Read Poppy Z. Brite - 1992 - Lost Souls Online
Authors: Poppy Z. Brite
lay quiet, and he knew the insensate loneliness of a corpse on the roadside,
growing cold, the taste of blood melting from the tongue, the eyes filming
over, the impossibility of human contact ever again, of comfort ever again.
Ghost tried to swallow, but his throat would not work, and he made some small
gasping sound and felt Steve’s big hand covering his own, enfolding his
fingers, squeezing life back into him.
it go, Ghost,” Steve said. “You can’t take on all the pain in the world. Let it
shuddered, then began to slip back. Warmth. Blood where it ought to be, in his
veins, flowing safely and sanely. The ambulance, the police cars, the lonely
dry dead thing under the blanket were far away now, left behind.
happened to those twins?” Steve asked as they drove on. “In your dream.”
thought, remembered. Suddenly he didn’t want to think about those twins.
Steve wanted to hear the rest of the story. Ghost hoped it was only a story,
only a dream. He never knew, not at first. ‘They grew weak,” he said.
“Eventually they had to spend alternate days alive. One would watch over the
other, keeping vigil over the still chest, the blotted-out eyes, the drying
mouth. At the first tinge of dawn the dead twin would begin to move, and the
living twin would lie down and stretch himself taut on the mattress, his skin
already crackling on his bones, his hair straggling like grass across his bare
hollow shoulders. One day…. one day … One day their eyes were open, but neither
of them moved.”
finished in a rush of breath, whiskey and fear breath, upset all over again.
Steve kept hold of Ghost’s hand. Ghost’s fingers twitched.
Ghost,” Steve said. “
last dying days of summer, fall coming on fast. A cold night, the first of the
season, a change from the usual bland Maryland climate. Cold, thought the boy;
his mind felt numb. The trees he could see through his bedroom window were tall
charcoal sucks, shivering, afraid of the wind or only trying to stand against
it. Every tree was alone out there. The animals were alone, each in its hole,
in its thin fur, and anything that got hit on the road tonight would die alone.
morning, he thought, its blood would freeze in the cracks of the asphalt.
his razor-scarred, wax-scabbed desk before him lay a picture postcard. The
design on its front was multicolored and abstract. There were splotches of deep
lipstick pink, streaks of sea green and storm gray, flecks of gold embossed in
thin bright leaves.
picked up his fountain pen with the graceful heart-shaped nib, dipped its
delicate tip into his bottle of ink (pen and ink having been stolen from the
art room at school), and wrote a few spidery lines on the roes-sage side of the
the boy stretched his legs under the desk and with the bare toes of both feet
grasped the bottle he had hidden there. The liquor inside was a darker amber
than he was used to, and when he took a swig, there was a sharp taste of smoke
behind the familiar musky burn that hurt his throat. He swallowed the whiskey,
licked his lips to wet them with liquor-essence and his clear spit. Then he
picked up the postcard, brought it to his mouth, gave it a whiskey tongue-kiss,
kissed it as hungrily as he had ever dreamed of kissing the sweetest, richest
mouth. And he picked up the pen again and signed his name: Nothing.
capital N and the loop of his g swooped like kites’ tails. His ‘t’ was a dagger
thrusting down. He took another swig of his parents’ Johnnie Walker and
realized he could already feel the familiar half-queasy anticipation of
drunkenness in his stomach, the floating dizziness in his head. He was getting
drunk on two shots of whiskey. Evidently the
from his parents’ liquor cabinet was stronger than the shit his friends poured
into empty Pepsi bottles and passed around in cars going too fast on the
highway outside town.
looked at the postcard, frowned at the signature, Nothing drying dull and
black, wishing he’d signed it in blood. Maybe it wasn’t too late. With the
pen’s tip he jabbed at his wrist until a bead of blood appeared, bright red
against his pale thin skin, with a prick of light from the lamp shining in it. He
signed his name again, Nothing in blood, tracing over the black letters with
scarlet. The ink ran into the blood, and the whole thing dried rusty
brown-black, the color of an old scab. The results did not altogether
blood made a trickling path down the inside of his forearm, staining the fine
invisible hairs, covering some of his old scars, leaving some of their
razor-tracery exposed. He licked the blood away. It smudged his lips sticky,
and he smiled at himself in the window’s reflection. The night-Nothing in the
glass smiled back. The boy in the window had the same long sheaf of dyed black
hair, the same pointed chin, the same almond-shaped dark eyes—but his smile was
colder, far colder.
turned off the light and watched the reflection of his bedroom click out of
existence, watched the cold night fill the panes. He lay on his bed and watched
the stars and planets glowing on his ceiling behind the layers of black fishnet
he had hung up. He’d painted them there, the rings of Saturn lopsided, the
felt his room gather itself in the dark and stand darkly around him, not
frightening but surely full of power. He was never certain what was here.
Cigarettes, he thought. Flowers from the graveyard, and that bone, that damned
bone, his friend Sioux wouldn’t say where it came from. Books, most of them
stolen from thrift-shop shelves where he left only his finger marks in the
dust. Horror stories, thin books of poems.
Thomas, of course, and others. A copy of Look Homeward, Angel–on the cover the
stone, the leaf, the unfound door, and the angel with its expression of soft
stone idiocy. A lily drooped from the angel’s hand, dead in stone. Dust. His
old stuffed animals. A clay skeleton his friend Laine had brought him from the
Day of the Dead festival in Mexico, its eyes red sequins, its ribs dusted With
glitter. All the objects here, all the pencil drawings on the walls and
pictures cut out of obscure music magazines and secret lists in notebooks, wove
a web of power around him.
pulled his quilt around his legs and touched his ribs and hipbones, liking how
thin he was. Then the bedroom door opened, and painfully bright light spilled
in from the hallway. He jerked his hand away and pulled up his quilt.
Are you asleep? It’s only nine. Too much sleep is bad for you.”
might block my channels, he thought.
parents stepped into the room and he felt the web of power collapse and drift
down, broken strands brushing his face. Mother, fresh from her crystal healing
class at the Arts Center, looked exalted. Her eyes sparkled; there was too much
blush on her cheeks. Father, behind her, only looked glad to be home. “Did you
do your homework?”
asked. “I don’t want you going to sleep this early if you haven’t done your
homework. You know what your father and I thought of a smart boy like you
getting those grades last quarter. A C in algebra!”
looked at the pile of schoolbooks near his closet. One of the covers was a
shade of turquoise. One was bright orange. The
black T-shirt he’d thrown over them blotted them out. He thought that if he
stacked them all up, he might be able to build an altar.
I want to talk to you.” Mother came all the way into the room and squatted next
to the mattress. Her sweater was woven of soft iridescent wool, pink and blue.
In fascination Nothing watched a smudge of ash from the carpet transfer itself
before his eyes onto the knee of her cream-colored cotton pants. He raised his
head and checked the quilt; it was covering him decently. He thought he saw the
two small ridges of his hipbones poking up under it.
support circle meditated with our rose crystals tonight,” Mother said. “I
thought of you. I don’t want to keep you from fulfilling yourself. I certainly
don’t want to decrease your potential.” She paused to glance at Father
glowering in the background, then let the great revelation fly. “You can get
your ear pierced after all, if you still want to. Your father or I will go with
turned his head to hide the two tiny holes in his left earlobe, made with a
thumbtack and several swigs of vodka one day at school. The Jewelry Box at the
mall would not pierce the ears of anyone under eighteen without a parent’s
permission, especially not the ears of a boy in black who looked younger than
his fifteen years, who forged signatures on endless homemade permission slips.
And no wonder Father was pissed off. This was the final indignity: a son who
wanted to wear earrings.
a minute. Wait one minute. Just what the hell is this?” Father crossed the room
in two strides and pulled the bottle of Johnnie Walker from under the desk. The
last gossamer strands of the web whispered past Nothing’s face and dissolved in
the air. He smelled the ghost of incense. “Young man, I think I would like an
a minute, Rodger.” Mother radiated benevolence, spiritual wholeness. “Jason is
not a bad child. If he’s drinking, we should spend more quality time—”
time, my ass.” Nothing decided he liked Father better than Mother these days,
not that he liked either of them much. “Jason is not a child at all. He is
fifteen and runs with a gang of punkers who give him a liquor habit and God
knows what else. He dyes his hair that phony black that rubs off on the
pillowcases and stains my good shirts in the wash. He smokes Cigarettes—Lucky
Strikes,” Father said with distaste. Nothing saw the pack of Vantages poking
out of Father’s breast pocket. “He throws away the clothing we buy him or rips
it to rags before he’ll wear it. Now he’s stealing from us. Things are going to
We’ll talk about it, among ourselves. Don’t worry, Jason, you’re not in
positively floated from the room, pulling Father after her. Father slammed the
door. A stack of books fell over, spilling Plath and Bradbury and William
Burroughs across the floor in an unlikely orgy of paper and dust.
the hall Father’s voice rose. “What the hell was that supposed to mean, he’s
not in trouble … he goddamn well is in trouble …. ”
closed his eyes for a moment and watched red spangles swirl away behind his
lids. Then he got up and stretched his lithe naked body, shaking his hair and
his hands to cleanse himself of Mother’s touch. Father had taken away the good
whiskey, but Nothing had his own bottle of
hidden in the closet. A flask of something called White Horse. He’d gotten his
friend Jack to buy it for him because of the name: Dylan Thomas had drunk his
last eighteen whiskeys at a pub called the White Horse in New York City.
lay in the dark and sipped from the neck of the bottle, blinking up at the
stars on his ceiling. After a while the constellations began to swim. I’ve got
to get out of this place, he thought just before dawn, and the ghosts of all
the decades of middle-class American children afraid of complacency and
stagnation and comfortable death drifted before his face, whispering their
Nothing’s English class the next day, Mrs. Margaret Peebles plunged her
hypodermic of higher learning into Lord of the Flies and sucked out every drop
of its primal magic, every trace of its adolescent wonder. Nothing knew haft
the class hadn’t even read the book. If they were judging it by what the
teacher said, he could hardly blame them. But he’d read it three years ago, one
summer afternoon in bed with a fever, and when he had put the book down, his
hands had been shaking. Those wild salty-skinned little boys had tumbled
through his head, and he had cried for them, so young, grown old so fast. He
looked at the blank page of notebook paper in front of him. Pink and blue
lines, neatly ruled. He began to count them but lost track of the number. The
clock said 9:10. Twenty more minutes left of class. His head ached from last
night’s whiskey, and he wanted to sleep. He began drawing in his notebook.
Swirls. The first vestiges of a face.