’s, but by the year 2010 it was just a matter of blitzing your brains out on whatever substance you could get your hands on. The thing you have to understand about Lincoln High — and maybe it’s this way everywhere — is that the kids in the school were divided up into freaks, jocks, eggheads, and nerds. Climax sort of fell between the cracks — not exactly a jock anymore and not exactly a genuine freak. And that’s when I ran into him because I was moving between the eggheads and the freaks. We met at some freak party and started hanging out.

In senior year of high school, Climax was really in bad shape. He started hanging out with the Jolly Cone crew, which was a bunch of kids that were famous for sitting around at the Jolly Cone restaurant and partying until they passed out in their own puke. Fortunately, Athena convinced Climax that he didn’t want to be passed out, because when you are passed out you aren’t experiencing shit, and that spoke to him because what Climax loved above all else was experiencing everything.

I remember the first time I met Climax like it was yesterday. We were at a party listening to Led Zeppelin II and Climax and I were just grooving on the music and getting so damn high. He had some Tangie, which is a Sativa strain that is a hybrid of Cali Orange and Skunk, and after months of smoking Iowa ditch weed, I got proper high… I don’t think I ever got that high again. And the thing is, the guy impressed me. I was thinking, I have got to hang with this dude ‘cuz he is the chillest fucker I’ve ever met.

Circe and I sat down to giant plates of eggs and Serbian sausage. I had no idea how she got the sausage, but it was delicious. She had some wicked hot sauce to go with it. We kept drinking shots of slivovic while we ate. I was also feeling the molly coming on, so I asked for a glass of water.

When we finished, Circe said “we can clean up later, let’s take a nap” and she took me by the hand and led me into her bedroom. We got undressed and climbed into bed and fell asleep for several hours.

When I woke up Circe was lying next to me looking at me. She smiled and climbed on top of me… and it was bliss.

After fucking, we took a shower and spent the rest of the day in bed reading magazines and smoking weed. We talked some more about Climax and Serbia, and the town where she was from – Novi Sad – and how it sucked so hard when NATO bombed it. And then we talked about Serbian food and the sailing on the Danube River and life in South Dakota and how she just wanted to get in a car and go and never stop in the same place twice. She was done with people and governments and armies and fast food chains. But most of all she was done with people telling her how to live her life and, in particular, her sex life, because she had needs, and governments, religions, and nosey neighbors had all conspired to deny her what she needed. And what she needed was power and control in the bedroom. Maybe it was the molly speaking, but I offered to give that to her.

Now I’ll confess that I’ve let women tie me up before, and some of them have taken a riding crop to me before, but in comparison to Circe, none of them had any idea of what they were doing. She stripped me and tied me down on my back, then blindfolded me, so I had no clue what she was up to. Every few seconds, she would whack me with a riding crop. Sometimes the strike would land between my legs, sometimes across my chest or on the side of my face… and sometimes she would strike my balls good. I could never figure out where it was coming next, or even when it was coming. Sometimes she would just tap me with the crop. Other times she would lightly brush me with it. Then, sometimes, she would whack me as hard as she could. The pauses, though. The pauses when she would walk around and look at me, picking out her next target. Shit, those pauses were intense. They lasted forever. I would sense the whip coming, but then it would never come. After an hour of this, she was in total control. And that’s when she pulled out her knife.

Fuck, the knife itself wasn’t the thing, but it was the mind fuck she could do with the knife. I mean there I was still tied and blindfolded, and I heard her pull her knife — her damn 9″ Bowie knife — out of its scabbard. Then she started to sharpen it on a whetting stone. Fuck I was scared shitless.

Circe climbed on top of me and just dragged the point of the knife over my body. Sometimes she would stop and balance it on point on my skin, but never with enough pressure to cut me. I felt her press the flat of the blade against my face, against my arms, my legs. Then my balls. Fucking hell you don’t know fear until you’re tied up by some crazy Serbian woman who has a damn 9″ Bowie knife up against your balls.

I don’t know how long this went on. Another hour? It seemed like a fucking week at the time. At some point, though, I don’t know when or why, she decided to end the game. She held the blade to my throat with one hand while she whacked me off with the other. Circe cut the rawhide straps, took off my blindfold and gag, and then just held me for a while. Shit. I never want to be held, but God I needed to be held right then. She asked me how I was doing, and all I could think of saying was “wow.” And then about a minute later I said “wow” again. My brain had stopped working. I fell asleep in her arms and dreamt.

I don’t know what it was with all the dreams I was having. This one was more bizarre than the one the night before. I was out with my crew – Climax, Athena, Bigfire, and Funmaker – and we were driving around out in the country smoking weed and eating peyote buttons, and then Funmaker, who was driving, turned down a country lane and said “follow me” and the ground opened up in front of us and the car plunged deeper and deeper into the earth. Finally the car landed in a pile of cinders among other piles of cinders in an endless landscape of cinders, and we looked at each other. Again, Funmaker said, “follow me.”

We got out of the car and began walking through a post-apocalyptic landscape of ash and cinder and rubble. We began to come across people sitting in small groups. They ignored us for the most part. Sometimes one person would look up, and watch us in a disinterested way before returning to his or her conversation. I couldn’t understand the conversations; they were just low frequency humming to my ear.

At one point I noticed that Climax was running from group to group asking them “have you seen my mom? Have you seen my mom?” but they just shook their heads and returned to their droning conversations.

I saw a group of skeletons wearing sombreros. I sat with them – their skulls were decorated like Mexican Calaveras (those sugar skulls) – they were talking about Subway sandwiches. One of the Calaveras kept insisting that Subway’s roast beef was better than their turkey. I felt it was ok to interrupt.

“I’m sorry to interrupt.”

They turned towards me and stared, waiting…

I didn’t know what to ask. What do you ask a dead person? I didn’t want to bother my mom, so I didn’t ask where she was. I decided to ask about my future. I forget how I phrased the question, but I remember it was clumsy.

The Calaveras stared at me. Finally, one of them said, “we don’t know anything about the future; leave us alone.”

He said it with a certain tone that I imagine the dead think they are entitled to. And honestly, on reflection, why the fuck would the dead know anything about the future. They had no idea what was going on up there; for all they knew Subway didn’t even serve turkey sandwiches anymore. Still I had remaining questions. Anyone would.

“What is it like to be dead?”

Again they all turned to me and the tallest one said, “you tell us; you’re the one who came from the land of the dead.”

I felt put out by that conversation, which was sort of rude by the standards of the living, so I got up and wandered around the cinder piles some more until I came upon a guy who still had his flesh and he was curled up in a ball crying. I knelt down next to him and touched his shoulder. He looked up. It was Steady.

“Dude, Steady, what are you doing here? You aren’t dead.”

“Fuck yes I’m dead. I died with Kat.”

“Dude.”

“No, it’s true.”

“Come back with me. This place isn’t for you. Not yet.”

“I’ve been trying to find Kat.”

“Dude…”

“She isn’t here.”

“how do you know…”

“She went on to the next world. She just keeps dying and I can never catch up with her…”

“Dude…I’m so sorry…”

“You don’t get it…”

“Get what?… What is it, Steady?”

“It’s just hells all the way down. I can’t keep following her. I just can’t.”

I held Steady in my arms and he cried and cried until my shoulder was soaking wet from his tears. And then the ground began to fall away beneath me and I fell through the rubble and cinders and ash and kept falling until I woke up in bed. I could hear Circe in the shower, singing the song “Royals.”

“Let me be your ruler (ruler)
You can call me queen bee
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule
Let me live that fantasy”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EJ Spode abides. 3:AM are serializing his novel weekly. Keep up.

Image: Jana Astanov.

Chapter 1: Giants in the Earth:
Chapter 2: The Welcome Inn:
Chapter 3: Dimebag Bob’s:
Chapter 4: The Trojan Horse:
Chapter 5: The Turtle Diaries:
Chapter 6: The Cartagena Diaries
Chapter 7: Penny
Chapter 8: San Pedro
Chapter 9: Triggered
Chapter 10: Letters and Dreams
Chapter 11: Helena and Steady Eddie

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, January 15th, 2017.