“PHOTOGRAPHS OF MADNESS: INSIDE OUT” ‘Part Four: Cellar Silence’ By Alec Ivan Fugate

On the Evening of November 24th, 2018, From the Eyes of Lauren Roy

 

Right before dinner I get to the research for my school’s paper. The task is to delve into some history about the city. The best article will be featured on the front page. This has involved a lot of digging, and a lot of missed homework assignments for other classes, but it’ll be worth it, I’m sure.

The city was founded some 200 years ago in a flurry of killjoy pilgrim nonsense. Started with a general store, a couple acres of farms, and just about forty or fifty people building their own homes and hopes and living happily together until one November when a sickness struck the town, still early in its development. There were no doctors who could handle such an outbreak so the population disintegrated in a gradual way, starting with one or two people with fevers and ending with just about everybody vomiting in their beds, decaying. There are rumors of a farmer, penchant for harvesting spices in particular, family of seven, whose lover in a previous town was practiced in medical procedure. She was their only hope, and so by extension his letters to her were their only hope. Legend goes that he wrote and wrote and wrote and never received a response. He watched his family wither away. Saw them in the holds of death. The senior class tells a tale at spooky Halloween parties every year, per tradition. They say that the man went mad, took matters into his own hands, and personally struck down every member of his family in mercy as they slept in cold sweats.

“Laury?”  my baby sister, Emily, calling from the doorway to my bedroom.

“Yeah, hon?”

“What are you doing?”

“Just writing a paper, what are you doing?”

“Asking what you’re doing.”

I turn around. “Cool. Hey, do they have you write papers in kindergarten at all?”

She shakes her head, looking frustratingly happy.

“Well, just so you know, writing papers is a lot of hard work. It means you have to really concentrate. Do you know what I mean?”

“I dunno.”

“I means I need you to leave me to my work for just a couple hours.”

Pouty face and puppy eyes, “But I really wanna hang out with you! We haven’t watched a movie in forever!”

“I’ll tell you what: after I’m done with this, how about we watch whatever movie you want, okay?”

“Whichever one?”

“Whichever one.”

Emily furrows her brow, thinking about which movie she’d like best to see, nods a lot, and says, cryptically, “Okay then!” She scurries out and into her room, her long blond hair stringing out behind her silly pink slippers.

Back to work then.

This is where the story gets ridiculous, in my opinion, but it’ll be good for the paper: he evidently was so attached to his grief, stricken with guilt, that in a laudanum dream the night after the murders he constructed a family of black owls to watch over him lest God strike him down for his misdeeds. In a way, according to several analyses of this folktale, this was a form of contending with, confessing to, his crime. The other townsfolk wouldn’t be so easily fixed; they hung him the morning after.

The interesting part, though , is that his home was apparently built right where my family and I live in our apartment on Little Street. Even though their creator was dead, the black owls were rumored to survive in their home, staying in one place, looking after not the body of the man but the site of the family’s last moments. Over time the cabin was destroyed to make room for an apartment building in the 20s. A woman was found dead in the closet of the only bedroom then, and the site was presumed to be haunted. In the 60s another body was found in the same closet with severe acidic burns. In the 80s this whole side of town was abandoned because of the population’s refusal to gentrify, and soon fell into disrepair. The 90s brought another two bodies to the apartment even though the building was condemned, and up until two years ago when they rebuilt and refurbished every apartment in this place the entire street was assumed to be some sort of mystical zone not to set foot in around this time of year.

Because of all this, my friends won’t come to our place, Apt. 1, even though I tell them they changed the numbering when they reconstructed and that technically this is Apt. 2 in the original plans.

“Laury?”

“What’s up, babydoll?”

“Do you know what Mom and Dad are making for dinner tonight?”

“I’m not sure. I think it’s just spaghetti.”

“Hmmmm. Okay!”

“Is that all you wanted to ask me, Em?”

“No, um, when will you be done working?”

“Well, I’m just in the research part now. I still need to write the thing.”

“So when will you be done, though?”

“Sometime after dinner.”

“Fine,” more pouting.

“Hey, Em?”

“What?”

“I love ya!”

Emily sighs dramatically, turns around and right before she walks out: “Love you too.”

In a weird way, I love it when she comes in here to bother me. I must be really cool to her; she’s sneaking out of her room, the Grounded Station, when she needs to stay put for pushing that other girl down the steps at school. I blush, think to myself aw, little Em loves me!

Right. Paper.

There are tiny details in this lore that I need to remember for the paper, like a trapdoor in the closet that, whenever the police inspected it, they couldn’t quite open no matter how many tools they brought with them. It was thought that there was a killer who was using the door to lure victims into a lair of sorts, but that falls apart when you think, you know, what type of hatch could only be opened by one person?

I’ve had conversations within my circles about what I think it would have been, and though I’m no expert, I think it’s a metaphysical thing, if we’re going with the whole supernatural vibe. That maybe something happened to those people in whichever space the hatch entombs. Maybe it waits for a specific kind of person. I don’t know. Again, not an expert. All I really know for sure is they expanded and added another bedroom to every first and second floor apartment, and that the apartment that was originally Apt. 1 had no trace of the hatch when the builders were working on it, so who knows who was telling the truth all these years, which rumors were legitimate, what was lore and what was just some tonic the city feeds itself to keep us all from killing each other.

Knocks on the door, tap tap. Dad.

“It’s time for dinner, Lauren hon. I already told your sister and she said she was starving so hurry on into the kitchen!”

“Thanks, Dad. Be right there.”

The three of us set the table and sit down, wait for the late party to show up. Starving, my ass.

“Never noticed that there,” Dad says, pointing to a corner of the wall.

“What is it?”

“It’s like a stain, or something.”

I see it. The corner has this small, superblack spot tucked into it, like a watermark gone stale.

“Where do you think that came from?” Mom asks.

Dad rolls his eyes. “Probably Old Lady Hatch running her bathtub over the edge again. I’ll talk to her tomorrow, see what I can do.”

“Funny,” Mom says, squinting. “Looks kinda like a bird if you close your eyes a bit.”

Dad: “Yeah,” trails off. “Where’s your sister, she pouting again?”

“Probably,” I laugh. “I’ll go get her, be right back.”

I knock on Emily’s door, wait for an answer.

“Come on, Em, it’s Laury. It’s time for dinner…don’t make me come in there to tickle you out here!”

Nothing.

I open the door ready to get her, but her bed is empty.

I go to swing open the closet doors. She hides there a lot when she’s upset.

But she’s not there, either.

Instead there’s just an open trap door leading to oily blackness, gaping, like a mouth waiting to eat.

 

THE END


Alec Ivan Fugate is some guy sitting in some swamp in some city in northeastern Indiana. His work is floating at Occulum, Burning House Press, Bending Genres, and other darker, spookier ponds

“PHOTOGRAPHS OF MADNESS: INSIDE OUT” ‘Part Three: Ska Gardens’ By Alec Ivan Fugate

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On the Evening of November 21st, 1990, From the Eyes of Schaefer Willis

 

Green gardens sprawling punk shows across the city bars whichever way dripping beer bongs and profitable stores of whiskey and bourbon and lime-juice acid squeezed through a sieve into my heart and mind punk shows across the city bars with green neon open signs blazing in a street corner where otherwise it would be totaldark and devoid of primal natures only shoes thrown up on power lines and barking from a dog chained to a tree in an old man’s backyard green gardens propped outside green gardens walking through green gardens on the inside in the form of a succulent I bring with me and tape to my bass green gardens in my eyes; green gardens instead.

“Wake the fuck up,” Miles screams from the top of his microphone, his guitar dangles from his crotch and his dick hangs out of his unzipped pants. He wears a flannel that’s stained with bleach and puke and shit.

“Wake the fuck up ‘cause we’re home motherfuckers!”

Crowd binge drinks and falls down to worship his feet and their own asses, they jump and scream and with the first tone of my bass I play as fast as their hearts beat until we all give out in the sweat and ginsoaking and propelled politics thrown through AUX channels. We pass out on the street and wake up with the cops kicking our sides and shooing us away. Miles gives them the finger and they taze him. Kyle takes my arm and makes us run through green gardens, stomping beaming bushes dewkissed with piss. Miles yells something about waiting up but the look Kyle throws my way indicates there’s no fuckin’ way so we hop across acres of parking lot filled with corollas broken at the edges with rust leaking filthwater from their corners. We scream across the soiled soles of our sneakers. Faster. Through green gardens.

We drop my guitar and his drumsticks at the front door and fall into our squatting parlor, an old apartment at the corner of Little St. that the city tore everything out of and tossed away in dumpsters they left out in the alleyway. Someone calls to us in a gruff slaw from outside the door but we lock it and sit inside the empty living room with nothing but the quarantine tape we filched from the entrance stuffed in some cracks in the corner and a line of potted plants I keep well-watered along the wall closest to the door. Kyle lights a cigarette and we watch the smoke suffocate the dust noted in the thick, cold air. Our coats are torn and bleeding stuffing. Thanksgiving families hundreds of miles away would look at us and burst into tears and we’d laugh in their faces and piss in their kids’ eyes. We live cold we are cold we love cold.

I grab the succulent from the gig bag and place him gingerly at crossed legs. Kyle’s smoke surrounds it, gives it warmth, and I light a bowl and watch the weed smoke follow suit until we all feel warm again.

“What’s that smell?” Kyle says. His hair greased back but not to a certain style, he looks like Cobain if Cobain was happy.

“Fuck are you talking about?”

“That your pot, dude? What is that, bushweed, you get that shit from Mac again?”

“Fuck I didn’t get it from Greasy Mac, who the fuck do you think I am some skinhead Nazi prick, huh? Some fuckin’ right-wing nut? Got this from Miles when we were in Atlanta.”

“What happened to that van?”

“Wrecked it and stole another one.”

“Where are my drums?”

“Gig.”

“When should we pick em up?”

“When we want to play a show again, let the gutterpunks use them, their drums always have holes and shit.”

“But that’s my favorite set…”

“Mommy and Daddy will get you a new one soon as Christmas comes up and you go visit em again.”

“But—”

“You’re gonna visit your parents for Christmas you useless fuckhead and there’s nothing you can say about it because I will be there.”

“Why the fuck are you gonna be at my fam’s Christmas, fam?”

“Because dear old Mom loves me and what a good boy I am.”

“She says I should be more like you.”

“You should.”

“What’s that smell?”

I fit my nose against the wall of the frozen atmosphere and snuff the dust mites from the surface. Something smells good and it never smells good in here. I crawl to my feet and search like a dog, all around, maybe that family upstairs is cooking something good in their bedroom firepit again and maybe it’ll finally burn us down this time But if they were, wouldn’t they have invited us?

Smells like my mom’s kitchen last time she made apple butter. Lots of spices like some Whole Foods or something. Fuck if I know.

“I think it’s coming from the bedroom dude.”

“You trying to freak me out or something? Shut the fuck up.”

“Serious.”

They say the bedroom’s haunted in this shithole. Two people were found in the closet dead no clue how they died just indications that one had alcohol poisoning the other had acid burns all over his body. Somebody warned us about this shit and there’s no way I’m about to fuck with it.

“Go check, Kyle.”

Kyle looks like a lost puppy, darting his head around, clueless.

“Go fucking take a look, dumbass.”

“Why not you, dude?”

“I’m scared as shit of those ghosts, man.”

“Who says I’m not?”

“I’m more afraid than you are.” I reach into the back of my pants and wipe my ass with my hand. “Look, I already shit myself!”

Kyle backs away all the way to the wall. “Wipe that shit on me and I’ll fucking kill you.”

“Take a look, then.”

He creeps to the doorway and sniffs one more time before opening it to a complete dark the likes of which a couple of young punk runaways have never seen.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Hours since he left. Fucking hours. My plants are starting to get bored of me and my guitar and I’m starting to get bored of waiting to hear back from him. Closed door stained green with something like a kind of bile. Infection. I sit up groan, open it and back away and say his name and wait and nothing comes and I take my first step inside and I can’t stop.

God, it smells good…

It comes from the closet, doors ripped off, stripped by someone looking for something.  A trapdoor rests on the floor. Handle has been removed, taken by some crackhead, some asshole. I try to lift it with my fingers, get splinters but still manage to get the thing open. It flies to the wall and the darkness below looks at me like I’m some kind of idiot kid. I turn back around, grab my succulent for good luck and comfort, jump down.

 

♦  ♦  ♦

 

Hours until I land and smack my head on the wall. Blood drips down my nose. Wipe it off with a tattered cuff. Forward it is, then, since the door slammed closed when I came here. I heard it actually slam, isn’t that weird, isn’t it…

My succulent is still afloat, though. I tuck him in my pocket and keep going.

Something whispers to me in the crawlspace, which is nothing but straight. Something nice and warm tells me it’s going to be okay. This is not like that time in Jersey. This is not like that time in Tampa. This is not like the rest of my life.

There’s a stain in the soil in the shape of a body. I think it’s blood and it’s crawling with pillbugs and smells like the bar in Indy. Tufts of hair cling to the walls. I gag and keep going past that and past another stain, soil that seems to have been burned or something…like corroded or something, like the green of the glowing lichen evolved from some chemical molestation of the ground beef of the wet dirt. I keep going past this. Nothing to see here.

Somewhere along the way I find notes and I don’t read them and I set them on fire with my lighter to give me some sense of direction. Straight, always.

At some point, after a time feeling so long I swear it’s a miracle I don’t have to piss, I come across a corner, and at this corner is where Kyle sits shaking drooling steaming he’s sweating so much he gives off this weird glow, like a green glow like cartoon radiation and his eyes are practically popping out of his head and he doesn’t blink instead his eyelids fluctuate between here and not here and his fingernails grow in front of me until they curl and curl and fall off he grows, he grows and decays in minutes, his skin molts off to be replaced with new pink, his nose from thick to thin skeletal form and back again, earwax collecting at the floor, snot bubbling and drooping on his shirt stained with so many things it’s brittle now he breaks it apart with his fingers, he chews his lip and cracks his voice, he looks up, at me; he promises me he’s been good; he promises; promises there’s nothing wrong. Nothing wrong at all.

I touch my plant in my pocket and whisper to it to make sure it knows I’m okay.

“Can I ask your advice?” Kyle asks, and his voice creaks like a door, so high then low, I see his throat expanding and contracting, turning white and blue and pink again, like there’s a light inside him that’s taken his place.

“What happened, Kyle?”

“I want to know what you think we should do with the notes.”

Notes.

“I just lit them to show me the way around here.”

“But did you read them?” Coughs, wheezes thick from the corner of his mouth, drops in blob to the floor.

“Why would I do that?”

“Why wouldn’t you?”

“I don’t have time to answer that, dude.”

“You have all the time in the world, now. You should have read the notes, you should have heard the story, William went crazy, I promise he was real, he went crazy and his family was sick and there were no doctors and his old wife ignored him and so he took everything into his own hands like a real man he took real good care of his fam, fam, real good care. William took care of his family and it left him alone so he built the birds, have you read about the birds? There are photographs of the birds the black soot birds that he built with his own two hands, the black soot birds he built to distract him from the pain to alleviate the horrors beneath his brows. The photographs are just ahead, the photographs of the birds. You’ll read about the birds real soon, he built them with his own emotions, but you have no emotions, so you cannot possibly imagine constructing something from such power, he built the birds and the aviary just under our feet, turn the corner and it’s there, turn the corner and you can find it all and end it all.”

“What are you talking about you fucking idiot?”

Kyle looks at me with sad eyes. I see silhouettes beyond his green centers, me and him and Miles all riding our bikes around our old suburbs, we are ten and I fall down and Miles rides on and Kyle stops and Kyle’s hand reaches out toward me and Kyle’s face undulates there are insects within him there are things I don’t want to remember I am who I fucking am now, misery is important, anarchy and don’t get in the way, Kyle, don’t get in my fucking way!

“You don’t know what you’re in for,” he whispered under his breath.

And in a flash every inch of him turns to ash and blows away in an invisible wind.

I round the corner to try to catch some of it but it falls away in my palms it falls away in the wind it falls away in the center of gravity it falls away in the sight of my nude self sledding down a hill into the mouth gaping of a monster waiting for bones to crack and creak my head hurts blood drips into my nose I inhale it I swallow it I become ill the ashes blow away they disappear past the corner and the wind pushes my back and I am sucked within it sucked into the center of gravity sucked into the vast indifferent light of a promising god a serendipitous lacking of green gardens until there are green gardens anywhere I’m

in a green garden

I’m

left in a green garden.

 

♦  ♦  ♦

 

Oh the garden, it’s marvelous, it’s a place where I can plant many things, a place my succulent has managed to call a home it’s home it likes it here so much the light given off from its stems is so bright it blinds me I cannot look at it anymore cannot touch cannot love but it’s okay green garden green garden. I love my green garden and there is a shower of blood Kyle has ashes in his eyes I remember the time I pushed him off the steps of the bush he smashed his nose against the concrete and we played a show without a drummer as a joke it was just a joke fuck. My green garden looks to be so well watered with the rain it sings to me the greatest notes I’ve ever heard I need not my guitar anymore for I swell with the rumbling of an orchestra of lilies daffodils perennials galore galore galore glory boxes of holes empty filled by my hands with the sense of longing when Kyle was gone out sick for the day when we were all children we sat at home and told stories about Kyle daisies big purple orchids with their green garden leaves their green garden lungs bursting out of the petals the organs spilling over the grey landscape the moon the ashes god the ashes Kyle’s ashes the world is made of Kyle’s ashes glowing so bright and so green the heart beating sweaty with water from the rain in the sunny sky so wet I drink from it and plant other things like bonsais that grow instantly to be fifty eight hundred feet tall I am a green garden green forest green gardens love me they play with my hair when I sleep rock me on giant leaves to sleep and dream of the green garden green gardens green vomit spilling over the landscape I toss up no meals only the bile from my own sickness something I cannot avoid I remember telling Kyle we are only keeping him around because the girls like him only because the girls like him. I don’t think about anything else other than the green garden green garden green tears through my eyes, the landscape is fresh and clear and mine and is the only thing I see besides the ashes I step on, I see his eyes poking through, this grey place is flat, no craters, only ash and wet green eyes floating through wandering looking at me but leaving I need someone I need to cease these thoughts of bad things because the only thing existing here is the green garbled mess of speech coming from my horrid mouth crawling through these bad thoughts, eating them up, their name try to forget the words these thoughts feed you only you can stop yourself from death death is what this is not of a physical nature but of a bastard nature you useless fuck, you idiot fuck, you fucking beautiful sky today isn’t it! You shithead you fucking evil, evil man, you fucking dog he welcomed you after you confessed to him your abuse as a child your father hit hit hit and Kyle told you it was okay to feel saddened by the fact that these thoughts still come, aren’t you? But these thoughts will stay. Remember these things. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend.

 

Kyle was my friend and in the green gardens the grey flat I will let my red wrists come to end it all.

 

END OF PART THREE

final installment due 12.31.18

 

Alec Ivan Fugate is some guy sitting in some swamp in some city in northeastern Indiana. His work is floating at Occulum, Burning House Press, Bending Genres, and other darker, spookier ponds

 

“PHOTOGRAPHS OF MADNESS: INSIDE OUT” ‘Part Two: Seizing’ By Alec Ivan Fugate

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On the Evening of November 19th, 1962, From the Eyes of Linus Dixon

 

They tell me he was in a lot of pain when he died, and I don’t want to believe that. I tell them maybe, but I was there, and I promise everybody I tried to save him, it isn’t a lie, I tried.

There are colors in my eyes, but only hues of blue. Blue for the nakedness of time through the body of my brother. It is raining in the city. It is raining, everything is blue, blue for the color his face turned in that room, in that time. And now as he’s lowered into the ground among a mass of blue tears adorned in black. I think to myself how much he would have loved to see the outpouring of empty feelings here, now, below the blue.

Back at home I pour myself a glass of water, pipes creaking, old 20’s construction. Somebody re-painted the walls for me before I moved here a year ago and they’re already starting to peel like an onion corroding in a cold winter. The air here freezes the moment I turn on the furnace that never heats up so there’s always the coat or jacket over sweater over sweating body. The water rocks back and forth on the table with the absent thumping of my foot upon the wooden leg. We, the water and I, both hypnotized by the wave of the tapestries my brother had made himself waving over the peeled walls. Rolling oceans of abstract, inkwashed linework made in the throes of his joy.

I take a sip of the water. Sun sneaks across the blinds drawn over the windows. I have too much furniture. He loved it, a full room, this room, the living room, his bedroom, the couch his bed, I’m sitting on his bed, his bed is where he died and the drool of beer-soaked saliva still stains the spot to my left. I move my arm. I move my whole body. I’m leaning on my right side as hard as I can against the arm of the couch but still I can’t just get up now. I take a sip of the water. Rain pelts the ground outside and there’s a crowd of people lined around the record store across the street waiting for the new Peter, Paul, and Mary album. Waiting. I’m waiting here to hear the music striking acoustic from the store to drown out the clanking of the radiator constantly snipping on, snipping off.

I don’t know why we put him in the ground so fast. Don’t know why we didn’t leave him out for me to look at him for a few more minutes, see his face, my face in his eyes, his eyes so blue.

I take a sip of water and look at the mess, the old pizza, the half-empty beers, stickers along the edge of the coffee table, stickers along the edge of the floor, the cat sleeping soundly next to the television whirring the news cycle on mute. He liked stickers on everything. Nothing would be dealt with plain.

I take a sip of water. The phone rings.

I am silent for minutes after I pick it up.

“Linus?”

Madison. Surely sitting at home watching evening films trying to gather herself out of the heat of her feelings about my feelings about what happened. Supportive, always. I wonder if she’s wearing the green nightgown with the Japanese flowers or the blue one with the Hokusai mountains or waves or whatever they are.

“Linus, are you there?”

I finish the water and drop the glass on the rug to see if it breaks. It doesn’t. “Mm.”

“I just want to see if you’re okay…are you okay?”

“He’s dead.”

“Linus?”

The water comes back out of my eyes, as if I could ever keep it within me. Whimpers.

“Linus, please, you need to talk to somebody.”

“I need to be alone.”

“It’s not your fault, Linus, it’s—”

Phone receiver. Wipe the tears. Pretend I have other things to do. Feed my dead brother’s cat, which I’ve already done tonight but I do again anyway, the small bowl of brown salmon pellets overflowing onto the kitchen floor. Get the cat some new water even though the bowl is totally full and in the process of setting it back down on the tile spill it all over the floor and don’t clean it up. Do something like make my dead brother’s bed, tossing blankets over the couch over and over again making it a game to see how perfect I can throw. Do something. Blast your music so loud the neighbors bang again on the ceiling with broom handles, so loud that you watch pedestrians passing by look in your living room to see the party only to see the skinny cough of a man gazing back at them with holes for eyes and a hole in his heart a hole gazing back at them.

Do something.

I go to the bedroom and lie down and wonder where I went wrong. I wonder if I’ll ever see somebody else have a seizure like that and I wonder if I’ll save them.

I start smelling something blazing through the air, heated like tea. I get up and go to the window, see if the café next door has something brewing, see if somebody has some warmth on this cold night, but only the record store line stands, the rest of the sidewalk a ghost town. The smell doesn’t come from my oven, which just smells burnt, or the fridge, which just smells rotten, but instead comes from inside of my closet. The door opens so easily, like its hinges had been lubricated while I was at the funeral. Blast of honey and chamomile, blast of modern tea tree oil and cardamom. Blast of a moment of forgetting about the couch. Blast of forgetting. There is a hatch at my feet, one that feels like it’s been there forever. The handle has a film of oil upon it, thick, dripping. As my hand slips the trapdoor open, I can only think that I hold this handle the same way I held his grasping fists when he slipped away.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

The hatch leads to a fall that has me landing on my arm in such a way as to reveal bone. The snap is something I only feel in my stomach, a kind of sickness I only have when I’ve eaten something horrid, like I’ve lost something deep inside of me, an integral part. Like I watched myself hurt someone.

I look up at the opening, but the light from my apartment fades so quickly I think I may be going unconscious. Total black fills the space between my ears; I feel it, become a thing of it. Standing is fruitless as the ceiling hit my head before I’m even up to my knees. This is a crawlspace. There is air here, but the air is just the scents. Follow.

The silence as I crawl is something I’m sure would make a weaker person hear things, see things. The only thing I believe I could compare this place to is an acid trip, only without the color, without the fun, only an ego death and a great deal of thinking about yourself in such depth it’s frightening.

My hand touches something soft.

Something warm and gentle, like Madison…I haven’t touched Madison in a long time.

I look just a bit closer, feeling with both of my hands until something reveals itself as hair, something else as lips, and as I guide my touch I hope this isn’t what it feels like until my fingers pry open two shining pearls, two soft items staring up in horror at the darkness.

Ripping my hands back. Ripping myself away from them. Him, her, or otherwise, I tear myself away from the energy given off by the warmth of the body, the sense that they know I am here though they are likely very dead. Tea again. Something like lemongrass flows through my nose to my veins, gives me color gives me a little light, but the light it gives me is black, and the black is what helps me see.

I see now a woman, around my age. Her clothes are old, worn, dusted with dirt and covered in small beetles, roly-polys, tiny roaches. She wears loose undershirts over loose undershirts. I touch her gently. Warm, radiant. Her teeth snare themselves to the atmosphere and seem so, so sharp. Her skin is fine and soft, if a bit oily. Flask showing its rim from her coat’s interior pocket, it drips a thick vanilla-like slaw, thick like honey but much more potent in the smell it gives off. I taste it and cough. Bourbon, but very aged, much older than me. Creature in my center ribs recoils. I push back again and think about trying to find a way back up, but with the darkness all-encompassing as it is, it seems unlikely that would be the way out.

There is another side of me.

Another side that wants to know what expired this woman.

Who are you, where have you come from, why are you down here, what happened, what happened, what happened?

The only way is forward, I look back, my eyes water, I know I’m trapped, well aware, and a weaker person would probably go mad right about now, but there’s that piece of me refusing, and so my hand slides forward and I press into the belly of the dead girl as I move, bending the skin releasing a little wheeze from her mouth and I try not to hear that as my body moves over hers like she is merely an object a denizen here a thing.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

The crawling is sinister in the time it takes up. Nothing in here changes, not the walls, not the ceiling, not the soil underneath me and the farther I get the more I realize that there may not be a way out of here at all, like a bunker the builder was never meant to escape.

At some point my eyes adjust well enough to the dark to make out areas a couple dozen or so feet in front of me, which doesn’t help much considering this entire crawl space is just one straight line. I look down. I pick up the beetles on the way and let them ride around on my hands until I get bored and flick them off. I stop sometimes and crush their heads and pick them apart, I am good at this, I am good at separating the thorax with my thumbnail like you would open a letter, I am good at looking seeing what’s inside what’s going on what’s groovy what’s under there what secrets do they secrete in their dreams, the bugs? I take the parts I find most interesting with me, stuffing them in the front pocket of my shirt. I stuff other things in there too, I stuff neat rocks in there, rocks that ooze thick clear, rocks that hum, I stuff little parts of myself in there like fabric torn from my cuffs or skin from my hands scabbed over from the grinding dirt or my life before the crawlspace. It’s better to think of yourself as part of this place. You are here, now, home, this is the life you deserve, you will find your way and if you cannot find your way out you will be okay here forever.

I find other things too, after what feels a day, two days.

I find letters.

Some of them, like the first one, are just diary entries, yellowed from age, private thoughts from a man living about a hundred years ago from the dates, talking about “gals” talking about ships talking about war talking endlessly to himself about trivial shit and soon I just think it’s a nice example of somebody who really likes to talk to themselves… I move on. But there are more. After a dozen or so journal entries there appear letters, in near-perfect shape, unopened, never mailed. They carry the same tone as the journal, but these were clearly meant for somebody else to see, information too vital to keep to oneself. They are colloquial at first:

 


Dearest,

I write not only to ask you about the recent happenings in your life, but also to invite you to my home for a lovely supper with the family. We would all love to discuss with you the recent events moving our bloodline further into the future. These are not urgent, we don’t like the word, so do not fret. These matters are merely of a nature important enough to call you from your home out east. We hope for your swift response and arrival.

 

Tell the children the youngest misses them,

William


 

Farther into the crawlspace, though, the deeper I go the darker it gets, the notes become exactly what their author wished they would not:

 


Dearest,

I behoove you to visit posthaste. The family and I have become worried due to your lack of proper response. It has been six months since I wrote. Have you forgotten about us? Have you ignored my letters? Truly the news we needed to share is not relevant now, other things are so much more urgent, but still we must have your company! I had prayed I would be successful in avoiding moving myself to this state, but I am begging you to come to the town. There are things here that involve you. All of us. I beg you, Dearest, come to us. Please.

Please,

William


 

I find clues around the letters. Children’s toys rotted out eaten from the inside. Parchment left empty or scribbled upon in gibberish, inkwashed with some illness turning the pages green at the edge. Photographs of people, frowning homesteaders, frowning children, all of them seeming hard-struck, desperate, caught deathly ill. More letters, begging, sent this time with pictures, this time with bloodstains on the notes and photos and soon the pictures are missing members, missing children. Then:

 


dear

we need you here, my darling my love, we need to see you we need your instruments and vials and doctor books we need your schooling the whole town the whole town needs you we need you so badly my dear my love we will not survive without you we will not we…i will not survive. there are things i still must say. you cannot ignore me my dearest. yet since you are persistent in your ignorance i have no choice but to take matters into my own hands. i am incapable and this will be messy and you will be sorry but we cannot wait for you anymore

will


 

No more pictures or letters for so long…I have been here for so, so long. I feel something else now. The smells are many. They remind me of memories I have never had. They tell me stories. Voices not my own in the deep, in the synapses, in the heart beating into my boney cage. Voices telling me things about myself I don’t know, and voices that know the secret. Horrible voices they say further further why don’t you come further Linus further? further in the dark? in the night? aren’t you curious? You are curious about many things. You were curious about Shelly in the past the rotting Shelly the awful alcoholic Shelly why didn’t you go back when you found her? You went forward. You decided to come forward, with your hands, scraping the dirt bleeding. My, my your hands must have such scabs as your heart. My, my hands my hands hurt they bleed and I am curious, I get almost to my knees and tell the ceiling with my lips pressed against it the dust the grime I tell the crawlspace I am very curious and I am sorry and the crawlspace makes me fall down to my face taste the dirty says

“We know your brother.”

My eyes I need to pull them apart my eyes my eyes back from the visions of the couch the couch

“We know he was fine. It was only a mild attack. A soft seizure. Laughably so.”

I don’t know what you’re talking about leave me here, leave me alone.

“He would have been just fine.”

There’s something I see up ahead. It’s foam, saliva, throbbing froth coming slowly toward me, it eats my hands, I feel sizzling and bobbing veins topping the stuff I feel it, I feel it eating me and watch and listen and allow it everything.

“Are you curious? Would you like to know what is going to happen if you are left to rot here, to sink in the spit showering you, to drown? Are you curious?”

Yes I am curious I am needy I am wanting of greed of knowledge I need it I need to know!

I was satisfied when I watched him rupture, when I watched the shit fly from his delicate mouth, when I just got closer and studied him like a rat I was so interested I thought he would be fine, I was curious as to what would happen if I just let it happen.

The salival foam begins crawling down my throat. The scent is here, the smell of his cologne.

My eyes see only bubbling.

Just let it happen, Linus. It’ll be okay. I don’t have to worry. Promise.

 

 

THE END OF PART TWO

part three coming 12.24.18

 

Alec Ivan Fugate is some guy sitting in some swamp in some city in northeastern Indiana. His work is floating at Occulum, Burning House Press, Bending Genres, and other darker, spookier ponds

“PHOTOGRAPHS OF MADNESS: INSIDE OUT” ‘Part One: Flask Drowning’ By Alec Ivan Fugate

35207105991_dac4cf2a4a_o

On the Evenings of November 18th – 19th, 1924, From the Eyes of Shelly Griswold

 

Swimming back and forth my drunken eyelids my pupils blistered with red ribbons of red red color red god everything, everything is red, gather the color from the basement of a Mr. Holliday or a Mr. Hickory or a Mr. Holly and grab the coat and move out into the knee deep white shredded with copper footprints. Grab my senses wrap myself up from the wandering men grab my fists in my fists and move along the sidewalk toward Apt. 1 at 1802 Little St. in this city, this wind writhing wriggling through hair thrown up out of my hat. First snow sobriety check.

The door to the lobby creaks open as I fall inside to flickering lights in the new construction. They got the wiring all wrong; the strapping blink, blink, blink would make my father roll in the dark deep ground. He’d be on a ladder reworking the guts of the ceiling trying to get the lamps to set their luminescence right. He’d be telling me to climb up there with him, take my gloves off, work with him, learn from him, work. I stare foaming in my stomach at the lights and almost allow them to take me away to a different spot or country or life before I stagger and my flask drips to the floor, nearly draining itself. I right it in my pocket, take a snag, take a sip, take a bite, my hair is in my mouth and there are no suitors to get it out, nobody touching, nobody, I chew the hair, feel the tender stalk of that curly blond my husband liked.

My husband liked a lot of stupid things, like my hair, like my skin, like…

I like the bourbon from the bartender down the street who stops by with the password every week.

I like the way an empty bottle looks on the floor and I like it when I wake up next to my bookshelves.

I like the way this one-bedroom creaks with every step, like it knows it’s old and good despite, in spite of, its age, its youth. The furnishings are new and shiny and made fresh from my cousin in New York but the walls crawling from the singing floor to the paint-chipped ceiling are already in their hundreds, haunted.

I stumble to the table with one chair in the little kitchen and toss my coat aside, light candles scattered through the place, notice how I decorated this in my sobriety like some housewife who’s afraid of the mud and the dirt, may as well be empty, the chairs don’t even look real, they look like they belong in a picture book, they look like something my mother would drag me to gawk at and feel with long nails and rub up against as if it were the last sensation on earth, I notice this: this apartment was a mistake from the beginning, and so was my husband’s accident. I feel sick for both and because of both can only stand to be in the bedroom away from both where there are no lights or heat only a mattress I have never slept on and an oak floor stained with my chamomile vomit.

The flask gargles itself. Bubbles pop from the tip of the rim and drip down to sting my cracked knuckles. The flask and the bourbon inside throw themselves into my body. There are pockets of my coat in which I hide many secrets, all of them are filled with blood and tufts of men’s hair; there are bourbons I have not yet tried in this world. There is always hope that something better will come.

I lie on my back and spin and listen to the early snow footsteps of women with men they either love or hate. Trees sway on the street. Mud cakes the only window which is too high for me to see out of. It is cracked open so my cigarettes don’t suffocate me before I need them to. It is cracked open so I can hear people talk without talking, so I can hear people laugh without making jokes. It is cracked because I am.

Somebody talks about a war.

I lift my feet up off the ground and keep them and their heels suspended in the air to let all my blood collect in the middle. I prop my head more toward the pillow, and with this movement brings a small wheeze of air which tosses aside the smoke from the ashtray and rooms my nose for something scented much like my friend’s herb and spice cabinet; the lavender, the cloves, citrus yellow citrus orange citrus green, cinnamon, oh the cinnamon! Herbal hearts waving right in front of my face, blasting potency up inside my head. I swing myself up, wobble, steady, wander to discover the scent. I lift my nose up to the corners of the ceiling, down to the dusty cracks, open the empty cupboards and move the dirt around, pick it up inhale it. I wrangle furniture cushions off parts beat against my knee releasing dust but no smell. I exhaust myself sweaty and sit down at the edge of the bed and feel myself falling asleep to the sound of the owls’ hoo.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

I wake halfway off the bed. Sunlight crawls through the smattering of dirt on the window. My mind is clear of all will and my flask is empty and there’s not a single bottle of booze in the house. Straying outside in my nightclothes, I must look like a mad old woman or an opioid freak. I must look like my twenties hurt. I must be hurting.

I wait and smoke outside of the speakeasy tapping my foot like mad. Sweating in the cold wind. It would freeze against my body if I stood out here for too long, but barkeep comes around the back corner into the bushes and to me and the cellar door.

“Shell,” he says. A lock clicks, the bolts crack back, the doors swing and slam and the trees above us smack against each other, hardened.

I say nothing. We are led inside by the dark until a slip of a matchstick ignites the oil burners propped to the beams. The bar lights up in surrounding loath. Everything is broken and smeared with crust and sticky bourbon leavings. Empty unlabeled bottles lie hollowed on the dirt floor, whistling in the draft’s whine.

“Welcome home, Shell.”

“Thanks.”

I wish I knew his name, where he got his timepiece swinging from a battered rag of a vest, why the rim of his boiler cap is in such tatters. His life has been broken somewhere, somehow, by somebody. Sadness in his eyes, drooping and blue, tells me this. Wrinkles line every inch of his otherwise perfect skin as canyons of age. He is only twenty-three.

His wife, assistant, partner, comes inside minutes after and begins polishing the rocks glasses. I sit and stare at her short nails, her callouses. She trims her hair every week so it keeps under that ridiculous feathered hat.

“Shell,” a nod of her head, small smile.

“You’re a little late today,” into my first drink.

“Police on every street now. I have to walk slow. And anyway you’re the only one comes in here in the first few hours. Nobody else knows we’re even active before eight.”

I hold my drink up to the light. Lipstick from nights and nights past rides the rim of the glass like bloodstains. “I like to keep up on things.”

“You only like to keep up on this, Shell,” she says. “Can’t blame you, though. Wouldn’t want to go around making a name. After the thing, I mean. The incident.”

She winks at me like it gives me shreds of pleasure anymore. I inspect stains on the bar.

“Anyway, Shell, you should know that we’re closing for Thanksgiving. Both of us have families.”

“That’s not for weeks, I’m going to forget by the time it’s important.”

“Thanksgiving is in just about one week, thank you.”

Flashes of Husband tossing bottles at me, flashes of his dry arms flaking from his Hard Work flashes of these so close to my eyes when they slept over my jugular.

“Never was a fan of Thanksgiving anyway.”

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Fucked fucked god I’m slawed walking out of here walking with men in both arms both arms and leaving them pissing on the sidewalk when the coppers come to take them away but not me not me I’m too fast too much for them I struggle toward the night crowd I bump shoulders say watch out look out say out loud I am almost home and then I am home.

I am home.

And it never looks any better the more I drink. Never. Never seems any less suffocating and small, never less like some insect prison for me. I am a roach. I am to be exterminated. I am nowhere to be found. I have already disappeared.

Bed unmade. There are no sheets I threw them away. I’ll throw the bed away too. Pantyhose line the floor like a carpet of slipping death. They are the only clothes I own, I feel. My blouses are all stolen and I need to give them back. Dresses taken from strangers when their eyes blend into the watercolors of any simple summertime scene. I steal I hate I drew my cards long ago.

Stripping to my knotted muscle I ghost past the closet and get a whiff of that candle shop again, that herb wagon again…it comes back so strong I throw up the nothing I ate today onto the wall. I hang back, stare at it, look at the way it spreads down the wall, it is acid and I am a bucket of horror; the smell from the closet, the smell!

I open the door, crack my fingers, move in and bend down past the coat hangers to be faced with a handle of pig iron bleeding all rusty red orange on a white trapdoor. The spice wave can only come from there. Touching the handle feels greasy, invalid and inescapable and the door is heaving with such weight. Grinding wood edge against the floor I manage to lift the thick thing all the way up and over to reveal nothing but the blackest place with iron rungs built into concrete wall moving down past the border of my sight. I look back at my home. Empty, dead before I got here. If there’s anything I could have given this place it wouldn’t have been life. The city knows me too well, which is not at all. I hear pattering of freezing rain on my one window. Lonely, all of it. Devoid of things for me to take without guilt anymore. My bare feet touch upon the rungs and from there it feels as if I cannot go back up. There is something down here for me. Just for me.

 

♦ ♦ ♦

 

Hundreds of feet I fall when I slip. Rungs wrought with urgency they let me go and let me fall and I swear when I fell I felt the foolish center of the earth pass me by. I land on my ass and something cracks instead of pain I feel relief and instead of blood I see a glittering upon the wet, wet soil crawling with pillbugs or maybe the pillbugs are my blood or maybe I have died already. Forward. The ceiling is not a ceiling but an end and the walls crunch against me and the floor is squishy. I am inside a cylinder, maybe 4 feet in diameter. Breath cannot find me here, but neither can the cops and neither can my friends who do not exist. Crunching against the insects my knees propel me against a draft through the dark. Light also escapes here. Light dies here in the night and the dark. Light is dead here. I am alive in the death of luminescence.

Nocturnal spending is thick and profitable. Air becomes my enemy and the farther I go the less of it I need. Gills I grow for the lack of oxygen; oxygen has been reinstated as a dark woman with a mask just like my face and she is composed not only of herbs and spices now but the incantations of herbs and spices, like when I said there was cinnamon in this line of grasping lungsweets now it’s transposed over an olfactory triptych that looks like

hot toddies

     ///

     cream&honey

         ///

                coffee&cigarettes

and the like. And I follow that, each scent beleaguered with such nuance that I can’t help it can’t help but move forward toward the lack of light the dark dark deep.

Yet in the dark there are visions. Things happening. Others.

Others.

I start smelling vanilla but not just vanilla; vanilla like in bourbon or scotch or vanilla like the smell of Mother like vanilla that is too nuanced now, too much. Light’s demise brings up a ringing in my ears.

“How’s your Hubby, little Shelly?”

I stop. Who are you?

“My the knife passed through his work shirt like workhorse horsey horsey you said amen amen jesus amen thank you lord for the no-longering of this evil evil thank you lord!”

I go to talk. Speak. Shout. And yet there are nails in my throat I cannot do these things much less, swallow, I gulp fire and gag and throw up in the crawlspace.

“My the knife sure stays sharp,”

The blade, that thing, appears as if vivisected from reality in front of me it hovers, it swirls around playfully jumps, hops and skips and my heart sinks.

“in your drawer it sure does it gawks for the taste again do you have another man did you remarry or did you accept your appearance as some greasy whore some spunkfilled dirtbag whore did you accept this reality?”

I did.

“You did and you will accept this one.”

This voice it changes it is the voice of everyone I have ever known or fallen in love with or loved or liked or hated in general and in this way, it is filled, to the brim, with meaning. Meaning; it means nothing, anymore, to me.

“You accept you are a useless slut. You accept this, that you will be destroyed by your cowardice. You accept this.”

And I nod without meaning to.

“And you accept this without love.”

And my eyes blur and water without meaning to.

“And you are without love. And you are a killer. And you will leave this place. A killer.”

And every shot of booze I have taken since my husband’s blood sloshed all over our kitchen floor revisits my insides, recoils through my throat, and reveals itself in a single flood from between my teeth that takes everything within me and forces it out into the open dark.

 

THE END OF PART ONE.

 

Part two coming soon, perhaps sooner than you think.

Alec Ivan Fugate is some guy sitting in some swamp in some city in northeastern Indiana. His work is floating at Occulum, Burning House Press, Bending Genres, and other darker, spookier ponds. 

“MISTAKES” by Alec Ivan Fugate

alley

Her picture in my wallet reminds me a lot of bedtime, of a swath of feathered pillows, happy birthday.

Stupid mistakes. Animation gigs tumble down from shaken cubes sweating through my hands into a jigger of knots and chronic vomit. Wrapped fingers polishing oak sanded to a fine point for the vampires from the crawlspace. Says I need a job. Says the doodles don’t kick my habits or buy the bread. Vomit on the carpet spewed like inkwash webs through wet-on-wet applied to paper already bled through, the stain leaked between the gash of a bundle of matted brown hairs sticking every which way like a sea anemone dried and left to rot in the summer bake.

“What’s gotten into you?” Bartender gags tosses up phlegm calls it lungbutter hacks it into a crispy handkerchief that rains little flakes of dried something out of his pocket.

“I can’t afford,” shot, “anything else but this.”

“Got a kid at home.”

“Congrats.”

“No, you. Fucking sweltering idiot, you, you’re the one with the…how often you forget about him?”

“About once every mile walked if I can manage it.”

Bartender, never noticed his name never cared to learn it, leans in close to me, spreads his chapped flufflips, smacks them at me in a certain despicable kind of way. “Gotta pull it together.”

“Gotta pull it together.” I mock him. It’s easy, his brain is small and he won’t notice, he’s too dense and dumb, he is absolutely nothing.

“Have it your way,” he says. Pulls his mass body with planets and all into the back room, scratches the chafes in his ass. His pants are down and the rash, all red scabby burnt, yeah, almost burnt, runs from the tip of his crack down down down into the undersea of his grinding shorts.

“You are disgusting,” I tell him to myself shot, shot.

I draw.

There are lines carving themselves from the center of the napkin into a craggy cliff-side with an end pointed and brute with a car having been flung at it that now rests at the edge, at the corner, there are people in the car, and they are dead and he has a flask in his hand. I draw the skies. The sun is shining. There’s a tumbleweed and I don’t know where it’s going to land. I draw an X on the flask and think this is funny.

What other cliff did this car come from?

Is this the Grand Canyon?

To think I want to do this for a living.

There are other drawings too, little things on scraps of napkins from other bars or pieces of menu paper from restaurants I convinced my mom to take me to or discarded receipts found in the belly of trash cans swarming with gnats and the corpses of mice.

I remember birthing this car accident somewhere down the line, but I’ve put them out of order, drowned in the folds of my laptop bag. Remember the origins of the family in the car on the road careening toward the edge of some invisible end a mile away as they laugh in black and white, everything in my life is in black and white.

Now to flip through the drawings I so painstakingly sketched frame-by-frame is like viewing a movie through broken kaleidoscopes. Everything shudders. Everything is afraid of itself as I watch the sedan flop onto the face of the cliff and then appear back on a desert road like my own work had a bad dream.

Why am I drawing something like this?

Why?

Screaming from the corner booth of the bar someone has a birthday. Writhing in my ears the song burrows behind my eyes and grabs hold slams them down on the table rocking me back and forth on my stool, I am some clown, some sad drunk clown. I right myself and reach over to pour myself another shot from the untended handle of spiced rum. When did I start drinking spiced rum?

“You’ve already had half the bottle,” woman sitting beside me, straggler from the festivities housed under the dust light.

“Then I suppose I’ll consider this mine.”

“Think you should stop? Take a break?”

“Whose birthday is it?”

“Mine.”

I put the bottle down and stare at it, the undulating brown. Something, a smudgy excretion, rests to the bottom of the drink pale like smegma.

“Why aren’t you at your party?”

“I never really wanted one anyway. Wanted to be here alone. I told them I’d be right back, but I wanted to check on you real quick.”

“I don’t know,” shot, “you.”

“That’s okay.”

Her face is made of wine in broken glasses and her lips are pillows in a Sears catalog.

“You should go back to your party,” I beg.

“And you should go back to your house.”

She leaves and she leaks something that tastes in the air of cinnamon and pine. It’s near Christmas, the smells reminded me of that. This does not mean anything.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAAAAAYYY!”

“Happy birthday,” I whisper under my breath, curling the exhale forth from between my teeth into the waft of drafting air curdling all of our lungs I hope it reaches her, I hope she hears me. Shot.

Shot, shot.

Shot.

I’m attempting to make a new body for myself with this. My outer layer boils around my bones and organs and will soon waste off like a discarded bathrobe in the bathroom before a shower. It will soon rain and my flesh will seep off of the real me and I will let it loose in the dumpster behind a strip club to tell it exactly what it means to be free. It will hurt it will be damaged it will try to forget for years to come and then maybe one day a decade from now we’ll be sitting beside each other in this same bar exchanging horrors and romances like old friends.

We are not friends now.

I finish the series of drawings with a portrait of myself in my current state. I kill the realism that takes hold. My eyes are two empty holes and my face is nothing dimensional or with force or dignity. I draw myself as a puddle stepped on in a storm. Acne scars on my forehead now populate my cheeks my entire face myself and the craters have faces of their own that look a lot like me. I finish and shot take a second to draw around the face I’ve made a mouth of teeth. These teeth belong to my wife.

My world fades into the oak and television pouring out baseball highlights and suddenly it’s all the same I am all the same as it is the same as me shot shot shot shot shot

Shot.

I go outside with my keys in my hand and then I break down in the snow drifts yellow against streetlamps and piss. Is my son okay home alone? Am I okay out here alone?

I remember and I toss my keys aside, I remember I don’t have a car right now and I remember I walk miles and miles and never go anywhere.

 

 

Alec Ivan Fugate is some guy sitting in some swamp in some city in northeastern Indiana. His work is floating at Occulum, Burning House Press, Bending Genres, and other darker, spookier ponds