Post by Kentucky on Apr 14, 2019 21:00:25 GMT
“Home-making paintings for poor-quality porn flicks…” - Earl Sweatshirt, Hoarse
Take it. You’ll feel better. You’ve never been hurt by just one hit before.
A flicker of fire followed by the whisper of smoke. His room was dark, the blinds drawn, all of the lights off. It made him feel better, he supposed. Anthony was never sure why, but it always did. He drew the joint back to his mouth and sucked in a breath, his eyes watering and his lips quivering. He released, blowing the smoke through a toilet paper roll covered in dryer sheets, a device he devised with the help of the Internet and a growing paranoia. He laid back onto his bed, grabbing his forehead and wiping sweat off of it. “Oh, fuck.”
He stared at the ceiling fan. “Oh fuck.” Music in his ears played softly, a sterile earbuds cord twisting over his neck and into the loving arms of his nightstand. He watched the smoke dissipate with gloomy eyes, slowly wincing before stuffing the back of his head into the pillow.
Anthony had ended classes just three hours ago then took the bus back to his apartment. A lonely ride; it was only him, the bus driver, and three girls. He stole glances at them and his thoughts ran wild. You’re sick. Sick in the head. He had never seen women that way until he got to college; he considered the idea that maybe his dad was right, that these worldly institutions would lead to worldly wants. But who gave a shit what his dad thought? The congregation? The flock? Anthony wasn’t apart of that, so it didn’t matter. He could partake in whatever he wanted now that he had a job, a cheap apartment, and a roommate. No more living off his parents; it was finally time to live.
He had always thought that escape would stop the frustrations, but it was only exacerbated. He moved his attention past the ceiling fan to the ceiling. “One, two, three… one, two, three…” He whispered. Anthony took another drag before picking up the cardboard tube to soften the blow. He laid there for another minute or two, rubbing a hand through his curling hair, before a battering rapped at his door. His eyes drug themselves through his sockets to stare at the door. He didn’t want to get up; yet he did. The boy shuffled across the carpet, a brittle rug that burned his bare feet. He ran a hand over his eyes and blinked in rapid succession, then opened the door.
A big man wearing a man bun, a beard, and a button-up t-shirt stared at Anthony from the other side. Though, man was perhaps hyperbolic. Scott Moore was but a year older than Anthony at the ripe age of twenty. His beard was full but had yet to reach its full potential, and his tan skin was but a show of his outdoors prowess. Anthony supposed he himself would have the skin to show for it too, had he not already been a black kid birthed out of a farmer-preacher from Virginia. Scott had always been the tall, broad, white one. Anthony had always been the average, skinny, black one. Not like he cared too much; Scott only had a few inches on him, Anthony at 5’11 and his compatriot standing at a grand 6’3.
“Hey man.” The typical greeting between the two roommates. Anthony got a good glimpse into the living room, eyes on the horizon of a futon, an old plasma television, and a young yellow dog sitting on the carpet beside a wooden coffee table. “Yo, whhhaaaat’s up?” Anthony slurred, grinning while his eyelids sagged down. Scott looked past him; undoubtedly towards the bottle of Budweiser still on Anthony’s desk. He grabbed Anthony’s eyes again. “I got some friends together to go on a camping trip tomorrow, if you wanna come.”
Anthony winced. His posture straightened and his gaze focused. “Camping? Uh, who all’s going?” He hadn’t been camping in... forever, really. Hell, he couldn’t remember the last time he went hiking besides taking Tucker down the street towards the campus. Scott’s response was near instant. “Nathan, his girlfriend Kat, Gracie, Davis, Vince.”
Anthony’s grin faded into a toothless smile. A satisfied smirk, almost. “The usual crowd and then some, then.” Scott’s eyes raised. “Eeeyup, the usual crowd and then some. Figured you’d wanna come since you’re super into hiking and shit.” Anthony nodded in response, eyes darting over to the dog. “You mind if I bring Tucker? You know how he is, little fucking pussy.”
Scott’s own tempo picked up and the simper turned to him. “Sure, he’s a cool dog, I don’t think anyone else’ll care.” He shrugged and turned to leave, but stopped mid stride. “Also, you’ll need to bring your own tent.” Anthony laid out finger guns towards Scott, still smiling. “Nah, I’ll just sleep out in the open,” his accent changed into mock Southern, “like a man.” Scott rolled his eyes, crooning a response back. “Yeah, alright dipshit.” He paused, but had more to add. “Hey, and I think you and Gracie get along pretty well, know what I’m sayin’?” His grin was that of a devil’s and Anthony’s eyes drooped. The corners of his mouth caved inwards, a wrinkled frown sagging onto his lips. “Yeah. Maybe. Thanks for inviting me.” His voice was deadpan as he closed the door and fell onto his bed. Something pounded behind his temple. A fucking headache. His fingers ran up to caress the aching pain but they were of no use.
Another bad trip.
The wind wove through his fingertips and the sky fluttered over his eyelids. It was a beautiful day for a drive.
Anthony laid his head back, arm around Tucker while Scott chauffeured them towards the campsite. He couldn’t help but wave his other hand out the window to the beat of the radio, swerving the melody into his stream. “You having fun back there?” Scott glanced into the rearview mirror before his eyes edged back on the highway. “You know it! I think I was born to backseat drive.” He watched as Scott’s hands tensed up on the wheel; he never had been good under pressure. “Hey, don’t forget your turn signal on the lane change up ahead, I know you miss it pretty oft-”
“Fuck off!” Scott interrupted while Anthony giggled in delight, dragging his hand out of the cold air outside. “It’s fucking freezing, can you roll up your window?!” Scott cried out as Anthony held down the button to do so. “I thought it’d be funny! Now I’m shivering, so I guess I’m just fucking stupid.”
“You guess?” Scott started, grinning. “Well, I-”
“Yeah yeah, you know, motherfucker.” Anthony swung back, leaning up between the two front seats. “Fuck, my hand.”
“What did you think was going to happen? It’s forty fucking degrees out, man.” Anthony rolled his eyes. “Look, maybe if you hadn’t been playing those entrancing tunes, then I wouldn’t have felt the need to embody the rhythm.” Scott shook his head. “Oh, I see, you’re blaming this on me now? No respect for your superiors. And you’re shameless, too.”
“Oh, sorry massa! Forgive me please! Not the whip again!” Anthony sunk back into his seat, the two in the car laughing at their own stupidity. “Word.” Scott cooed back, Anthony laughing even harder. Ironic slang had since become a mainstay in their vernacular, loosing words like “radical” and “tubular” into conversations whenever they wanted to. As the two of them said, 90s slang was astonishing in how universal it was.
After a little bit more of conversing, the car was silent. Anthony’s mind wandered to a year ago. Party. Drunk. Natalie.
“Gracie… that’s Natalie’s friend, right?” He near whispered. His voice had grown weak and small. Scott nodded. “Yup, that’s her. What about it?”
Anthony’s eyes dodged to Tucker. He grabbed him with one arm again, the dog panting and slobbering onto the seat. “Nothing, just wondering.” His tongue ran over his teeth, checking each one individually. It was silent for a few more seconds before Scott broke it. “Oh, come on man. You fucked her a year ago, nothing came of it. Don’t be so fucking weird over one girl.”
Anthony was no longer looking forward. Instead, he rested his chin on Tucker’s back as the dog allowed, now staring at the trees passing them by. They had gotten off the highway fifteen minutes ago; the campgrounds were sure to be close by. “I guess.”
They cleared into the forest ten minutes later at around five o’clock; they were the first ones there. Night would be upon them soon.
The clearing they picked out was soft. They had driven several miles into the forest before Scott had gotten out and invited Anthony with him, dragging Tucker out and unleashing him. “Okay, you little bastard. Go run around, take your time.” Anthony sang to the dog, who sped off into the clearing and dove into a patch of flowers. Soon enough, he was rolling amongst the field and sending dandelion seeds floating through the air. The two students headed to the back of the sedan, pulling out bundles of chairs and tents in each arm. Anthony found his own strength faltering, especially in the midst of Scott who was able to pull more with considerably less effort. He struggled against the strain of the weight, but pushed on to the clearing.
They dropped the bags into the clearing and Scott turned around. “Hey, you mind getting the stuff set up while I get the rest of the bags?” It wasn’t a question. “Yeah, sure.” Anthony mumbled, looking at the bags. Scott knew, didn’t he? He had to know that Anthony was the weak link. They probably all knew. They talked about it behind his back, didn’t they? Anthony talked about people behind their back, so did Scott, why wouldn’t people talk about him behind his back? That guy, yeah, he’s the skinny one. Remember what he did to Natalie? That was fucked up. That’s what they were saying. Oh yeah, Anthony. You know the way he looks at girls? Hell, dudes too. I saw him checking me out yesterday, like I wouldn’t notice. Creepy as hell. They all knew what he was thinking, didn’t they? It was a ridiculous thought, next; but what if they could all read his mind? That boy doesn’t even believe in God anymore. I tried my best to help him… I can’t help but be disappointed.
The headache was back. He shivered in the light and let out a gracious breath. “Jesus.” He grabbed the cuff of his windbreaker’s sleeve and toyed with it, sniffling as dandelions ran over his face.
“Hey, Anthony, chop chop man. The others’ll be here in like thirty minutes.”
Scott. Behind him. Anthony turned around and faked a smile. “Sorry. I was thinking.” Scott raised an eyebrow and frowned. “There’s instructions in the bag. You’re not that stupid, right?” Anthony’s false grin turned authentic. “I’ll have you know, I graduated summa cum laude of my tent making class, valedictorian. Full honors.” Scott fact checked him quickly. “Yeah, fuck you.”
They had gotten the tents set up eventually and Anthony had tied Tucker’s leash to his chair. The dog tried to follow him multiple times, until Anthony was forced to stake the chair into the ground. The others came eventually, all in the same car. Nathan, the tall, fit one of them. Kat, that hipster gal from down the street. Gracie, Natalie’s… friend. Davis, that fat WASP shithead. Vince, the lanky Mexican kid who’d never had a girlfriend his entire life. They were Scott’s friends mostly, but Anthony knew all of them. Anthony knew most people; he just figured he liked it that way.
Nathan and Scott shook it out while Vince, Davis, and Gracie headed straight for Anthony. “Yo, yo, yo whassup my man?” Vince crooned, going in for the classic bro-hug he always did. Anthony wondered if he was doing it right as they did the hand slap and felt he had missed the mark; whatever. “Hey, man.” Davis slapped him on the back after it was done and Grace herself walked up and waved
Get away from me. I’m sick and you know it, why?
He half-heartedly waved back as the group finished their greetings. She knew. Of course Natalie would tell her what happened, of course she would. “How’s it going?” She asked, trying to smile, but her eyes deceived her. She knew. “Pretty alright. Just getting the chairs set up. Uh… how’s it going with you?”
She answered eventually but he knew that she was queasy in his presence. It was deserved, of course. The way he thought, the things he’d done, all of it… he deserved this. If anybody deserved this, it was him.
“So, you didn’t go to graduation?”
“No, I was playing a gig. I just completely forgot about it.”
“How do you forget about graduation?”
“I dunno man. Luckiest shit of my life though, fuck graduation.”
It was Vince and Nathan talking this time; the latter being the one to forget graduating. Vince had never been the brightest, which was probably why him and Davis made two peas in a pod. Davis was the biggest redneck you’d ever see, yet probably the smartest between the entire group. Anthony envied it. He had always been of average intelligence at best, maybe a little smarter if the odds called for it. But other than most of them seemed to outclass him in one way or the other… Vince had more life experience, Davis was smart, Nathan was just better, Kat was more knowledgeable in obscure garbage, Scott was taller, and Gracie was… watching him.
He looked over to her in a frenzy but her eyes were focused on the conversation. Had she just moved them? He swore he saw her staring at him from the corner of his eye. Fuck off. Just leave me alone. Anthony winced and changed his tune towards the conversation, taking a sip of alcohol. “So you just got it back in the mail, then?”
Vince nodded as his friend Davis spoke and the conversation carried on. Anthony followed along the best he could, but the marijuana smoke grew and the beer bottles drained and Anthony was lost to himself.
Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he… he climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see…
They were talking about something but his vision was blurred. Shapes formed into blobs and blobs formed into abstract bits, all passing him by. He heard Tucker bark once and then a gaggle of laughter erupted near a group of people who had moved away from him. And when the Lord passed that way, He looked up in the tree…
“Anthony. Hey, Anthony.”
His vision cleared momentarily. Kat stood above him, shaking him awake by the arm. “We’re playing BS if you wanna join.” Groggily, he looked up into the sky. It was pitchblack now, the only light being that of the fire. “What time is it?” He asked, the girl checking her watch. “I think it’s like, nine.” Anthony scoffed. “Well… let me take Tucker out to the woods first, he probably needs to use the bathroom.”
Kat smiled wearily and nodded. “Alright, hurry up, we’re almost done with this game.”
She walked back to the table where most of them were laughing. Davis was nowhere to be found, but Anthony caught sight of a light inside one of the tents. Why did Scott bring them tents? Why didn’t he bring me one too? Anthony winced and looked over at them; none of them made any indication of looking at him. He sniffled and started untying Tucker’s leash.
Tucker was fast asleep as well, but started to wake up as Anthony tugged on his collar. “Come on buddy, let’s go use the bathroom.” He whispered and the dog’s tail started wagging. You can’t understand a word I’m saying. At least you like to hear me talk. A grim smile came to him and he started leading Tucker away. “Hey man, where you going?” He heard the familiar voice of Nathan calling to him; Anthony turned around to face him. “Just taking Tucker out for a bit. I’ve got a flashlight, I’ll be right back.”
They waved him off and he pulled Tucker alongside of him into the forest. He stuck the anglehead flashlight to the shoulder of his coat and flicked it on. The murky forest was illuminated by dim light; Tucker’s eyes shined in the glow, reflecting into leaves and trees while the dog took the lead. They walked for about five minutes before Tucker found a good spot. He stood next to a tree, circled once, then laid down.
“Tucker. Come on buddy.”
He tugged on the dog’s leash but he refused to budge. “Tucker. Oh my God, don’t do this now.” Anthony’s face changed into that of a grimace and he groaned. “Fucking hell.” He pulled the leash tighter and Tucker whimpered in response. Anthony’s voice broke in an instant. “No, no, I’m sorry buddy! I didn’t mean to hurt you, but come on, please.” He pleaded with the dog and put a hand under his collar, tugging more light now. Still, Tucker would not move. As he reached down to touch Tucker’s bare fur, he found the dog shivering in the leaves, still whimpering even when he stopped touching him.
“It’s okay buddy, don’t worry.” Anthony’s mind escaped him. He was just seeing a deer or a rabbit, scaredy cat. Unless it’s a bear… do bears live in these woods? Ask Scott. You should ask Scott. Anthony soothed his dog and ran his fingers through Tucker’s golden hair. “Come on buddy, let’s get out of-” He was interrupted as Tucker jolted upwards and then spun around. The air changed around them. All of the air left Anthony’s body and he was sent reeling to the ground. He gasped for anything; and then it came back to him. He tried to yell but found he couldn’t, now hearing the spinning legs of a dog distancing off into the night. ”Tucker… He wheezed, pulling himself up. His eyes darted across the forest; lucky enough, his flashlight gave him just enough view of a yellow tail speeding into the dark. His feet started forward after it, breaking into a light jog at first before his breath came back. He started running through the trees, jumping over roots. His ankles deceived him as they strained, sweat running down his brow. “Tucker!” He called out, this time actually in standing to do so.
In that moment, he listened. Anthony’s ears perked up as his senses thickened. No birds. No more wind. He couldn’t hear Tucker anymore either. There was something. Footsteps colliding with his own, following almost the same pace, but off by just a few beats. He didn’t dare look behind him. The boy kept running, a stifled cry dribbling from his lips. The top of his foot collided with a tree and he nearly fell, but managed to keep himself up by running his hands along the bark. Wood chipped off and the footsteps behind him continued as Anthony got started back up again. Step step step step step step step step step step
Anthony emerged into the clearing.
Tucker was there, barking wildly at the empty card table. Anthony kept running towards them before eventually spinning himself around. There was nothing behind him. Of course there wasn’t; he was going crazy. He expected the others to be there, to chastise him for running in like he was, for his dog getting everyone scared for no reason. No one did.
There was no one there to do so.
Anthony looked around. It had gotten darker, it seemed. He pulled out his phone and checked the time; nine thirty-eight. “Hey, where’d you guys go!” He called into the night and his throat tightened. Were they doing this on purpose? A joke? Why would they?
He looked over at the card table. It was covered with the entire deck, the box for it nowhere to be found. Anthony was certain all fifty-two cards sat on that table, sprawled about like nobody’s business. Why would they do this? I’m not picking it all up, if that’s what they fucking want. This has to be a trick.
“Look guys, something chased me out in the woods.” It was probably Vince, wasn’t it? He probably chased me through here that fucking asshole. Scared Tucker too. I should just fuck off.
Their bags were all still there, sitting outside of their tents. They couldn’t have gone far, could they? But what if something was out here… what if something was coming after them? What if something had chased them off, like a bear or something?! Anthony spun around and shone his flashlight through all of the trees around him, but alas, nothing came.
The fire was still going, at least. Anthony approached it and looked down at the beer bottles that littered the area. They were going to need to clean that up in the morning, didn’t want some poor animal to come across one of these. He was going to turn away, to go to Tucker and comfort him the best he could, but then a crack and pop burst from the fire and Anthony jolted back. He yelped and gawked the blaze, seeing just exactly what laid amongst the logs.
An inferno of phones sat wedged between the wood, melting into one unrecognizable mass. He could make out six distinctly; he knew exactly whose they were.
“What?” He muttered, before Tucker began a storm of barks and howls again. Anthony spun around and saw him pointed at the forest, the light gleaming off a figure behind the tree line. It was large and broad and Anthony couldn’t see its face; just the shirtless body it courted, dancing behind a tree before disappearing. It had been a human chest, but it was too large to be any human. The proportions were off, the legs long but not long enough, veiny and bulbous under the weight of its flat chest. “Who the fuck is there?!” He called out. Maybe he was just seeing things wrong; not a monster, just some fucking freak in the woods. The others had gone off to do something, that’s it, and then some fucking freak had come out and set their phones on fire. But why would they leave them if they were going to leave? Maybe there were multiple freaks… inbreds? A cult? What the fuck was going on?!
Anthony pulled his phone out and dialed 911.
No signal. He must’ve been too far into the forest. “No, no, no…” He held up his phone and dialed again but got no response again. He could’ve sworn their phones were working just a bit ago, before he’d left with Tucker… something pressured his ribs, pushing them against the meat of his chest. He could hardly breathe.
Maybe if he got out of the forest he could get the cops, get them to come check it out, find his friends. He knew that Scott left his keys in his bag and the bags weren’t ransacked, so he could get them the fuck out of there. Then again, maybe it was all just a dirty trick. Something rotten was in the air and Anthony couldn’t tell what. He swallowed hard.
[Take Scott’s car to get help]
[Wait for your friends at the camp]