147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 1

My book Drowning  Above Water is out and lives at Amazon. It’s been a thrilling, terrifying, depression-inducing, anxiety-inflaming, relationship-testing, love-finding journey. I barely made it to the other side.

So of course, I’m considering with still-shaking hands what words are coming next.

There are two options: a collection of my poetry and spoken words pieces or the noir novel that won’t stop slinking around the shadows of my brain

But, it’s October, and that is Halloween and horror and magick and I have a scary story that needs told.

This is 147 E. 9th Street, a short story. I’ll be releasing it over the next few weeks right here. Come along.

 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 1

The woman moved in slow motion, steps and half-frames. She watched, in fractions of centimeters, the door frame scrape the skin from the knuckle of her middle finger. She didn’t feel the blood surfacing above the skin. It seeped first in tiny, segmented pixel dots until they multiplied and then assembled into a line of red that crept to her wrist. Every time she turned her cheap key copy in the lock of her boyfriend’s apartment, she banged her knuckles. Every time. But she had never been in this much of a hurry. And yet somehow, she moved like she was stepping through a river full of silt. The key fell from the lock and crashed onto the welcome mat. A drop of blood fell on the jumble of silver and gold metal. Curling her hands around the pile of dropped jagged edges, she scooped them up and jammed the key back into the lock. Through the window she could see him. Shawn. Slumped in his chair. Wrong. Crooked and stiff. He looked immovable. Not drunk. Not sleeping. He looked trapped in his own locked body. Finally, the door gave way and she pushed her way inside to him.

Her mind went blank. They had only been dating a few months, but it seemed a lifetime. It had come on hard and fast between them. She thought she had played it cool, making him wait until the third date to sleep with him–only to come flying into his bed seven hours and twenty minutes later. By the end of the second month, she’d met his mother and had a key to his place. She knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. But right now, she realized knew nothing about this man.

“Shawn. Shawn!” she yelled. He didn’t flinch. She dropped to her knees in front of him. His neck was extended back, his eyes not just looking to the ceiling but past it. His arms were fully extended, fingers gripped on the chair. She shook him. His body moved in one steel piece, not in any fleshy segments. His phone was on the floor by her knees. The screen was black. Dead. She ran to her bag, searching. She gave up and turned it upside down, crawling into the pile of purse debris.

“SHIT!” she screamed, skidding change and mints and a tampon across the floor as she flailed her arm. Somehow her wrist crashed down to her hip and she felt her own phone, jutting out of her back pocket.  It took her four tries with as many deletes, but she finally dialed 911, and someone on the other end of the phone started talking.

She didn’t remember saying anything in response to the words she heard. The phone was somewhere near her and she tried to listen. It was the strange, calm voice of a woman. It was telling to put her ear to his chest and listen for breathing. She couldn’t hear anything. The sound of her blood pounding in her ears was louder than the world. A tiny pair of wheezing lungs had no chance at being heard. She stopped listening and tried feeling. She put her hands on his chest. Breathing? Shuddering? Anything? The woman’s calm voice said more words. Where was she? His apartment. Where was his apartment? She wasn’t sure. She left him to run back to the front door. She couldn’t remember his apartment number. No, she didn’t know if he was epileptic. No, she didn’t know if he was diabetic. Or allergic to cilantro. No. she didn’t think he took drugs. Did she know? No. She just knew it looked like he was dying in front of her.

A voice called out. She leaned in to Shawn. He was immobile. His mouth was rigid, lips separated, back teeth clenched. The voice wasn’t his.

“Ma’am? You have to stay on the phone with me, okay?” It was her phone. In her hand.

“Yes, yes, It’s Shawn.”

“Okay, ma’am. What is wrong with him?”

“I don’t know. He’s breathing. I think. But he’s just lying there. He’s not moving.”

“Okay. We’ll get him help. But first, what’s your name ma’am?”

“What?”

“Who am I talking to? What’s your name, ma’am?”

She stared at Shawn. He hadn’t moved. Maybe he wasn’t breathing. “I don’t think he’s breathing. I looked closer and I don’t think he’s breathing. Oh my God.”

“Where are you?”

She had just looked and she still couldn’t remember. She had walked, taken a cab and usually the R train more times than she could count in the last weeks of her life. But she couldn’t remember his address. Where was she? She was just at the door. She scanned the room. There was mail on counter, spilling onto the stove. Half of it spilled to the floor when she reached. She hit her knees and pulled out a bill. Shawn Crown. 147 E. 9th Street.

“Shawn Crown. 147 East Ninth Street,” she almost screamed into the phone.

The voice interrupted her own cracking voice. “Okay, ma’am, I need you to check and see if he’s breathing. Can you get close to him? Is it safe?”

She stared at him. Safe. “Yes, he’s breathing.”

“Is he conscious? Can he hear you?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

The voice wouldn’t stop. “Is he taking any medication? Does he have a cardiac history? Does he have seizures? Illegal drugs? Has he been drinking?”

“Didn’t we just do this?” Maybe they hadn’t. Maybe she just thought they had. “I don’t know,” she said, her voice had finished cracking and started breaking.

“That’s fine. Just stay there with him. I’ll be on the phone until the ambulance arrives.”

Then the chair twitched and creaked. She put down the phone. Or dropped it. She grabbed onto the leather, needing to get closer to him but afraid to touch him.

Bent into jarring angles in the cushions, Shawn’s joints flexed and with a few subtle motions, he turned human again. His shoulder lowered and his head maintained its own support. His eyes had never been closed, but they had never seen. He blinked and looked at her.

Ayn zawjati? Mayar. Ayn zawjati?” He saw her. The girlfriend with the light brown hair standing in front of her. He may as well have been looking through a microscope at a petri dish of scabies. He studied, curious and searching, but found nothing of what he thought he would find.

“Shawn?” she asked. Because now, she really didn’t know. She heard knocking and the open door catch on the hall runner as the door was pushed to the limits of its hinges. She watched a man and a woman in baby-blue shirts and navy cargo pants kneel beside Shawn. She stepped back, out of the room. Their black boots left sprinkles of dirt on the floor. She’d have to sweep that later. Shawn hated when people wore shoes in the house.

The ambulance crew loaded him onto the tiny collapsing wheelchair, belting him in like a toddler in a booster seat. New York City meant transport chairs instead of stretchers. He didn’t say anything else, but kept his eyes open, staring around the room as if he had never been there before. The two in blue were fully upright, rattled words and observations back and forth, talking to each other as if no one else was in the room. They were jolting him out the door before one of them mentioned over their shoulder, that she could follow them if she wanted.

And then it was silent. Her purse laid on the floor, empty, with its inside bits strewn for yards. A plastic mint container had been crushed under a boot or a wheel and white powder dotted the floor like rained-out sidewalk chalk.  Something on the chair where Shawn had been trapped when she found him was wet. Her first and only thought was that she had to clean it.

 

(147 E. 9th Street will continue here soon. My novel Drowning Above Water is available now in paperback and kindle at Amazon.)

 

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