Monday, August 12, 2013

Maybe The Next One Will Be Better by Jessica Meyer

Jessica Meyer is another fabulous person I met on Twitter. She's witty, intelligent, and cute as a button. She's an artist in every sense of the word. Also, one fantastic writer. She always has something nice to say about everyone and anyone, and she lends her support whenever she can. She loves to partake in humorous banter, which is pretty fun too.
When I read her story, I kind of fell in love with it. It was like nothing else I received for this project, and believe me, that is a very good thing. It's dark, mysterious, and ominous. Her ability to create a character that is so deeply flawed and strong is amazing. Especially because she did it in just a few pages. I have to say, that I would love to see this become just a start of something more, because it doesn't read like a short story. It reads like a first chapter.  (ahem)
So, as we near the finish line to this project, here is Jessica Meyer with Maybe The Next One Will Be Better.

The Memory Project (continued)
Jesse and I made an appearance at the party. But the thing that was happening, my world shifting from color to black and white, sped up in frequency, each time lasting longer. As it did, I blinked my eyes rapidly and shook my head, trying to dislodge the visions like some kind of parasite draining energy from me.
Jesse remained by my side, holding my hand. He knew when it happened, probably from the tension in my body, and he'd squeeze my hand gently as if reassuring me. A few times it happened when I was mid-sentence with a few of my sister's friends. And once, it even happened with my mom.
She was asking me to get some more ice from the freezer. I froze. Her dark hair switched from chestnut to black, peach skin to creamy white, and red lips to pewter. It unnerved me. My muscles went rigid, paralyzed with fear. She must have thought I was going through some kind of seizure, because she grabbed me by the shoulders, and then cupped my face in her hand. The touch of her hand brought me out of it. That time was the longest one so far.
The others, I could take them changing back and forth if I had to. But seeing the people I love, the world that once made sense morph into one that didn't made my stomach churn.
I was so thankful Jesse was here with me. Lord knows I couldn’t do this on my own. Even though I had no idea what this was. He was my guardian angel. My rock. And I leaned on him all afternoon and as the dusk settled in, fireflies twinkling in the fading light.
(to be continued)

Maybe The Next One Will Be Better
By Jessica Meyers

Blue runs the photo between his fingers again. The corners are bent and the paper has gone soft from traveling in his pocket. He replaces it and leans back in his bench seat.
The boat sways with the current. The gondolier works in silence and Blue is fine with that. He didn’t feel much like talking anyway. He’d much rather watch the light reflecting off the surface of the water like a shattered mirror. He leans over the edge but there’s not much to see. He’s only a silhouette with a broken halo strewn about its head.
He dressed up for tonight. Fresh pressed shirt, still warm when he pulled it on. Hair neatly combed back from his forehead. His sister would’ve been pleased. He cleaned up well, just like she always said he would.
Blue fiddles with his cuffs. He sniffs.
The scent of jasmine is heavy in the air, almost heavy enough to cover the underlying stink of rot. He hates this city with all his heart. Swore he’d never come back. But just like all his other promises he’s broken this one too. At least he can comfort himself with the fact that he’d meant it at the time. It isn’t much comfort but it’ll do.
The gondola rocks hard enough to have him clutching at the sides. Do gondolas capsize? He’s never cared to find out and now is no different. The gondolier shoots him an apologetic smile. “It’s always a little choppy here,” he says. “Bad spot,” he adds a second later.
Around them the walls are closing in, the open canal narrowing to a watery path between buildings. If he stretches out a hand he could probably graze the plaster walls on either side. He wonders if it would feel slimy from the spray. But for that he would have to take off his gloves. He leaves them on.
All the buildings wear the same bland façade. Tall, narrow windows like eyes hiding behind wrought iron lashes. Dark plaster and arched doorways. Floating by in the canal, they all seem to look down on him. What is it that they see? Do they remember?
They make another stuttering turn under and arched bridge and the gondolier warns him to keep his arms inside the boat. The water echoes back loud around them. Like the whispering of gossips. Maybe it’s not the buildings he should watch out for. Maybe the water knows more.
They arrive before he can think on it further.
The name Santo Blu glows in the darkness over the recessed doorway like some kind of magic sigil. He reads it aloud as the gondola glides up to the pier. Then he laughs. It’s a good joke even if it’s unintentional.
There’s a bump and Blue almost pitches head first onto the little pier when he tries to climb from the boat. The gondolier shoots him another apologetic smile but doesn’t hesitate to hold out his hand for payment.
Blue takes a breath before he steps inside. The air outside is hardly fresh—still that ever present stink of rot—but  it wouldn’t do to show up looking as shaken as he’s feeling. It’s been a long time since he was out. Maybe things have changed.
The doors open as if they were expecting him but it’s nothing so portentous as that. As he slips in, a couple slips out, snagging the gondola he just vacated and disappearing into the night. Blue hopes their ride is as bad as his was.
Music assails his ears as the doors swing shut behind him, shutting him in. Too many people. Too much noise. His eyes sweep the room. The darkness is a blessing in disguise. No one can see how much he’s sweating.
A woman on the dance floor tries to catch his eye. He heads for the bar instead, picks a stool along the mostly empty left side so he can stretch out.
“Looking for someone?” the bartender asks. She’s unexpectedly pretty with pale eyes as bright as mercury and something about her reminds him of a marble sculpture.
“That’s the plan,” Blue says with cheer he doesn’t feel. She fixes his drink and sets it off center on a coaster. He moves it over. Then he thinks better of it and cradles it in one hand where he can keep an eye on it. He turns to face the room.
There are too many faces to count all swaying in time to the music as if they’ve been programmed with its rhythm since birth. He kind of wishes he had that abandon. The woman from earlier waves at him from the fringes. She splits the crowd like a knife through butter.
“Dance?” she yells in his ear but it barely registers as a whisper against the even louder background noise.
Blue shakes his head. “No thanks.” He doesn’t speak loud but she can read his lips just fine. She shrugs and mouths back “If you change your mind.”
He won’t but he’s strangely touched all the same.
By then he’s finished his drink and the marble faced bartender has replaced it with another that’s stronger than the first. He probably shouldn’t have started drinking. It’s always hard to know when to stop. His empty stomach twists and the room twists with it. Maybe that’s why it takes him so long to notice the new company that’s appeared two seats down. Blue looks up and a smile curls his lips. Perfect.
Tall and lean, the new guy exudes “don’t fuck with me” vibes. Blue slides closer, dragging his drink along the bar and almost leaving his coaster behind. New guy pretends not to notice but Blue catches the sidelong glance, fast though it is.
He waffles between a simple hello and a “you look familiar” before he chooses the latter.
The guy returns the greeting with a lazy shake of his head and then starts looking for an avenue of escape.
Blue chuckles. “I’m not hitting on ya. Honest.” He presses a hand to his heart, surprised at how fast it’s beating behind his ribs. His body sways with the heavy pulse.
“Glad to hear it.”
Blue turns back to the bar and studies him out of the corner of his eye. He’s not attractive in the usual sense, broad faced and bony but there’s something about his lips that strike Blue as quite nice. He bets plenty of people have fallen victim to those particular lips. Kinda wonders what they feel like. New guy folds his hands around his beer bottle and Blue looks away. Sometime when he wasn’t paying attention his glass emptied itself. There’s not much left to do at the bar if new guy won’t talk to him. Too bad.
New guy glances up, surprised, when Blue puts a hand on his shoulder and gives him a farewell wave. The guy’s eyes follow him as he wades into the crowd on the floor. Too bad he hadn’t said something earlier. It would have made his job so much easier if they could’ve been friends.

Blue leans over the railing on the second floor of the club, eyeing the spot where new guy had been sitting an hour ago. By the time Blue had returned from the dance floor, the guy had disappeared and with him any convenient chance to track him. Not that Blue minds much. He already caught his scent and he’s an excellent bloodhound when he needs to be.
Gideon arrives as silent as a shadow. He’s dressed in high style again tonight with a suit so dark it goes beyond black. His tie is red. Blue wonders vaguely if that’s supposed to be a joke. Gideon’s polished shoes wink as he steps to the railing and looks down. “You’ve lost your touch.”
“I gave him a head start is all. Didn’t even know who I was.” Blue taps a cigarette out of his pack and shoots Gideon a questioning look. He shakes his head.
“Smoking’s bad for you,” Gideon says. His lips twitch in amusement.
“So’s a knife through the heart but we don’t quibble.” Blue smiles, cigarette tipping up in his closed lips. A cloud of smoke envelopes him as he exhales.
Gideon waves it away. “I expected you to take this a little more seriously, considering.”
“Considering I’m fresh out of retirement?”
A nod.
“Figured. I’m taking it plenty serious. No more mistakes.” He takes another drag before squashing the half burned cigarette beneath one heel. “Gimme a lift, old man. I can’t handle another boat ride.”
Gideon scowls at the epithet but he holds out one arm as if he intends to tuck Blue into his pocket. They disappear before the cigarette butt is even done smoking.

He’d lied a little.
Blue hadn’t meant to allow that much of a head start. The stink of the city and the ever present smell of water make it harder to follow the trail but he manages it with some backtracking and a few unnecessary headaches. Blue hopes no one will notice a couple extra bodies until after he’s cleared city limits.
When he climbs in the window, Blue finds his quarry asleep in bed. The guy from the club is bare-chested and seemingly harmless. But Blue knows otherwise. He sits on the open sill, hair ruffling in the breeze, and watches the carefully measured rise and fall of the man’s chest.
“Open your eyes,” he says. “You’re not fooling anyone.”
The guy presses back against the wall, clutching the bedclothes to his chest like a maiden in a silent film. “Who are you?” His expression is a good one but it’s a mask just as the feigned sleep was a mask.
Blue smiles. He wishes he’d thought to light a cigarette. It would’ve been nice to have something in his hands while they talked. Something to fill the pauses. “Genesis 6:4. You know it?” He reaches into his pocket and the other man tenses. “Relax, Jetrel. I brought you a present.” He tosses the photo to the floor where they both can see it.
Jetrel’s eyes turn down. His forehead creases as he looks at the photo’s bland white sky over dark watered canals, the same ones Blue just bobbed through on his way to the club. He’ll be so glad when he doesn’t have to see them again. “You know what it means?”
His answer is the flare of half formed wings, barely more than shadow layered over darkness. Jetrel lunges. If Blue hadn’t been expecting it, the fight would have ended right there with him tipped out the window, head cracked on the pavement below.
He dodges and Jetrel’s wing sweeps harmlessly over his head. Something crashes to the floor. Blue throws a fist into the angel’s side. It earns him a grunt of paint and Jetrel swings back to face him. He swings with both fists. Misses with both. The room is too small for them to be bobbing and weaving like prize fighters. Jetrel’s wings are everywhere, scraping the walls, feathers bending the wrong way. On land, most angels are as graceful as birds flying into windows. This one is no exception. If Jetrel had been smart he’d have kept his wings tucked away from another day. But they’re never smart.
However sometimes they are lucky.
Jetrel catches Blue with a backhand to the jaw. He’s on the floor before he realizes and a second later the angel’s hands squeeze tight around his throat. It hurts more than he remembers. Maybe Gideon’s right and he has lost his touch. Blue wheezes, stars filling his eyes. They’re the color of fresh snow but they burn and his ears are ringing so loud he can barely hear Jetrel talking.
“…leave me alone. I wasn’t bothering anyone.” He gives another squeeze and Blue’s windpipe closes up like a shop on holiday. No service today. If only it was that easy. But nope. He’s still not dead and the only way out is as a corpse. If it’s not him it has to be Jetrel.
For an angel you’re awfully sloppy, Blue thinks because his windpipe is very possibly crushed. Jetrel hears him anyway. His eyes widen but whether it’s in realization or from the knife in his heart it’s impossible to say. Blue gives him a kick. Jetrel bounces off the wall and slides to the floor, still leaking blood like a faucet. In the dim room, it looks as black as his wings.
“Please…” Jetrel coughs. Blood runs along the seam of his lips and down his jaw. They always say that too but it’s much more pleasant coming from Jetrel’s pretty lips. He fumbles with the knife, slicing his thumb on the long blade as he tries to pull it free. Blue brushes his hand away.
He shoots Jetrel an apologetic look, feeling more than a little like that asshole gondolier earlier. Sorry for the shitty ride, pal. Maybe the next one will be better. But Jetrel’s out of ride passes and they both know it.
Blue puts the sole of his boot to the knife. Nothing personal, he thinks, but I like me better than you. He stomps down hard, blade pinning the fallen angel to the bare wood plank floor.
Jetrel gives a final whine as he dies. His eyes never close. They stare as Blue squats and wipes his bloody gloves in the downy feathers of Jetrel’s wings. Then he scoops up the photo—the corner is torn clean off now thanks to their fight—and drops it onto Jetrel’s chest.

Blue’s sitting by the canal surrounded by an impressive cloud of smoke when Gideon finds him next. Gideon fans away the smoke before he reaches into his suit coat. Blue snickers. He looks like something out of an action movie with his dark suit and his sunglasses, rooting around in his pockets for a manila envelope. When he finds it, Gideon slaps him upside the head with the envelope. “I told you, smoking was bad for you.”
Blue scowls but he flicks his cigarette into the water. It drowns itself with an annoyed hiss.
Gideon drops the envelope into his lap and leaves before he can open it. There goes the hope of a new retirement. The coppery smell of blood is still in his nose from last night. He sniffles. At least it’s better than rot.
Blue tears open the envelope, letting the scraps fall into the canal and drift away like useless little boats. He smiles at the picture in his hands. A postcard this time, all glossy and picturesque.
Next stop, Los Angeles.
The pun is so horrible he has to laugh.

Genesis 6:4 - The nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward,
when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children
to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

You can follow Jessica here: @mixeduppainter
And read her blog here:

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