Thoughts of self-preservation forgotten, I ran for the doorway. It didn’t even cross my mind that I’d been accosted by something I couldn’t easily explain less than a minute before. There was fear clutching my heart, nearly paralyzing my chest, making it difficult for me to breathe. Cognitive thought was beyond me as well. I was caught up in the present, devoid of processing thought. I was reacting, though a small part of me wanted to run away and hide, wanted to do no more than that. But, a larger portion of me was in control. Not my brain, not my ability to rationalize, not even my sense of survival. It was pure impetus, stimulus. I was compelled against my better judgment. I ran forth. I ran toward the screams. I couldn’t help myself. I was frenzied.
I came up to them so fast; I nearly tripped over my own feet. I wracked my shoulder purposefully against the steel frame of the doorway unable to use my hand. My sprained wrist would’ve made it impossible to halt my forward progress. I winced in pain, and not only from the jolt racing through the upper portion of my body.
The light from within was nothing short of brilliant. I squinted, placing my left hand over my brow, shielding my eyes, trying to gaze through the multitude of color assaulting my retinas.
“What the fuck?” I breathed, astonishment painted upon my tone. The hues were so thick I could almost smell them.
I hiked myself into more of a standing position, hoisting myself along the edge of the doorframe. Before me was a junkyard’s worth of broken bottles. Colored glass laid everywhere, chipped and shattered, piles and piles, stretching as far as I could see.
This chamber was even bigger than the first one!
The walls - furthest from me – the ceiling, were both so far away I could barely make them out. It was as though some type of low hanging mist was obscuring the view. The room was large enough to make its’ own weather. It could only be a morning mist I was seeing. There was no more apt description. I was peering into an overarching haze, thicker toward the center of the chamber, almost cloud-like, but it couldn’t quite form. Every time it tried to coalesce, it could do so for no more than a short duration before it dissolved into mist once again.
I could just make out the steel struts and tresses supporting the farthest reaches of the structure. They had to be incredibly large to support such an immense roof. Only steel of the highest tensile strength had the capability of sustaining weight that tremendous.
Where came the blinding light, I could not tell.
I became aware of an odd sound. A tinkling, a scraping of multitudes, resonating, pulling my attention from the far corners of the room, making me focus on the more immediate area about me. Almost at once, my eyebrows shot up. All thoughts of Lenny had suddenly vanished as I tried to understand what I was seeing.
Before me, far into the chamber, the shards and splinters and chunks of glass were tumbling toward one another, forming jagged clumps and boulder-like constructs. They moved slowly at first, but with an ever-increasing rate of speed. The pieces rolled individually, then began to group, forming a tricked of movement flowing in the same direction. Within seconds those trickles became streams, which became brooks, which turned into rivers in miniature. The jumbles, where these watercourses of glass converged, melded into large lumps, then even larger accumulations that seemed to loom before me with every passing beat of my heart.
Some mysterious force was at work that science had yet to discover. It was like magnetism only this affected melted and colored sand, not metal. I could almost imagine someone turning up the intensity of the attraction, but I couldn’t ascertain what sort of machine or magic could make glass come together like that. It seemed to go against nature itself, frightening, made my skin crawl. What could do this? What could make broken bottles form into huge lumps?
The tinkling became a roar. I winced at it. The sound was immense.
Whatever scream I had heard before, whether it was my one-time father or not, it was gone now. There was no sign of Lenny anywhere in the room.
I eased away from the doorframe, upon my own two feet, watching as the lumps became hulking masses, then hill-sized, and still they continue to grow, form, take shape. Something inside was howling at me, shouting what I was staring at wasn’t supposed to be happening, wasn’t of this world. It was begging me to retreat from the doorway.
Close the fucking door, you idiot!
But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. Seeing the shards of glass coming together was something I’d never even dreamed about, and yet…
…I should’ve turned away. But how?
Suddenly, the roar had a voice, issued from a ghastly throat. I heard a low-level, AaaaaooooooOoooooo! echo throughout the chamber.
My orbs sought out the source of the sound. I had no trouble finding it. I caught sight of it within moments.
It was the mouth I saw first, surrounded by a set of crumbling, shattering lips that reformed as fast as they seemed to decay. Actually, it wasn’t decay. It was more of a falling apart and then a remaking by more glass pushing outward from within. I froze. I felt my lower abdomen clench. I am certain if I’d been any younger, I would’ve peed in my pants.
It was massive, nearly twice the mass of the aggregate blobs of glass closest to me. It had a face about those ever-melting lips, and a head about the face. I could barely believe what I was seeing. Maybe I was going mad. Maybe the excitement of the early morning had pushed me over the edge. Maybe I was things that weren’t there. Maybe…
But, it was there. I know, to this day, the giant beast made of glass that howled and screeched upon its’ birth was there.
When it took its’ first step and I felt the resounding thud! of its’ foot crashing upon the ground, I knew the right of it. It was evidence enough. When its’ head came around and it peered at me from the incredible distance separating our two forms, I was fucking convinced.
Yet, it was the voice, at my side, so close I could feel the hot breath in my ear, confirming what I was seeing was real.
“She’s making them all come to life,” were the words, so raspy and distorted it was impossible to tell if it had come from a woman or a man.
I felt every hair on my body go rigid. The muscles in my jaw went taut, making me look as though I was writhing in pain.
“She’s bringing us all back…” A slow chuckle followed as if speaking took a tremendous effort.
I saw horror.
I squealed with revulsion.
She merely smiled as though my reaction were the most normal thing in the world. Maybe she’d been expecting it, which was a distinct possibility. Her smile was simply terrifying. When her visage moved, the muscles and tendons were only partially in evidence. In places, where her cheeks or her teeth should’ve been, there was nothing. Her skin was desiccated, worn away here, thickly wrinkled and bunched there. Her nose seemed to have been snapped off or eaten away with time. Her hair was a wispy, inconsistent growth upon the top of her head as if she’d suffered from years of mange. She wore some kind of gown, though it was so rotted and addled. It clung to her form rather than covered it. I could see one of her sagging breasts and nearly all of her pelvic area, though I forced myself to keep my vision from wandering too far down. After months of seeing Myra’s youthful pubis, I couldn’t bring myself to see what one over a hundred years old might look like, especially one that had been buried for nearly three decades.
“Did She bring you back as well?” said the specter that was my grandmother. She was a woman I had never known, a woman from the countless black and white images floating here and there about the various homes of her children, my aunts and uncles from Lenny’s side of the family. “You look quite scrumptious for one of us…”
I lurched away from her, my mouth agape. I was incapable of making words.
She shuffled toward me as I backed out of the threshold. “Let me taste you, young man. I have always enjoyed the feel of a strapping boy upon my lips.” Her leer was anything but innocent. Her eyes were twin shards of the blackest coal. Though I couldn’t discern iris from pupil, I knew she was intent upon me. The intensity of her gaze was too great to think otherwise. “…both sets of them…” Her cackle was horrendous.
I backed away further.
She reached for me.
She was slow and her movements were jerky and lacked coordination. It was easy to avoid her grasp.
I back-peddled into the middle of the alley, sputtering, “What are you?”
“I am a woman,” she hissed, grabbing at herself, long, withered fingers made bright with exposed bone, clutching, rubbing, and then disappearing into her unsightly folds.
I swallowed hard to keep the contents of my stomach where they belonged. “Leave me alone,” I tried to warn her, though my voice was so strangled I didn’t sound all that menacing.
Her smile was so broad, her skull, beneath her parchment-like flesh, began to crack. Tiny motes of dust fell to the floor, wisps of the same popped outward to either side of her. “All boys like me, young one. They all do. Come and let me show you.” She reached for me once more, though I was well out of the way.
“Come -,” she began, intent on saying more.
Without warning, a huge claw-like hand shot forth from the chamber behind her, the light reflecting, refracting in a thousand, thousand rays – every single shade in the rainbow and a million more. With fingers as big around as my waist, the glass-beast squeezed, holding her firm, pulling her back into the chamber.
She laughed like she was being tickled, her head thrown back, her mouth as wide as it could go, while her midsection was systematically crushed within the creature’s grasp.
I was rooted where I stood. My slippers seemed to melt into the asphalt water-channel, running down the middle of the alley.
The thing made of glass, too big to see through the doors, bent down, balanced upon its’ other implausible hand, shoving what was left of Lenny’s mother into its’ gaping maw. Bizarre, needle-like teeth ripped her to shreds in seconds, dust and other detritus from the grave littered the ground below it.
My lascivious ancestor was consumed. She convulsed with laughter the entire time.
I shook with repugnance, yanking my feet from the metaphysical goo of the deliquesced asphalt and ran. How far? I cannot tell you. All I know is the sound of my slippers slapping against the concrete floor of the alley seemed to sound in my ears for an eternity. My breathing became hoarse, labored. My chest filled with pain as my legs became ladened with lactic acid. They pleaded for me to stop, to rest. I couldn’t though. I had to get away. I had to put as much distance between me and the glass and the clothes, and my grandmother, as possible. There was nothing more important than that.
I ran and ran, ran and ran… for longer than I ever ran in my life. To me, there was no concept of time. I was running, football fields, miles, maybe a marathon worth of distance. I was never able to discern, no matter how hard I tried over the years.
Simply, I ran.
An hour later, a minute later, her voice came, and halted all – my thoughts, my forward motion, even my breathing and quite nearly - my heart.
“Where are you going so fast?” Her chuckle was undeniable. “You should take your time, relax. Maybe stay a while…”
I turned toward the sultry tones.
She was in a doorway, leaning against the frame, her weight on one leg. Her arms were crossed below her large breasts, their spongy tops showing. The neckline of her silken blouse plunged as usual. It was without sleeves, black, displaying her tanned arms. Even in the blue glow of the alley, her skin was flawless. She had one a pair of sheer, black tights, though they could’ve been thick pantyhose for all I knew. I could practically see through them, see the inviting wheat-colored flesh underneath. Her boots were leather, heeled, as dark as night, ending at the knee with long, sensual zippers running up the inner sides.
I stared into the raven looks of Rosalyn Galtier; my one-time father’s the make-believe administrative assistant, who had called herself Roxanna. She wasn’t playing the dominatrix now. There was no riding crop in her hands. There were no straps, no metal nipple rings, no spikes or buckles or anything belying her desire to overwhelm the men she fucked. She was trying at reticence, which was so unlike her, it was arresting, only not in the manner she had intended.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, accusing, as though she was the one responsible for dragging Lenny down into this freak-show of an alley.
“I was waiting,” she began, nibbling at the nail of her pinky finger, looking through her eyelashes at me, “I guess.” She breathed deeply, her tits rising majestically. “Yeah, I was waiting to see what might happen by.”
I scowled. Her timid approach was becoming a nuisance. It would’ve been better if she’d continued to be the bitch we both knew she was. Why the farce? It was untoward. She was a rude, insensitive, sex-fiend. Why try to be something she wasn’t? It was a waste of my time.
“And now, you’ve come on by.” She exhaled the next part. “Imagine that…”
“Get off the act, bitch. I don’t have time for any of your fucken games. Have you seen my father?” I winced. It hurt to call him such. A part of me, deep in my soul had altered the social bonds between us. Calling him a parent of mine didn’t fit anymore.
Rosalyn was shaking her pretty little head in the negative, her lips pouting. “He ain’t around here, honey.”
“What do you mean by that? Was he here earlier?” I strode toward her. Her eyes were only an inch lower than mine, the heels of her boots were that high.
She came from the doorframe to stand on both feet, her hands falling to her side. “I don’t know, darling. Like I said, I was just waiting. I haven’t searched the place over yet.”
I let out an exasperated burst of air. “Whatever. I gotta go.” I began to move away from her.
“Don’t go!” she pleaded suddenly.
I gazed at her over my shoulder. “I wasn’t kidding around, Rosalyn. I really don’t have time for your bullshit.”
Her face drooped with hurt. “You don’t have to be so mean, Jerry.”
“Are you serious?” My incredulity was towering. “You were screwing my dad, having dudes pork him up the ass, while he was still married to my mother! Don’t you think you’ve earned my anger?”
Her shoulders slumped. She looked down at her feet.
“Do you know how much trouble you’ve caused? How can you stand there and think, for one second, why I shouldn’t be mad at you, that I shouldn’t harbor an ill-will toward you?” I gesticulated wildly. “I know their marriage was almost over, but you didn’t have to be the one to actually break it. They could’ve found that out on their own. They didn’t need you. We didn’t need to see you big, skanky ass shaking in our faces.” I sighed, disgusted. “Really, we didn’t.”
She gazed up at me, tears welling. Her voice was husky with emotion. “I’m not a bad person. You can at least see that, right?”
I shook my head. The gall of this woman was incredible! “Rosalyn, you are a very bad person.”
I know it was harsh, but the pure embitterment coursing through my veins overpowered my sense of tact. I had to speak the truth. I couldn’t lie, not then, not after what she’d done to my family. Yes, it was true - my parents’ marriage had probably been over for quite some time. Yes, my father was abusive. Yes, we were all better off without him. But still, it gave her no right!
I was dead-set on making her understand that point, every facet of it.
Before me, she began to cry.
I couldn’t help myself. I rolled my eyes. “Good-bye, Rosalyn,” I said with a dismissive flick of my wrist, and walked away.
“No! No! Don’t go! Jerry, come back!” she begged.
Suddenly, her hand was on my arm, pulling me, making my swivel at the waist.
She was hugging me before I knew what was happening, her breasts smashing up against the transitional area between my chest and abdomen, her hands clutching about my shoulder blades. “Don’t leave me, Jerry! Please, stay with me. Let me make it up to you. I know I’ve caused all sorts of problems for you family. I know I haven’t been the best person I could be. I can do better. I know I can! Let me prove it to you. Let me show you. Ok? Will you let me do that for you?” The words poured from her, as if she couldn’t stop them. The entire time her head was turned to the side, her smallish earlobe was plastered to the pectoral muscle of my left side.
I couldn’t see the expression on her face. She sounded genuine enough, but with her, with a woman possessing such twisted appetites, I wanted to be sure she was really feeling what she was espousing. I grabbed her by the shoulders and forcibly pushed her away from me, making her eyes meet mine. “What the hell is wrong with you?” I demanded, shaking her slightly. I wanted answers. I had no time for games. Something was telling me, every second I delayed the farther and farther I was from finding Lenny, from finding the truth.
She stared up at me, mascara running, orbs more like a raccoon’s than features of the dark, thirty-something she was.
I could only assume her tears were of the reptilian nature. Yet, time had run out. Those moments for extraneous bullshit had passed. “I can’t stay here, Rosalyn. I have to go.”
Her pretty face bunched, dread seeping into her features. Either this was real or she was as good as Glenn Close at playing the femme fatale.
I held onto her elbows, squeezed them gently. “I have to go.”
Her head shot up. “Take me with you!”
My brow furled. I hadn’t thought of that. My only intention had been getting away from her.
But what if she’s really scared, Jer? You gonna leave her here all alone?
I shook my head at myself. I don’t care.
My hand streaked out, grasping her jaw, my palm flexing along its’ whole length. “You make damned sure you stay the hell out of my way.” I made sure she was peering directly into my gaze.
I held her there for a second longer, but couldn’t any longer.
From a sizable trash bin, no more than fifteen yards down the way I’d ran, something moved. It was something very, very big.
My eyes tracked the movement automatically, over Rosalyn’s shoulder, through the stray locks of her onyx-colored hair. I saw its’ foot first, although it didn’t look like a foot per se. It took me a second or two to figure out I was watching a clawed tarsus. Yes, that’s what was! It was the barbed end of a spider’s leg.
Then, another came, and another.
I backed away from Rosalyn, letting go of her. “If you’re serious about coming with me, then now seems like a good time to do just that,” I urged.
She swung about, her feet shifting. Her hand came to her mouth, a horrified gasp rattling her entire frame. “Oh, god,” she said. It sounded like a prayer.
We needed one.
Its’ pedipalpi and cephalothorax edged over the rim of the trash bin, its’ four pairs of eyes – some minute, others massive – as black and lifeless as a murky pool searched the area for a heartbeat. Then, they found us. They did not look away.
I had never stopped my retreat and made to stride away. “Rosalyn! Now’s the time!”
“Ok,” she agreed.
I circled away, but not before I saw the rest of the gigantic beast leap from the industrial-sized, refuse container to land upon the ground with a tremendous thump! I had only a fraction of a second to comprehend the spider was multi-colored, brilliantly so, every shade of every precious stone I could imagine. It was beautiful, and it was huge.
Then, it shot its’ web at us. It wasn’t fibrous. It wasn’t even sticky. It was a long, laser-straight stream of crystal, fast, sharp – deadly.
It hit the ground near Rosalyn’s feet, shattering the asphalt as though it was made of glass.