147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 4

New horror for your Friday the 13th.

Happy Haunting.

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

“Johnnie Walker Black. Rocks,” Carolyn said to the bartender. She sat at the bar and waited. She didn’t know where to look. It had been years since she had been anywhere alone without her phone. She saw an ancient and possibly apocryphal black phone on a lower shelf by the bartender with the long braids. Who would she call? She didn’t know anyone’s number. And she was too stunned to do anything but look straight ahead, seeing her pale reflection in the mirror behind the bar. The woman she saw looked like a ghost.

The word sounded ridiculous. Ghost? Is that why her doors slammed and a make-believe girl hijacked her phone? She stared past the bottles to the mirror behind the bar. Her face. Her short hair. No crazy horror movie blood streaks. No absent reflection. No forced reflection of a goblin or bewitched little girl scout with poisoned Samoas. Just her and her drink. And the woman who was now sitting next to her.

“Johnnie Walker. Neat. You got blue label?” the woman asked. The bartender raised his eyebrow.

“I know,” she said. The bartender shrugged and walked to the back of the bar, reaching on tiptoes for the blue-labeled bottle on the highest shelf. “Every time,” she said. “You think they’d start keeping it lower.”

“Maybe they don’t want it to get broken,” Carolyn said.

“Then they should tread more carefully,” the woman said. “It’s really fucking good scotch.”

“Yeah it is,” Carolyn said. And she didn’t know why she said that. Or why she had even ordered it. She never drank scotch. But she was now.

The bartender placed the really fucking good scotch in front of the woman. And not gently. The liquid tilted and swayed in the glass.

“He’s a shitty actor. I saw him in Medea in some trash theater in DUMBO. He was a lousy Jason. No wonder she killed his kids.”

Carolyn was quiet.

“That I can forgive. Not everyone has talent just because they want it. But not taking care of good scotch? That’s inexcusable.”

Carolyn smiled, still not wanting to talk.

“You’re not an actor, are you?” the woman asked.

“No,” Carolyn said.

“Pam,” the woman said, holding out her hand. “I know. Nun’s name.”

“Are you a nun?” Carolyn asked.

“Yes,” Pam said. Carolyn stared at her.

“Get out of here,” Carolyn said.

“Sacred sisters of booze and tobacco,” Pam said. “So, not an actor. Are you a nun?”

“Not yet,” Carolyn said. She rubbed her shin it was still sore from the crack it took earlier.

“You from the neighborhood?” Pam asked. Carolyn nodded, not giving anymore. Creeped out or not, she was still a minimal-information New Yorker. “Me too. Haven’t seen you here.”

“Look. Before you…I’m not interested.”

“I’m not asking,” Pam said. “But I’m interested.”

“Okay,” Carolyn said.

“Okay,” Pam said. She nodded to Carolyn’s drink. “Phone’s ringing.”

“No, it not mine. I forgot mine-“ Carolyn stopped. Her phone was on the bar, next to her drink. She knew she hadn’t brought it with her. She knew it. But there it was. And it was ringing. A standard old-fashioned phone ring.

“That’s not my fucking phone, “Carolyn said.

“Nope. Not a nun,” Pam said. “Well, honey, it ain’t mine.”

“I could have sworn that I left it-“ She stared at the phone. It stopped ringing. Carolyn took a swig of her drink, draining half of the glass.

“I like you. Too bad you’re not interested,” Pam said. She slowly sipped her own drink. A drop lingered at the corner of her mouth. Pam licked it away with a tongue so dark it looked purple.

Carolyn held her glass in two hands. Gripping the glass helped steady the shaking. She raised it to her mouth, then stopped. The phone next to her started ringing again, but not the old-fashioned ring. Now it was the tinkling, pecking music she had heard before at home.

“You should answer it,“ Pam said. “They really want to talk to you.” The music continued playing.

Carolyn stood. “What are you doing?” she asked.

Pam took another deep drink from her glass. But this time, she didn’t raise the glass to her mouth. She held it in her hand by her chin. From there, she stretched out her long tongue, definitely a deep purple, and dipped it into the amber whisky. She held it there for moment, then curled it back to her mouth, bringing a splash of the drink with the long, spiny tongue.

“They want to talk to you,” Pam said. “They’re going to talk to you. Now answer the fucking phone.”

Carolyn was terrified. She knew that if she tried to run, tried to even move, this woman would hurt her. That tongue, with its points and barbs would be down her throat, ripping the soft tissue and filling her mouth and lungs with her own blood. The plunking of the far away piano continued.

“Answer your phone, Carolyn” Pam said. She put down her drink and turned, facing Carolyn directly.

Carolyn had no choice. She put down her drink and picked up the phone. It looked exactly like hers. The chip out of the top right edge. The rainbow crack curving over the left lower corner. Pam stared at her.

“Hello?” Carolyn rasped.

“Mummy!” the young voice called to her. “Mummy, are you coming to get us? It’s so dark in here. We miss you so much.”

“Who is this?” Carolyn said through chattering teeth.

“You have to go home. You have to take care of Daddy,” the child’s voice said again. “We’ll see you there later.”

“WHO IS THIS! What are you doing?” Carolyn yelled into the phone. The bartender with the braids looked up at her. Just as quickly, he looked back down at the pile of pages he was reading.  The voice in the phone was gone. She could only hear darkness.

“You’d better get home then,” Pam said. She reached past Carolyn and took her drink. She downed the rest of it in one swallow. She licked her lips. “Don’t worry. I’ll get your drink.”

Carolyn looked at her hand. The phone was gone. She looked at the bar. It was barren except for her empty glass.

“I’ll keep this. Don’t worry. You’ll see me again when we need you,” Pam said, smiling. “Kiss that handsome man goodnight for me.”

Carolyn didn’t think. She just ran out of the bar. She looked back as she passed through the door. The woman was gone.

 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 3

 

 Chapter 3

 

The apartment door slammed shut, but she didn’t hear the deadbolt. He always turned the deadbolt. Even if he was just grabbing the mail or picking up their Thursday night avocados. Or limes. He never, ever remembered to get limes. This was something that was adorable at first, then bugged her to no end months into to their coupling. She had eventually accepted and come to find endearing that he would forever forget the limes. Because he secretly didn’t like them. But he always remembered to bolt the door.

“Baby?” she called. Their place was not exactly the biggest. Their place. She still stumbled over that one. Their bed, in their place, was at the top of an unforgiving ladder that could only be called “stairs” in the most generous of circumstances. But for two bedrooms in the East Village, you made compromises.

It was quiet. Maybe it wasn’t their door she heard slamming. Probably the Indian couple next door. Those boys could bang some doors. She leaned over the bed, remembering this time that she couldn’t stand fully erect to put on the clean pillowcases, or she would bruise her forehead on the slanted back wall. More East village compromises. Then she heard the door close again. Definitely their door. And then their lock clicking. She put down the still-naked pillow and walked downstairs. As she cleared the last two steps, facing towards the wall and clinging onto the railings on both sides for support, she heard the door unlock and swing open.

“Shawn?” she called. But she knew he wasn’t there. No way. She walked toward the door. When she got within two steps, she felt the air exchange inches from her face. She realized she was sweating. Phone. Needed her phone. It wasn’t in her back pocket. Bed. Pillows. Upstairs. She slipped and cracked her shin against one of the steps. Blood dripped on the dark, faded wood. Get upstairs. Get the phone. She finally got to the top. It wasn’t by the pillows or anywhere on the bed. Then she heard it vibrating from downstairs. Back down, slipping on the last step. Finally upright, she ran across the room and grabbed the first and biggest thing she could hold. Smashing his guitar over the head of whoever was opening and closing her door wouldn’t do much, but she felt better having it in her hand. Where was her phone? She heard it vibrating. Maybe on the counter but the door, she ran to it and grabbed it. She looked up when the door slammed shut again. Full-view, eyes open. She saw the door. It was closed but then it independently swung open, paused as if someone stopped it with their foot and then kicked it shut. Her phone stopped vibrating. And it was suddenly in her hand. Everything was quiet. Then her phone rang.

It was a song she knew, but couldn’t name in this moment. Old and tinny. Something from a black and white movie with fainting girls and men in fedoras and waistcoats. Then it faded, the notes dimming. They were replaced with the sound of a child, young, when boys and girls have the same voices. The child was talking. The same accent as Shawn.

“Hello. Are you there? Someone? Can anybody hear me? I don’t know where I am. I’m…I need my mummy. Is she there? Mummy?”

Carolyn stared at her phone. The screen was black. Nothing. She pressed the power button, the home button, nothing. The phone stayed dead.

“Mummy, I’m so tired. I want to go to sleep in your big bed. Rub my hair so I can go to sleep. Tell the scary goblins not today. Mummy…sleepy…” The child’s voice stopped.

“Carolyn,” she heard, and she finally looked up from her phone. It was the same accent, only a grown man’s voice. She jumped and screamed when she felt the hand on her shoulder.

“Love, what are you doing? What’s the trouble?”

She spun and saw Shawn standing over her. She grabbed him, wrapping her arms around him and squeezing. “Someone’s here. In the house.”

“Who’s here? One of your work mates. Is it Dae?”

“I don’t know. I can’t see them. They are here. And there’s a little boy on my phone.”

He took the phone from her hand and examined it. He pressed the home button and the screen lit up, showing apps and a wallpaper photo of a rosemary scone she had baked in their kitchen. Like there always was.

“There’s no boy on your phone,” Shawn said. “And I don’t think anyone is in the flat.”

Carolyn grabbed the phone from him and put it down on the table. She rubbed her hand on her leg after she dropped it.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Why don’t you go lie down? I’ll bring you in some tea.”

“Fuck your tea. I’m not staying here,” she said.

“Lynnie…”

“No,” she said. She walked past him to the next room. He heard her scoop her keys up from the table. Then he heard them drop onto the floor. She swore again and picked them up. Pushing beyond him in the doorway, she walked past the table where her phone was lying. She looked at it, but refused to touch it. She didn’t feel Shawn pulling at her hand as she rushed out the door.

 

147 East  9th Street – Chapter 2

 

 

Chapter 2

 

The computer blinked at her. White background with dark text. Then blue. Then black screen of death. Then white screen of what could not be called afterlife, because there was nothing but white light coming from the screen, even if she tried turning the forsaken thing off and back on again.

“Fuck me,” she whispered.

“Don’t worry, baby. I got you,” came the voice from the other side of the felted cubicle partition. Carolyn wheeled herself back away from her desk. Dae wheeled herself back as well. They touched knees in a passageway behind their office boxes. A hallway so small, claustrophobic and convoluted that it tapered at the coffee room at the very end. At least that’s what Dae and Carolyn had decided. And then one day a few months ago, they measured it. Full four inches shorter at the far wall. No one knew why.

“What’d you do?” Dae asked. Carolyn shrugged. “Did you lick it? Were you looking at pictures of Gary Oldman and got wound up and loved up on the screen and got sick, white girl germs all over it?”

“White girls don’t lick our computers. At least I don’t think we do. Are we supposed to?”

“Like I know what white girls do,” Dae said.

“And Gary Oldman?” Carolyn asked.

“Boy was all kinds of hot in True Romance,” Dae said. “Move your ass and let me see.” Dae stood and kicked her chair back into her station and walked around into Carolyn’s tiny square space. A picture of Shawn sat on her desk, next to her computer, where the screen was now flashing between darkness and bright white light. Dae picked up the photograph, still punching out letters on the keyboard with one hand.

“How many beautiful black Idris Elba-Queen’s English speaking-push-up doing boys are in this city?”

“Thousand. Probably more,” Carolyn said.

“Lucky if there’s three. And you got one of them to wake up next to you. You’re a lucky pale bitch.”

“He’s usually up first. Morning yoga.”

“Tragic.”

“Dae. You don’t like boys,” Carolyn said.

“That, my privileged girl, is not the point,” Dae said. She handed Carolyn the picture. “I said move your ass. Damn.” Dae sat in Carolyn’s seat and stared at her spasming computer screen. She pounded the keys with conviction. Then stopped.

“Fuck me,” Dae said.

“See?”

“You have something truly rotten wormed up in this thing,” Dae said.

“I shouldn’t. I haven’t pulled anything out or put anything on.”

“Something got through.”

“Shit. I bet I lost my whole piece,” Carolyn said.

“Your girl will find it. Don’t worry. Go get me a latte. Almond milk. Not soy. Not skim. Not any other lactose-free trash they try to pass off. Almond milk. I’ll have it figured by the time you get back.”

“Thank you. Again. Like always.”

Thirty minutes and two coffee shop stops later, Carolyn stood at a condiment counter, spilling a big shot of cream into her coffee. Real stuff. Thick half and half.  Her phone beeped. She splashed cream on her hand as she tried to squash the lid onto her coffee. She sucked off the white drops as she pulled her phone from her pocket. It was a text from Dae.

‘Your shit is fucked, kid. I got pulled in on something else. I’ll get back on it tomorrow.’

She texted back.

‘Fail, lady.’

Dae responded.

‘Might as well head home. You can’t do anything else here today. Take my beautiful coffee and enjoy.’

Carolyn put her phone back in her pocket and using her hip to jar open the door, she stepped out onto the sidewalk carrying both hot—very, very, intensely hot—coffees. She walked.

An hour later, she was sitting in Madison Square Park. Her beautiful Idris Elba-Queen’s English-speaking boy appeared and kissed her cheek. He was carrying a cup of ice and a thermos.

“I knew it wouldn’t be hot anymore, so I brought this to make it somehow drinkable,” he said, handing her the ice. “And I brought this,” he held out the thermos,” If you wanted to try again with a proper drink.”

“Thank you, love,” she said, taking a drink from the thermos. Her face tightened and her eyes blinked but she smiled. “That’s not tea,” she said.

“Course not, lovely girl. It’s almost five on a Friday. It’s a gin and tonic with a copious, just this side of an almost offensive amount of lime,” he said.

“Thank you for accepting my frailties,” she said, taking another swing from his delicious, toxic thermos while he poured coffee over ice for himself. “You’re done early.”

“I am. My last appointment cancelled. And, I am free all weekend.” He took a long drink of coffee, then leaned in and kissed her. It turned into a deep one. One that drew her back on the ground, with him, his weight and his intensity heavy on her chest. She loved that feeling. Not that she couldn’t breathe, she could, but she had to think about it. Had to push her lungs into action, using his chest and stomach as a counterpoint. For as shallow as her breath was, she pushed into his kiss deeper, running her hands into his hair. Feelings the spines and knots of the twists in his hair. She reluctantly broke the kiss.

“Everyone’s watching,” she said.

“I know they are, beauty. And I like that,” he said.

“Let’s go home.”

“Let’s go home,” he said. He held out his hand, and helped her to her feet. He kissed her again when she got there. Her breath caught again.

After too many minutes and an impatient ride home, she pushed him against the wall and closed the door with her heel. Shawn was still holding the thermos of gin. He leaned over to drop it on the table, but not too far that he loosened contact from her mouth. The thermos held on the lip of the table for a second and then toppled to the floor. Neither noticed. She took his hand and led him to the bedroom.

An hour later, they laid, wrapped, with arms and legs looped around each other. Always the same. Both on their left sides, her right leg between his, his right hand loosely holding her left breast. Their home position. His hand trailed from her breast to her stomach, slowly rubbing his palm across her slack flesh.

“Don’t start something you can’t finish, Mister,” she said.

“Wouldn’t dare,” he said. “But I was thinking of something else.”

“Were you now?”

“I was thinking of us. Having a baby,” he said.

She rolled out of home position to face him. “A baby?”

“Cute little, chubby one. Cinnamon skin. Lots of drool.”

“Do you want a baby?”

“Yes. It’s why I brought it up, isn’t it? Do you want a baby?”

She thought. Really stopped and thought. “I don’t know. I never thought about it as an actual, real, maybe-happening thing before.”

“You should,” he said, rubbing his hand across her stomach again, kneading and rubbing her skin. Then, he grabbed her stomach. Hard. His fingers curled toward each other, until soft flesh spilled between the angles. The cells flattened and squeezed until top and bottom were approximating. She tried to pull away, but his grip had locked. “Stop, baby. That’s too hard,” she said. He didn’t respond. His grip didn’t lessen. “Seriously, Shawn. That hurts. Stop.” She flattened her palms against his chest and pressed as hard as she could. Trying to push him away, to pry herself away, to make this pain that was bringing tears to her eyes stop. He said nothing. Then she looked at him.

His body was as rigid and columnar as it had been that day at his apartment.  But that had been months ago. Almost a year. Before they knew they were a real thing. Before they moved from two homes into one. Before there were drops of blood dripping to her hip, where his uneven nails had dug into her pelvis. It hadn’t happened since.

She moved both her hands to his wrist, and tried to pry his hand from her body. He was immovable. Her voice started making sounds against her will. Her skin had flattened to the width of paper and it felt like only seconds until he would completely pierce through her flesh. She brought up her knees and wrapped them around his arm. Throwing all her weight forward, she pulled herself up and over and knelt on him. Countering against that pressure, she leaned back as far as she could, yelling as she finally broke free of his grip.

His body lay on the bed, still and stony. She didn’t know she had scuttled away from him, until she felt the closet door bang against her back. What was she supposed to do? She pulled up her shirt and examined her ribs and stomach. There were scratches and streaks of blood. It wasn’t deep. No real damage. It only felt like she’d been slashed with a chef’s knife. She looked up from her own skin. Shawn was still lying flat on the bed. She stood up, but stayed flush against the closet door. His limbs were motionless but his chest was rising and falling. Craning her neck without breaking the seal against the door, she focused on his neck. There was the smallest hint of an undulating peak and valley just above the crease of his collarbone. His heart was fine. So, she sat down, still firm against the door. And did nothing.

Another hour later, the twitch of her chin against her collarbone woke her. She blinked and then registered the irritant. Not a bug or a stray fiber of clothing. It was his hand against her shoulder. She felt the smooth stroke of his fingers, and the momentary catching of the callous at the base of his middle finger. He was back.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Right as rain,” he said, stroking her hair, wrapping his hand around the back of her neck. “Hope it wasn’t too frightful.”

She smiled. “Say frightful again,” she said, murmuring it into his chest. He leaned into her neck, his mouth moist and soft against her skin. Goosebumps raised themselves and her shoulders shivered as he ran his finger down her vertebra and whispered.

“Frightful.”

“It wasn’t so bad,” she said, shifting under the uncomfortable ache on the skin of her belly.

“Sorry,” he said.

“I thought maybe those were done,” she said.

“Would be nice,” he said. “I’m famished. You want to get a curry?”

“When have we ever gotten a curry?” she asked.

“Always a first time. Come on. Pants, young lady.” He held out his hand and pulled her to her feet. When he kissed her, before he swatted her down the hallway, she saw the bright, red bloodshot tracks in his eyes.

Drowning Above Water – an excerpt

Malina and the Dock

Malina’s head felt as if it had been smashed in by a cinderblock. It hurt so much she was convinced that if her neck didn’t keep straining or spasming, her head would simply topple off her body. Her mouth was dry and gritty. She retched onto the floor but there was not enough food or liquid in her system for her to vomit. She only managed a sandy cough. It was stark black inside the trailer. She couldn’t see anything, didn’t know if it was day or night. Her legs ached and begged to move, to rise, but she was afraid to try to stand because she felt fairly certain she couldn’t. The grinding of machinery and wheels in the last hour had awoken her, letting her know that she wasn’t on the water any more. She’d made it across and she had no proof that she was dead. Felt like it. Would have been preferable. But she wasn’t.

Kneeling. That was the thing. Crawling. Try that first. Getting to her hands and knees, she felt moderately stable. But, a few strides later her arms stared to quiver. Another two paces and they collapsed under her. She didn’t know where she was in the tank, so she had to keep moving until she felt metal, which would eventually turn into the metal door. Turning, she sat down and inched her way ahead, using her heels to slide her along and her arms just to keep her from falling backward. It felt like hours. She counted forty-seven pulls until she felt her toes hit metal. Then she adjusted, putting her flank as close as she could to the metal plane. One corrugated segment at a time, she searched for the door. She was weeping with exhaustion.

When she opened her eyes again, she was still lying against the metal. Her face was flat and flush against the wall. She might have been passed out for thirty seconds or the better part of a day. She couldn’t remember where she had been or not been inside the box, so she started her forward scooting again, following her feet. Counting, she pushed forward seventy-two bumps and finally her hand brushed over the horizontal bar of the segmented door. Pulling herself to her knees she grasped the handle in both of her fists and pulled as hard as she could. The door creaked and leaned upward by an inch then flopped back into place. The tears wanted to come again, burning and itching her eyes but Malina disallowed it. With a wobble, she got to her feet, not taking her hands off the bar of the door. Throwing her weight up and back, she screamed as she lifted with everything she had. She laughed when the door slid open only a foot and a blaze of sunlight cut a path into the black trailer. She dropped flat to the ground and started to wiggle under the opening of the door to the other side. She had made it to the dock.

 

(Drowning Above Water is the new novel from Alyssa Herron. It is available now at Amazon.)

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.)

 

Birthday

 

Courtesy of Butterwood Bakery

September 30th.

My book’s birthday.

Finally together after years of drafts and lost phrases and tossing aside and picking the pieces back up only to lose my place and start again from the beginning, I got there.

It’s also my birthday.

I am not who I thought I’d be at forty. I’m not where  I expected geographically or metaphorically.  I’m not what I thought I’d be for sure. Sometimes, I’m surprised I’m here. But I am, and I feel like I should know more. Have things handled. Have moved beyond the same things that drowned me year after year. Still falling below the surface. Still trying.

My book is a lot like me.

Okay, it’s exactly like me.

Rambling where it should shush. Speeding past parts it should probably examine more closely. Much too vulgar and revealing than anyone needs. And ye goddesses is it sad. It’s a small story that tries to take up as little space as possible. It vacillates between whispers and shouts with barely a spacebar to bridge the gap. It’s resistant and stubborn. It shrinks from a compliment and believes its own negativity. It doesn’t shout to be notices but desperately wants the people touching its pages to feel something special when they look inside the cover. It knows it’s not a novel that’s going to be on stages and take its place beside giants. It’s ready to sit in a corner waiting. But still ready, because the story is important to the right reader. It is exactly the book I should have written. Maybe it’s the one I needed to have written. And I did.

So,  maybe I should learn to love it.

I just might.

Happy birthday, book.

Make a wish.

 

Drowning Above Water is now available in paperback and kindle at Amazon.

 

 

 

Teckla

Drowning Above Water – Teckla – An excerpt

 

From thumb to pinky, his palm nearly spanned her entire back. His other dense, rough hand grabbed her shoulder, to prevent her from considering a movement she would never make. The girls, whatever their intentions on either side, let go of her hands. She couldn’t blame them. The instinct for self-preservation was too strong. She would have done the same. He slid his palm down the length of her spine; down until he held in his open hand the curve of her tail bone. She was so cold. Not all the girls were sweating from the heat. Some, like her, were sweating from the fever of their illnesses. The goose bumps that surfaced along her back he took, in his ego, as a signal of her pleasure. Never would he have considered it was a sign of the pending seizure that would distort her poor febrile body. Keeping his hand flat and weighty against her, he pulled closer and breathed, hot and moist on the back of her neck.

“Who are you?”

She could barely move, but managed to turn her head. She could not quite face him, but at least she was not pressed against the trailer wall.

“Don’t make me ask again, kurwa. Imie!” the Shepard said.    

“My name is Teckla.”

 

 

(Drowning Above is the new novel from author Alyssa Herron.  It lives here at Amazon.)

https://www.amazon.com/Drowning-Above-Water-Alyssa-Herron/dp/0999364707/ref=sr_1_1?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1506554045&sr=8-1&keywords=alyssa+herron