i love you.

It was three months ago, on a 3 am trip to the beach when I realized it would be nearly impossible to love anyone else as much as I love you. Cool sand stuck to your hands and even then I didn’t complain when you held mine. The moon casting swaths of deep silver across your face. Not many things on Earth can be labeled as heavenly, but I knew at that moment, that heaven would be a dry and fruitless wasteland without you and that by some unfathomed stroke of immeasurable luck, I’d already arrived in heaven and to imagine it being any better than sitting there with you could be deemed as an unforgivable sin. I love you more than I’ll ever express. I love you, I love you, I love you.

Slaught

An obscure short.

I had just sent my children to bed when the first tank rolled down the cobbled streets in front of our home. I remember it being so cold and mechanical against the ancient buildings and calm, billowing palm trees across the way. The Flagler College sign built into the ground directly in front of me was broken, one of the L’s hanging precariously, like the very fate of humanity, in a balance humans no longer controlled.  I wasn’t afraid. We had known they were coming for awhile now. I actually believe I hated waiting for the inevitable more than I hated the sight of the tanks and their subhuman inhabitants. The Intruders. I’d heard my youngest two whispering about them in the night. I’d never thought that the prospect of alien-invasion and human captivity by said aliens would be a plausible fear for my children outside of their fantasy world of books and movies, but here we were. Them, laying in their beds, blissfully unaware, and me, watching as warlike entities rolled silently over the grounds in which we called home. I sat in one of the rocking chairs that my children’s father and my forever lover had crafted two weeks before he went to work and never returned. A freak accident, they said, is what took him from us when the crane he was working on trapped him beneath its large wheels and the pressure of the two ton machine crushed his body. They carried him off of the work lot in six bags. Six bags. His arms and legs and heads and sternum all dispersed over a 20 foot radius. The day we buried him, the first news of the meteor, so dubiously dubbed, Slaught, had slipped out of the path it had been circling the Earth on for 2,000 years and began barreling to the earth with a vengeance. At first we braced for the meteor to hit the earth somewhere around Alaska. It did that, and thoroughly wiped out the entire state completely. What we didn’t anticipate was the fallout proceeding to then completely evaporate Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and the upper half of California. Then when there were reports of disfigured, human-like creatures that began to emerge from the dusted earth, the absolute worst nightmares of the human race began to manifest before our very eyes. That’s not what we were expecting. But in all reality, why not? We never were absolutely sure of what was out there. Why are we shocked that there is something out there that is horrendous enough to one, not be scared of us, and two, be terrifying enough to terrorize us, the humans, the ‘superior’ race? My thoughts were cut off as a tank rolled to a stop right in front of my house. I sat still as the roof peeled open and an extraordinarily long arm gripped the edge and pulled the body it was attached to out of the tank. The pictures they showed on the news were kind to these creatures. The moonlight, tinged red by debris and dust, cast a strange glow on the alien’s body as it leaped from the tank. It was tall, freakishly so, a stretched body of taut pale skin, hairless and shiny. I wouldn’t call what it did as it approached me as “walking” but as it drew close, I could feel the static in the air sing and draw the hairs on my arm to a point. 

Give any younglings you have to me, and we shall go. 

I was a little stunned. The thing had not opened its mouth, it couldn’t have, because where a mouth was supposed to be, there was nothing but skin, and even still, I heard a voice. I’d read that they could do this, a heightened form of telepathy, but experiencing it was bizarre to say the least. I knew what it was after, my children. The younger, the better. No one had figured out what they were doing with the children they were taking, the bodies were never found, but even so, we knew it could be nothing good. I shook my head, a silent, no. The alien stepped forward and even though I wasn’t afraid of it, I flinched. The alien then reached out a finger, if I should even call it that, and pressed it to my forehead. My grip on the armrest grew so tight, pieces of wood began to splinter and gouge themselves into my palm. The pain was nothing but a whisper as I focused on the cold thing pressed to my face, assuredly gathering my thoughts, invasive. I stared up into the abnormally large eyes of the thing as it stared down into mine. I think I saw its eyes widen slightly as he saw inside of my mind, saw what I had done in a last ditch effort to keep my children safe for their entire lives. I tried to read its eyes as it saw me drip arsenic onto every chicken nugget and fry, my children’s favorite meal, and watched me watch them eat every piece, wiping away a few tears when they weren’t paying attention. They were in bed now. I had told them that I loved them for the very last time. 

The alien withdrew his finger and his eyes lowered. 

Remain indoors. 

He turned and walked down the pathway, leaving me in my empty shell of a house with the empty shells of my children.  

by: Rachel Fairclough

 

His eyes are blue

I met him on the subway. My nose had been buried in the pages of my weathered copy of Romeo and Juliet, the amount of time I spent reading it now reaching unknown measures. Living in a city as large as Manhattan, having something that represented a sort of futile stability was a welcomed thing. Immersing myself in the age old tragedy of love-stricken teenagers was my “welcomed-thing”. Like the love told in a timeless piece, the subway keeps the city alive while slowly killing it simultaneously. Without the subway, Manhattan would surely perish, but with it comes gas and energy wasted that is killing the city as well. I used to look at it as if it were just a necessary means of getting to and from the job that I loved and from my apartment which rivaled the love I had for said job. That was before a day in late November. The air was crisp with 40 degree weather and the sharp wafts of hot dogs steaming in their respective vendor’s carts. I had stepped onto the floor of my subway car, dangerously paying no attention to my surroundings as I neared the part where Romeo found his beloved Juliet lying lifeless. As I sat down on the bench I balanced the novel in on top of my knees, sweeping up my raven locks into a halfhearted bun in order to keep it from distorting my concentration. I had barely noticed that the sub had come to a halt in order to pick up some more weary city workers and stragglers alike. I don’t think I would’ve even noticed him if it had not been for the burst of Burberry cologne that flooded my senses that came with his arrival. Burberry had been the cologne of choice for my father up until the day he took his last breath. Nostalgia forced me to look up. Nostalgia had no idea that it was blazing a new trail for something much healthier and pleasant. It had no idea that it was burgeoning love. But then again, neither did I.

I intended to tear my eyes away from my book to just take a peek at the body wearing the cologne, but when I looked up, every rational thought I had ever had disappeared. I was staring directly into the striking blue eyes of a man seemingly carved by God himself. He wore a cream sweater, calfskin loafers and slim-fitting dark wash jeans rolled up to the ankles. That was all observed in a split second because my eyes were drawn back to his like magnets. His eyes were beautiful, but they held traces of something else. Reservation? Maybe. Sleeplessness? Definitely, but that could obviously be assumed due to the sketchbook poking out of his supple, brown satchel. He smiled at me and I truly believe that was the conclusion of whatever formula it takes for someone to fall in love with someone else. He had pushed himself off the seat where he had been sitting, just across the car from me, and plopped himself down in the empty one beside me. “Hello. I’m Joel,” he had said, sticking out one unusually bronzed hand. I shook it murmuring a quiet, “I’m Moby.” My heart stopped beating and began this strange sort of erratic fluttering so loud he must of heard it. He swears to this day that he could. We all know that is is bull, however romantic it may seem. He tousled his head of milk chocolate curls and relaxed back into his seat.

“So Moby, where ya headed?” he asked fixating his gaze on my  hands creasing my book shut. I laughed.

“It’s nearly 6. Where do you think I’m going?”

I asked him hoping it came across as banter and not as me being a bitch since in previous scenarios, the two have been misinterpreted extensively. He laughed at my sarcasm, taking it the right way. He has this laugh that makes your heart run warm with love; a laugh that reminds you that even though you’re human and severely flawed, there is some perfection in being human and that in itself is remarkable. A comfortable silence fell between us until I hesitantly asked him what it was that drew him to me. He stared at me with an indistinguishable look and pulled out his worn sketchbook. Mind you, I had never seen this man prior to this fateful meeting. Flipping through the thick pages, he landed on one drawn in matte- black charcoal. Turning the book so that it was facing me, my eyes had fallen upon a drawing etched there. It was a portrait of a girl, a woman. She had raven hair, a sloped nose and medium-sized eyes. Her eyes were haunting, full of pain and sorrow. My throat had dried up like a raisin in the sun. “This.. I… How?” I mumbled, my hands trembling slightly. A little time passed as I stared at the picture. His voice cracked when he opened his mouth.

“That’s why. This is why I’m here right now,” he murmured quietly answering my now forgotten question, as obviously shocked as I was. I drifted my eyes up to him and he was looking at me with his plush and pink lips pursing, his eyes searching mine for something I could do no better job at explaining than he. I gazed down to the portrait now clutched in my grasp. The drawing crafted carefully into the canvas page was a startlingly exact replica of me.

by: Rachel Fairclough

2018

the madaket beach

In the shadowed recesses of my darkest mind, I always knew. Your witty charm and slinky smile were too beautiful, too pretty to be reserved for a chagrined hopeless like me. What we had begun had begun in lonesome pity wrought from selfishness King David could never understand. You had everything. I had everything. But we still found something we wanted within one another. Something neither of us needed. It took two meddled coffees and two new prints of newspaper for me to realize that even though the timbre of your voice brought childish excitement to my flustered heart, the only thing that elicited such a reaction on your part was the sway of my rounded hips. The way my thighs felt when they were crushed beneath your searching hands in the back of your posh and silver Mustang. 

When a genuine question became reason for trembling anger, I knew. I began to think like a raging housewife, left home alone with children and cooking and cleaning and a tattered copy of a magazine with rippled abs and firm buttocks plastered over its pages. How dare I. After all, I wasn’t the housewife. I was the whore. Even still, beating heart and rushing blood rang blaring in my ears. 

The last day of us, you came to me, desperate for my body, never my soul. I let you. This was the only way I could be near you. With my mouth sealed shut and my legs spread wide. Wide. Like the foolish love sprung deep within my heart. Would I burst? When you did? Your ragged breath was huffing over my neck like a gust of warm foam from the shore of the Madaket Beach. The place where you laid your cool eyes on me for the first time and decided that I would be the best distraction and home for your body while you waited for your wife’s swollen belly to slim down once your child exited her. I never had a choice, did I? You swooped in with a cliched line of flirtation. I had known at once that the salt and pepper hair still intact on your head meant that you and my father could have played golf with one another on plastic grass and with bumbling caddies closely in tow. I didn’t care. You sat down next to me, never even tried to cover the flashing band on your wedding finger, and picked me up. The risk of it all drew me in. For six months, miswritten company billing files made way for you to fly to Nantucket and bury your sorrows and sickness of a hormonal wife into me. Never once did I care. You had chosen me. YOU had chosen me.

The fury in your cold eyes when I asked the question that had been gnawing on my throat since I caught a glimpse of her name on the screen of your cellphone was distressing. Not because I feared that you would be enraged with me for looking through your things. No. But because when you gather your things and whisk out of my paneled doors, never once did you deny my accusation. 

You had worked things out with that woman at home. You were going to stop coming to see me. Even though I loved you. 

You laughed. A horrible sound that I had begun to love. The grimacing smile stretched tightly across your sun-damaged skin was bigger as I said those unbelievably misguided words. I loved that smile even still. 

Love? Moby, baby. You’re the best  I’ve ever had. I’ve had fun, honest. But that’s all this was. We talked about this, remember?

Your voice was so loud. Booming like rolling thunder miles out on salty waves. The incessant ringing in my ears that hadn’t simmered for minutes grew louder and more impatient. 

Somehow, mustered from dimwitted desperation, I had choked out eight words. The last words I would ever say to you.

Is that all I ever was to you? 

You could never have thought just that of me. 182 days. That was a lifetime. The time it took for you to open your mouth and answer me was a lifetime. 

I watched as your fingers flexed in their grip of my door. 

Yes.

Life is cruel that way. Like when someone compliments you but in an off-handed way. 

An affirmation made derogatory.

Yes. 

Yes.

6 a.m. when I am missing you

it’s underneath pale gray skies and on dreary, fog-ridden mornings when i miss you most.

it so easily tells tale of the hemorrhage of emotion that loving you entailed. 

I don’t think of you when things are going well for me. 

when the sun is bright and the yellow hues cast warmth and goodness on my face, I barely remember your name, like you never existed, like you never hurt me. 

I think that means its getting better.

then i have days like today.

the world is gray and cold and i have to peer through tightly slanted eyes, out of my window just to see the mango trees a few feet away.

I remember these types of days we would have together. 

how we would do nothing but smoke and lay together, my soul entangled with yours, 

the dreariness of the atmosphere hooding my eyes in a cloak of misplaced trust, adoration, and reckless abandon. 

how I didn’t realize that whenever your hands were on me, they were placed there lustfully. 

you never held me in a way that meant “i just want to hold you”.

why? 

I mean, I know why now. I was just an exonerated body to keep you warm. 

would it have killed you to let me know that?

or does it still somehow bring you pleasure to know that five years later, it is 6 a.m. and I am still missing you?

by: Rachel Fairclough

2019