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448 No. 448
New site, new thread. I'm not sure what's going to happen with this board, but for the time being I'm going to post this.

No. 455
Warning:
This story contains a rather overt reference to a certain H.P. Lovecraft short, The Stranger, which I would recommend reading at some point before or after this. I'll also be posting here when I can schedule a live reading via a streaming site, because people seem to like my voice and I'm having relative trouble finding it online.

---

Vomiting has got to be one of the single most disgusting things I've had to do in my life. I wake up in the middle of the night, head spinning, and no matter how I sit or lay down I can feel my stomach pressing up against the sides of my body. Or not pressing, rather. Sinking. Fuckin' gravity. Then of course comes the weakness, all throughout me. Arms, legs, even up to my eyelids, heavier than heavy. Can't keep anything still. Even inside of me, I can feel my throat loosening, the burden of keeping food where it belongs suddenly too much to bear, so I run to wherever it's possible to run and even then it just can't be over quickly. Just when I want to get it over with, nothing happens. Dry heaves so hard they bruise my lungs, big chunky mouthfuls of half-digested food, over and over again, sometimes for minutes and sometimes for hours. Nothing settles my stomach afterward, nothing washes out the taste in my mouth all fucking day. I don't know if it's the same for everyone. I don't really care, it's not gonna change me.

This, by the way, is at home, and frankly the longer I can hold off thinking about the filth that's made its way through the alley in back of Sully's the better. The kinds of things that I've seen back here on better days kind of makes me start gagging by itself. You know what sorts of things go on in the city. If you don't, you're a luckier man than I am. Sometimes I wonder why I drink as much as I do. Usually goes away with the next shot.

Today is special in that it's not only the first time I've puked out here (There's a reason the "ladies" sign is scratched out, and everyone figures it out eventually.) but the first time I've been kicked out of a pub. I guess Sully used to be a chef or something. There's a reason he stopped doing that too, but good luck bringing it up without seeing some kind of consequence. I've seen guys walk out of here with glass jutting out of their arm, and I've seen 'em without arms for it to jut out of, but then those types can't really be called "guys", now can they? Testing his limits seemed like a good idea after the fourth 3:1 screwdriver – three parts vodka, mind. Luckily he knows me better than most of the chumps who "walk" through here, and gave me a "You've had enough." instead of an assortment of hospital bills.

For those of you patient enough to deal with me this far, you have only just seen the beginning of my night. Spoiler alert, folks: This is more than I can say for myself. What I do see however is a flash of blue off in the corner of my eye which is trying and failing to sneak up on me.
"Boo!" Yep.
"Mmmngh..." Let's show her a thing or two. Rise from the knees oh-so-slowly, bending at the back in just that way where you can see my spinal column shifting through my wet, tattered grey T-shirt - my drinking shirt, incidentally. Don't wear anything you don't want to lose when you plan on blacking out. Long, greasy, mussed hair full of knots and stray hairs from rocking out to the jukebox all night, lying flat in front of a pale face with bloodshot eyes. A gaping maw that lets out a low, guttural moan, teeth still dripping with questionable fleshy substances. Extended arms with fingers just a little too cold to comfortably call "human", all helped along by the freezing rain.

Most people would shake you off, or walk away, or ignore you. Some people would play along. Let out a scream too long or too weak to be real. Nobody in their right mind would believe that you were actually a member of the walking dead and freeze up in terror as you wrapped your hands around their throat, drawing ever closer until you can feel her ragged and interrupted breaths on your face. Nobody would let you collapse into them and keep right on puking over their shoulder. Nobody would slowly realize what you really are as what little heat remains in your body comes rushing to your head and seeping through the flesh of your neck. Nobody would rub your back and hold your hair, or run inside during a calm moment to get you some water. Not in this kind of a place.

Hello, nobody. Nice to meet you.

---

Tomorrow – that is, yesterday – came and went. I guess. I don't remember what happened with the girl after that or anything about her for that matter, there were no new numbers scribbled on torn bits of paper and shoved hastily into my pocket to gather lint until my vision cleared up enough to read them, and everyone at Sully's assumed she was my sister or something and I had called her when I got thrown out. Sister, my ass.

It's Sunday, I'm only just getting over a hangover from Friday, my work schedule screwed me out of a day off, and it's been raining ever since. If I wasn't a zombie back then, I sure as hell am now. Not physically, of course – it's been two days. Plenty of time to clean up and change my clothes. Mentally, though, it's all I can do to shuffle down the streets and look up occasionally to make sure I'm not ramming into whatever may or may not be there. Maybe even catch a glimpse of something interesting for a change. These days all there is to do is sit in front of a screen and collect cancer cells or drink yourself to death, but I already did both this weekend.

Every once in a while though you get lucky, you run into an old friend or you see some new shop open up like they always do in those places you know nobody would ever bother stopping. A Mexican restaurant, a barbershop, another different Mexican restaurant and why not? They're better than the last guys, they have a better plan, they'll make the place nicer, or that's what they think. Nobody once is nobody twice though, and invariably they go out of business after a short stint of people who like to explore new things. This time it's a book store that looks too small and too boring to compete on any level with a chain. Tut tut, so sad.

"See something you like?" An oddly familiar voice trying way too hard to be oddly unfamiliar. This has to be the worst Turkish accent I've ever heard.
"Well hey there. I was just thinking about you." Nobody, indeed.

As it turns out, she doesn't look half bad. On the short side, though you wouldn't tell from across the street. Roundish features, kind of soft and sharp all at once, pale but healthy skin, shoulder-length blue hair (Blue hair, why not! It's not the craziest thing I've seen on a chick.) and two different colored eyes – one blue and one red. Her fashion sense could use a little work, but then everyone seems to be their own designer around here so I can't exactly complain. The one thing that does kind of stand out is the umbrella, and not just because I don't have one. It's old and beat up, wood where plastic or metal should be and an almost fleshy purple fabric that I can't pin. Regardless of what it's made of, there's holes all through it. Completely useless, but she keeps clutching it to her as though it's actually making her less wet.

And it's clearly not just for sentiment's sake, because she's offering it to me. "Looks like you could use another hand." Tough decision here. Ditch work and go hang out with the rather suspicious girl I kind of met a minute before blacking out two days ago and know nothing about, or be a good boy and earn my paycheck?
"Not really, but a roof would be nice. Where are you headed?"
"Nowhere in particular. I just like to walk around on rainy days. It's how I found you, remember?"
"I suppose you wouldn't be too keen on ducking into a book store then."
"A perfectly reasonable supposition." With a wink and a smile, she strolls nonchalantly into that shack of a store and flashes me the tip of her tongue as she disappears into it.

A minute later I'm in the hallways formed by dusty old bookshelves trying to find her. I already steeled myself for this, and if I'm gonna blow off work it has to be for a reason. Luckily, there's no one here aside from a couple of bored cashiers and I like the smell of old books. If she feels like hiding, let her hide. I'll sit here and read all day. Mind, only old books will do. The new stuff is all horrid recycled romance or wannabe action tripe, people stopped knowing how to write in 2011. Sometimes I have to wonder what happened, why people can't consistently put out good stories any more. The books here may be a bit more predictable, but that's because they made the cliches! They're cliches for a damn reason, these guys were good!

"Boo!" Oh. Right. Her. Sometimes, you know, I get kind of lost in my own rage, even if I do know it's all pointless and aimless. Who the hell am I supposed to get mad at for having opinions?
"Didn't your mother ever teach you not to yell in book stores?"
"Would you believe I've never been in one? Or at least not very far into one. Never made it past the door." Delivering a line like that without so much as flinching, she's either lying or one of the saddest children I've ever seen.
"This must be quite the occasion for you."
"Oh, yes. Big as a birthday." Smart-ass.
"Well, happy birthday then. Pick one." Even if she is lying, nothing in here is gonna be too expensive and if she picks something good I might actually be able to take her seriously. Maybe even hold down an actual conversation.

At first, it's about the expected reaction. Somewhere between a giggle and a cough, she looks at me with perhaps a bit too bright eyes as though waiting for the rest of my sentence. A bit slow, this one. Cute though. Especially the way her smile fades just long enough to hit "shocked" before bouncing back to ecstatic, then gliding around there as she skips among the shelves, eyes darting from cover to cover faster than I can believe she's actually looking. Ten minutes later she comes back with significantly less skip in her step.

"I, uh...don't know what any of this is." Called it.
"You don't do much reading, huh." Nobody does any more.
"Well, no. None, really. I was hoping you could pick me out something good and scary, you seem like you like it here."
"Congratulations. You aren't stupid enough not to ask about things you don't know about. You did however completely miss the horror aisle while you were running around."
"So you expect me to believe that all books are good? Every single story in there is gonna scare whoever reads it? Come on, just look through it for me." Oh thank God.
"Ding ding ding! I do believe we have a winner. Enjoy your fabulous prize!" I don't have to think twice about this. Not two minutes pass before I'm at the cashier with a collection of H.P. Lovecraft shorts in decent condition, wrapped in plastic for the walk to wherever it's going. This girl has to be one of the only other people I've ever met who's not about to read three pages of that and then never touch it again.

"I want you to read that. Pick random stories from the index and read them. Whatever order. Just make sure you read it all."
"Got it." And as though it was the most natural thing in the world, she pulls me by the arm over to a couch they have set up in the corner.

And we read.

---

Now, I knew that she wasn't going to be very familiar with literary standards going into this. I knew she might be a little bit more impressed with it, not having seen much to compare it to. I did not think for a second that she would be as utterly oblivious as she is. Every twist, every surprise, no matter how predictable or how automatically the picture completes itself, has her absolutely spellbound. It's as though she never thought about the existence of things that aren't human.

"You know, this one...the way he describes this thing, it kind of looked like you the other day."
"Yeah, that would be what I was going for. Haven't you ever heard of a zombie?"
"...Zombie? What's a zombie?" See, this? Right here? This is what I mean.
"You know. Dead and rotting people who've climbed out of Hell to get their revenge on the living?"
"No, I don't. That's terrifying! What if they wanted revenge on me? I'm living!"
"Man, what's with that attitude from before about only wanting the good ones? You'd be terrified by a kitten."
"Hey, you've only scared me once and that was the first time I'd ever seen something like that."
"Doesn't mean you're not easy to scare. You froze up before I even got my hands around you. Speaking of which, why did you even stick around me? You stopped and found me today, too. Usually going to choke someone isn't the best greeting, you know?" It's actually been bothering me ever since, but I've long since learned that you need to handle blackouts carefully. Hell, I still don't know her name.
"Because, you scared me. I have a lot to learn from you."
"About being scary? You'll learn more from these books than you could ever learn from me. I'm just a grumpy old drunkard." Never mind why she wants to be scary for now. The kind of day we just spent, I'll save it for next time.
"Hmm...If you say so."

---

It's been a month and a half. The girl (Kogasa, as I found out after an awkward goodbye. There's no smooth way to tell someone you forgot their name after spending an entire day with them.) went on her merry way, and I haven't seen her since – though I did peek into that book store now and then under the pretense of buying something, while it was still open. She's been kind of running through my head, and I'm really not sure why. I'd call it love, but then I'd be as pathetic as a fourteen-year-old girl who's already planning out her life with this boy she really really likes. Regardless of what it is, it's a pain in the ass and I need to stop thinking about it before I get to work. The night shift is even more boring, if that's possible, and the sooner I start spacing out the faster my night will go.

Until there's a pressure on my leg. Something's grabbing me, pulling me down. Nobody close enough to hear me scream, I'm reduced to a pile of thrashing limbs on the slowly sinking ground. Arms and legs seem to wrap around me, and all my struggling proves useless against...whatever the hell it is back there, but I can't stop. If I stop I'll die so I have to keep running keep running away but my feet won't move and my body is getting colder I can't breathe the smell of dirt and mold is creeping up the side of my face it's all over fuck me fuck me fuck me...

"Boo."
No. 520
That was beautiful. I love this short. This was perfect.
No. 551
I heartily endorse this story with my full spirit; Great writing!
No. 585
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585
Boo~

This was a nice read~