Secrets are like dust in a busy household—pushed from corner to corner and jabbed at in an attempt to eradicate, but the fact remains as long as there is life, there will be dust because we are of it.
The stars winked at him, and twisted in their deep sky-burrows. The moon scurried behind a copse of clouds like Eve in the trees after she'd eaten the infamous apple. The voice was strong, and his ribs rattled together as he shivered. Roger waited, hands behind his back. He was still smiling as if it were a pleasant tennis match and nothing more.
There will always be dust as long as we live. And when you look beneath your bed expecting to see nothing, it will be there. They will be there, reminding you that you haven't won yet.
“I did win, goddamnit!” Stein screamed to the sky and fell on his ass. “What the fuck is this?” He asked Roger again. “Just take me to Hell. Take me to Hell if all you plan on doing is torturing me anyway.”
“I'm sorry son,” he heard his father say. “She wasn't your mother really.”
“Not my mom?” Stein said in a ten-year-old's voice. “Where is my real mom?”
Benjamin Chamberlain did not answer, only closed his eyes. They were in the waiting room. Maggie Chamberlain was dead. She was found in the bathroom, overdosed on crack-cocaine.
“—shut up,” Stein said and stood again. He brushed past Roger and ran his hands through his hair. It felt wrong, like hair shouldn't feel. His hands were beginning to bleed again.
“It wears off after awhile, but soon I can make it stay away,” Roger said, grinning with those sharp teeth and the blood vanished from his palms.
“You put your hands out to block the incoming glass—“
Stein waved him off with a violent stroke of his hand. “I get it. I'm fucking dead.”
“Who was the voice Stein?”
Stein closed his eyes and shook his head. Over and over until his neck felt sore.
“That's not possible. Stop imposing limits on this form.”
Stein laughed and shrugged. Dust curled up around the soles of his shoes as he approached Isobel, quiet and watching. He could feel her mechanical ire, like a low hum under ten feet of concrete. Like an approaching train. Her disdain for him as a pathetic being. Her fender sagged under his gaze as if retreating. He snorted. Reality didn't have a snowball's chance in—well, there was definite truth in that statement. Heat wavered over her paint; a miniature atmosphere, black as squid ink. He shook from head to toe in absolute fear, but slapped his hand on the scalding metal. Steam hissed from beneath his palm immediately and he jerked his hand away again, leaving a thin layer of skin which melted away as he looked on in horror.
“Now now Stein...the thing is, you decided to touch the car.”
“Limits! You said I should stop fucking—oh my God this fucking hurts—imposing limits on this form.”
Roger laughed, a good hearty, belly-shuddering, teeth bared guffaw. A blister appeared on his brow above his left eye. He sighed and smoothed a hand back through his glossy-black hair. “You're killing me Stein. I thought you had more brains than that, unless you left them all across that highway.” He straightened his posture again, though the smile danced over his lips at interval. “You can't just do as you please here. There are some rules. Rule One: Don't touch the transport. You're lucky she didn't electrocute you.”
“Rules,” Stein said and opened his burned palm. The flesh was unmarked. Of course it was. He wasn't real. None of this was really real.
Roger walked towards the car. “Roll scene."
It was a hot day in Brooklyn. The sun stared the two of them down in a deserted basketball court with a burned-out American flag flying on a flagpole by the playground. The tattered remains were still smoking. Stein shielded his eyes and took in the desaturated surroundings. It was as if a holocaust had made them the last two—he glanced at Roger—well Stein was the last man on earth.
A menagerie of scents pricked his nose. Apples. Sunflowers. Pale red. She was walking towards them. He couldn't see her face yet, but he didn't want to see it. Not here, not after the fucked up shit he'd already seen.
Her strawberry-blonde hair whipped over her cheek and obscured the right side of her face. One ice-blue eye regarded him with a practiced casualty that no one could ever do better.
“I knew you'd be glad to see her again.” Roger said. Stein glanced at him and then a double-take.
“Lakers? Really?” Stein wrinkled his nose at the purple basketball jersey hanging off Roger's death-camp-survivor's bony frame.
“Seemed somehow appropriate. She's coming to say something Stein. Do you know what it is?”
Stein gritted his teeth and stepped back, hands held out in front of him. “I wasn't ready. That's all.”
“How can you say that to your wife?”
“Fuck you. This is some sick shit you're pulling man.”
Sarah Chamberlain stopped in front of him, her hand protective over her belly. The wind threatened to shift, but Stein couldn't look away. “She hated basketball. She wanted me to believe in a family. To be happy that she's—she'd gotten pregnant.”
“It was a red afternoon,” Roger said, the grin reintroduced. He blew in Sarah's direction. The wind shifted, and lifted her silky strawberry-blonde tresses to reveal a gaping socket where her right eye had once been. Maggots squirmed in the open space of her split cheek-flesh. Her tongue wriggled inside there, black and segmented.
“Anti-abortionists are such fun,” Roger said, offering his hand to her. She looked at him with her one eye and took it, her right hand useless, burned and dangling at her side. Stein squeezed his eyes shut again.
“You were supposed to accompany this sweet young lady to her first obstetrics appointment. Instead, she sought an abortion clinic. On the day of the massacre. With your daughter deep inside her.”
Stein made an inhuman mewling sound.
“Not yet,” Roger said, twirling Sarah around like a dance partner. “We're far from done. Día de los Muertos.”